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  • • an annual worldwide focus day on a Sunday in Spring, as the culmination of Digital Outreach Month. Churches and other groups are encouraged to create a focus spot or digital training day, either on that Sunday, or indeed at any time of the year.
  • • a year-round resource guide about web, mobile and digital media outreach

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Is your church website address this big?

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If your church website is prioritized for outsiders (as it surely should be – Col. 4:5), then naturally you will want to attract many to your site. See these parable stories about church sites: Desperately Seeking Lodgers | Stonylands Golf Club.

There are various ways to tell people, including contact cards, search engine optimization, and paid-for Google AdWords or Facebook adverts (which can be targeted very precisely, based on searches for your own town name).

But here’s the thing – the easy, no-brainer starting point is to display the church URL (web address) on the wall of your church building or street-side noticeboard, large enough to be easily read by people in passing vehicles. Perhaps we should start a CVCU campaign – Campaign for Visible Church URLS! (Are you allowed to embed an acronym in an acronyn?)

How many churches actually do this? One in 10? Not very many. Please, church leadership teams, sit down and work out how to display your URL big enough for passing traffic to read.

The fact that a motivated person could google for your site is beside the point. Many are not especially interested, yet if they see your URL often enough, they may feel curious enough to check you out. Others may not even realize you have a website. (It is also surprising how few retailers yet display their URLs next to the shop name.)

“And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.”
– Habakkuk 2:2 (Amplified Bible)

It does not need to be quite as big as the one illustrated above, but the bigger the better! Eye-catching, shortish, memorable, and easily readable when in a passing vehicle.

You can also use A-frame boards where practical and appropriate, to communicate with pedestrians on the street. You could add a QR code too – one of those pixellated black and white pattern squares that encode a web address (or email address, or even some text – try this one ▸ or open it in new tab). Although not all smartphone owners are aware of QR codes, many are.

But a very big but… digital outreach is not primarily an advertising proclamatory approach. It should be very much about creating relationships and dialogue. Social media, especially, must never be perceived as a ‘pulpit for preaching’. It is instead a ‘cafe for conversation’. Without this foundational principle, you cannot use it effectively. And Thom Rainer commented recently in his blog post Eleven of the Most Common Mistakes Churches Make: “Pastors and staff refusing involvement in social media is like a missionary refusing to learn the language of a people.”

Research shows that churches who use social media correctly find it makes a huge contribution to their engagement with the community and draws in many new visitors.

Steve Fogg | Josh Burns | Best Ministry  Practices share their failures in church social media. More on how church social media can fail.

Send your pictures
Do you have a Visible Church URL? Please send a photo, or post a link to one in our comment section, and we will add them to this page.

More help for digital church outreach

  • Online Toolbox for Churches is the place to start, with regular new articles, a podcast, and much more. David Hakes’ primary concern is to help churches to be outsider-friendly online, as he explains.
  • Here’s a great selection of free ebooks, most highly applicable for churches wishing to communicate better online.
  • Look out for 1-day training events on social media in your area, or set one up in conjunction with other local fellowships.

This is an edited version of the blog article that first appeared in the BigBible blog.

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Which is the most popular TED lecture? Ever

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Do you know who is the most popular TED lecturer ever? He beats the second-most popular by more than 50%, and 9 million views. His name is not Bono or Gates. (See top-20 list.)

He’s a British educationalist – Sir Ken Robinson. His contention is that creativity is as important as literacy. Watch his TED lecture below to learn why, and to notice what makes him such a good communicator, using storytelling and humor.

Most of us, perhaps all of us, were born as creatives. Not surprising, since we are made in the image of God. Often, he claims, it has been educated out of us. There are many moving stories of how involvement in the arts has brought healing to, for example prisoners or disadvantaged inner-city youth.

The church has not, broadly, understood or encouraged creatives very well, though this is starting to change. The visual and performing arts, including storytelling, can communicate to people in ways that nothing else can. Many people only find wholeness and meaning through creativity.


