A pastor in Estonia and active digital disciple.
FOR MY FRIENDS, PRAYER IS JUST ONE ‘LIKE’ AWAY
I am a very private person. I am certainly not one of those people who would constantly post ’Jesus Loves You’ memes or gospel songs on Facebook. Shouting out loud about my beliefs or life circumstances is really not my cup of tea. On the other hand, I am a devoted follower of Jesus and thus, under the jurisdiction of His Great Commission. This inevitably leads to moments when these two aspects of my life clash.
Last September I could sense one of those clashes coming my way. For some time I had had it in my heart to offer my friends an opportunity for prayer. Yet the other, introverted, private part of me thought that I should not rush with it. Maybe the idea would leave if I remained quiet long enough.
It did not leave. I had to pick up my courage and act.
It was a Friday afternoon. I was on a train heading from London to Newbold and finally decided I could not ignore that little voice any more. It somehow helped me that I was on a vacation, away from Estonia, away from my usual surroundings, and away from the very people that I was about to reach out to, and whose criticism could intimidate or even hurt me.
Sitting on the train, I opened my Facebook and wrote to all my Estonian friends. I told them I would take extra time for prayer the next day. If any of my friends wanted me to pray for them personally, they just needed to like my post. If they had any specific prayer request, they could private message me. Then I switched off my phone.
I was a little scared, not knowing what to expect or how to feel about the whole thing. What happened next, I certainly did not anticipate.
Dozens and dozens of people liked and commented on my post, some of them writing me private messages and pouring their hearts out to me. And what a cross-section: young and old, Christians and atheists, close friends and mere acquaintances, straight and gay, housewives and pastors, and everything from students to one of the most acclaimed concert pianists in this country.
People who chose to write to me told me about their struggles. They shared health problems and the burden of singleness, worries about their loved ones or the desire to serve God and His church yet not knowing how to do it.
She did not know how to pray so she was wondering whether I could help her. “Yes, of course,” I said. “I will pray.”
Phew! It turned out to be one of the hardest prayer battles in my life. I prayed for weeks for this little fellow who had to endure not one but two open heart surgeries and who almost did not come back to us. To this day his mother sends me photos and videos of his recovery and the ‘careless joy’ only little kids can have. I almost think of him as my own son now. While I have not been able to visit this family yet and have never seen this boy face to face, what a day it will be when I finally meet him!
This ’prayer experiment’ which I have later repeated for several times (with a lot less anxiety and much more confidence) has taught me some important lessons.
First, it has shown me the general longing in our hearts for someone to care enough to pray for us personally. We – both religious and non-religious – really do have this longing in us and as Christians we do well to remember it.
It has also taught me about the potential and power of the social media.
Facebook makes it so easy – can you imagine, a personal prayer just one ‘like’ away! There is no threshold lower than that! I know many of the people I’ve prayed for would not dare to set foot inside a church building, but a ‘like’! That is easy. It is doable.
I have also learned more about the power of prayer than maybe ever before. In the weeks and months following my prayer adventure, I have received many happy and reassuring messages or calls: “Yes, the diagnosis was better then feared,” “This situation has solved,” “that problem has been taken care of.” “Thank you, thank you.”
Of course, there are many people I have not heard from again. And they are probably the ones who have taught me the most important lesson of all – about the need to be persistent in prayer, whether I see results and hear the happy reports or not. God is not so much into public spectacles but foremost into quiet and invisible work in people’s hearts. And when I do not hear from the people, it just teaches me to be patient and continue praying.
I treasure the prayer lists I have from the past year. I love the stories I hear. I love the way I am much more engaged in my friends’ lives after having prayed for them. I care about them more now. I love going to a concert hall and listening to my favorite pianist with different ears (or, you could say, with a different heart) because I regularly lift him up in my prayers.
