Tag: Facebook

7 Tips for Listening to Sermons

I sat across my wife, Robyn, at Sunday lunch a few weeks ago. As we started to eat, she turned to me and asked, “Could we talk more about the sermon this morning and each week?” The question seemed straightforward. Then she added, “I would like to hear what you think and some Sundays we rarely mention it after service.”

Recalling the last few Sundays at lunch with Robyn, my mind raced from the morning sermon to the next part of the day. She rightly pointed out a missed opportunity. We could share about areas God challenged us to grow in a setting both of us experienced.

Listening to a sermon invites to a community conversation and can deepen our understanding of a passage. It allows us a chance to talk to each other about spiritual matters in our lives because we can respond to a shared experience. It calls on us to process how the Bible relates to our lives.

You may want to understand the Bible in deeper and more significant ways. You might desire to have a more meaningful dialogue with others about following Jesus.  Listening to sermons can bring these opportunities to you. Here are seven tips to for listening to sermons:

1. Take Notes.

In the last couple weeks, I have started taking notes on YouVersion. This app allows churches to input the points from the speaker. I have found myself focusing on what the speaker says about the point, rather than trying to write out the point. Other people using the app like having online storage rather than paper.

Whether you use paper and pen or an app, you retain more by taking notes. You can go back to your notes during the week or in conversation.

2. Focus in on the Reading of the Passage.

When the speaker or pastor begins to read the Scripture, follow along. You may want to highlight or underline verses that you have questions. Certain words or phrases might jump off the page. I like to add a date of the sermon in the passage, so when I come back, I can recall it.

3. Recognize the Cues.

At certain points of the sermon, the speaker might signal an important insight in understanding the passage. Here a few cues to identify:

Definitions – The speaker unpacks the original meaning of a word in Greek or Hebrew.
Biblical References – Note the additional passages mention and the idea associated with them. You can go back later and re-read the passage.
Context – Consider the back story of the passage and what other events surrounded it. Why did the author write this? Who is the audience? These insights can help a passage become more relevant.

When you hear these cues, make note of it. You might even want to highlight the verse associated with it.

4. Utilize a Group Guide.

Often, churches will provide group guides for small groups. You may want to have one with you during service looking at the questions. After the sermon, you can even answer the questions personally before going to a group.

5. Post on Social Media.

Social Media invites us to a further conversation. A point or Scripture passage might have come alive. Posting can reaffirm the same point that others have heard. It adds to the community element. Share a picture on Instagram. Use the series #hashtag in a Twitter post. Check-In to the church with Facebook.

6. Re-Listen to the Sermon.

Take time to listen to a podcast or watch the video. You can do this in the office or when driving in the car.

7. Discuss the Sermon.

Just like Robyn encouraged me to do, talk about the sermon. You might listen to the sermon with a family member or friend. Use this opportunity to share and hear from them. Small groups give you an opportunity process the passage together. You can use these two questions to start a conversation:

What questions did you have?
What point stuck out the most?
What challenged you?
How will you respond to this passage?

What tip would you offer for listening to a sermon? Share in the comment section below.

Photo by Aaron Burden.

The Beatitudes of Church & Social Media

Today’s guest post comes from Benjamin DeCastro. He lives in Warren, RI with his wife Susan, and is a Marketing & Social Media Strategist.  He spent 15 years working for the largest furniture retailer in Southern New England as the Director of Promotions, Events & Media Relations which included marketing, creating ads, media planning & buying as well as the company’s spokesman.  Ben is also a musician, having played drums, keyboards & accordion for a number of bands – presently the drummer for the 2016 New England Music Awards Country Act of the Year – The Annie Brobst Band, based out of Boston, MA.  Read more about Ben at benjamindecastro.com or follow him on Facebook.

If you’re a small group leader, media volunteer, elder, pastor or staff person at a church you already know that Social Media is a great tool to use for connecting and outreach, however – there needs to a strategy behind how it’s implemented. It’s something that takes time. Regularly scheduling 2-3 hours per week to manage your various social media channels will keep your pages looking fresh, exciting, and inviting.

When I was thinking about this recently, I came up with this list of helpful tips that you can use to improve your Social Media plan.

Blessed are those who Like, they and their organization shall be liked.
Logistical Note: This can only be done via your laptop or desktop computer. For a page you want to like as your Church Page, right click over the “three dot photo” on the far right of the pages cover photo and select the option to “Like as your page.”
If you’re going to like a photo, status, link or event – you’ll need to select who you’re liking by clicking on the small image on the right side of the item you wish to like and change who you like from there – specifically for that event.

Blessed are those who respond to comments and messages on Facebook, for they shall be considered responsive.
Thoughtful, appropriate comments are always great! Jokes that need an explanation just don’t work, so don’t waste your time.

Blessed are those who regularly post, for they shall inherit engagement.
But remember – it’s got to be part of the plan – too much and you’ll get blocked!

Blessed are those who take photos for Facebook and Instagram, for they get the picture.
Be sure parishioners in the photo are ok with having their image posted in social media.

Blessed are those who Tweet relevant content, for they shall receive retweeted.
I know they’re important, but 10 individual tweets of each of the 10 Commandments has been done, many times before… just saying.

