Personal, Relational, and Fruitful Social Media

Before we dig into this breakout session, I’d like to thank you for taking an interest in social media ministry. It can be so easy to overlook and underestimate the impact your digital footprint makes on the world. So, taking time out of your day to reflect on what you send out into the world is a huge step.

My name is Nico Cuevas. I’m currently serving as the Youth and Young Adult Pastor for First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff. I’m also working for foxradionetwork.com as a Web and Social Media Manager. 

You see, I got my start in the social media world by volunteering at my church. I didn’t go to school for this stuff. I sort of dread that I’m going back to school, to prove that I know what I’m doing in this field.

Our previous Youth Pastor asked for my help with design, video work, and promotion. I grew up knowing this stuff, because I actually loved it. I used to be heavily involved in our local music scene, and when I realized that nobody wanted to listen to my music anymore, I found my new niche. I started filming videos and doing promos for my friends’ bands. It’s weird to say that if it wasn’t for MySpace, I probably wouldn't be where I am today.

I started as a volunteer at our church, but it got to the point where I was doing so much work that they decided to hire me as a youth and media assistant. A few years later, I became the Director of Communications for the church, and served in that capacity until late last year.

I am not some special Social Media guru. I have no magic trick to boost your followers. I can’t tell you exactly how to lead someone to Christ through social media. What I can provide, hopefully, is how we, as Christians, should use social media as an extension of our personal ministry.

Social Media Ministry is “Personal” Ministry

I do a lot of work posting to my church’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I do a lot of similar work for the radio station that I work for. So, as someone who get’s paid to do that, I’m about to say something that I absolutely shouldn't. At the end of the day, those posts, on their own, mean absolutely nothing. Are they beneficial? They can be, but only if YOU, the individual, prove that it matters.

Imagine that we spent some time together, one-on-one. We talked about life, faith, family, what TV shows you’re watching, your favorite superhero, your favorite football team, or anything that you typically find yourself talking to people about when you meet them. Now, imagine that our time together is running out. We had a nice time. There was something special there. We made a connection. We might have just become best friends. We don’t want this to end here.

“Here’s my phone number, and you can follow me on Twitter: @NicoSaysThings.”

“Awesome. Here’s my church’s Facebook page.”

That’s just weird. It’s also weird to just expect people to like your church’s or youth group’s Facebook page. Why would I do that?

“Well, I want you to know Jesus,” you might say.

“Hold on, I just met you, and I’m still not sure if I like you that much. Why are we bringing someone else into this equation?”

People follow you and add you as a friend because they care about or have an interest in YOU. 

I do a lot of reviews for movies and video games, and people that I don’t know will come up to me and suggest movies, shows, or video games to play. Which is fine, but I don’t typically act on those recommendations.

Why?

I’m not at all familiar with this person. I don’t know their tastes. I don’t know how much we line up. For all I know, this person can have the worst taste ever.

The only time that we act on those recommendations, is when we have a true relationship with someone. You know what they love, and why they love it, and it makes sense that they do. Who knows? It might also make sense that you love that too.

Sharing a picture of blue-eyed Jesus, a random Psalm, the date for your next Church potluck, or God forbid, a “one like = amen” post, won’t nearly mean as much without your personal connection with what you are sharing.

Using social media for ministry should be personal. We should look at it as an extension of ourselves, and it should be relational.

 

Relational Media

When you hear the words “relationships” and “internet” together, what comes to mind? Maybe you’re thinking about online dating. Let’s make one thing clear: I’m not hear to tell you to sign up for Christian Mingle.

Most of you have family members who live far away from you, so you use Facebook to keep up with them. Most of my family still live in the Philippines, so Instagram and Facebook have been really great tools to reconnect with them.

Not only are your friends and family on social media, but the friends of your family are on social media, and their friends, and their friends, and so-on. The amount of people that you can potentially reach is astonishing. Just look at the numbers.

Social Media Sites’ Unique Monthly Visitors
Facebook:  1,100,000,000
Twitter:  1,000,000,000
Instagram: 100,000,000

Now, you aren’t going to reach that many people, but understand the potential for ministry with that many people on the platforms that you use every single day.

