• an annual worldwide focus day on a Sunday near the end of April, 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
Digital Evangelism Issues
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Helpful advice from Socially Stacked – a good source of tips for social media communication. And a second infographic below from WhitefireSEO on how social media boosts your web site’s search engine positioning.
Choose your comfiest chair, make yourself a tasty coffee (or other beverage as preferred) and settle down for a 45-minute journey with Professor Brian Sturm to learn more about story.
Sturm presents storytelling as a way of organizing information, conveying emotions, and building community. A model of storytelling as altered state of consciousness (the story trance) is presented that includes 16 portals to altered states. Three stories are told to illustrate the theoretical model: Truth and Story; What Happens When You Really Listen; and The Stone Cutter. Storytelling ethics and the need for trust and truth are discussed.
Storytelling is the essential ingredient for almost all effective communication, be it evangelism, discipleship, or advocacy for a non-profit or cause.
Scott McClennan’s new book Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative is a valuable explanation of the significance of storytelling. Scott briefly describes his book here with a more detailed explanation from CMS. It’s widely available, eg from Amazon US, Amazon UK and other outlets. I’ll be reviewing the book shortly – but be assured, it is excellent.
Internet Evangelism Day encourages churches and other groups to create a focus spot or discussion time to consider how be effective in digital evangelism and integrate it with the rest of their ministry. Although the actual designated Day – usually the third or fourth Sunday in April – is a good time for this, there is no reason why you should not create a focus day at any time of the year.
As never before, there is an incredible potential of digital media to share the good news of Jesus, in an intentional but appropriate way. In the last eight years, the Internet has changed dramatically:
the vast growth in digital access via mobile phones, including in the Majority World
the advent of social networking, through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and many other niche networks
growth of the video short on YouTube and elsewhere, to communicate visually, and often by storytelling
These three developments intertwine into what we might call a ‘three-fold cord’ of strength, echoing Ecclesiastes 4:12. Each gains synergy by functioning together with the other two.
It is now simple and practical for any online Jesus-follower to engage in opt-in permission conversations across existing relationships with friends and indirectly to friends-of-friends, using perhaps all three platforms – social, mobile and video short. No longer is digital evangelism a specialism, needing writing or technical skills.
The outsider-friendly video short has growing significance. It can be used to start a conversation, or enhance an existing discussion, by posting to Facebook, Twitter etc. Valuable ready-made sources of video shorts, which can be dropped into Facebook with a single click, include:
YesHeIs.com (varied categories of shorts in several languages)
Also very significant are mobile phone apps which enable and enhance one-to-one faith-sharing. Sadly, there are very few. Mensajes de Fe is a new release (in Spanish). The JESUS Film is available in multiple languages as an app.
Phone users can also choose and download to their phones a small selection of video shorts to use in the same way. With growing mobile ownership across the Majority World, these opportunities are worldwide and strategic. MobileAdvance.org is one resource to learn more. The Mobile Ministry Forum connects groups working in this area.
There is a big need for churches to encourage members to understand these possibilities. A strategic way to do this is to appoint a ‘digital advocate’ in the fellowship to inform, educate and encourage members about effective and appropriate use of the ‘three-fold cord’ – read more at IEDay.net/advocate.php
When Christians in a community choose a range of social networking friends that includes many who are not yet Jesus-followers, it becomes likely that a majority of people in the community could be digitally connected to at least one believer.
Churches and digital
Churches can also use social media corporately, and many are finding this an incredibly effective voice in the community, rather than just as an internal communication system to members. It is possible to be outsider-friendly, but sadly, many churches only use social media as an internal communication tool. InternetToolboxforChurches.com is a key initiative to learn more about this.
In the last year, a number of Christian books ieday.net/books.php have been published on Christian use of social media, some of them free: ieday.net/eb. We have never been better resourced!
How to create a focus day in your church or group
Reproduce (or link to) this short news item in your church announcement sheet, church newsletter, blog or website, or any other media: ieday.net/shortannouncement.php
Create a short focus spot in a meeting, or even theme an entire service around digital evangelism opportunities. A very short focus spot might be little more than a verbal announcement. If more time is available, then you could add components such as a video short (for example the YesHEIs cartoon), PowerPoint slides, an interview with a church member involved in digital ministry, or an explanation of the ‘three-fold cord’ – perhaps with a live projected demonstration of posting video clips into Facebook.
