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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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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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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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The impact of education globally: infographic

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Education is a vital catalyst for positive change. Access to schooling is, for example, a major reason that Scotland punches above its weight on the world stage, because that country had virtually free and universal primary education, centuries before the rest of UK.

The new opportunities for digital distance-learning in Christian discipleship are beginning to be realized, often mediated through tablets or mobile phones.

This new GMI missiographic (which can be embedded in your own site) highlights the potential.

Education on the Rise Globally

A college education is a valuable resource for a person who is striving develop their skills and make a life for themselves and their family. While we still have a long ways to go, more people around the world are getting that chance. Now let’s consider the role of Christian higher education globally. While it is a small percentage of overall students, the Global Church looks to many of these students to be the next leaders of the Church. Explore the status of global higher education, the response of Christian Higher Education to the need and how you can support these institutions globally.

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Latest Qualman ‘Socialnomics’ video short released today

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Erik Qualman has done it again. Released his latest annual iteration of his view of the state of social media, as a 3-minute YouTube summary:

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Did you believe digital usage was this wide? Opportunities for ministry

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If you want to get a sense of the remarkable penetration of digital media around the world, or use some of these slides in seminars to present the challenge of digital ministry worldwide, this is for you:

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Africa internet and mobile use: infographic

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These stats are already out of date, but you get the incredible picture! For more detail, download this free 43-page PDF ebook Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology from Pew Research. Digital is a major key to leverage all types of existing evangelism and discipleship, not least in the Majority World.

It’s easier to equip someone to be 10 times more fruitful, than to try and mobilize 10 times more workers,”

… says Curtis Sergeant to missiologist Justin Long in this blog post. Check more on the amazing opportunities for mobile, in our recent blog posts.

There are an encouraging number of training days or conferences in Africa this year. I have not heard of anything similar in India, or many other Majority World countries. Consider arranging sessions like this, and please share about any you know of

Created by Mushroom Networks

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iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives – new book by Craig Detweiler

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Communication scholar, film-maker, and cultural commentator Craig Detweiler’s new book iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives (Brazos Press 2013) should be essential reading for any Christian interested in the impact of contemporary technology on their faith. In one of the most thorough and eclectic studies I have encountered, Detweiler examines how the technologies, web services, and social media networks of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram hold the potential to transform contemporary theology and practices of worship.

Read sample pages using Amazon’s Look Inside feature. Book available on Kindle | best price for the paperback in many countries (with free delivery worldwide) seems to be The Book Depository.

What are ‘iGods’?

Detweiler’s central term ‘iGods’ refers to the power these technological monoliths hold to become idols in our lives as well as to the god-like features they possess: Google’s ability to amass seemingly infinite information and answer seemingly every possible query, Amazon’s ability to predict our likes and interests, and Facebook’s way of networking us instantaneously across the globe, throwing geographic boundaries to the wind. There are facets of contemporary technology that seem omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, and Detweiler asks us to consider: What are we, as Christians, to make of this? How can we use technology to build instead of erode our faith? How can we more conscientiously approach the adoption of technology in our everyday lives, worship practices, relationships, and churches?

An iGod per chapter

In each chapter, Detweiler takes on an iGod, exploring the theological risks and potential positive spiritual benefits. In his chapter on Apple, for example, he considers how the sleek simplicity and beauty of Apple’s product designs can remind us of God’s love for aesthetics and approachable but wondrous design. It can teach us about how we might design church spaces to draw guests. But he points out as well the symbolism of Apple’s logo — a bitten apple — which serves as a reminder to not be consumed by the lust for more and more products, upgrades, and iDevices, convincing ourselves that the next product will complete us, or committing ourselves to a commercial brand rather than more eternally-valuable causes.

In his chapter on Google, Detweiler considers how the act of searching is inherently religious and how the act of seeking is central to Christianity. However, we must avoid the ‘Tower of Babel’ trap, or the notion that we can be masters of knowledge because it appears so readily at our fingertips with just the click of a mouse. We must avoid the lure of the eternal search as well, keeping in mind that, in Christianity, seeking ultimately leads to finding and contentment. In the chapters on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, Detweiler discusses the dangers of self-promotion and oversharing while considering the potential benefits for ministry, relationship, and spiritual conversation.

Diverse sources

One of the great strengths of this text is Detweiler’s ability to draw on a diversity of sources to support his arguments: his knowledge of scripture and ability to apply it to our contemporary context is adept and insightful, but he is also equally familiar with the theories and scholarship of a diversity of works by theologians, philosophers, and communication and media scholars. He draws on both popular and academic sources as well, guaranteeing that all readers will be able to connect with his claims and evidence.

