Mission Trips and Faith

BCM Spotlight Banner


BY ANNA STEWART FAIRCLOTH |

It was March of 2011 and I was on a bus with my youth group from Friedberg Moravian Church. We were headed for a mission weekend in Tennessee to help repair houses. We slept in a church on cots and played cards for hours when we got back from our worksite. At the time of this trip, I was certain God had sent me because this lady really needed help with her house. But looking back, I can see God sent me on this trip also because he knew I needed friends. I came back from that trip with a bus full of friends who pushed me to be better and kept me coming back to church every Sunday. Since then, I have gone on numerous mission trips that have led me all around the world. I’ve learned that God can use anybody to change the world. All you have to do is say yes!

God always reaches out his hand. He’s just waiting for you to grab it.

The Lord has taught me so many valuable lessons through mission work. I was on a plane from Addis Ababa to Mombasa when I realized that I was literally going to Africa. No joke. I knew the Lord was calling me to Kenya, but why? I think sometimes Jesus puts us in situations so that we are forced to rely on him. I was scared, a little homesick, and really wanted Chick-fil-a after eating airplane food for two days. I prayed to him for comfort and to bring me peace so that I knew I was meant for this. And that’s when I felt I tap on my arm. My neighbor had been sitting beside me silently the whole trip until we hit some turbulence. He shyly asked if he could hold my hand. It was his first time flying and he was scared. I smiled and reached out my hand. I think God does the same thing to us. Leaving your comfort zone can be scary, but God always reaches out his hand. He’s just waiting for you to grab it.

Image: Anna singing and dancing with one of the children at Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Anna singing and dancing with one of the children at Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Another lesson I have learned from my experience with missions: anything can be a moment for ministry. I used to think going on mission trips looked like evangelizing to everyone I met and bringing them to Jesus. Don’t get me wrong; we should be doing this too! But ministry also looks like sorting beans, blowing up balloons and making them into animals, and painting houses. When we humbly serve God’s children, we are reflecting Christ out into the world.

The Lord created us to be in community and family with one another. He didn’t just stop after Adam. He recognized loneliness and knew we weren’t meant to live that way. I have often heard people ask, “Why don’t you just send them the money you would spend on getting there to them?” The Great Commission tells us to go to the ends of the Earth for our brothers and sisters. Go into all the nations and baptize them into one nation, God’s kingdom. We can’t do that just by sending a check and signing our name on a card. My first mission trip to Tennessee made me want to start a relationship with Jesus. Not because of the work we did but because of the people who were there. They loved me like Jesus does, just as I am.

Image: In the Dominican Republic: Anna celebrating a little boy's successful surgery. He had just received surgery for a cleft pallet. | Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

In the Dominican Republic: Anna celebrating a little boy’s successful surgery. He had just received surgery for a cleft pallet. | Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28: 16-20, ESV

This world needs a revival and it starts with you! How are you responding to the Great Commission? Are you living out your God-given responsibility to share the Gospel with every nation and tribe? Be the generation that fulfills the Great Commission. Put your trust in him and be spontaneous for God. All you have to do is go!

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image: Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya: Anna and one of the children after a church service. They became fast best friends!

Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya: Anna and one of the children after a church service. They became fast best friends!

Anna Stewart Faircloth is an intern at the Board of World Mission for the summer of 2018 and is a member of Friedberg Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. She attends Liberty University and is studying Youth Ministry with a minor in Camp and Outdoor Leadership as well as a minor in Family and Child Development.

 

Requests for republishing, click here
Want to volunteer to write for us? Click here 


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Jesus Loves the Children… All the Children of the World

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY BETH HAYES |

Children participate in an activity at one of the Children's Festivals

Children participate in activities at one of the annual Children’s Festivals | Photo by Suzy Tucker

A few weeks ago, many of us witnessed history being made at Trinity Moravian with the consecration of Carol Foltz as the first female bishop in the Southern Province. In her charge, we heard that she pledged herself to the work of children’s ministry in the Moravian Church as one of the important goals in her role as a bishop. The wonderful Logos Choir of children opened the service and warmed many of our hearts with a rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.” It was truly a day to remember.

