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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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Using a custom Facebook community group to connect with life issues

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Guest blog post by the TruthMedia.com team

One of our ministry goals is to make sure that we create relevant and responsive content. This includes creating articles, videos – even something as seemingly simple as social media posts – that are so engaging that our readers are just compelled to respond!

Lately, we’ve been working on our Facebook page for our newest evangelistic strategy called Issues I Face. In that group, we’ve been sharing stories, links, and images and inviting the social media world to engage in conversation with a mentor. We’d like to share with you a story of one woman. She saw a few of our social media posts and started to leave comments on our Facebook page desperately asking for help because she was struggling with a variety of mental health issues. Our staff writer and resident social media expert, Tia, sent her a private message on Facebook and started a spiritual conversation. Here’s how Tia tells the story:

A few weeks ago I started mentoring a woman I’ll call Marie* with whom I have a lot in common. We have the same faith background, and we both unfortunately struggle with depression. Through email, I learned that she has a relationship with God and a prayer life, although the darkness of her depression makes her feel afraid that she has turned her back on God, and that He might be angry with her. I’m doing my best to pray with her daily and to encourage her that when we call out to God in our pain, that is a form of prayer and He not only hears but relates to our struggles. I’ve encouraged her to begin each day from a place of strength – praying right off the bat – and so she has subscribed to TheLife.com daily devos. Recently Marie has experienced physical healing, and we continue to pray together for mental and spiritual health too, that her doctors would be able to find a medication that works for her, and that her son who also deals with depression would experience healing grace. God is doing good things in His own time for Marie and her family.”

Isn’t it incredible how something seemingly simple as a Facebook comment can turn into a spiritual conversation? Please pray for Tia and Marie as they continue their conversation. Please pray for Marie’s son as well!

We need more people to “like” our Facebook page.
By liking our page and sharing our posts, our content can reach more people like Marie! Please “like” the Issues I Face page?

If you have the gifts, consider also becoming an online mentor. TruthMedia are just one of several big outreach teams who need online mentors, working from home in their spare time.

* name changed

Photo credit: Pixabay.com | Creative Commons

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Amazing mobile phones and the next billion Internet users

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Memorably, the first spoken words in the first movie with a (partially) synchronized soundtrack were, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” (in The Jazz Singer).

In the world of digital phones access especially in the Majority World, we have barely seen anything yet! Did I ever mention this before?

This very significant article in Time Magazine shows just how strategic mobiles will be: Why the Internet’s Next Billion Users Will Be Mobile-Only.

Implications

  • Any mission agency, any national church, any ministry, especially in the Majority World, which does not have mobile at the top of its agenda, is failing to understand God’s plan for effective communication.
  • Any website should be optimized for mobile viewing. (WordPress-powered sites have the benefit of an automatic easy switch to a mobile version.)
  • Majority world phone users are acutely aware of the relatively high cost of data. Apps, websites and downloads should be as low bandwidth as possible. Do the research. See how Wikipedia deals with this issue.
  • There are a growing number of discipleship and Bible apps that work, at least partially, offline.

Read more posts on mobile ministry. Connect with Mobile Ministry Forum | Mobile Advance | Indigitous. See also IT News Africa.

Photo credit: wikimedia.org | Creative Commons

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Get on board the mobile train to Africa and beyond

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Digital is transforming Africa and Asia. The speed of change even surprised a mission staffer who returned for a short visit to his former West African country, and saw just how widespread digital had become:

Africa is changing! Cassettes and CDs are beginning to disappear. In two weeks of teaching the Bible, there were numerous computers, tablets and smartphones. Many connect to the Internet and use social media.

The invasion of new technologies makes missions rethink the ways of spreading the Gospel. Instead of brochures and cassettes, SD cards or mini SDs are distributed. They are light and discreet. Where the opposition can be strong, it’s an important tool. I was able to offer several cards to key contacts.

In a very simple house where I expected astonishment when I offered an SD card, my host immediately went to get his mini radio and slipped the card in! And all the house began to listen to the Sermon on the Mount in their mother tongue!”

Across the Majority World, digital has become the key that unlocks knowledge, education, evangelism and discipleship. Now we need the training and envisioning from practicitioners who understand the opportunities. Here are three major opportunities:

Indigitous # sessions

Indigitous have presented short conferences and training days across Africa. (On November 14, there is one in Nairobi.) They encourage people to set up ‘Indigitious #’ events in their town. (Say it “Indigitous hash”.) More details.

Mobile Ministry Consultation

After arranging several annual consultations in Florida, the Mobile Ministry Forum plan the next in Zelhem, Netherlands, April 17-8 2015. If you want to learn more of these amazing mobile ministry opportunities, with particular reference to the Majority World, see more.

Mobile Ministry distance-learning course

Although the final course for this year is already underway, you will have the opportunity in 2015. Check the site.

Free ebooks

Picture credit: Pixabay.com

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Starting with the why – how to inspire action

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TED lectures are frequently a mine of wisdom. Check Simon Sinek explaining a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” Watch both Simon’s talks on TED.

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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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