We have a new announcement for our followers out there. We’ve launched a new venture called Optimization Labs.
Its a new type of web agency we are calling a lead agency. A lead agency is focused on helping organizations and businesses take it’s existing web visitors and help them “convert” at a higher rate and for less investment. In the case of a ministry or church, that would be signing up to volunteer, sign a petition, or simply to participate. For a business, it means new customers and new revenue.
Well, with this launch, we have something special for those Christian ministries out there. We are launching a 6 month project that will focus on helping one ministry as much as we possibly can with web design and services for free. We can only take on one at a time right now so be sure to sign up for consideration as soon as possible so we can evaluate your ministry.
Today many in our country will take a day off from our jobs to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. No matter if we’re celebrating at home or at the beach, we’re entering into a tradition that has largely been shaped by Labor Unions – organizations that are dedicated to protecting workers’ interests and improving their wages, hours, and working conditions. Today as we lounge around or hang out with friends and family, we’re not only celebrating hard work, we’re honoring fair, ethical working practices and the laws that prevent discrimination, abuse, and child labor in our country. Without these laws in place (and enforced), the most vulnerable members of society suffer. Who are the most vulnerable? Children.
Today as we’re celebrating the systems in our own country that strive to prevent injustices like child trafficking and child labor, we’re mindful of the many child slaves around the world who are unprotected and the organizations, like Mercy Project, who are working to free them.
As a mother, it’s difficult for me to imagine my children working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m unable to wrap my brain around the thought of my children engaged in long, hard days of physical labor, eating one meal a day, and then falling asleep at night on a dirt floor filled with other slave children. Yet this is the daily reality for kids who have been trafficked into the fishing industry in Ghana, Africa. As with much of Africa, there is a great deal of poverty in Ghana. Unfortunately, this leaves many mothers in an unimaginable position: sell their children to someone who can take better care of them or watch them starve to death. Most of the mothers are told their children will be given food, housing, and an education. Instead, the kids are often taken to Lake Volta where they become child slaves and their mothers never see them again. Thankfully, Mercy Project is working to break the cycles of trafficking around Lake Volta by providing alternate, more efficient, sustainable, fishing methods for villagers – ultimately eliminating the need for child slaves. Because of the work Mercy Project is doing in Ghana, the first group of children will be freed this month from Lake Volta.
We invite you to watch this moving, 10 minute documentary about the issues surrounding child labor and trafficking in Ghana and most importantly the hope Mercy Project is bringing to children and entire communities in Africa. Mercy Project is the only NGO working on Lake Volta addressing the injustice of child labor and child trafficking at its root – by strengthening the Ghanaian economy and eliminating the structures that cause the demand for trafficked children.
Whether these ideas of child labor, child trafficking, and modern-day slavery are new to you or you’re aware of these injustices, but need to hear some good news every once in awhile, we invite you to become a part of what Mercy Project is doing in Ghana. When Mercy Project frees their first group of children this month, we can all celebrate together.
Learn more and get involved by:
- Watching Mercy Project’s short documentary.
- Following Mercy Project on Facebook.
- Connecting with Mercy Project via Twitter.
- Spending some time on Mercy Project’s website.
Although child trafficking, child labor, and the unstable economies that result in these injustices are a tragedy, we’re grateful for what Mercy Project is doing to protect the vulnerable and for allowing us to be a part of this story. While we’re commemorating labor laws and ethical work in our own country today, we invite you to follow along on this journey with Mercy Project to protect and free children in Ghana.
If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. — Abraham Lincoln
Church websites have two primary types of visitors. They are either members of the church looking for updates because their pastor mentioned it, or they are people looking for a church. Unfortunately, these two groups don’t have the same needs and it excludes an overlooked group, people looking for God.
Solving both of these issues is pretty easy to do for any church. For members, the easiest thing to do is setup a separate website or a sub-domain to handle all the communication you need to that group. You can make it public or private, that’s simply up to you.
This leaves you with two groups to content with, those looking for a new church and those looking for God. I believe both of these can be handled at the same time by pointing people to Christ. In this age of technology, accomplishing this isn’t hard. You want to be able to educate people about God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice as well as show how he is impacting the lives of church members and the community they interact with on a regular basis. Here are some ideas to accomplish this goal.
Video and Audio sermons. With a large percentage of people having smartphones, there is no excuse for any church in the US, Europe and most Asia-Pacific countries not to record every sermon to video. 1,000s of pictures and videos could be taken of ministry work in the communities we serve. All of this content can be uploaded to places like YouTube and Flickr for free then served through your website. The cost to churches are simply the time to organize it all into a compelling story.
Testimonials. Everyone has a story. Some stories are amazing. Many stories are very similar to one another. But those stories are compelling. They are evidence of changed lives through The power of the Cross. Capture those stories on video and pictures. Share them online. Again,expensive cameras aren’t needed. God will shine through whether you are using a cheap video phone or an expensive studio.