It is important that each congregation in the Moravian Church share Carol’s commitment to children. The recent Southern Province Synod passed a resolution (Resolution #5) to adapt Loving Hearts United: A Moravian Guide to Family Living into a weekly email for families and educators. Work by this Synod working group and the Board of Cooperative Ministries has already begun to make this a reality by end of August when many children’s summer will end, bringing with it the beginning of a new school year. Parents, grandparents, and guardians, it is up to you to sign up to get these weekly emails and use the suggestions as part of your weekly family time together. What an impact this could make at the beginning of a new school year, and throughout the rest of the year for your families. (More info on where to sign up for these emails will be available at a later date.)

The Board of Cooperative Ministries continues to work for the children in our Province too. The fifth annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast is almost here. There is a lot of interactive learning of Moravian history planned for families at Hope Moravian.

Moravian Ministry Voyage logo

The Moravian Ministry Voyage will happen at Advent Moravian in September. where Moravians of all ages, including children, will gather to learn about Moravian ministry locally and internationally, and see the first ever Southern Province performance of Irene: the Adventure Begins. Irene is a musical about Leonard Dober, David Nitschmann, and their mission work.

The Moravian BCM continues to help our congregations in the ongoing ministry with children by providing quality Sunday school curriculum options, Vacation Bible School options, and a whole host of books and resources for families to use in doing faith formation at home.

Carol Foltz at her service of consecration

The Rt. Rev. Carol Foltz shortly after being consecrated as a bishop of the Moravian Church | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

Let’s not forget Carol’s pledge to serve children and our responsibility that we accepted at children’s baptisms. At these baptisms, we pledge to guide them in faith formation in our congregations and we pledge to provide help and support to their parents.

The BCM will continue to provide opportunities like the Children’s Festival and the Ministry Voyage. There is a Children and Family Task Force that works under the Board of Cooperative Ministries. It is being redesigned at this time and we are looking for new members. For those who might be interested, it meets quarterly. If you or someone you know has a heart for children and family ministry, please let me know and we would love to have you on our team. The goal of this task force says it all: to celebrate and encourage children and families in the life of our church and support faith communities as we fulfill the promise of baptism for our Moravian families.

In closing, remember this quote from The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember 

“Each generation, in its turn, is a link between all that has gone before and all that comes after. That is true genetically and it is equally true in the transmission of identity. Our parents gave us what they were able to give, and we took what we could of it and made it part of ourselves. If we knew our grandparents, and even great-grandparents, we will have taken from them what they could offer us too. All that helped to make us who we are. We in our turn will offer what we can of ourselves to our children and their offspring” (Rogers 65).

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, Sunday school teacher, or a member of a congregation, let’s band together and offer the best we can for our children.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries. She has been working in this role for 33 years. Before coming to the Moravian Church, she served as the director of Christian Education in several Presbyterian Churches. She holds a Master’s Degree in Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. She is a member of Clemmons Moravian Church and regularly attends Come and Worship.


Post sources: 

Requests for republishing, click here
Want to volunteer to write for us? Click here 


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Total Commitment

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY JUSTIN RABBACH |

The Church as a Community of Service: Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve. From this, His Church receives its mission and its power for its service, to which each of its members is called. We believe that the Lord has called us particularly to mission service among the peoples of the world. In this, and in all other forms of service both at home and abroad, to which the Lord commits us, He expects us to confess Him and witness to His love in unselfish service. (The Ground of the Unity)

“If you want things done right, do it yourself.” That is a common phrase, and I admit describes how, at times, I have a hard time completely handing off projects. This is true when I have a particular vision and a particular way I think something should be done. Still, in my experience, this phrase usually is a reflection of not allotting ample time to adequately prepare the people I am asking to help me. And not a reflection of their ability to complete a task to my satisfaction. In these instances then, this phrase becomes an excuse. I have to do it all, if I want it done in time. Or, maybe I just don’t want to invest the time to help prepare someone with less experience, as in the short term that would be more work.

Do you ever experience this feeling? Or, do you ever witness this attitude in the church? Has someone taken on a role in the church, and then held onto it forever? Does that help the next person in line? More importantly, does that fit into the value of discipleship held strongly within the church?

As I begin work in a new role in the church (Executive Director of Board of World Mission), I find myself reflecting on those who have come before me, and how grateful I am for the ways they have helped prepare me. There actions remind me that we aren’t expected to take part in the great co-mission (note the “co” part of that) without God, and without one another!