Other strengths of the text include the discussion questions that conclude each chapter and the practical suggestions for how a more conscientious approach to technology adoption might be applied. For example, Detweiler suggests the value of using private messages rather than public comments to reach out to friends on social media, both as a way of avoiding the trap of self-promotion and of showing greater care for personal relationships with the potential of engaging in more authentic conversation. Another wonderful suggestion is the idea of an electronic Sabbath, or one day a week in which we disconnect entirely from technology to become more connected and engaged with our immediate surroundings and relationships.

Marshall McLuhan and Edgar Allen Poe

While Detweiler stops short of condemning specific practices of churches or individual Christians in regards to technology use, he does firmly push for much more regular, purposeful, and prayerful critical thinking, resisting any sort of mindless or passive adoption. He is firmly in the camp of scholars who maintain that technology is hardly a neutral force and could easily change an entire culture’s values and shake its core foundations if not approached with care.

I was reminded frequently of communication scholar Marshall McLuhan’s analysis of Edgar Allen Poe’s tale of the maelstrom. McLuhan describes how it is only the sailor who is able to analyze how the storm functions and identify its effects from within the swirling currents who will ultimately survive its force. McLuhan’s point is that if we are not “studying the process as it happens,” that is, studying how technology is shaping us, it will be given free reign to do so without our consent. We will be swept away by the storm rather than mastering it.

The lens through which Detweiler suggests we go about mastering the storm of social media, the web marketplace, and the abundance of technological devices that consume our world is biblical. His claim is that technology can teach us both about God’s original and desired intent for humanity as well as provide us with reminders of the particular types of vices — self-promotion, greed, jealousy — that our current technological moment must lead us to side-step. Detweiler neither suggests that we abandon nor wholeheartedly embrace technology; rather, we should maintain an arms-distance posture, taking its best assets, using it to draw us and our neighbors closer to God and to better our world, leaving its detrimental effects behind.

amberGrateful thanks to Amber Stamper for this guest post.

Amber M. Stamper holds a Ph.D. in English (Rhetoric and Composition) and is an Assistant Professor of Language, Literature, and Communication at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. Her research and publications center on religious rhetoric and communication, especially issues of Christian evangelism and the digital church.

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Digital alters everything, everywhere, for everyone

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“My two-year-old is teaching my one-year-old to use the iPad,” a Christian writer tweeted recently. As these two young ‘digital natives’ grow up, they will barely distinguish between online and offline, face-to-face or virtual. They will be unaware of that strange world just 20 years ago, which was almost untouched by digital media. They may never see, except in a museum, such ancient artifacts as typewriters, rotary-dial phones, or film cameras. Their use of digital will be totally instinctual, a seamless extension of minds and fingers. As the years pass, they will effortlessly handle digital tools and platforms yet to be invented.

Digital has transformed our societies faster than any previous media revolution. And it is transforming evangelism and discipleship too.

Read more on the new Evangel-vision blog, produced by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton.

Photo credit: po1yester/flickr | Creative Commons some rights reserved

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3 Revolutions Impacting Internet Evangelism: new shareable infographic from Global Mapping

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Infographics are a great way to communicate a strategic visual overview of any topic. Global Mapping’s new series of mission-related infographics are very helpful. This month they have summarized some vital trends and opportunities for digital evangelism, in this ‘missiographic’ entitled 3 Revolutions Impacting Internet Evangelism ▼

Grateful thanks to GMI for creating this valuable resource, coincidentally in the very week that the Mobile Ministry Consultation is taking place.

What opportunities does this infographic highlight for you? What other areas of digital ministry would you like to see crystalized into an infographic? Please add your comments.



Infographic by GMI Missiographics. Add to your site or blog | Sign up for twice-monthly email alerts with new infographics on global mission.

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Prevent your site visitors being confused and leaving, says Jakob Nielsen

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Two very helpful pages from Jakob Nielsen about website usability. A confusing website is one that visitors will leave. Quickly and permanently.

Jakob Nielsen is a recognized website usability expert. You can sign up for his AlertBox newsletter here.

1. Flat vs. deep website hierarchies

Virtually every website that has more than a few pages uses some structure for organizing the content. The most common (and most easily understood) structure is to categorize pages into groups, often with distinct subgroups. The end result is a hierarchy of content, a structure familiar to most of us from our interactions with organizations, families, and the natural world. Read more.

2. The halo effect

The Halo Effect is when one trait of a person or thing is used to make an overall judgment of that person or thing. It supports rapid decisions, even if biased ones. Websites can be impacted by the halo effect. Read more.

Related page: You cannot escape the blink test

Human brains are wired up a certain way. You cannot break human cognition rules and still communicate – this applies to a vast variety of situations. That the message is ‘spiritual’, or otherwise beneficial, makes no difference. Online, everything is subject to the brutal ‘blink test’ – the lightning fast algorithm our brains apply to a website, magazine article, video short, or anything else. Read more.

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