Rachel Lemons Aitken
Communications Executive of the Greater Sydney Conference and Founder of the Digital Discipleship.
In an article entitled Discipleship: Cutting through the Buzz, published in Adventist Record, Dr Leigh Rice, leader of discipleship ministries for the South Pacific Division shared a clear and succinct message about what it means to be a disciple. He said:
A disciple is a person who in every way is becoming more like Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15). So discipleship is the process of making better and more disciples.
In the narrow sense we could say that mentoring is making better disciples and evangelism is making more disciples. But Jesus’ model of making disciples was very relational and this is perhaps the defining focus of discipleship.
Disciples who make disciples, who make disciples—a disciple-making movement. Or as the parable in Mark 4 says, multiplying “30, 60 and even 100 times.”
TWO DIGITAL PIONEERS
Recently, I put a call out for two people who would like to test the idea of being digital disciples. Prayers were sent out and two hands went up.
Several weeks ago, I met them individually over the phone. At that time, we discussed their hearts for God and how they’re currently involved in the digital space. One of the individuals really enjoys blogging and the other one has Snapchat as his platform of choice.
This week, I had a meeting with them to start our discussion as a group about becoming pioneers in our digital discipleship movement.
At that meeting, we decided me needed a bit more structure as we venture out into the digital space.
So we started with the Multiply the Harvest model of discipleship that is outlined in Mark 4 and was shared in the Discipleship: Cutting through the Buzz article.
Our discussion focused on how we can translate this model into the digital space. We understood that there would be some overlap between what was already outlined and what we would identify. We know from our own lives that some relationships span both the physical and digital space. As we’re working to create a discipleship movement in the digital space, including aspects of our digital lives in the model is very important to what we’re doing.
Here’s what we came up with:
PREPARE THE SOIL
SOW THE SEEDS
CULTIVATE THE PLANTS
HARVEST THE CROPS
MULTIPLY THE HARVEST
Reposted with permission from digitaldisciples.info.
Rachel Lemons Aitken
Communications Executive of the Greater Sydney Conference and Founder of the Digital Discipleship Ministry of the Greater Sydney Conference.
WHAT IS DISCIPLESHIP?
In Adventist Record’s recent interview with Dr. Leigh Rice, leader of Discipleship Ministries at the South Pacific Division, a definition of discipleship was shared.
A disciple is a person who in every way is becoming more like Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15). So discipleship is the process of making better and more disciples. In the narrow sense we could say that mentoring is making better disciples and evangelism is making more disciples. But Jesus’ model of making disciples was very relational and this is perhaps the defining focus of discipleship. Disciples who make disciples, who make disciples—a disciple-making movement. Or as the parable in Mark 4 says, multiplying “30, 60 and even 100 times.
In Mark 4, Jesus outlines five activities that are involved in making disciples. The South Pacific Division has given more specific examples of how we can carry out each of the steps in our day-to-day lives, for example when Jesus encourages us to “prepare the soil” we are being encouraged to visit with people to connect. This means listening to their story, visiting them when they’re sick and when they’re in need, like when they’re in prison.
Reviewing this document from the perspective of a digital disciple, we wondered how we could give further examples for how these activities might be applied in the digital space.
PREPARE THE SOIL: EMBRACING DIGITAL DISCIPLESHIP
(Please not that these steps are not a replacement to the original activities outlined but are being suggested as additions to the list.)
Reposted with permission from digitaldisciples.info.
Center for Online Evangelism
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED ABOUT OUR FACEBOOK PRESENCE?
Facebook has been all over the news in the last few months, defending itself against mishandling of user data as well as bias in the type of content it favors in its algorithms.
This may lead to some questions of how we should regard and/or use this huge social media platform, a large part of the Online Mission Field.
While we continue to encourage Adventists to spread the Gospel over any social media, to share and support positive, help content and delve into spiritual topics, and even to start online Bible studies or groups, there are always best practices to consider.
