Archive for category Outreach
I have to say that I have been a fan of podcasting for a long time and I have written about it before. We have been podcasting our chapel talks here from the Bear Valley Bible Institute regularly since september of 2005 (click here for a link in iTunes). We also podcast the sermons from the Bear Valley church of Christ each week (click here for a link in iTunes). But, repurposing audio content is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what podcasting can do.
So What is a Podcast?
The word podcast came from the term Portable On Demand broadCAST. It was not directly connected to Apple’s iPod devices (although they certainly made podcasting more “portable”). In its simplest form, a podcast is an audio blog. They are audio files linked to a blog format website with an RSS feed so people can “subscribe” to the content. “Podcatching” software, like iTunes, allows listeners to set their computers to download these files automatically when new audio sessions are available. Once downloaded, they can be sync’d to an iPod, phone or other mobile device so they can be heard any time, any place. Pretty neat huh?
Talk Radio on the Internet
But there are two podcasts that I want to make you aware of that are going beyond just repurposing Sunday morning sermons, recorded Bible classes, and devotional talks. Both of these “programs” fit more of a talk radio type format. Rather than posting a sermon audio, they discuss topics, events and issues from a Christian perspective. These programs are made for podcasting and they are well worth your time to give a listen.
iPreach the podcast
iPreach, hosted by Dale Jenkins and Adam Faughn (both full time preachers), is a talk show format podcast for preachers. These guys have a great time doing this show and interview some great folks (and no I am not saying that just because I have been on their show) about what is going on in preaching around the Brotherhood. Recently, they recorded an episode live from our Ministry Technology class here at Bear Valley. It was a blast! This show is recorded live using TalkShoe.com and if you go online while the show is being recorded you can live chat with Adam, Dale and their guests, ask questions and comment. You can check out iPreach using iTunes here or on TalkShow.com here.
Engage! – Where Christ and Culture Meet
Engage!, hosted by Caleb O’Hara, Wesley Walker and Joe Wells, is a recent addition to the talk show podcast format. They discuss current, cultural issues from a Christian perspective. The show strives to deal with what is going on in the culture around us and to bring a biblical world view to it. They have had topics like; Sports and the Christian, Suffering, and even The Oscars. This show is recorded live on Monday evenings at 8:00 p.m. Central Time on Talkshow.com as well. You can check out Engage! using iTunes here or on TalkShow.com here. They have also built a website to provide additional material at www.engagepodcast.com.
Both of these podcasts show how how this tool can be expanded beyond just sermons. Imagine starting a talk show type podcast in an area where the church is just getting started. or a podcast that talks to teens about their issues as Christians, or a podcast discussing questions about the Bible. The possibilities are staggering if we will just look at these tools and ask ourselves how we can use them to build up the church and spread the message of the gospel.
Check out these two podcasts and let me know what you think. Also, if you know of other podcasts in the brotherhood, share them here. We would love to hear about them.
Ladies – there is a new site for you to check out – Come Fill Your Cup (http://comefillyourcup.wordpress.com). It seems that some ladies have jumped into the ministry technology stream lately. Two friends of mine, Erynn Sprouse and Tami Roberts have started a ministry blog for the ladies. Here’s how they describe its purpose on their site:
Grab a cup of tea, coffee, cocoa, water– whatever. Sit for a moment and take time to fill your spiritual cup. This is a space built just for ladies. It’s a space for you to read other ladies’ thoughts on scripture, love, life, God, our Savior and the Holy Spirit. It’s a place for you to be filled, but also to fill others’ cups. You’re invited to share your comments and thoughts, your ups, your downs, highs, lows, sorrows and triumphs. It is our most sincere hope that you will find encouragement to help you toward fuller service to God.
What a great tool to share with other Christian women! Check it out and help spread the word.
Many of us have heard about videos posted on YouTube that have gone “viral.” The “viral” concept is that these ideas or items are shared from computer to computer just like a virus does. Some of these video that go viral reach millions of views in a relatively short period of time. While many of the videos that we create and post may not go viral or reach millions of views the reach of YouTube is worth looking at. As a note of caution: there are videos on YouTube that are inappropriate. But there are also some powerful messages that can be useful and encouraging.
One of the great advantages of YouTube is that with a free account you can post videos on the YouTube site and then link or embed those videos in your blog or website. You don’t have to pay for the bandwidth to serve them and other people can embed them or link to them and increase your reach. Again, you may not reach millions, but would you settle for message getting to thousands or tens of thousands?