Watch online at the TED site

You can also listen to a very interesting BBC Radio 4 interview where he develops his views further.

Read more on creativity and storytelling.

Photo credit: Wikimedia | Creative Commons

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Slide presentations that people remember and don’t sleep through

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How often have you sat (or slept) through slide presentations that were, well, forgettable confusion? Michael Hyatt is the communication guru who wrote the excellent book Platform – Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Here, he discusses issues in creating slide sets that actually communicate well.

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A ministry library: free ebooks on church, digital ministry and tech

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There sometimes is a free lunch. Here’s a range of free ebooks to download. For some, your ‘payment’ is to sign up for an email newsletter, which of itself may give you further help and guidance.

And books to pay for…

Please add your comments about any of these ebooks you read.

Photo credit: KAdDigArt.deviantart.com | Creative Commons

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Saving lives online – Kate turns away from suicide

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Everyone is searching for answers. Sometimes the questions are about what to buy or how to fix something. But then at times, they are about serious life issues and even life and death!

On March 12th, a young woman Kate*, was going to end her life went online searching for ways to do this. In the process, she ended up in one of the Power to Change online small groups. It was there that Kate was connected with a mentor, who helped her through her crisis during those early days. The mentor then transitioned to helping this woman with her spiritual journey. Kate was hurting, disillusioned by believers and struggling to find answers. They have been in conversation since mid-March and she is now moving from being a non-believer, to, as she states, “a fence-sitter”. She trusts and deeply appreciates her mentor. “I do love getting emails from you… you teach me so much and make me think in so many ways. I truly appreciate you taking the time to email. It is very much appreciated. I’m not a believer… or at least – I’m probably very much a ‘fence sitter’…”

Kate’s original message:

I happened to stumble across this site tonight whilst searching for a little help to not act on my suicidal thoughts. I entered a chat room and the group of women in there allowed me to stay for a while and listen to what they were sharing. That little bit of time has stopped me committing suicide tonight… it has pushed me one more hour… Someone from that group suggested I use this link – which is what I am now doing. I’m not sure why or how it will help. I am a non-believer and this appears to be Christian based – but I’m doing as suggested. Thank you.”

It’s incredible that we are able to connect trained mentors with people who are searching and help them come to know Christ! Another young woman sent a message saying that she had HIV. She knew a little about God but didn’t actually know Him and wondered if we could help her. The mentor helped her discover Christ and then grow in her faith. This young woman’s fears subsided as she found a deep and meaningful relationship with Christ.

*name has been changed

Thanks for this guest blog post from The Life Project | Power to Change team. They need volunteer home-based mentors – full training given – to help inquirers to their outreach webpages. Learn more at tmm.io. You can use pages from the team by, for example, posting them as conversation starters in social media.

Photo credit: jabmano.deviantart.com | Creative Commons some rights reserved

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How you can help silver surfers catch the waves

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There was a time, not so long ago, when web usage in the West was quite low for the over-65 demographic. But no longer, as the infographic below shows. Many of these ‘silver surfers’ are opting for tablets | more.

Studies also show that being online has big benefits for older people who live alone, as they can keep in touch with friends and family more effectively, and find online resources to help them. If they have mobility or transport issues, online shopping is also a huge boon.

  1. Older people in your church, taking up the Web for the first time, experience a steep learning curve and need encouragement. Informal classes, or one-to-one tutoring, could be a big help to them.
  2. Older people living in your community may have the same needs. Starting classes or offering one-to-one help could be a great way to connect with and serve them.
  3. Many online over-65s are on Facebook, all have email. These are valuable channels to share snippets of information and news, as well as check if they are OK and have any needs.
  4. Over-65s will likely consult the Web on age-related issues – health or loneliness for instance – and maybe also search spirituality topics. Keep a list of trustyworthy and appropriate resources to share with them.
  5. Screen-readers, magnifiers, and easy access to audiobooks are very beneficial to those with visual impairment.
  6. Age-appropriate gently evangelistic websites for over-65s are vanishingly rare, if they exist at all. This is surely a ministry opportunity. Another option would be to create a bridge-strategy portal offering a curated ‘best of’ third-party online resources of help to older people, including a spirituality section.

