SOCIAL MEDIA & Should churches follow Gen Z into virtual spaces? Experts say yes – if they are willing to commit time, money & staff.

by Jeff Brumley, Baptist News Global, 6/19/18.

…Data recently released by the Pew Research Center shows Facebook rates fourth behind YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat among young people.

So, should churches with strong Facebook presences follow younger Millennials and the up-and-coming Gen Z into virtual spaces a lot of ministers have barely heard of?

Experts say yes – if they are willing to commit time, money and staff resources to the effort. Leadership must also recognize they may be venturing into territory where hoped-for results, like boosts in attendance, may be elusive.

Simply opening an Instagram or Snapchat account isn’t enough. Ministers must study the platforms and how they work, said Bob Carey, chairman of the department of communication and new media at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Read more at … https://baptistnews.com/article/churches-must-count-the-cost-of-pursuing-youth-on-social-media/#.WypkvhYpDDs

SOCIAL MEDIA & Many Church Services Are Now a Sea of iPhones. And Clergy Members Think That’s Great.

by Ruth Graham, Slate Magazine, 6/12/18.

… Until recently, many churches were that rare 21st -century phenomenon: the organically analog space. In the early years of the iPhone age, they remained tucked away in purses and pockets, and it was vaguely taboo to peek at them during the worship service. But walk into most churches on Sunday morning now, and you’ll quickly see how much that has changed.

…The most significant shift is the rise of the Scripture app, which for many Christians has replaced hardback or leather-bound Bibles that often approach 1,000 pages. YouVersion, a free non-commercial app that has more than 1,000 languages and translations, was one of the first free apps available when Apple’s app store launched. The app has now been downloaded more than 323 million times. (Other scriptures have their own apps: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Gospel Library app includes Mormon teachings.) YouVersion founder Bobby Gruenewald says he developed YouVersion because he wanted an easy way to read the Bible during the course of the day. But it soon became obvious than many people were using it during worship services. Usage more than doubles on Sunday mornings, Gruenewald says, and new installations of the app spike then, too. “Initially there was a bit of tension,” he recalled, when pastors were prickly about seeing people using their phones in the pews. But in recent years, he said, the complaints have mostly stopped.

… Some clergy members now actively encourage phone usage. “I feel like if the church isn’t using technology, we’re telling Gutenberg, ‘We don’t want your printing press,’ ” said Jim Keat, the associate minister of digital strategy and online engagement at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. He spends Sunday morning live-tweeting events at the church, including snippets from the sermon and prayers. Keat dismissed the idea that phones are problematically distracting to churchgoers. He pointed out that people have been tuning out in churches long before phones existed. And technology, unlike idle daydreaming, can be a vehicle for tuning in, too. People who have stayed home for any reason—illness, shyness, fear, pain—can use social media to peek inside the church doors and be reminded of what’s happening there.

Read more at … https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/06/many-church-services-are-now-a-sea-of-iphones-and-clergy-members-think-thats-great.html

SOCIAL MEDIA & How in the words of #Luther it increasingly “curves us inward on ourselves.”

“Social Media and Sin” by A. Trevor Sutton, The Martin Marty Center, University of Chicago Divinity School, 4/4/18.

…Religion may offer an important explanation as to why this social media platform is so problematic both for society and for individual well-being. Human depravity, original sin, and concupiscence are perennial themes, for example, within the discipline of Christian theology. Augustine and Martin Luther are known for describing the human condition as incurvatus in se (“curved inward on oneself”). Rather than living a life that is aligned toward God and others, human sinfulness directs our life inward, toward self-justification, self-gratification, and self-aggrandizement. The notion that sin has warped, twisted, maimed, and ruined human goodness is as ubiquitous in theology as Facebook is in modern life.

The burgeoning field of user experience design (UX), when put in conversation with the theological notion of human depravity, helps to put the problematic nature of social media into sharp relief. A central concern within UX is user-centered design. As the name suggests, user-centered design advocates for designing with end users in mind. That is to say, technology is designed to acknowledge and accommodate the needs and wants of the user, as designers seek to maximize user experience by creating products that are built around the user’s desires. User research is responsible for nearly all the design decisions at Facebook. In fact, there is an entire department at Facebook dedicated to Human Computer Interaction and UX. Teams of people at Facebook are thus dedicated to researching, and finding ways to capitalize on, the individual behaviors, thoughts, and impulses of users.

