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?

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.

8 Ways to Live Better Online

From Gloom to Gratitude: 8 Skills to Cultivate Joy by Allison Aubrey inspired this post. Read it and see how you can use what she wrote. Meanwhile, their eight skills inspired me. Here are my online versions of them.

Facebook’s memories remind us of the good (and bad) of past postings. During the day, Facebook may pop up on my newsfeed to show me an old post and ask if I want to re-post it. It forces us to focus on ourselves, what we’ve posted, our thoughts and emotions. Like seeing a commercial over and over again, it drills the thoughts we’ve posted into our heart, sometimes staining it. The more we focus on it the more we become like it, act like it, feel like it, and even relive bad memories.

In Georgia, I focused a small portion of my workshop on self-focusing on the Kingdom–using social media to keep you accountable to your personal goals, spiritual growth, and at the same time, living out the Great Commission. Judith Moskowitz of Northwestern University created an eight-technique approach as discussed in this article, but I was inspired to change it towards a self-focus on Kingdom so we don’t become what we post:

  1. Use your smartphone to snap a picture of one positive thing that happened during the day. Post it on Facebook or Instagram with a lead in that uses Scripture and words from the heart. Why was that event so positive to you? Event is loosely used. My friend posted a picture of the eggs she plopped into a bowl. They formed a smiling face. It helped her give thanks to God.
  2. Be grateful. Chris Copeland (WorldVenture) did a 20-minute Facebook live devotional on the new official WorldVenture Facebook Group. In this post, he mentioned a gratitude journal. A friend of mine uses her photography skills to post pictures online of things that make her feel grateful. Start a jar and write down on sticky notes all the little things you are grateful for and drop them in the jar. Review them at the end of the year.
  3. How did you use your spiritual gifts today? How did you help someone else focus on their strengths? In a non-bragging way, share your story online with a selfie or a picture that makes you happy. Inspire generosity. Help another human discover God-given gifts and abilities.
  4. Use social media to remain accountable to your goals. Have a trusted friend be on the watch for it to encourage you to stick to your goals.
  5. On Social Media, we like to complain. How can we reframe our complaint? While the article uses being stuck in traffic as an example, I would add to use being stuck in traffic to pray (with eyes open, of course!). Share on social media how you reframed a complaint that darkened your heart.
  6. Intentionally go to your friend’s profiles. Find a status and comment on it meaningfully. Start a conversation. Give a compliment. (1 Thessalonians 5:11). If a friend checks into a restaurant, text her to see if she wants to meet.
  7. Focus your mind on Scripture when tensions rise. Take a walk, go for a run, or hike and take the time to notice what God is doing in the world. Taking a break from Social Media is good.
  8. Think of others online first. Delete posts if need be should it cause others to look bad or comments hijack your purpose for posting. Comments can take things on a different thread than what you intended. Always honor others online with your words. Your words are actions.

The online life is a visual story and less literal. As you practice a more positive experience online, perhaps the memories from Facebook will brighten your day, encourage you to keep going or show you where you need to improve. It will improve your mood.

Would you suggest any others?

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.

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.

Why I Don’t Post Like Them

(or why I don’t post like other social media people)

The leaves on the trees were an explosion of bright oranges, greens, and reds. Last week was peak Fall viewing, and by Monday, only a few brightly colored leaves hung from their boughs. In six months, those trees will begin to bud, and by summer, the cobblestone walkways will sit under the shade of the tree canopy again. Like the seasons, change is a normal part of social media and technology.

Take a breath, wait a day, or a week and something has already changed, or someone has already made a new, hot app that people rave about–Another opportunity for digital discipleship. My favorite social media people will have posted their tips or written their blogs (or updated and re-published their old blogs). When I started learning social media, I learned from people who called themselves “experts.” They were, and are, still my most valuable places to get new or updated information. But, if I post my strategies, if I share so openly, I realize I could be helping others who do not believe in what I believe be better at getting their beliefs in front of other people.

Already, I’ve seen this happen. People read the same blogs and they follow each other even if they do not share the same beliefs. Because it’s effective, that belief will succeed. I am also aware that what I post can be interpreted differently than what I intend. I let the “experts” share because they make a living out of it and because I’m not in competition.

One of my hard, fast rules is…I do not help businesses or nonprofits with social media unless they agree to do digital discipleship, too, as there are many great social media marketers who offer their services for a price. I can refer people to others. What I do is different, pioneering a new way where the church or non-profit can team with the missionary organization to work together to share the Gospel. Two articles pointed out that missions will come from the church and technology as we enter a new era of missions. My supported position helps all of WorldVenture–their global community, their partners, their church partners, and the community.

This is why I do not post like other social media people. I want to use what I’ve learned to help get the Gospel in front of people and the body of Christ to be the bridge that helps people cross the ravine of disbelief. The world is hurting and it is dark. Life means very little. I view my position as a support position that helps people see that marketing is also the accidental byproduct of digital discipleship. If you care, people will see that and come to you, if you are patient enough to pray and wait on the Lord for the results.

The Power of Obscurity

For the past month, Francis Chan’s book, Letters to the Church, weighed on my heart. His comments on social media and obscurity occupy my mind. In fact, as WorldVenture’s social media presence continues to grow, so do the conversations. Someone said social media is like someone’s personal paparazzi. In America, the temptation is to use our social media to become known as pastors and leaders, even as individuals in our communities, but what if obscurity is best?