But even while following best practices, Facebook could still cause your posts to be buried by their algorithm, or you might find yourself feeling bombarded by strangely-accurate online ads.
But is that a reason to leave Facebook? Is that a reason to stay silent? In most cases, we don’t think so.
There are issues to consider, as well as things we can do to keep our personal information as safe as possible and to conduct ourselves conscientiously. Overall, however, our opportunities for online mission work for individuals, groups, churches, schools, and ministries remain.
We invite you to read sdadata.org’s post, “Why Christians Shouldn’t Leave Facebook” by Jamie Domm, Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
In addition, if you’re concerned about the security of your personal information and what risks might be involved from maintaining activity on Facebook, especially with a spiritual focus, here are a few thoughts:
WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH MY PERSONAL DATA?
As you may have heard from various news channels, Cambridge Analytica came under fire for mishandling Facebook user data with Facebook’s permission. The data ended up being allegedly used by advertisers during political election seasons to create super-targeted advertising meant to influence voter opinion.
And that’s not all. Discussions are ongoing as to how far this user data went—Was it shared to other companies? What are they using it for?
While the best anyone can do at this point is make educated guesses, here’s the bottom line—If yours or anyone else’s user data is retained by a firm like Cambridge Analytica or any other research entity, it’s likely used for marketing purposes.
The better they know your behavior, the easier it is to sell to you.
Knowing a faceless entity out there might have personal information about you is indeed unsettling. That’s why you’ll find piles of advice on what to share or not to share online, in order to prevent identity theft, predatory targeting, etc.
However, just by being online, personal data is collected minute by minute through our location data, browsing habits, search histories, clicks, downloads, Likes, Shares, etc.
But before we get too paranoid, remember that the most common use for all this data is so marketers can better know how to advertise to you. They may not even know your name, address or phone number, but they know that your IP address likes to shoe shop on Zappos.com, share and comment on cat videos, or discuss certain topics on Quora or reddit. (Read more here.)
If a platform is free to use, like Facebook, advertising is footing the bill. And for those advertisers to get the most bang for their buck, they’re going to use the most targeted, intuitive marketing strategies possible to maximize sales. And that means knowing more about what their audience values.
Truth be told, it’s not entirely different offline. Companies track consumer habits everywhere from the grocery store to Home Depot to your local pharmacy. Ads in the most innocent of places are built upon Big Data in order to convince you to buy.
While there may be a time or two when you feel a bit violated after an accidental click or unintentional social media “rabbithole” can result in a few sponsored posts you’d rather not see or have associated with you, at least we still have the free agency to choose not to click on that ad and scroll right past. (Advertisers will eventually notice that, too.)
WHAT PRECAUTIONS CAN I TAKE?
Even so, it’s never a bad idea to be extra savvy in how you represent yourself online. You can be selective about the social platforms you participate in, and set both your browser’s and your social profiles’ privacy settings conservatively.
You can also put extra care into how much you share about your preferences in sports, politics, spirituality, business or other hotly debated topics, and whether or not you draw attention to your travels, your family play-by-plays, your big purchases, etc.
There are also browser extensions and apps that can block adware, pop-ups, and detect some website trackers (Avast, AdBlock, Privacy Badger, Ghostery, etc.).
All in all, the Center for Online Evangelism recommends we always be conscientious about how we continuously represent ourselves, our families, and our communities online. We can’t tell everyone exactly what to share or not to share, as every individual has their own priorities, sensitivities, and life situations. All we can do is promote proven best practices and keep you aware of what could be amazing opportunities as well as (and sometimes simultaneously) considerable threats in the online world.
When it comes to Facebook, do keep up with news reports from your trusted channels. The issues about privacy, user data, bias, and algorithms will likely be ongoing discussions.
But as Christians actively spreading the Gospel to every nation, kindred and tribe, why not keep right on connecting, discussing, promoting, helping and sharing on Facebook right up until Jesus comes, or we’re booted from the platform. Whichever happens first.
Reposted with permission from centerforonlineevangelism.org.