Here is an example. A friend of mine just sent me a link to a video on YouTube titled, “The Bridge.” The body of his email was simple “Worth your time” and he pasted in the link. I watched the video and was struck by it. So I in turn posted it to my Facebook account profile. People watched it and commented on it when they watched. This small video hasn’t gone viral, but in the roughly 18 months since it was posted it has been viewed over 56,000 times! That is reach! I have embedded the video in this post for you to watch. I agree with my friend it is “worth your time” to watch. But after you what think about how this video has been shared, linked to, emailed and the thousands of people that have received the message.
What are we doing as the Lord’s church to use this tool to get our message out?
You will have to excuse the Monty Pyton reference in the headline, but I couldn’t resist. If you know what I am referring to then keep the spam song in the back of your mind while you read this post. Not that it will help you, but it is stuck in my head so I thought I would help you get it stuck in yours.
Spam is the bane of the email world. We have all had to deal with it and nobody likes it. According to Wikipedia SPAM is defined as “the abuse of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.” Recently, the self-proclaimed “Godfather of Spam,” Alan Ralsky was sentenced to 51 months in prison (a pitiful sentence IMHO) for his role is sending fraudulent emails around the globe. It is reported that Ralsky was involved in sending some 70 million email a day from fake names. It is estimated that 80-85% of all emails sent today are spam.
Each time that I do a seminar or class on Technology in Ministry I talk about the benefits of using email to communicate. Systems like Constant Contact and others, allow interested people to sign up to get your information through their email. These systems keep track of these “permissions,” report bad address, bounces and other data to help you create, send, and track your bulk email communication. These systems are easy to use and quite affordable, even for smaller churches on a tight budget. In my seminar I talk about gathering “permission” from people to send them information. That is an important piece of the puzzle here. You must ask for and get PERMISSION before you send people email.
At just about every seminar I have done I am asked why it wouldn’t just be faster to buy a list of say 1000 email addresses from someplace and start with that? (Insert the sound of the Monty Python group singing spam, spam, spam, spam here!) If you buy a list of email addresses and start sending them emails YOU ARE SPAMMING! Even if you purchase a bulk email list from a reputable source, their list has not asked to get your information specifically. I assure you that once you start bombarding them with your email information they will look at you just like they do all of the other junk emailers that flood their inbox with garbage – and guess what? You are fried! Not really the impression you want the church to make on people is it?
It may take you longer to build a solid email list by gathering permission, but it will give you a better list. Learn to build a culture within you congregation to gather “permissions” from people. Then, use that permission carefully and wisely to communicate with them over time. Communicating with people who want your information will be more effective and profitable in the long run.
Don’t be a spammer – don’t get fried!
I am surprised at how often I am reminded that people still don’t understand that computers are so much more than electric typewriters. Yes, we can type out letters, reports, sermons and research papers and then conveniently store them for editing later, but there is so much more. We are missing the power that these machines put literally at our fingertips.
The Power of Computing
For ministry the power of computing means that we can approach the text of the Bible with tools never before available. Bible software like Logos (my favorite), Bibleworks, PC Study Bible, ESword (free) and more allow us to examine the text of Scripture in more and more detail. We can search, analyze and study faster and more accurately. We can find the Greek words associated with our English translations, discover their meanings and locate them elsewhere in the text almost instantly. These tools can transform our Bible study and help us understand God’s word because of the power of computing. Try that with an electric typewriter.
The Power of Connecting
Listening to the radio recently on my drive to work I was reminded by the DJ of how far we have come in terms of “connection.” He commented that when his grandparents were children there was no television, no radio, no phone, no form of mass communication whatsoever! He quipped, “I realized that the only way anyone could talk to anyone else back then was when they were in the same room together.” I had never really thought about that before. There was no way to communicate to anyone who wasn’t standing right in front of you. How different that is from where we are now! Right now this blog post can be read by anyone on the planet with a simple Internet connection. I can stand in the middle of my living room with a device in my had the size of a deck of playing cards (my iPhone) and can make a phone calls to a person thousands of miles away, access information on the internet, send a text messages to a friend, and all while watching television. We really are connected to the entire world.
But how are we using it? Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools connect us, but do we really need to know what you had for breakfast this morning? Facebook membership just surpassed the population of the United States and if it were a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world! and As Christians, we have been entrusted with the most powerful message man has ever been given – the Gospel. Yet often we only think to “post” the results of a quiz like What Color Crayon are You? or What Should Your Name Really Be? Really? Is that the best we can do?
