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Preview: Strategic Digital Outreach

Strategic Digital Outreach

Published: 2013-06-08T22:30:55+00:00


The Internet and the Conversion of College Students to Atheism


Very interesting finding in a a nationwide study of atheism among college students:

When our participants were asked to cite key influences in their conversion to atheism — people, books, seminars, etc. — we expected to hear frequent references to the names of the “New Atheists.” We did not. Not once. Instead, we heard vague references to videos they had watched on YouTube or website forums.

Read an article about the study here.

Crisis Relief For Haiti


My friend Dave Dias recently filmed this commercial for mPower Giving, relating how we can use our mobile phones to contribute to crisis relief for Haiti in the wake of this week’s disastrous earthquake.

Sharing God’s Message Intimately - Online and On Phone


One of my virtual friends, Dave Hackett, recently led a conference call on “Sharing God’s Message Intimately - Online and On Phone.”

During the call, Dave informed participants about the growing influence and practice of digital evangelism and newly emerging issues of online/on-phone evangelism, and also allowed time for questions and answers.

The presentation used an audio conference call and an online presentation which were accessed simultaneously. 

Voice Conference Call
The audio call is available for playback by calling 641-715-3443 and entering Access Code 258593#.

Presentation Site
To view the PowerPoint that Dave presented during the call, please have this Google Doc up on your screen while you listen to the presentation:

Water From A Website


(image) Mike Boyink is doing a great thing this week!

Mike runs a website called Train-ee which helps people learn how to use Expression Engine, a great content management system for websites. Mike has just finished a series of articles entitled Building A Church Website. In the process of writing that series, Mike actually created a sample church website.

That could have been the end of the project. But Mike had a better idea. And so he is auctioning off the sample church website at eBay. You can see the sample church website here. The auction will also include a year of hosting, some training/customization from Mike, a year’s subscription to a donor management software package, and more.

Proceeds from the auction will be donated to charity:water, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. In addition, proceeds from the sale of Mike’s books and screencasts during the auction will also be donated to charity:water. Finally, Mike has provided a PayPal donation link so that even if you’re not interested in the church website or Mike’s training materials, you can still donate to this great cause.

The auction will begin on Wednesday, April 29 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Full details about the auction and a video from Mike are available here on the Train-ee website.

I would strongly encourage you to visit Mike’s site, watch his video (I learned some things I didn’t know about water!), and consider what you might be able to do to help him support a great cause.

Kent Shaffer on SEO for Churches


(image) Kent Shaffer has posted a helpful video on the Church Relevance blog today about search engine optimization for church websites. What I liked most about his comments was the lack of focus on optimizing for “church” and the city you live in (which is as far as most church website seo goes these days). Instead, he focuses on optimizing (and by implication writing content for) the terms people are actually searching on in your geographic area.

The vast majority of unbelievers today are not searching on “church” at Google. They aren’t interested in us. But strategically including content on our websites which corresponds to the felt needs of unbelievers in our area and then optimizing for related search terms is an effective form of outreach today.

I encourage you to visit the Church relevance blog today to hear what Kent has to say on this important topic.