I have equally come to treasure these beautiful words written by Adventist Church co-founder, Ellen White:
“I saw that every prayer which is sent up in faith from an honest heart will be heard of God and answered, and the one that sent up the petition will have the blessing when he needs it most, and it will often exceed his expectations. Not a prayer of a true saint is lost if sent up in faith from an honest heart.” [Testimonies for the Church, vol 1, p 121]
Creator, editor, and social media manager of Humans of Adventism.
I saw stage lights, wisps of smoke-machine smoke, and dozens of featureless audience heads as I heard the question. “How can we find community after college?” came the host’s voice from the speakers.
I hadn’t planned on being on stage that evening. Like everyone else attending the young adult conference that weekend, I’d grabbed a ticket online and made travel plans to attend, hoping to be inspired by the leaders the conference was bringing in. I was humbled when I got the call to appear as a guest on a live podcast recording they were producing Sabbath evening. See, I’ve developed a reputation now. When I attend events like this, I never walk into a room where I don’t know anyone. The series of handshakes and hugs as I greeted several of my friends--some I was meeting face-to-face for the first time--earned me a reasonable amount of teasing. But it hasn’t always been this way. On paper, I should be the person who doesn't know anyone. I live in a country town in South Carolina, far from the vast majority of my Adventist peers. I didn’t join my friends at Andrews, Southern, or any of the big SDA college areas, but moved away with my wife shortly after high school. Yet, if there’s one thing that I am increasingly known for these days, it’s for my love of building community.
I started Humans of Adventism from a cell phone in a work truck. Though my physical community was small at the time, I began to grow more and more relationships through what I had: my cell phone. It turned out that I was able to do quite a lot with that, and what was then a page with less than 100 readers developed over the next year and a half into one with over 5,000. No corporate sponsorship, no office, no additional equipment.
We underestimate the power we hold in our online content. Used correctly, social media can be used to connect and mobilize an unbelievable amount of people, and the community created there drives real-world changes.
Take, for instance, the shirts we designed from the website Teespring. The design was simple: two words, “Adventist. Human.” People read our content, bought the shirts, and wore the message in their own contexts. In Orlando one friend of ours was wearing his in the mall. A woman and her son stopped him and asked if he was familiar with any Adventist churches in the area. The man was able to guide them. Here in Orangeburg my grandparents wear theirs around town. Recently they spoke with someone working at a local fast food place about Adventism, they had questions about some of the content they had seen online. I’ve been stopped numerous times by both Adventists and others to talk about my shirt.
Several months ago I met a young man who had taken a new job at our conference. Though he didn’t know anyone there, he recognized one of his coworkers from her story on Humans of Adventism. It gave them common ground to begin a friendship. Non-Adventist friends point to the HoA community as a positive example of Christianity, share our posts, and offer meaningful insight into their own thoughts on religion and God.
This, in my opinion, is church. The relationships we are building and things we are doing to spread the gospel together online are a digital manifestation of many of the qualities the early church had.
Humans of Adventism is one of numerous emerging ministries that are both sharing the information about God and building relationships with His people. We’re one of many reaching back to and supporting others who are just now starting ministries of their own. Personally, my online church community is what drives me to be involved in my local church.
Because I am not dependent on my local church to provide my sense of community, I can reframe how I go about being involved.
My local church has become my mission field--a cause I care deeply about, because the pressure for it to fill my spiritual and personal needs is largely alleviated by being involved online.
Because of the power social media can have, it’s crucial that we consider the effects our content will have on our audience. Both our negativity and our positivity grow exponentially as they are spread by our audience and friends online. When it comes to church, we can create a community of people that attack or a community of people that heal. I know which one I’d like to be part of.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Digital Bible Worker: Sample Position Description
A sample of what a job description could look like for local churches and conferences looking to hire a Bible worker to lead online evangelistic campaigns. Feel free to adapt to your specific needs, and HR requirements. View this template as a type of menu to guide you in the creation of a position that makes sense for your organization’s structure. These positions can be adapted for paid or volunteer workers based on the level of commitment and budget.
