Friday, February 18, 2011

FaceBook: A Marinated Perspective

When Facebook first went viral there were a number of articles and blogs which suggested how it might best be leveraged as a tool for reaching non-Christians and for marketing the church. I read some of these with interest, but did not apply much of what I read. Instead I decided to just experience Facebook for myself and entered it along with my “friends”. In the process I have learned that using Facebook as a tool does not really work. Facebook is a community, now 500 million strong, and I chose to be a part of the community. After a few years on Facebook I have discovered some things.

Recently I have been stunned at the quality of connections that can be made through Facebook. I have heard from a number of old friends from college and high school who never knew me as a follower of Jesus. They have seen my posts, which often reflect my faith in a non-preachy kind of way, and have contacted me to talk about “religion”. I just got off the phone with an old fraternity brother who was amazingly grateful and excited to hear whatever I had to say about the Bible or Jesus, or whatever. I had instant credibility with him because of our past association. We talked for an hour and he told me he would be going to Barnes and Noble to get the Bible and other book I recommended. He also gobbled up some links I sent. How often does that happen?

I have come to believe that using Facebook to deliberately market a church or to press Christianity is not its greatest use. Postmoderns, and that’s who is using Facebook by and large, prefer a less confrontational approach. Strident tones don’t hit the mark with them. Creative, thoughtful and pithy posts tend to draw them in. They also crave authenticity. Sincerely joining the community gives us a stake in it, as opposed to being interlopers pushing our agenda. Presence has power.

Here are some things I try to remember when I post or comment on Facebook:

1. Be real. Share things that genuinely touch you, and that you believe will be a benefit to others.

2. Be concise. Brevity is the soul of wit. Long posts tend not to get read nearly as much as those short, snappy ones.

3. Be imaginative. Find things to say that have not been said over and over. Think about it before you post. There should be real value added to their lives by being connected to you. Make them grateful to be your friend.

4. Be interesting. Some say the great sin today is being uninteresting. That may or may not be the case, but it sure is better to create interest.

5. Be eclectic. Don’t be afraid to be different. Vary your posts between the silly, the profound and the personal. People will look forward to connecting with you if you vary what you say.

6. Be generous. Don’t expect others to comment and “like” your posts if you’re not doing that for them. That’s part of being in the community. Don’t be a voyeur, enter the conversation.

7. Be careful. Posting and commenting is fraught with peril. It is easy to be misunderstood when writing our thoughts. Objectively read over what you have written before you post or comment. Many times I have written something and simply decided not to send it at all.

8. Be sensitive- know your audience. Not everything you post will impress everyone on your friend list. Try to imagine how different sectors of your network will react to what you say. It’s okay to target certain segments, but make it obvious when you do.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Missional Coaching is working...

This is a follow up to my post from December about Missional Coaching with the unemployed in the Coal region of Pennsylvania.

Here is an example of how coaching can work in the everyday ministry of local pastors and laypeople alike. The result is that we reach people who might never think to set foot in our churches, but who can benefit profoundly from the principles found in God's Word and exposure to the people of God. Here are two examples of changed lives.

Jason (not his real name)- Jason was a frenetic and disoriented mess when he arrived at our first coaching session two months ago. He arrived flustered and with a backpack attached that looked like it was a part of him. He described a background of abuse and abandonment. After years in foster care he ended up homeless on the streets of California. A series of events brought him to our little Pennsylvania coal town. He was doing pretty well until he was fired from his job at a major store chain. When he walked in, he had no goals and was definitely in survival mode. Living alone in a one-room rental, he was desperate for a friend who would not let him down. He shared that his biggest obstacle was needing $12 to get a state ID card. He was so grateful when I was able to connect him the resources to get one, and he made a friend from our church in the process. He was so encouraged, and since that time I have watched him slowly come to life. Religion was not something he was looking for, having had bad experiences in the past. But after our second session he asked if he could come to our church. I said sure, and gave him a Bible. He loves to read and has now become a student of the Word and attends several Bible studies as well as church services. He has reached a number of small goals and expects to be employed again soon. His countenance has lifted as he senses that God loves him.

Diane (not her real name)- Diane came to our little town from Philadelphia with her two young children to live with relatives. Although she is only in her early 30s, she has lost all of her teeth and her self-image is very poor. The smallest obstacle will keep her from following through on what she knows she should be doing. In the past two months she has set some reasonable goals including getting her GED, finding a place to live, and getting a job. Her main goal, however is rebuilding her self-respect. She has an appointment to get her new teeth this week, which will be a dramatic step toward her goal. She has also secured an apartment to raise her children in. She will take her GED test this month. Her goal is to open her own Laundromat because she loves talking with and helping people. She is learning that obstacles can be overcome. Diane says that being held accountable and having someone to believe in her has made all the difference.

More to come....