Donald Norman, a formative figure in user-centered design, has recognized how designers actually aim to facilitate human sinfulness through that which they design. In the foreword to a book by Chris Nodder, Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation, Norman writes: “But why should design be based on evil? Simple: Starting with evil means starting with real human behavior … And good design results from good understanding.” Norman’s point is rather simple: good design understands users, and it must therefore also consider the depravity of users.

This means that, according to user-centered design, human sinfulness ought to be accounted for and perhaps even exploited when creating products for the digital age. According to Nodder, designers must ask themselves the question: “how do we influence behavior through the medium of software?”

Theology recognizes that human hearts are curved inward, inclined to boast, and always looking for opportunities to prove their own self-righteousness. Human-computer interaction, UX, and user-centered design recognize that social media platforms should be designed to meet the wants and needs of real human users. Putting these two concepts in conversation with one another reveals why Facebook can be so dangerous. Facebook’s technology is designed to accommodate, encourage, and exploit human depravity. The “Like” button on Facebook is not there by chance; the “Like” button was created to satisfy our deep longing to be liked by others, lauded for our accomplishments, and acknowledged for our righteousness…

Resources

– Allen, Mike. “Sean Parker unloads on Facebook: ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains’.” Axios. November 9, 2017.

– Murphy, Mike. “Why Apple’s Tim Cook doesn’t want his nephew to use social networks.” MarketWatch. January 22, 2018.

– Nodder, Chris. Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation. Wiley, 2013.

– Wong, Julia Carrie. “Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart.” The Guardian. December 12, 2017.

Read more at … https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/social-media-and-sin

 

SOCIAL BULLIES & The Death of Civility in the Digital Age …

By MARK OPPENHEIMER, The New Republic Magazine, March 6, 2018

Last October, the morning that the Harvey Weinstein story broke in The New York Times, I published a short, stupid piece in Tablet titled “The Specifically Jewy Perviness of Harvey Weinstein.” I compared Weinstein to the sexually obsessed Alexander Portnoy, the narrator of Philip Roth’s 1969 novel Portnoy’s Complaint, “a grown man whose emotional and sexual life is still all one big performance piece.” I suggested that having grown up a schlubby Jewish kid in Queens, feeling like an outsider, might have stunted and distorted Weinstein’s sexuality—basically, given him something to prove, particularly in the presence of stereotypically hot Gentile women.

There was a lot wrong with the piece, which I wrote in about twenty minutes in the hour after I read the Weinstein story. It was analytically inadequate, making an analogy between Portnoy, a fictional fetishist and pervert, and Weinstein, a real-life sociopath, a comparison that had the effect of underplaying Weinstein’s crimes and diminishing real women’s suffering. I was wrong on the facts, too, for the rolling revelations of the ensuing days showed that Weinstein was an equal-opportunity predator, happy to degrade and devour Jewish women, Gentile women, African Americans, etc., whoever and whenever.

In the week to come, I received one of those public Twitter and Facebook shamings that writers now expect as an occupational hazard. Hundreds or possibly thousands of people, including close friends and professional colleagues, wrote or shared critiques of my piece; wondered in public what had become of me; lamented my decline (which had the strangely complimentary effect of suggesting that I had some status to lose, which few writers ever really feel they do). “This is a sick, disgusting and rapist viewpoint on Weinstein’s behavior,” said one person on Twitter. “Oppenheimer’s analysis is equally as vile as Weinstein’s behavior,” said another. “Fire him.” I got offline almost immediately, but I gathered from friends that as my old cohorts were upbraiding me, enemies were embracing me. I was praised by white nationalist Richard Spencer and David Duke, whose website ran a piece titled, “Major Jewish Mag Admits Weinstein is a Jewish Racist Who Wants to Defile White People and White Women.”

The day after the piece ran, I published a short apology. “The analysis I offered was hasty and ill-considered,” I wrote. “I take this as a lesson in the importance of knowing as much as one can about a given story, and in taking the time to think and feel things completely through before opining.” I’ve written a lot of pieces that have offended people but that I’ve stood by; but I wished I hadn’t written this one. So in one respect, I was grateful for all the feedback. When I do bad work, I want to be called on it, and to have a chance to own my mistakes. But I did wonder whether there was a better, more constructive way to have the same conversation…

A week after the blowback had driven me offline, I gingerly limped back onto the web. I found that some well-wishers had stepped in to plead for mercy. Lay off him. We all make mistakes. These were the most painful for me to read, because they came from people who had believed in me, and whom I had let down. One old college friend of mine, now an Orthodox rabbi, wrote a Facebook post that began with a line from Psalm 149, recited every day in shacharit, the Jewish morning liturgy:

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” It reminds me of the importance of patience, of not rushing to judgment, of taking time—both because compassion is better, and often harder, than anger, and because justice and fairness are best-served when achieved deliberately. Mark Oppenheimer has been a friend of mine for twenty years. He rushed and did something stupid and offensive (not criminal, just stupid), a mistake he has admitted. The world, it seems, has rushed to condemn and disown him. Would that we could all slow down a bit. It’s the only way we’re going to survive.

