4 Myths About #SocialMedia

Every month I send emails out to gather support. Not everyone will see the vision I have and embrace it as eagerly as my current partners and friends. It’s an art to write authentic emails that wrap my vision around the vision God has placed on a church I am contacting. Social media affects every church and ministry and every person whether they want it to or not. With 3.2 billion people on the internet out of the 7 billion worldwide, the church should jump at the thought of using a tool that is free for online evangelism, missions, and discipleship. This is not always the case for whatever reason.

Let me go over four myths:

  1. Only Church Leadership Should Do Marketing Ministry: A medium church has a staff of 5 people. Your church has 350 attendants. Typically, unless you are a mega-church, your administrator or pastor doubles as social media marketer. How many people in your congregation make up the 1.57 billion people on Facebook? Why aren’t you training them? What do you train them on? How do you create a team of missions/evangelism-focused individuals who can be mentored by experienced past or present pastors or missionaries? Merely posting announcements is not good enough. You must engage the people on your page. You must use social media to talk to people and teach your congregation to talk to people.
  2. “I Only Support (Insert Your Favorite Denomination Here).” While I do not agree with denominational prejudice, you should look for someone in the field of social media and technology to support or consider pioneering the use of technology and social media who is in your denomination whom you can support. Consider your neighborhood? Does your church have a strong presence in it? Or is it dwarfed by other belief systems? Implement a social media strategy. Consider this part of planting churches, running ministry, and doing church.
  3. “I Hate Smart Phones. No One Has Conversations Anymore.” The church is great at publishing stories that scare people away from using social media. We are experts at why we shouldn’t use social media, but most who talk against it are barely using it (if at all). The conversations are happening. They don’t look like the conversations you have; different isn’t necessarily evil. Granted, balance does need to come back into the online and face-to-face world. Who will show an example of that balance if you are not going where the conversations are happening?
  4. “I Don’t Need a Missions Course; I’m Not Going Overseas.” Social Media is global. Unfortunately, some of the missions courses aren’t packaging their courses to be applied domestically and internationally. Americans can offend another culture online and be blocked if they don’t learn about that culture first like missionaries do. Who are the people groups in your area? Have you searched that information online, taken a long drive or a walk in your community, or taken a course at a university or college to understand how many of the students come from other countries?

Support is secondary as to why I want to talk to your church. Your church’s hopes, dreams, and vision are mine, too. What I do is as important to you as it is to what God has me doing. Let me talk to you even if support is not available. Church isn’t about self-service. It isn’t about your programs. It isn’t about the music. Our passion for those things should be less than the passion to reach the lost with the truth and love of the Gospel. 

The creative possibilities are endless with how a church can use social media to put into practice the vision that God has placed there. What are the barriers and how can they be overcome? What is stopping you from being more strategic online?

Telling Stories at Your Church

Churches and missionaries share something in common: Both depend upon donations to continue. Missionaries write support letters to report back what God is doing in the field to those who have invested in them. Churches and their ministries need to emulate this.

Gather the facts and interview the people affected by your ministry.

  • How did their lives change?
  • How did it change their thought process?
  • Change their names to protect their identity or use their real names.
  • Take pictures.

You can video this or write it. A video can be shared during service and posted on a website. Please make sure you get written permission or a media release from the person interviewed.

If you video, don’t do the dreaded white wall.

  • Choose a natural setting.
  • Don’t interview with questions. Give them a question ahead of time and tell them to tell you a story.
  • Switch action scenes with person talking to give variation. Do voice over for action scenes.
  • Use music softly in the background, if it doesn’t distract.

A missionary knows people will not give to their ministries without first knowing what is happening. The same goes for the church. If you manage a ministry at a church, see if your church will give your ministry a platform to tell the stories happening in your ministry. Your efforts will help your church grow, encourage generous stewardship, and inspire volunteerism.

What stops you from telling those stories?

 

Why Do You Write?

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Sitting in the Phantom Ranch Canteena, I discovered numerous shelves of stuff all over the small room. In one of these shelves was a few worn books, published years prior. Some Christian probably stuck a Max Lucado book among them. Others, I did not recognize (except for a dictionary which never goes out of style and is probably used for Scrabble).

It reminded me that, while our projects give us a sense of accomplishment and come after months, if not years, of hard work, eventually they will end up on a shelf like this one–forgotten, languishing, and maybe read out of boredom by a few backpackers. This may be depressing, but it is a reminder to me as a writer that why I write is something I need to keep at the front of my mind.

The relationships I make online through the publication of books or articles are far more important than a name on the front cover of a book or byline on an article in a magazine. Your books and articles will make an impression and be the vehicle that forge that relationship. Let people remember the Christ you tried to reflect rather than the title of your work or that you published over hundred best sellers. Let them recall your faith. Might I even suggest writing for publications in which the Christian world would gasp in horror? 

