January 2014

Social Media Ministry as Change Agent

Why Congregations Simply
MUST Embrace Social Media

Why use Social Media to further the work of the church?


The answer is easy.


Congregations that ignore the internet will soon be out of business. They may linger for a few years, growing less effective and more frustrated. They will wonder what they are doing wrong. It will be a painful process of attrition.


Many churches will never again be able to minister the way they once did.

The Old Evangelism

Old evangelism techniques center on creating an entry point. This becomes more challenging as congregations work to bolster their self-image.


Old Evangelism relies on seekers walking through the church doors. The sanctuary is like a big mouse trap. Lure people in. Close the door. Snap ’em with the Word.


Often, there is no plan beyond creating an entry opportunity.


These are the five most popular entry strategies.

  1. Preschool programs.
  2. Family ministry.
  3. Music ministry.
  4. A culture centered on a charismatic pastor.
  5. A ministry centered on a popular social concern.


Church schools today tend to attract only the very young. By the time children are 10 years old, churches don’t know what to do with them. Volunteers who are comfortable working with older children are harder to find. Churches that have a pre-school program often see little benefit. They can’t afford the next step—family ministry.

Family Ministries

Congregations hire professionals to lead a family-oriented ministry. Typically churches with family ministries hire a Christian education director, a youth leader, a music leader, and accompanists to work with several choirs or bands. This means doubling or tripling the annual budget and is financially impossible for many congregations.


Consequently, the pre-school fills a fleeting family need. If there is no place for them to grow as needs change, they move on. In urban areas, families tend to relocate when their oldest children reach the age of five. Family ministries are often seen in the suburbs.

Music Ministries

Music ministries are also expensive and are growing less effective with the segmentation of society. It is a daunting task to provide the breadth of music that will appeal to an entire community with ever-changing demographics.


Many churches advertise “contemporary” worship. What does that mean? There are dozens of contemporary styles of music.


The talent needed for an effective music ministry may be more expensive than hiring clergy. (We can’t have that!)

Professional Leadership

That brings us to the charismatic pastor—a growing rarity. The average age of seminarians is on the rise. People are entering ministry as a second or third career. There is no time to hone the social skills and demonstrate the commitment to community required if congregations hope to center evangelism efforts on the likability and long-term service of a pastor.


Part of the overlooked demographics of church life is the aging of clergy. Second career clergy have different needs. Their families are settled. They are less flexible. They may be  planning only 15 years of service! This often results in commuter and part-time pastors who are never active in the community they visit on Sunday mornings.


Congregations cannot count on pastors as evangelists. The pool of candidates with these skills is very shallow.

Ministries that Focus on Social Concern

Ministries centering on social concerns require visionary leadership. Hard to come by. Hard to sustain.


They may attract the passionate. They may also turn off those who disagree with the cause. This type of ministry has its place but is risky. It takes time to nurture the atmosphere that allows for success.

Make Room for New Evangelism

The old evangelism methods which center on getting people to walk through your door are going the way of door-to-door sales.


But don’t hand out the tissues just yet.


Social Media opens new doors. A congregation can reach people 24/7 and address a multitude of spiritual concerns without hiring a staff to oversee the effort and without sending the sexton to unlock the doors.

2×2 Marks Three Years in Social Media Ministry

2×2, an outreach ministry of Redeemer Lutheran Church, launched on February 2, 2011. Groundhog’s Day.


2×2 is Redeemer’s response to hierarchy determining for us that we had no ability to be a church anymore. SEPA Synod locked us out of our building in 2009.


Redeemer responded by pioneering modern evangelism techniques. We used the name 2×2 because we wanted our ministry to grow beyond our community presence.


Jesus sent the disciples out 2×2. Perfect.


We had no pastor, no Christian education director, no music professionals. Our property, which included our school, was taken from us. Many of our growing membership were frightened by the law suits and rightfully so. It has been vicious! We still had the passion of about a dozen members. That was good enough for Jesus!


As part of our ministry we visit other churches in our region. What an eye-opener!


Many churches are struggling to solve the same problems. We hear talk of innovation. We see very little change. Old evangelism techniques are employed with fewer and fewer people to implement them. Failure is almost expected.