Before we go into the next session, I would like to issue a word of caution. There are people with bad intentions who use these platforms to prey on the unassuming public. Be very cautious when making connections online. There are safe ways to be a positive influence on our community and culture. Please do not put yourself or your loved one’s in unnecessary danger. Be careful when sharing personal information, like address, phone numbers, and passwords. 

Do you share a Netflix account with someone else? Do you use that password for other accounts? Change it immediately.

Now, let’s take our social media ministry, in which we have had a focus on being personal and relational, and let’s find out how we make that fruitful. 

Let’s take a look at the book of James 1:19-21.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
— James 1:19-21 (ESV)

Here we have James telling fellow believers how they should approach ministry and the code of conduct that they should be following. James was warning those who were eager to teach about the dangers of not pumping the breaks. Now, not everybody on Twitter is looking to go to seminary, become a preacher, or get a degree on education, but everybody on Twitter has SOMETHING to teach you. Whether you like it or not.

James knew that the word of God is powerful, and earthshaking. It’s a fire that can’t be put out. James also knew that you can’t be indifferent to the word of God. It’s polarizing, it’s challenging. Regardless of your belief or lack there of, you will have something to say about what is said in Scripture. 

Often times, the things we have to say aren’t always positive. Something doesn’t go the way we think it should at school or work, and we Tweet about it. Someone does something that rubs us the wrong way; here comes the nasty subtweets. This whole election season: enough said.

The part of this passage that people often forget, is James’ call to be “slow to anger.” Don’t take this as a call to be happy 24/7. Is your displeasure justified? Probably, but losing self-control, and tearing others down so that you may be satisfied is not the way of Jesus.

God didn’t make man righteous by tearing man down. We’re made righteous in the sacrificial love that is Jesus Christ. If God can give up what He is truly deserving of, to show grace and love to others, we can surely do the same with those we disagree with politically or spiritually.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
— 1 Corinthians 13:1 (ESV)

 

While Paul is talking about the spiritual gift of tongues, I think this perfectly illustrates what we sound like when we interact with each other, and do so without love.

Do you have a drum set in your church or youth room? Maybe you have one at home? Have you ever had someone play that drum kit that doesn't quite know how to play the drums? What’s it sound like? It’s awful, and it’s awful right away. It doesn’t take long for that to be tiresome. Either that person stops, or everyone is getting up and leaving the room.

It’s the same when we don’t speak or Tweet out of love. When we do that, we poorly represent what God is about, and turn people away. Not just the people you're directly interacting with, but the people who are watching you.

“Man, that guy keeps on saying that God is love, but he’s also made three people cry today because he said The Walking Dead was overrated.”

But what happens when we start speaking and Tweeting in love? What happens when we put “away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word,” as stated in James 1:21?

All of a sudden, the clanging cymbal is controlled, and our speak and online footprint is singing and dancing along in rhythm with God’s plan for grace and sacrificial love. 

Over the past few years, I’ve met some amazing people from all over the country, who don’t know or love Jesus. I’ve got to tell them why I am a follower of Christ. This didn't happen because I quoted scripture in all of my posts. It happened because I wanted them to know who I was, flaws and all, and I wanted to get to know them and love on them. Instead of sounding the gong for all to hear, I’ve invited those I've connected with to dance with me to the song of God’s grace, mercy, and love.  What a glorious song it is!


Nico Cuevas is currently serving as Youth and Young Adult Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

 

 

The Unwritten Rules of Social Media Ministry

The “unwritten rules of social media ministry” come in no particular order of importance. I’ve attended social media marketing seminars, and participate in a lot of webinars, and one of the most annoying things that consistently comes up, is that presenters seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that those attending come from markets ranging from populations of under 5,000 to over 400,000.

Hopefully, this breakout session can provide information that is applicable in whatever market you find yourself in, regardless of size and population.

The information that we will go through is not your typical “how-to” type of information. Going through that would be a poor use of your time. If you don’t have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, don’t know how to create a Facebook Page, a business Instagram account, there is this wonderful little resource that you may have heard of: Google.

Most of these social media platforms also do an excellent job of walking you through the set-up process. 

If you don’t have a social networking presence, I recommend signing up for a personal Facebook account, setting up a Facebook Page for your church/youth group/ministry, creating an Instagram account that can be linked to your Facebook Page, creating a Twitter account, and if you are feeling super determined, create a Snapchat account for your ministry.

If you are signing up for a Friendster, Myspace, or Vine account, well, you’re signing up for dead websites. Don’t do that.

