Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part One

First in a Series

This post and the ones that follow share the development of a project which I’ve been working on since June of 2015. The Board of Cooperative Ministries has sponsored and overseen this work. I didn’t think it would ever have a name, but finally we found one that rang true for those involved in this process. We now call it Living Faith.

This blog starts with my comments regarding the development of a model of church life that we believe can invigorate our congregations. You may find that some of my comments ring true for you, while others might have you objecting out loud. I hope you share both in response to this blog.

There’s nothing official in this. These are only my thoughts based on my reading of the Bible and my experience as a Moravian for a lot of years. There are three things that the Church must be doing in order to fulfill God’s call to be a Church:

1) provide for the spiritual growth of its members,

2) find ways to do outreach in the surrounding community and the world, and

3) regular times of worship.

Everything else the Church does is probably good but is not essential to its calling.

Living Faith Small Group Ministry

I’ve shared this idea about church life with several people, and the response sometimes follows a common theme. The response was that the Church does well–and sometimes very well–on outreach and worship, but its efforts in fostering the spiritual growth of its members are often insufficient. That’s not to say that it does nothing to help spiritual growth happen. It’s just that it doesn’t receive as much focus as worship and outreach. We tend to invest our energy and resources in worship–with its creative use of music, scripture, prayer and sermon–and in outreach through which we hope to enable others to experience Christ’s love through us. Spiritual growth is seen as a personal, individual endeavor and so is left to the devices of the individual members to achieve as they are aided in a broad sense by the activities of the Church, such as worship, and by one’s own initiative, such as daily devotions. I believe that corporate and individual worship are not enough to enable our spiritual growth. More is needed from the Church to make this happen in our lives.

Now that’s not to suggest that nothing is done to encourage spiritual growth. There are several things the Church does that appear on the surface to focus on spiritual growth, but their success in the area of spiritual growth and maturity is limited because of a variety of factors. One example is Sunday School. A lot of good comes from Sunday School—

  • In the younger classes, a foundation of Bible knowledge is laid for the children’s faith. This is invaluable! We should do more of this and find ways to include more of our children in this wonderful experience.
  • During the adolescent years, young people are led through a process of examining their beliefs and how these beliefs and their faith relate to their experience of life and the world.
  • In adulthood, a major and often unspoken priority centers on long-term relationships. If this is not obvious, try changing the membership of some of those decades-long classes.

All of these benefits are important, and they all are needed for spiritual growth to happen. They are foundation stones for this. But none of them equates to spiritual growth that is integral to the Church’s mission. Occasionally a Sunday School class fosters deep spiritual growth. However, in my experience only small steps are usually taken in this regard. There are several reasons for this that I’ll share in a future post. For now, I’ll just suggest that Sunday School does a lot of good, but spiritual growth requires additional factors that aren’t found in most Sunday School experiences. The same could be said of a lot of Bible studies that are found in many churches.

The Church does lots of things in addition to Sunday School and Bible studies. Many of these fall under the areas of outreach and worship. Many of them do good and achieve much. But most of them lack the elements that are necessary to make spiritual growth happen.

In my next post, I hope to answer the question that’s bound to be in your mind–okay, if something else is needed, what would that be?

In the meantime, you might want to think about your experiences in church, particularly about those experiences that have helped you growth spiritually.

And what does spiritual growth and maturity look like? That’s something else I’ll write about soon.

Thanks for putting up with my thoughts. I look forward to seeing yours in a response.

Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

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Utilizing the Facebook Cover Image Space

BCM Spotlight Banner

MAY 25, 2016

The space above a public Facebook page is important. It is wise to use it strategically, rather than giving it little or no thought. Apart from the profile image, your page title and category, the cover image is one of the first things people see on your page. Unless there are faces in your page’s profile picture, the cover image usually IS the very first thing visitors see. Your page’s profile picture should always tell people who or what you are… usually this is a logo or, for churches, an image of the church building itself. The cover image space should most often show what you do as an entity/ministry or who your people are. 

Below is a screenshot of the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries Facebook cover image I designed. Currently, we are utilizing the space to promote an upcoming summer event. So one of the first things our page’s visitors see is information about an upcoming event. By clicking the cover image, Facebook brings up a window with an editable image description on the right. In that space is a link to the event RSVP, condensed by the URL shortening service Bitly. 

Cover Image 1

 

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We’ve used this space on Facebook to promote a variety of events as well as a social campaign. We’ve also used it to show (literally) who we are by displaying a group image of our board members. Cover images should be about promoting engagement, accessibility, approachability, and authenticity. They should change regularly to keep the page fresh, by either reflecting upcoming events and campaigns, recent photos of relevant people/images, or seasonal imagery.

