Children’s & Youth Work links

Children’s & Youth Work links

Here’s some links from the last few weeks that are worth taking a few minutes to read if you’re involved in children’s and youth work:

The Optimal Length for Social Media Updates [Infographic]

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Many of us use social media, but these days if you want people to engage it is so important that you make sure your posts are the optimal length.

Check out this infographic from Buffer to help you know what is the optimal length for not just social media updates but also for hashtags, blog posts and titles, and even subject lines for emails.

social-media-length-infographic

Open Paris Session 3: Digital Media and Mission

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Session 3 of the Open Paris Conference was From Guttenberg to Zuckerberg: How Social Media is Changing the Church by me.  If you wish to use the powerpoint click here:

 

Of all the messages the world has ever heard from politicians, story tellers, advertisers and more the gospel is still the stickiest.  The good news is that God’s message is your message, which makes your presence and voice online wholly (and holy) indispensable!

I want to challenge you today as a Christ follower to change your mind-set of the way you spend your time online.  I want to challenge you to forgo denomination, to sit in the same pew or row, and write this ongoing story together and share new ways to reach a fragmented world for Christ.

Together, as leaders we can light up the online space.  We can “go” and we can “tell” as Jesus asked each of us to do.  And we can change absolutely everything.

Game Changers

Throughout history, game changers have stepped forward in the faith to affect the way people communicate God’s truth in the culture in which they live.

As far back as 2002, Pope John Paul II got it.  He understood the significance of the Internet and inspired Christians around the globe to embrace it as a way to share Christ with the world.  Here’s what he said in a public speech:

“From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard?  For it is only when His face is seen and His voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption.  This is the purpose of evangelisation.  And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man … I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put out into the deep of the Net, so that now as in the past, the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world, ‘the glory of God on the face of Christ.”

Communication channels have changed radically since Moses walked down the mountain, stone tablets in hand.  Old Testament scribes wrote on parchment made from treated skins of sheep or goats, and they used pens fashioned from reeds.  The prophets preached in synagogues and countryside’s.  Later, Paul wrote his letters on scrolls of papyrus and gave them to friends who would deliver them to the churches in other cities.

Little did Paul realise the frenzy that would kick up on the other side of his prison bars as game changers emerged, ready to take up the charge of the gospel.  Generations of followers communicated the gospel with various tools.  In 1440 the printing press changed everything as Bibles went from locked archives to retail.

In 1517 Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the University Church in Wittenberg and changed the game again.  Religious tracts were used as major channels throughout the turbulence of the Protestant Reformation.  John Calvin wrote, debated, and preached tirelessly during the Reformation.  In the eighteenth century, John Wesley travelled 250,000 miles by horseback in his efforts to spread the Word, and he preached in open fields to as many as twenty thousand people at a time.

In 1922 Aimee Semple McPherson preached what is believed to be the first radio sermon.  Christian writers such as A.W. Tozer and C.S. Lewis followed with critically important writings through World War II.  Passionate game changers such as Dwight Moody and Billy Graham also shared the gospel over the radio waves.  Television and revivals catapulted the reach of Billy Graham’s ministry.  His first television crusade generated 1.5 million letters to the television station, confirming the power of that medium.

Bill Bright was another game changer when he wrote The Four Spiritual Laws, the most widely distributed religious booklet in history, and later commissioned The JESUS Film, one of the most influential films ever made.  The renowned documentary on the life of Christ has reached more than 6 billion people in 234 countries and has been translated into one thousand languages.

But just because a technology evolves, there is no guarantee that a demand will support it.  Remember the Microsoft Zune?  The Apple Cube?  Google Buzz?  You don’t remember the technology failures because they failed.  Multiple factors can be attributed to why social media has grown so rapidly, including cheaper broadband, a fire to innovate and the global economy shift.  As unprecedented economic, political, and social factors continue to fragment continents, cities and even homes, words such as connection, community, and relationship increasingly dominate the conversation.

To explain this in statistics it took radio thirty-eight years to reach fifty million users; television, thirteen years; the Internet, four years; and the iPod, three years.  In just a nine month period, Facebook added one hundred million users, and downloads of iPhone applications reached one billion.

Still think using social media is a passing fad or another waste of time?  You may soon join the ranks of these leading, albeit well-meaning, thinkers:

  • “Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognise it as a conspicuous failure.”  Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology on Thomas Edison’s light bulb, 1880.
  • “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad”  The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company, 1903.
  • “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop – because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.”  Time, 1966
  • “While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.”  Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer, and inventor of the vacuum tube, 1926.
  • “Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition.”  Dennis Gabor, British physicist, 1969.