Earlier, we determined that the information that will be provided won't be arranged in any particular order of importance. There is one particular item that must be said first and must cover every aspect of what we do throughout this session.

 

Jesus is Lord, and content is “king”

In the world of social media, the phrase “content is king” is thrown around and is often accepted as the paramount motto in the industry. Social media and networking professionals, community managers, and YouTubers understand that in the world of social networking, you can not rely on your existing popularity, your budget, or your personality to keep you relevant to the consumer. Releasing quality content at  a consistent rate is the only thing that will keep you afloat in the social media/networking world.

Looking at social networking in this way can be a little difficult when applying it to the context of ministry, but to have a successful social media ministry, you must accept this new mindset, but also mold it and adapt it to your ministry.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24 (ESV)

While we need to focus on the content that we are creating, we also must not compromise what we believe for likes, comments, or shares.

You may find or create a great piece of content, that will attract people to your church and youth group by the thousands, but if it doesn’t have an end to give God glory, then you must reassess everything that you are doing in your social media ministry.

 

Viral Video is Dead

I know what you’re thinking: “I just watched 5 viral videos today.” Most of you have seen or heard the Pen- Pineapple-Apple-Pen video at this point. So how can Viral Video be dead?

There is a great YouTube channel called Corridor Digital that has created some awesome videos. If you’re not subscribed to them on YouTube, and need videos to show before, during, or after your Youth Group, you need to do so immediately. (Disclaimer: some of their videos has content not suitable or appropriate).

Recently the directors at Corridor Digital, Sam and Niko, created a second YouTube Channel that shows their behind the scenes footage, and the process of how they create their videos.

In a recent video titled ”Viral Videos are Dead,” Sam explains why they are changing the format of Corridor Digital from short 2-minute videos, to longer experiences.

The way that people are taking in video content is becoming closer to how we take in television. 

Have you heard of Rhett and Link? They got their start doing short videos that went viral, but now they have all but abandoned their YouTube Channel, and will post videos very rarely to that channel. Their daily long-form podcast called Good Mythical Morning, that was originally their side project, is now becoming their main form of income and views.

For businesses, views, shares, reach and interaction translates to income and ad revenue. 
For ministry, views, shares, reach ad interaction translates to potential opportunities  of ministry and relationship building.

So why is this happening and how does this affect your ministry?

Let’s say you were to stand on the corner of the busiest intersection in your town. While you were standing there, you had the most adorable dog come up to you, and pee on your shoes.

People driving by think it’s funny, they tell their friends, their friends tell their friends, and so on and so forth.

In this situation, you are getting attention, but do you know who gets the reward? The person sharing this story with their friend. 

When we succeed and get that one great piece of content that everyone enjoys and connects with, they connect with the content, not the creator of the content. 

How do we change this?

 

Be Consistent

How do you get attention and the reward for having a cute dog pee on your leg? You don’t just do it once. You do it once a month, once a week, once a day. 

Every Thursday and Friday you go out and stand on that same corner, and turn your white shoes, to a nice yellow green.

The reason that Good Mythical Morning is becoming successful, is because Rhett and Link are consistent with their content. They have carved out their corner of their audience’s thoughts. 

Your presence on social media has to be the same. You don't have to post every day. Actually, I don’t recommend posting much more than 3 times a week. 

 

What Sites Should I Use?

What do you think is the most popular or most used social networking sites/apps?

Where do you think Twitter falls?

Number one? Number two? Number three?

Twitter actually fails to make it into the Top 5 used sites/apps. Twitter is currently sitting in 9th place, at 313 Million users, with Skype and Baidu Tieba (China’s largest communication platform) slowly catching up with Twitter at 300 Million active users each.

So what does this mean for Facebook?

Facebook sits in first place at a “paltry” 1.712 Billion active users.

Instagram is in eighth place, only one place place above Twitter, but with nearly 200 Million more active users, at 500 Million. 

If you’re a fan of sports gambling, you may want to look at the odds of success. If you bet on Twitter over Facebook your probability of winning is around 15.4568%. Your probability of losing is 84.5432%.

But my youth use Twitter, and younger people use Twitter. Isn’t that who I should focus on?

Absolutely, but understand that the majority of Twitter users, also have an active Facebook account. You also have to ask yourself, why are your youth and younger people in-general attracted to Twitter over Facebook.