Ministry Impact. Record in video, pictures and words your ministries impact on the world. Show the changed lives. Show the effect on the community. Show God through the eyes of the people who serve and are being served.
Sharing. With all this awesome content, make sure you enable it all to be shared by membership. Their reach is greater than the church alone. Help them reach the world by socially enabling all of the content you have.
Get them involved in the adventure. All of this material should be compelling to anyone, especially those God is calling. Invite them not necessarily to join the church, but to join the adventure, to be part of the journey you are on to impact the world.
Christ told us to love one another and to teach people about Himself. Remember that non-Christians are generally turned off by the church. Church to them is for weak-minded whackos. There is very little about the idea of a church that is attractive to that audience. So stop trying to sell the church and simply show them who Jesus is through your words and actions. He is far more attractive than any church, which is what we should be striving for anyway.
Why is it that some churches, regardless of size, are either great at reaching teens and early adults or they just never seem able to connect? I believe it comes down to having strong leaders that they can identify with, trust and follow.
The needs of this age group have never really changed over the years, but the way they fulfill those needs certainly has changed dramatically. Their decision to follow someone are driven primarily by two questions.
- How will you help me belong?
- How will you help me be significant?
This group of young adults are extremely wired and mobile. They spend more time in online social circles than any other place. They are heavily influenced by people in these circles that have the most power and voice. They use these tools as to communicate, but they also use them as weapons, as powerful ways to affect change, to get around the “system”, to motivate others and as a main source of entertainment.
A common marketing practice in social media is to go where the people are. To hang out with them and listen to what they have to say. Church youth leaders also must embrace the mobile tools out there and engage people where they are. If a leader can’t do this, they are typically viewed as irrelevant to this age group.
A recent report from MobileYouth that studies the behaviors of teens and young adults states that not every age group or gender is connected in the same way, but there is a group that is that seems to affect the behavior of the less connected. These change agents are able to use their social currency to move and shape the local cultures around them, whether they realize it or not. By focusing on this small set of youth, you are able to affect a much wider audience of followers. But simply being a loudspeaker to this group is not effective.
The tactics for interacting with this group are relatively simple, but take time.
- Engage with them. This is simple enough. No one wants to be ignored. They have a voice, sometimes loud, sometimes silent, but both can be powerful. Get to know them and interact regularly. This can be a challenge, but don’t give up.
- Understand the lingo. Notice I didn’t say speak their language, but understand it. If you aren’t I the same age group you’ll just appear fake, but you still need to understand what they are telling you.
- Earn their attention. If you aren’t relevant on a regular basis, if you don’t engage and interact, if you don’t go to bat for them, you won’t be attractive.
- Be an authority. Leaders are rare these days. Great leaders even more so. Don’t be bossy, but be a leader that can serve and inspire this generation.
- Empower and partner with them. This age group is at various stages of testing their wings. Give them responsibility to succeed and fail. Stand along side them as Guiding partners and let them have the credit and failure. Teach them to move past the failure and celebrate when the succeed.
- Create a sense of belonging. Everyone wants to belong, but not necessarily to the same group. Create environments and projects that allow for multiple types of groups that can work together and independently while recognizing each others strengths. Help the socially challenged find ways to be embraced and participate. Empower the leaders to look beyond the stereotypes and embrace true servant leadership.
How engaged is your organization with teens and young adults? Is your church engaging daily or is it just sending out announcements for the weekly Bible study? If you’re just doing the basics, maybe its time to rethink how you communicate.
The vast majority of people across the US have mobile phones and computers for accessing the Internet. Even the most rural and out-of-the-way places these days has some kind of access. So I’ve listed out some of the worst deadly “sins” that church communication staff can commit these days.
- Ignoring social media. The younger generations don’t use email very much. You have to use these tools to reach the younger generations. This includes Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, Pintrest, Foursquare, and any other popping up out there.
- Ignoring email communication. All generations except for the latest, but especially the 30-60 age range, are email junkies. If its not in an email, it might as well not exist.
- A website for church members only. Please, please stop creating church websites that just give the service times, when the next Women’s brunch is to be held and what ministries you are involved in. Communicate who Christ is. Point people to Him, not just yourself and your church.
- Targeting only the desktop. Tablets and phones are outselling desktops and laptops. That trend will continue until the next whiz-bang device comes out. Your site better work equally as well on mobile devices as it does on the desktop browser.
- Using sermons only once. Many people are learning to listen to more than just their pastor on Sunday. People, especially younger generations, are also consuming audio and video podcasts from other churches. Get your church sermons out there in podcast form as soon as you can and register them on iTunes and other services as well.
So what other things should churches be doing, or avoid doing, online and in communications?