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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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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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Jesus Myths video series launched to correct common misapprehensions

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“But everyone knows that the New Testament was [insert common myth here].” There are so many misapprehensions floating around the Web and modern culture, we need to have good accessible and authoritative refutations available. Help is at hand.

God: New Evidence has launched a new series of video shorts called Jesus Myths. Also curated on their YouTube channel, it is the work of moments to embed into a blog or website, post to Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, or download to project in a meeting. You can also discuss the videos on the God: New Evidence Facebook page.

Here’s their latest video:

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Africa infographic: last 20 years, next 20 years

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The latest infographic from GMI (below) charts the huge changes in Africa over the last 20 years, and also highlights the growth of mobile phone access from zero to near universal. The huge benefits to Africa of improved communication through mobile and the Internet have been covered frequently in many blogs and reports – economic growth, development, health and education are all being transformed through digital.

Digital evangelism and discipleship are growing in significance. Indigitous has just completed a 3-day digital ministry conference in Ethiopia, and plans others. Video report above or watch on YouTube. You can also follow them on Facebook.

Cybermissions Africa held a strategic conference in Uyo Nigeria during April, and plan further meetings, seminars and conferences. Check their Facebook page.

With most Africans accessing the web and digital resources using mobile phones, our priority is to develop evangelism and discipleship mediated through mobiles. The Mobile Ministry Forum are the team to connect with for resources, networking and an annual consultation.

20/20: Progress & Challenges in Africa
While there are many reasons for the changes in Africa over the past 20 years, the release of Nelson Mandela and the spotlight he brought to Africa is a significant milestone. As the world mourned his loss in 2013, there is value in looking back over the past 20 years since his release from prison and the next 20 years and ask the question, “Given the amazing progress and significant changes, what is the role of the Church?” This Missiographic strives to provide some insight into this question.

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Creativity infographic: 29 ways to stay creative

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Ideas to stay creative.

See more creativity resources.

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Are you using the best method to communicate your message? What does research show?

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There’s a magazine from my childhood which has hugely influenced my thinking since. And it wasn’t Superman comic!

It was WHICH?, the magazine of the pioneering UK consumer group CA. In what is now a common worldwide concept, they buy and exhaustively test various consumer products, and choose a ‘best buy’, or a range of recommendations based on various criteria.

This magazine taught me that evidence-based choices are vital. If vehicle A or washing machine B is demonstrably better or more reliable than its peers, why would you not buy that one? If laptops from one manufacturer have half the annual failure rate of those from another, why would you not look online for the reliability stats? If insurance company C has an appalling customer service record, then despite enticing prices or giveaways, why not turn round and start walking (as I did only recently)?

Spiritual applications

An evidence-based approach is surely even more vital for ministry than for finding a good washing machine. But Christians can be uncertain of how to objectively research options, or even leery of trying. Few churches do demographic research for their community. What are the age demographics and ethnic profile of the area? The community needs and problems? Unemployment levels? Single mothers, one-person households? Without research, we can only use instinct or anecdotal evidence. Research is nothing less than uncovering God’s truth.

Research effective communication

The Internet provides easy ways to test alternate ways of expressing something, and see which option keeps people reading longer, or creates more clickthrus.

Here are two significant research conclusions from social networking company Buffer (and they should know):

  1. Storytelling dramatically increases readership of written content
    Our brains are wired to respond to stories, and we remember almost everything through imagery and narrative. When someone says, “Let me tell you a story,” a switch is pulled in our brains. This is so foundational. If Jesus always used story, why don’t we?

    Buffer research shows how this principle works, even to communicate something quite practical. They positioned the same guidance in two forms – one as a typical list of practical advice, and the other as a narrative story containing quoted conversation:
    The Power of Storytelling: How We Got 300% More People To Read Our Content.
    Guess which version won, hands down?

  2. Wording of headlines, tweets, posts
    Words we use can double (or halve) our readership. So this is not just academic, but thoroughly practical and essential wisdom we must apply. Check this vital page:
    A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Headlines on Twitter, Facebook, and Your Blog.

Years ago, the great communicator David Ogilvy researched how to communicate a message well. His classic book Confessions of an Advertising Man is still worth reading, even for the discovery that a large drop cap at the beginning of a piece of writing increases readership!

Our brains are wired to read information in certain ways. Pictures, short paragraphs, lots of white space, enticing headlines and subheadings increase readership and comprehension by a huge factor. Test the two examples shown on this page.

Assess and measure

Evidence-based assessment of ministry models is equally vital. Ask the hard questions. Einstein said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Isaiah 55:11 is often optimistically misapplied to validate all types of ineffective or outdated ministry. Of course, we must avoid short-termism, or worldly views of ‘success’. Not everything is measurable. Some sorts of ministry, not least in the Majority World, take years to come to fruition.

Another key research study How Adults Become Christians shows how most conversions happen. Yet do we build our ministry around these truths?

It is quite tragic to observe ineffective ministry being continued, year on year, unchanged.

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