Spread the Word

SPREAD-THE-WORD.-In-Page-Image

Over the past few years, social media has exploded in its ability to influence, increase sales and expose companies as never before.  It has become one of the first sources for information and feedback. We, in the church world, would be blind to ignore the growing presence of social media’s impact on our churches.  Whether you use it to simply inform or to take your church into deeper engagement, here are four important ways every church can use social media to expand their audience.

Get Out There 

If you are not presently using social media for your church, the most important step you can take is to start somewhere.  Begin with tapping into an area you are already familiar with.  Do you have a Facebook page? Create a page designed specifically for sharing information about your church. If you regularly take photos, check out Instagram.  Twitter doesn’t take photography or page building skills, all it takes is a short message to share.  Your biggest challenge will be fitting the message into 140 characters or less.  No matter where you start, get your feet wet in the social media world and begin to engage your audience.

 Fit Your Crowd

Its extremely important to tailor your content according to the audience of each social media platform.  Those who use Instagram more often will be more attracted to pictures and graphics that tell your story.  If you enjoy being creative, check out apps like Word Swag that allow you to customize graphics.  The Bible App can also easily be used to generate images with Bible verses on them.  Facebook users want to engage in conversation. Posting polls or open ended questions will not only capture users, but it will generate more traffic than simply stating facts or information. Facebook is also a great place to create and share events going on in your church. Getting to know your crowd and adapting to them will give you a broader scope of reach.

 Start Telling 

Whether we are looking for a plumber, lawn company or a new church, references are one of the most important ways for us to know whether or not a company is worth checking out.  Create a video of volunteers, interviewing them as to why they love to serve.  Share stories of life change.  If you have a great event going on, use Facebook live to share it!  Doing a sermon series? Create a hashtag unique to your church and encourage the congregation to use it as they post, tweet or upload photos.   Tell the story of your church through the people who already love it!

 Keep it Current

Nothing is more aggravating then checking out a company and finding sales ads from three months ago.  The same is true in our churches. When someone is checking out your social media site for information, the last thing they want to see is Easter service information when its currently June! People want to know you are moving forward.  Make sure you have someone who is specifically dedicated to not only updating information, but also engaging at least a couple times a week. If your church is able to post once a day, vary the time of day to ensure you reach different audiences. The more often you engage, the more social media presence you will have.

 

Though some may resist tapping into the social media world, I believe that we can make a difference in the daily lives of people by using tools that they are already immersed in everyday.

The apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some..” (1 Corinthians 9:22b ESV). We have the opportunity to reach people by simply entering into their worlds, right where they are. Lets make the most of social media in order to make an impact for Jesus Christ.

Cultivating Communities

CULTIVATING-COMMUNITY.-In-Page-Image

Hebrews 10: 24-25 ESV

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

For those of us who lead a weekend team at a church, cultivating community can sometimes be a struggle. It’s difficult to do life together when all your time is devoted to the Sunday morning experience. Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into the cadence of working side by side with your volunteers and not actually get to know them. However, when we set aside the “job” and take a moment to hear about someone’s family or pray with them, something begins to happen. Teammates start to become more than co-workers, they become friends.  Volunteers don’t just want to just show up to serve, they look forward to the relationships they have with each other. So how do we cultivate community in our teams?

 

Pray Together

The most important part of cultivating community is praying together.  Set aside time, not to just pray for the services, but pray for each other. Start rehearsal or preparation time with designated space to share what is going on in your lives.  Don’t rush. If that means you should start ten minutes earlier, do it. Take time to pray about the things that are heavy on their hearts and rejoice in the great things God did in that last week.

 

Hang Together

Let’s be honest, we are all busy.  Most of us do not have an extra night available to hang out with team members weekly, but there are other easy ways create space for community. For those who serve multiple services, having a designated area where team members can sit and grab a bottle of water or a snack is an easy way to build relationships. If you have room for chairs or couches, take advantage of down time when you can connect with each other. Invite a few team members to grab lunch after church once a month.  It’s important to not only work together but to play together so the more you can do that is outside of the Sunday morning service, the better! Get creative!

 

Serve Together

Sure, you spend time together playing in the band or maybe behind computer screens or sound boards, but have you ever served together outside of the Sunday morning service? There are plenty of opportunities that allow you and your team to do something outside of your normal setting. Local food pantries are always looking for people to assist shoppers or stocking shelves. Perhaps, it’s as simple as raking leaves for an elderly couple together.  Mission trips are much bigger commitments, but taking a few members to a third world country will create a closeness that is hard to replicate in your day to day lives. Serving together is not about the task, it’s about being together and sharing experiences that build relationships.