Build on this awareness to plan a ministry or church digital strategy if you do not already have one.
Consider appointing a ‘digital advocate’ to resource your fellowship or team.
Questionnaire and free ebook
We’ve produced a 10-question survey about digital evangelism on SurveyMonkey. It’s not so much a yes/no questionnaire as a conversation to learn from each other. We will very much value your input: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LN63THN
As a thank you, you’ll get a free ebook download: Paul Clifford’s well-reviewed book Tweeting Church. He has also authored Podcasting Church, Church Video Summer School, and The Serving Church. Check his resources at TrinityDigitalMedia.com.
It has long been a concern of mine that mission agencies and other ministries should escape a proprietorial mindset of 400 years of print-on-paper culture. They frequently publish advocacy or discipleship books, booklets and group study guides (or hold the copyright to out-of-print titles) which sell only a few hundred copies a year maximum – a distribution output which will therefore be read by a very limited number of people, usually within a single country, and may not even pay for inventory costs.
If only missions and ministries could just let them out ‘into the wild’ in the form of free PDFs, Kindle and iTunes ebooks, and phone apps. Readership will likely go up by a factor of 10, 50 or even 100 times or more, and literature can be used in countries and by demographics who would not previously have had the opportunity to do so.
Of course, writing which is culturally very western and dated, or out-of-print missionary biographies from the 70s or earlier (which always tended to be hagiographies) are unlikely to be helpful to a wider audience, and can be cringeworthy. But there is much good stuff around which is culturally relevant, but imprisoned by being only distributed in print form. Meanwhile, Christian groups around the world may struggle to reinvent the wheel, or more likely, just do without. (Or, perhaps, fall prey to literature from extremists or cults.)
An extension of this tragic situation is copyright and the need to allow translations into other languages. Distant Shores Media strongly argues for a new ‘Christian Commons’ approach to our vast stores of usable written materials, in their new free ebook The Christian Commons by Tim Jore. This deserves a very wide readership.
There is also a big need, I feel, for someone to create a curated listing of various free online discipleship study booklets and ebooks, which are appropriate for a non-western audience. Without such a single one-stop source of reviewed resources, it is very hard for Majority World leaders, for example, to find good teaching or group discussion materials. Someone creating such a site would be doing an immense service for the gospel on a worldwide basis.
In this spirit, please feel free to republish or adapt this blog post in any way you wish.
Keith at Mobile Advance has also blogged about this situation – what he calls A Goliath of a Problem, which includes video of Tim Jore speaking at the recent Mobile Ministry Forum. Please share your thoughts on this issue on our comment section.
The HooteSuite video below, though it is primarily discussing businesses, clearly explains the importance of social media connectedness at every level in any organization – charity, non-profit, ministry – and emphasizes that in the end, it is just people and relationships. (Note, used in the video are commercial abbreviations ‘B2B’ meaning ‘business to business’ and ‘B2C’ meaning ‘business to customer’.)
Particularly highlighted in this video: social media needs to permeate through the entire organization, and is not something that is just ‘done’ by the marketing department. Richard Branson is cited as an example of a CEO who is constantly tweeting.
There are still relatively few non-profits and ministries that are really using social media effectively. Often, it is individual Christians who seem best at carrying a social networking conversation forward.
Social media won it for Mary Seacole
Social media can be powerful in influencing national decisions too. I just heard today that here in UK, an online petition at Change.org, widely publicized through email, Facebook and Twitter, has persuaded our government’s Education Department to keep the life story of Mary Seacole on the national educational curriculum, and indeed move her from ‘optional’ to ‘mandatory’.
Mary Seacole was a Jamaican-born woman who on her own initiative went to support soldiers in the Crimean War. An excellent role model, you might feel, yet some politician thought that she should be dropped from school lessons in favor of political and military historical figures – the likes of Lord Nelson and such worthies. Happily, 36,000 people signed the online petition and changed the decision. The moral pressure from the voice of the people can sometimes be powerful.
Also in UK, there are also two major reforendums coming up soon. One is on whether the UK should remain in the European Union. The other, for Scotland only, is whether Scotland should become an independent nation. Both are major questions that will shape UK and Europe for generations. It is likely that social media will play a big part in attempting to influence the undecided. Indeed, the probable winner in each case will be the side that can best reflect and retell the national story in social media.
