Microsoft, Facebook and Fixing Things That Aren’t Broken

We recently upgraded all of our computers to Office 2013. The biggest problem we have run into so far is with Powerpoint. Older versions of Powerpoint had something called “Presenter View” where you could see what slides were coming up, click on any of them and get their quickly. Well, Microsoft just ruined it all. The new Powerpoint has something by the same name, but that function has been stripped out. Now you have to click a button mid-presentation to see all the slides, click on the one you want, and it will go there. That is an eternity when people are left gazing at the wrong song or wrong verse on the screen. It really made me wonder if the guys put in charge of updating powerpoint had ever actually used powerpoint in front of real people before. If you haven’t experienced an encounter with meaningless change with Microsoft products you have undoubtedly experienced this with Facebook.

Sometimes in congregational life, things get changed for the sake of change. There isn’t necessarily a rhyme or reason for it, we just thought it might be nice to snazz something up a bit or maybe the change occurred because no one was paying attention and it just happened. Change is healthy. Change is necessary. But change needs to get us closer to the win, not further from it. What is more, a change can be great and needed but poorly communicated. When that happens, what would have and could have been a tremendous win gets tossed out by people who weren’t ready for the adjustment. That’s just poor leadership.

It is imperative that we lead people through change. It is equally imperative that we adequately assess why we do the things we do and whether or not it is biblical and functional. Change can be exciting but we don’t change for excitement’s sake. We change because we think we can do a better job embracing and accomplishing the mission God has given us in Christ.


Technology Allows Multiple Ways of Communicating to the Masses…Does that Do Anything to Us?

Social media gives us a platform to toss our ideas out into an ocean of data, updates, and information and allow a wide variety of people to receive that information. What effects does that have on us? In just one click you can tweet a few hundred or a few thousand people who follow you. In just a click you can have your facebook friends here whatever it is you are up to or whatever you are thinking about at the moment. Blogging allows one to put out all kinds of ideas for public consumption. We are normally focused on the affect our communication has on those who are receiving it. But what affect does it have on those who are producing and sharing that information?

  1. I wonder if it doesn’t create a desire to always have something clever to say. Or maybe you just think everything you have to say is clever and so that really hasn’t ever crossed your mind.
  2. We tend to make ourselves the focus of the information. Our postmodern society places a high value on multiple perspectives and vantage points. There is a lot of good in that. But it also comes with challenges when we feel we constantly have to call attention to ourselves (what we are doing, where we went on vacation, what we had for dinner, who we are hanging out with, who we met, etc).
  3. It can give us a false sense of importance. Once you think you are the center of everything it can become easy to find your value through the level of attention, feedback and following you get. That is not to say we are not important…rather, we can get out of balance and find our value in the wrong place.
  4. Engaging in Controversy is more attractive. The tendency is to spend time talking about those things that spark a reaction (new followers, new comments, new facebook friends, more shares, etc). We can put controversy over substance. Controversy sometimes has to come up but we shouldn’t be bringing it up in order to bring more attention to ourselves.
  5. It can make talking more important than doing. There are some guys that I read who have a million different ideas and theories about ministry but it leaves me wondering how many of those things they are taking meaningful action on. If it is just talk, it might gain us an audience but it seems kind of empty if it never gets to the level of action. In all honesty, your thoughts are going to be refined and improved by the actions you take on the ideas you have. Just because you have a great new idea doesn’t mean you have to share it. Do something with it first and then see if it really pans out…what is more, your points will become better as you see how it works out in the real world.
  6. It can reduce people to a number. One more follower, one more commenter, one more page view. It can dull our sense that all people are made in the image of God and start seeing people as existing for the purpose of our own advancement. I know that sounds extreme but it is entirely possible and does happen.

Seth Godin Nails it On Technology & Communication

I really enjoy reading Seth Godin’s blog. If you don’t read it, you really should go there, read a few posts and consider subscribing via the email box on the left side of his blog. His post Toward resilience in communication (the end of cc) is so good that I want to point you to it and ask you to read it. In this post he explains technology and communication in today’s organizations as well as in social media. I am tempted to put some quotes from the article here but I would basically want to quote the whole thing. Here is one just to tease you into reading the whole thing,

We wait, hesitating, unsure who has received what and what needs to be resent. With this error rate comes an uncertainty where we used to have none (we’re certain of the transmission if you’re actively talking on the phone with us and we know if you got that certified mail.) It’s now hard to imagine the long cc email list as an idea choice for getting much done.