Blessed are those who utilize Facebook live during a Sunday morning service, for they shall be considered not-dead.
Be sure the person who does this uses a stand for the device they’re going live. Save people the trouble of purchasing motion-sickness pills.

Blessed are those who create events on the church Facebook page, for those events will be remembered and attended.
Even if you’re not getting a ton of RSVP’s – it will show up in the notifications of those who follow your page – it’s like the weekly bulletin you can’t throw away!

Blessed are those who boost posts thoughtfully and responsibly, for they shall see growth in a multitude of ways.
Be a good steward of the financial gifts that God has entrusted to you and strategically plan if you’re going to boost. Also, before you boost, be sure you take the time to review all the details before you place the order- this will help you maximize the potential for the budget you allocate as well as the audience you reach!

Blessed is the Pastor, who encourages check-in’s on a Sunday Morning, for he challenges people to virtually open the doors to their network in a very real way.
Not everyone will do this, but some will – and that helps boost the organic reach your page has!

Blessed is the multi-media team who actively recruits those of the congregation to share a testimony on video with permission to share it on the various platforms, for they shall be seen as approachable and not considered “Apple Geeks”
Do I really need to go into detail on this one?

I hope you found these both humorous and helpful. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and almost every other social media platform can certainly be useful tools for outreach and ministry. Take the time to formulate the guidelines of how you’re going to utilize social media and seek out help from trustworthy sources when you need it!

Stay Social!
~bigBEN

Photo credit by Jaelynn Castillo.

How a long distance relationship changed the way I communicated with friends

One seat remained opened for breakfast. A conversation started and a week later a Facebook friend request was sent. Not necessarily the components of a chick flick, but this how I met my best friend and wife, Robyn. Two coffee dates, Facebook messages, exchange of phone numbers and the purchase of an iPhone for FaceTime later; a year of a long distance relationship began.
Jessie Schnall

Bob Goff shares a powerful story in Love Does on friendship. During his high school years, he attempted to take a journey to find himself. A youth leader ends up joining him for this trip of self-discovery. The leader repeatedly tells Bob, “I’m with you.” You can imagine the implication of those words and the actions behind them.

A long distance relationship not only changed the way I communicated with Robyn, but also the way I communicated with friends. The people we truly value and appreciate – living near or far – are worth the effort to stay in touch. Friendship at any level is a series of actions and expressions which lead people to believe you are with them.

Here are a few insights on communicating with friends that I learned from a long distance relationship:

1. Make the first move.

We often wait for the other person to make the first contact: email, phone call, text message. Long distance taught me again and again to not make assumptions. When in doubt of who should contact whom, that would be a good time to take an initiative. There is wisdom in waiting because of extreme circumstance. I think all of us appreciate a person who contact us. If that is true for us, then it might be true for our closest friends.

2. Old school is new school.

Cards and letters may mean more today than ever. Not just just Christmas or thank you cards, but those pieces of contacts that come out of the blue. This might be nostalgic, but I still have the written pieces of communication from Robyn and other people. Instantaneous does not always equate to more meaningful. You have more power in the pen than you may realize.

3. Dare to commit.

All of us to some degree have busy lives. Yet, the friendships that mean the most to us have come by investing time and energy. Do people know who you really are? Long distance meant many nights on FaceTime. Sometimes it mean saying “no” so I could say “yes” to this friendship. Living in community with the right people gives us perspective; a gift, God uses to sharpen each of us. As Dr. Robert Rhoden said, “The people who know you the best should believe in you the most.” It’s not only making the time for people, but making the time for the right people.

4. Provide room for grace within the personality of your friends.

Some of us like contact and respond immediately. Others of us tend to take time to contact or respond. There were times when I needed to learn to wait and remember people need grace in the midst of the circumstances of their daily lives. It may also mean taking the time to respond a little sooner. Extending grace may take many forms in friendship, but this extension can communicate a deeper level of acceptance. At the root of this point is the serious question, “How can I approach friendship the way Jesus would?”

In a culture that can feel disconnected from authentic community, providing friendship with the “I’m with you” clause opens people to the reality of the Gospel. A long distance relationship taught me about pursuing friendship. What lessons are you learning on friendship in this season of your life?

Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.

The Word for 2013

“By this time next year, you could be a whole new person.” Allison Vesterfelt said this in her post Everything Can Change in Just One Year.150666_584447915761_649307428_n

Facebook has rolled out the annual feature, “Year in Review.” Users can share their 20 biggest moments from 2013. This season causes us to pause to remember the year that was.

My wife Robyn has introduced me to the practice of picking a word for the year. This word encapsulates an area of growth in your life. I adopted the word “patience.” Little did I realize the impact of this practice. 2013 has taught me so much, but I have seen it through the lens of patience.

It takes patience to begin in a location and community.

It takes patience to get engaged, prepare for a wedding, and then get married.

It takes patience to complete a degree.

It takes patience to experience God’s work in your life.

Through all of the failures and successes, I am learning to not short circuit the process. We a majority of our lives in the in between. Patience emphatically helps us recognizes the difference in our time table and God’s. Over and over, I can see that God forms us in His likeness by both small incremental steps and monumental pivotal moments.

2014 will be here before we know it, which means a new word. Before leaving this year, what word would describe your 2013? 

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