Putting the Hashtag (#) in Faith, Love, and Hope

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BY ANDREW DAVID COX |

#MoravianStar2015, #MoravianStar2016, #MoravianLenten, #MoravianMoms, #FaithLoveHope, #ThrowbackThursday. You’ll notice on the Moravian BCM social media sites, we like to put strings of words like these at the end of posts. What do all of these have in common? By the way they’re written, they’re hashtags. What is a hashtag anyways? Well, here it is straight from the horse’s mouth (Google definitions):

“hash·tag
ˈhaSHtaɡ
noun

(on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.

‘spammers often broadcast tweets with popular hashtags even if the tweet has nothing to do with them'”

The hashtag is strongly associated with Twitter and reportedly first originated as a social media tool ten years ago on that site. Prior to that, and still for a lot of people, the “#” symbol is known as the “pound sign.” The first hashtag on Twitter was created by social technology expert Chris Messina. According to Hashtags.org, Messina wrote to his followers, asking them what they thought about using the pound symbol to identify specific groups. Hashtags had been previously used in Internet Relay Chats (IRC). Essentially, what hashtags do is they allow a post on social media to be searchable by topic. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they become hyperlinks leading to pages for that respective topic.

Girl on smartphone

Hashtags are functional on both desktop and mobile devices

As of writing, #NSHvsPIT is trending on Twitter. The hashtag identifies tweets about the National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup final between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. A Twitter user could search “Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins” to find tweets on the topic. But on Twitter, posts are limited to 140 characters, meaning most of the content in a searchable tweet can taken up by the full name of the game. Searching “#NSHvsPIT” should bring up only tweets about the game, and often are more engaging tweets and have more interesting content being shared by people who follow hockey. Their tweets don’t have to spell out the full name of the game, because it is identified by the shorter hashtag. By using the hashtag, hockey commentators don’t have to worry about providing full context for every post, because other fans, by looking at the hashtag, will know what they are tweeting about. The hashtag can save creators from having to sacrifice quality or brevity in content when they feel compelled to give context for content.

This handy functionality of the hashtag was used in the #MoravianStar2015 and #MoravianStar2016 social media campaigns, and every social campaign the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) has done since. On a Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram search, if a user searches “Moravian Star 2015,” it’ll bring up all kinds of posts about Moravians, stars, Moravian stars, and the like, because the search is comprised of terms, when separated, are relatively generic and not specific. By stringing the words together without spaces and with a hashtag in front, information about the social media campaign and posts relevant to it are both immediately discoverable. By adding a year to the hashtag, it makes it even more unique, and limits its timeliness. This allows the BCM to find users who purposefully intended to submit content to these campaigns by using the unique hashtag with their posts. Otherwise, we’d have to sort through every other post with Moravians, stars, or Moravian stars and would wonder if someone intended to share the content with us or not.

The promotional Facebook banner for the #MoravianStar2016 social media campaign

Some general rules about hashtags:

  • A hashtag must be a single word preceded by a pound sign (#) with no spaces
    • #FaithLoveHope works, FaithLoveHope# does not work, # Faith Love Hope does not work
  • Hashtags are primarily functional on social media, and are not intended for texting or email
    • However, you can share in any medium what a designated hashtag is, so people can then use, search, or interact with it on social media
  • There are brand-specific hashtags and hashtags everybody uses
    • Coca-Cola uses #ShareACoke to identify their brand’s specific campaign, but everyone uses hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday or #MotivationMonday each week to share memories or words/pictures of motivation
    • Church or ministry pages should develop their own unique hashtags for their congregants to use, as well as capitalizing on common hashtags to boost engagement
  • Always capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag, as #ShareACoke is much easier to read than #shareacoke
  • There are no hard or fast rules as to where to place hashtags–some accounts sprinkle them throughout a post and others at the very end of a post (or both)
  • Try not to use too many hashtags all the time, especially not on Facebook, as it looks cluttered and tacky… try to stick to around five to ten
  • On Instagram, place a double space between your text and your hashtags (if you list them at the bottom), by using a character such as a colon “:” to hold the place of the double space that Instagram would otherwise delete
  • Hashtags will not automatically become hyperlinks if they have special characters in them, but they can end with special characters (a period at the end of a hashtag will not break its link)
    • Example: #FaithLove&Hope will not link to anything on social media, #FaithLoveHope or #FaithLoveAndHope will
  • Posts marked with hashtags typically can not be found by the general public if the account using it posted it with strict privacy settings… for hashtags to be most effective, posts using them generally need to be posted publicly
    • Example: If Ruth Burcaw, with strict privacy settings, posted #Moravian on Facebook, I, being friends with her, could see it and click the hashtag and be taken to a page with all public posts with the hashtag or posts by other friends who used it… but people who are not Ruth’s friend could not find her post