When it comes to evangelism, one of the best tools to use is text messaging.
Just to be clear, texting or SMS is “the act of sending short, alphanumeric communications between cell phones, pagers or other hand-held devices, as implemented by a wireless carrier.”
Top push back on texting - it’s impersonal.
If I was to get your number today and call you vs. sending you a text, which would you prefer and which are you more likely to respond to?
In fact, you are likely communicating with your team through some form of text. Perhaps text written in emails, on Slack or Twitter, but most likely, you are communicating through text messages using the default text app—no data required and pretty universal.
This is what Evangelist Wyatt Allen discovered at one of his local seminars (an evangelistic meeting) here in Houston. He was doing all the other steps like mailers, emails, proper registrations, and having a clear strategy. He was also making calls during his evangelistic series’ off-days.
He would call 100 people who signed up and get 10 people to pick up. Out of that 10, many fewer were really engaged with what he was saying. 90 ignored or didn’t answer the call and very very few followed up.
It was Day 3 of the seminar when Allen was speaking with me—the then assistant communications director at Houston Central Seventh-day Adventist Church—about strategy and logistics when the question came up: “How can we build relationships with our first-time attendees and get them coming back nightly?” I pointed Allen in the direction of a bulk, text-messaging platform I was building.
It wasn’t the first time Allen saw texting being used at one of his seminars. In fact, in a previous seminar, the local Pastor had used his cell phone to text the church members every day leading up to the event.
What he had seen didn’t register as a viable option to Allen considering the time and energy it would take to use a cell phone for members and guests. However, using a cloud-based solution for texting made sense as it scales personalized interactions and would give him more tools to communicate. Allen saw he could do it from anywhere, and anyone on his team could help him engage.
Here's what he had to say about his personal experience:
Allen reports that at the end of the Houston seminar, 70% of those who made a commitment to Jesus through baptism had communicated with him via texting. And when he went, he “left” the entire communication with the other guests and the contacts who got baptism with our local church. This created continuity—something that using just his cell phone would not have allowed.
Since the seminar, Allen has continued to use texting as his main form of communication at his other meetings. He reports that his results regarding people’s new commitments to Jesus have stayed consistent. Allen understands it is not the texting, per se, but his ability to minister in a more effective and connected way that has made the difference.
Allen told me that that his ability to use text to connect with everyone in a seminar or meeting was amazing. But it’s much more. Allen says,
“When all the personal responses come pouring in, well, that is beyond amazing! I can now connect with each attendee in a very personal way.”
Allen continues to use all tools available (mailers, emails, knocking on doors) but texting is a must for all his series. He says it’s a great technique for connecting and staying connected. He is amazed at how effective it is and how easy it is to include. Allen encourages every minister to use text. He says it is “a powerful digital communications tool because it is social, non-threatening, and allows the receiver to respond in his or her own time (no pressure).”
As he uses it personally to keep in touch with family and friends, Allen says that using it for ministry is actually a no-brainer...but not something that he had really considered or experienced until Houston.
I asked Allen what his top three bulk texting features are:
Allen explains, “I have my guests text HOPE to my local number. The texting system automatically asks for their name and email and opts them into my special group just for them. Then I send them all the updates and announcements, ask them questions, or just say ‘Hi’ (to start a conversation).”
“When I want to send a link to a page on my website, a video on YouTube, or just a special message, I have them text a unique keyword. For example, for my guests who are looking for good sermons, I have them text ‘PREACH’ to my local number and automatically they get a message with a link to AudioVerse.com, my favorite sermon storehouse. I have my prayer warriors text ‘PRAY’ to my number and they’ll automatically get a Bible verse and be subscribed to my prayer group, making it easy to send them each the new prayer requests that come in,” says Allen.
Allen told me, “I just love the fact that when I send a group text, I don’t have to worry about everybody getting everyone else’s follow-up texts—a constant thorn in my side with my phone texting app. When they respond, I’m the only one who sees it and I can personally engage with them.”