They’re trying to get away from mom and dad! Older generations are having a harder time understanding why people Tweet, or how to use twitter. You may remember @OldManSearch, which is a Twitter account that started around 2011. This account was created for an 81 year old man who thought Tweeting was how you searched for answers on the internet.

On June 15 2015, he tweeted “hi how many ants are there?”
Shortly he followed that up with a more formal question, “how many ants are there?”

When it comes to youth ministry, you are not only trying to make a connection with the youth, but you are also trying to make a connection with the parents. The same applies for using social media in your ministry.

When you post from your church’s page on Facebook, you have a chance to not just reach your youth, their friends, but also their parents. Take this opportunity to attract youth and have the bonus of having transparent communication with parents.

Facebook should be your main priority when it comes to social media platforms, but you should use any site or app you have available or popular in your market. The following information has a focus on Facebook, but can be adjusted and applied to Twitter.

 

Page Likes Don’t Matter

Page likes are a great indication of how many people have had some sort of interest in your church or ministry. This interest may be passive or active. A page can have 5,000 likes, but has no interactions within their posts. Unfortunately, because of Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm; a person liking your page, doesn’t guarantee that they will see your post. This is in large part due to Facebook’s attempt to have businesses pay for sponsored boosts. 

Sponsored boosts are an option for your church posts, but their are ways to use social media with a more intentional outreach, that should also encourage more interaction within, around, or about your posts.

 

Share>Comments>Likes

This is where your congregation becomes an active part of your social media ministry. During a worship service, express how important it is that your congregation takes the steps to share your posts. Some of your youth or even older members may be still learning how to speak about their faith and their church with others. Giving the opportunity to share your posts can be a big step for their faith development.

The more shares you have, the greater your potential reach becomes.

In May, I wrote an article about the “Ten Things All Poplar Bluffians Know.” The post had 469 shares. With a population of little over 17,000, how many people do you think were reached on Facebook with this one post? That one post reached 33,501 people in Poplar Bluff and the surrounding areas.

My review for Batman v Superman reached 29,939 people.
My biggest reach on one singular post was for my review of the movie 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. That post reached 90,401 people.
Fox Radio Network is based in a town with a population under 20,000, and only has 1,330 Facebook page likes. Yet over the past year, we have reached well over 100,00 people.

Imagine your ministry reaching that many people in one year. You might be thinking, "but these posts aren’t dealing with our ministry. How does my post about the youth Christmas party reach 29,000 people." Honestly, it doesn't.

"So what do I post to get a high reach?"

 

Take What Works, Apply it to Your Region

Have you heard of Buzzfeed? Have you heard of The Onion? Have you heard of Clickhole? These three websites have mastered shareable content. It is important to study this content, and understand how it works for you. My “Ten Things all Poplar Bluffians Know” was my attempt to make a Buzzfeed-esque post. People love Top Ten Lists, uplifting videos and stories, cute things, fluffy things, and people love the controversial. 

The Onion is a satirical website that a lot of people accidentally take seriously. Click Hole is essentially to Buzzfeed as The Onion is to news.

Earlier this year I decided to make an attempt to use my skills of creative writing and comedy, and my knowledge of what people share and click on, and I created The Faux Fox. The Faux Fox is a section of foxradionetwork.com that has satirical articles focused on the Poplar Bluff area.

The first Faux Fox article was titled “Is the Poplar Bluff Panda Express Already Haunted?”

Construction on Panda Express had just begun in a spot where teenagers park their cars to do, I don't know, teenage things. The joke was so absurd, but also very familiar to everyone in the area. It brought back memories, it got people excited for what was to come, and it was something made just for them.

That post ended up getting 118 shares with a reach of 14,497. That was the very first post on that Facebook Page, with only one page like: me.

Are you a basketball fan?

If so you may have heard that Kevin Durant had quite the dramatically drawn-out free agency this summer. As soon as it was announced that he was close to making his decision of where he was going to play next, I quickly threw together an article with the headline “THIS JUST IN: Kevin Durant Could Sign with Poplar Bluff Mules.” Everyone knows that Kevin Durant isn't going to play for Poplar Bluff High School, but it was a fun laugh that got 153 shares.

Satire may not be the way to go for your church’s posts. This is just illustrating how to take an existing formula that works, giving it some local flair, and using it to reach those in your community.