In college, I led my first international mission team to Nicaragua. I had called up a bunch of camp friends to see if they would join me in doing some hurricane relief work, and when they all said yes, I was on the hook to actually make it happen! Well, we did, and it was a great trip, and I was invited to speak about it in several different Moravian Congregations. One of those congregations was Lake Auburn Moravian Church in Minnesota. As I got ready to give my message, I must admit that it was going to be one of “Look at the new thing that is happening! Look at the example these young adults are setting, and collectively you, as the church, should come get on board with this whole mission work thing!”

Well, it turns out the person introducing me that day was Rev. Lorenz Adam, who had not only served as a missionary in Central America for many years, but had been the Pastor at my church since I was born, and had baptized me. My parents still had some of his old missionary barrels (basically the equivalent of moving boxes for missionaries back in the day) stored in a building on their farm! On top of that, Lorenz chose that day to present, as a gift to the congregation, a somewhat famous painting (in Moravian circles) of David Zeisberger preaching as a missionary to the Native Americans in Ohio during the 1700s.

Image of David Zeisberger

Image of David Zeisberger. Public domain image via Ohio Historical Society/Wikipedia.

Talk about being hit over the head with irony. I was going to speak about the “new thing” I was helping to start, following a presentation clearly demonstrating the long history of the thing I was about to claim to have started.

I had to change my message (and my thinking) on the fly that day, and it stays changed to this day when I speak on missions. Instead of looking for support of the new thing that is about me, I work hard to remember that it is about God’s story, and the deep honor it is to be a part of it.

Come full circle, and at an event organized by the Board of World Mission in 2016 to help engage young adults in mission, I was able to be the one making the introduction of another speaker. At this event where I was trying to live out the call to help disciple to those who come after us, I was able to introduce a very special woman who came before me: Nora Adam.

For all the ways we worked to try and make the event relevant to young adults, to incorporate technology and up-to-the-minute breakthroughs in group facilitation theory, the most powerful moment was a simple speech by the wife of the pastor Lorenz I mentioned earlier. Nora was given free reign to share whatever story was on her heart, and she choose to speak on the theme of “total commitment.”

To speak with authority on this topic, you cannot have anyone guessing if you yourself were totally committed. She spoke with authority by speaking of the way she lived her faith, shared her love, and lived a life filled with hope.

Watch her presentation yourself, and see how powerful her words are, shared from a lifetime of experience.

My prayer for you, and for me, is that as we undertake God’s mission for us, we can take it on with total commitment. That and may our commitment be a witness to others, as we invite them to join in as well!


Questions? Comments? Contact Justin at Justin@MoravianMission.org

Image of Justin Rabbach

Photo via Justin Rabbach

Justin Rabbach is the Executive Director of the Board of World Mission of the Moravian Church in North America. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife Jessie, and dog Lambeau. Justin has spent the last decade immersed in Moravian Mission work through the BWM, starting as a short -term volunteer, Antioch servant, Director of Mission Engagement, and now Executive Director. He is excited to help carry forward the work of so many who have come before him. 


Requests for republishing, click here
Want to volunteer to write for us? Click here 


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Four Tips for Engaging Young Adults in the Church

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY JESSY BURCAW |

Editor’s note: the author, Jessy Burcaw, is a 24 year-old young adult member of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. 

Photo by Helena Lopes, via Unsplash.com

These days a lot of people are talking about young adults in church–how to get them there, how to keep them, and how to get them involved. Here are four tips that might be helpful as your church thinks about engaging young adults. 

1) Don’t tell us it is our job to bring in more young adults

Well-meaning people have suggested that I need to bring my friends to church or have implied it’s my responsibility to fix the “young adult problem.” This logic has a few flaws. Most of my friends are Moravian and already belong to a church. My non-Moravian friends either have their own church to attend or are not interested in church. So if young adults don’t bring in more young adults what do we do? Listen to the young adults you do have. Realize it may not be a Sunday School class they want. You may have to try some new things and get out of your comfort zone a bit as a church. Young adults are happy to help but it’s not our job to fix the young adult problem just because we are young adults.

