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  • • a year-round resource guide about web, mobile and digital media outreach
  • • an encouragement for churches and other groups to hold a focus day, to look at the potential of digital evangelism and discipleship

 Digital
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Are you a maven*? Do you want to publish curated content?

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It’s an obvious truth that you should only write about what you know, and what enthuses you. The CopyBlogger infographic below gives you guidance and ideas about how you might write a curated email newsletter. On anything. See also What can I curate?

Many of these choices apply equally to curating a visual topic on Pinterest, writing a blog – or even creating a website – around something that excites you.

I have often suggested building a website or blog around a special interest or hobby. It’s a great way to connect with people who share your own interests. It is one aspect of using the bridge strategy. Connecting with people through aspects of popular culture is a related opportunity with enormous potential.

Do You Have What It Takes to Publish a Curated Email Newsletter? [Infographic]

Like this infographic? Get proven online marketing advice from Copyblogger Media that will give you an unfair business advantage.

* maven: a trusted expert in a particular field.

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A language that Christians mostly refuse to translate text into

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English is unique in being a world language. In a review of new book What is English? And Why Should We Care? (Tim William Machan, OUP), London Times columnist and language-use expert Oliver Kamm writes:

…debates over the nature and purpose of English are longstanding. It’s not only the language but its speakers who are different from the past. In the middle of the past century, about 400 million people spoke English. The total is now 1.5 billion, while the proportion of them living in Britain, North America and Australasia has declined. There is no historical parallel for this growth in English usage and the shift in the language’s center of gravity.”

That’s over 20% of the world’s population who can speak English to some degree. And since English is the language of the Internet, much higher education, and the majority of websites, there is a big incentive for young people in every nation to learn it. With only about 360 million people as first-language speakers, 80% of the 1.5 billion are using it as a second language.

Of course, in an ideal world, there would be adequate Christian resources, online and offline, in the heart language of everyone. But failing that, we should be making our evangelistic and discipleship resources as accessible as possible to all second-language English speakers. How?

The concept of simple or international English

Of course, every user of English is somewhere on a spectrum of grammar and vocabulary, and most people can read a language better than they can speak or write it. But although TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) recognizes different levels of attainment, there are few specific standards or guidelines to write for second-language speakers, and few Christian groups have seen the significance of easy-English for literature, books, or online material.

This remains a huge and largely un-noticed opportunity for the Kingdom.

To their great credit, Wikipedia have embraced simple English, and a percentage of their articles have easy versions.

Of course, avoiding jargon in any writing is a related issue.

Christian use of simple English: radio

Frank Laubach was a Christian pioneer in world literacy and the learning of English. He developed word lists of simple words to use in easy English, graded at 500, 1000 and 1500 words and published by Syracuse University.

Voice of America developed a similar word list of 1500 words and associated style, to use in easy English.
This was adapted by FEBA Radio in the past, and is now at the core of the daily audio programme Spotlight. The programme has a Christian worldview, is broadcast on radio stations around the world radio and is freely available online. The Spotlight team say, “Our young and technologically savvy audience is increasingly listening to Spotlight on our new Spotlight App for both Apple and Android devices.”

Christian use of simple English: literature

SOON Ministries’ easy-English outreach SOON paper goes back over 50 years, and was inspired by the work of Frank Laubach. It is, sadly, ceasing paper publication during 2015.

Volunteers with MissionAssist (formerly known as Wycliffe Associates UK) have been working on both a simple translation of the Bible, and matching book-by-book commentaries. After 20 years work, the entire Bible has now been covered, and everything is available for free download from EasyEnglish.info.

Manna Publications also offer free-to-download commentaries in easy-English and French.

There are several other Bible translations which are very accessible to second-language English speakers. The Easy-to-Read (ETR) version is particularly simple and readable. The NIrV was produced with second-language speakers in mind. Both the NLT and CEV are very accessible. The Jesus Book (NT only) is of comparable simplicity to the ETR.

Happily, many of these versions are now freely accessible online, for instance via Bible Gateway, and integrated into the YouVersion phone app, whose current 1000+ Bibles in 700+ languages are also viewable on their Bible.com resource.

“Let it go, let it go!”

It is sad when mission groups and other teams own the copyright to various Bible translations or discipleship materials which are culturally appropriate for parts of the Majority World. And then, they restrict distribution to print media, often only by selling, with minimal financial return. This sort of desire for control means that distribution figures may only be in hundreds. But if they were to let them go, out into the wild, as free downloadable texts in whatever formats best suit them – specially those which work on mobile phones, the only device most people will use to access the Web. Do this, and distribution is likely to be in the tens of thousands!

Any evangelism or discipleship strategy for the Majority World which fails to put mobile phones at its heart, will not achieve its potential. Read more posts about the significance and reach of mobile. Check the online resources, training and April conference of the Mobile Ministry Forum. It is not too late to book for the April 17-18 conference in Netherlands.

Also follow the news and updates on the Indigitous blog, which also includes details of their various training days across Africa and Asia.

Photo credit – “Easy button” by User:Yskyflyer – own work (2 feet from my computer, On my Desk). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

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Questions that release stories and space for change

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Grounded questions, says Mark Strom in this short 16-min TED lecture, have the power to release stories, creative thought, and transformation.

They are not yes/no questions, or even questions about facts or feelings. Mark’s insights are helpful in any area of life, work, or ministry.

And here’s another explanation, from the Slideshare blog, of why storytelling engages with our minds and hearts, in ways that facts cannot.

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“You win, infographics!” Print: not so quick

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“You win, infographics!” In communicating overall concepts quickly and simply, visual beats text.


Source: Rickmann’s Posterous

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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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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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