Tag: Guest Post

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.

Forgiveness | Guest Post by Scott Savage

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Today’s guest post comes Scott Savage. He serves as a Teaching Pastor at North Phoenix Baptist Church. His family includes his wife Danalyn and three toddlers. I met Scott last summer at a family get together, because our wives are cousins. You can follow his blog at http://www.scottsavagelive.com/.

Have you ever watched anything on the Animal Planet channel? You know, one of those scenes where a pack of lions attacks

I saw a similar scene one day when I was looking for new jeans. I drove to a shopping center near my apartment in Central Phoenix. The strip mall houses a Last Chance store. Last Chance is an outlet for Nordstroms, a high-end department store. Nordstroms sends their unsold goods to a few Last Chance stores around the United States, where one can find high-end garments at ridiculously low prices. Items you’d pay $100 or more for in Nordstroms, you can pick up for $15 or $20. I read a newspaper article a couple of years ago about Last Chance customers who make tens of thousands of dollars each year buying items at Last Chance and reselling them online.

Purses are popular items to flip, but shoes and suits can be steals too. My wife refuses to shop there – the tightness of the racks and the crowds of people stress her out. I love going – to people watch as much as to hunt for deals.

On the visit I mentioned earlier, I had a remarkable experience. As I came down the escalator, I saw a group of women descend on a recently opened stash of Coach brand purses. They were like the pack of lions I witnessed on Animal Planet. Where was Morgan Freeman to give commentary? Soon security intervened between the two women.

The reaction of the women reminds me of the way we often respond to the idea of forgiveness. Several years ago, I led a teaching series on forgiveness as a college pastor. I felt like it was a relevant topic, but I didn’t expect it to be such a divisive one too. If you had observed the discussion which followed my talk, you would’ve thought I had suggested the world was flat. The feedback was intense!

I had been working with many of these students for years. I thought I knew them, many of them were mellow, even reserved in group discussion. However, suggesting they forgive the people who wounded them seemed unreasonable. I learned a lot from that teaching series and discussion group. I’ve been studying human responses to forgiveness ever since.

One of my takeaways from my study has been nearly everyone has someone they’re struggling to forgive. Almost all of us have hangups about forgiveness. In first discussion session with my students, Matt couldn’t stomach forgiveness because he felt like he had to forget the wrongs done to him. Elizabeth felt it was a lot more complicated than just deciding to say, “I forgive you.” She had said those words but still felt like she hadn’t truly forgiven the other person. Michael couldn’t imagine reconciling with a girl who hurt him. Therefore, he couldn’t forgive her because he saw them as inseparable.

How about you? Do you have someone you’re struggling to forgive?

I believe one of our greatest stumbling blocks to true forgiveness are the myths we believe. Matt, Elizabeth, and Michael struggled to forgive because they believed myths about forgiveness. They said, “if this is what forgiveness means, then I cannot forgive.” If I had a time machine and could go back in time, I’d respond differently to them. I would say, “if that’s what forgiveness means, I wouldn’t forgive either. But I think you misunderstand forgiveness.”

If you’re struggling to forgive, I wonder what your stumbling blocks are. Why can’t you get over the hump? I’m curious if a forgiveness myth stands in your way, as it did for my students.

Over the last couple years, I began assembling a list of forgiveness myths I heard from people. The list now includes ten myths which have kept people I love from discovering the freedom of forgiveness. I believe the tragedy of unforgiveness is that we end up missing out while those who hurt us move in with their lives.

Anne Lammott, a writer, once said, “Refusing to forgive is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die.” Unforgiveness is toxic, for us not for those who wounded us.

I wrote my new ebook, Forgiveness: From Myth to Reality, for all the people I’ve talked to since that original college discussion group. I don’t want any of us to miss out on the freedom we can discover when we forgive. What a tragedy it would be if we avoided forgiveness only to find we were avoiding a myth, not the real thing!

As a thank you to Peter for allowing me to share on his site, I’d like to give you a free copy of Forgiveness: From Myth to Reality. Click here to get your free copy. My prayer is you’ll unearth the myths you’ve been duped into believing and discover the reality of true forgiveness. You deserve the freedom which comes when you forgive.