We read dozens of church websites. Most are nothing but online bulletin boards for people who are already familiar with the church. Few church websites are used for evangelism or education.


Redeemer’s online ministry is, by necessity, different. We had no place to invite anyone to come.


Our physical doors are locked 24/7.


Our online doors are open 24/7 to anyone anywhere in the world. Read about our worldwide ministry.


It took a while to gain traction. See for yourself. We could have quit after the first four months. Four months and only 106 readers! That’s only six in attendance every week! Hurry! Close that failing church! Seize those assets! Do everyone a favor. Force them out!

2x2 Web Stats

Screen Capture early on January 30, 2014. The green boxes show the highest statistics to date.

We stuck with it.


Our ministry has tripled in size every year. This month, January 2014, we will have reached more than 6000 new readers with 2×2’s blog. (Still two days to go in January!) About 100 more subscribe to our blog through Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels. That adds another 3000 per month.


There are anywhere from 10-50 people reading our website at any given hour.


We are on track to reach 100,000 readers this year. That’s only the first tier of our social reach. The resources people are downloading will reach thousands more.


We used no ads, no Facebook Like campaigns, no contests or gimmicks to build readership. We simply post quality, thought-provoking, and useful content several times each week—not just on Sundays.


We now reach more people than any other church in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. Our reach is probably wider than any other church in the ELCA (which refuses to recognize us).


An overlooked benefit of using Social Media is that it will direct ministry. The data collected highlights needs and opportunities that otherwise leave congregational leaders guessing.


Our search statistics showed that people were looking for resources to teach adults. This led us to our weekly Adult Object Lesson and our weekly Lectionary Slideshow.


Missing from our experiment is how we might be using our reach to influence our local community and how we might be teaching other churches what we have learned.

Redeemer is not closed.
We are locked out of God’s House
by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Sadly, this is OK with most Lutherans.

Adult Object Lesson: The Beatitudes

Think outside the boxJesus Thinks “Outside the Box”

Today’s object is a box. We tend to like our world so that everything is sorted out and kept where we know things are. This applies to our ideas as well as our canned goods, garden tools, and clothing.


Today’s scripture is one of the more difficult scriptures to understand. Unlike some of the tougher scriptures, the passage from Matthew, known as The Beatitudes, is one of the better-known scriptures.


It was among the verses we memorized as children back when children were expected to memorize key scriptures. The Ten Commandments, The Creation, Psalm 23 and then The Beatitudes.


We memorize verses that are part of the arsenal of our faith. We know the day will come when they’ll need them.

  • “Love one another.”
  • “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • “Though shalt not bear false witness.”
  • “Honor they father and thy mother.”
  • “Yea, though I walk through the valley . . . ”


The Beatitudes aren’t like that.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you.


Huh? Why do these verses resonate with us?


None of us as children had a clue what the words we were regurgitating meant! And yet, we felt a sense of comfort.


But, who hasn’t felt meek and persecuted?


It’s nice of God to notice!


We are still in the season of Epiphany. Epiphany includes the scriptures that reveal the nature of God. That’s what the Beatitudes are all about.  The Beatitudes belong here.


Jesus is teaching his favorite subject. Most of the parables are stories that teach about the kingdom of God.  The Beatitudes are, perhaps, the broadest discourse on the topic that has survived to reach our ears today.


Each of the eight beatitudes tells us something about heaven. Jesus is encouraging us to think beyond our earthly experience and expectations.

“Think outside the box, people. The kingdom of God is not like an earthly kingdom. The knights of this roundtable will not be quite so sure of themselves as they vie for favored status. Mark my words, folks. In God’s Kingdom, there is room for those that would never stand in honor before an earthly throne.”


In God’s kingdom, there is room for those with doubts. There is room for those who are weak with grief. You wallflowers over there—there is room for you, too. Seekers, there is room at the table for you. There is room for those who don’t know it all and for those who have power but choose to show mercy. There is room for those who can turn away from the temptations of a popular, comfortable and self-centered life. There is room for those who might go out on a limb to stop the misuse of power. Blessed are those who suffer because they fought for what they believe when they were the only ones who believed it.  There is room in heaven for those who take the fall.