Re-reading that defense of me four months later is, paradoxically, rather cheering; the attacks feel like a lifetime away, while the tribute, the public announcement of affection from a man I like and admire but seldom see, feels very lasting. If I hadn’t written something offensive and stupid, and come in for a communal drubbing, I’d never have known how loyal the rabbi felt toward me. We simply aren’t that closely in touch. If not for this whole episode, the next time he praised me on Facebook might have been on hearing news of my death (hopefully so far in the future that Facebook will be a thing of the distant past). And he wasn’t the only one to emerge from the mists of time and tap me on the shoulder, offering consoling words or a virtual hug. That week, I probably got two dozen text messages or emails asking how I was holding up.

Part of me wanted all the well-wishers to just cut it out, since their messages were what kept me from forgetting about the controversy altogether. Friends of mine who have also been mobbed online have reported the same bittersweet experience: You go offline to preserve some sanity—to continue to function as a spouse, a mom or dad, a competent employee—and just when you have pieced together two or three hours during which you haven’t thought about the shredding of your reputation, your phone buzzes and—before you think better of it—you read the incoming text: “oof—twitter is the worst! u okay?”

I was okay, mostly, but for one very bad night. After my wife and children were all asleep, I found myself under some blankets on the sofa, trembling, worried that the wheels would come off and I’d lose everything. The chain of events didn’t seem so implausible. If one colleague or student at Yale, where I teach, decided that my internet post really was “as vile as Weinstein’s behavior,” and called for my firing, would the responsible department chairs and deans have the fortitude—in the days after those first Weinstein revelations—to point out that I had never actually done anything like what Weinstein had done, not even close? And if I were fired from my teaching post, and then the freelance writing work dried up, what would I do for money? Or health insurance? What of the mortgage, not even remotely paid off? And what would the shame of being unable to provide do to my composure as a husband and father? Unemployment destroys families. For about an hour, it all seemed precarious and fragile…

Read more at … https://newrepublic.com/article/147276/death-civility-digital-age

COMMUNICATION & 6 Ideas That Will Increase It in Your Church

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and the 2017 Missional Coaches Cohort, 2/1/17.

  • Tips for  General Communication
    • Intentionally tell the story of your entire church & its people- what is the common ground that makes you call Powell home? How do you communicate the same to your congregation & your community?
    • Streamline and prioritize your message. An average person sees 14,000
      advertisements per day- make yours have an impact!
    • Develop “communication guidelines” that all ministries use for communication.
      • Include appropriate language
      • No Christian-ese, using “youth” or “students” exclusively, etc.,
      • Watch length, graphics, font, etc. to create a streamlined experience.
    • Create a timeline of when information needs to go out, so that announcements do not overlap or become cluttered. Know how often your church (and all its different ministries) are sending information out.
    • Check your engagement analytics regularly to gauge effectiveness during culture shifts. A person needs to hear something 7-12 times in a variety of ways before they “get it.”
  • Bulletin
    • Choose the most important items that the congregation needs to know
    • Make them visually appealing and uncluttered, especially new guest information
  • Social Media
    • Utilize your social media platforms regularly (schedule posts ahead of time)
    • Use social media for story-telling instead of solely marketing. This makes your web presence more appealing and informative to a new guest.
      • eg. Feature posts from a past event,
      • or member experience,
      • or “behind the scenes look” instead of marketing for events.
    • Engagement goes up (and more people are made aware of your church) when people who are already connected share posts from your page- so make your posts “share-worthy!”
    • Engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays, and higher
      engagement occurs when posts/emails are made/sent in the early afternoon.
  • Group Texting
    • Group texting services (such as “EZ Text” or “Remind”)
    • Are great ways to keep “insiders” in the loop on sign-ups, short reminders, volunteer opportunities, etc.
  • Email
    • 66% of marketing emails are opened on mobile devices. Is yours mobile-friendly?
    • Keep the subject line short & catchy (30 characters or less)
    • The average person will spend 2-3 minutes opening emails on their mobile phone at a time- less is more!
  • Church Calendar
    • Be sure the church calendar is easily found (digitally preferably) and up to date.
    • Check language to be new guest friendly (times, locations, descriptions, etc.)
    • An online calendar should be available to everyone (but only editable by a select few).