 

Cultivating community with your Sunday morning teams does not have to cost a lot of time or money.

Creating spaces, praying together or taking advantage of outside serving opportunities will all foster a closer bond between those who volunteer with you.  Don’t miss out on opportunities to grow friendships and establish an even stronger team of volunteers.

 

How God worked in Haiti

Todd, Kim, Hannah and their sponsor child, Gildine.
Todd, Kim, Hannah and their sponsor child, Gildine.

This past month, my husband, Todd, our daughter, Hannah, and I traveled in with a team of nine to Saint Louis Du Nord, Haiti.   We worked with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission and the amazing staff who serve there. This was my fourth trip to Haiti and I have learned that, every year, God has something new planned for us.  Some years, I have come back with a story of something BIG that God did. This year, as I process all that happened, I realized that I couldn’t point to just one experience that defined our trip, but I can say, that God was working incredibly.

Two of our team members, Carvey and Tiona, are nurses at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  They came with years of experience in the medical field, but they didn’t really know how much of that would be used. The Eye Team, that we traveled in with, turned out to be in need of nurses to work in the O.R.  Carvey and Tiona dived in and worked day after day helping to assist in the almost 200 eye surgeries that took place over five days!

My husband, Todd, always throws himself into projects IMG_6800 at the mission. He created a new style of walker that was needed for one of the special need children. He also repaired a door that was broken with a few of the other guys.  On top of that, he, Nick and Zach, created a beautiful table, bench and chair.  Dustin and Alex, the missionaries who oversee the orphans, wanted to create a space where they could do counseling with the kids.  The furniture they made will give the kids a comfortable, safe  space to share their hurts and pain.

IMG_6785Our daughter, Hannah, was amazing. There was something incredible about seeing our grown daughter embrace a completely foreign culture, people and experience. She loved on the Miriam Center special need children and never seemed afraid or hesitant. She loved with open arms. There was a little guy, Moses, who lived at the mission, who took to her right away. Many times, we would find Hannah with a sleepy Moses in her arms. Not only did she work closely with all the kids, but she spent time with the elderly, witnessed a birth and went to the prison with us- among many other things.  It was awesome to see God work through her!

Mark and Nick, felt led to minister to the security team at the mission. The men guard the mission day and night and they had such a desire to learn more and refine their skills. Mark and Nick not only taught them some great basic techniques, but they were able to reaffirm the men just how important their role was.  We were able to gift each of them with a Creole Bible and Todd even shared a bit of encouraging scripture with them.

One of the toughest experiences we had was our visit to the prison.  It was loud, cramped and extremely overwhelming there.  With over 360 prisoners split between around 10 cells, its hard to stay focused on what we go there to do.  We bought 360 bars of soap and spent time at each cell sharing about the love of God and asking how we could pray for them.  Zach gave the invitation for those who want to make Jesus their leader and forgiver and some of the men did! After we left the men’s cell area, myself and the other ladies with me, visited with the prison women who were out in the courtyard. They shared how they felt so devalued and were constantly treated poorly by the men in authority there. We prayed for them and then even exchanged worship songs (ours in English, theirs in Creole). Before we left, I wanted to hug each of them.  I just felt so overwhelmed with love for them even though we had just met. We left money with the missionaries so they could bring more Creole Bibles to the prison.

IMG_2261My favorite moment was during our last full day in Haiti. We had planned to do a few fun activities with the special need children. I went down to find out what we needed to set up and saw that the kids were being brought into the courtyard. There were lots of smiling faces in wheel chairs lined up neatly, each waiting expectantly. I asked what was going on and Stephanie, the director, told me “they want you to bring a guitar”.  That’s all the direction I needed. I ran up to the chapel, grabbed a guitar and a binder with chord sheets and quickly told our team that I was going down to sing with the kids. Hannah, Tiona and Bri (from the Eye Team), came down with me.  We stood in the courtyard and worshiped with those beautiful kids. As they sang out making their own precious sounds ,  I couldn’t help but tear up.  These children live in a society that believes they are not only a curse, but they are better off dead then living with a disability. Most of the children who live in the Miriam Center were left there by their parents. NWHCM has worked for years to change the perception of disabilities and because of that, each child there is surrounded by love, care and value. What a God moment I never want to forget.

