I've always been a big fan of praying for people on Facebook and I have done a lot of it, but it wasn't until my son broke his leg and needed surgery that I really felt the power of digital prayer for myself.
I've prayed many times for others Facebook as a care giver, but to receive prayers as the parent of a sick child was a different and powerful experience, one which I will try to capture in this post.
In short, it was like this: all those comments, likes, direct messages, as well as email and texts - they were each like a votive prayer candle that was lit for my son, and, though we are separated by time and miles, it was like all those candles were all lit in one place. My Facebook newsfeed resembled the rows of prayer candles you often find in Catholic churches and monasteries - visible symbols of the thoughts and prayers of many, bringing us warmth, comfort, and light - lifting my son and family up to God.
Thanks so much for your love, support, and prayers. It means more than we can say.
Here are a few other things I noticed through this experience of digital prayer:
Photo by Andrew TaylorIf you want to keep your preaching fresh but don't have the time or money to attend a big conference, consider using podcasts to spark your imagination and become a better preacher.
At its heart, preaching is storytelling - whether its retelling the Bible stories, the story of what God is up to now in the world, God's people, places, or encounters.
However, storytelling is becoming a bit of a lost art. We have less time these days to sit and weave together tall tails and stories. We are not as steeped in story as we used to be and, I fear, if only for myself, losing something in our proclamation.
Podcasts are a rich resources for modern day storytelling. They are schools for storytelling, if we listen not only what they say but how they say it - the pace, timing, wordsmithing. Best of all, it's free and you can listen from home, on a run, or in the car.
In the last year, I've made it a point to listen to storytelling podcasts, and I have definitely noticed an improvement in my story telling and preaching.
Here are three of my favorite storytelling podcasts:
Photo by Ally AubryElection season is in full swing and social networks are crammed full of all kinds of political messages. There has been a collective groan across Facebook and other social networks as many people share their sometimes surprising political convictions.
Ministry leaders often wrestle with how to respond and also how much to share their own political convictions, personal and pastoral considerations - how much to advocate, persuade, share news, be snarky, when there is so much at stake - even more so in the height of an election cycle.
So, should ministry leaders post about politics?
Facebook is a great way for ministry leaders to nurture relationships, build community, and share God's grace.
However, many ministry leaders don't make the most of Facebook either because of their lack of engagement, lack of focus, or focus on the wrong places.
Here are five common mistakes ministry leaders make on Facebook - mistakes which undermine the engaging ministry presence they want to develop.
Please, don't be that guy.
Photo by dpstylesGetting to know a new ministry context can be a fun but time consuming process. Using the geolocation service Foursquare can help you get the most out of your time.
One of the first tasks a ministry leader has in a new call is to getting to know the local community. You drop in at local cafes, parks, restaurants, take in local events, drive around town, getting the lay of the land. You introduce yourself to ministry colleagues and local leaders, and reach out to local news outlets.
You want to understand the community in which your ministry is situated and your parishioners live - you want to let people know that you're here - and begin to demonstrate your consistent presence in the community.
The goal is to start building a network with everyone from the mayor to the local barrista - a network which becomes the groundwork for collaboration, supporting the community, evangelism, and rallying together in times of need.
Foursqure helps take the consistent and demonstrable presence you are building in face-to-face meetings and extend it into the digital meeting places of your community.
Now more than ever, it is essential to have a well designed and engaging church website. Here are my top ten commandments for getting the most value out of your church website.
1. Focus on Newcomers
Your church website's primary value is as an introduction to newcomers and then secondarily as news, resources, and information for members. Of course, there is overlap between the two. The difference is that members know where to find what they need. First time visitors don’t.
The home page and prominent menu items should focus on newcomers, providing the most crucial information on the first pages they see. Of course, you also want news and information for current members. You can place links/portals with this internal communication, especially administrative information, to the bottom or side of the page (and let people know where to find them.)
Help newcomers find your website on Google search using this technique.