Broadcast to Social Media

In the five hundred years or so between the inventions of the printing press and the Internet, we have lived in a broadcast media environment of books, radio, newspapers, and television.  These media served as highly effective platforms for sending a single, well-crafted, attention-getting message out to as many people as possible.  But broadcast media afforded little opportunity for feedback or discussion, except, perhaps, for letters to the editor.  In the church, we have used this one-to-many broadcast communication model in sermons, printed newsletters, letters from the Rector, and broadcasting worship services on Radio 3 or Songs of Praise.

Social media represents a profound shift in this model.  Today, almost anyone can publish a blog, have a YouTube channel, and host their own podcast – in effect an internet based radio station.  Anyone can comment on, extend, qualify, discuss, and share a clergy’s sermons.

In the era of broadcast media, the most influential ministry platforms tended to be those of large cong

Church Should Be A Place of Undistracting Excellence

Stephen Altrogge wrote an excellent blog post on striving for excellence in the church:

When it comes to doing church we can tend to gravitate toward one of two extremes. The first is the over the top, “everything must be awesome” extreme. The band should sound like as much like U2 as possible, and the worship leader should have that “I’m cool, but I’m not trying to look cool” look. Worship should feel similar to a rock concert, except, of course, we’re singing to Jesus. The lobby should feel like a fair-trade, organic only coffee shop, and the children’s ministry should resemble Chuck E. Cheese. If all these things coalesce at the same time it’s quite possible that the Third Great Awakening could take place.

The other extreme is the “it’s all about the heart”, don’t try to manufacture God’s presence, extreme. The worship band sounds like a steel pipe being put through a wood chipper? It doesn’t matter, it’s all about the heart. The children’s classrooms smell like vomit, playdough, and goldfish crackers? So what? The sanctuary is dingy, cold, and drafty, and the coffee served in the lobby tastes like peat moss? It doesn’t matter, because we try to attract people through the things that really matter, like preaching, and the gospel.

Neither one of these extremes is right.

Read the rest here.

How Do You Measure Discipleship?

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Geoff Surratt has written a great blog post on A Tool to Measure Discipleship, which is well worth chewing over:

How do we measure discipleship? It is relatively easy to measure church attendance, giving, or small group participation, but how do we measure church members becoming more like Christ? The Willow Creek Reveal Study pointed out that church activity doesn’t necessarily lead to fully devoted follower of Christ, but are there activities we can measure to help our congregation grow?
I think there are six vital areas that point to a growing disciple:
  • Serving in a local church. Church attendance without service does not grow me as a disciple. To grow I have to serve generously with my time, talent and treasure.
  • Praying consistently. This is so obvious that it seems to get overlooked. A growing disciple follows Jesus’ pattern of consistent, heartfelt prayer.
  • Reading the Bible daily. Separate studies by the Willow Creek Association and Lifeway on discipleship came to the same conclusion; the single biggest factor in growing as a disciple is reading the Bible every day. It’s the magic pill of discipleship.
  • Engaging in biblical community. Discipleship throughout the Bible is always in context of community. Being in a small group does not guarantee discipleship, but not being in biblical community prevents it.
  • Actively involved in missional outreach. Biblical disciples engage in Kingdom transformation in their home, their community and their world.
  • Developing other disciples. Jesus final command was very clear, Go make disciples. Every growing disciple of Christ develops other disciples.
I’d like to suggest the following tool to help determine the temperature of discipleship in your congregation (and in your own life). I have used the acronym SPREAD to make the six areas easier to remember. Your church attenders may need some additional information to understand how you define each area in your context.
Create a simple survey with the following questions. Give the survey and a pen to everyone who attends one weekend, and take time during the service to fill out the survey out together.
As a growing disciple of Jesus I (circle all that apply)
  • Serve my local church generously with my time, talent and resources
  • Pray consistently
  • Read my Bible almost every day
  • Engage regularly in a biblical community (small group)
  • Actively participate in missional outreach
  • Develop other disciples
The first time you take the survey serves as a baseline for discipleship. Use the results to celebrate where the congregation is strong and to focus on helping them grow in areas where they are weak. Choose one area that seems to be weak across the board and focus for the next quarter on growing in that area as a church. Retake the survey every three months for a year to measure progress.
Be sure to let me know if you use this tool and how I can make it more effective.