Creating, Redeeming, and Sustaining S2S Communications - #eform16 @shamikalashawn @padrealberto @sspellers

Yesterday, during brief breaks from my work in social media at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Connecticut, I found moments to step into the social media stream flowing out of the eFormation conference at Virginia Theological Seminary.

I had thought about going to this conference. It seems right up my alley as a social media professional seeking to proclaim God’s love in new ways. I thought of the great Missional Voices conference I had attended a month or two ago at VTS. But the price of the conference was too much for me, and I’ve often been disappointed with social media conferences.

I understand why people charge for things. We need to make our ministries sustainable. So, I thought about what sustains me. I understand the role of money in our society, in needing to pay for food and housing, but when I think about what really sustains us, the Sustainer, and that “all good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above”, I rethought what sustainable ministries really means. I sometimes think that the gift economy and paying it forward are some of the best expressions of grace we see today, expressions we see outside of the traditional church environment.

I watched part of the beginning worship. It started with the valley of dry bones from Ezekiel. This is a story that has really grown on me over the past few years.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’

The service started off with a bunch of people lying around the base of the altar. When I first saw it, I didn’t think of dry bones, I thought of a ‘die-in’. Is the church learning from the Black Lives Matters movement, I wondered to myself? Is this a statement about refugees washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea?

I saw what looked like Stephanie Spellers trying to get others to join her in prophesying to these dry bones. Her enthusiasm for bringing others into God’s work is what resonates for me. We were invited think about prophesying to dry bones in the 21st century. Shamika Goddard tweeted, “I don't always prophesy, but when I do I prefer to use Twitter.” I joined in with “Tweet, Rap, Freestyle, Free Verse, Free the oppressed, Declare Jubilee Show God's Love”

There were some good comments tweeted about flipped classrooms and audio story telling.

Yet some of it felt a bit too much like a social media marketing class. Creating a Church Social Media Plan: How do you get your message through in a media that is already over saturated with distractions? As I thought of the Sustainer, I also thought of the Creator. What are we creating?

In crafting media plans, you need to be aware of your audience. Is your communications Business to Business (B2B)? Business to Consumer (B2C)? Too often, it feels like people talking about church social media are talking about business to consumer communications. I think we need to be in the business of sinner to sinner and saint to saint communications (S2S). We need to weep with ‘Our Lady Mother of Ferguson and All Killed by Guns’. We need our communications, whichever medium is being used, to be redeeming.

Are our social media plans about getting butts in pews on Sunday morning, making sure that our metric of Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) is supported by new metrics of Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers? Personally, I dislike the ASA metric. Sunday morning is important to me. The buildings I worship in are important, yet as Shamika Goddard tweeted, I suspect quoting Father Albert Cutie, “Ppl are afraid for their church bldgs but they need to remember that the church started in the streets.”

We are created in the image of God. We need to reflect that image in our social media, not as part of a marketing plan, but as talking sinner to sinner and saint to saint, in seeking our voices to be creating, redeeming, and sustaining.

Random Thoughts about the #MissionalVoices Conference

This past weekend, I attended the Missional Voices conference at Virginia Theological Seminary. It was deeply moving for me. It has given me a lot to think about and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you. I’ve struggled a lot with writing this. How am I writing it to? What is the impact I hope it will have?

This morning, I was reading Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation. It starts off with “If the Trinity reveals that God is relationship itself, then the goal of the spiritual journey is to discover and move toward connectedness on ever new levels.” Missional Voices, at least for me, was a move towards connectedness on new levels, a movement I hope will continue afterwards.

There were three seminarians from Yale that went down to Virginia as well as a priest from Tarriffville. The event was also live streamed and the Dean of the Cathedral in Hartford posted about the livestream on Facebook. I hope to stay in touch with others that participated and am looking for ways to help make this happen.

As I thought about my discernment process, it struck me that this was an event that people seeking discernment should participate in. I hope to go down to the conference again next year. If they livestream the conference again, it would be something good for people to gather at various locations around Connecticut, like The Commons in Meriden, to view the stream together and talk about it, similar to what happens with the Trinity Institute.