The last ten years have seen an explosion in asynchronous, broadcast messaging. Asynchronous, because unlike a phone call, the sender and the recipient aren’t necessarily interacting in real time. And broadcast, because most of the messaging that’s growing in volume is about one person reaching many, not about the intimacy of one to one. That makes sense, since the internet is at its best with low-resolution mass connection.

It’s like throwing a thousand bottles into the ocean and waiting to see who gets your message.

Amazon, eBay, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, Facebook–they are all tools designed to make it easier to reach more and more people with a variation of faux intimacy. And this broadcast approach means that communication breaks down all the time… we have mass, but we’ve lost resiliency.

If We Follow Jesus’ Model We Will Do More Than We Say

Talk is a multi-gazillion dollar industry. Facebook, twitter, email, texts, phones, television, movies all have one thing in common…people talking. But catch the very last verse of the Gospel of John, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” He didn’t say Jesus said many other things (which I am sure he did) but that Jesus did many other things. Too often we get caught saying without doing. Saying something is certainly a lot easier than doing something but at the end of the day it isn’t what we talked about that will matter, it is what we did.

So let us not be consumed by unproductive conversation. Rather, let us be busy doing the things that have to do with eternal life. Imagine if you did one thing for the kingdom before you allowed yourself one tweet, blog post or facebook comment…What might this world look like? Which is more important vs which do we spend our time on?

6% of Teens Check Email Daily

I was just talking with our youth minister and he told me that a ridiculously small percent of teens check email on a regular basis. I went to find out what the stat is and according to an article at cnet only 6% of teens check email on a daily basis. The communication tool of choice is texting (63% do that daily). This is a really important “aha” for me because in ministry communication is so important. You have to learn how to adapt. I have been so used to using email and facebook that it is easy to think that is where everyone else is as well. You can’t reach a generation if they aren’t getting your attempts to communicate with them!

Have a look at the breakdown of how young people are communicating. It is eye opening for sure and is going to impact the way I communicate in the future.

Facebook Breaking Down Real Relationships

One of Facebook’s main selling points is that it builds closer ties among friends and colleagues. But some who steer clear of the site say it can have the opposite effect of making them feel more, not less, alienated.

“I wasn’t calling my friends anymore,” said Ashleigh Elser, 24, who is in graduate school in Charlottesville, Va. “I was just seeing their pictures and updates and felt like that was really connecting to them.”

To be sure, the Facebook-free life has its disadvantages in an era when people announce all kinds of major life milestones on the Web. Ms. Elser has missed engagements and pictures of new-born babies. But none of that hurt as much as the gap she said her Facebook account had created between her and her closest friends. So she shut it down.

from “Shunning Facebook and Living to Tell About It

The Internet is Showing Us What It Thinks We Need to See…Google & Facebook Algorithms are Biasing our Search Results

I ran into this concept for the first time a couple of years ago. I did a search for “small group lessons” on google and found my blog had the #1 link. I was stunned that I was first and Willow Creek was #2. But being the skeptical person that I am I did a little research and found out that google was doing work behind the scenes (algorithms) that put up at the top of the search results things it thought I was most likely to be interested in. So the Willow Creek guys are searching and probably seeing themselves as #1, as am I as are dozens of other people. It is important to know that what you see when you search online is not static. It is dynamic. It is not fixed for all people at all times but it changes constantly and can even vary based on the search history from your IP address.

