Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Working From Home: Adjustment

As I walked down the hallway to the kitchen this morning, I looked down at my bare feet. “When I am in full-time ministry,” I thought, “I wonder how often I’ll wear shoes?”

It’s a strange question. Dale Berning Sawa of The Guardian said in, Extreme loneliness or the perfect balance? How to work from home and stay healthy ,

“That often means getting the small things right, such as having a clearly defined workspace and a routine. Wahle starts work only once she has showered, got dressed and put her shoes on (curiously, she’s not the only remote worker who mentions the need for shoes). As she puts it: “How can you do planning applications, and still be in your pyjamas? It just doesn’t feel right.” (Emphasis mine)

Today was my day off from a 40-hour a week job. I wore jeans, a hoody, and still have yet to comb my hair. Short hair has an advantage. I can put a hat on. I live in the country where people put on their pajamas at 5 pm in the afternoon, door-to-door is taboo, and dressing up your jeans is considered semi-formal. But, walking barefoot reminded me that I need to be thinking of making adjustments to the days or hours I spend volunteering with WorldVenture (which is why Trello’s article on working from home is timely).

Trello wrote 7 Weird Ways to Stay Balanced When Working From Home. In this article, they outlined how to be a more productive person when working from home. I took this article and outlined what my work week might look like from this vantage point when I am in full-time ministry, starting now as a volunteer:

  • Get ready for work as if I was going to commute to an office. I don’t wear make-up these days unless I am speaking in front of a group or visiting a church. Mascara and eyeliner irritate my eyes. Lipstick wears off in ten minutes. Foundation doesn’t really cover up blemishes. Blush makes you look sunburned if done wrong. When I get ready for work, I plan on looking like I’m going to an office off-site. Video conferencing is a normal part of my activities so looking professional will still be important.
  • My hours won’t change in the mornings than what it is now. My morning routine will include coffee, prayer, reading the Bible, and casual and fun reading to relax the brain so it can work all day on creative projects. Writing will be included in my morning activities, maybe even by hand.
  • Going out in public. With no commute in my schedule, I can use that time to take a run or walk, but also I have arranged that I would take my office to a local coffee shop to spend a few hours working at least once per week. The only thing I can’t do remotely is video edit as that is on my desktop.
  • “Place things that need attention out of reach.” I once joked with Tony how I would love a coffee maker in my home office. I could work and refill my coffee without leaving my chair. Trello suggests we need to place these things out of reach. “Taking breaks is a key part of productivity, but it’s too easy to skip them when you’re alone. To avoid permanently bonding to your home office chair, try building regular “required” breaks into your environment.” Trello suggests leaving the phone in the other room so you have to get up every so often to answer it. Or, keeping snacks and drinks (like coffee) out of reach. At work, I would have to rise to refill my coffee. At home, I plan on doing the same thing.
  • Noise in the background makes you feel less lonely. I plan on building a good playlist of music, visit Lynda.com more often to refill the creativity, or have something playing in the background that brings noise and conversation into my quiet space.
  • Most importantly, Trello says, “Work like no one is watching.” Working from home means being diligent in making sure your work is no less than great, you must document you are working, and keep your shared calendar up to date so people are left with no doubt that you are working. Set goals each week to accomplish. You can also sing out loud in the office while you work and no one will hear you.

Yes, I will be wearing shoes when I am in full-time ministry. In the past, when I have worked on projects on the weekends after a full week of work elsewhere, I was more productive sitting in my office, fully dressed, hair combed, and spirit ready to face whatever may come of my day. But, today it’s okay to remain barefoot with hair like Einstein’s, uncombed.

Review of a Church Book

Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom S. Rainer is a 100-page easy read to help leaders evaluate their own church. Here are some suggestions based on my reading of this book and because of my social media background:

  • Keep your website updated. Make sure your social media points to your webpage and vice-versa. If you have blank pages, empty promises of content that never appears, or outdated information, purge it from your site. People judge your church by your social media and website presence. Thom Rainer, a church expert, says people visit that first.
  • Don’t Swarm. You are not a hive of bees. If a young family walks into your older church, having every person beat a path to them sort of freaks families out. It freaked us out when we visited a small church.
  • #MeToo Movement. Many pastors and religious leaders are being taken out by accusations of sexual abuse. Thom Rainer suggests putting a child protection policy on your website to reassure families that where their kids hang out while they are in service is safe.
  • Holy Huddles. The book asks each person to honestly look at their church. We all say our church is friendly but is it really? Obviously, if a pastor from the pulpit has to tell the congregation to say hi to someone they don’t know, the leadership sees what we don’t see–our holy huddles. Do we go out to lunch with the same people every week? Do we make time in our busy schedules to transform our communities by getting involved? Are we making good, online conversations or saying “Amen” and reacting rather than conversing? This Sunday, watch your pastor. What is he doing? He is making the rounds to say hello to people.

Additionally, someone joked how the church is a century behind the rest of the world and it has a long history of looking upon suspicion of every new thing that becomes available from guitars to social media. The best days are ahead of us, not behind us. Don’t exclude technology from your belt of tools for sharing the Gospel.

