Equipping & Encouraging: Online Faith Formation

As a final post in the church communication series, we offer to you a variety of links and resources to help guide your exploration of online faith formation and digital ministry. Enjoy!

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A few favorites:

Vibrant Faith Ministries: “As an organization, we are a team of passionate ministry leaders on a mission to explore the changing landscape of faith formation in the hearts of people today. We serve God by serving the Church and its leaders. That’s what matters most to us.”

Building Faith: “Christian formation inspiration from the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary”

Presbyterian Association of Resource Centers: PARC provides online resources for children, youth and adults.

The Holy Geek: I (Randall Curtis) work at the Episcopal Church in Arkansas where I am the Ministry Developer for Young Adults and Youth. I am the President of Forma, a network of Christian formation leaders in the Episcopal Church. I am a regular on the Easter People Podcast and one of the lead teachers for the Certificate in Family and Youth Ministry of the FaithFormationacademy.org.

e-Formation: A learning community for ministry in a digital world. 

Books you can find in the Resource Center:

Faith Formation 4.0: Introducing an Ecology of Faith in a Digital Age

Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible

Tweet If You Love Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation

The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways

 

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Reflection on Moravian Leadership Network

Applications are now open for Moravian Leadership Network Class of 2015-2016. The deadline for application is August 2, 2015. Read the program overview, which includes a detailed schedule as well as a link to the online application. Read a recent article about MLN in the Moravian Magazine.MLN Logo for print use
As I was pursuing my Doctor of Ministry Degree from McCormick Theological Seminary (Chicago, Illinois) one of the most valuable books I read during this time was entitled, Leadership On The Line by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky. In their book they use a balcony as a metaphor for leadership. One of the most practical ideas of leadership is the ability to get perspective in the midst of action. The balcony metaphor captures this idea very well. In their book they use the example of a dance floor filled with many dancers and a band. If one were a dancer on the dance floor, chances are they would be caught up in the music, the dance itself and their dancing partner.  When asked how things were at the dance they might reply, “The band played great and the place was filled with dancers!” From this viewpoint one might not notice things that someone in the balcony would see. Looking down from the balcony one might observe that only some people danced when certain music was played. Perhaps they noticed that all the dancers clustered to one side of the floor further away from the band because they were playing too loud. As this illustration proves, achieving a balcony perspective means one must be removed from the dance floor and be a keen observer of all things.

As Pastor of Christ Moravian Church, I have “sat in the balcony” and observed four of our members participate in the Moravian Leadership Network’s first two classes. During this time from my view in the balcony, I am filled with hope and excitement for the future of our Moravian Church. I have seen individuals who were already good leaders within our church mature and become even better leaders through the benefits of their participation in the Moravian Leadership Network. In addition I have seen other members who have participated in the Moravian Leadership Network recognize their gifts and talents more clearly and in turn they have gained more confidence in their leadership skills. I look forward to trying to “recruit” more members in the coming years to participate in the Moravian Leadership Network.  The benefits are not only discovered within the local congregation but provincial service as well.

I have seen members . . . recognize their gifts and talents more clearly and gain more confidence in their leadership skills.

Opportunities for leadership are available to us every day. I believe that leadership is a way of giving meaning to our lives by contributing to the lives of others. Leadership is at its best, a labor of love.  We have several dedicated clergy and laypeople who are now graduates of the Moravian Leadership Network. I have been witness first hand of the benefits of their instruction. They have been blessed through the instruction of laypeople and clergy who dedicate their time and talents in providing instruction and insights to those who participate in the Moravian Leadership Network. They give of themselves because of their love for God and love for the Moravian Church.

In a recent sermon preached on the subject of discipleship I offered these words worth repeating:

At the close of life, the question will not be how much have we earned but how much have we given. We will not be asked how much we have won but rather how much have we done. We will not be asked how much we have saved but rather how much we have sacrificed.  Finally we will not be asked how much we were honored but rather how much have we loved and served others.

The Moravian Leadership Network has proven that mentoring and instruction are bridges to a brighter future. I hope you will consider crossing over and participating in the Moravian Leadership Network’s next class opportunity!

dave marcus  The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
  Pastor, Christ Moravian Church

Social Media & Ministry

social-mediaOur time is one of increased connectedness. Digital engagement is now a daily reality for many in the world and engagement, at its best, is relational. Social media is a readily available tool that allows individuals, groups and communities of faith to bear witness to the ordinary happenings of life together.

Our stories of faith are filled with examples of people called by God to share a particular message with a particular group of people. Likewise, in the history of the faithful, the medium by which we accomplish this mission both remains the same and radically different. Social media allows many congregations and followers of Jesus to share messages of hope, of peace and of love.

“Social media is a tremendous help in my work with youth, college age and young adults. I use Facebook the most, which is a valuable tool for communicating and reporting. Through Facebook I am able to contact people about upcoming meetings and events.  I am also able to share what we do in our youth and young adult ministries by posting pictures. This reporting helps inform what we are doing as well as generates excitement for upcoming events.  Communication is an essential part of my work as our province’s Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries.  I get in touch with people through letters, emails, phone calls, and text messages, but my most effective means of communicating is through social media.”

