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.
Social media may make you feel like fleeing to the suburbs or
holing up in your apartment (i.e. leaving social media).
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.
Your Church or organization’s Facebook is more than just an extension of your bulletin. Make it a rich experience that offers value in the way of inspiration, content that helps someone navigate life, discover who they are in Jesus, and personalize it with stories of what God is doing in and through your congregations. Your Facebook page is not about marketing, but about serving.
“The research theory that underpins this is what is called the use and gratifications model. This theory states that people are limited by both cognitive capacity and time and therefore will only consume media that fits their needs in their timeframe. Since consumers have a limited attention span, then they quickly forget the message if it is not immediately applicable to them. This is what is called “recency and regency” (recent time and importance) of a media message. By nature, New Media is data driven. Every step in the process needs to be measured and evaluated. If a person “hits” on your media (listens, buys, tunes in, lands on your page, goes to your Facebook, etc.) it is because they want to. (emphasis mine)”
That’s what I’m trying to do as I revamp how WorldVenture uses their social media. Even though I work a full-time job to pay the bills while I raise the capital to take on my new position with WorldVenture full time, I am doing a small part of my job description–coordinating their social media and working with our workers globally to tell their stories. Social Media is all about digital discipleship. What I discovered was how many of our worker’s newsletters come with snippets of wisdom and inspiration from a point of view most of us will never experience. Marry that with nice graphics and put it on social media and it’s not surprising how people take to it.
The data are people, not merely numbers, who are looking for something. We can’t put that data into a box away from our emotions. We have to care. We have to love even the trolls who pepper our posts with ugliness. That’s why I see every person as real and give each person my time. But there are too many people, and no one can run a Facebook page and expect to do digital discipleship alone.
There are 500 plus workers and appointees with WorldVenture. How many people are online in your church congregations or ministries? Why aren’t you training them to use Social Media to do more than just hit the share button, and instead, share their life experiences with people hungry for the Gospel? Some simple things you can do right now with your Facebook page:
Reply to comments as meaningfully as possible. If people left you comments, they deserve a response because each comment is a gift.
Don’t just post content to fill space. Who are your followers? What do they need?
Follow up with people. Do they live in the area? Can you foster good relations, maybe make a new friend, and meet them for coffee in the face-to-face world?
Can you help connect them with a church or ministry who can help meet a need in their life?
Whatever you feel about social media, it is here to stay and will continue to evolve quickly. We can either adapt or become obsolete. It can nicely partner with face-to-face activities, but like our friendships in the face-to-face life, it will take some effort and prayer.
Managing or coordinating someone else’s brand on social media is time-consuming, especially when your intention with its social media is ultimately digital discipleship. Recently, I posted a comic by Calvin and Hobbes. It went like this:
Hobbes: “Do you have an idea for your project yet?”
Calvin: “No, I’m waiting for inspiration. You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.”
Hobbes: “What mood is that?”
Calvin: “Last minute panic.”
Interpretation is up to the reader.
For me, it verbalized what coordinating social media is like when your posts are dependent upon content from people all over the world. My goal is to post twice a day each week. This requires being on social media to scavenge for stories that reflect the WorldVenture story and appeals to the reader. Social media is a tool in the belt of any worker for discipleship, influence, mentoring, etc. My efforts follow daily prayer.
This week, I focused on Venezuela. Because it has been in the news, getting our workers’ stories in front of it means the story has the potential to trend without paying for advertising dollars. Case in point: When a church posted the word Starbucks on their social media, their organic reach was higher than just talking about coffee. WorldVenture is a non-profit. If we can save ad dollars by sharing our workers’ stories around trending topics online, we can help our country and our world understand missions, be more attune to more biased news stories, and grow a compassionate heart. Because WorldVenture is a non-profit, I am considered a supported staffer.
A supported staffer is the same as a worker who must raise the monthly support to do the work needed for a nonprofit like WorldVenture. We aren’t going anywhere outside the country unless for specific assignments, and our work is now, rather than later. This means I am both appointee and worker; unfunded and still serving in some capacity in the job description while working a full-time day job.
I am also a pioneer that believes digital discipleship is the way to go and train nonprofits and churches in Christian ministry to utilize their volunteers and congregations to serve online rather than do what they’ve done historically–leave it to the pastors and missionaries to do the outreach and the 20% who do 80% of the work in church. In serving with WorldVenture, I am also revamping their social media usage little by little to use it as digital discipleship among other things.
“Last minute panic” is a constant state for me. Maybe it’s not really panic as it is a tension to work with the varied schedules across the globe, sensitive areas, and coordinating blogs, social media, and digital discipleship on a weekly basis.
