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

In The Wake of Kon Tiki

Many pioneers in different fields exist in the pages of history, like Thor Heyerdahl. He believed South America populated Polynesia and that the seas were an avenue of communication, not barriers as historians believed. Thor noticed similar plants such as the sweet potato, the movement of the trade winds and breakers in the Pacific Ocean, and learned about a demigod named Tiki. Tiki “… brought his ancestors to the island from the big country beyond the eastern horizon. (from here)Thor’s story encouraged me. As a pioneer in a new field, I related to so many aspects of his story.

I first heard about Kon Tiki on Netflix in the movie directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (2012). Thor had to raise the support to build the raft and fund the project to prove a theory his colleagues said was impossible.

“‘Your mother and father will be very grieved when they hear of your death,’ one skeptical diplomat told Heyerdahl when hearing of his plan. Promising ‘nothing but a free trip to Peru and the South Sea islands and back… ‘”

https://www.history.com/news/thor-heyerdahls-kon-tiki-voyage

The movie portrays the journey to support as an emotional roller-coaster filled with rejection and hope. No one believed him. Thor didn’t even know how to swim or have any sailing experience. With the raft finished and ready to go, Thor stood on it, waving at the crowd with his five-man crew. The camera focused on his face. His eyes warily fell away from the cheering crowds on shore to the gap between his raft and the cement pier where the ocean lapped against the sides. It was as if to say, “Do I have confidence in my theory?”

It reminded me of a quote I found on Facebook by Dwight L. Moody,

“Moses spent forty years thinking he was a somebody; forty years learning he was nobody; and forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.”

Thor got his raft funded. I am still trying to build this raft. I am approaching people, churches, and businesses, and asking them to join me in changing our approach to missions by connecting the churches with the missionary organization to reach the unreached, the unloved, and the unchurched through social media and face-to-face. I am a nobody, but God can do much with a nobody like me. The concern most church communicators have is in marketing their church online.

We need to change our thinking from marketing to making disciples. If a congregation is trained on social media by the church and the missionary organization, marketing will happen on its own. While we need to focus on algorithms and best practices on social media, our people can focus on making meaningful connections. Thor made it to his destination. His journey inspired others to new pioneering fields. The journey to his destination included much joy and discovery as well as danger and doubt. In the wake of Kon Tiki, I, too, struggle.

From the beginning, support raising hasn’t been traditional — everyone in technology shares in this struggle. Even an online friend mentioned how little of us digital workers there are in the world using this communication tool. Often, we create new apps or try to intentionally or unintentionally compete with other like products.

I am not after creating a new app or a discipleship product. People are accustomed to hanging out in different places on social media. Churches already have websites and a presence, but we’ve become passive on Sunday. As a church congregation, we expect the community and the world to walk into our building, instead of making an effort to meet them where they are online and in the face-to-face. That adds an extra wrinkle to my support raising.

The church is part of my vision; not the leadership. Leaders in our churches have enough to do and are often overwhelmed, but we need them to equip and guide us. Unreached people groups in North America are within a stone’s throw of a church member.

In the wake of Kon Tiki, I dream of uniting the church with the missionary organization to reach different people groups in their community and all over the world through social media, apps, and their preferred discipleship programs. Thor made it to Polynesia. I won’t see this dream finished. I am starting it so other generations behind me can take up the reins when I am gone.

5 Reminders on Social Media

Seth Godin wrote in The never-ending ratchet of conspicuous consumption, “The only way to do well is to refuse to play.” He said this towards the end of the blog about consumerism and social media. He also said, “Earning trust outperforms earning envy.” As a social media person, creating content and doing organic engagement on WorldVenture’s social media is about creating trust and posting meaningfully. But, what about you–the person who isn’t a marketer who wants to use their personal social media for outreach and meaningful engagement?

You don’t have to play the game.

Trends are wonderful things for pages and groups, but personal social media should remain personal, original, and meaningful. Here are five ways to engage and create without exhausting yourself. You are not me. Be you.

  • Rest and read. Creativity needs rest. It needs new inspiration. Go to an art museum and learn about artists. Take up photography. Do some gardening. Quilt. Take a walk. Nap. Buy a book on Amazon that is different and challenges your thinking.
  • Budget your time on social media. Do a short social media fast (no more than a day or two). Watch a movie without picking up your phone. Read a chapter without checking Facebook. Nap with your notifications turned off.
  • Post Bible Verses. When using Adobe Spark or Canva, create Bible verses from images you have created or from copyright-free image sites, like Pixabay.com. This is a healthy break when you’ve run out of things to talk about online.
  • Interact more than post. If we get too caught up in the monster of creating original content, we can miss the important conversations. Don’t worry if you have nothing to post. Instead, find someone to interact with online. Maybe you can invite them to meet you for coffee? Post only when you feel led, not because you have to post something. Idea: Share another person’s post with a meaningful response on your personal social media.
  • Use Facebook Live to take a walk and invite others to walk with you virtually. Have a conversation with them.