-Rev. Doug Rights, Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest are easily accessible and maintain a broad demographic reach. These spaces allow people to interact, share content, and nurture meaningful relationships. Sharing content, event reminders and other various announcements are valuable uses of social media. Consider ways individuals in your communities of faith may engage one another to build Christian community.

Rev. Keith Anderson, a Lutheran pastor and author, encourages leaders to consider using social media to extend the simple question, “What can we pray for today?” “Liking” a post or sending an encouraging comment are gracious ways of reminding one another of the presence of God through the nearness of one another.

Finally, digital presence in ministry should be authentic, manageable, and responsible.

  • We usually do our best when we are our truest selves.
  • Be present on social media platforms that make the most sense for your community.
  • Remember the importance of boundaries and maintain an awareness of social media as a public place.

View the BCM pinterest board on social media for churches!

by Sarah Hubbard, BCM Communications Coordinator

A story of online giving

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A special thank you to Friedberg Moravian Church for sharing their story of online giving with our blog!

Friedberg Moravian Church started talking about online giving in late 2011. There was a realization that over a two year period, the receipts for a given month saw a 55% difference from a low month to a high month. The discussion started in response to analyzing this variation that existed in giving from month to month. We found that giving was volatile enough that a month 3rd highest in terms of giving one year was fifth lowest in giving the next year. We heard that allowing members to tithe in non-traditional ways, such as online giving, could potentially stabilize tithing trends. We found that some Churches and non-profits were already looking to address this concern by investigating the possibility of allowing online giving.

From 2006 to 2009, there were 6.1 billion fewer checks written and this number continues to rise. Where 75 years ago, the Church saw 95% of donations in cash and only 5% by check, it appears that we have moved to the next phase of giving where many people routinely register for events and give to nonprofit organizations online. Individuals under thirty years of age prefer not to carry a checkbook or cash and many rely solely on their debit card. Once we started looking closer at the potential problem, we found multiple people saying that the only check they wrote was to the Church.

We formed a group to research online giving, speaking to many vendors and other Churches that were already offering this form of giving. During our research, it became apparent that many of the younger members that didn’t carry cash or use checkbooks also were looking for convenience. Some individuals wanted the ability to use their credit cards for perks when making donations. We saw the success of the Salvation Army when testing electronic payment machines at their kettles. We realized that 22% of all online giving occurs the last two days of December and we were offering no way for our members to make their Church their choice for giving. There seemed to be facts backing up the suspicion that allowing online giving reduced the impact of snow weekends.

Much was learned during our many discussions. We found two glaring weaknesses we needed to address. The first was the need to setup online giving through our web page, where individuals could contribute to a specific fund. The second related need was to accept card payments at events in support of sales such as concession stands, bake sales or auctions for fundraisers.

All of these factors led us to the decision that allowing people to give online would keep us current with societal trends, while allowing members to give freely and conveniently to our Savior.

Improving Your Congregation’s Website: Include the “Vitals” on the Front Page

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Today, looking for a new church often means starting online. Gone are the days of flipping through the phone book or driving around town searching for a new church home. Your future members start (and often finish) their search on their computer or smartphone.

Whether on Facebook or the broader Web, a visit to your online presence has the potential to make a lasting impression on a newcomer. A well-designed, well-maintained, welcoming page is only part of the equation, though. To interest church seekers, your online presence also needs to provide certain pieces of information right up front, without requiring visitors to search or click deeper into your site.

When discussing congregational websites, I always advocate for including what I like to call the “vital stats” on your site’s home page. These pieces of information, presented in an easily accessible way, will help answer your visitors’ questions and let them know how to find you or find out more about your congregation.

Here are some suggestions on what your web presence should offer on first glance:

• Your church’s name and logo (if you have one)
• Your address – It may seem like a no-brainer, but be sure your street address is easily viewable without searching. If visitors need to hunt for your address on your website, they may be less willing to hunt for your physical location. It’s also easy to add information from Google Maps or MapQuest that provide directions from wherever your visitors are (see link: https://support.google.com/maps/answer/3544418?hl=en).
• A photo of your church building — I typically advise limiting the number of church building photos on your site; remember, your congregation is more about the people in it than the building itself. In this case, however, being able to recognize your church building once they follow the directions to get there can be helpful.
• Meeting times – Be sure to list your Sunday worship times, so your visitors know when you gather. Consider including other regular events, too, like Bible Studies, youth group meetings, Sunday School, Men’s/Women’s Fellowship times, etc.
• Contact information – Provide a phone number and/or general e-mail address…and be sure that someone is answering the phone or checking e-mail. Including office hours can be helpful, too, as it lets your visitors know when they can expect a response from you.
• A welcome statement – offer a brief welcome that shares what’s special about your congregation and what a new visitor will expect when they join you for worship.

Keep in mind that many searches for locations today occur on smartphones. How does your site read on a smartphone? More and more templates available for websites created through WordPress, Weebly, Wix and others are designed to work well on a phone – just be sure the “vitals” show up on the mobile version, too, especially the location and times.

As you review your home page or Facebook presence, give some thought to the impression you want to leave with your visitor. Think through what your visitors need to know and make it possible to get to the “important stuff” easily. Because with so many options, making it easier to find you, contact you, visit you and know what to expect can make your congregation’s initial impression a positive one.

Special thanks to guest blogger Mike Riess, Executive Director of the Interprovincial Board of Communication of the Moravian Church in North America & Editor of The Moravian.