 

What do all of these posts have in common?

 

Share Original Content

When you look at all of these posts, they’re all content that I had created. We didn’t find a cool article that could possibly interest our audience, and just hit share. Often times, I will see church pages share an article from a website that they have no affiliation with. It may be good information, but doing that shows no intention or effort to connect with your community or congregation. 

When you create your own content, you are doing it with your youth and your community in mind. Your original content can be pictures, videos, and blogs/articles.

 

Point to Your Website

One of the first big steps to using original content effectively, is creating or adjusting your website to have space for blogging. The majority of your posts on Facebook should point directly to your website. This is common practice for websites like Buzzfeed or any news site. Why?

Remember when we said you can’t reach 29,000 people with your post about your Youth Christmas Party? You can still get that information to that amount of people, by attaching that information to other posts/blogs/articles. 

The reason most posts you see are clickable links to articles outside of Facebook, is because that leads to ad revenue for those websites. When you visit an article, you are bombarded by advertisements. If you were interested enough to click on a link to a specific article, those running the ads on the website have an idea of what else interests you and when else they can try to sell you.

 

Here is where you take what marketers and advertisers have learned, and use it for the benefit of your ministry and kingdom of God.

 

Make your blog, article, or pictures direct people to your website or Facebook page, where you post information about what you have available for youth, children, and adults.

Imagine approaching someone that you have never met and trying to invite them to church for worship, youth, or some sort of event. Hopefully, you’re not walking up to that person, grabbing them by the shirt, and just scream “JESUS!!!!!” That’s probably not the best tactic. You approach the person and introduce yourself. Find out that person’s interests. If you have common interests you discuss those. Then you have your opportunity to invite them to whatever service you would like.

Your posts should resemble that. Some of your posts are used as introductions, to show that you're a mostly normal human being. Other posts are your opportunity to make the intentional invite. 

 

Know When to Post

When you post something can be extremely crucial to the successfulness of your post. If you’re wanting to reach your youth, you might have a hard time doing so with a post at 10 a.m. on a school day. In that situation wait until after school ends to post. Adults are most active on social media between 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. If you have a post that takes longer to consume, wait until most people are off work, between 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. 

It’s hard to get any reach early on in the week, but Sunday and Monday is a great time to follow up with what happened in worship on Sunday morning. You could even simply post one picture from the service with a simple, “thank you for joining us for worship” as your caption.

Use the scheduling tools on Facebook to your advantage. You can schedule Tweets with apps like Tweetdeck.

 

Set Appropriate Expectations

You will be posting these blogs, videos, and pictures in an attempt to reach as many people as you can. Not all of them are going to get you a reach of 50,000 people. Not all of them are going to reach more than 1,000 people. Don’t panic. Do you remember the Ronco Rotisserie infomercials? What was the catch phrase? “Set it and? FORGET IT!!!” 

Don’t publish your post, and sit there and wait for the likes, shares, comments, or reach go up. You will drive yourself crazy! Make your post on your church’s page, share that post on your personal page (to help get it on the newsfeed of your friends and family), and walk away for awhile. Be sure to come back to it, and reply to comments or like comments when you can, but staring and obsessing over the numbers won’t make them go up.

 

Express Yourself

You may be the type who doesn’t want to have a personal Facebook or Twitter, but if you decide to make an effort to extend your ministry into social media, you have to extend yourself into social media as well. Use your personal account to share the posts from your church’s page or Twitter account. You’ll also be able to make these shared posts more personal and explain why it is important to you. This is where you use the tool of personal testimony to make an effect on your network. There are a lot of people you know who might not care about your church yet, but they do care about you. Use that your your advantage.

 

Keep Your Direct Messages

If you are in ministry, especially youth and children’s ministry, using the direct message features in most social media apps are a great way to connect with your students. You must be cautious doing so, though.  It does give you an opportunity to have unmonitored conversations, but the saved messages help keep you and the rest of your leadership team accountable. If you interact with a student in an inappropriate manner, that student has the ability to show that to people who will take the proper actions necessary. If someone accuses you of being inappropriate but you feel that isn’t the case, you can use the messages to prove otherwise.

