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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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August reading: 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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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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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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Our stories shape us and our choices: insightful 15-minute talk by Phillipa Perry

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Storytelling is increasingly being understood as the key to effective communication. But there are many aspects to storytelling. It is far wider than just, for example, using Bible storying, or sermon illustrations, or pointing up redemptive parallels in popular culture, or true life stories (ie. testimonies).

Everyone views reality through the filters of their own life narrative, so our storytelling must engage with their existing stories, enabling them to edit and adjust them. The insights from Philippa Perry in the 15-minute BBC Radio 4 Four Thought talk (similar in style to a TED Talk), available below, are particularly helpful. It will probably remain online only until 10 May. Perry also illustrates how some people are unable to even hear good news being told to them.

Please share what insights in this talk are useful to you. What does it contribute to improving Christian communication?

Books too

There are growing number of books about storytelling in a Christian context. One highly recommended new title:
Tell Me A Story: Finding God (And Ourselves) Through Narrative (Scott McClellan, Moody Press 2013).

McClellan is a communications pastor who well understands creativity, digital media and storytelling. Check also:
Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories (Daniel Taylor, Bog Walk Press, ISBN 097065110). Listen/watch Professor Taylor’s talk at a Desiring God conference.

Even PowerPoint slides need to tell a story – see SlideShare’s advice. Check other recent posts on storytelling.


Or listen here in new tab.

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Understanding media and evangelism – Phil Cooke conversation video

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Lots of challenging wisdom from Phil Cooke | @PhilCooke, author of Creative Christian Media, on creatives, media, culture, storytelling, film, evangelism and effective communication.

Here are 18 minutes of high-value insights – do make the time to watch over the weekend.

A Conversation With Phil Cooke from Future of the Church on Vimeo.

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Collaboration leverages effectiveness for gospel: video and free ebook

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See what can happen when mission agencies collaborate AND use digital effectively, in this video by Create International, producers of films for the Majority World: listing. (Other related groups that may help you: Visual Story Network and Mobile Ministry Forum.)

Of course, collaboration is vital in any area of ministry, in whatever location: “All of us are smarter than one of us.”

The definitive book to read is Well Connected – Releasing Power, Restoring Hope Through Kingdom Partnerships by Phill Butler, available as a free PDF download. He is a member of the visionSynergy team, who are facilitators for collaboration projects. “It’s a must read,” says Bob Buford of Leadership Network.

Video also available in Mandarin.

Graphic credit: Vanessa Miemis/Flickr | Creative Commons. Other collaboration graphics available in her collaboration set.

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Understanding creatives, creativity resources

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Creatives think and function differently to many of us. Understand them. Give them space. They are often the best communicators in your church or team. Or could be if you’d let them. See 18 Things Highly Creative People do Differently.

Len Wilson is a Christian creative and storyteller with many insights. Check his latest blog post Five Places to Spot a Good Idea. You can sign up to receive email updates of his blog posts – I highly recommend them for learning more on creativity and good communication.

Check also the well-reviewed Kindle ebook by Ed Cyzewski: Creating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity – short, but costs less than a coffee (Amazon gives a ‘look inside’ preview option). Ed’s other books include the currently free-on-Kindle A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book. Ed blogs at In a Mirror Dimly.

See other recent posts on storytelling and effective communication. And please share in our comments section any helpful resources for creatives that you know.

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Call2All video on the potential for ‘media missionaries’

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What are ‘media missionaries’? This Call2All video explains the strategic nature of different types of digital media in the Majority World:

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