25 Things I Hate About Facebook Video

We may not all agree on all things theological but here are 25 things many of you will resonate with…

(HT: Shane Vander Hart)

Random Facebook Thoughts

  • It never ceases to amaze me how many friends some people have. I noticed one of my friends today has over 3300 friends. That is mind boggling.
  • I often wonder how some people seem like they spend all day on facebook as evidenced by their constant status updates…”So and so just looked outside…so and so is reading a book.”
  • How is it that some people have impossible to achieve status updates? “So and so is eating dinner with the family and holding the baby.” How are they typing that at the dinner table while holding the baby? I don’t get it.
  • Does anyone know how many applications exist on facebook? It seems to me that there is a select group of people who feel like I need to be poked, given a green patch, or added to a calendar. I don’t understand what 99% of those things are.
  • Do you ever get so bogged down with news about people you don’t know that you can’t make out pertinent info about people you really do know?
  • Have you ever added enough groups that the ones you really want to see are no longer on the list…you have to click “see all” to get to the ones you need to see.
  • Does anyone else think the facebook email system is pretty amazing. I love how you can follow a conversation all on one page. That is a great feature of the wall too.
  • Have any of you check out the Networked Blogs application on facebook? It is really helpful but not as helpful as bloglines or google reader.
  • Do you ever get someone to initiate a chat with you just as you are about to close facebook? Maybe you haven’t spoken with them in years and you don’t know what to do…either acknowledge it and start a conversation that could take a long time or else feel like you are acting rude.
  • Have you ever turned down a friend suggestion? I don’t think I ever have.
  • Have you ever added a friend that you have never met? I have a few people in my friends list that I have in there just in case I ever need to contact them.
  • Have you ever experienced someone using facebook notes like a blog? You get a bunch of emails of various and assundry thoughts to flood your inbox. I figure if someone has that many thoughts why don’t they start a blog that I can choose to read or not read rather than getting my inbox full.
  • Facebook is such an amazing tool. I have been surprised again and again at how well it can be used to minister to others, connect people, and form community with people who would have never been connected in a million years. I have used it to set up Bible studies with people I would have never been able to reach otherwise and to organize a ministry. I have seen others use it to organize prayers for people with serious illness and I have seen it become a tool to help progress a positive Christian dialog on pertinent issues.

So thank you Facebook for all of your quirks but also for all of the ways you have been used to advance the kingdom of God.

Facebook – The New Tool for Ministry

I have been amazed at how many of our 20s and 30s are on facebook. Seeing this trend I decided that I would see how well this social networking tool could be used to enhance existing ministries. I started a facebook group for our 20s and 30s aptly called Northwest 20s & 30s we got over 50 members within weeks. What amazed me was the fact that our group members sent invites to their friends in facebook they thought might be interested in joining our group. There are many aspects of this that are very helpful in organizing and advertising a ministry that may be helpful in expanding an existing ministry or beginning a new one.

Creating Officers:
Facebook groups allow you to assign officers. Since we had existing leadership roles in our group it was helpful to label them in the Facebook group so that their role would be more visible.

Facebook allows you to create events and invite the members of the group through their facebook account. You can put in the start and stop times, address, and any other information you like. Facebook even links it up to google maps. People can RSVP and if they do it will put a reminder on their facebook homepage a few days before the event. Since many check their facebook on a regular basis this provides a regular reminder of upcoming activities. You can list devos, upcoming Bible studies/classes, service projects, etc with this.

You can also post discussions in the group that people can reply to similar to a blog. Through this you can find out things they would like to study, mention what is coming up, etc. and get their feedback on it.

The Wall:
Facebook has something called a wall that provides a place for random comments and ongoing discussions within the group. This is like a running conversation within the group.

Post pictures, videos and links:
You can post videos or photos from past events and you can also post links to websites that they might find interesting. Photos and videos in facebook are very interconnected as the people in the pictures can be labeled and then it can show up in their own photos and not just in the groups. This provides another means of connection with group members and also a way to get more visibility with their friends as their friends may view their photos and see pictures from the latest devo or service project.

Many ministries are now using Facebook to network ministries/ministers and to organize groups of young people. Here are some examples (you may have to sign up with facebook to view these):

Northwest 20s & 30s

Riverpark Community Church (John Alan Turner)

Campus Ministry – Churches of Christ

Missional Conversations in Churches of Christ

Church of Christ Youth Ministers

On a humorous note – this was the first jpeg I made but it just looked like something from The Shining…like the Here’s Johnny Facebook.