 

Commit to Consistency and Quality

Some churches will be able to hire an individual or team to handle the social media needs for their church, others will have to get volunteers to mange their social network, and even more so will have to rely on youth leaders or paid staff to take on the responsibilities. Whichever boat you and your church fit in, remember to be consistent and never miss a week of posts. To help keep your quality up, approach someone you trust to have good taste in design or advertising, and ask for their opinion. This can be done by a collection of people, but their should always be one final voice to help keep the messaging clear and concise. The last thing you need is someone else posting the same thing to the same page, but with a different message or image.

When I first came on board to Fox Radio Network, one of our sales people had been managing our Facebook page. When holidays came around, I would have planned out posts and designs specific to the holiday. I would go to post that, and then I would look at our Facebook page, and there was already a post that didn’t go with any of our branding or messaging. 

Eventually we had to have the hard discussion of not giving her the ability to post to our page from that point on. Everything that anyone wants online for the radio station goes through me. Everything that anyone wants online for the church goes through me. I’m not better or smarter at this stuff. I just care a lot, have the experience to learn these principles that we just went through, and know how to put them into practice. 

There is still so much to say and learn about social media ministry, but hopefully with these simple tips, principles and “Unwritten Rules,” you will have a great foundation to a more effective web outreach.


Nico Cuevas is the Youth and Young Adult Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff, as well as the Web and Social Media Manager at foxradionetwork.com.

You can reach him here
Twitter: @NicoSayThings
Facebook: nico.cuevas
Email: nico@fumcpb.org

 

 

 

Join the FUMC Fourth of July Weekend Band

Join our Chancel Choir Band! The congregation of the 11:00 a.m. worship service will be accompanied by our glorious organ and band instruments on  the Fourth of July Weekend. If you’re interested in joining the band, please contact the church office (573 785-1439).

Rehearsal will be on Sunday, June 26, 2016 at 2 p.m. in the Sanctuary

The band will join the 11:00 a.m. worship service on Sunday, July 3, 2016.

Denying Jesus | A Note from Pastor David Stewart

“I will always….” “I would never…..”  Have you ever heard yourself say these things?  So many of us say something like that when we first have a passionate experience of God’s love in our lives and we are so on fire for Jesus that we know we will always follow him and nothing is going to keep us from following him.   We sound like Peter in Mark 14:26-31.  We are so sure that we will always follow Jesus. 

I challenged our congregation to take the 80 days between the start of the New Year and Easter to spend the first 15 minutes of the day with Jesus.  You can see the post about the first 15 and some of the great ideas that people came up with to help everyone get started.  So many people were fired up and you were sharing how important starting your day with Jesus was for you.  Some were reporting real life change because of the change in their attitude when they started your day with Jesus.  Then life happened.  Over time some of you started sharing with me how you just kind of fell away.  Some of you missed it, but something was getting in your way.

Trust me, I understand.  As I sit in my office I stare at all of my journals from different experiences where I committed for short times to spend time with Jesus.  I loved those times.  There was ne for the academy for Spiritual Formation, which was a time where I spent an hour each day in prayer and journaling.  I grew so much closer to Jesus during that experience.  Then life happened and I fell away.  The good news is that I did have those experiences and I am deeper in my spiritual life because of them.  It’s easier to get restarted and I long for those times.  The hard part is getting over the guilt.

That’s the really good news of Easter.  Jesus did rise from the dead.  He took all of our guilt away.  He did go and find Peter to have breakfast and forgive him.  John 21:15-19.  Jesus even reminds him that Peter the one who fell away and denied him, is the one who is to feed his sheep.  The good news is that every day can be an Easter for us if we start again and begin feeding his sheep.  Each of us has a calling and gift from God to be used to touch someone.  Even if you have had life happen and fall away for a season, Jesus understands.  However, he is also coming to you saying, “It’s time to start again, feed my sheep.” 

I think I have a journal to start online and a new Bible app to try again.   Will you join me?  I make no promises how long I’ll make it until life happens.  It’s better than to say, “I will never fall away from following Jesus daily.”  However, I also know that while I’m doing it, nothing is better than the sweet spot of following Jesus and hearing his voice guiding my way. Will you join me this Easter in feeding his sheep?

Pastor David Stewart


David Stewart is the Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff, MO.

Overcoming Barriers in the Early Church | Bible Conference Pre-Registration

Help us know how many people to expect at our Bible Conference, led by Dr. Jim Fleming, by pre-registering below!