When churches have digital teams who use their personal social media to reach out to their community and the world, a person on the team can feel overwhelmed, especially when they are not a marketer. As a social media person, I feel the pressure, but I tap into the mass amount of information that is within WorldVenture for inspiration and take regular breaks to keep what I post fresh and new. As Seth Godin says, “The only way to do well is to refuse to play.”

Happy posting, friends!

how to get somewhere

How to Create More Meaning

“Some activities are pleasurable and doing them is inherently rewarding. Others are difficult to do, but pay off with happiness or pleasure in the future. Some other things are important to do, even if you never get much from it. I worry that the news has none of the characteristics that make something worthwhile. It’s not fun, it causes anxiety, it gives you a warped sense of reality, and people who watch it are rarely going to DO anything with the information they get … So why do people engage in it? Its sensational nature makes it feel important when it’s not.”From Here

Recently, our small town landed in the news. Our kids are dying in DUI incidents on the roads, more than one shooting again due to drugs or alcohol, and each day I see whiskey bottles and needles on the sides of streets. “Instead of feeling awful for people in unfortunate circumstances, you can volunteer.” The above article says at the end. The whole article is about creating more meaning.

What the author is not suggesting in Step Away From the 24-Hour News Cycle is ditching the news cycle altogether. Instead, the author challenges the reader to do something. But, what?

The information superhighway can overwhelm us with the needs in the world if we don’t learn to sift through what information we choose to let inside our heart. Instead of focusing on the whole problem, the numbers of nameless people in and out of recovery, the tragedies, wars, and natural disasters, follow this advice—focus on what YOU can do; not what you CAN’T do.

What can you do?

  • Pray for guidance where God would send you and act on it.
  • Use your social media to create genuine friendships. Post updates that not only reflect the kind of Christian you are but allow people to latch on to what you have in common with them (Matthew 5:13; Psalm 14:3; Romans 8:8). Got Questions goes deeper here in being Salt and Light.
  • Because Social Media is a visual storyboard, a person must think visually and literally when conveying meaning. Look at your favorite fictional books, photographers, and painters. Why do certain shows or specific blogs attract you more than others? The common denominator is emotion. If I were to approach someone in the face-to-face and say, “I’m going to do a prayer fast today,” it would come off as ego talking. When you post this online, you are inviting someone into that dialogue and painting a story using graphics and words. Every status and photo is a chapter in your life that you choose to include others in and live as an example through discipling each other.
  • As you build your friendships online, consider meeting that stranger in a public place for coffee during the day. News stories occasionally share the horrors of doing such a thing. We can either be afraid and immobile or be discerning in where and who we meet.
  • Pick a culture and learn about it. Find groups of that culture online and get involved in conversations.

Transforming a community isn’t done by hoping someone else will do it. It takes a deliberate joint effort from a congregation, leadership, and missionaries using all the communication tools in front of us, including face-to-face. The next time you see a news story you are tempted to share, wait.

  • Read the whole article,
  • Google volunteer opportunities in and out of church areas that reach out to that demographic,
  • and share a solution with the story.

Get involved in someone else’s story and be part of the change you’d like to see in your community.

Thoughts? Can I pray with you?

Your Leaders Grow, Too

You know that moment when you lose a tweet from a Christian leader you wished you had saved? Beth Moore posted a tweet saying something to the effect that her tweets from the past do not reflect who she is now. It’s not an exact quote (and don’t ask me to vouch for accuracy as I can’t find her tweet).

I recalled that tweet today when I did a Facebook search. Older posts painfully reminded me of my less than cautious postings. I’m not a Beth Moore, but I am growing. Our leaders are growing, too. Social media is a written and visual record of our lives. It makes sense that online as in face-to-face we say and do things that will be different when we are younger than what we do when we are older. The written and visual record of social media will reflect this. It can be a wonderful record of where we’ve come from to who we are today.

When I Grow Up…

From the WorldVenture Blog Post

In 2015, Megan Murphy started “The Kindness Rock Project.” She left a rock on the beach of Cape Cod with the words “You’ve Got This” painted on it. Facebook rock painting groups began where communities did a grown-up Easter egg-like hunt for hand-painted rocks, leaving pictures with hints on Facebook groups so a family or person could find it and report it to the group. Over the past year or two, I’ve participated in this trend as a form of community outreach for online connections. Last week, my prayers yielded phenomenal results.