Meanwhile, after my overnight trip to Indiana, I have time freed up to focus again. If you would like to have me fly out or video conference in to talk about what I do, please email me: nikolehahn (at) thehahnhuntinglodge.com. Help me get exposure or even consider support. Help me mobilize the churches to serve online. Go here to learn more: www.worldventure.com/nhahn or here to give monthly www.worldventure.com/give.
As we walked the lakeside path, she said, “Maybe I’ll get off of Facebook after all this is over.”
This comment followed my own on the political climate online.
“Don’t get off Facebook.” And I shared some ideas of how to shine a light as a Christian. We can provide better ways for discussion, like not name-calling, making issues black and white without considering someone’s background or story, and doing our own research online, looking at both sides and verifying facts from opinions. Nonetheless, the negativity is a problem online. Here are three ways to cope with it all:
Take breaks from it. Balance your online time and your face-to-face time. Take walks. Get coffee with friends.
What is your friends’ or followers’ stumbling blocks? Posting something that may end up cutting off communication is not productive. How important is that topic? Can it be re-worded? At WorldVenture, we encourage online discipleship. Will that topic impede this goal? Coping with the negativity means not taking part in it. With a nation divided, we must think like missionaries online.
Don’t neglect prayer and your morning Bible readings. No online discipleship effort can be done without serious prayer. Keep up on understanding who God is by reading His Bible. His Word in our hearts will keep us strong through any Facebook or social media storm.
Our work schedules aren’t easy. My husband is also a light sleeper. A Facebook conversation captured my attention at a time of night when we were brushing our teeth, turning off the lights, and about to head to bed. I paused in the kitchen, looking at my tablet, praying, struggling between balance and boundaries.
“Are you coming to bed?” He said after he poked his head around the corner.
“I can’t.” I gave a sigh after I said this.
It reminded me of something someone said about children. You don’t choose the quality time; they do. Time zones or life events can mean instant chat, video conferencing, or an email. I try to keep some kind of normalcy during this transition time with my husband, like getting dinner ready by 6:30 pm when he gets home after a 12-hour day or stopping work by 5 or 5:30 pm so we can have some together time before bed. But sometimes, like that night, some conversations can’t be re-scheduled.
Serving in this field means establishing good time-management, balance, and making sure two factors aren’t neglected–God and my husband. Serving in this transition period means raising support on top of a full-time job, active ministry, and being a wife.
Thankfully, a current financial supporter has upped their support and I am now at 35% support. I have a long ways to go before I reach 100% support, but I celebrate each percentage because that means I am closer to reaching my calling.
To become a monthly, quarterly, or annual financial partner, click here. Or click here to learn more.
Pastors of less than 100 congregants are usually bi-vocational.
When a pastor says he is part-time, he is being paid for part-time, but working full time.
Depending on where you get your data, there is 1 missionary for every 200,000 to 400,000 people. That is a lot of friend requests on Facebook. It is difficult to give that many people (if not impossible) quality interaction.
The church is still polarized regarding social media.
Average 300-people churches don’t have a large staff. Therefore, it is difficult for one pastor to do both discipleship and run a church by himself.
Shared about my new role with WorldVenture. It is not uncommon for non-profit organizations to have their social media person do multiple duties. This supported position is important as my duties focus solely on social media and technology, including mobilizing the church to serve online in missions alongside WorldVenture.
A generation gap is widening. In our post-Christian generation, we need our Senior Adults online more than ever.
Here are the main 3 reasons to get involved with social media and technology:
Missions need all of us involved in discipleship. Every Bible-believing church. Every solid Christian.
Lack of discernment and vision is destroying American Christianity. American Christianity is losing influence. With only 7-20% of Americans measurably active in their Christian faith and Bible illiteracy reining, using social media for teaching and discipling is a priority.
People move from different countries. They have retired from missions. They know a second or third language. Family relationships are international. People in church like this are important for online discipleship and sharing of the Gospel.
**To ask me to speak to your church, please email me or leave a comment. You can send a comment through here: www.worldventure.com/nhahn.
People are asking, “Should I get rid of Facebook?”
More than once, I observe a Facebook group conversation that begins with a simple post like asking how it is living in a state or sharing an amazing photograph, and somehow it becomes a political argument; a fountain of negativity spewing forth and inspiring reactions.
The difference between reaction and response is defined. Reaction is instant with no time to think. A response comes more slowly as you weigh your words. I encourage myself and others to respond and respond in line with the topic of the conversation thread. If politics isn’t mentioned, why bring it up? In the spirit of friendship, stay on topic, be kind, and start a conversation.
And don’t close down your Facebook.
