5 Ways to Use Social Media to Help You Through COVID19

The first time I went shopping during April’s COVID-19 shut down was like a scene out of M Night Shyamalan’s Signs. The family went to town to get out of the house after their strange crop circle and encountered surreal face-to-face conversations. The only thing normal in April for me was being home and hiking. Going out to do errands added stress to my life due to several factors, including the mask or no mask people, the shortages of food or toilet paper, and the many rules associated with some shopping centers. Fear felt like a dark cloud over our small town and impacted social media. Afterall, social media is a visual expression of a person’s heart.

What if the only thing you can control is you and your environment? And, what if doing that helps other people fight their fears and live a faithful and fruitful life?

It starts with your social media.

  • Post statuses that remind you what God has done in the past and what He is doing now to keep your heart focused on the only calm in the storm.  “Joshua also used stones to help God’s people remember His goodness. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites experienced the power of God to roll back the waters of the Jordan River, enabling them to cross over and take possession of the Promised Land. Joshua then commanded them to build a memorial of stones as a public testimony of what God had done for them … stones that would remind them to keep on praising Him.” (The Stones of Remembrance)
  • Snooze or unfollow sources that contribute negatively to your mental health. At least, severely limit your exposure to that news cycle if you wish to stay informed. Stay informed to only know how to pray or how to help. Change your reason for watching updates as fuel for you to exercise your faith in the community. A great example observed online was how a church dropped by goodies to an older couple suffering from severe exposure to the COVID19 virus.
  • Get outside. In some countries, rulers have greatly restricted people’s movements. If you can get outside, it’s important to make the time. While outside, use your pictures to capture God-moments, like a bird, a family, or something that makes you smile. Post about it online and tell people why this was a happy moment for you. Post about it slowly. Don’t photo dump. Instead, use the photos on your phone to post each day and to share about that photo. This goes back to the first point in this list.
  • Use technology to build connections both new and old. Use video conferencing to just hang out with your church friends, to read together, cook together, or just hang out and talk. Watch a movie together. Use this time to go to your friend’s social media and comment on their stuff. Participate in your church’s page or group’s online conversations. Your words can disciple at this time. If you are focused on others, you are less focused on what you cannot control.
  • Mind your own business. Resist the urge to post about what other people are or aren’t doing. Resist the urge to comment on posts that complain. Snooze them.

How can I support you in prayer? Leave a comment or message me on social media.

Not a Happy Ending For The Donkey

Like with election time, a pandemic, as it turns out, creates even more division and negativity. A post in a local Facebook Group reminds me of Aesop’s Fable, The Man, The Boy, and The Donkey.

If you don’t recall how the fable went, click here to read or hear it. In short, a man and his boy made their way to town on a donkey. At every turn, someone had an opinion on their mode of transportation. The boy shouldn’t be riding the donkey, the man shouldn’t be riding the donkey, nobody should ride the donkey, and towards the end, both the boy and the man carried the donkey tied to poles until the donkey panicked, got loose, fell over a bridge and drowned.

Not a happy ending for the donkey.

The moral of the story was: Please all and you will please none.

In looking through the Bible, I can’t seem to find verses that support social shaming, but these days I resonate with this story because so much of social media is filled with people policing other people, social shaming, and judging. In the wake of this, is hopelessness, fear, anxiety, and anger. If anything comes from this pandemic, let it be a new normal in line with the Bible. Let Philippians 4:4-9 guide and permeate our hearts through this pandemic:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

People need hope. They need encouragement. As a practicing Christian, I don’t think the donkey should drown because of my decisions being heavily influenced by society. It’s been a tough week watching people grieve, get angry, point fingers, and yet, change is usually messy and painful.

John 15:1-2 says,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

When we come out the other end, I hope this new normal is a new church still interested in using whatever tools are necessary to reach the lost, the hopeless, the unchurched, and the unreached with the Gospel, including social media and Virtual Reality. I hope the Lord uses this time to create a new heart in each of us.