One of the discussions was about how you measure success of missional activities. There were frequent references to ASA, which being an old photographer, I only knew of as American Standards Association measure of film speed. Eventually, it became clear that this stands for Average Sunday Attendance, a metric that many at the conference didn’t think was all the relevant.

Instead there were discussions about Average Weekly Impact as a much better measure. One of the panelists spoke about being asked, every day at the dinner table by her father, what she had done to help the community that day. There were also various discussions about the importance of stories.

I’m not sure what the rules are on Parish Reports. My understanding is that they are for standard data required nationally. To the extent they could be shifted to focus more on the stories about impact a church is having on the community, it would seem like a good thing. Of course rectors might bristle and being asked to provide even more information, but that information might be really valuable.

e.g. A Connecticut Addendum to the Parish Report: What are three stories that best illustrate the impact your parish had on the community over the past year? I don’t know if there is anything like that, but it would be great. One person suggested it would be great from a communications viewpoint and talked about the idea of having diocesan or large parish beat reporters.

As an aside, to what extent is any of the data accessible? I’ve seen generalized reports on a diocese by diocese basis on a website, with reports up through 2010, but I’m wondering if the data is available for further analysis.

Another topic that caught my attention was a discussion “Mission Churches”. It was suggested that in common usage, a mission church is really a financially supported church, and it may be better to refer to financially supported churches as such, saving the phrase “mission church” for churches seeking “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ”, which ideally should be every church.

When people asked about my journey, one of the things I talked about was the role of poetry and mentioned the Diocesan Poet. I don’t know to what extent other dioceses have diocesan poets, but it seems like that might be another part of mission, ideally going even beyond what we have by encouraging poets in other languages, supporting poetry slams etc.

I write all of this, thinking about my own journey, as well as the journey of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and the mission networks of the restructured church.

There were various ideas that were floated around about being willing to take risks, be vulnerable, and not fear failure. There were talks about mission work being messy, and just doing it. There were talks about #FlashConpline. Anyone up for #FlashCompline in Connecticut? How about Laundry Love, a program to help those without sufficient housing to do their laundry, like a twenty first century foot washing?

There were talks about intentional communities, worshiping communities, arts communities, and young adult communities. There were discussions about how these communities take place both face to face and online.

What are your stories of average weekly impact? What sort of event, like a #flashcompline, have you had recently? What are you planning to do next? How do we gather as a community, both face to face, and online to share God’s Love, “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ”?

One of the comments I loved from Missional Voices is that sometimes it is important to ask the question, even if you know what the answer is going to be, because the question needs to be asked, it gets people thinking. So, my first action is to ask these questions. In my case, I don’t know what the answers will be, but I pray they will lead to further actions, further questions, and further answers.

#NaPoWriMo 14: #WhatIMake #MissionalVoices The Lamb's Pot Luck

“Unused creativity is not benign”
I ponder these words
on my drive to work
as I wonder
what’s blocking me
from fully using
my creativity.

I remember choirs
in childhood
when I couldn’t hit
the right notes
and was ridiculed
and ashamed.

I remember looking at paintings
by classmates
that were so beautiful
and mine,
so plain.

I remember going to concerts
or reading poems
and thinking,
“I could never do that”.

As I grew,
I used less and less
of my creativity

“Unused creativity is not benign”
it metastasizes
into shame, anger, fear, hate.

This weekend
my daughter is organizing a conference
for makers.

I’m going to a different conference
on missions.

these conferences are related

the Great Maker
wants us healed
to own our own

the Lamb’s High Feast
is pot luck,
with all of us invited
as restored makers.

Notes: “Unused creativity is not benign” comes from Brene Brown in an interview she did with Elizabeth Gilbert, as does the idea of it metastasizing.

#PCWM8 Pregame

In about twelve hours, I’ll be hopping in my car and driving up to Podcamp Western Mass. Instead of rehashing what a Podcamp is, I’ll start off by pointing people not acquainted with podcamps to some of my older podcamp posts:

A good starting point is probably:
Understanding Unconferences - #pcct #swct

I’ll also recommend:
What is the Difference Between a Good Podcamp and a Great Podcamp?