Kairi and her mom were hiking in the Dells in Prescott, Arizona when Kairi discovered my painted rock sitting near the Highline Trail. She turned the stone over and saw the contact information Modge-Podged and taped to the back.

The back of the rock contained a QR code, my email, and the instructions, “Please post to the Chino Valley Rock Facebook Group.” The QR code included a link to BibleGateway. Kairi sent me a message through her mom’s email account, saying, “Found your rock. I am 11-years old, and I want to do what you are doing. I want to be a missionary when I grow up.”

Read more by clicking here

Overcoming Pushback

A new blog on WorldVenture’s Website…

“Come back when you have a 4-year degree from a Bible school or seminary,” Four to five mission agencies said in the 1990s to Rob and Lisa Atkins (currently in Bolivia). While students are the focus of most mission’s mobilization, making up a robust 1% of the world’s demographic (Pipeline: Engaging the Church in Missionary Mobilization; pg. 14), older missionaries (Over-Forty) encounter pushback from friends and relatives in a culture where people are expected to save for a comfortable retirement.

“Occasionally, we hear subtle comments from people that our age concerns them. I also have issues with my left ankle. Most were excited and stated they could so see us doing this type of ministry. Age and health are always underlying concerns.” Neal Sperling was 72-years old and his wife, Sherri was 64 when God called them to the mission field.

A colleague currently serving in Africa mentioned a few obstacles. Some said to him,

  • “You’re brave. And what I mean by that is foolish. I don’t know that I would recommend anyone going at your stage of life. But God be with you.”
  • “I don’t understand why you would sacrifice everything you’ve worked for the past 20-years to give it all away to move to Africa.”
  • We think you are not being very wise. But we love you anyways.”

Read more by clicking here

Still a Mail Chimp Fan

A post popped up in Jenn’s Trends Facebook Group, signaling a change to Mail Chimp. This caused some anxiety, and I’ve observed other changes already. It’s the industry adjusting to the different ways we communicate.

With only a 20% open rate commercially depending upon the business and my observance of a 50% open rate in my lists, postcards make sense. Mail Chimp is offering postcards for less than a dollar each, including the stamp and mailing. They will even find people’s addresses. Spam laws make adding people to Mail Chimp taboo who have not requested it. Instead of opting for Mail Chimp’s postcards, I’ve gone to Vista Print and use a label template to keep my contact lists updated.

Postcards are a great addition though to a missionary’s toolbox. No one opens an envelope. They see what is inside right away. Granted, this also means you cannot print anything confidential on a postcard. My “story postcards” are like Daily Breads meet the missionary update. They both inform and inspire. It is my way of giving my list of people something that is art; something tangible for them to look at to encourage them in their Christian walk and to remind them to pray. So, yea, for Mail Chimp innovation.

Mail Chimp also does,
• Landing pages (for those without a webpage)
• Facebook Ads
• Social Posts
• CRM Marketing

Before my new calling with WorldVenture, a missionary agency, I stopped using Constant Contact because I could only make one list and no free plan existed. Mail Chimp allowed numerous records with many names (up to 2,000). The one change that happened means I cannot make different lists. Instead, I need to utilize more tags and segmenting.

Tags allow me to send an email from the audience landing page to a specific group of tags only. Segmenting will enable me to set up a list that grows according to how I add people to the list or how people sign up. I utilize segmenting to send emails to different people rather than all at once. Currently, I am redoing my Mail Chimp list to put churches on a once per month update and individuals, too, who do not want weekly updates. One list is for people who frequently open my updates. As others open or not open, this list is continuously updated by Mail Chimp through segmenting.

I’ve considered an upgrade in Mail Chimp for a long time to get better templates. The free plan only offers basic templates. The first price tier gives access to all templates, A/B testing, custom branding, and also support. The next step up in the pricing tier adds automation, retargeting ads, custom templates, and advanced audience insights. Their pricing tiers simplify and generously expand on how many contacts you can have per pricing tier. For instance, I am on the free plan which allows 2,000 names (including, thanks to the GDPR laws, those who have unsubscribed).

The pricing tier I considered allows up to 100,000 names. I’ll never get that many names, but at $14.99 a month, it’s affordable. Their competitor, Constant Contact, includes an image library, marketing calendar, etc. At $20.00 a month, Constant Contact only allows up to 500 names. Mail Chimp is still friendly to non-profits in this way, giving a generous audience count. Are the changes coming to Mail Chimp concerning?

My anxiety has diminished somewhat. For my colleagues, I still think Mail Chimp (paid or free) is the best, user-friendly product for what we do.