As well as being coordinator for Internet Evangelism Day, I am part of a small team called SOON Ministries, based in Derby UK. (It’s a part of the larger WEC International mission agency.) We produce free evangelistic literature in easy-English, French, Swahili and Fulani dialects, mainly for Africa and Asia. A number of our team are approaching retirement age, and we urgently need to recruit new staff to our team.
There certainly are hurdles to recruitment. Team members are not salaried, and (as in many missions) raise their own support. Sitting in an office is not a ministry option attractive to everyone. And the available pool of Jesus-followers in UK is not enormous. (OK, this is open to anyone, but if you are not an EU citizen, getting a work permit for UK is seriously difficult.)
We need a campaign
So we are planning a recruitment campaign – in print, online, and by word of mouth. We feel it would be good to give it a catchy name: one that sums up the need, is memorable, and resonates with the prime demographic we’d hope to recruit – ie 20 to 40-somethings*.
The name should be 2-3 words, catchy, and something we can refer to later as our [name here] campaign. Ideally, we want to use a simple graphic to go alongside it.
Brainstorming so far has come up with a few viable alternatives:
Take the Baton
but we need others too.
What works for you?
Please – and not least if you are a 20 to 40 something Brit, or a recruiter – could you:
say whether any of the suggestions above resonate with you, and why.
if they do, do you have any suggestion of a simple graphic to go alongside. (The baton one is easy – specially in Olympic year! For the Kingdom Calling option, someone has suggestion a smartphone displaying a text message from ‘Kingdom’ saying “U get my call?”)
suggest other campaign names you feel would work well.
Word of mouth has always been the best grassroots way to communicate. And social networking is just digital word of mouth and discussion.
Here’s a valuable new book:
21 Thoughts on Building a Thriving Online Tribe
Killer Tribes LLC
Grab it from Amazon US, Amazon UK, as well as the Canadian and non-English-language stores.
You don’t need a Kindle – install the free Amazon Kindle software on your PC or smartphone, and you can start building your Kindle library today. Amazon offers many free classics on Kindle.
Allain describes it as an action-oriented workbook. If you want to get insights into connecting with people online and gaining a voice for whatever message you wish to share, then this book is for you.
Ministries, non-profits, evangelists, and churches who ‘get’ social networking are finding huge opportunities. (See recent survey of church use of networking.) I was talking to the former CEO of a Christian UK charity last week, and he shared how in a challenging economic environment, they had grown dramatically because they employed young web-savvy staffers to whom social networking was as natural as breathing, and intentionally developed a digital strategy.
No criticism intended, but many ministries, born in the days of one-way paper communication, find it hard to see how a grassroots conversation could help them. They either do not even attempt social networking, or else fail by trying to use it as a publicity pulpit, rather than a cafe, conversation and community.
Yet an understanding of effective digital communication will be, for many, the difference between survival and extinction. It really is mission-critical. There are non-profits who will sadly not exist in three years, because they didn’t understand this.
The date is set! Internet Evangelism Day 2013 will be on Sunday 21 April. It stands within the entire month of April, which is again designated as Digital Outreach Month.
The purpose of our annual focus day (and month) is quite simple: to highlight to the worldwide church what are the many – and growing – opportunities for digital evangelism.
As for any other focus day, the principle is that ‘come for coffee tomorrow’ is a far more specific invitation than ‘do drop in sometime’. A focus day creates critical mass, higher profile, and wider attention.
We think that Martin Luther’s estimate of the new communication medium of his day – printing – applies equally to digital media:
“God’s highest and extremist act of grace, whereby the business of the gospel is driven forward.”
Even though this will be our ninth annual focus day, we remain convinced that the need is just as great, and there remains a relative lack of awareness of just how widely digital can be used to share the good news, especially in appropriate ways that will engage with outsiders.
There are growing opportunities for social networking, video shorts (especially conversation-starting and storytelling) and mobile phones. In many countries, this potential may be barely appreciated or used.
We’d love to see local churches appointing a ‘digital ministry advocate‘ (by whatever name) to advise and resource the rest of the fellowship. And we hope that many churches will create a special focus time on 21 April, or indeed in any meeting during the month, to help members understand these opportunities.
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