Hashtags are a powerful social media tool. If you’re looking to grow your church or ministry’s page and connect to relevant topics and interested people, hashtags are a must! To get people in the door and doing ministry with us, we need to have faith, love, and hope. But to help people be aware there is a door even to begin with, we need to have #FaithLoveHope.

Other Resources:

Hashtags on Instagram: How many should you use?

Instagram Hashtags in the First Comment?


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

Andrew portrait

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Andrew is a driven creative person with established experience and skill in a variety of fields. Experience includes communications, social media management, event coordination, marketing, graphic design, photography, customer service, hospitality, security, writing, cartooning, illustration, fine art, and more! His main passion though is creating visually and emotionally interesting creative content for the Internet.

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Disunity in the Unity: Resolving Church Conflict

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

In my work, ironically, I hear a lot about disunity. You’d think that those of us who come together to praise God, to grow spiritually, and to serve the world could find a way to do so without conflict. But like every other church in the world, we fight.

And I’m not talking about disunity around big, difficult issues or the essentials, though that happens too. I’m talking about disunity around the little things that somehow become big things . . . the color of the choir robes, whether we sit or stand for that hymn right before the sermon, what to do about ineffective volunteers, how to handle a difficult person, and more. You know what I mean.

Daily Text graphic

And all too often, we find ourselves unable or unwilling to address that conflict in any meaningful way. “That’s none of my business,” “The preacher should handle that,” “If I say anything, I’ll make them mad,” “It’s not that big a deal,” or “I’m just going to ignore that until it (or they) go away.”

In our church sanctuaries, fellowship halls, and meeting rooms, we face crucial confrontations and we’re not sure what to say. So, we stay silent, or engage in gossip, or go on the attack. When we fail to hold others accountable in ways that are both direct and respectful, what often begins as simple disagreements can grow into chronic dysfunction.

We as a Church already face numerous, significant challenges from outside our walls. Can we really afford to follow that sacred adage “in all things, love,” even when it’s clear that too much of that “love” and not enough accountability are actually tearing us apart?

Daily Text graphic

Consider this: not all conflict is bad. Most of us recognize that productive conflict can improve and even deepen our relationships, particularly in friendship, marriage, and business. But somehow, when it comes to church, we avoid conflict in the name of love, or preserving friendship, or saving time. In fact, open debate and disagreement often produces the best possible solution in the shortest amount of time.

How do we overcome the fear of conflict?

  • Acknowledge that conflict can be productive and that our natural tendency is to avoid it. Just say that out loud. In a meeting. More than once. It is critical that leaders model appropriate conflict behavior. By avoiding all conflict – even that which is necessary and productive — we add to the resulting dysfunction, which is unhealthy for everyone.
  • Consider having someone on your board or committee assume the role of “miner of conflict” — someone whose role it is to uncover buried disagreements and call attention to sensitive issues which the team must work through. The “miner” needs to remain objective and the group should commit to staying with the conflict until it is resolved. This responsibility could shift depending upon the issue being discussed.
  • Coach each other through the conflict. A simple behavioral covenant serves as a reminder for how to engage one another. Or perhaps group members agree to remind each other not to retreat from healthy debate. Once the discussion is over, participants can revisit the idea that conflict is good for the group and not something to be avoided. This creates a culture where healthy conflict is encouraged and valued.
  • Take advantage of resources that enable group members to learn about their own conflict styles, behavioral preferences, and personality styles. Knowing more about our own styles can prove useful in managing organizational conflict. There are dozens of assessments out there that can provide helpful insight. The Board of Cooperative Ministries provides several different workshops around healthy conflict and other issues of relevance to congregations. We’d love to come out to your church and help you use these tools to encourage productive conflict and healthy community.