However, for Allen, it doesn’t stop there. “But I love so much more: I can send and receive pictures, emojis. The texting platform has a mobile app (for Apple and Android). I can tag groups to create another level of segmentation. I can answer the phone if they call my local number. I can do polls. The system is fast, simple and intuitive. Oh, and I’ve never had to wait long to get the help I’ve asked for.”
Every registrant, volunteer, and team member is entered into the bulk texting platform (phone number and name). This means that in just a few seconds, you can send all your guests a message. Equally, you can quickly connect via text with all the volunteers. Additionally, each guest, volunteer, and team member can text you at will.
Using texting during your event
During your evangelistic event:
How well does it work?
Churches consistently report that using texting enables a more effective, connected and personal ministry. For example, people who are too shy to ask in person can text in Bible questions. Also, people who did not get an answer due to lack of time can be followed-up with later. Another area is commitment to Jesus through baptism. Ministers say that a majority of the people who commit at the end of an evangelistic event had stayed in touch during the event via texting.
Full disclosure: Evangelist Wyatt Allen uses PastorsLine and has since invested in the company. However, these sentiments were captured before he got involved. PastorsLine is adventist-owned and operated by, and I am the creator.
However, you can implement the process discussed using any cloud-based text messaging solution of your choice that allows you to use a local number (not short-codes).
If cost is a factor, a good option to consider is something like Google voice. It won’t give you all the text communication tools that Allen uses, but you can potentially have a number that isn’t directly tied to your personal cell phone.
Overall, bulk texting is an ‘easy to include’ technique for connecting and staying connected. The power of this digital communications tool comes from its social, non-threatening characteristics and because it allows the receiver to respond in his or her own time without any pressure.
We know the best way for people to learn more about Jesus is through friendship (a.k.a. friendship evangelism). One figure suggests that as many as 79% came to know Jesus through a friend. Many times an evangelist was involved at some point, but the most powerful reason for that friend showing up at the meeting or church was the friendship.
So, can we scale this?
Truthfully, if every one of us [who says we're a Christian] actually reached at least one person, we probably wouldn’t need technology or require a digital strategy. However, wishing or hoping for this to take place might not be the best option. Prophetically speaking, the number of workers don’t match the requirements of the harvest.
What's the alternative?
Whether your church is doing it or not, we should reach people within our spheres of influence. In fact, you are reaching people now through your living testimony whether or not you are aware of it. And if you are alive with a social media account, your testimony is living through that means as well. So this is personal evangelism and an area in which you can get creative. And to reiterate, whether you really really love knocking on doors, giving out books or prefer using technology, what you do personally is totally up to you and God. You have freedom here.
What about the church? Can churches scale friendship evangelism into a cycle of discipleship?
The answer is yes—by using digital tools. Friendship evangelism is always going to be critical (and an outgrowth of your personal ministry), but digital tools can help you scale your social interactions with others. It’s even more important as many Adventist churches struggle to muster up a team of people who will directly be involved in church evangelism. We are not talking about just volunteering at your church but also being very deliberate about how you use your time, resources, and position to reach more people for Christ.
So what can we do?
A huge part is what our pastors all over the world have done and are continuing to do—preach, teach, and encourage churches to pray, study and serve. But while we let the Spirit do His work, part of the privilege afforded to us is using the existing resources to multiply the time and energy of the few who are willing and able.
It was prophesied that “knowledge would increase” in the last days and we will be going “to and fro.” It’s a sign, an opportunity and a means God set in place for us fulfill our commission.
Besides, the use of technology within our churches isn’t new at all. The printing press is a technological tool which allowed God’s word to spread throughout the world. Radio ads, print ads, flyers, mailers, etc. are all technological tools or products we used—and continue to use—in evangelism.
So what's the push back with many Seventh-day Adventist churches?
Most Seventh-day Adventist churches don’t use more digital tools—despite the fact that the top ministries we follow do—because:
You see, digital tools and a digital strategy aren't separate from evangelism. It’s one gospel, one savior, the same great controversy but multiple ways to reach a more digitally-connected world.