Digital bible workers utilize digital technologies to share the gospel and stimulate religious thought by creating and packaging content that addresses relevant needs/questions and encourages people to advance in their spiritual journey. Digital bible workers build relationships with those in the broader community, online and offline, and usually within a specific geo-location territory, in order to create opportunities for one-on-one or small group Bibles studies held in person or via digital tools. They work in partnership with a local church and pastor to evaluate the needs of a community and determine relevant opportunities for outreach and service. They mentor converts in their development of Christian character and commitment to faith as well as train and equip new members for active discipleship roles. This role encompasses a mix of digital discipleship and evangelism to bridge the gap between working in the digital mission field and achieving real-world impact.
The Digital Bible Worker will implement a comprehensive, multi-channel digital evangelism strategy designed to meet the spiritual and social needs of the 18–35 year old, collegiate, career-focused, single or married adult seekers (may include other target audiences based on the goals of the conference or church) in the local community. While engagement and relationship building will start in the digital space, the intent is to bring the target audience to an in-person experience. Ultimately, the goal of this position is to coach young people towards a relationship with Jesus and involvement in the local church—empowering them to also be effective digital disciples.
Objectives and Responsibilities:
Essential Job Functions:
Education and Experience:
Other Recommended Items of Consideration for This Type of Position:
Background Check: highly recommended
Employment is contingent upon successfully passing the background check and online training through www.verifiedvolunteers.com.
Bible workers are considered mandatory reporters, and by extension, digital evangelists or digital bible workers are considered mandatory reporters.
Position Wage Class: Exempt (salaried)
Same as Local Bible Worker. Please refer to the NAD Remuneration Wage Scale located on www.nadadventist.org under Treasury Resources. Page 10 of the NAD Remuneration document provides the range for a Bible Instructor (also known to the local church as Bible Worker) Range = 75% to 95% of the voted remuneration factor.
Limitations and Disclaimers: edit based on your organization’s HR guidelines.
The statements found in this job description are general in nature. The information above is not exhaustive and should not be construed as such. Digital Evangelism is an emerging field and many organizations have requested guidance regarding altering existing job descriptions or creating entirely new ones. This is merely meant to be a template for churches and conferences to reference. You are welcome to adapt as needed to meet your organization’s specific needs. The contents of this sample position description may be changed at the discretion of the organization and/or Supervisor at any time.
Texting is relatively new to churches but can be a powerful tool to help keep members informed, engaged, and nurtured. Here are the top three activities that can benefit from having a texting strategy.
Sending emergency updates, news updates and newsletters: One of the main reasons for using SMS messaging is to keep your members updated. Sending out emergency messages asking for prayers or help to members who have encountered hard times or medical emergencies is extremely important.
Promoting recorded sermons and special prayers: Sending messages with links to your website, containing newsletters, videos of important sermons, or other relevant information, helps your members to keep up with the church life when they are unable to attend.
Creating discussions on current events: Using social media is an excellent way to stimulate discussions among your members and to get ideas in terms of what they think in relation to specific topics or to source topics for use in future services. Text messages can also be used to help create or draw attention to these online discussion groups among members to help increase attendance, involvement, and to lift the spirituality of both current and new members.
Using surveys to evaluate member interest in topics: Creating surveys is fun and easy to do. You can craft messages that will elicit a useful response to any question. Multiple choice questions, true or false, and short answer are some of the ways in which you can craft a question. Your members can text back their answers to be automatically tabulated. For example, you can use text surveys in church to enable members to vote on an event option, or engage by answering a quick Bible knowledge question.
Gathering ministry ideas, recruiting volunteers, assessing community needs, and promoting special events: You can send out a text message with a number of different discussion ideas, asking your members to text back their thoughts on what interests them. Sending messages regarding the needs of your community or special events is a great way to keep members continually involved. It's also an efficient way to recruit volunteers for a ministry, invite people to events, as well as send important updates before, during, and after the event.