Rick Warren and Francis Chan are celebrity pastors. Francis Chan’s Facebook fan page has 17,000 likes. Rick Warren’s Facebook post has 101 comments. According to Grand Canyon University, Francis Chan spoke to a packed stadium. That stadium seats 7,000 people.

The more well-known you become the fewer options you have in digital discipleship. Obscurity is key. People who work regular jobs (or are retired) with a couple of hundred social media friends can more successfully do digital discipleship with training and guidance than a celebrity pastor, and should; but when pastors hear about this vision God has placed on my heart, they think I am adding to their overpacked schedules. The opposite is true and more difficult.

For too long, the American church congregation has let the pastors and missionaries do discipleship. My pastor even said, “My job is to equip YOU.” A missionaries job is to equip national leaders that equip local Christians (basically working themselves out of a job). As I work with a church to develop a new way of discipleship and mentoring, I am reminded how little time pastors and missionaries have, and see the potential of an equipped church working in cooperation with their missionary agencies.

Churches focus on numbers on Sunday. Social Media marketers focus on stats, visits, likes, reactions, and comments. Each number is a face with a history. Each person we invest our time in can potentially complicate our lives. It can even be dangerous. Success isn’t a large congregation or 17,000 likes on a Facebook page.

Success is in how those numbers are being discipled, encouraged, and held accountable in their walk. My question when reading stats like 30 or even 30,000 was baptized is:

  • Who is walking with them?
  • Who is discipling them?
  • And who is discipling the discipler?

Someone with zero Bible knowledge mentoring someone else with zero Bible knowledge reminds me of Matthew 15:14, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

“Just 11 percent have read the entire Bible, and the majority (30 percent) of Americans surveyed have read no more than several passages or stories. Even more shocking is that only about a third (36 percent) would describe the Bible as true, while 56 percent describe it as “a good source of morals.” (Influence Magazine, Jan. 2018)

Pastors like Rick Warren, Francis Chan, and our own pastors provide us with knowledge, and on social media, content (or they should) that we can use to share our faith walk online and disciple others. Those pastors are in the spotlight, but you can enjoy and embrace obscurity to share the Gospel and mentor others on and offline. Embrace obscurity. Embrace courage. Follow Jesus.

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How to Not Cause Panic on The Internet

On the tails of Facebook’s security breach, someone started a hoax that caused nation-wide panic and reminded me of Elf Bowling.

Elf Bowling began in 1998. Like Solitaire, we all had it on our computers at home and at work. In 1999, a hoax went around insinuating that, at midnight on Christmas Day, a hidden virus would infect every computer Elf Bowling was installed on. I still recall the panic I felt with my colleagues as we hastily dumped the game off our work and home computers only to realize we were duped. An unconfirmed rumor at the time suggested a competitive video game company created the hoax to drive profits away from the popular Christmas game. Passing on rumor does have consequences.

The Facebook hoax began with a message that said, “Hi….I actually got another friend request from you which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears…then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too….I had to do the people individually. PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT A NEW friendship FROM ME AT THIS TIME.”

Let’s explain why this hoax caused nation-wide panic.

“Hi….I actually got another friend request from you which I ignored so you may want to check your account.” This first line says the person who sent it received another friend request. When a person sends this to one or more of their friends, they are saying, “I received a friend request from you or someone acting like you on a duplicate Facebook profile,” when in fact, the person didn’t receive any requests. When a person sends this to someone they know on Facebook, it’s easy to take it at face value because we trust our friends.

This part of the message caused nation-wide panic. Numerous Facebook statuses began populating my newsfeed stating people had been hacked. This last part made one person uninstall their Facebook messaging because so many people did exactly what the last part of the message said, Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears…then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too….I had to do the people individually.” 

Thankfully, I only received three forwarded messages. Others received far more, and it reminded me of Elf Bowling’s hoax because this hoax followed the recent Facebook security breach as if the hoaxster intended to discredit Facebook and cause people to delete their profiles. We need to take care what we forward to others.

If we are building relationships online, we need to act with discernment in what we choose to forward. Ask yourself these questions before forwarding an email or Facebook message:

  1. Is it true? If not, don’t send it. To check out a forward, do a Google search. I used, “Facebook Hoax” and, because it was the latest news, this particular hoax popped up. You can put in a few words in the story you are reading to see if anything will pop up on Google.
  2. Does the person you send the forward to like forwards? If you don’t know, have they ever responded to your forwards? If no, don’t send it. I once sent a group message and received irritated responses. I haven’t sent a group message since as I understand it annoys my Facebook friends. It’s all about knowing your audience.

In case you get messages like the latest Facebook hoax, send a text to your friend to verify if she sent the message. And, if anyone sends a message similar to this, and it asks you to forward it to all of your friends, don’t do it.

To kill this hoax, many, including myself, replied to statuses and posted our own statuses alerting everyone to this hoax so the forwards would stop and people’s phones would no longer vibrate with messaging notifications. Remnants continue, but for the most part, it is slowly fading, but like all forwards, I’m sure it will re-circulate with different words to see if resurrection is possible.

We can all fall for hoaxes once in a while. It happens. Don’t be hard on yourself if you did it. Learn from it and continue using your online profile to build relationships that open up to Gospel conversations.

As far as Elf Bowling…

I still miss Elf Bowling. Once it was deleted from our work and home computers in 1999, we all mourned the loss of the file. Between phone calls and projects, it built relationships between employees as we laughed together.