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Instagram and Ministry – Telling the Story

New Life Church Celebration Weekend (above) on Webstagram

In the African American preaching tradition, “telling the story” is highly prized. Storytelling is very powerful. It captures the imagination and connects with people on a deep emotional level like no other approach can. Instagram provides a new and exciting way to connect with others online and tell the story of Jesus, and of your congregation in action, in a fresh and innovative fashion. It’s, virtually, a new way to visually share the Word!

A photograph can tell a story in ways words often cannot express. After all, “a picture is worth a thousand word.” People naturally connect with stories, and sometimes those stories are most eloquently told in pictures.

Because of digital social media and the ubiquity of web 2.0 technologies, the church is becoming increasingly more interactive. Many congregation members are already on Instagram, as well as Facebook and Twitter. And more often than not, they are connecting via smartphones, iPad’s, and other mobile devices.

Rapidly rising visual social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest are part of a new trend influenced by the shifting habits of technology users. They are moving toward greater visual social sharing. Why? Social engagement appears to increase when pictures are shared. In our fast paced digital age, pictures (with minimal hashtags and/or captions) can communicate lots of information quickly and succintly.

So, what is Instagram anyway? It is a free photo-sharing service, and social networking site launched in 2010. In 2011  Apple named Instagram, “App of the Year”!  In a nutshell, Instagram allows users to take photos, apply filters to them, and then share them with other Instagram users, as well as on other social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. It currently has over 100 million users.

Something surprising happened in August 2012. The average number of daily active Instagram users hit 7.3 million, topping Twitter’s 6.9 million. Pictures beat words! In addition, the average Instagram user spent 257 minutes accessing the photo-sharing site by mobile device in August, as compared to the average Twitter user who spent 170 minutes on that site during the same time period. Instagram has taken storytelling to mobile devices in a really big way!

So, how can the church tap into this remarkable social media phenomenon known as Instagram to help tell its story? The following are just a few examples:

  • “Instagram” church services by posting pictures on FB, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
  • Post pictures of baptisms, gospel concerts, and conferences. Behind the scenes glimpses at conferences and other special events are always interesting.
  • Use Instagram to creatively market your church.
  • Post pictures of small group activities.
  • Post pictures of volunteers engaged in community service  and other outreach projects.
  • Post pictures of mission trips.

For greater impact, help boost your Instagram pictures with these tips:

  • Try to get the best, most compelling original photos you possibly can.
  • Make sure you photo captures the essence of the story you’re telling.
  • Pull multiple images together in a collage using apps like Frametastic and PicFrame.
  • Deft use of hashtags and captions in picture descriptions can create compelling themes and tags to reinforce the story’s message.
  • Use apps like Hipstamatic, Camera+ and iPhoto to add additional pop to your pictures.
  • Finally, it’s the quality of your photos that matter most, not the quantity!

For more on Instagram and it’s many applications to ministry checkout  the following links:

How are you using Instagram to tell the story?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Be Blessed

Kenneth Lillard

 

 

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Leveraging Online Discipleship

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Everyday, more and more people are coming to Christ over the Internet! It’s a truly amazing phenomenon! Who would have ever imagined that people would be giving their lives to Christ over twitter, through church portals on Facebook, and via church apps on their iPads?

The church’s challenge today is to effectively reach out and meet the needs of these new (and often returning) online believers. In our digital age, as more churches deploy digital technologies (including streaming live services on smart phones, and establishing internet campuses) there is an increasing need to extend discipleship training into the digital space beyond the traditional walls of the church.

The church’s online presence will continue to direct people into the church’s physical sanctuary to fellowship and connect offline. However, a new and unique church community of believers is emerging on the Internet – an online community that needs to be ministered to by qualified ministry professionals, familiar not only with the Word of God, but also knowledgeable about online networking, social media platforms and strategies, and the latest web 2.0 technologies! In no area is this need greater than in discipleship.

Christian discipleship is the transformational process that turns a believer into the person God wants them to be. It’s the calling of every believer – to follow in the footsteps of Christ!

We are instructed by Jesus, in the Great Commission, to make disciples. A disciple is a student or adherent of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is the process of learning the teachings of Jesus, internalizing them, and then acting upon them.

The discipleship process begins with the believer desiring to be a disciple of Christ.The believer, with the help of the Holy Spirit, then learns what Jesus taught, follows through by living out those principles in his/her daily life, and finally passes them on to others.

The discipleship process can be described as eight distinct steps: 1) interest, 2) awareness, 3) decision, 4) commitment, 5) application, 6) inculcation, 7) transformation, and finally 8) replication.

Extending discipleship online (i-discipleship) through relational e-learning, enables churches and ministries to disciple more people, more effectively, locally, as well as,  globally. And, financially, the cost of i-discipleship is much lower than traditional discipleship strategies!

For more on effective online discipleship check out the following resources:

God is calling you to transform the world – one person at a time. What better time to start than right now?