There were so many other God moments for me on this trip. Walking hand in hand with two Haitian teen girls as we headed to Beyond Relief Trade School. Singing worship songs with some of the younger orphans who wanted to have their own little “concert”.  Massaging lotion into the frail, leathery skin of a sweet elderly man and watching his face light up.  Bringing groceries and Creole Bibles to families in the community and finding out they were more excited to receive the Bibles than the food!  Holding hands and exchanging words in Creole with children who were extremely curious about the Americans walking around their town.  Greeting people as we passed their homes and seeing their bright smiles when they heard us greet in their language.

I am beginning to realize that the biggest moments in my time in Haiti are really the smallest in significance- or so they appear.  God doesn’t need thunder and lightening to move. He just needs willing hands and feet to do what He calls us to do.

Pay attention, open your eyes and ask God to show you what next step to take. You will be amazed at how He works.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

When You Don’t Know it All

WHEN-YOU-DONT-KNOW-IT-ALL.-In-Page-Image

Six years ago, I stepped into a role I didn’t feel even slightly prepared to take on.

My husband, Todd, and I had come down from the Detroit area with our kids so that he could take on the position of Youth Pastor at a growing church in the Cincinnati area. We had only been at our church for a few weeks and we were still getting to know our new church family, when there was a change in pastoral leadership. That change brought about a shift in other leadership positions as well. Within a span of four months, I was thrust from a vocalist on a “new-to-me” worship team to the worship “leader”.  In the beginning, I felt a little like Moses in Genesis 3 when God told Moses he was going to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Just like Moses, I was full of questions and self-doubt. Though I had grown up in the church music scene, I had never done more than serve as a vocalist or lead a worship set here and there. I found myself quickly having to organize and schedule volunteers, create music sets and learn everything I could about how bands should be put together in a very short amount of time. I went through quite a journey, but looking back, I am so thankful that God didn’t listen to my fears and instead gave me the confidence to follow His calling on my life.

If you have ever been in the position where you think you don’t have everything there is to lead, here are three simple tips to assist you on your journey:

1) Don’t Pretend

The worst thing a leader can do is to come into a leadership position and pretend to know everything. If you do, it won’t take long for volunteers to catch on that you are not all you seem.  Be honest with your team about what your strengths are and be equally honest about the areas you need to grow in.  They will respect you for your authenticity and you will find that they will support you more than they would have if they discovered your lack of skill or knowledge on their own.

2) Utilize the Strong

As you get to know the team you are leading, pay attention to the strengths in your volunteers. If you see a skill that they excel in, make note and use them!  Ask questions, give them authority to teach others what they know (including yourself) and recognize their skills publicly.  The more you utilize those who are strong in certain skills beneficial to your team, the better your team will become over all.

3) Learn, Learn, Learn

Whether its learning directly from your volunteers, attending seminars or finding books that can guide you, find opportunities to grow in knowledge and skill. Being a leader is not an excuse to stop learning.  Regularly seek the wisdom of other leaders who hold the same position you hold. Subscribe to blogs, podcasts or websites that will push you to acquire new skills.

 

God did not send Moses to Egypt because he had the best skill set. He sent him because he saw his potential to lead.

The true test of any  team is not how much the leader knows but how the leader leads If you are authentic, utilizing the skills you see in your volunteers and continuing to grow, you will inspire your team to not only support your leadership, but also take ownership in the team as a whole. You don’t have to know everything to lead; you just need the ability to bring people along with you on the journey.

A lesson from a Haitian Prison

Haiti prison

Just about two weeks ago, myself, my husband and eight others, loaded onto the back of an old pick up truck and headed on a forty-five minute trek down dirty, rocky roads to a town called Port De Paix. The towns along the way were brimming with men, women and children all busily going about their day.  Children, dressed in crisp white blouses with colorful collars and matching bottoms rode on the back of motos or walked hand in hand with each other heading to school.   Women with large wicker baskets on their heads guided thin donkeys carrying their goods to sell in the market.  Freshly laundered clothing were laid out on rocks near the river to dry and goats and pigs were tied aimlessly along the road. Each time I visit Haiti, I am overwhelmed with the sites and smells all over again. Its not just the poverty staring at you through deep sorrowful eyes, it is the state of chaos that seems to surround you where ever you go.  Many communities would look like deserted ghost towns if not for the masses of people everywhere. Most buildings appear to be in disrepair and woven or cement walls, tin roofs and dirt floors make up the majority of the tiny places families call “home”.  Yet, somewhere beneath the dust and hardship, lies a resilience that I have never seen before. The will to not only live, but thrive, despite their third world status.