Encouraging meeting attendance and setting up meetings with members: Here is where churches can increase member and visitor attendance with event options such as Wednesday night Youth Services and special weekend events. Have a another event similar to the one your first-time guest attended? Fire off a text inviting him or her to “another one you might enjoy.” Current members can be encouraged to come out to special events or mid-week services. Texting platforms can also be leveraged to improve connection in small groups by providing each group with its own keyword code as well as a mobile form, enabling each small group leader to easily and quickly contact group members. Providing members with short or long code offers them easy and effective ways to reach out and contact you whenever and wherever they need to do so.
Collecting donations for church goals such as needy parishioners and special events: Many churches are using portals to collect donations for specific goals; for example: sending a church group to a conference, carrying out repairs to the church structure, etc. Text messages keep your members updated on where you are in regard to reaching your goals, and enables you to celebrate with them when you have reached or surpassed a goal. While in-service collections continue to fall by the wayside, online and mobile donations are on the rise. Collecting digital donations is simple: members send a message via a long (or short) code or are directed to a donation portal or mobile app.
To help you get started with texting for churches, download this free guide.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Assistant Director of Women's Ministries for the North American Division
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, bullies were confined to school hours and playgrounds. As a “funny” but quiet girl in a very small town, I found myself the subject of laughter and bullying more often than I care to remember. But I always knew that at the end of the day, I could go home. Home was my sanctuary, full of books that stretched my imagination to faraway lands, and loving parents who encouraged my “peculiarities.”
Times have changed. Kids are connected 24/7 and have the potential to have their entire lives recorded and documented online: the good, the bad, and the humiliating. They’re not only connected to their friends via texting, social media, and email; they are also reachable by their bullies, anywhere, anytime.
In my day, girls would whisper behind your back, write mean things on scraps of paper and stuff them into your locker, or just obviously exclude you. Yes, it hurt, but it also shaped my character, my compassion for others, and my sense of fairness. It drove me out of my small town to go to college, explore the world, and find a new life full of “funny girls” just like me. I don’t remember the nasty words spoken by mean-spirited children. In a strange way, I can thank my bullies for helping me become who I am today. But the digital world has ushered in a new type of bullying, one that is far more damaging than school yard pranks and being made to feel like you don’t belong.
Cyberbullies can make a self-conscious child or teenager’s life a living nightmare. They can be dogged constantly with mean, spiteful, malicious messages that tear apart their self-worth and identity—and everyone else can see it too. Children can easily begin struggling with suicidal thoughts caused by an endless barrage of insults sent to them right under your nose.
As a teen, I remember jumping into the lake where my family lived and my top came off; I ended up hiding under the deck until one of the neighbors was kind enough to fetch it for me. Everyone had a good laugh and teased me a bit, but by the next week it was over and forgotten. Fast forward to today: something similarly embarrassing happens but this time someone snaps a picture and texts it immediately to all of their friends and sends it out on Snapchat for others to take screenshots and share. In a matter of minutes, the moment is immortalized. This has happened many times—someone snaps an embarrassing picture on Friday, and by Monday the entire school knows. The victim is mocked, shamed, and humiliated again and again and again. It never ends, and the reach keeps expanding. The victim may feel the only way out is to take his or her own life.
What can we do? Morally, as Christians, we should have a no tolerance policy on bullying of any kind. As youth leaders, parents, and teachers, we need to recognize the signs and know how to handle these situations when they appear. Being part of a church does not make anyone immune, but together we can make it a safe place for our youth.
The North American Division is dedicated to preventing abuse of any kind. Consequently, it has launched the enditnownorthamerica.org campaign to provide education and resources to church leaders, educators, and members.
Erica Jones, Assistant Director of Women’s Ministries will now share some practical tips and resources for identifying and addressing cyberbullying.
