Christian Ministry Advertising

I was flipping through a Christian magazine for churches and church leaders, and one of the ads just didn’t sit right with me. So, I decided to look at all the ads in the magazine, and I decided to make a list of some phrases that stuck out to me.

I’m going to list them here, but before I do, please know that not all of these rubbed me the wrong way. I simply wanted to just take stock of what was in there in terms of marketing to churches. I’m going to do my best not to editorialize. Instead, I invite you to read the advertising phrases below, see what you think of them, and perhaps comment on the reflection questions at the end. Keep in mind, all these advertisements are geared toward churches and church leaders.

The list:

“Grow your church with [name of product].”

“Cruise with a cause: Missions Cruise”

“Take a vacation–change a nation!”

“If you provide the small group, we’ll provide the teacher.”

“You save souls. We save time, talent, and treasure.”

“Draw crowds and leave a lasting impression.”

“120,000 FREE sermons”

“Attract more visitors this Christmas with an outdoor banner and stand.”

“Increase number of new Christians.”

“The convenience leaders need with the content pastors trust.”

“Win men to Christ and to your church…lots of men!”

“Training Champions 4 Christ to Impact Our World.”

“Missional with one click…” [advertising a social networking service]

“Culture trumps vision.”

“All hosted by a church that has seen people make commitments to Christ in every service – every week for the last decade.”

“Are your students demanding a dynamic and fresh approach to youth ministries?”

“Make your church relevant and widely attractive to the men in your community.”

Questions:

What does this say about our collective approach to ministry?

Did any of the phrases stick out to you?

How does this relate to how we minister to students?

Facebook Theology

Patheos.com has an interesting theological look at Facebook:

First, let me share some theology. Theology is simply how we understand our lives in light of God’s presence in our lives and the universe. To me, theology is not about winning an argument or being right, but living by affirmations that shape our way of looking at the world and our day-to-day behavior. You are a theologian whenever you pause long enough to reflect on the meaning of your life, especially its joys, sorrows, and challenges.

I believe that a Facebook theology is based on the following affirmations:

  • We are all connected with one another in an intricate web of relationships.
  • Each moment of our lives matters and is holy, whether I am blogging, commenting on what I ate for breakfast, sharing wisdom, or responding to a friend’s status report.
  • We can be transformed personally and socially by our relationships and our awareness of the holiness of life.

For the most part, the article is about how we act on Facebook, and not necessarily a theological appraisal of social networking. I do appreciate his point of view, though I continue to be skeptical of the benefits of Facebook. (Confession: I am experimenting with Twitter, and I’ve liked it so far.) My wife has begun to look at Facebook as a ministry opportunity. Most nights before she goes to bed, she scrolls through her friends’ posts to see if anyone needs encouragement, a prayer, or a simply a Scripture passage. Which, if we and our students are going to use Facebook, it might as well be to love others.

What are some Christ-centered ways Facebook can be used?

Tools That Help Me In Youth Ministry

There are a few tools that really help me do what I do as a youth pastor.  I thought I’d share a few of them with you.  To qualify as a “tool” an item needs to:

  • Not be indispensable.  The Bible doesn’t count as a tool for this reason (because it’s indispensable to what I do), so don’t get freaked out that it’s not #1 on the list.
  • Help me do what I would normally do, only better, faster, or cheaper.  It can’t just be really cool, it’s got to be worth what it costs.
So, here are my favorite tools:

My iPhone 4.  Believe it or not, I’m not a gadget freak.  Until this summer, I had never bought a phone that cost me more than $20.  And my MacBook that I got as a gift in 2006 does me just fine, than you very much.  So, know that while I love browsing at the Apple store, I don’t just go out and buy new electronics very much.  I had an original iPhone that my brother gave me when he upgraded to the 3GS.  It was really helpful, but the battery life was fading quickly (I was charging it twice a day), and was getting quite slow, even though I had only downloaded five applications.  So, I decided to get the new iPhone 4 when it came out.  Here’s how it’s been helpful:
  • The camera is great for quick shots, and the HD video camera is great.  Certainly not professional grade, but it’s come in really handy when I want to capture a hilarious game we’re playing with the youth.
  • I use it all the time for quick access to our YouthTracker.net database (see below) to update a student’s cell phone number or to sneak a peak at a student’s profile when I’m going to their athletic event and can’t remember a parent’s name.  I can also send a mass text when we’ve cancelled our weekly summer evening at the park due to lightning.
  • Updating Facebook.  When I’m at an athletic or drama event of one of our students, I’ll snap a picture and post it.  They love it.
  • Getting directions.  I love the GPS and Maps app.
YouthTracker.net.  We love this database tool.  I know it’s great because whenever the topic of perhaps moving to something different comes up, our administrator (somewhat jokingly) threatens someone’s life.  It’s all online, it was built with youth ministry in mind, and it works.  And in the rare case that something doesn’t work, the customer service is amazing.  We pay $165 a year per ministry, and it’s well worth the money.  We keep track of small group attendance, students can register and pay for a retreat online, and I love the mass texting feature (costs extra, $0.025 per text per recipient as of this post).
iMovie on my MacBook.  I use a PC at church, but for editing a quick movie, nothing beats iMovie.  I know there are some fancier options out there that don’t cost a lot, but it was free with my Mac, still works four years later, and I know how to use it.  Of course, I don’t do anything all that complicated–we have a great group of students who produce videos for our ministry, and they handle all the heavy lifting when it comes up.
Cranium.  It’s my favorite board game hands down, and it’s great for a variety of group sizes.  And if you have too many people just buy another copy of the game.  One thing, though: students increasingly don’t recognize the songs on the “Humdinger” cards.  It makes me feel old.
Bluefishtv.com: There are actually a lot of great sites out there that provide video illustrations, but this is the one I frequent the most.  Videos are usually only $2.99, and well worth it.

YouTube: Our students produce some great videos, and we make sure they are on YouTube.  I’ve thought about moving to Vimeo, but YouTube just makes it so easy, and it finally plays nice with Facebook.

What are your favorite tools?

Update: Danny Ferguson has a post on the same topic…check it out!

Quote of the day…

From Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Twitter feed regarding a Facebook outage:

“BREAKING NEWS Facebook down. Worker productivity rises. US climbs out of recession.”

CNN.com: University bans Facebook, Twitter for a week

A very good idea from harrisburg University of Science and Technology:

Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg University of Science and Technology will enact a week-long social media blackout for all students in residence.
The students will be forbidden from using Twitter,Facebook, instant messaging and any other online communication except for e-mail.
NPR reports that university Provost Eric Darr chose to enact the temporary ban because he wants students to think about how much they’re using technology in their daily lives and what kind of impact it has.

There’s some info on the University’s website here.

Video: Facebook in Real Life

There have been a few videos made on this theme, but not all (or many) are appropriate for teaching in church. This one was made by Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, and we used it this week to discuss “Authentic Community” with our high school group:

Don’t forget, God is not a Facebook kind of God.

Quote of the day…

“Our God is not a Facebook kind of God.”

-From a caller in a recent call-in podcast on Facebook and youth ministry at Life in Student Ministry.

Telegraph (UK): Why Apple is Catholic and PCs are Protestant

Hee hee! Check out the article:

I wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph this week in which I talked about a crucial aspect of Apple’s appeal: the way good old Steve Jobs relieves us of the burden of installation and other tedious tasks by making his designers and engineers do the intermediary work for us. No Protestant work ethic for straight-out-of-the-box iPad users! We leave that to PC customers, who peruse their tiny-print instruction manuals as intently as Calvinists poring over their well-thumbed Bibles.

Four Problems Bigger Than The iPhone 4 Antenna, And What You Can Do

I saw this from Russell Martin, and I had to share it here. Make sure you check out the full post.

Since its release the Iphone 4 has been plagued by customers complaining about its antenna design flaw. Apparently if you hold the phone a certain way your signal drops significantly. Apple has responded saying that some loss is normal for any phone, depending on where you hold it. While this is a valid complaint, a legitimate problem let me suggest some bigger problems that exist out there.

Problem #1: Malaria

Malaria is a disease caused by the blood parasite Plasmodium, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria, from the Medieval Italian words mala aria or “bad air,” causes 350 million to 500 million illnesses per year and kills more than one million people – mostly children under the age of five.