If your work is not unbiblical, then your writing will attract those seeking Jesus to your website or social media handle. That’s where intentional engagement happens between the reader and the writer. You need to foster this relationship.

Donald Maass in one of his books often called people who sought only to have their name on the front cover of a book, “Glory Seekers.” Christians need to realize how writing is a powerful tool in the secular world. That’s why dictatorships try to control media outlets. That’s why social media is the enemy of any government. Words are what change the world. Ideas are intangible and cannot be killed by weapons.

I wonder if Christian writers groups realize they are training up future leaders to be vehicles of change in a secular world? Writers I admire include Mike Duran. If you ever friend him on Facebook, his thought-provoking statuses challenge traditional Christian writing views. They challenge us to take the mission field of writing seriously and to think outside the box. Our Christian stories shouldn’t be segregated to a Christian reading section. We should be writing towards the secular audience and our Christian writing should encourage the Christian to also serve the world in which they live.

To inspire change in the writing community, I co-lead a group called, Roots Writers and Social Media Critique Group, with author, Sherry Rossman. This group has a blank charter and logos any believer can use. If they wish to list their Roots group on our website, they need only to email Sherry to gain approval. This is also for missionaries, too. Missionaries need to realize they can harness the power of story to share what is happening in their field of ministry. They can start a Roots group, too, for their missionary letters to be critiqued.

Amazon Says No

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For all of you who blog for books, Amazon just released new community guidelines:

“Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”

Amazon’s move follows a string of lawsuits against companies who were paid to post positive reviews on their site and cheat Amazon’s system by using reviews to make a book seem like it was one of the top rankings. Over the years, some authors have tried to manipulate the system in the name of marketing. Some secular self-publishing sites even forbid anything less than a three star rating all in the name of “helping” each other sell more books, instead of improving their writing.

Book reviewers are trying to be optimistic. However, most publishing, book reviewing companies, and blog tours require a review in exchange for a free book. This is against Amazon’s new community guidelines. Only those in their Vine program are allowed to post reviews. While book reviewers remain angry with this new move, it is Amazon’s right to protect the integrity of their review system.

I urge you as Christians to also honor this system. Here are some suggestions for posting reviews on Amazon or another retail site:

  • Free Book, But No Review Required. After you write your review, post this below the review: “I have received a free book, but the publisher has not required me to post this review. I do this on my own.” This satisfies the FCC and more than likely, Amazon. 
  • Free Book in Exchange for a Review. Post on other retail sites. Publishers aren’t usually requiring an Amazon review. 
  • Buy The Book You Want to Review. Now you are a customer. You can review the book. 
The FCC requires the following on all blog posts (use your own variation): “Free book received in exchange for a review.” 

Instead of being angry at Amazon, let’s shine as Christians. Let’s respect their guidelines and continue to use book reviewing as a way to influence and reach a lost world with the Gospel.

Refresh: A Women’s Ministry

When a friend started sharing with me an idea about a women’s ministry that is impulsive and creative, I jumped in. Of course, I volunteered to help with communications. We set up a Slack account because it is secure. When I sat down with other women in the group, I was encouraged by their response to having an online community.

Slack is different than texting. When you send a group text, and a person responds, every person on that text gets continual notification for hours or as long as the conversation endures. It takes more time to open a new text and rewrite a response or to share the activity you shared with others on a new text. Slack cuts out all the work.

You can have it on your phone and treat it like a text, or you can use it on your desktop and get notifications there. This kind of community is what every busy woman needs so they can experience good fellowship even if they can’t make every activity.

So if you live in the quad-city area, email me. If you have questions with how this works, I would be happy to explain it (if your intentions were to start a similar kind of group in your town). It’s ideal as a para-church ministry.

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Social Media Tip: #FathersDay

Father’s Day is this today. In a time when we like to re-define the word father as meaning anything and anyone, I hold to the traditional definition. A father, whether single or married, who adopted or whose child is biologically theirs, that showed up every day, worked hard to provide for his family to the best of his ability; yes, that is the father we celebrate today. If you are a mother, you have your own day. Today, let’s put aside our anger towards the ones that let us down, and honor the ones who showed up.

You can even stay off social media if Fathers Day is unpleasant for you or celebrate with others that good fathers do exist. Try to keep it positive today.

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Confessions of a (Sort Of) Reformed Passive Aggressive

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Has Social Media Crashed Your Relationships?

What we put on social media reflects our hearts and makes us focus on those things which weigh heavily on our emotions. No matter how vague we think we are being on social media, the pain spills out and becomes a manuscript for others to read of what is going on inside of our heads.