#pcct - What Makes for a Good Podcamp Session?

These get into the sessions and the experience. People who know me from Podcamps know that I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Podcamps. I’m not a big fan or presentations or Powerpoint and podcamp. I like organic discussions.

At Podcamp Western Mass over the past few years, there have been a lot of introductory sessions which provide great value for newcomers but also have the potential of obscuring something really important about podcamps, that everyone is a rock star.

There are also a few things that I miss from some of the older podcamps. Back in the day, there would be lively discussions online about what topics people were interested in. This hasn’t happened as much in recent years. One nice exception this year is that Maria Korolov‎ posted about doing a show and tell about VR headsets. Maria knows her stuff about VR and if she comes and does the show and tell, it should be really good. I just hope that it will be a discussion where lots of people get to contribute.

Things that I’m interested in include

MOOCs, Moodle, and Rhizomes: The future of digital pedagogy.

It’s all about the content: Creativity, Spirituality, Politics, and everything in between.

The Darknet

Private or corporate social networks.
Anyone doing anything with Slack? I have set up. Let me know if you want to use it. If you do use slack, especially with any integrations, I’d love to hear about it.

Workflow tools: Some of the things I learned about at previous Podcamps included IFTTT and Evernote. These days, I’ve been playing a bit with Workflowy. Check it out.

Augmented Reality Gaming:
Any Ingress players going to Podcamp? Anyone play other games like Ingress?

What’s New:
I always love a What’s New session. Everyone mentions a new social network, mobile apps, or things like that which they are really enjoying. What new things are you finding exciting?

So, share your thoughts this evening about what you’re looking forward to. Then, let’s have fun tomorrow!

Rest, and Upcoming Events

I was hoping that the week after Easter would provide opportunities to rest and catch up a little. There are so many blog ideas in the back of my mind that I need to write, and so many upcoming events. Yet I’ve ended up with four meetings after work this week, some events I couldn’t make because of double booking, and Saturday I’m heading off to another event, while missing a second. As an aside, the weekend before Holy Week, I missed several events because of double or triple booking as well as because of my kidney stone.

On Saturday, I should be at a poetry group in the morning. Right now, I should be working on a poem for that group. Unfortunately, I’ll miss it, as well as their next big event. Instead, I’ll be going to Podcamp Western Mass. This is one of the longest continuously running Podcamps, and I think I’ve been to everyone, but I can’t remember for sure.

Podcamps are ‘unconferences’ originally around podcasting. These days, they tend to focus on all aspects of social media. As an unconference, there is no clear set agenda. People bring their ideas, their topics, then on a large grid on a wall they select rooms and times to get together to talk about the topics they are interested in. It is a great way for people to become more acquainted with social media, and there are often topics like Twitter 101. There are also topics that can get fairly esoteric. I try to go partly to learn new things and partly to give back to the community. I never know who will be there or what topics will catch my attention. Currently, I’m thinking about communities online as they related to learning, creativity, spirituality, and politics. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts about topics you’d be interested in at an unconference.

Then, in two weeks are two different conferences on my radar. One is the#WhatIMake conference. I’ve written a little bit about this earlier, and if I had more time I would dig out some quotes from Elizabeth Gilbert’s interview with Brene Brown which I mentioned yesterday, which are one of the best explanations about why #WhatIMake is such an important conference to go to.

Unfortunately there is another conference which is also very important to me taking place at the same time. Misisonal Voices is taking place at Virginia Theological Seminary.

A conversation about innovative ministries and missional communities in The Episcopal Church.

In my mind, this conference has a lot in common with Podcamp and WhatIMake, which very direct implications for the next few twists and turns on my spiritual journey. I am hoping it will be about creativity and innovation; about being a maker. I am hoping that I will arrive, not knowing what I will get out of it, and leaving surprised with new thoughts and ideas.

I’m thinking of listening to Podcasts on creativity on my drive down. I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcasts during my commute this week. I’m considering staying at a hostel on my journey back, for several reasons.

But now, I’ve already spent more time than I really have writing this blog post and I need to get on with the rest of the day.

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