People can learn healthy confrontation skills and when they do, churches benefit.

Future posts will explore specific skills that we can use before, during, and after a conflict. Why wouldn’t we work to make sure we never have fewer brothers and sisters than God has sons and daughters?


References

Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.


rcb at fourRuth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Here she is when her daddy was the preacher at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC. 

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Seven

BY TIM BYERLY |

This is the 7th post in this blog about Living Faith, a model of congregational life that has been developed by the Board of Cooperative Ministries of the Moravian Church, Southern Province. If you’ve been sticking with me throughout this discussion, thank you. If you haven’t, you can find the previous posts here (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6).


How many times have you participated in a worship service—and then left with a sense of transformation in your life? Not necessarily a conversion experience, but definitely a moment of growth or transformation? When you were different in a good way than when you arrived at the service? And the difference did not fade away as life’s challenges distracted you from a good and holy experience? How recent was the last time you felt something like this?

In the first post in this blog about Living Faith, I wrote about my belief that God calls the Church to be involved in three basic activities:

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, or could be grouped under one of these three callings.

Most of this blog has focused on how to encourage spiritual growth in our congregations. That’s the main objective of Living Faith. However, in post #3 I described how outreach fits into the Living Faith model. One thing that I haven’t discussed is the inter-relationship between Living Faith and worship. They have a profound impact on each other.

Since I am a pastor, it may surprise you to learn that I think the power of worship to bless us and Living Faith Small Group Ministrytransform us is not dependent on a good sermon or worship leadership. Musicians may be troubled to find that I would say the same about music. Don’t misunderstand me–these are critical to good worship. They enable us to draw near to God in worship and to experience and express our faith. If this is happening, then you will wonder what else I want out of worship. I want to be transformed; I want to be blessed in ways that will stay with me when I get to Monday, and to Wednesday, and to days that are darkened by my burdens. Great sermons and music aren’t enough for me. Nor are liturgies and prayers and even Scripture readings. All of these are essential. Without them, worship is not worship. But I need something more to make worship transformative.

I need the bonds of fellowship with those who sit with me in worship. Not friendliness, but fellowship. I need something more than the smiles and handshakes exchanged before and after we worship. I need to be in worship with those who’ve shared life with me, who know me, and I them. Living Faith enables relationships like this to flourish. This happens as people walk together in faith in Living Faith groups. Then it happens as these small groups reach out to impact the world in ways they feel the Spirit guiding them. In such fellowship we learn about each other, and we love each other just as we are. We do this not with excessive emotion but with strong bonds of friendship.

I am imaging sitting in worship near three or four people I know well. We’ve become friends that talk through our thoughts about faith with each other and have encouraged each other. We’ve done projects together in service to Christ. We’ve learned give and take in our relationship. There may be 500 other people worshiping with us, but the other 495 don’t affect me as much as those few that I know so well. As we worship, I see their faces; I hear their voices. I’m recalling conversations and experiences that we have shared. The service progresses, and I feel a sense of unity with these who know me as we seek God’s presence together. This makes worship transformative. I am lifted to God by worshiping with those who’ve shared sacred experiences with me. And these experiences come from our times of fellowship and service as one body.

That’s what happens when we come together in a small gathering like a Living Faith group. Who would like to help develop such a community of faith? I would love to hear from you.