How to Transition to a New Normal Starting Now

Every day that I peruse the local Facebook groups, I see distressing comments, hopelessness, fear, and anger; a lot of anger. People are threatened by what they can’t see. It makes them irrational, reactionary, and even hoard leaving many facing product shortages. The home chef must get creative with the ingredients they can find, and the future looks dire with long food lines, more government restrictions, unemployment, increased homelessness, and heavier business and individual debt. There’s a lot to be angry about. We can’t control what’s happening, but we can control how we respond. I believe we are missing the lessons God has in this current COVID19 season in order for us to prepare for a new normal.

Right now, WHAT we do is critical to HOW we transition to the new normal at the end of this COVID19 season.

This includes…

  • Learning new tools in technology. Some are now isolated, leaving it to the church to find creative ways to keep the congregations connected for those marginalized by technology. There’s no shame in asking for help in getting online.
  • Sharing memes isn’t enough. Conversation is more important. How are you holding conversations online with cultural Christians, non-believers, and your church family? Private and public communication means are available. Don’t be afraid to be you online.
  • Create new Bible reading habits. Many free or low-cost Bible studies are available right now to download. Hold an online Bible study with a friend, one-on-one. With many out of work, there’s plenty of time. Grow your faith during this dark time.
  • Double-check your information. We can take five minutes to do a Google search to find out if what we are sharing is true. A recent conversation about a quote reminded me that even something as simple as a quote found online needs research to ensure that what I am sharing is true. Check multiple sources with good reputations. If people can’t trust us with information unrelated to the Bible, how can they trust us when we share the Good News?
  • Audit your social media. Does it reflect your face-to-face life and does your face-to-face life reflect a Biblical life? Are we right with God?

What are you consuming online and how is it feeding your soul?

A BBC show inspired me to lose weight. They had a family keep a food diary for a week and afterward, the BBC put all the food on a table for them to see. Because of this, the family changed their eating habits and became different people physically and mentally. We are what we consume online. Use your social media to meet the needs of your audience during this COVID19 and as a tool for yourself to grow closer to the Father. This is a time for nonbelievers to see how we respond to a crisis as people of faith in person and online. At the end of this season of life, maybe we can emerge a better person than when it started.

Maybe it’s time to start some new habits? Thoughts?

______________________

Two people shared their responses to my Facebook post related to this blog:

“I had been working on being mindful of my words and posts; so this just makes me more aware. I want to be a light in this darkness and exude calm to a frantic world. Are the two compatible? Somehow I believe that they are.” – Trudy

“It is my hope and prayer that the better habits, the compassion for others, the stronger faith would not dim over time after this trying time. It is my prayer now, that the dark world would see God’s light shine through and that people would come to Jesus Christ. That God’s word would continue to be proclaimed throughout the world. That many workers come to the fields to spread God’s truth.” – Boots

Why are You Limiting Church?

In this age of COVID-19, amid fear and panic, I am reminded of the Book of Esther. My favorite verse is,

 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:13-14)

We, too, are faced with a daunting challenge. Will our fate depend upon our own faithfulness to God? While Esther faced death for daring to approach the King without being called, we face the unknown. Many churches have stopped meeting in the face-to-face. Some have gone online. Small groups and Bible Studies are canceled. And yet, God has prepared us for this by giving us a way to talk to anyone we want around the world through social media and Virtual Reality.

So, why limit your church to a building, your group to your home, or your Bible Study to a room in the Sunday School wing of your church? Like Esther, we don’t need to stay silent. The Gospel is continuing. God is asking us to be faithful in using these tools to reach out to people online, build trust, and develop friendships. In this era where TP is being hoarded, we can shower our communities with the love of Christ.

