How to Make Healthy Habits Online

Strategy, marketing, and all the ugly words we associate with the secular world make it difficult for the church body to embrace media. How do we turn our online habits into healthy habits and use strategy? Tony Whittaker wrote, Why Bother with Strategies for Lausanne Media Engagement Network, and he says,

“Some people might ask, “Why do we need evangelistic strategies at all? Surely we are just called on to preach the gospel, plain and straight, and leave God to do the rest?” Even the words ‘communication strategies’ may seem to imply worldly marketing methods rather than a dependence on the power of the gospel through the Holy Spirit. There are a number of answers to this very reasonable question. The Word ‘preach’ does not just mean ‘one-way verbal communication’ – as in a sermon or evangelistic address. It has a much broader sense – ‘to effectively communicate’. If the receivers have not understood the message, real communication has probably not occurred. The word ‘communicate’ also has a root meaning that helps us: that of ‘communing’ or interacting over ‘common’ ground.”

This article effectively outlines what that strategy should look like and gives ideas. All strategy employed must begin with prayer. My prayer has always come from Matthew 4:19 of the CEB when Jesus promises to show us how to reach people. Marketing or strategy are simply methods used to get information in front of people in a format they can understand so a conversation can happen. Social Media is built around relationships. How can we build relationships with people if we don’t show them some common ground? People in ministry aren’t the only ones who should pay attention to strategy. Everyone is capable of learning new things and should seek to understand the communication tools marketers and ministry partners use. Because each person has a social media profile, each person can prayerfully determine the audience they wish to reach, but don’t be a preacher.

Communicate. Talk to people. Converse. 

An article about Google search terms years ago reminds me daily that God is asking us to serve outside the walls of the church. In that article, the writer said suicide was a term searched from midnight on. Maybe some of us ought to take the night shift on social media and learn to listen, armed with resources to give when the moment calls for it?

Sometimes, I think the church needs to re-learn how to make a conversation. Like in church when someone asks in passing, “How are you?” to which “fine” is the expected answer, a reaction or like shouldn’t be the only responses online. How you converse or respond to someone is up to you, but social media allows us to have conversations at any time of day or night.

In either case, you are online whether by boredom or just to see the grandkids’ photo. You’ve developed a habit with your phone. Let’s make your online habits healthy:

  • Are you talking or preaching? Are you listening?
  • Are you preaching to the choir or are you making a difference?
  • Is your social media a pulpit for your favorite political party?
  • Are you aware of trigger words with people you are friends with? How are you using your words online? Do you know the people you friend?
  • Do you pray for a people group? Is your social media friendly to that people group or religion? Your social media can connect with them personally.

If communication shuts down because of a disagreement, your opportunity is lost. Do everything possible to keep that line open. How you post online is really determined by who you have friended, where they are from, and what they believe. Social Media is known for its dark side. Ask the Lord to show you HOW to follow Him and HOW to build good friendships online so we allow God to shine a light through it.

How to Create a Habit (and Learn the Computer)

Learning a computer and using social media is about creating a habit. According to a Google search, it takes 21-days to create a habit. If you love to journal, instead of writing out your journal by hand, practice using Word or Google Doc each day to write your journal. Next, practice saving it in folders separated by month, day, and year.

Do this each day for 30 minutes to one hour. Include sharing a public portion of your new journal onto your social media and add a photo you took that supports the story you are telling.

That is uncomplicated, authentic influence.

Thoughts on Church Trends

In 7 Trends Impacting the Church by Chris Railey, he says,

“We never compromise the centrality of our Gospel message, but we are always on the lookout for ways to preach it to more people.”

As a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture, currently an appointee, that quote sums up my feelings about the church and missions. The article talks about 7 trends currently impacting the church.

  • We should be flexible and be ready to adapt.
  • Being aware of trends helps us better serve a broken world.

The article goes over church planting trends, evolving consumer trends, etc. What I focused on was how other generations are focused on the quality of discipleship. They don’t care who writes the discipleship material, but what’s in it. One part talked about the church as an investment for a generation. Church shouldn’t be treated as an investment. Then, the article explores immigration.

  • Young professionals and immigrants are moving into the cities.
  • Gentrification of urban areas or urban renewal brings more expensive housing, forcing other diverse peoples to move into suburban areas. Suburban areas are now flavored by diverse points of view and other cultures.
  • Urban areas face income inequality, open hostility to Christianity, and people who are more alone, detached, and divided.

Major concerns were:

  • Not many Christians sharing their faith. The article says, “People are afraid of not being able to answer questions and are afraid of arguments.” With the support of our church and international workers and the internet, we can get comfortable saying, “Let me get back to you.” It’s okay not to have all the answers.
  • Over-politization of everything. I loved what the article said, “Christianity’s cause is the Gospel, not a political party’s platform.”
  • Our young people live in a global community with the onset of the internet.
  • Is our church prepared to serve cross-culturally? We should partner with our missionary organizations to learn how. Even non-urban areas are experiencing cross-cultural ministry. It’s an ever-increasing reality.