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

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Five

In the previous installments of this blog (part 1, 2, 3, 4,), I’ve written about our need for a greater focus on spiritual growth in our churches. I’ve discussed the key components of Living Faith that facilitate spiritual growth. One thing I haven’t discussed is the center of all of these discussions–not the ‘how to’ of spiritual growth, but the ‘what exactly is’ spiritual growth. It’s time for a good examination of spiritual growth to discover what we’re hoping to achieve.

We should start by considering what isn’t spiritual growth—

  • Spiritual growth or maturity isn’t eloquence in speaking about faith. This is true whether that speech is a sermon, a prayer, comments in a discussion, dynamic teaching, or encouragement offered to another person. Jesus talked about people who pray publicly, and his words were not very affirming. He might offer the same comments about prayers than impress us today. The person praying might be moving and ‘spot on,’ but that doesn’t mean the person is in touch with God. It simply means that the person does well talking about being in touch with God.
  • Spiritual growth doesn’t equate with a high level of commitment. Sometimes it’s said of a person that he or she will do anything he or she is asked, or that the person gives generously. These are great practices, but they don’t reflect the spiritual condition of the person. The person might be head-over-heels in love with Christ, but a high level of commitment to doing good doesn’t prove this. There are a lot of other incentives for deep involvement in church activities such as guilt relief, recognition, influence, or approval. None of these will bring a person closer to God or instill Christ’s image in them.
  • Talents don’t prove this either. A singer might be able to amaze a crowd. A youth leader might be able to draw young people like bees to honey. An officer on a church board might be able to motivate the congregation or manage the work of a board in impressive ways. But none of these abilities demonstrates spiritual maturity and growth.
  • Spiritual gifts don’t guarantee spiritual growth. They receive a lot of attention in the New Testament, and they are emphasized in some denominations, much less so in the Moravian Church. Some see them as a litmus test of godliness, but nothing supports this conviction.

But enough about what spiritual growth/maturity/life isn’t. It’s time to think about what it is—

  • Galatians 5 is a good place to start. Paul writes about the fruit of the spirit. That’s always intrigued me. I read the names of the fruit, but what does that look like in a person’s life? I have not grown tired of pondering this question about people, and about myself.
  • Fruit, not fruits. There are nine names given to the spirit’s fruit in Galatians, but fruit is singular. It’s like they come as a set. If you have a basket on the table with an assortment of fruit in it, you don’t talk about how nice the fruits look. You talk about the fruit. The Galatians 5 passage is like a prism that refracts the light of spiritual fruit into 9 colors that enables us to understand it better. But it’s one fruit. It’s one image of Christ that is revealed in different ways depending on the situation. Can you imagine having love without gentleness, or patience without peace, or joy without self-control? Of course not, because it’s one fruit–the fruit of the spirit. We can’t focus on achieving one or the other like it was a New Year’s resolution. Instead, we focus on Christ, and the fruit of Christlikeness begins to develop in us.
  • Philippians 4:4-9. Before you read further, read these verses. Go ahead, I’m serious. Just don’t forget to come back and finish reading this post.

The word, fruit, isn’t included in these verses, but its imprint can be seen all over it. It talks about a frame of mind which allows for and fosters spiritual growth and maturity.

By now you’d be right to wonder what this has to do with Living Faith which we’ve been developing. The goal or focus of Living Faith is this spiritual fruit/growth/maturity. This model of church life makes this kind of vibrant spiritual life possible. Spiritual life doesn’t happen because we decide to pray more or serve more. It happens when we help each other discover God’s work in our lives.

That’s the point of Living Faith. Even the most dedicated introvert (like me) needs fellowship with others to grow toward Christ. No one does this alone. Even monks living in solitude depend on the sense of fellowship they have with those who live that same disciplined life.

If you want to have a deeper spiritual life, work at it with others who are also focused on the same thing. Living Faith can guide you in that. Gradually, you’ll find the fruit developing in your life that Paul discusses out of his own experience.

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