If you know of ministry examples or online resources in these areas, please share them in the comment section below. Check also:

Silver Surfers
Infographic source: Accredited-Online-College.org

Photo credit: wikimedia.org

This post first appeared in the BigBible blog

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The worldwide challenge of urban dwellers: infographic

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Here’s the latest ‘missiographic’ from GMI, looking at worldwide urbanization trends.

Wherever they are, digital will increasingly be one means to connect, especially mobile.

The next Mobile Ministry 6-week distance-learning course starts on 8 July. The Mobile Ministry Forum exists to help your ministry use mobile effectively. Consider going to their annual conference/consultation this December in Florida.

There is Hope for the City!
Cities will clearly dominate this century; with up to 70% of the world’s population living in an urban setting by 2050. What does this mean for reaching the lost and representing Christ? How do we deal with the paradox of urban settings that promise new opportunity but many times deliver pain and suffering?

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Free discussion resources for new Belle film

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Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral.

Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. See Belle’s biography.

Free downloads

Resources include two downloadable video discussion starters, trailer (below), and PDF Leader’s Guide. Get them here.
Belle released in USA in May 2014, and June 2014 in UK.

Film discussions can be a valuable yet non-threatening way to examine many types of life issues, using an area of shared interest. Damaris regularly produce similar commentary and study resources, so sign up to get news by email and Twitter.

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Realtime webstats ticker and two good-news video shorts to share in June

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I always find these sorts of real-time ticking web-stats quite fascinating. Each represents a real person doing something right now! This is the medium that is on our desk, or in our pocket 24/7!

It is the medium that will allow us to share the #GoEverywhere video on Sunday 8 June, or this football video during the World Cup.


Click the animation to open the full version (via http://pennystocks.la).

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MAF’s new Lumin software delivers many educational solutions in Majority World

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Way back in the early days of the Internet, MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) were digital pioneers, and continue to develop innovative solutions that meet the needs of the Majority World. Last year, we featured their Estante library smartphone app. They are now excited to release a free software product called Lumin.

“According to some estimates, 85 percent of the world’s churches are led by people who don’t have any theological or ministry training,” said Elliot Dawson of MAF, who was instrumental in the development of Lumin. “They don’t have access to libraries or Christian educational materials, but they may have a digital device of some sort. Lumin was developed as a resource for these isolated believers. It’s an easy way to create learning materials that can be shared across a wide variety of devices and operating systems, without the need for specialized software.”

Lumin allows churches, teachers, pastors and trainers to produce and deliver educational resources, even in areas where access to the Internet is limited. Materials created in Lumin can be exported and viewed in most modern web browsers or exported directly into Estante, MAF’s digital library app, for storage and sharing.

“You don’t need an Internet connection to use Lumin, and you don’t need any special skills,” said Dawson. “If you can use a Windows computer, you’re ready to create educational materials.”

English and Spanish interfaces, more to follow

Lumin comes with exam builders, easy archiving features, basic text formatting, and the ability to add images, video, audio and music. Exported Lumin projects, called ‘Paks’, can be viewed on almost any mobile device or computer. The Lumin user interface can be changed for English or Spanish, with more languages expected to be available in the future.

Although Lumin can be employed in classroom settings, Dawson says that it is especially useful for non-formal, personal learning. It can also be used for homeschooling.

Lumin can be downloaded for free at maf.org/lumin. In addition, MAF is hosting a contest for those who want to create a project with the new software. Just download Lumin and follow these instructions for a chance to win a Samsung Tablet 3.

Download their Lumin press release in Word to share this news in print or online with your community.

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