As a Social Media Missionary, I wrestle constantly with myself to decide what my motive is behind publishing. It’s so tempting to have a targeted audience and it is such a fine line. How do we express the grief, anger, and pain in responsible ways so others can minister to us or so we can minister to them?

 Several faces do come to mind as I write this piece. It’s unavoidable. No one is completely un-passive aggressive. Our lives reflect what we see and experience, and this translates onto social media. Social Media is no different than face-to-face. We share stories with our friends on and offline. Gossip is a constant threat because friends can also share those stories publicly even when done in face-to-face situations. The copy and paste feature is the only difference between Social Media and face-to-face communities. How do we use social media responsibly as we battle the temptations of the tongue and wrestle with our pain?
I have some suggestions:
  • Ask yourself why you want to post something. Before you hit publish, search out your heart. Read some Bible verses that address this area. Read the context. It matters less what inspired the post as it does why you are posting it.
  • Where’s God’s lessons in the post? Will it irreparably harm a relationship? Will it cause dissension? Will it harm someone else’s relationship? If you insist on posting the post, treat it separately from yourself. Change names, dates, and even make it out to be a “friend.” Change details so it is so far removed from the actual event that God’s lesson comes out while keeping the relationship secure.
  • Passive aggressive behavior doesn’t change people.  When my passive aggressive behavior was out of control, relationships were harmed. This is actually a symptom of a need to control other people from a place of fear. Trust God to handle people and pray for them. As Sheila Walsh said in one of her books: The prayer might feel insincere at first, but eventually God will work on your heart and the prayers you say for them become authentic. These days I pray that God will change me even if the other person won’t change their behavior.
  • Set healthy boundaries on your friends and relationships. This is important. People can be great in face-to-face, but toxic online. Or maybe a lot of drama is happening in that person’s life and you need a break from it? First, “Unfollow” the friend. On Facebook, unfollowing isn’t unfriending. It keeps their feeds from showing up on your newsfeeds, but you still have access to their profiles so you can minister to them or be a friend. If the drama continues to impair your ability to be a friend, “unfriend” them only as a last resort. On Twitter and Google Plus it is less confrontational to unfollow or take them out of your circle. People take it too personally on Facebook. As this article states, many reasons exist for people unfriending others. Taking everything personally will make you a very lonely person.
  • Set up a Facebook group (set to secret) or Google Community (set to private) for people you trust so you can let them minster to you or you to them. A Calvary Church Facebook group has approximately 14,000 people on it and it is set to public. This means it is not an ideal place to share confidential prayer requests or problems. Setting up a group of your most trusted friends is a better idea. You are allowing people to share your burden without gossiping, being passive aggressive, or harming relationships.
Meanwhile, don’t be afraid of online community. It can be beneficial especially if you live in a place where you are having a difficult time connecting. Engage people. Talk to them about what they shared. Be a part of their lives as much as they are a part of your virtual life. You can’t live as if everyone will break your trust and heart. Trust God to make your heart whole again and live your life pouring into others lives even if they let you down.

New Ideas Always Inspire

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New running shoes are beautiful. Not a single mud splatter or tear and it even smells like new shoes. The joy in that object fades as the wearer of the shoes have to actually run. Running shoes were meant to be used, like tools of ministry.

People always get excited about starting a new online ministry. Any online ministry can be effective, but it all boils down to the work of volunteers. Without consistency and engagement, an idea will fizzle like yesterday’s opened liter of Pepsi. That’s why I design a church’s online ministry with the volunteers in mind.

For low turn-out, I work at making an online ministry feasible even in a volunteer drought. That’s what I love about social media and technology. The concept is simple, like running shoes.

Just put them on and go. Get online and talk. But like running, getting in shape to run long distances takes time. Ministry cannot be results driven. It’s not the numbers that matter, but how a person can holistically be led to the Lord and discipled. When you read a missionary’s letters, the emphasis is not on how many people came to the know the Lord today (although, that is their goal), but the stories are always around the relationships.

Jesus discipled through relationship. 

We shouldn’t be any different. He even went to where the people were to preach and serve. Just google how many miles Jesus is said to have walked in his life of ministry. You’ll be amazed.

He didn’t even have my beautiful running shoes, just sandals. 

How to Know Your Target Audience

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Social Media professional, Giselle Aguiar, says, “You need to look at everything objectively. Step back and look at it through the eyes of your target market.” 

When using social media, as not just a tool for business, but as a tool to disciple and spread the Gospel, you need to listen to her advice. Look at her suggestions here.

As a writer, you are taught to know your audience. This advice is applicable in life, planting churches, mission work, etc. Knowing your audience as a believer means following, mentoring, and praying for them. Shape your audience with the truth from a place of compassion. You can’t share the truth with them unless they let you in their community.

Have YOU ever listened to unsolicited advice?

Your blog or social media is an extension of your livingroom. Make it a great visit so they return.