2) Don’t assume we all want to do the same thing

Often times when young adults come home from college and want to be involved in church, people assume they want to work with kids or youth. In my case, as a teacher, the last thing I want to spend my Sunday doing is working with kids. After a long week working with children, I want a break from them. Yes, it is true that many young adults do enjoy working with youth or children but keep in mind we are all different. Millennials are not all the same! We have many gifts and talents that can be put to good use in church. For some it might be playing handbells or singing in the choir. Others might want to get involved with building and grounds and help take care of the church building. Others will organize outreach and mission. Take the time to get to know us and to understand what gifts and talents we might be willing to share. Not only will it make us feel more welcome, it will also make a better church!

Photo by Eric Bailey, via Pexels.com

3) Remember we are adults now too

Many young adults grew up in the church we attend now. That means people remember us when we were children running around after church or when we were teenagers acting cooler than the flip side of a pillow. It also means people sometimes forget we are no longer those 16-year-olds in church because our parents made us come. We are now coming to church because it is a place we want to be. We want to make a meaningful contribution to our church family, but it is a two-way street. Churches are going to have to not just create space for us, but proactively invite us to get involved in meaningful ways. This means people who’ve been in leadership for years might have to move over and let young adults help, which might mean changing “the way we’ve always done it.” Young adults don’t need to run everything, but one day we will be the ones making the decisions. Why not start training us now, let us in on some decision-making, or at least listen to our voices? It’s time to start being intentional about sharing responsibilities with young adults who want to be involved.

4) Don’t panic if we aren’t at church every Sunday

Just because I am not in church every Sunday doesn’t mean I don’t want to be involved anymore. A lot of my friends don’t go to church every Sunday, but they still want to be involved too. Many of us (not all) get more out of mission work and putting our faith into action than we do sitting in church on Sunday morning. Now don’t get me wrong–I enjoy very much going to church and listening to my pastor, but that’s not always enough. I don’t need to sit in church every Sunday to feel close to God. Sometimes I feel closer when I am on the mountaintop at Laurel Ridge singing camp songs, or sitting by the river writing in my journal. The place I felt God’s presence the most wasn’t a church; it was when I sat on the floor of a school in Nepal listening to a child read to me. For many young adults, church isn’t about being in one place to worship or listen to God’s word. Church is walking in the Suicide Prevention and Awareness Walk; church is going to Nepal to teach; church is helping with hurricane relief; church is so much more than a building. So just because you don’t see us in worship doesn’t mean we are never coming back. It just means we are out in the world putting our faith into action.

Young adults do not just represent the future of the church–we are the church right now! Please continue to encourage us, love us, and make space for us as we embrace both old and new ways to follow Jesus in the world.


About the Author

Jessy is a lifelong member of Unity Moravian. She grew up in Winston-Salem and attended Appalachian State University to study Elementary Education. Now she is a 2nd grade teacher in Winston-Salem. She is a proud mother of her fur-baby, Olive. Jessy has a passion for mission work and spent her summer in Kathmandu, Nepal working in a school. She plans to return this summer again to continue working with the school.


Requests for Republishing:

Want to republish this post? Most of our writers are volunteers who retain the copyright of their text. Reach out to the author, or we can put them in touch with you. See email address for the Moravian BCM below.

Images used in our blog posts are a mix of the BCM’s images, Creative Commons images, public domain images, or other images the Moravian BCM has permission to use. Some images you may need additional permission to include in your republishing. Where credits have been noted, we ask that you credit image creators the same way we have. Questions? Email us!


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Taking Laurel Ridge Home

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY CARTER GENTLE |

Laurel Ridge

Laurel Ridge

It occurs to me that the place where I most experience God is at Laurel Ridge. It’s the place that taught me how love works, and what it means to be a Moravian and a Christian. Surrounded by God’s holy mountain and my Laurel Ridge (LR) family, it seems that my faith is elevated and life’s responsibilities seem far away. At LR, “regular” life stays at the camp entrance. Here, I can feel God’s presence with every sense. Faith seems to be less foggy, but is intensely clear. But as camp ends, the euphoria of the experience fades away and the “mountain high” dims as you pick up life at the camp exit. We talk about what we’re going to do when we come down the mountain–but it’s hard. So how do I keep the flame of the Spirit burning in me when I get down the mountain?

For me, RYC inspires me to keep that feeling alive. In helping plan future camps and Provincial activities like the Children’s Lovefeast, I am able to reconnect with old and new Moravian friends. As this year’s RYC president, I can help insure that others have the wonderful experiences that I have had.