Friday Evening
5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Class and Language Barriers

Saturday
9:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m. Prejudice Barrier
10:15 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. Reinterpreting Scripture
11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. Lunch provided and conversation
12:45 p.m. - 2 p.m. The Secular World/ Philosophy

Sunday
9:00 a.m.-10:45 a.m. Bad Government/Barbarian
11:00 a.m. Worship

Name *
Name
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Please name days and/or sessions that you plan to attend.

"Elijah" is Coming

The chancel choir is beginning rehearsals for Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.” The concert will be presented on May 6. This masterpiece is the story of faithful prophet, Elijah, from the Old Testament. Although challenging, “Elijah” contains some of the most beautiful choral music ever written. All are welcome to join the chancel choir as we learn this piece together.

Rehearsals are every Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. – 7:45 p.m., in the choir room.

Strike Up The Band!

Dust off your band instruments, tune your horns! Join the first ever Palm Sunday Band! The congregation of the 11:00 a.m. worship service will sing joyous hymns accompanied by our glorious organ and band instruments. If you’re interested in joining the Palm Sunday Band, please contact the church office (573 785-1439)  and we will get back to you about rehearsals. So join the fun!

Palm Sunday is March 20, 2016.

15 Tips to Spending Your First 15 Minutes with Jesus Every Day

It's quite easy to get caught up with the hustle and bustle of life. One moment you a have enough time to hit the snooze button a few times before work/class. Then the next thing you know, it's 11:11 p.m. and you are wishing you had more time in the day to rest or relax. 

In this day and age, it can be hard for us to "be still and know," but as we get closer to Easter, we hope that you can join our congregation-wide challenge to spend the first 15 minutes of each day and dedicate them to Jesus.

Here are a few tips that may help you!

1. Give Your Alarm a Name

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Many of us use our smartphones as our alarm clocks. A simple reminder to spend time with Jesus is to name your alarm. So at whatever time you need to wake up, name that alarm with whatever it takes for you to be reminded of God's grace and love.

If you don't have a smartphone: place a sticky note on that pesky snooze button on your alarm clock!

2. Bedside Bible

For many of us, the closest thing in reach to our bed is our phone. Place your phone slightly out of reach, and place a bible in the place you would normally set your phone. Instead of reaching over to your phone first thing in the morning, reach over to God's word.

3. Keep a Prayer Journal

Place a journal at your bedside. Each morning write the things that you are thankful for and the things that you are concerned about. At night or the next morning, read over the previous days concerns and see how they have evolved. Have they lessened, have they gone away, have they worsened; whichever way, bring that to God and thank Him for carrying you through the day.

4. Message in the Mirror

If you have been listening to your dentist, chances are you are spending at least a minute in front of your mirror every morning. You may be brushing your teeth, applying your makeup, or shaving. Either way, we suggest placing a note on the mirror simply saying "Genesis 1:27" to remind you that you, and everyone that you come in contact with, was made in the image of God. Contemplate on the significance of that. If you do that, chances are it won't be long before you start praying praise, and who knows maybe even forgiveness.

5. Praying in the Shower

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We know that even Adele is jealous of your shower-singing prowess, but why not take this time to pray as well? While you may be cleaning off the dirt and grime from the previous day, remember that our sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus.

6. He Brews

Some of us are absolutely reliant on the dark caffeinated fuel. It's a shame that at times we feel like it's a bigger necessity to our day, than time with Jesus. Use your time brewing, buying, or drinking your coffee to dig into God's word. What book would we suggest for this? Hebrews, of course!

7. Family Prayer

If you share a roof with family or roommates, take time out of the morning to pray together. It can be an extremely powerful thing to pray for each other's day, and thank God for each other. This is also great practice for those who are uncomfortable with praying in public!

8. A Prayer Card

If you're buying breakfast or just a cup of coffee, you are handling some sort of monetary item. Place a small card or note within your wallet, either with your cash, or in front of your debit/credit  card as a reminder to yourself. This can also work as a great stewardship practice.

9. Dedicated Days

It can be daunting task to pray for everyone in your life. It can also feel bad when you forget to pray for someone. To help, dedicate individual days of the week to praying for particular individuals or groups of people. For example: On Mondays, pray for your coworkers and fellow students. On Tuesdays, pray for your family. On Friday, pray for your friends. On Sunday, pray for your church family, pastor, and all those serving the church that morning.