Twitter For Churches


Do you know about Twitter? I would assume that anyone reading this blog already knows about it, but just in case, here’s a good definition from Wikipedia: Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. I just finished reading a new e-book from Anthony Coppedge called The Reason Your Church Must Twitter. With a subtitle of “Making Your Ministry Contagious,” it’s a short, fascinating read. Within it’s 63 pages, Anthony gives a concise rationale for the church’s use of Twitter. There is no wasted space here — it took me about an hour to read the book and all of the information is valuable. How A Church Can Use Twitter Effectively Anthony advocates using Twitter to remind church members of events, drive traffic to the church website, effectively target segments of the congregation (and not send irrelevant information to other segments), pass along urgent prayer requests, keep church members informed of last-minute changes, reinforcing aspects of weekly messages, etc. I’ve been using Twitter for awhile now (and I must admit that I’m fairly sporadic in my tweets — I still find myself not thinking about it much while I’m in the midst of a project), and have thought about how the church could use its functionality, but Anthony has “taken it to the next level.” His e-book includes a number of great ideas for how the regular use of Twitter could improve a church’s communication with and among its members. A Personal Reaction — Your Mileage May Vary He also points out how Twitter can be used as a means of conversation between church leadership and the congregation, especially in large churches where the pastoral staff can be isolated from church members in many ways. On a personal level, I have to admit that I’m of two minds on this. I hesitate to even mention this because I don’t want to distract from recommending Anthony’s book in any way, but in the end, I did want to relate how I responded to the e-book while I was reading it. In the end, that Anthony’s e-book made me think about these things is a testament to its value. While I recognize that Twitter (like blogging) can “put a face” on a distant church leader for church members (and that can be helpful in some ways), I struggle with the idea of using the technology to improve the symptoms of a flawed paradigm of church life (I don’t think the New Testament ever contemplates a hierarchical church structure in which leaders can become isolated from those they lead) without addressing the cause itself (I believe that hierarchy defeats community and that we must address the issue if we are ever to reach the world for Christ). I recognize, however, that my view of traditional church paradigms is definitely a minority-view. At the same time, I believe Twitter (like blogging) can definitely become a tool to minimize the isolation of leadership, which would be a very good thing. Very Helpful — How To Use Twitter One of the most helpful parts of the e-book for me was the compilation of chapters (4-6) which outlined how to use Twitter. Since I haven’t used it as much as I would like, I learned a few new things which had been a bit confusing to me in the past: How to establish settings for using @ replies How to send a direct message to someone How to retweet Ways to manage multiple Twitter accounts Software And Services To Help You Use Twitter I also was happy to see the listing in Chapter 7 of software and services which make using Twitter easier. From applications which help you manage Twitter feeds, to desktop Twitter clients, to mobile apps, to services which help you share photos with your friends on Twitter — there are[...]

Tim Tebow, John 3:16, and the Local Church


Interesting article in the Christianity Today liveblog — The Tebow Bump. In the article, Ted Olsen points out that at the recent BCS championship college football game, Florida quarterback and the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow changed the scripture reference on his eye black from Philippians 4:13 to John 3:16.

The result? According to the Christianity Today article, John 3:16 became the hottest search on Google. Interesting.

What’s more interesting to me, though, is the generally mediocre (at least from an internet evangelism perspective) results that are displayed when one searches on “John 3:16” at Google.

In the natural Google listings, here are the first 10 results:

  • passage lookup (New International Version)
  • passage lookup (King James Version)
  • Wikipedia article on John 3:16
  • Blue Letter Bible passage lookup
  • A Flash animation
  • An AllAboutGod article on John 3:16
  • The home page of John 3:16 Mission
  • Passage lookup on the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • An article on about Tim Tebow’s use of the verse on his eye black

Here are the paid listings:

  • “Win a free iPhone easily” from
  • An invitation to bid on John 3:16 at (interestingly, the second line in the ad reads “Shop Victoriously”!)
  • “John 3:16 at Amazon”

If local churches were already bidding on John 3:16 for local pay-per-click listings (so that their ad was only displayed to people living in their local geographic area), how many people would have been taken from watching the BCS championship game, to searching on Google for “John 3:16”, to clicking on a paid ad from a church in their local area and visiting a page on the church’s website especially designed to intrigue website visitors enough for them to consider joining the church for one of their local gatherings?

What an opportunity that has been missed by local churches across the world!

Obviously, local churches could not be expected to know that Tim Tebow would be displaying John 3:16 on his eye black (since apparently he has displayed Philippians 4:13 in the same location before — I’ve never been a big college football fan, so I may be mistaken). But if they were already bidding on that phrase (which should probably be a natural target for pay-per-click bidding by churches), they would have already been prepared. But since the overwhelming majority of churches have probably never even considered pay-per-click advertising, the opportunity was probably lost forever.

Church Website Defaced


Here’s a short article from a Serbian media company’s website regarding the defacement of a church website.

Thanks to @Serbia for the tip.

Facebook Phishing Scam


Cynthia Ware has a very valuable post today regarding a Facebook Phishing Scam which is effecting pastors.

It’s A Sad Day For Christendom In The Online Arena


Gospel Communications International is shutting down its webhosting services. The Alliance includes more than 300 members.

Here’s a story about the decision from the Muskegon Chronicle (Gospel Communications International is based in Muskegon, Michigan).

Let’s pray for the employees and the ministries who will be affected.