How Do I Do This Job?!?

An appointment to a new church can be a anxiety-laden experience.

  • You still have to have your head in the game at your current church.
  • You need to start developing relationships with people at the new church
  • and…you have to begin thinking about what ministry is possible with the new congregation.

First, I admit that I have it easy in this appointment change because I am on a medical leave after my brain surgery.  I am working ‘ahead’ on some things from the comfort of my home, but I am still anxiously imagining ministry in this new place that I don’t yet know or fully understand yet.

I know, I know, partly I just have to go be with them and the rest will come…but that doesn’t stop my head from spinning with ideas.

First and foremost on my mind, of course, is communication.  As an associate pastor I’m not sure how much I can influence the church in communicating in the ways I’ve been outlining on this blog, but that won’t hamper my enthusiasm…

  • I am concerned with developing a more effective (and relational) presence on Facebook.  They are a urban, on-campus church of about 1500 members but have 40 people on their Facebook page.  I can’t help but think we can explode that!  We can develop an atmosphere of check-ins, upload more photos and videos from around the church, and encourage relational posts (and sharing blogs).  What else are people doing out there?  Help me dream!
  • I think that blogging is one of the most effective ways a church can develop an online presence, but I’m just an associate pastor.  Does anyone have ideas for how an associate can get others blogging?  Anyone out there doing it effectively, especially where there isn’t currently a culture of blogging?
  • This next one may surprise you.  I think that printed media can be a highly effective mode of communication. So much communication is shifting to the internet that more-and-more people will be surprised by and notice real life mail, I think.  Yet, what a church puts out should not simply be a repository of small type and long articles.  It has to be concise, relational…and (this is the big one) high quality.  It has to look and be great!  And, by the way, what we put in worshiper’s hands on Sunday morning should be high quality and add to the worship experience, hopefully adding to the experience visually (with photos).  How important is it to have color capability?  How does one help train and inspire staff in not just publishing technique, but also taste?  (Again, not an indictment on the current staff…I just don’t know yet)
  • Oh, and the website… well, there is work to be done but until we develop social media and dynamic content I’m not sure it’s time to put too much energy into the internet presence with the least future potential.  This article shows that blogging and social media combined is outpacing website connections for churches and I think we’re only at the beginning. (38 percent of respondents said they had accessed a religious website and 41 percent had liked a religious institution, friended a religious leader, or read a religion oriented blog)  Most importantly, we should note:  17% had read a blog whereas people who had visited their religious institutions website (19%) won by a surprisingly narrow margin of only 2%.

Well, those of you involved with organizations, please leave me comments on how you do communication or send me an email!

Title image was found at:  http://www.ksrealitybites.com/2010/02/online-therapy-for-office-stress.html

Ministry from the Backyard.

I’m still on medical leave from my pastoral duties…at least officially. Although I preached this morning for a confirmation service at my church, I get to walk away without the worries and responsibilities of being a pastor for the rest of the week.

I came home and relaxed in my recliner and did all the things that a guy should do when he’s recovering from surgery…but, then, when my wife got home I joined her in the backyard. She wanted to write a blog, but also enjoy the day. I couldn’t argue with that. I went out and did the same.

I logged onto facebook, then twitter, and then went over my blog stats and posts. I really did very little, yet I communicated with a number of friends, member of my church family, and people in the community. As I sit in the sun and write blog posts (feeling the wind whip past me and the sun on my arms) I am connecting with other people and building relationships. A pastor who only did this all week would be…well, quite simply, lazy… Yet, shifting some responsibilities to make time for social media is a smart move.

Getting a small laptop or iPad and going to the local coffee shop or a restaurant…or using an iphone to update your status (or check-in) from a community event or location will enhance and deepen your ministry and your connection to the people who live near you.

It is time for pastors to recognize that making time for social media, not at the end of the week when everything else is done, but throughout their week (as a priority) will help them to do every other element of their ministry in today’s new context!

NOTE:  The photos above were taken with intstagram.  If you are a pastor with an internet-connected smartphone, you need to get the app and start a photostream!  It’s a fun way to share your world with others.

Nuts & Bolts

Alright, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my ideology of communication.  Yes, some of it is dated, but I want to move on.  I want to write a bit about the “nuts and bolts.”  I want to inspect more specifically how we put good communication into practice.

Over the last few months I have started an experiment by accident and I think we can learn something from it.  Let me tell you:

A few months ago I was in an unusual situation.  My church had decided to make major staffing changes, so I knew I was moving.  I went to the doctor and found out I had a brain tumor, and then my senior pastor went on vacation for a month.

When I went in to talk to my District Superintendent (the pastor who supervises my district of churches), she shook her finger at me and told me that I needed to communicate VERY CLEARLY and often with my church.  My job, she reminded me, was to minimize anxiety and keep the church informed.

She was right, but also I didn’t want my wife burdened during (and after) my surgery with lists of people to call and email, nor did I want her to feel inundated with calls when she was going through a lot.  Hmmm.  Well, Facebook, Twitter and my blog turned out to be the solution.  It was perfect because friends, family, church family, and even the people who weren’t yet on facebook could stay connected to my progress without much effort on my wife’s part.  We ended up starting a new blog and by the end of that month we had over 6000 hits.  It was a great success.

