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:
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
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!
Center for Online Evangelism
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
Someone online just expressed interest in studying the Bible with you! Here’s how to make sure you’re prepared.
Reposted with permission from centerforonlineevangelism.org.
Jamie Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. —Ecclesiastes 1:9-11
I recently read Pendulum: How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future, by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew, and found myself stunned by its insights into the drivers behind the collective shifts in society. These shifts impact communication and often drive technology and social change. I recommend that, to better understand how to communicate more effectively to our audiences and fulfill their needs, you not only read and study this book, but also invest the time in reading Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Good communication is when we speak so that our audience can hear. As a religious organization, we should be using digital technologies to fulfill our audiences’ needs, but to do that, we must first understand what those needs are, their unspoken expectations, and the forces for change that influence a generation.
Generation Z and the Millennials have been leaving the church at alarming rates; could it be that we simply don’t understand them? We know that people of any given cultural or people group are always the best suited to reach that group. I contend that the same is true with generations. Now, empowering and training members of the youth to reach their own does not permit us to abdicate our function as guides and mentors. We too must seek to understand and cultivate these relationships if we are to bridge the gap and secure the future of the church in North America and the salvation of souls. Pendulum provides an analysis of the current shifts in society and their impact on marketing, technology, and communication. Our department tested these principles, creating a case study focused on communicating with teens, and the results were surprising–and exciting. Even if you don’t have time to read the 200-page book, what follows is a summary of what you need to know to understand and utilize these communication techniques. We’ll also share an example of a test campaign targeted at teens.
Pendulum takes Strauss and Howe’s four “generations” (Idealist, Reactive, Civic, Adaptive) and reduces it to two generations covering forty years that oscillate between the individuality, freedom, uniqueness, and potential of “Me” (peaked in 1983) to the collective “We” working together for the common good, fixing society’s greatest problems, and rejecting the pretense for authenticity and transparency. Sound familiar? According to this model, we are currently in the upswing of the “We” that should reach its zenith in 2023. Both are always present in society, but shifts in dominance occur. Optimal balance is found between the two extremes, and either extreme has negative consequences.
The main point is that group behavior is predictable, and we can use this predictability to speak to the masses in a relevant way.
There will always be exceptions, and as the authors point out:
For deeper insights into the pros and cons of each swing of the “pendulum”, read the book.
To communicate, we must ask, “What is driving the actions and attitudes of the group?”
Then determine how your mission and message fits or can be positioned into this paradigm.
Figure: 2.3 Values and beliefs that motivate society in “WE” and “ME” cycles (Williams 17)
Drivers of a “WE” vs. drivers of a “ME”