The ways of heaven are not the ways of powermongers on earth. Those who achieve earthly power would take advantage of the weak and persecuted. Many would watch while others are mistreated—even in the Church.


But here we are, stuck for the moment on earth.  While we are stuck we can practice thinking outside our earthly expectations. The Beatitudes help us do just that.


Think outside that box! Make it a habit.

photo credit: Ben K Adams via photopin cc

Slideshow: The Beatitudes

2×2’s latest slideshow suitable for projection during worship. Slides illustrate all lectionary readings for Epiphany A4.

Movement in Worship

One 2×2 reader responded to yesterday’s post about using tablets and mobile devices in worship with another thought. As we gather around these stationary devices, there is a greater need to move. Our bodies need movement.


Her email returned me to the 1960s.

I was part of a school choir. At Christmas, we crowded onto specially constructed risers and formed the Singing Christmas Tree.

Each year, towards the end of the concert, the boys at the top of the tree would start something to rile our director. It was an annual game that never disappointed.

“If you start to sway, I will pull the curtain. Mark my words. I will. I will pull the curtain.”

We acted appropriately chastised while attempting to hide our glee. We knew what was coming.

At the first strains of Silent Night, we started to sway. Every year.

She never pulled the curtain.


Back then, as a choir stemming from the culture of northern Europe, we were expected to perform like statues. The Singing Statues.


Today, with the infusion of multiple cultures and the relative boredom of watching the stiff performances of the Lawrence Welk singers on eternal reruns, movement is becoming expected. It is part of the delivery of the message.


It’s time to think about how these needs might change our worship. It’s nothing new. Miriam danced. David danced. It’s entirely biblical.


Not only do our bodies need motion but our souls need expression.


It’s all right. Go ahead. Sway!

Mobile Worship: The New Church Bulletin

seismic shiftToday’s Tablets = Yesterday’s Stained Glass Windows

In medieval times, when most lowly villagers could not read, the church used art and architecture to teach. Sculpture, stained windows, and elaborate murals communicated when the words of the priest failed. It would have been less expensive and more effective for priests to speak to the congregation in the language they used to barter for eggs, but that didn’t occur to anyone for a few hundred years. (Thank you Martin Luther.)


For centuries, priests stood before the people, spouting doctrine in Latin, while the congregation stared out the windows, which blocked their view with biblical pictures. Advertising has always been with us.


Fast forward to the 21st century.


Most people can read. In fact, most people can read English no matter where they live. (A common language changes the world of mission, but that’s a topic for another day.)


Modern architecture is spartan. Windows are functional and colorful, but their messages are often little more than color and geometry. We’ve come to count on literacy.


Nevertheless, studies show that the written word, accompanied by visuals, is 80% more effective in communication than the written word alone.


What an opportunity for modern worship! Today, we can use images more effectively than ever before. But will we?


Some churches use projection. Some flash ads about their ministry and inspirational photos before worship. Some have the order of worship projected, lessening the need for paper bulletins. But this is only the tip of the communication iceberg.


Soon each worshiper will have a smartphone or graphic tablet within reach.


The immediate reaction from worship leaders is likely to attempt to discourage electronic devices in worship. They will argue that attention should be elsewhere — not without merit. But before we dig ourselves into a hole we can’t crawl out of with this argument, let’s look at how personal media tools could enhance worship on Sunday morning and perhaps extend the worship experience beyond the sanctuary during the week.


Oh yes, there is another possibility. Communication with your worshiping community using these devices can begin before Sunday morning. Imagine your congregation coming to worship already primed for the topic of the day!


Let’s unplug our 20th century minds for a bit. OK, now take a deep breath. Plug into the 21st century.


Consider this.


If it was acceptable for worshipers to ponder theology while gazing at elaborate windows while listening to a priest drone, how can it be wrong for worshipers to glance at an equally beautiful image on their iPad—especially images chosen or created specifically to accompany the message of the day?


Before you announce to your congregations, “Please turn off your cell phones,” etc., think about how these modern tools might be used in worship.


Quit fighting it. Give your worshipers good reasons to turn their devices on. (If you don’t, they will find their own reasons.)