In fact, this world is more accessible because it’s digitally connected. When used properly, digital tools amplify personal friendships.
Marketing specialist and founder of @PraisePix, an Instagram ministry with over 23K followers.
A lot of ministries and churches worldwide are now beginning to understand the impact and reach of connecting with people online. If you have adopted this macro mindset, this is one of the most practical pieces of content to help your ministry post effectively on Instagram and grow your following. It’s important to understand that each social media platform is different. Whether you are just beginning on Instagram and looking for ways to be more active, or if you have already built a following and would like to see it grow, this information will bring you value. We will begin with two basic rules and then go into detail
about specific step by step tactics every ministry should be doing.
Figure out your goal. One of the biggest questions that you will have to ask yourself and the members of your ministry is: what are we trying to accomplish and who are we trying to reach? Maybe you are a local church simply wanting to update your members and surrounding community on upcoming events or programs. Or maybe you are a youth and young adults ministry hoping to reach more teens and millennials online. The reason why this is so important is because many times when speaking with churches or ministries looking to get more active on social media, their immediate response to this question is “we want to reach everyone.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with that answer (in fact it’s amazing!), however it is much more effective to become a part of an online community when you have specified what that community is.
Build a community. This is the most important and critical aspect that many accounts overlook on Instagram. There is a difference between building a community and having a following. This is the reason why you will find pages on Instagram that have thousands of followers and only receive a small amount of likes and comments per post. On the reverse, that’s also why you can find accounts with 700 followers which have very high engagement. Whether you have 500 followers or 5,000 followers, it is so important to interact with your community.
The truth is, the best way to grow on social media is to be to social. Reply to comments, say thank you, say hello and ask people where they are from etc. People will feel a deeper connection to your ministry and it’s message when your account feels less like a brand, and more like meaningful human interaction.
When someone follows your page, they are voluntarily giving you their attention. Be mindful and considerate of the great gift of their time.
Content: Before we get into the specific practices to help any ministry expand their reach on Instagram, your content will play a major role in how people interact with your posts. If you can post everyday, the better. Here are some tips on what kind of content you can easily put together in a matter of minutes if you run out of pictures or videos from your events to post, or if you’re not sure what to post consistently.
Unsplash is an amazing resource of stock images available to download and use for any creative or commercial project for free. Once you find an image, add any quotes or Bible verses relating to your ministry with a wide variety of apps available on the Apple and Google App stores which allow you to add
text on photos at no cost. Now you have content to post. Then what?
Hashtags: Step #1 is finding the best Hashtags to follow and post on Instagram. For this article, we will be using the examples of ministries focused on Ending Poverty and Refugees. Spend about 30 seconds scrolling through the top 9 posts of each hashtag suggested by Instagram and engage with the community you aspire to become a part of.
If your goal is to reach more people on Instagram who will value and engage with your content, take some time out everyday (10-20 minutes) to actively post and interact. Whether this is liking an image, asking questions, replying to comments or sending direct messages, every action counts. I always try to remember that there are real people behind the phone screens and computers who are being affected by our online activity.
Instagram Stories. Instagram stories and live videos are a powerful way to reach your followers. If your ministry has a separate website, blog, or link that leads to a more in depth article, long length video, or landing page that you would like your followers to visit, Instagram stories are a great way to let people know what you have going on. Make sure to include text letting your followers know to click on the link in your bio. If you have a larger following, Instagram will give you the option to connect a link to your story. That way you can inform your followers to “swipe up” and it will lead them directly to the link you
attached to the story. See example below:
Instagram Live. Instagram live is a great way for ministries to engage and connect in real time with their followers. It’s a great way to allow the followers who couldn’t make it to some of the events you’ve hosted to stay updated with what’s going on, and still feel a part of the community. It’s also a great tool to simply say hello to the people who took the time to open your live stream.