Trinity Moravian

My home congregation, Trinity, sustains me by the Wednesday night LOGOS program. Bible study, reading scripture at worship and singing in the choirs reminds me of Christ’s presence in my life. And of course, you can’t forget the potlucks–physical food is just as important as spiritual food!

My family is very important. They support me, love me, and encourage my gifts 24/7. They’ve taught me how to lean on God in good and bad times. And no kidding, the second you walk in the door, you know you’re in a Moravian home!

Moravian candles

These three areas remind me of my faith, even down the mountain. It’s all fine and dandy to keep that great feeling in your heart. But I’ve learned that my response to God’s love has to show in the way I serve God and God’s people. Service is important to my faith because it is the outward sign of my belief. I am a Boy Scout and serve with my Troop. I help feed the homeless at the Overflow Shelter, and I’m fortunate enough to help serve Meals on Wheels with my Mawmaw, just to name a few.

These things remind me of the mountain and I remain connected to Jesus when I’m not up there. It also reminds me that whatever we do, no matter how difficult, it is to be done in love. And when things are really hard, I retreat to my “inner mountain” and remind myself to let the light that I experience at Laurel Ridge shine in and through me.


Carter Gentle bio pic

Carter Gentle is a junior at North Davidson High School. He attends Trinity Moravian Church in Winston Salem, NC. He currently is serving as the Regional Youth Council (RYC) President. 

Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Basic Social Media Strategy for Ministries

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY ANDREW DAVID COX |

Author’s note: A while back my friend Adriana asked for some advice on coming up with ideas for social media. The BCM needed a blog post to fill the deadline this week, so I asked her if we could use her inquiry for a post. You can see her question and my response below. The original content has been edited minimally where necessary for clarity and further elaboration of certain topics. We hope you find this helpful for your social media endeavors! As always, you can email me Andrew@MoravianBCM.org, message me on social media, or drop in the office Mondays and Wednesdays between 1:30pm and 5:30pm, if you need help with social and digital media. 

“Hey Andrew! I am working on the Unity Women’s Desk’s Facebook page, and I am running out of ideas and thoughts about what to for something new. I also would love to expand the number of likes and followers. Could you give many any information that could help me out from your experience with the BCM Facebook? I appreciate any help! Thanks!” -Adriana Craver, Konnoak Hills Moravian Church

Hi Adriana! So I looked over you page briefly… some tips below. They’re not necessarily reflective of what you are or aren’t doing, but is some of what I’ve learned. Pardon me for it jumping around a bit. There’s so much that could be covered!

Sam Gray checks his iPhone for the BCM Facebook page

1) Pictures, pictures, pictures, and good graphics!

Take or curate new and interesting pictures, whenever possible, of your staff or volunteers at work. If the desk can invest in a nice camera (mid-range pro is around $700), it’s worth it, if you’re willing to learn how to use it. If not, a nice smartphone will suffice. In the photos, explain what the people are doing. Bonus: give a line about why it’s important–but don’t hit people over the head. It shouldn’t be written blatant and dull, “this work is important because…” You can say something is important by sharing who it impacts, or by telling a bit about who is in the photo. Think about why people should be paying attention. People have content bombarding them 24/7, think really hard about if you were in their shoes, why would you give your time to this page over another?

Use services like Canva, Adobe Spark, or GIMP to do decent quality designs. If you can invest in it, get an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (about $60 a month without a nonprofit discount… you can get it cheaper for nonprofits through TechSoup). Use professional quality images from free stock photo sites like Pexels or Unsplash.

Author’s note:
Do not just grab images from Google without checking or verifying the usage rights. If you do, you could get into legal trouble. The image search engine is a helpful tool, but not a invitation to use any photo however you please.

Develop a voice for your brand identity. It needs to feel authentic and consistent, but not robotic or self-serving.

2) Real people. Not stock photos all the time.

I hit a bit on this above. Stock photos are fine for scripture graphics and such. But when it comes to ministry, make a concentrated effort to share the story of the real people and places involved in your ministry. Moravians have a tiny, but global, community–everyone knows everyone. Take advantage of that.