Photo credit by m0851.

I’m Thankful for Dental Floss…Really!

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from my wife Robyn Englert. She practices as a mental health therapist and loves spending time with her nieces and nephews. Additionally, she loves to walk and hike.

I have become increasingly thankful for dental floss over the years. The relief that follows the floss removing unwanted food particles is not always instant – at times there is more pressure, bleeding, or it takes more than a mere attempt for relief – but it comes. Additionally, the benefits of regular care have helped to prevent further damage and significant pain in my mouth. It is daily maintenance that seems tedious at times yet yields greater oral health.

Dental floss also serves as a metaphor for relationships in my life over the last ten plus years. The transitions from lifelong student to full-time employee, the journey from single woman to meeting the love of my life and not getting too freaked out, and many more that have passed and will come, are supported by trusted loved ones to help navigate.

These relationships help me to remove the particles that threatened complications, long-term pain, and distance. At times, I didn’t want to hear what these loved ones were saying but I knew they might have a point. The most challenging step for me was to begin to be vulnerable with safe people. To be known, I had to take healthy risks of sharing myself and moving beyond the image I wanted them to see.

Over this last year, I have participated in a book group with nine courageous women that highlights the value and significance of authentic relationships in my life. One of the books we just finished is Scary Close by Donald Miller (I highly recommend).

As we ventured into the materials I was challenged to be real, face the “grit” I have held on to and have been getting stuck on, and was encouraged to move through the gunk in my life by being authentic with these women.

One concept from this book is that we project an image of ourselves and who we want people to see based on our experiences. When there is a lack of authenticity, we are playing a part. After working through the book and life with these women, I have come to 100% agree with Donald Miller. He said:

Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us (pg. 22)

While this is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining relationships, I am very thankful for these women and this opportunity to floss through life.

Photo credit by Maria Kaloudi.

What Do You Say? | Guest Post by John Iamaio

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from John Iamaio. He’s married with two kids living in the Rochester area. Besides avidly following the Buffalo Bills, he serves as an Area Director for Cru Rochester. Follow him on his blog at https://johniamaio.wordpress.com/.

Since becoming a parent ten years ago, I have realized there are certain phrases locked into my subconscious that could only understand once I became a father. Who knew I would be the guy saying “If all your friends jumped off a bridge…” or the classic “because I said so, that’s why!”

One of the first times I could tell this part of I unlocked this part of my brain is when I started asking the question “What do you say?”

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There are two occasions when I utter these words. The first is after an egregious error on the part of a child (i.e., they hit another youngster with a blunt object). I want my kids to realize the pain they have caused. Their appropriate response in this scenario is “I’m sorry”.

The second time these words leave my lips is when someone has been gracious to my child. Perhaps their aunt has just crocheted them a brand new Snoopy sweater. Regardless of what the child is feeling inside, I instantly find myself asking, “What do you say?” In this case, the goal is to create a spirit of gratitude.

Does forcing your kid to say “Thank you” actually inspire inner thankfulness? Ummm… I have no idea! I’m not thinking when I say the words, remember?! The real question is “Why do we need a reminder to be thankful at all?”

Upon casual observation, it would seem that we are not naturally grateful people. Thankfulness is learned. It is something cultivated in our lives.

As we mature, many of us become accustomed to expressing thanks for gifts we have received or acts of service performed for us. This is a good thing. Having someone over your shoulder repeating the phrase “What do you say?” could get annoying.

Over the last few years, I have realized there is another level to thankfulness. It goes beyond being thankful for the “good” things in my life. It’s an ability to ask myself the question “What do you say?” even in difficult times. Every weakness, every trial, every failure is an opportunity to express a grateful heart. In the end, those experiences have shaped me as much as all the blessings and any success.

Dealing with a seizure disorder when I was young, made me keenly aware that life can be out of control. Working for uncaring bosses developed a sense of what it is like to feel unappreciated. Experiencing broken relationships, taught me that loneliness hurts. The list goes on and on.