The actual cover image space is 828 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall on desktop and laptop computers. The 160 by 160 pixel profile image eats into some of the space, as does the page title and Facebook page buttons. (Again, this can be seen in the first screenshot above.) The dimensions are different on mobile devices, so that is something to keep in mind when you are choosing a cover image. On mobile devices, Facebook page cover images are proportionally not as wide and are slightly taller. It is best to design the cover image for the desktop first, but keeping in mind that any essential imagery or information needs to be towards the middle (length-wise) and top two-thirds or half (height-wise) to best fit both desktop and mobile. It can take some trial and error to get it ideal. You can not move the profile image, the page title/category, or Facebook’s buttons, so you always have to design your cover image around them.

For full details about Facebook page profile image and cover image dimensions, visit Facebook’s Help Center here.

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Clicking the camera icon in the upper-righthand corner of the cover image will prompt a menu to appear that allows for editing. The first option, “Choose from Photos…” lets the user select a photo already uploaded by the page to use as the cover image. Clicking this option will bring up a window with the page’s different photo albums. Already have images of your congregation on your page? You can make one the cover image by clicking this first option.

The second option, “Upload a Photo…” gives the user the option of uploading their own photo (an image of your own creation or one you have permission to use.) The third option, “Reposition…” will bring up a cross-with-arrows cursor when you hover over the cover image. This allows the user to re-adjust the precise position of the cover image to their liking by clicking and dragging. The final option, “Remove…” will remove the cover image from the page, leaving a blank space with a default Facebook design. It is important to note that this option does not remove the image from Facebook altogether. To do that, you must go to your cover images album under the photos tab and delete the photo. If the cover image was selected from a previously uploaded image, it has to be deleted from both the cover image album and the original album it was in.

So how about designing a cover image? If you really get into it… Adobe Photoshop Elements is an affordable option. GIMP is a free design software alternative, which can be downloaded here. The simplest option, especially for non-designers, is to use Canva’s online Facebook cover image editor feature. Canva is online, so there is no software to download, and is free to use (there are some optional paid add-ons.) The best part about using their cover image editor is that they take care of the pixels for you, so you don’t have to fret about it being the right size! Just make sure your essential imagery and information is where it needs to be as mentioned earlier.

Happy designing and Facebooking! Best of luck to you!

Andrew portrait

Questions? Or need assistance with your church’s communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Let’s Remember Our Moravian College Students

BCM Spotlight Banner

MAY 11, 2016

As our province’s Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries, it’s my pleasure to spend a lot of time with our college-age Moravians, those eighteen-years-old to their early twenties. Many of our college-age Moravians are in college, while some work, and some do both.

And even though the school year is winding down, let me tell you about our Moravians who are in college. As best we can determine, we have around 300 Moravians from the Southern Province in college. Some attend schools in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania, but most of them attend North Carolina colleges and universities.

College picture for blog 5-10-16

Since our college students are often away at school, they can sometimes be forgotten. It is part of my job to always remember them, and I urge you to remember them as well. Stop by the office and check out my collection of college mugs (as seen in the picture with this article) which represent the schools where our Moravians attend. My job also includes doing all I can to help our students feel connected to the Lord and to the Moravian Church. Some of the ways I keep connections are through correspondences (Facebook messages, emails, texts), visits, offering spring break mission trips, and hosting cookouts during Christmas and summer breaks.

It’s important we do all we can to help our students feel connected to our church families. Here are a few simple ways to remember our college-age Moravians:

  • Know who your college students are and where they attend.
  • Send them church mailings.
  • Send care packages, especially during exam times. This is a great activity for circles and Sunday School classes.
  • Have someone in your church visit them and take them out for a meal.
  • When many of them are home this summer, make the extra effort to let them know you are glad to see them back.
  • Offer opportunities for your college students to get together.
  • When some of them feel called to serve on mission trips, provide prayer support and financial support.

If we do not forget our college students and we are faithful in our service to them, no matter where God’s plan and purpose for their lives take them, they will not forget their church homes! They will not forget our Moravian Church!

If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

There is a Leadership Shortage . . .

There is a leadership shortage . . . will you help us fill it? MLN Logo for print use

“But I’m not a leader,” you say, “I could never get up in front of people and tell them what to do. That’s just not me.”