Instagram launched a collaborative live tool which allows two people to go live at one time from different locations. This gives a new opportunity to have conversations that matter and answer questions that people have in your community and give them a word of encouragement.
We hope this post answered some of your questions about Instagram! Keep up the good work Digital Evangelists!
Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart; as working for the LORD, not for men: Colossians 3:23
Jamie Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Fulfilling Your Role in the Great Commission
With the recent spotlight on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, many users are now wondering how to respond to the revelation that the social media giant not only mishandled access to user data, but also actively suppresses expression of Christian and conservative values, playing political “favorites” throughout the world. Given that Facebook, who also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, has almost no social media competitors, it’s easy to understand why most people feel upset. Facebook is the largest country in the world with over 2 billion active monthly users. WhatsApp boasts over 1.5 billion monthly users, and Instagram has over 600 million monthly active users. That is an impressive share of the digital market, and a misuse of the data and/or power wielded by these platforms constitutes a formidable threat to a free society.
However, this reach is the very reason why Christians who are serious about fulfilling their role in the Great Commission should not hesitate to stay on these platforms. Social media has become part of the very fabric of our society. We can connect instantly with friends and family from around the world, share our ideas, and embrace what it means to be human. Humans, by nature, tell stories, desire connection, and share experiences and ideas. Social media platforms have saturated our lives because it speaks to these basic human needs. That need is never going away this side of Heaven. Advancements in technology are often continually driven by this need to better communicate and connect. Think about the history of communication technology: cave drawings, smoke signals, boats, domestication of horses, letters, the printing press, the railroad system, telegraphs, phones, cars, radio, planes, TV, internet, social media, and whatever comes next. With each of these advancements in technology has also come the advancement of the gospel. For example, the Gutenberg printing press brought about mass production of the Bible and religious literature, allowing the gospel message and reformation ideas to spread throughout Europe.
I believe that the next Great Awakening will be a digital one. If we unite in purpose to spread the Gospel online, we can proclaim the three angels’ message with a loud voice throughout the world. During the apostolic period, the gospel was spread by dedicated teachers and evangelists who often faced ridicule, persecution, and sometimes death. They took the gospel where the people were, regardless of the personal cost. Today we are often hindered by fears of what people might think of us, or who might be offended if we share our beliefs online for all to see. In the Western world, we do not face persecution for our religious beliefs in the same way other Christians do around the world. In the case of social media, our posts may be removed or reach restricted, and, in some cases, expressing our religious convictions could threaten our employment. These are some less severe consequences we face as members of Western society, but it is enough to stop many of us from engaging at all. We may not be spiritually ready to stand in the fires or be persecuted like the young men in Daniel 2, but at the moment, God isn’t asking us to. He has, however, asked us to use what is in our hands (Exodus 4:2) to connect with the children of God and share the gospel. With 20 million members worldwide, we as a church body could work together as content creators, engagers, and distributors to generate a mighty voice for sharing the gospel message.
Social media is the modern School of Tyrannus, a place where the ancient Ephesians gathered to engage with new ideas, pass the time, share thoughts, and participate in discussions. Paul spoke at the School of Tyrannus in Greece for two years after being kicked out of the synagogue (Acts 19:8-9), essentially getting the gospel to go viral in his day. (Dee Casper, Brand Evangelist, ARTV)
This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks: Acts 19:10.
Young people spend up to nine hours a day engaging with social media; they go there to fill time, share with friends, and see new things. Like Paul, we must take the gospel where they are and engage them in discussion where they spend their time. We must make use of this technology before it’s too late. We don’t know for certain what the “Time of Trouble” will bring upon us, but I’m sure censorship will be a dominating factor that will lead to persecution.