This year, beginning with Epiphany, 2×2 started a new series of worship resources. We hope to create weekly slide presentations that can complement the lectionary lessons of the day. We started with the Baptism of Our Lord. The second presentation is Jesus, Lamb of God and this week’s presentation is Jesus Calls His First Disciples.  The presentations reference each of the four lectionary readings. They include about a dozen images. They are completely editable. They can be uploaded to your parish website. They can be shared.


In addition, we have a presentation designed to guide discussion on mission statements.


Separate images can be used separately on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. They can be shared.


A pastor might refer to them while preaching. They can be used for discussion groups.


In the first two weeks these first presentations have already been viewed online about 600 times.


It’s a new concept, a new tool.


Here’s why it is worth a try.


The sermon is a major expense for every congregation. This expensive message is delivered to fewer people. The expense stays the same or grows while the impact wanes. This should be a concern to every congregation.


The few people who attend church today live in a world in which more sensory engagement is expected. The sermon, as presented today, is going to become an increasingly archaic form of communication.


No wishing it weren’t so is going to change this. It’s a cultural shift. Tomorrow’s worshipers will come to church (we hope) with different expectations.


Today’s students do not sit in classrooms with neat rows of desks and chairs facing the front of the room. They sit in a circles with all engaged in conversation. There is less solitary homework and more group projects and hands-on learning. Worship as we know it is going to seem alien to them, especially if their parents did not bring them to church as they were growing up.


From the relative absence of people under 40 in worship, this is already a reality.


Try something new. Open your sanctuary to the world.


Start with this series and then create your own. Involve your members. Students are using Powerpoint in school. They’ll know what to do!


Here’s our current library:

Baptism of Our Lord

Jesus, Lamb of God

Jesus Calls His First Disciples


photo credit: gdsteam via photopin cc


Adult Object Lesson: Follow Me

pulltoy2Matthew 4:12-23

Follow Me!: Appreciating Discipleship

In today’s gospel. Jesus calls his first disciples.


What does it mean to follow Jesus?


Today’s object is a pull toy. Any pull toy would work, but one with some extra duckies or cars would be best. Have a youngster pull the toys as you talk. Some mishaps are likely and that can weave into your message.


Pull toys are among the first toys we give our children. They become leaders as soon as they take their first steps.


Here’s the analogy. The person pulling the toy is the leader. The puller can be God/Christ with people connected by a tether of faith, supported by the Word.


But the analogy can expand. The followers can be a succession of the faithful. But following is rarely a straight line. The cars or duckies can topple and make life more difficult for those following. The tether can become tangled. Oh my!


The role of follower or modern disciple is not easy. It never was. We have the Bible to follow. Then comes doctrine. There are constitutions (tons of them). There are professional church leaders. There are lay leaders of various sorts. There is tradition.


And then there is conscience. What place does this have?


The water is murky for us modern disciples.


Suggest this: A good follower is also a good leader. Each of us is tethered to others. This gives us responsibility.


Too often church leaders think of followers as help that works sacrificially at the grunt jobs for an occasional earthly attaboy or attagirl and the promise of a seat at the heavenly table.


To some, a good church follower doesn’t question and contributes healthily to the expenses of the church.


A good follower is a repetitive church statistic—the one you can count on over and over. If your monthly attendance is 1000, that probably includes 200 counted four times!


In today’s Gospel, the first disciples gather around Jesus. Some show up on their own, encouraged by friends.


The first step in discipleship is showing interest.


Look around your congregation and ask how many qualify so far.


The second job is to accept the invitation. The disciples had to agree to leave wife, parents, and their source of income.


Ask how many in the congregation are still “in.”


This should bring a chuckle. To do so today would be an extreme gesture of devotion. It was in Jesus’ day, too! Does anyone expect this measure of devotion today?


A brief review of the ups and downs of the biblical disciples is in order. They questioned. They  made mistakes—huge mistakes. They took ridicule — sometimes even from Jesus. They suffered. They kept coming back. In the process, they became leaders.


So what do we expect of today’s followers? Serious answers to this question could be  revealing.