Be the light in a dark culture. Have meaningful conversations and pursue those conversations. Don’t give up. Set boundaries with your time online. Because life is too short for the majority of your time to be spent in the virtual. Spend some of it outside.
Like we did today…building up our marriage, loving each other, and worshiping God…
When you’re so sure you’re right that you’re willing to burn things down, it turns out that everyone is standing in a burning building sooner or later. – Seth Godin (emphasis mine)
I am reminded every day that businesses, missionary organizations, churches, church plants, advocates for adoption and foster kids, and those against human trafficking need people like me who understand social media and make it work for them. In the spirit of collaboration and partnership, I am always checking my motivations and words. The Gospel is too important for it to be all about me or my ministry. That’s why I love Facebook groups that encourage this kind of collaboration, like Church Communications, AR/VR, etc. That’s why I began a group to encourage a change of narrative.
For the Christian, Social Media is about serving online.
Change the inner narrative, you change a person’s whole perspective:
“But the things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart…” Matthew 15:18a
Self-promotion was the biggest emotional struggle within the minds of Christian writer friends in 2007. Publishers required (and still do) writers to promote their work online. At that time, blogging was more about being real and creating community. Having to self-promote felt cold and against our worldview. When I attended writers groups, I encountered a lot of self-promotion. I recalled this when I read this week’s chapter of Called to Create by Jordan Raynor:
As we saw in the previous chapter, following God’s call to create replaces our motivation to make a name for ourselves with motivation to create in order to reveal God’s character and love others.
We wrote to glorify God. Our heart was to connect, to pray for each other, and cross-network through guest blogging. Most of us made peace with self-promotion because we made it about Jesus. Our blogs bloomed into mini-ministries. It was about the books we read and how what we read impacted our daily lives. We weren’t shy about sharing our emotions. But, as the glory days of blogging faded, and marketing took over with content written to get noticed on Google, some writers lost their way.
There’s a danger of becoming too focused on creating a work around making a name for ourselves. I loved how Called to Create spoke about famous people who built their careers to make monuments around their name. They worked to glorify themselves. In this culture of negativity, can we find ways to #RedeemSocialMedia and use the web strategically and authentically, making sharing the Gospel a priority?
“Generally speaking, entrepreneurs attempt to figure out where the world is going, and leverage those trends to considerable financial gain,” Blanchard said. “Could our aim [as Christian entrepreneurs] be for more? Disrupting negative cultural trends and encouraging positive emerging trends with innovative, transformative, gospel-minded ventures?”
While talking on Periscope to a man in Saudi Arabia, his children were peeking over his shoulders and around the face of his screen. I wasn’t sure what he was saying as this was one instance where English wasn’t something he understood. I kept calling his children, “Adorable.” In America, this is a compliment. Within minutes, he blocked me. This is an example of why it’s important to understand foreign cultures, even when your ministry is serving online.
In order to understand how to develop relationships here and abroad, I need to understand the culture. Intercultural Communication for Christian Ministry by Frank Tucker is an excellent and exhaustive resource. In this article, I will go over how and why this book applies to online ministry. While I am lucky enough to not go through culture shock, I am guilty of having a Western mindset, speaking only one language (English), and balance implementing my ministry focus and communicating spiritual truths in new and creative ways while raising support as a missionary. More importantly, living out my own creed of balancing online with face-to-face to never lose the human element in communication.
Chapter one stated, “…reject the use of persuasive techniques to influence people that depersonalize them or deprive them of the freedom to know and choose; – seek to actively listen sensitively in order to understand people with different views and beliefs; – affirm the right of all people to their beliefs and the right to make their own decisions.” A writer seeks the perfect editor; someone who won’t edit out her unique voice, but help her write better. In teaching social media to a non-technical person, it is imperative to keep that person’s personality and voice, and to teach them how to listen to another person’s online chatter. But Intercultural Communication takes it one step further. It talks about how what you write or how you say things are interpreted from the other culture’s point of view.
You must know how to use appropriate symbols, icons, and signs to convey your message so people understand the truths you are trying to share with them. In the online world, we use graphics and video to send our messages. To use writer’s language, we show rather than tell the story, and this can be rather interpretive. Double check your Western thinking before hitting publish or sharing online.
When I sent out a recent newsletter, I hadn’t understood how people can interpret some of the common things Western thinkers take for granted. Having to think cross-culturally as an online worker is not easy while living in a Western culture. Every day I am thinking and talking Western, but when my social media arm reaches across the ocean to another country, I must learn to think like them to understand their histories, cultures, and symbols. When interviewing a Chinese international student in 2015, it was amazing how God had prepared this international student to receive the Gospel. She had a loose grasp on her religion which meant more receptivity to the Gospel. She knew some English, but was fluent in Chinese. Some of my words were confusing. In communicating with people overseas on Periscope, some knew English, but if I used long words, it caused confusion with their limited English. Other minefields in communication include the obvious: Using your influence to, “deprive them of the freedom to know and choose.”