© Bob Whitesel DMin PhD & MissionalCoaches.com #PowellChurch

CHOOSING A CHURCH & Americans look for good sermons, warm welcome

Choosing a New Church or House of Worship, by Pew Research, 8/26/16.

About half of U.S. adults have looked for a new religious congregation at some point in their lives, most commonly because they have moved. And when they search for a new house of worship, a new Pew Research Center study shows, Americans look first and foremost for a place where they like the preaching and the tone set by the congregation’s leaders.

Fully 83% of Americans who have looked for a new place of worship say the quality of preaching played an important role in their choice of congregation. Nearly as many say it was important to feel welcomed by clergy and lay leaders, and about three-quarters say the style of worship services influenced their decision about which congregation to join. Location also factored prominently in many people’s choice of congregation, with seven-in-ten saying it was an important factor. Smaller numbers cite the quality of children’s programs, having friends or family in the congregation or the availability of volunteering opportunities as key to their decision.

Perhaps as a result of the value they place on good sermons, church leadership and the style of worship services, many people – even in this age of technology – find there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when seeking information about a new religious home. Fully 85% of those who have looked for a new house of worship say they attended worship services at a church they were considering, and seven-in-ten say they spoke with members of the congregation or to friends or colleagues about their decision. Looking for information online may be growing more common, especially among young people and those who have looked for a congregation recently. But online information still appears to be far less important to potential congregants than experiencing the atmosphere of the congregation firsthand.

The single most common reason people give for having looked for a new congregation is that they moved: Roughly one-third of adults say they have searched for a new place of worship because they relocated. By comparison, fewer people say they sought a new congregation because of a disagreement with clergy or other members at their previous house of worship (11%) or because they got married or divorced (11%). About one-in-five adults (19%) volunteered that they have looked for a new congregation for some other reason, including other problems with a previous church, changes in their own beliefs or for social or practical reasons.

These are some of the key findings from the fourth in a series of reports based on Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Study. The study and this report were made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the project from Lilly Endowment Inc. The first report on the 2014 Landscape Study, based on a telephone survey of more than 35,000 adults, examined the changing religious composition of the U.S. public and documented the fluidity of religion in the U.S., where roughly one-third of adults now have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. The second report described the religious beliefs, practices and experiences of Americans, as well the social and political views of different religious groups. A third report drew on both the national telephone survey and a supplemental survey of participants in Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel to describe how Americans live out their religion in their everyday lives.

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/2016/08/23/choosing-a-new-church-or-house-of-worship/

SOCIAL MEDIA & Online reviews of churches are growing, here’s how to react to them.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Larry Osborne once told me he likes “to get the bad news first,” constantly roaming the halls of his megachurch in Vista, California to talk to the average person and find out how they’re doing. Today in the electronic world of online reviews, church leaders should also be tracking what people are saying about their congregation online. In the business world online reviews have been able to make or break companies. And, the way things are headed there will be an increase in online reviews of churches. Read this article to understand the important aspects of online reviews and how to respond.

5 Unusual Ways Online Reviews Can Make or Break Your Company

Think online reviews don’t matter? Think again.

by Sujan Patel, Inc. Magazine, 8/10/16.

What’s more valuable to your business – a customer who purchases $50 worth of product, or the positive review left online by a customer?

With the power of word-of-mouth amplified by the web, and the impact customers can have on a business by leaving reviews, there’s significant value in customer reviews. Both positive and negative have the potential to dramatically impact your business.

According to a study from Dimensional Research and Zendesk, 90% of customers surveyed claimed that positive reviews influenced their buying decisions. A whopping 86% said their buying experience was influenced by negative reviews…

Here are some ways I recommend approaching reviews – both positive and negative – to have a measurable (positive) impact on your business.

1. Reviews in Organic Search

A simple search query can make or break your business – and customers are searching every day. When you type in “BRANDNAME Reviews,” what kind of results do you see for your business?

… I recommend tactics like creating a testimonial page on your website optimized for “Brand Reviews.” I also recommend:

Read more at … http://www.inc.com/sujan-patel/5-unusual-ways-online-reviews-can-make-or-break-your-company.html