So the question is what are we, as the Lord’s church doing about it? How are we as Christians using this “information connection” to reach people with the gospel? It is not up to the elders, or the preacher – how can I reach out? here are a few suggestions:
- Use Facebook or Twitter to encourage people with the words of Scripture – I know a woman that has started posting a Bible verse that she is reading everyday. Her friends started noticing and commenting and the best part is, now, if she doesn’t post one, people ask her where her Bible verse is for the day! She is using the power of connection to share God’s word with others and she is having an impact.
- Start a blog – For preachers and ministry workers this is a no-brainer. Preachers can post about information about their upcoming lessons and sermons or provide follow-up information afterward so member can dig deeper. Ministry leaders can post about the affect their ministry is having, what needs they have and what they are doing. Members can write about their spiritual walk and encourage others as we all strive to reach greater heights.
- Read blog posts and share them with friends – Connect with others who are writing to find encouragement and strength. There are a number of good blogs out there that can lift you up and challenge your thinking. Here are a couple to get you started; Preacherpollard, Thoughts from the Mound, Weylen Words, That Fire Within. Blog readers like Google Reader, Bloglines and others allow you to “subscribe” to these sites (don’t worry it’s free). It’s like having your own custom newspaper delivered to your computer all day long. When you find a post that you like or helps you or touches you – share it with someone! Spread the encouragement!
Tap into the power at your fingertips. We have been provided with tools here that can change lives (including your own) and can change the world. Let us always as God’s people be looking at how to use these tools for the Lord.
About 5 months ago I wrote about Slideshare. This website allows you to post PowerPoint files to be viewed over the internet. As a test I posted the file below from a sermon I did using images from the Hubble Telescope interspersed with Bible verses. Well, without doing much promoting to drive traffic to it, it has been viewed 1100 times. In internet terms 1100 isn’t reaching the millions of views that some viral YouTube videos get, but I got a Bible based message on creation to about 220 people each month for the last 5 months(avg). I’ll take it. Think of what we could do if we tried to get the word out and promote these presentations. In addition to the online views, it has also been downloaded almost 500 times. Who knows where it has gone from there.
We need to look at new tools like Slideshare as opportunities to reach people. Each day, there are people seeking through these electronic tools. Will they find the Lord’s church spreading the message of God?The Beauty of the Universe
Facebook has been around for quite awhile now, but has recently surged in popularity. For those not aware of it, Facebook is a “social networking” website. Once you start an account (it’s free by the way), you can connect with other “friends” on Facebook and stay in touch. I must say that I tried it just as an experiment at first. I knew that my teenage daughter would approach me at some point about it and I wanted to be aware of how it worked and what is was about. I figured that as an “old guy” I would not connect with many “friends” (20-03 or so was my guess, tops) but I thought it would be worth playing with. Well I just broke 200 friends and I am finding more people all the time.
So what does this have to do with ministry?
First, connecting with people is what ministry is really all about. Some of my Christian friends have posted very encouraging notes on my “wall.” (NOTE – once you accept someone as your friend, they can write on your “wall” – this is a place in your profile to leave you notes and stay in touch). Others have written short articles to teach and encourage others about their Christian walk. All of this is ministry!
Secondly, you can connect people together and inform them about a specific need. We have a good friend, Hannah Duke, who is seriously ill. This young 14-year-old woman needs our prayers – that is where Facebook came in. Facebook allows users to create interest “groups” and then invite your friends to join the group. Once you join the group you can write on the group “wall” and the Administrators of the group can post updates and information as needed. One of Hannah’s teen Facebook friends started a Facebook Group called “Prayers for Hannah” and invited all of her Facebook friends to join the group and offer prayers on Hannah’s behalf. Hannah herself was invited, as was her family. To date, over 470 people have joined this group! Both Hannah and her family have been very encouraged by the notes left on the group wall and the number of people who are praying for them. That is ministry!
Thirdly, you can let people know about events and causes that need their attention. We have posted a group to help let people know about our annual lectureship. This year’s theme is “More Than Conquerors: A Study in Joshua.” To date more than 250 people have joined the group. Now I realize that doesn’t mean that 250 are planning to attend the lectures, but a great many people now know about it! As more details about the lectureship are finalized we can update the group by simply posting this information on Facebook!
Here is another example – I have a good friend that is working on a church plant in the Tacoma, Washington area. He is looking for supporters and people interested in this work. He could create a Facebook group about the church plant. Show people pictures of the area, talk about why the church is so desperately needed in that part of the country. Give people a way to contact him or maybe even donate online using PayPal. Think of the connections that could be made. He may even be able to connect with people in the Tacoma area that want to be a part of this new congregation. That is ministry!
If we will just learn to look at some of these new technologies with spiritual eyes – we may see a world of new ways to teach, preach and edify. Brothers and sisters, THAT is ministry!