  • We expect monetary support.
  • We expect attendance.
  • We expect baptism. Why isn’t the baptism of the disciples memorialized in today’s gospel?
  • We expect some form of labor. How’s the plea for volunteers going in your church?
  • We expect followers to be hungry to learn.  Why is adult education so poorly attended?
  • We expect participation in church government. What barriers do we set up to control participation?
  • Do we expect innovation? Do we allow for missteps along the way?
  • Do we expect questions to lead to thought leadership?
  • Are we more interested in bringing people to Christ or bringing them to the Church?
  • Which of these questions is most important?


There are many possible questions! Let them flow.


What is expected of followers of Christ?


Are we a simple pull toy? Or are there multiple tethers at work? (If your group is small, you might ask them to draw how they might illustrate their church structure as a pull toy.)

photo credit: D. Bjorn, Catchin’ Up via photopin cc


A Modern Parable about Mission

restaurantHow Can We Serve You Today?

Two recent experiences point to some attitudes that might help us understand a congregation struggling in mission.


Both involve the food service business.


What is the common mission of all eateries?


To serve food that delights and that invites return visits.

Experience 1

It was the last shopping day before Christmas. Our family had already gathered for a visit with distant relatives. Before we split up again to visit other relatives we decided to take a little shopping trip together. Satisfied, we put our purchases in the trunk of the car and decided to visit the local yogurt store before heading different directions.


We navigated to the yogurt shop (part of a franchise), braving a good amount of mall traffic to do so. We parked and went to the door. The lights were on. Two uniformed workers were behind the counter. We tried the door. It was locked. We looked for posted hours. There were none. It was almost noon. Surely this was close to opening. We made brief eye contact. We just wanted to know if they were opening soon. But the employees busied themselves and did not look again toward the door.


Five immediate sales down the drain. Who knows how many potential sales!

Experience 2


Two of us were strolling the streets of a small town business district that was trying to revive. We stopped to peek in the window of a restaurant that had hours posted. It was their custom to close for a couple of hours between lunch and dinner. We were about 30 minutes early for their second seating. We enjoyed reading the menu and considered coming back. As we walked away, a waiter called after us. “We are not quite ready for our evening guests, but if you’d like to come in, we will seat you and bring you a glass of wine on the house.”


We turned back and enjoyed one of the best dining experiences we ever had. In fact, after nearly two hours of fine dining, during which the other tables gradually filled, the restaurant owner came out, greeted us, and answered our questions about their restaurant and the town.


Which of these understood their organization’s true mission?

Which operated as if the “boss” was watching?

How did one organization empower employees to feel able to stretch the rules?

What parallels can you find in how congregations and denominations conduct mission?

photo credit: max_trudo via photopin cc

Slideshow for Worship: Epiphany A3

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

12 images illustrate each of the four lectionary texts for the Third Sunday in Epiphany.

This is our third offering in this new series. 200 people viewed last week’s slideshow on Slideshare.

Friday Quote: Open Source Church for Changing Communities

The Church’s Never-ending Pursuit of the Past

What if you come to the church with an open source view of the world?

What if your entire life was one in which you experienced a collaboration of gifts, skills, and knowledge?

What if, almost every day, you experienced the coming together of seemingly disparate voices and ideas that resulted in beautiful and tremendously effective and meaningful events and solutions?

What if this was your world, and you then walked through the door of almost any church, where it quickly became apparent that your job was to sit down and shut up—that your job was to listen and be spoon-fed what you needed to think and believe?—Landon Whitsitt

This is not a big “what if.” It is actually our experience!


Part of the problem churches have in relating to their neighborhoods today is that collaboration and diversity are intrinsic to modern life. Its absence makes us feel a little lost, less than whole. Much of church life still revolves around similarity and control. Both have left the building.


Rather than find ways to engage new communities, church leaders throw up their hands, sigh, and mutter the handy excuse —“demographics.” Everyone nods in agreement, the thought that they might change with the neighborhood is never seriously considered beyond rhetoric. The Christian message is apparently for just one demographic—and then the property rights become a tug-a-war.


Even in a city of more than a million people (like ours), church leaders oversee the closing of one church after another and say with a straight and appropriately solemn face, “There is no population to support a church.”


If they are looking for people of northern European descent who were in the prime of life in 1960—they are right!

Related posts:

Why Creative People Don’t Go to Church

Wikicclesia; The Open Source Church

Politics Is Politics—Church or Not

political closure

Signs of the time. Power tempts many to do stupid things.