I am available to help churches and individuals interested in making disciples and wishing to continue church even as we experience historical fear and panic as the globe begins to shut down. We don’t want our older people marginalized because technology scares them or they don’t understand or like it, and we don’t want to be on social media out of boredom, scrolling, and sharing, without any real thought or purpose. While the building shuts down, here are some tips to continue sharing the Gospel:

  • Bible Studies: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Discord can be used to lead a video Bible Study like your face-to-face. This is an opportunity to invite people in your community to join. Hold them during times when the rest of your community can join you, too. Think of the working class in your planning.
  • Small Groups: Your small groups are going to need your continued support as we face the challenges of this period of history. Use Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Discord to continue meeting. As you meet people locally online, invite them to join you. When the church opens again, you may find them meeting you in person.
  • Church on Saturday or Sunday: Virtual Reality has church every weekend through Altspacevr. Your church may use Youtube, Facebook, or IGTV to do your worship service. Instead of treating your online service as a pulpit, treat it as a coffee shop. Ask people questions. Pray with your words for people so they can read it and pray with you. Worship with your words in the chat. Share the live feed to local Facebook groups or invite someone to join you in a “watch party”.
  • Socializing: You can use almost any video gaming system to play video games with people from across the world.

Check out WorldVenture’s Facebook page for more tech tips. I’ve been sharing there since Saturday.

Jeremy’s Courage

(picture was taken in Georgia)

When I first “met” Jeremy in 2019, it was on my friend’s Facebook Live of their church service. I heard his soulful worship of the Lord, and from my friend, heard about his heart and how it beats every day for God, his family, and his church. In flying out to Georgia to train his church in digital discipleship, I was looking forward to meeting with him.

What is so amazing about Jeremy?

In 2019, he used a flip phone to type out bible verses to his friends, family, and neighbors. If you don’t remember or have never owned a flip phone, that is dedication! When we met, we talked about how to do that more efficiently. I encouraged him to seek out responses to his texts. After my visit, he eventually got a smartphone.

Today’s text from him references 2 Corinthians 12:9:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

The following prayer from him is emotional, humble, and shows how Jeremy draws his strength, not from himself, but from the Father.

“Dear God, I experience many moments of weakness in my daily life. I thank you that I can totally rely on your strength to move forward and do the work you have called me to do. I take glory in my moments of pain and weakness, because you give me the strength and resolve to carry on, the same way you did for the apostle Paul and the rest of the believers who proclaimed the gospel. I choose not to give up because I know you are always with me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”

People don’t connect with the cerebral. They connect with the emotional. So, bear your heart in the little things. Do things for others because you love the Lord and the Lord has taught you to love them. Be courageous enough like Jeremy to be vulnerable with others.

How Books and Movies Inspire Me

Everyone is talking about 2020—what books they will read, what 2019 did (or didn’t) do, and making resolutions they will break by January 31. We’re all seeking meaning and purpose. Books help us find it.

I read books from authors I may not 100% agree with and books of authors that I can trust and count on. Everyone should read books that help us become better thinkers.

My books and Movies from 2019:

My Life by Sevasti Kyrias Dako: An autobiography of a woman who pioneered female education in Albania. She fought hard to retain the Albanian language. She believed in her work and suffered for it. As I read her words, I wondered,

  • What am I willing to suffer to see this vision come to fruition? How far am I willing to go? When you get into missionary work, you think raising support would come easy. For pioneering work, it is the true act of trailblazing. When I think of trailblazing, I think of brambles with thorns, fighting through the wilderness, and wild animals. For Sevasti, female education was a lifelong passion and work.
  • Sevasti was helped by wise people to see her potential and direct her passions. I am grateful that God is providing those wise people around me.

Visioneering by Andy Stanley: I stumbled upon this book when my husband was reading it for his group. Some of the quotes snagged my interest and I am reading it again. What I learned,

  • Nehemiah is a great book in the Bible when you are building something. It is still very relevant today.
  • Persist in the vision and sift through criticism. Take what is helpful and discard what is not helpful.

Kon Tiki: A man discovers new research about how Polynesians didn’t come from Asia but came from Peru. He builds a raft and takes a group of men to drift in the currents to Polynesia to prove his theory correct.