It was an accident, but  it worked beautifully.  It wasn’t just information, it wasn’t just what happened, but it was about how I felt.  Perhaps more importantly, it wasn’t just words but also video and pictures.  It turns out that I finally did all the things I’d been expounding on this blog for so long!  I was using social media to build relationships.  In the process of authentically expressing myself, I was sharing my life and faith with a larger audience than I preach to each Sunday.  How cool is that?  It was an accident, but I was actually doing the mission statement of the church… perhaps even more effectively than on Sunday morning.

What Would Jesus Tweet?
Image found on HuffPost

I’m going to steal some words from Leonard Sweet today:  It’s not a question of whether Jesus would have tweeted or not.  It’s a question of what Jesus would tweet.

You see, Jesus engaged in the community of the day and, I believe, continues to engage.  It’s not a question of whether God would use twitter.  God is using Twitter and Facebook and Google…the church may not be, but God is present and active in community and our community is ever-shifting to the internet.

Today we have to ask ourselves a lot of questions about how we are going to communicate as a church.  We seem to think, these days, that the goal is to get our church on the internet and that will be ‘good enough.’ Maybe a website or a facebook page will get more people to come to us…where the real church is (behind a big stone wall).  No.  Not good enough.  We have to take our experiences of Christ into our online communities if we are to live out our faith authentically.

Do we remind people not just to “like” the church (which, btw, is waaayyy luke-warm) with our bulletin or do we ask people to check-in to show their friends they were at church.  Do we put an informational announcement out on our facebook page or do we RT (re-tweet) the pastor or church friend so that our followers become her or his followers?

What the “Googler” generation has grown up in (and what us older people may never catch onto) is a culture about relationships.  It is not just about what we say, but, just as importantly, how  we say it.  The church needs to delve into the relationship-building connections of the web.  We need to become more social and less institutional…and we need to find authentic ways to share God’s love with the people of this world.

My Wife is Sometimes Right, but don’t tell her so!

Alright, sometimes I’m willing to admit when my wife is right and I’m not.  This maybe one of those cases.  Carrie says I’ve been doing too much blogging.  She may be right, but I have a lot on my mind (less in my head, technically, but more on my mind), so you may have to put up with me a while longer.

Today I’ve been thinking about my luck this week.  Not just luck, though.  I’ve been thinking about my blessings.  I’ve slowly been learning about what happened during my surgery and in the time after (which with the anesthesia, I don’t remember, either).

A surgery that was only supposed to last 4-6 hours went for almost 10.  During that time I had family sitting together, surrounding one another and showing love for me that I didn’t even know about in the moment.  My mother, father, and sister never once left the hospital, only taking short breaks to the cafeteria.  Since my wife has so many St. Louis friends, having been raised there, her friends and family came and sat with her, bringing her food and support throughout the day and my loving wife never left the waiting room (according to her, I will get some fact-checking done on this 🙂

After a surgery that when more than twice as long as expected, we can expect that they had been thorough. I’m sure they were, but a new state-of-the-art intraoperative MRI was the real blessing, I guess.  While I was still on the operating table, the surgeon did a new scan and found tissue that still needed to be removed and the surgery continued in order to be sure that it was done right the first time.

So far, I’m already amazed at the care and love that has been shown to me, but there is more.  With every wearying visit, with all the amazing notes through twitter, facebook and comments on my blog…and with the letters that have already found their way to my in-laws house…  I see the blessings around me in all kinds of new ways.

It’s too bad that we wait for these moments in order to notice our blessings, isn’t it?  God fills our lives with continue blessings:  people who care, love being shown, and moments of health and care.  I hope that we will all set aside our cynicism and concerns in life in order to pay more attention to the joys that are right before us.  I hope that we will see the people who surround us in love.  I hope that we will feel healing, even in the midst of pain.  I hope that we can appreciate the small thoughtful things that loved ones do rather than over look them or expect more!

May my week of blessing, shed some light on all of our blessings this week and give us hope and peace for next week!!!

blessings,

Facing the Reality of the Facebook.
I’ve talked to a number of pastors and other Christians who have taken a stand.  They say, “that’s why I don’t facebook.”  And those who do facebook, seem to struggle with just what it should be.  They find themselves frustrated by a social media that is so popular (and even essential) yet doesn’t work for them or their church in terms of evangelism.  What a shame that our church is unable to share such an important story as Christ when companies are able to use facebook and twitter to so effectively to market cheetos and radio talk shows.
What is wrong with us?  Well the problem is not in the social media.  I mean, social media has its problems, but it has the potential to be a highly effective tool and it has the potential to be used for the greater good of growing people in faith.  So it seems that ignoring it is to turn our backs on a new frontier of evangelism.  Now, having said that, I don’t blame any pastor for turning their back…up until now.  This new frontier is scary and confusing.
The problem is that as churches we have become confused over which story it is we are sharing.  Too often we use social media to share the story of the institution.  Worse yet, it isn’t even really the “story” we share but information (and begging).  The primary story that we are to share is a story of faith, that is, the story of Christ told through our: lives, faith, circumstances and our reactions to those circumstances.

My suggestion to Christians, and especially pastors, is to share your life authentically using Facebook as a spiritual practice.  It isn’t until you have built relationships with your facebook friends that you should ever consider announcing an event or making invitations, because that story is secondary to the story of Christ as told through your life!