I have dealt with censorship issues repeatedly while working for the North American Division. It has often shocked me and frustrated my efforts to promote life-changing medical services, healthy living principles, spiritual messages, and services for those struggling with addiction. It has been a grave concern of mine since taking this position after my time at the Smithsonian and realizing the dramatic differences in treatment of the content and campaigns I’m now tasked with running. This has only made me more committed than ever before to utilize these technologies to accomplish our mission. After all, if we are doing the Lord’s work, the Holy Spirit will grant us favor when the algorithms won’t. While our department adapts and readjusts to make social media successfully work for our mission, our goals would be better served by fair and equal treatment on the platforms. To be clear, Facebook does not give advertisers access to an individuals’ data, but it allows advertisers to run highly targeted ads, maximizing impact while reducing costs.
I’m hopeful that these recent events will ultimately result in making Facebook, as well as other giants like YouTube and Twitter, a safe place for free speech, religious expression, and the exchange of all ideas. Religious organizations will stand to benefit from the removal of discriminatory biases that limit reach and access to advertisement of our ideas and resources. Furthermore, I think it is essential that everybody take the time to watch the entire stream of the Facebook legal proceedings and avoid basing opinions on a few strategically edited compilation clips that are not reflective of the whole committee proceeding. We should be careful to not let the various stakeholders exploit our busy schedules and consequent short attention spans to shape our understanding of the issues.
The outcome of these legal inquiries will undoubtedly shape the future. These proceedings are ultimately about every individual’s constitutional right to free speech, religious expression, and privacy of personal information. Please invest the time to watch and understand the implications of Facebook’s breaches of trust. This is hopefully the first of many conversations around this topic. We must pay attention and hold these companies accountable, otherwise they maintain monopolies with the power to decide who has a voice, who has your data, and what they do with this information. Not only is this problematic in a free society, but also problematic to our mission as Seventh-day Adventists.
As Christians we must continue to advocate for free speech. Our ability to spread the gospel in the public forum relies upon it. Regardless of what ultimately comes out of these recent events, we must press forward, and speak Bible truths with this powerful technology. Stay, but stay with purpose. Share your faith online. We cannot wait any longer. This is our generation’s great commission.
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”: Matthew 28:16-20.
Marketing specialist and founder of @PraisePix, an Instagram ministry with over 23K followers.
HOW IT STARTED
Growing up in the Adventist church, I had become privy to the privilege of the Gospel but found myself struggling to tap into its power. Three years ago, I graduated from Southwestern Adventist University and was a wide-eyed dreamer ready to change the world. Less than a year into my first job, I became disillusioned about life and my positivity “Petered out” as I started to question whether I could make an impact. To be totally transparent I still do, but thank God for His never ending grace and reassurance. I rededicated my life in service to Jesus Christ and on January 1, 2017 PraisePix was created.
At this current date by the grace of God, PraisePix has over 23,000 online followers, averaging 2,500 daily engagements, 430 weekly comments and over 250,000 monthly impressions. My professional background is in digital marketing, and below I’ve happily given away all the detailed creative strategies that were used to grow the page from zero within a little over a year.
To God be the glory.
CREATING THE CONTENT
One of the most important things when it comes to growing an online community at scale is creating quality consistent content. If you have little to no experience on Photoshop, there are still numerous amounts of apps available on most smartphones that allow anyone to add text to photos. If you are
looking for great pictures to use, there are thousands of stock images available online at no cost under the creative commons licence. This provides an amazing opportunity for small or large churches looking to get more active on social media and need more content to post on their pages. As much as you can, try to update your pages a few times a week. On PraisePix, I upload new content at least 3 times a day.
Below is an example of a $10 Instagram ad that was executed from PraisePix to targeted Christian social media users from the ages of 13-65 globally. Here is the digital data:
In most cases, when you’re starting an online ministry you will be working with a tight budget and that’s okay. Hashtags on Instagram are a simple and effective way to introduce a wider audience to your page.
For example, the hashtag #faith, #love, and #hope are searched and engaged with online over 450 times daily.
COMMUNITY AND VALUE
Once your page is up and running, spend time as often as you can to be a part of the community. Whether you have 100 followers or 10,000, treat every person who’s chosen to follow your page with Christ like
love. Reply to comments, respond to direct messages, like and share other content that inspires you and create innovative ways to bring spiritual value to people in need of hope.