How are you using social media to leverage online discipleship?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Creative Use of Social Media by Churches Continues to Grow

Digital technology and social media definitely enable churches to expand their reach far beyond the four walls of the sanctuary! Ministries have begun to get a firm grip on these new, exciting, web 2.0 technologies. Many churches are expanding their creative and strategic use of a wide variety of social media platforms to effectively share the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

A recent FACT study of 11,077 congregations by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research revealed 7 out of 10 U. S. congregations have websites. In addition, 4 in 10 had Facebook pages in 2010! The following are examples of how some congregations are creatively using the continually expanding array of social media tools to enhance their effectiveness:

  • YesHeIs is using short documentary video to very creatively point people to Jesus.
  • Churches are making it much easier for people to find them online by putting up their own website or Facebook page.
  • Christ Fellowship Church in McKinney, Texas allows you to download their worship program by scanning a customized QR code.
  • Many churches allow you to watch worship services streamed online from their internet campus with live chat running, so you can share spiritual insights in real-time.
  • Church apps are available to watch sermons, donate, and do much more, including even swapping goods and services to help others in the community.
  • Confession: A Roman Catholic app was recently released for the iPhone. It prompts the user through pre-confession soul-searching prior to meeting with the priest.
  • The Internet evangelism project, PeaceWithGod, employs search-engine algorithms to steer people toward salvation!
  • Sing along with a new tablet hymnal from Church Publishing. In March the Episcopal Church’s publishing house released eHymnals for the iPad and other digital readers.
  • Biola University, a private evangelical school in La Mirada, CA is hosting a Digital Ministry Conference, June 5-7, 2012! 
  • The digital Bible  is available for your mobile devices, including smart phones and iPads, allowing you to connect with your faith in the checkout line at the grocery store, on the subway, or in the gym!
  • FB and twitter status updates provide insight into the lives of many congregation members, availing ministries  ample opportunities for service and caring.
  • Pastors can work relevant FB or twitter status updates into their sermons.
  • Pastors and church leaders are creating blogs and e-newsletters to regularly deliver current updates on ministry activities within the church, on mission trips, and in the community at-large.
  • Videos are being used to provide a virtual tour of churches.
  • A number of churches have begun to use the new, fastest-growing social media platform, Pinterest , to create buzz and generate more interest and excitement around their ministries.

Get a free sample or buy Social Media and Ministry by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Lillard from iTunes for additional insights into how ministries can more effectively use social media to carry out the Great Commission. 

What creative/innovative way is your church/ministry employing social media?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Social Media Influence and Ministry

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 

How much social media influence does your ministry have? Influence is defined as the ability to reach others and inspire them to action.  Influencers form strong connections with like-minded individuals on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The best influencers fortify these connections by 1) adding value to their online friends and followers, and 2) engaging in meaningful interactions. And remember, as followers of Christ, our interactions should, first and foremost, be “wholesome”!

How can you increase your online influence in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ? To expand your ministry influence begin by 1) understanding where you are now – what degree of influence do you currently have? 2) Define the audience you are trying to reach. 3) Develop a sound strategy to increase your influence by establishing a clear purpose, and investing in relationships to provide quality and value to those in your network(s). IRM (Influence Relationship Management) involves ongoing online engagement and community building. You’ve got to be willing to put in the time and effort to creatively manage your online influence!

The following are some useful IRM tools and tips to help you understand and expand your influence: 

Klout – Wikipedia

You Know Your Klout Score, What’s Your Kred Score?– Mashable

PeerIndex – Own Your Influence 

TRAACKR – Find the Influencers Who Matter the Most to You

PROskore – Your Professional Reputation

The Rise of Digital Influence and How To Measure It – Brian Solis

The Day That Influence Became the New Online Currency – Oscar Del Santos

10 Tools for Measuring Your Social Media Influence – Pam Dyer

Kred – Measurable Influence – Slideshare

How are you using your online influence? Thought about ways to expand it?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Faith And Social Media 2012 – The Year Ahead!

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Welcome to 2012! It’s slated to be an exciting, eventful year – what with the Summer Olympics in London, and presidential elections in France and the United States, just to mention a few! And it’s also expected to be an exciting year for social media and faith, as well!

As you begin the journey into the new year, it’s critically important to know where you’re going, and to have a good roadmap or GPS to help get you there.  Advanced planning is vital for social media success in 2012! 

Do you have your new Facebook Timeline profile ready or activated? What is your social media strategy for this year? How does it differ from last year’s? Do you have  LinkedIn or Google+ strategies for your ministry or church? Have you established daily, weekly, and monthly social media schedules? What are your S. M.A. R. T. social media goals for the year ahead? 

Right out the gate, here are some of the major trends to look for in 2012: 1) An increased usage of mobile devices, especially smart phones and tablet computers (like the iPad 2) – Make sure your website is mobile friendly! ;  2) Social networking will remain huge – Can you believe Facebook will surpass one billion (with a “b”) registered users this year?; 3) Expect to see increased usage of short videos; 4) Social media will continue to play a major role in social and political mobilizations and movements; 5) Trust, transparency, and respect will become even more important;  and 6) Look for an increased adoption of social media by non-profits, churches and other faith based organizations. 