  • Missionaries, especially trailblazers, face a steep climb to 100% funding. Watching this movie and reading this book, showed persistence to get the funding he needed to build the raft.
  • The lingering glance in the movie of the gap between the cement pier and the raft with the water in between showed second thoughts. As the tug boat started to bring the raft out to sea, I saw his courage as he faced his fears and the uncertainty of dangers and of being wrong.
  • People said it couldn’t be done. He proved them wrong by showing up. We don’t have to prove anything as Christian leaders. We just need to show up when God calls and participate. He does the work. We just need to have faith in the journey and pray.
  • The joy of feet on dry land, of proving his theory, was evident. His actions inspired his crew and others in generations to come to trailblaze new theories and try new things. I know I trailblaze a path for people to come behind me. Therefore, my story will be God’s story. He will get the glory.

Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

How to Prepare Your Congregation for Digital Ministry

A successful digital ministry team at your church is built on a foundation of love for their community and the world. Without this motivation sustaining them, digital ministry is every bit as difficult as the face-to-face. Your digital team will need encouragement and prayer.

Here are some suggestions to build a foundation for a future digital team at your church:

  • Your leaders must support it from the pulpit down. Digital ministry cannot be treated as a second-hand ministry. Your digital team and the online congregation members touch every aspect of your vision and mission in your community and missional endeavors. It’s also the new word-of-mouth.
  • Engage your Facebook Live and Youtube Live Viewers. During communion, the pastor addresses the online crowd to encourage them to participate from home. Ask a question for the online viewers to answer in the comments by directly engaging with them. In both ways, you are treating your online viewers as part of your congregation.
  • How do your Elders/Deacons/Pastors talk about social media and other technology in its use to share the Gospel? In one-on-one conversations, talk social media and technology up. Identify the obstacles within your congregation to digital ministry and address them. Share positive stories of how others used social media or other technologies to share the Gospel. Don’t ignore the concerns over social but address those concerns.
  • When preaching, connect biblical application to technology. Use your words to guide your congregation in living for God both online and face-to-face. Maybe share some examples of others who have done this and how it was perceived. Inspire your congregation to share the Gospel online in meaningful ways through conversation and updates.
  • Don’t marginalize the Senior Adults. Instead, use their lack of knowledge about technology to pair them with someone in the youth group. The Senior Adult can mentor the youth while learning from them how to use Facebook to share their stories (or how to take a good selfie and start a conversation on Instagram).

As you hear your congregation begin to explore technological options, look for people who are willing to be part of your digital team. Churches need to get beyond marketing their church online to making disciples throughout the globe, and the need to train churches to do this is urgent. Church staff is already overworked. Most social media communicators are serving in many different roles and don’t have time to focus only on making disciples. Often, small churches are dependent upon their pastor to post online. Missions will come from the church if only we would stir from our slumber.

How can I help you help your church serve in mission?

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

How to Stop Adding Garbage to the Fire

Eli Pariser (What Obligation Do Social Media Platforms Have to the Greater Good) on Ted Talks Daily said, “Facebook right now I sort of think of as 1970s New York. The public spaces are decaying, there’s trash in the streets, people are mentally and emotionally warming themselves over burning garbage, and the natural response is to hole up in your apartment or consider fleeing to the suburbs.” This comment was received with loud applause and laughter.

In all honesty, the very people applauding are probably contributing to the decay of the social media space. What Eli suggests is creating responsible digital spaces in the way that cities build towns. To most that sounds like censorship, and as administrators of Facebook groups have soon discovered, moderating, not censorship, builds a productive and safer online community.

Towns have parks, public libraries, town halls, and the spaces are regulated or moderated. What he suggests is coming with Virtual Reality where you are facing the person you are talking to in a space you have created that encourages better discussions, supportive environments, and a place to worship if that doesn’t exist in your country. The problem is in people.

We cross boundaries, make assumptions, and refuse to change our behavior even if that may convince someone to understand our point of view. Hence, the applause in the video reminds me we are always great at sharing things we think other people need to learn but forget the humility of admitting when we are wrong.

So, how do we create a better digital space?