The article gives a lot of good insight. The church can adapt without compromising the Gospel and do whatever it takes to share their faith with others. Sometimes, it just means learning new disciplines or new habits, like utilizing their smartphones and tablets for more intentional usage.

 

Wordless Groans

I took a run yesterday after work around the lake. Runs help me cope with this journey. I pray and my heart expresses what it cannot verbalize. It reminded me of Romans 8:26-27,

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” 

I spend a lot of time in prayer these days. God has gifted me with this sense of powerlessness and acceptance. This morning I am struggling to put into words what is on my heart. There is so much work to be done to help the church understand online discipleship, accept it, use it well, and reach across the age and cultural divide that I feel overwhelmed. What is obvious is how this journey is not one to be done independently of the church or missionary organization.

In reflecting on this, I came to WorldVenture, not to start my own thing, but to partner with them to work with already established ministries/churches/workers and empower them to use social media, VR, and any other new technology that appears on the technological radar to share Christ through the friendships they discover, often cross-culturally and to unreached people groups. Being authentic, real, is important as online marketing tends to put the goal ahead of the person. To make disciples online is to think outside the box and get out of your comfort zone, investing your dollars and time in people online and face-to-face, not simply hitting the like button as if that’s enough. Likes are like a “How are you” as the person is heading out the door. I think we have a lot of great jump-offs from traditional ministries and churches that are doing great things with online discipleship.

Imagine how powerful the stories will be when we engage the traditional church in non-traditional ministry, especially cross-culturally? Change doesn’t come overnight. It comes with the blood and sweat of extreme effort and time. It takes education, allaying unfounded fears, and empowering people with knowledge to serve. Before one jumps to conclusions about a technology, we need to get to know it, how it works, and the positive and negative of it in order to use it well. Meanwhile, I embrace this powerlessness because I anticipate what God will do through me, through others, and definitely what He is already doing through technology.

**Learn more by clicking here***

At Glacial Speed

Seth Godin inspires me. In his post on July 6, Glaciers Get a Bad Rap, he reminded me that the best plans are focused and driven, going at glacial speed.

“But the speed isn’t the point. The fjord near my house, surrounded by huge cliffs, was formed by a glacier. Not because it was slow, but because it was large, clearly directed and relentless.” 

Social media is a new field. It requires a relentless and clearly directed focus and a lot of patience. Since I started raising support in March 2016, I’ve only managed to get to 37% support (give or take–waiting for a support to come through). I’ve developed great relationships with people and others have expressed to me how they see social media differently now.

If you want to learn more, email me. I would love to talk about it in the face-to-face. Projects are being developed as we speak, but like the glacier, slow and steady will get results. Meanwhile, I work a full-time job while I raise support, and God is doing so much with the little time I have between that and family.

 

**To learn more, click here**

How to Make Conversations #SocialMedia #Christian

In the face-to-face, our conversations are often about the food we eat, the places we went, and our health issues. Or, it’s about the vacations we experienced. Social media has the same conversations; we’ve forgotten how to contribute and make those conversations count like in the face-to-face world.

You can start with, “How are you?” But, “good” or “fine” is all you’ll get for minimal effort. Sharing memes can be good conversation starters if they are true and if you create a lead in the status update to push for a long conversation. It’s often best to observe what others post and jump into that conversation. The point is to build on what we have in common and commit to long-term trust building.

Too often we use social media to post our opinions, but not our questions. Social media has a lot of opinions and too little room for questions. Social Media and face-to-face can be used in collaboration for meaningful friendships that can lead to Gospel conversations (if only we make the effort).

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Are You Making Disciples Online?

More than once, missionaries and pastors have said, “We can’t do it all.” A pastor leads a congregation of 300 plus. Stats often say there is one missionary for every 200,000 to 400,000 people. Another said, planting churches is slow. Most churches have some sort of social media where they ask for volunteers, advertise church services, or share Scripture, but how many have engaged and mobilized their church congregants to serve online with the support of their church and missionary organizations? Are you making disciples online?

International students are swarming into our country. Refugees and migrants are streaming over our borders. The harvest has never been more ready. I’m glad I’m not the only one saying this: The church needs to train their congregation like missionaries to serve online and in the face-to-face world. We need to move away from our prejudices of social media and go where the people need to hear about Jesus through our relationships with them.

Because our pastors can’t do it all. Our missionaries can’t do it all.

But the way our country is doing social media is sending the wrong message. Can we tailor our profiles for a particular people group? Can we focus on praying for and learning about a people group, seeking them online? Can we practice self-control in what we post?

This week I’ll be posting my review of Hope of Nations by John S. Dickerson. It’s a book every Christian must read. Meanwhile, I am striving to change how we use social media, working in unity of spirit for the greater goal of sharing about Christ to every tribe and nation on earth. Even I have idols that must be tossed for a God who deserves my obedience.

*Consider becoming a financial partner by clicking here to learn more. This week I am at ICCM conference in Hannibal, Missouri.*

5 Ways to Train Your Teen on Social Media

NEW RESEARCH: 5 Stats on How Teens Use Technology by Lifeways’ Chris Martin says,

“We misunderstand teens constantly being on their phones as vain, self-interested, or as a sign of their unwillingness to have real social interaction with people in real life.”