As a parent or youth leader, one of the most important things you can do to protect your kids is to be aware of any significant changes to their mood and attitudes. Be aware of common warning signs:
Kids need to feel that they have a safe space to talk to a trusted adult. Ask them open-ended questions about school and friends. If you see a change, don’t ignore it or chalk it up to them being “moody teenagers.” Ask–don’t assume! Kids and teens want to know that someone cares enough to ask why they don’t seem themselves.
Additional resources on cyberbullying:
THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
Churches are communities of people, so good lines of communications are necessary in order to work most effectively together. Thriving organizations have excellent internal communication systems in place. These systems help leaders cast visions and set goals. They help organize the congregation to achieve these goals. Solid communications help members feel connected and involved with your church. An effective internal communications system creates a dialogue that is clear and healthy between your congregation and the church leaders.
You cannot begin to reach out and attract new people to your church community if you don't have a solid internal communications system. Otherwise, when new people come, they may not experience a warm welcome. Instead, they may feel left out of the loop, confused, and frustrated about how to fit in with your church. In short, good communications effectively integrate new people into your church community.
WHAT IS AN INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM?
Your internal communications system is composed of all the channels that you use to communicate with the members of your congregation. In the past, communication was simple. Church bulletins, pulpit announcements, and phone calls made sure that everyone knew what was going on.
Today, communication is more complex. People are busy, and they don't always read the bulletin or attend weekly planning meetings. If you want to keep your entire congregation in the loop, you are going to have to communicate across more channels. Email, social media, text messaging, and possibly mobile apps will all be important components of your internal communications system.
In other words, your internal communications system is going to have an external layer. The phrase used to describe this is 'church online.' This means that your online presence will replicate the experience of participating in your live congregation. It will be a fully interactive experience that your members and visitors can engage in beyond weekend services and live events. An effective, online, church experience is created from strategically using all the digital and mobile communication channels at your disposal.
WHERE IS THE FOCUS OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS?
Internal communications is a church-wide effort to dialogue with church staff and members of the congregation. It covers all the communications channels and includes the software and hardware that allows your church to engage in a dialogue with its loyal visitors and members while laying the foundation
to interact with the outside world.
WHO HAS RESPONSIBILITY FOR INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS?
For many churches, no one has ownership over the communication channels. Secretaries produce the bulletins, volunteers run the website and social media, and others manage the email. In order to bring all your communications together in a strategic way, someone has to take leadership.
It will be very helpful for your church to designate a Communication Director / Manager. Some churches may be able to hire someone to fill this position. Others may simply give these responsibilities to someone already on the pastoral team or a committed volunteer. This person will manage a team of people to execute an overall digital communications strategy.
After planning, the Communication Director / Manager works very closely with the pastoral team to ensure that the digital strategy synergizes with the overall pastoral plan for the year.
To be most effective, internal communications needs to work closely with external marketing (next chapter). As a result, the communication director (or communication manager) will be interfacing with both systems. It is recommended to select a lead person who is capable of seeing the overall picture and
how each aspect of the strategy plays its part.
The target audience for your internal communications is going to be both members and visitors. You will need to focus on these two groups and their needs. You will also want to prioritize the training of members to interact effectively with visitors.
HOW TO DESIGN AN INTERNAL COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
With so many potential communication channels out there, you might be wondering where to start. The best way is to survey your congregation. You want to find out what communications channels they have available to them. Setting up a Twitter account is not going to help you if the members of your congregation do not use Twitter. Once you have good data on the preferred communications channels of your congregation, you can begin to make decisions about how to design your own internal communications system.
Armed with this knowledge about your congregation, you can begin to look at the kinds of messages you want to communicate to your congregation and outline a content strategy. Then proceed with the following steps:
Before you tackle the steps above, be sure to define your brand and develop your overall communications
strategy. In reality, you are already communicating with your congregation in some way. Most congregations use pulpit announcements and bulletins. Many have websites with online sermons. Some churches may also use email and social media. So, this part of the digital strategy process involves taking stock of what you are already doing and aligning it with the vision and goals that you have developed. Once you do this, you can add new components to your internal communications system to help you to achieve your goals.