  • Exercising self-control in the face-to-face is just as important in the digital world. Measure your words.
  • Research what you share to sustain moral authority, so people believe you when you talk about the Bible.
  • Don’t react. Respond. In fact, the beauty of social media is the lack of obligation to respond quickly. We can instead choose to get back to the conversation when we have emptied our minds of damaging and defensive emotions. How many times have we imagined what we could have said later? Social media gives us those options.  
  • Refrain from humor others won’t understand.
  • Create parks, town halls, libraries, cafes, and other conversation-friendly spaces online to meet a need, create a bond, and build a friendship.
  • Most importantly, don’t assume you have the right to tell someone how to live. Build trust first. Think about mentoring the person rather than trying to make a mini-you.
  • Be teachable.

Social media may make you feel like fleeing to the suburbs or holing up in your apartment (i.e. leaving social media).

Don’t.

Digital discipleship is investing your time online in real conversation using whatever technology is available and finding ways to meet in the face-to-face. Transforming communities in the face-to-face starts with our behavior online and who we choose to share our life with. Instead of burning garbage, let’s instead build a real fire that warms the soul and shines a light into the darkness with the sweet aromas of friendship, love, and truth.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

How to Keep Your Focus When Raising Support

Years of raising support can make you forget to enjoy the company of people around you. Conversations point back to ministry, and you forget what normal conversation looks like. Ted Esler, president of Missio Nexus reminds me to stop making my work an identity.

“Organizations can suck the life out of a soul. The travel, meetings, concern for sustainability, mission fulfillment, and other realities of our jobs take emotional and mental resources. As we wrap our lives around confronting those challenges, we can exchange our personal identity for an organizational one.” He goes on to say how the job shouldn’t define us and warns that conversations personally become limited to work issues. He asks, “When the job is over, what happens to their identity?”

How do I break the hold of a ministry that can become all-encompassing?

  • Relationships take precedence over support. In order to maintain an example of authenticity in a marketing world, I must also model this in my life. I look beyond the support someone gives to me and pray and care about them. If someone doesn’t support me, I pray and care about them. A friend once sent an email to say she couldn’t give financial support ahead of a lunch date. I had to assure her that I was meeting her for lunch and not asking for support.
  • Get a Hobby. While I combine ministry with rest as a lot of creatives do, using my camera to practice taking shots for story postcards, social media, etc is also therapeutic. A good camera causes you to chase light and detail. You find rest in waiting for the right shot and changing your focus. Sometimes, that is in the middle of a forest and all you hear is the hollow sound of a woodpecker knocking on a tree.
  • Spiritual Care. After changing jobs from a church job to a secular job in 2017, I maintained my normal hours of rising early to get into God’s Word or just sit in His presence to wait on Him. I can’t serve others if I am burned out and empty.
  • Marriage Care. I am married to a great man. He is my prayer warrior. My life must include him in it and it’s not always easy. Making disciples on social media isn’t Monday through Friday. Boundaries are important. I break off from my work to sit with him. We hike together. He loves my photo journaling. We made a pact to grow together.
  • Physical Care. Take a walk, go for a run, and keep your physical healthy. That’s my lifeline to keeping up my energy.

Many different sources say the same thing—working long hours doesn’t improve work output. Respect the shut down to refuel for the next day. You’ll get more done. Work is not my identity, and I am practicing being more thoughtful to others in what I converse about, making sure people know I care about them.

* Inspired by Missio Nexus CEO Survey

New Article Published!

Restoration in Madagascar

Deforestation is a constant threat to the environment and the people living in it. The world loses about 8.3 million hectares per year of forest, often spurred by increasing poverty in developing countries like Madagascar. In 2015, we shared how Eden Projects doesn’t just replant the forests, but also helps Malagasy families combat poverty. Today, stories of hope continue and the forest is growing!

Eden Reforestation Projects is an organization that started in Ethiopia in 2004. Dr. Stephen Fitch understood the “third world culture” and the cycle of poverty. “Many of the villagers, who had been raised over many generations in these areas, were now being threatened with relocation to refugee camps following radical deforestation. Eden Projects was launched in order to attempt to reverse environmental devastation that negatively impacted families and local culture.”

Madagascar is the largest of the reforestation projects in Eden, but the people see the forest as a resource to use, not as one to protect. In Madagascar, charcoal is more desirable than firewood and more available than gas.

Continue reading…