Depending on the generation of the people I speak to, it is common to find memes or other statuses that claim this about teens. Social media is just another tool for communication, like the telephone before it became a smartphone. Several personal stories back this article up, but instead of relaying anecdotal stories, I encourage you to read the above article. After reading the article, think about how you can encourage your teen to more intentional online discipleship of others in their peer group.

Here are five Ideas on how to train your teen on social media:

  • When a teenager gets his first job, he undergoes job training. In the same way, create a training process that is fun with some accountability to teach them how to post and interact intentionally. Have weekly discussions with him about the effectiveness of his postings.
  • Be the example as a parent. In the above article, it states, “…an unrealistic view of others’ lives as the biggest issues with social media.” A person’s public life must be the same as their private life. One person said to me how some people post online as if they are better than others. Their photos and statuses paint a picture of, “Look at us. Look at what you are missing out on.” Reflect your faith well.
  • Reduce bullying. Bullying is a problem made even more painful by the reach of social media. However, reducing bullying begins with parents and role models. How do we react or respond to people who disagree with us politically or morally? Teens see this.
  • Disciple your Teen. What are they learning in Bible Study? How can they learn to express this with their peers online? Tap into their artistic abilities with Instagram. Let them visually express what they are learning.
  • Marketers and Teens have much in common. “About 45% of teens cycle through this process constantly throughout the day. They can’t get off their phones because if they do they will fall behind, miss out in inside jokes, the latest gossip, and other meaningful social interactions that, if missed, could ostracize them.” The article talks about being online as work for the author. I feel the same way. Every marketer takes breaks. Teens should, too. They can adopt some of the same tools as marketers to save time.

Meanwhile, using social media can be a way for your teen to understand other cultures. Encourage them to learn a second or third language. Teach them online safety as well. While teens can connect with their peers in ways adults can’t, they are also vulnerable. I pray for parents and role models of teens because our fast growing technological world means exposing them to online dangers.

3 Things to Consider When Posting on Social Media @WorldVenture #SMtips

This week, I began to serve at least a small portion of my new job description as a Digital Engagement and Disciple-Making Coordinator with WorldVenture. Crafting social media posts are a time-consuming and thoughtful endeavor. Here are 3 things to consider when posting for an organization such as WorldVenture:

  • Disciple-making doesn’t just happen in the face-to-face world. The definition of discipleship is a Christian who teaches and trains. I like to use the word mentoring, too. When you disciple someone, you are mentoring them. Creating posts for social media means understanding the influence of social media and using that post for more than marketing a missionary organization. A post can influence someone to serve, to change, to read the Bible more, or even to become a believer. Follow that up with immediate communication on a post, and you start to build relationships online.
  • Don’t narrow your vision. A lack of vision at your church and organization can truly limit your scope of reach. Even people who are techies like me can become too focused on just the technology. Face-to-face must accompany online efforts. Teamwork and unity among believers are important. Speaking of teamwork…
  • Christian business and Christian ministry need to work together, not in competition. Some competition in business is healthy, but without angel investors and mentors, a Christian business person will struggle. Christian ministry should never have competition. Churches should help someone find a fellowship of faith even if it is another church. A ministry should name their organizations to encourage working together, not an attitude of, “We are doing it better than anyone else.” God is a creative God. We feel like we are dreaming big, but God’s plans are bigger than anything we can imagine.

Bottom line: If churches partner with their missionary organization for training and missions and evangelism, imagine the reach of the Gospel then? That’s what I’m working on with WorldVenture–a way for churches (small and big, house or regular church) to get help in training their congregations and staff in cross-cultural ministry. The world is already here. Immigration, refugees, and international students have flooded the American landscape. With just 7-20% of the 70% measurably practicing their Christian faith in America, we are in desperate need of God. We are also in desperate need of people willing to think outside the box when it comes to missions. Of course, the question becomes, do we even need to use the word, Evangelism anymore? So many people are from other cultures, and with access to other cultures online, it feels that everything is missions.

Thoughts? 

**Support for this supported staff position with WorldVenture: 34%/100% funded. Go here to begin a monthly, quarterly, or annual financial commitment (tax-deductible). 

Hashtag Trends on Twitter 6-9-2018

I picked out Saturday’s trending hashtags to help you find the conversations that may help with fostering online friendships. A hashtag is like a keyword to group all the conversations around that hashtag in one place on Twitter. It’s handy. Email me for more ideas about hashtags and conversations.

#BestThingAboutThe70s

Build a relationship online by starting a conversation using this Twitter handle.

#SaturdayMorning

A variety of Saturday morning thoughts on Twitter. Scroll down and find someone to have a conversation with.

#AMJoy

AM Joy with Joy Reid. Conversations pop up on various topics.

#NationalRoseDay

A clever use of a hashtag to promote a wine. Still, you could jump in on these conversations.

#SatChat

Conversations on Saturday. Join one.