Consider the following questions:

  1. Are you a committed follower of Jesus Christ?
  2. Do you have a calming presence in the midst of dysfunction, turmoil, or conflict?
  3. Do you find yourself asking for clarification in board or committee meetings?
  4. Do you discourage scapegoating, gossip, or bad behavior among church members?
  5. Are you persistent? When you set a goal, do you see it through to fruition?
  6. Do you consider the feelings of others when making a decision?
  7. Can you separate unhelpful emotional responses from facts?
  8. Do you try to look at things from someone else’s perspective when you encounter conflict or misunderstanding?
  9. When confronting bad behavior, are you willing to address the behavior rather than the personality?
  10. Can you put aside your personal feelings and emotions for the good of the group?
  11. Are you willing to “stay in the space” and be present with others even when things get tense and uncomfortable?
  12. Do you try to appreciate and even embrace diversity in all its forms?
  13. Do you have a good sense of who you are and what you believe? Or are you still trying actively to discover and live out your purpose?
  14. Do you believe in the people with whom you “do church?”
  15. Are you willing to do the right thing, even if it’s not the most expedient, convenient, or non-controversial thing?
  16. Do you have a good sense of where you end and others begin?
  17. Do you have ideas about how your church could use its gifts of ministry to be Jesus in the world?
  18. Are you willing to hear the ideas of others about how your church could use its gifts of ministry to be Jesus in the world?

Did you answer “yes” to any of them? If so, guess what? Yep, you’re already a leader. Did you answer “yes” to a few of these and “I wish!” to a few more? If so, the Moravian Leadership Network is for emerging leaders like you and already established leaders as well!

How important are leaders in the church or any organization, for that matter?

According to Kouzes and Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge“Leadership makes a significant difference in levels of engagement and commitment and is perhaps the most important asset in every organization, yet recent research points to a shortage of leaders. It is a serious global concern. The shortage, however, is not because of the lack of potential talent. The people are out there, the eagerness is out there, and the capability is out there. The shortage results from prevailing myths—myths about talent, strengths, position, self-reliance, and effort—that inhibit the vast majority of leaders from shining and organizations from realizing the full benefits of the talent they already have.”

Leadership Graphic

Moravian leaders should shine and we should be realizing the full benefits of our significant existing talent. Leaders are a lot like Christians, in that we are always becoming better ones! It’s a process, isn’t it? Though we are a small denomination, we are blessed in that we have a tremendous resource designed to help us grow into our best selves, as Christians and as leaders. The Moravian Leadership Network (MLN), a program of the Board of Cooperative Ministries, joins and strengthens leaders in the Moravian Church, Southern Province through experiential, group-oriented learning. We hope to broaden and deepen the pool of Moravian leaders, people who will dedicate themselves to accomplishing worthwhile goals with a sense of vision, excitement and common good, creating a future of greater possibilities.

Each year, a diverse group of Moravians from various congregations meets four times for meaningful face-to-face sessions. To date, 40 participants from over 20 different congregations have completed the program, which emphasizes spiritual leadership, personal development, relationship-building, conflict and change management, and Moravian history, polity/structure, and theology. Participants envision the Moravian Church’s dynamic future and make valuable connections with others who will journey alongside them.

The church of the 21st century will fulfill its mission with committed members who are grounded in their faith, understand congregational life, and join together with others to provide the leadership we need. Visit http://bit.ly/MLN2016 for more information and to apply for a future class.  The application period for the Class of 2017 begins May 1 and goes through July 2016.

We hope that you will participate in or encourage others in your faith community to participate in an upcoming MLN program.  May the God of hope and love encourage and strengthen all of us to pursue and practice a faith that will shape our leadership for the sake of God’s kingdom, here on earth as it is in heaven.

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Kouzes & Posner have a new book out soon. Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader describes five things you can do to increase your leadership quotient:

  1. Believe in Yourself.  Believing in oneself is the essential first step in developing leadership competencies. The best leaders are learners, and they can’t achieve mastery until and unless they truly decide that inside them there is a person who can make and difference and learn to be a better leader than they are right now.
  2. Aspire to Excel. To become an exemplary leader, people have to determine what they care most about and why they want to lead. Leaders with values-based motivations are the most likely to excel. They also must have a clear image of the kind of leader they want to be in the future—and the legacy they want to leave for others.
  3. Challenge Yourself. Challenging oneself is critical to learning leadership. Leaders have to seek new experiences and test themselves. There will be inevitable setbacks and failures along the way that require curiosity, grit, courage, and resilience in order to persist in learning and becoming the best.
  4. Engage Support. One can’t lead alone, and one can’t learn alone.It is essential to get support and coaching on the path to achieving excellence. Whether it’s family, managers at work, or professional coaches, leaders need the advice, feedback, care, and support of others.
  5. Practice Deliberately. No one gets better at anything without continuous practice. Exemplary leaders spend more time practicing than ordinary leaders. Simply being in the role of a leader is insufficient. To achieve mastery, leaders must set improvement goals, participate in designed learning experiences, ask for feedback, and get coaching. They also put in the time every day and make learning leadership a daily habit.

 

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Questions?  Contact Ruth Cole Burcaw at rburcaw(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 401

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). She also directs, with a dedicated planning team, the Moravian Leadership Network program for the Southern Province.