Some claimed the church was dying. Later, others denied this saying, God is changing the church. He is remaking it. Because social media is about public perception, we must be careful when we use social media for more personal venting. Venting the right way allows people to connect with you, but the wrong way can say something else. It’s back to how others reinterpret your words from the filter of their worldview and culture. Over the years, one voice joined another online creating a loud voice saying, “I hate church.” Some of them reported saying this so other people can feel like they have something in common. Others just didn’t like church. It became one voice shouting, “I don’t like church.” Like anything negative, it’s almost like a drug. The more we talk negatively, the more negativity others share with you. How do we give them the freedom to know and choose?
Let’s make things we have in common, like what we enjoy doing on our free time, the basis for our strategy. Establish good things in common with people of other cultures. Go as a learner and ask open-ended questions. Let them share their culture, and you can share yours when appropriate. Politics is another minefield, and in America, it’s the biggest barrier we have in cybermissions.
Go on any news site and people are shouting down people with whom they disagree (Christians and unbelievers alike). Candace Cameron Bure said in one of her books how people assumed they had permission to be an authority in her life while she performed on, Dancing For The Stars. Because of this, bringing social media up as a tool for missions is a difficult task. People who are not on Social Media carry away an impression that it divides friends and families instead of being a creative place for community to develop; for churches to reach into someone’s livingroom in a less intrusive way than going door to door with a brochure; and to get to know their communities through groups online. Neighbors are suddenly no longer strangers with social media. Part of the barrier in cybermissions comes from how news stories frame their stories; even our favorite sources have a bias or an agenda. These days you must interpret what you read through a Biblical lens, but we are a people of extremes.
And one thing struck me in the most negative way, “To our shame, evangelicals have befriended people for the sole purpose of evangelism, and Western Christians have developed cross-cultural relationships, not for the value of the relationships, but to ‘strike a deal.’” I’m still friends with the person who came to know Christ.
Online Communication is Becoming a Personal Witness
Intercultural Communication said something that struck me as incorrect. It said, until the advent of smart phones, the phone has not been a useful tool for ministry or evangelism. Mobile Ministry Forum and Bible TransMission might disagree. For instance, a Nokia feature phone with its long battery life and small screen was the tool they used to bring material to other cultures. A slot on the side of the phone allows for an SDcard where audio Bibles and other files are stored rather than on the memory of the phone itself. Smart Phones have a shorter battery life, but better apps. In Mexico, smart phone usage is rising.
Mobile Ministry Forum recently had a webinar where they shared a tip for short term mission trips or even local evangelism in a neighborhood that speaks another language. You can download videos in the language of the people you are trying to reach and share that video as a way of witnessing to them. With the rise of live video (Facebook Live, Skype, Periscope, Vsee), that personal witness needed for discipleship and evangelism is available from anywhere in the world provided you have WiFi or data.
My goal to reach across cultural and language boundaries is to learn new languages. I would like to start with Spanish, and when I think I have handled writing and speaking it, I will move on to another language. Social Media allows me to communicate freely anywhere in the world. Language is a barrier, even with Google translate. Like missionaries who move overseas, I will immerse myself in the cultures when I am fully funded.
How am I Preparing Now?
While raising financial partnerships, I am thinking ahead in planning how to implement spiritual truths in the context that I am serving. A list of short term and long term goals have been made, edited, and re-made. Social Media is so huge. My problem: How do I learn so many different cultures and religions and speak the Gospel into them using the bridges of communication already built into their culture by God? Education will help and immersing myself in different cultures regularly can build online relationships while I raise funding.
Raising funding, keeping my websites active and my social media going, and keeping abreast of new developments in technology is a fun and creative task that is time consuming. Days come when I sit at my desk at my day job and dream of when I can begin immersing myself in culture and develop new friendships online. My biggest dream is being able to connect that person online with a fellowship of faith somewhere in the world through my ministry contacts and the organization of WorldVenture. My other dream is getting the pulpit to be aware of the breadth of missions; that it doesn’t only exist in the traditional ways, but in the creative, too; and finally, knowing I can give all of me to this calling and not just 80% because of my day job.
Even in this waiting, God is preparing my heart. If you are serious about social media and using your one or more accounts to reach out to unbelievers online, Intercultural Communication is a book you need to read. It’s exhaustive, text book-like, and needed as you navigate the online world from your own cultural point of view.