As you engage your social networks in 2012 remember to listen to and learn from them. They have a lot to teach you! Harvest insights and share them.  Use smart metrics to measure your social media effectiveness (ROI). Always seek to be helpful and to add value to the individuals in your networks. Your vision is your compass. And remember, your focus should always be on Jesus! The challenge is adapting digital technology and social media to share the Gospel more creatively and effectively, both locally and globally!  And finally, don’t neglect in person fellowship!

The following are examples, suggestions, tips, and tools that, hopefully, you’ll find helpful on the social media and faith journey ahead:

What are your social media goals for the next twelve months? 

We’re wishing you success, prosperity, and all the very best in 2012!

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Best of Technology and the Web 2011

It’s already that time of the year for the Faith Based Media 2.0 annual roundup of what’s hot and what’s not in technology and on the web for 2011! It seems that every time you blink your eyes new innovations appear in the ever evolving world of technology and social media. The challenge is how the people of faith can creatively adapt these new technologies to more effectively share the Gospel in our Digital Age!

The winds of change have blown through the digital world in 2011 leaving a radically changed landscape in its wake. The links below help tell the story of some of the major technological players, innovations, and ideas that affected the web in 2011, primarily from a faith perspective. We’d love to get your take on this year’s picks! 

5 Major Twitter Changes Coming to a Computer Screen Near You – BlogWorld

10 Apps You Should Download for iPad2 – Wired

10 Biggest Web News Stories of 2011 – ReadWriteWeb

2011 Christianity Today Book Awards – Christianity Today

2012 Web Predictions – ReadWriteWeb

Best and Worst of Everything in 2011: A Meta, Mega Mashup – Fast Company

Best Big Internet Company of 2011 – ReadWtiteWeb

Best Christian Blog of the Week – Blogspot

Book Interactions in 2011 – Ed Stetzer

Church App – Subsplash

f8 2011 Facebook Changes Full Guide – SlashGear

Faith Based Media 2.0 – Faith, Technology, and Social Media Blog ~Kenneth Lillard

Joel Osteen Ministries

John Maxwell On Leadership – Blog of Leadership Expert, John Maxwell

LinkedIn Changes Social Ads – Mashable

My Favorite Technologies of 2011 – Dan Zax,  MIT Technology Review

Potter’s House – Bishop T. D. Jakes

So You Got a Kindle Fire? Try Our First-Timer Guide – Mashable

Streaming Faith – Online Christian Broadcasting Portal

State of the Blogosphere 2011 – Technorati

Top 5 Internet Devices of 2011 – ReadWriteWeb

Top 10 Christian Blogs – blogs.com

Top 10 Enterprise Cloud Apps and Services 0f 2011 – ReadWrite Web

Top 10 Gadgets You Should Have In Your Go Bag – Lifehacker

Top 10 Posts of November 2011 – Tony Morgan Live

Top 10 Social Web Products of 2011 – ReadWriteWeb

Top 10 Startups of 2011 – ReadWriteWeb

Top 10 Tech Concepts You Always Wanted to Learn About – Lifehacker

Top 10 Web Products of 2011 – ReadWriteWeb

Top 11 Features of 2011 – ChurchLeaders.com

Top 200 Church Blogs – Churchrelevance.com

Top Trends of 2011: Content Shifting – ReadWriteWeb

World Vision – A Christian Humanitarian Organization

WOW Gospel 2011 – iTunes

YouVersion – Online Bible, reading plans, and community

Which of the above would make your list? How have they impacted you and/or your ministry in 2011? How might they increase your influence in 2012?

To all of my wonderful FBM 2.0 readers, “Wishing you a Happy, Blessed, and Prosperous 2012!”

Until next time, remember, you can do all things through Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Christmas Is Around The Corner! Advent 2011

Today, I received my first Christmas card of 2011!  The arrival of the first card is an annual reminder that Christmas is, indeed, right around the corner! For many it’s a time to begin serious Christmas shopping for family, loved ones, and friends. 

Black Friday super sales, the long lines of people camping out at WalMart, and Cyber Monday bargains have all come and gone. Celebrities are now all over TV and the Internet encouraging us to shop until we drop!

However, this also marks the start of Advent (from the Latin, adventus, which means coming). It is the season that many Christians expectantly wait and prepare for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. (At least, some do!) Advent traditionally starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25th.

Advent serves as a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of the Messiah, as well as the waiting of Christians for His Second Coming. Depending on one’s faith tradition,  Advent is observed by Advent calendars, decorations, and daily readings and teachings. In some Scandinavian countries there are even television programs that mark each day of Advent!  The theme of the readings and teachings during Advent is to prepare for the Second Coming, while commemorating the First Coming of Christ.

In the Digital Age, we can observe Advent not only with in-person fellowship, but also by sharing online Advent calendars, devotionals, and links. In addition, we can fellowship online, e.g., via video chats on Google+ hang-outs; by engaging in conversations with friends on Facebook; and sharing with followers on Twitter the relevance and meaning of Advent today; as well as organizing Advent meet-ups!

For more on Advent resources check out the following:   

Advent – Wikipedia

Advent 2011 Calendar – Beliefnet.com

Online Resources For The Season of Advent – The Text This Week

How are you observing Advent this year?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed,

Kenneth Lillard

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