12 March 2013

Send Great Church Emails People Actually Want to Read

Posted in How To, Resources, Social Media

emailFor all the advances in digital communications and social networking, email continues to be the most reliable way for congregations to digitally communicate with members and potential members. Why? In the transition we find ourselves in between print and digital communication, email is the most reliable way of digitally sharing your ministry’s news and information. It’s as close to mailing a letter to everyone’s home as you can get, just without the paper and postage.

Unfortunately, most congregations fail to get the most out of their emails for several reasons:

  • Uninteresting design
  • Inconsistent scheduling
  • Incomplete email lists (who gets it)
  • Inability to measure their success (who reads it)
  • Too much or too little information
  • Lack of focus

However, for some that use email well, a weekly email update is becoming the anchor of their communications strategy, lessening the need for a time and paper intensive production of a monthly newsletter.

Here are some ways and a few examples of how to send great emails that people will read:

05 March 2013

Pastors, You Are Not Too Busy (or Important) To Exercise

Posted in Leadership, Church

runnerIt’s a lie we tell ourselves: “I am too busy to exercise. This work is too important.”

Pastors are among the biggest culprits in perpetuating this myth, and not surprisingly suffer from high rates stress, emotional distress, addiction, and burnout. Many pastors sacrifice their short- and long-term health in the name of their ministry, which to them seems too busy and important to pause for even a 30-minute workout. In the end, their ministry suffers and, at times, is even cut short.

I was struck by a recent profile Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball, The Big Short, and The Blind Side) did of President Barack Obama, in which Obama talks about his exercise regimen. Lewis writes,

“When he awakens at seven, he already has a jump on things. He arrives at the gym on the third floor of the residence, above his bedroom, at 7:30. He works out until 8:30 (cardio one day, weights the next)....”

“‘You have to exercise,’ [Obama] said, for instance. ‘Or at some point you’ll just break down.’”

You have to exercise or at some point you'll just break down.

26 February 2013

Frodo Baggins: Model for Ministry in Tough Times

Posted in Leadership, Church

frodobaggins

We all have models of ministry we emulate, ministry leaders we look up to. These are mostly those who model success, who are able to perpetuate good times and positive ministries. But what about when things are hard—really hard?

We often lack for ministry models in those time, in part, I suppose, because we like to talk about our successes far more than our failures. We don't as easily celebrate people for their brokenness and struggle, and yet, in ministry, we all wind up there at one time or another.

At some of the most difficult times in ministry, I found an unlikely ministry model: Frodo Baggins.

Frodo is the main character in J.R.R. Tolkien's book trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. During the toughest times in my ministry I found myself watching the recent movie versions often, not merely for escapism, but because in those times I came to strongly identify with Frodo Baggins.

You'll remember Frodo as the diminutive Hobbit, who is charged with carrying the burdensome ring of Sauron across Middle Earth in order to to destroy it at Mount Doom in the forsaken land of Mordor.

The Ringbearer

The ring weighs more and more heavily on Frodo throughout the story. The carefree life of his home in the Shire is replaced with a grinding pilgrimmage through unforgiving terrain. He tires and ages before us. The evil influence of the ring threatens to corrupt is kind heart.

Ministry, whether in good times or bad, is about ring-bearing. It is about carrying the burden for your people—for the congregation itself and for the larger church. Always, we hold the hopes and dreams, and aspirations of our people. In difficult circumstances, we also carry their fear and their anxiety. We are often the recipents of criticism and bad behavior. The weight of the task of guiding a congregation through difficult times can take an enormous toll on the ring bearer.

19 February 2013

Helping Our Youth Become Digital Disciples

Posted in How To, Resources, Social Media

textingTechnology pervades nearly every aspect of our daily lives—especially those of our teenagers—and yet we rarely talk about it in our churches.

People carry powerful smartphones, wonderous tablets, and they work daily on desktop and laptop computers. They are continually plugged into the internet and social networks—technologies which have completely saturated our daily lives and work.

And yet, as pervasive as these technologies and digital media are, we don't really talk about them in church. Why?

Perhaps there is an unspoken presumption that these devices and networks don't have anything to do with our faith. In fact, they powerfully shape our faith in ways we are often unaware of—both by the information we receive through them (how we are formed), and how we live out of faith in digital spaces (how we enact our faith). It may also be our own relative discomfort with understanding and operating these technologies ourselves. We can feel less than knowledgable and outpaced (read: intimidated) by our teenagers.

In this digitally-integrated time, churches need to take seriously and engage in conversation at the intersection of faith and technology for all ages, but especially youth. As our youth live more of their lives online, they will also live out their faith there too. If we don't engage it, we will miss out on a huge part of their lives...and leave them without spiritual guidance.

12 February 2013

Give Up Your Telephone for Lent

Posted in Social Media

phoneGive up your telephone for Lent.

It sounds crazy, doesn't it? I mean, how will people reach you if they need help, want to share good news, or need pastoral care?

It would be crazy to give up your phone for Lent.

And yet, we quite easily, and in some cases flippantly, talk about giving Facebook and other social networks for Lent like its no big deal. 

This reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role social networking now plays our lives and ministry.

When we talk about giving up Facebook for Lent we usually mean that social media are simply a form of entertainment, that they are ancillary to our "real lives." When we place them in the category of giving up meat, coffee, chocolate, we insinuate that Facebook is a guilty pleasure that we are probably be better off without, but usually don't have the willpower to give up.

However, digital social networks have become an integrated and, for many, an essential, part of life, relationships, ministry, and, yes, faith. Just as much as any phone.

07 January 2013

The Church's Generational Log Jam is Making Everybody Cranky

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Church

logjamMinistry leaders can be so busy lamenting the fact there are fewer people in our churches these days that we often miss how the people who do attend are crammed together generationally.

We are unwittingly cramming six distinct generations into three traditional roles, and it causes all kinds of congregational tensions, which present persistent challenges to ministry leaders.

That’s the important point that Carroll Sheppard and Nancy Burton Dilliplane make in their helpful book Congregational Connections: Uniting Six Generations in the Church. I had the pleasure of co-leading a conversation on generations in the church with Carroll at a recent gathering of the Philadelphia Area Ecumenical Resource Network, and I appreciated this point:

“This is the first time in the world’s history when significant numbers of six demographic cohorts have all occupied the stage at the same time.”

“What is intensifying the problem is that these six generational cohorts are trying to squeeze themselves into an outdated three-generation model of elders, households raising children/career singles, and children.”

“In the six-generational cohort society, it is often unclear who is in charge, who will do the work, and who is raising the children.”

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