Mimosa: A Commentary

Some books leave me in awe, like Mimosa by Amy Carmichael. The poetic language is peaceful, worshipful, and her story inspires patience. None of us can really imagine living the life Mimosa lived with a husband who didn’t love her nearly as much as she deserved, hardships that we won’t ever experience, and a caste that was unbending and cold.

As I flew back from Denver and reflected on Mimosa, I thought of my lack of funding. Mimosa reminded me to turn my focus on obedience. The way she put out her blanket when she lacked food and money, expecting, anticipating the Lord to provide (which He did) made me want to be more like her. Mimosa persevered though she couldn’t read. Because she couldn’t read, the Bible came to her only through verbal messages, and she drank it in, borrowing strength for another day.

The powerful words at the end of the chapter say, “For God has other Mimosas.” The other Mimosas are people of all beliefs and languages that God is pursuing. He doesn’t require our help, but eagerly, He invites us to join Him.

Other quotes hit me powerfully throughout the book like,

“Are there those for whom we have long prayed for, who seem beyond our reach now? Love will find a way. Are we discouraged because we do not see our expected signs, and the solid rocks seem to be sinking under shifting sands? It is not so. Love is mighty and must prevail. Terrible in judgments, marvelous in loving kindness, love will find a way.”

“And now she is back in her bigoted Hindu world, and she writes that some wonder, some scoff, and some are listening a little. Her husband, whom she has set her heart on winning, feels her a disgrace, but the amazing thing is that he still owns as his wife one who has so shamed his caste (which is not one of the more tolerant which allow a woman to remain within the fold even after baptism). Her life cannot be easy. But then, she has not asked for ease; she has asked for the shield of patience so that she may overcome.”

“Then with a warm glow of joy she knew what He had been to her all through the bitter years. ‘You know Him by learning,’ she later said to Star, ‘but I know Him by suffering.'”

“And gradually it returned, and his eyes became less darkened. ‘We had no help. No medicine did I know of, nor had I money to buy it. It was only our God’s healing.’ And she sent a thank offering to the Christian church which knew nothing of her.”

The second quote down, “…and now she is back in her bigoted Hindu world,” reminded me how we aren’t to flee our difficult situations. Examples like Paul remind us to walk towards difficulty, not away. It’s easier to hold a job, Monday through Friday, go to church twice a week or twice a month and not do the emotional labor of reaching out, but I am reminded of another quote from another book,

“We need to remind ourselves that the primary purpose of the church is evangelization, or in the broad sense, missions. Every other activity in the church–worship, preaching, education, music, fellowship–should result in making us better witnesses, better missionaries…The Great Commission is for all Christians, not just a few.” (Living Stones of the Himalayas by Thomas Hale).

Each day I am reminded of why God has me doing what I do for WorldVenture. So, you settle in, pray it out, and wait for God’s next move. Like Mimosa, I am putting out my blanket each day and praying, “God, you asked me to go this way. Please tell me how to get there.”

*Please consider becoming a monthly financial partner*

3 Ways to Help Your Organization Online

The sheer amount of content getting shared online is one of the biggest distribution hurdles marketers face. As Perri Robinson, head of marketing at Meltwater, says, “No matter how good (your content) is, it matters how you are distributing it.”5 Ways to Get More People to Your Content

A complaint among churches could be summed up like this: It’s challenging to get content from the various ministries in the congregation for the purpose of sharing online. As WorldVenture’s Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator, I get it. We have over 500 appointees and teammates worldwide. My job is to get content from them that engages our audience. Our mission is to make disciples of all people, including making disciples online. As a trainer of churches who are interested in doing digital discipleship, getting content is key for engagement and can be a resource for your supporters and congregation to spark conversations with the unloved, the unchurched, and the unreached.

Just throwing content up on your social media without thought or prayer is unthinkable. Instead, consider how you can strategically use content to engage with your community as a church, a missionary organization, or a ministry. In 5 Ways to Get More People to Your Content, they write,

“Developing a relationship requires more than an email that says, ‘Check out this content,’ Perri says. ‘I create a dialogue. For example, I’d say, ‘I found tip five really useful, have you thought about doing this as well?’”

Who are Your Influencers?

Most people who attend your church are online. Identify the ones who have their phones and are taking pictures. Follow and friend them on social media. Pay close attention to what they post and their privacy settings. If it’s public, share the post to your page or group with an open-ended question as suggested above. If you work for a missionary agency, ask first before you share even if it is a public post.

Use your Facebook page to tag organizations and influencers that provide useful resources for your congregation to use on their own social media to start godly conversations. In this, you join with other like-minded organizations by generously sharing their stuff on your timeline. One other suggestion in getting content for your organization’s social media is persistence.

At first, getting content will be frustrating. People will forget. Your emails will end up in spam. They will get irritated because you asked again. Most people who are not social media people will not understand the issue of timing.

Advertising on Social Media

Start a Budget Line Item for Social Media Advertising where people in your congregation can donate to help you reach your community with advertisements towards specific interests and people groups. Small churches can benefit from this.