Every Wednesday morning on PraisePix, we have a community prayer where we encourage thousands of our followers to leave prayer requests in the comment section for 24 hours and lift up each other’s petitions to Christ. This is a unique way to have people praying for one other all over the world and build relationships with our community online.
Be still and know that I am God.
One of the new initiatives we began on PraisePix is providing daily devotions to people online who are seeking to build deeper and more meaningful relationships with Christ. The link in our bio allows anyone to voluntarily sign up using their email address for daily inspirational messages. If you are a Christian writer, blogger, vlogger, or content creator, please contact me if you would like to get involved in this new online ministry. It will be a blessing!
God has given each one of us an enormous opportunity to spread the gospel online through social media. Facebook recently released data revealing over 2 billion active monthly users on their platform. People from all over the world are in desperate need of the hope and peace that comes from knowing and believing in the grace of our resurrected Savior. In March, PraisePix reached over 100,000 worldwide engagements and below is a detailed list of the top countries and cities reached in numerical order as reported by Sprout Social:
Knowing your audience and understanding who you are trying to reach plays an important role in creating the type of content that should be allocated to reach them effectively. The figure below shows the percentages of age groups viewing the content on PraisePix and an average of daily engagements:
Jesus said, 'And Surely I am with you always, even to the very end.'
THE GREAT COMMISSION
If you have experienced the humbling joy of receiving salvation, you understand the price that Jesus paid for our freedom from sin. By committing our time to the cause of Christ, we never know how one image online can reach someone in the moment when they need it the most. Matthew 18:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Psalms 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”
Through faith, action, and Biblical principles, I believe we can reach as many people as God allows to awaken their faith and let others know that Jesus is coming again!
Heidi Baumgartner, M.S.
Communications Director for the Washington Conference.
The point of bulletins is to be inviting to visitors and to be engaging for members. Bulletins should be more than just a formality; they should be invaluable tools used each and every week. — Sean Amster, media ministries blogger
Evaluate your goals. How do you want to use your bulletin? How are you actually using your bulletin? How can you make it better?
Templates are your friend! Set up simple template structure. Select an attractive cover matched to the sermon series, season, or mission. Selectively use graphics, images, icons and clip-art. Limit yourself to 2-3 fonts and colors.
Give visual structure. Give weight to what is most important and make your bulletin easily scannable. Breathing room (called white space) is helpful.
Share worthwhile content. After entering your order of service, include options like: Upcoming church events (with point of contact), ministry spotlight, ways to get involved, Bible study/small group options, sermon outline, notes area, a list of ministries, testimonies, prayer requests, a short welcome statement, a scripture verse, church contact information. Any items that will help visitors and members alike to connect and reconnect.
Proofread! Misspelled words negate your credibility.
Should you use bulletin inserts? Some experts say yes! It gives a “third dimension” of engagement.
Your bulletin is a key way in which you communicate to your congregation, so it should be well thought-out.
Heidi Baumgartner, M.S.
Communications Director for the Washington Conference.
How can your mission best be illustrated on your websites?
Appearance: Keep your page looking clean by choosing coordinating colors, an easy-to-read web font, and illustrative graphics. Aim for a simplistic look that shows an organized and logical layout.
Content: Write in a friendly-tone to help your audience feel valued and informed. Group related items, be concise in your verbiage to avoid blocks of text, and break your content up by using headers to help skimmers slow down and read.
Functionality: Keep the essentials easy to find for your audience: contact, events, social media, service times, etc. Review content over to ensure an error-free webpage.
Usability: Beyond appearance, navigation is the second feature your audience uses to explore your webpage. Give your navigation a logical sitemap to avoid confusion and frustration.
Findability: Use 3-5 keywords per page to increase your Search Engine Optimization and chance of being found. Provide accurate contact information to promote better connections.
Adaptability: Websites have a 1-2 year lifespan and user aspects are constantly changing. Repackage your content and adapt it to keep up with your audience needs.