3) Authenticity

Authenticity is important! Audience members can sense pretty easily if a brand is trying too hard. Especially younger folks. Develop a voice for your brand identity. It needs to feel authentic and consistent, but not robotic or self-serving. With a few exceptions, when I post for the BCM, I am not speaking as Andrew for the BCM, but I am speaking in the BCM’s voice. It’s sort of like acting. You become the character of a brand. I like to think the BCM’s voice follows that of the writing in the resource Simply Moravian. Our audience, unless we intend otherwise, should not be able to tell the difference between me posting for the BCM and the rarer instance of Ruth posting for the BCM. Find a voice, and develop and practice it. Think, “does this sound like the Women’s Desk, or does it sound like me?” Find accounts you like with big audiences and look to their written and visual voice for inspiration.

4) Hashtags

Use them. Make sure you’re using them right. And if you need to, help your followers learn how to use them. Develop hashtags unique for your organization, but capitalize on big generic ones everyone follows… #Moravian, #ThrowbackThursday #MotivationMonday, #WSNC (Winston-Salem NC), #FridayIntroductions, #TransformationTuesday, etc. Also, capitalize the first letter of each word in a hashtag… it’s easier to read. Try to keep Facebook post hashtags seven or less (or five to ten is fine), especially if you put them all at the bottom like I do. Some people intersperse them throughout the post only, or do that and put them at the bottom. Develop a method and stick with it. But use hashtags!

You should ‘listen’ as much or more than you ‘speak.’

5) Listen

What are the people in your organization’s circle (geographically, topically, shared interests, etc.) saying or doing? Look at hashtags that are being used. Look at what people are posting in your geographic area. This can help you plan your content or even events. When people comment on your posts, comment back as the organization. Where possible, interact with other people’s content (you can do this more on Instagram than you can Facebook). You should “listen” as much or more than you “speak” (the whole two ears and one mouth saying).

Share other people’s content when relevant. The BCM recently shared a Colorado author’s post that mentioned the Daily Texts (see here). Even if you can share content without asking permission, it is always best to try and get the original creator’s blessing, particularly if their page is private. They’ll usually be happy to oblige! Exception: if the content was posted by a public page on Facebook or Twitter, you can share by clicking the “share” or “retweet” buttons and you don’t need to ask for permission. Asking permission applies mostly to Instagram and sharing content from private Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

James Jarvis checks the BCM Facebook Page on a laptop

6) Lead with questions and encourage comments

This is part of “listening.” Where possible with posts… lead it (or conclude it) with a relevant question to your audience, followed by a statement encouraging them to comment with their thoughts. I’m a proponent of leading with the question, as people are more apt to see it. And again, when people comment, react and reply to their comments as the organization.

Post more content like that which is getting good engagement, and less of what isn’t getting good engagement.

7) Develop social campaigns or consistent weekly content/look at analytics

Post one quality post once a day if possible. No more than 2 or 3 a day. Use Hootsuite (or a similar service) to help schedule posts. Their autoschedule feature is pretty good at detecting optimal posting times (typically 9am, 3pm, and 6pm for BCM). But make sure it doesn’t autoschedule your announcement before or after you want it announced. Sometimes it’s better to manually schedule time-sensitive content. Do the occasional paid boosted post or paid ad campaign if you can. Look at your analytics (Facebook Insights). Post more content like that which is getting good engagement, and less of what isn’t getting good engagement.

Some specific ideas for the Unity Women’s Desk: Do a weekly #FridayIntroductions post with a female Moravian… take their photo, ask for a photo, and ask them a few questions about their involvement or their community of women, what the church means to them, etc. If you can’t do that each week forever, do it as a month or two long campaign each year. Start or end each week with a Bible verse graphic relevant to women. Find old photos of Moravian women to share each week for #ThrowbackThursday and tell the story behind them. Get to know your audience… look at them on your analytics, how old are they, where are they? When people react to your posts, look at the list. If they have “invite” next to their name, click it! This is you inviting them to commit to following your page, and not just liking its content every now and then.

There’s really a lot I could share with you. The above is a mini-novel, but it barely scratches the surface. And the problem is social media is always always changing. You don’t have to do all of what I’ve suggested, but I hope some of the above helps you out, and if you have questions, just ask! You are also more than welcome to drop in the office anytime I’m in for my regular hours (Monday and Wednesdays, 1:30pm to 5:30pm).

Resources:

Some people/groups who have influenced my thinking on social media for ministries:


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.

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

BCM Spotlight Banner

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.