In each of those cases (and many more), the negative circumstances I experienced gave me a slight appreciation of the deep hurts and wounds that people carry around in their lives. They have also shaped me into the person I am today.

Maybe our parents were right. Perhaps our lives would be happier if we learned to ask the question “What do you say?” a little bit more.

Photo credit by Arthur Rutkowski.

Your Life Will Never be the Same | Guest Post by Elaine Englert

During the week of Thanksgiving, you will have the opportunity to hear from five guest bloggers. They will be sharing about reflections related to the holiday season. Today’s guest post comes from Elaine Englert, my Mom. She and my Dad reside in Endicott, NY. You can find her teaching water aerobics at the YMCA and blogging for them at http://ymcabroome.org/blog/.  She’s the Mother of my brother, sister, and myself along with our spouses, most importantly the Grandma of my niece.

“Your life will never be the same!” Those words still ring as clearly in my ears as when I heard them in 1988. My six-year-old daughter’s oncologist’s eyes filled with compassion, as he described the pineapple-size tumor on her kidney, the treatment plan, and her future.
A few days later, I stood facing the hospital window to shield my daughter from the tears chasing down my cheeks. Way down on the sidewalk below, I saw people bustling about the ordinary events of their ordinary day on a sunny late April day.

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My ordinary days ended on Monday, a week and a half earlier in the pediatrician’s office. It was just a fever in a little girl who only once needed antibiotics. The doctor examined her and slipped out the room. He returned holding a stack of orders for the hospital across the street. When he pressed them in my hand, I saw “STAT” written on top and deep concern etched in his kind face. I held tight to Susan and took the last steps in the safety of the familiar. I tried to swallow dread as hard as a rock as we walked through the hospital doors. After hours of tests, someone told me they were admitting her. My husband rushed back from a trip and arrived soon after. Thursday evening I viewed the scans that gave the cancer a name, Wilms Tumor. The doctor sent Susan home the next morning and instructed us to have her at a hospital an hour away on Sunday afternoon to prepare for surgery on Monday.

Susan endured countless pokes and needle sticks during her 11-day stay. On the 10th day, Susan had her first round of chemotherapy. My confident little girl grew withdrawn and rarely spoke. Nothing in my 30 years prepared me to watch my child suffer so intensely and feel so helpless to help. When we got home, we returned to a daily routine, but 60 weeks of chemo cycles stole the ordinary. I was a wreck.

During this time, the Lord and I had many tear-filled conversations. I entrusted Susan and my fears into His care only to grab them back in the next crisis. Though I directed most of my anger at myself for missing a 4-pound tumor and for my spiritual shortcomings, one night I called God out as my daughter writhed in pain that could not be soothed, “I am her parent; as her parent how can You allow your little girl to suffer?”

The Lord waited for my honesty and brokenness to reveal His Father-heart for me. He called me to journal one gratitude daily, no matter how many difficulties filled those 24 hours. On the days I struggled to find anything, I often found the blessing in the ordinary. I scribbled down a word that my 23-month-old added to his vocabulary. I celebrated all five members of our family sitting around the dinner table. Other days, I journaled about His mercies when the doctor discovered Susan’s cancer. In only 10% of Wilms cases do patients run a fever like the one prompting me to make a doctor’s appointment. Susan’s surgery was delayed a few days because the surgeon was attending a conference on Wilms. We had people praying literally around the world for Susan. Friends, neighbors and church family, stepped in and met needs for food, rides, child-care. Our pastor called a day of fasting and prayer for Susan shortly after that sleepless night. From that day on, things improved for Susan.

The most enduring entries included verses others shared to encourage me or verses the Lord pointed out to me in my daily times with Him. They anchored my soul in the storm and revealed His desire for a relationship with me, his daughter. My life was never the same when I finally found rest in his “chesed,” the Hebrew word, often translated, as his steadfast love.
Psalm 107:28-29, 31 (ESV) best expresses my thanksgiving to Him:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still….
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love….”

On an extraordinary day, this past March, nearly 27 years later, Susan married her beloved, Ben. Tears of joy chased down the cheeks of many…mine mixed with tears of gratitude to my Father.

Photo credit by Alex Jones

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