We were inundated with stares as we drove past their daily routines.  It was as if, for a moment, we had paused life and brought something new and hopeful to their towns.  School children loved to shout phrases they had learned in English and would giggle hysterically when we responded.  Toddlers, in little t-shirts and many times nothing else, would jump up and down shouting, “Blanc! Blanc!”.  The name meaning, “white” would cause quite a stir in any community here in the US, but in a country where you are so very different, it’s easy to forgive and instead send a smile and wave their way.

After a painful, bumpy ride, we drove up a steep road that led to the entrance of the prison.  Several Haitian police cars were parked, waiting for repair outside and other than the presence of guards, you probably wouldn’t guess what laid beyond the bright blue metal doors.  Many men watched us curiously as we tried to gracefully exit the cab of the truck.  We loaded our arms with large white buckets filled with bars of soap and our personal Bibles and made our way inside.  The blue door opened into a very narrow hallway.  The guards inspected our buckets and then gave us the okay to take them with us.  Myself and the other females in the group, walked first to the women’s cell.  A familiar smile came across a beautiful, middle aged, Haitian women’s face. Jill and I had met her last year and had loved talking with her. Permiece has been serving a life sentence for the last ten years.  She had been a witch doctor and through her voodoo practices, had killed someone.  A few years ago, she had a radical transformation in her life. She heard the story of Jesus (Jezi).  She now lives with such a deep love for Him and for the ladies she resides with.  Her prayer requests were for her children and for the young women (some teenagers) who were waiting for trial.

After a time with them, we headed through the open air courtyard and into the main corridor for the men.  As soon as we entered a combination of strong odor and the loud echo of 400 voices caused me to pause just a bit.  Nothing can prepare you for what you experience walking the cement hallway, past the rusted bars with hands stretched out to you.  So many requests, so many people, hoping you will hear them and take a moment to care.  As we passed, their voices blended into a chorus-like song filled with desperation.  The cells were built from cement bricks, most without any beds and none had bathrooms or running water.  Only eight main cells lined the corridor yet 400 men were inside.  One cell held sixty-five men.  There wasn’t enough room for them to even lie down at the same time.

We made our way to the cell on the furthest end.  Thirty-eight young men, one as young as 12, crowded against the cell bars.  As I looked into their eyes, I couldn’t help but envision our sixteen year old son at home.  These boys had mothers who probably were heartbroken that their sons were here in this dirty prison cell.  We shared with them from the Bible then asked how we could pray for them.  One young man told us in Creole that he was going to be released soon.  Another said he needed help making better decisions so that he would not be put there again.  The youngest in the group, was waiting for a trial.  He had been caught with a girl and the girl’s father had thrown him in jail.  He had hopes that he would not be convicted but instead be released to his family. As I began to pray, the group as a whole knelt down.  Some stretched their hands out and held onto the metal bars.  I choked back tears and prayed that Jesus would meet their needs and touch their lives.  The echos and the chorus of voices seem to fade as my focus turned on these boys kneeling in prayer.  Nothing else seemed to matter.

Each prisoner received a bar of soap and each group was prayed over.  Leaving the prison, the vision of the boys kneeling stayed front most in my mind.  Yes, desperation could cause someone to be humbled and open to prayer but this was something more.  I didn’t see any anger in their eyes. They could have blamed other people, God or any number of things for their present situation, yet they never did.  They just wanted help to break the cycle and for help to be better men.

The hope I feel for these men and women is the same hope I feel for all of us.  We all have messed up, made mistakes, gone off the path, put in our own “prison cells” yet Jesus never gives up on us.  He picks us up off the ground, brushes away the dust of life, mends our wounds and helps us stand again.  That is my continued prayer for the 400 plus prisoners in that small cement prison in Port De Paix, Haiti. As they continue to hear about the redeeming love of Jezi, who died for their mistakes so that they could have new life- whether or not they are ever released- my hope is that they embrace Him just as Permiece has.  She has no hope of seeing her children or ever being able to live outside the prison, yet God is using her mightily right where she is.  She knows her calling is to minister to the ladies who are housed with her.

God let me be a Permiece.  Use me right where you have put me.

 

Honoring God in our everyday lives