Posted with permission from the book reTHINK.Ministry.
Rachel Lemons Aitken
Communications Executive of the Greater Sydney Conference and Founder of the Digital Discipleship Ministry of the Greater Sydney Conference.
As a local church member, pastor, elder or youth leader, you may be wondering how relevant Digital Discipleship is to your church. The Digital Discipleship ministry exists to create, inspire, encourage and resource disciples of Jesus Christ to share His love through their creativity and innovation in the digital space. What does this look like in action? After reading this article, you will be equipped with actionable ideas for integrating Digital Discipleship principles into the fabric of your church.
A church’s strength – its unique quality – is in its community and its ability to be a place of life-changing teaching, learning and launching.
In the Bible, we see the church doing every day, ordinary things together – eating, sharing problems and burdens, sharing dreams and discouragements and sharing financial obligations. Community was natural – almost inevitable.
When the biblical model of church is so reliant on in-person interaction, what does Digital Discipleship have to offer? In many ways, this question lies at the heart of the discussion of the relevance and efficacy of Digital Discipleship at the local church level.
In the minds of some, community must happen exclusively in person while in the minds of others, community happens online. However, Digital Discipleship offers a “both, and” approach instead of an “either, or” approach.
The local church can now add digital tools to its available resources to reach, disciple and provide community. The local church has the opportunity to recognize the gifts of its members in the areas of creativity and technology and to acknowledge the abilities of these people to move the work of the church forward. The local church is positioned to amplify its message while becoming more targeted in its approach through available technology.
Local church leaders and members can implement any of these principles as they work to integrate Digital Discipleship into their church’s ministry plans keeping in mind that this ministry encourages churches to equip its members to make disciples and grow in discipleship by meeting a need in the digital space, addressing a digital need or utilizing digital tools.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT DIGITAL DISCIPLESHIP AT YOUR CHURCH:
If your interest has been piqued and you’re curious about introducing Digital Discipleship principles in your local church, consider the following steps:
Please let us know if you are implementing digital discipleship models in your church or ministry. We would love for you to share you experience and what you've learned. Comment below!
Click here to read the full, original article. Re-posted with permission from digitaldisciples.info.
Jamie Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
The stakes of our gospel calling are too high; your church, conference, or ministry can no longer go without a digital brand strategy. It is imperative that we become just as effective as secular organizations at using digital media for communication and community building.
Strategic planning is simply the process of being intentional and thoughtful with your digital communications.
This process begins with one question: How do you want to be known? This is your brand.
Branding is the process of revealing the most complete picture of an organization to its audience through perception, experience, and essence. Brands are communicated, not just created. A brand is based entirely on a customer’s experience. (Heidi Baumgartner)
Components of your brand strategy should cover three areas: marketing, public relations, and corporate communication. Think of marketing as evangelism [OUTREACH] and corporate communications as internal or member focused [INREACH].
What can your church or ministry become known and recognized for? What is unique about what your organization has to offer the community?
Your branding should:
Your brand strategy and digital strategy work together, and are part of an overarching grand
communications strategy that includes traditional means of outreach and experience.
Redeveloping your brand and/or your strategy takes a lot of behind-the-scenes homework. Involve people in your team throughout the process so they could share in ownership. This is especially important for choosing a handle or name for your social media profiles.
Brand: represented by its logo, its color, its type, its images, its designs, its tone of voice, its customer service
Brand Strategy: defines the message and how to say it
Brand guidelines: a system of managing the brand visually
The biggest problem I see with ministries using social media is that they have no clear objectives. You must determine your purpose and shape your online communications and brand accordingly.
Conduct a thorough branding audit. This process helps you to evaluate your communication and can help direct your rebranding. Define your communication purpose(s): for example, to advance the gospel and influence your community.
Achieving your ultimate purpose(s) will take time. Develop an on-going approach