Get to know your community, their issues, trends, and be involved in local Facebook groups. Boost or advertise your best and most well-like content to get the most out of your money. Target specific people and interests.

Bring on The Experts

My favorite example of great advertising was an article about how a toilet paper company in Turkey hired a child development expert (versus providing answers via Google search) to help parents in potty training. Overnight, they had millions of likes on the page itself. Your church, ministry, and missionary organization has experts. Bring them in on the team and assign them a topic to be an ‘expert’ in to offer advice online to those in your community or abroad around the brand of your organization.

Offering value to your readers is an old concept. Early bloggers adopted this. Give your audience something of value to apply to their own lives. We should never market our churches, organizations, or ministries. We should build relationships with our communities and help our congregations understand social media to use it to make disciples, to mentor, to share the Gospel.

Roots Met Again!

Authors are burning out. Rewrites, marketing, and heavy expectation often do that. It makes you wonder how we get from a place where writing is an art and fun to a chore?

This is what we discussed at Roots Saturday. I wanted a group that doesn’t replace a writers normal fee-based group, but gives support, prayer, and accountability to writers so they recall why they started writing. We wanted a group that would remind writers of all genres why God gifted them with writing and to never let the journey eclipse their purpose.

Many thanks to Third Shot Coffee at Prescott Gateway Mall for allowing us to meet once a month. To learn more, click here.

What Social Media Needs…

“As social media ramp up in the majority world especially, many in the West are finding themselves increasingly disillusioned. Some are convinced that nothing good can possibly come of social media usage based on the fracturing and division it brings, especially amid recent political differences. While Facebook has unprecedented potential to bring people, ideas and groups together, it just as equally can degenerate into a soapbox that rarely changes anyone’s opinions.” Facebooking the Unreached

As I finished reading Facebooking the Unreached and the Media Impact Report, I am no less convinced that social media and technology in all its forms are capable of reaching the unreached. I could talk about the barriers I have encountered, but instead will share what this kind of ministry needs…

  • A teachable spirit.
  • Bold courage.
  • Humility.
  • Faith to walk the unknown and face fear.
  • An understanding that the culture has changed and the world has changed. Time for grieving what was and for stepping out into this new frontier is now. In the words of one of my pastors (paraphrased), “The good old days are not here yet. When Jesus comes, then it will be the good days. The good days are coming.”
  • People willing to learn how to write emotion and show emotion. Social media is a visual story. It’s an open canvas with unlimited possibilities of expression.

Church leaders only need to make the connection of the online world and Biblical application, adding how to reach people online via even Facebook, in a consistent manner in spite of how the congregation may feel. Over time, if the leader is the example online that he wants of his congregation, the congregation will eventually follow. What we need online are people who can…

  • Exercise self-control (A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.Proverbs 25:28).
  • Get to know their audience so they understand trigger words which may shut down communication. Say the same thing a different way. (Romans 14:13, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.)

The quote above accurately portrays the West (that’s us, by the way) and their use of social media. Some are disillusioned because they only need our leaders in church and our missionary organizations to help us get a better grasp on this tool and use it more intentionally.

This is Marketing: A Commentary

“The way we make things better is by caring enough about those we serve to imagine the story that they need to hear. We need to be generous enough to share that story, so they can take action that they’ll be proud of.” – Page 19, Seth Godin, This is Marketing

This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See by [Godin, Seth]

When I first became a writer, intending to build a reputation so I can sell books, the words, “self-promotion” made me and every Christian writer cringe. Our beliefs call us to serve others, and early on, I worked at using the online world in that manner. Now, I am a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, and see marketing differently (which is why I was impressed with this book). This is Marketing by Seth Godin touches on the meaning of discipleship, even if his worldview isn’t like ours.

Skillfully, he uses the words we understand touching each sphere of need from non-profit to for profit. Marketing is about what the customer wants and what our product will do for them. “They want the way it will make them feel.” More than once, he hits on telling stories. “Stories that resonate and hold up over time. Stories that are true, because we made them true with our actions and our products and our services. We make connections. Humans are lonely, and they want to be seen and known. People want to be part of something. It’s safer that way, and often more fun. We create experiences.” An organization works for and with the marketer.

My take-ways:

  • Use your online life to influence others—make their lives better, listen to their stories, and help them find a different path through the visual story of your faith.
  • Think about the hopes and dreams of the people who follow you.
  • If you are a missionary raising funds, invite your people on your journey with you.
  • To influence, start small. Don’t aim too big. When one area is influenced, move on to another area, and another, and care.
  • People pay for interaction. Churches and missionary organizations should train their people to intentionally engage for free.
  • “The people you seek to serve—what do they believe? What do they want?”
  • Good stories connect us to our purpose and vision. Good stories help us celebrate our strengths as we recall where we came from and look ahead to where we are going.
  • What I am trying to say, Seth Godin said it better, “I see a better alternative; come with me.”
  • Emotional labor. Do it.
  • “Map and understand the worldview of the culture we seek to change.”
  • It talks about how to build trust.
  • Create tension in a respectful and generous way to usher in change.

This is not a Christian book (that will become apparent), but he brings the humanity into marketing.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)

Let’s serve online.