10. Create a Prayer Playlist

There's a reason that we sing praises together in worship. There's no reason that we shouldn't be able to do that at home as well. Take time to create a Worship Prayer Playlist in music apps like Apple Music or Spotify. Take 3-5 songs that you can listen to, sing to, worship to, and pray to. The lyrics or composition can help guide your prayer.

11. Kneel at the Bed

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This is how many of us were taught to pray at night, before bed time. It also works now as a tangible expression of humbling ourselves in God's presence. We believe that you can pray in many ways, but some classics stay relevant for a reason. Is there a more beautiful representation of the marriage between spiritual and physical in your daily prayer life?

12. Run with God

Some of us like to get our exercise done in the morning. Take this time to pray and think. Running is a great way to clear your thoughts. Praying while running, though, brings your thoughts and concerns to the foot of the Lord. Don't run from your problems; run towards Christ.

13. Keep a Prayer Request List

Giving yourself the responsibility to pray for the needs of others can help keep you in-line with the effort to pray daily. Ask your friends and family what they need prayer for, or ask prayer groups in your church who to pray for. There is always someone who needs prayer (Actually, we all need prayer). Make this list, and place it by your bedside, and pray through this list in the morning.

14. Pray for the Church

One thing we often forget to pray for, is the church. Not just the church, in general, but the place and community that we call our "home church." Praying for our pastors, congregation, ministries, and visitors is vital to the health of the church. Pray that the leaders of the church do what is best for the kingdom of God. Pray that the congregation be bold and reach out to others to invite them to church. Pray for the ministries to be effective and in-line with what Jesus has called His bride to do. Pray for the visitors who have come and who have yet to come, that they may find comfort amongst the church body, and more importantly find comfort in the Lord.

15. Pray Before Bed

Don't just start your day with prayer, but also end it with prayer. Allow time to bookend your day with prayer, as well as finding time through the day to spend with God. Sleep and rest is a wonderful thing, but what is more wonderful, is the fact that we get to rest in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

We hope these tips will help you on your journey to a more active prayer life. Please feel free to comment below with more tips, or updates with how your prayer life is changing.


There's a Song in the Air | Christmas Events

The 11:00 a.m. service is in store for an amazing month of special music in December! Invite your friends and family to celebrate the Christmas season with outstanding beautiful and unique music along with all the special traditions for our classic worship service.

We will usher in December (December 5) with a children’s musical entitled The Incredible Adam Angel. Before the musical begins, the Cherub Choir will begin the service with their own special style of music. You never know what will happen when 3,4, and 5 year olds sing in front of a crowd! The children’s musical is about a brilliant young scientist (played by Law Summers) who’s lost the joy of Christmas. With the help of his talking dog (played by Sophie Starnes) and a cheerful children’s choir, our young scientist finds the true meaning of Christmas.

The following weekend is the annual adult choir Christmas extravaganza! Coming Home for Christmas is set for Saturday, December 12, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 13, at 2 p.m. This popular community event always draws hundreds of people every year. So come early to get a good seat and stay late to enjoy cookies in our Welcome Center! The 11:00 a.m. worship service will include music from this extremely popular program.

The third Sunday in December (December 20) will feature the Chancel Ringers (our bell choir), a Brass Quintet, tympani, and our majestic organ. We’ll raise the roof as we sing Christmas carols with these outstanding musicians! You won’t want to miss Ring n Sing Christmas! This is a traditional service with a whole lot of flare!

Whew! There’s definitely A SONG IN THE AIR!!! So check it out in the 11:00 a.m. service. 

God and Gravity

As a youth pastor, one of the most fun and scariest work project we ever accomplished with the youth group was cleaning out a house where two sisters in their 80’s had passed away.  The family needed help because the ladies were hoarders.  The youth found all kinds of cool old stuff to save and clean up.  However, the smell and filth was overwhelming.  The family believed that the sisters died buried in their stuff, unable to get food, water or help.  The very things they thought would bring them life, buried them.

According to School House Rock, "Victim of Gravity", gravity is that force none of us can escape, and it causes everything from objects to fall if we drop them, to the movement of the planets around the sun. Gravity is something that creates order out of chaos throughout the universe. Literally.

According to Sir Issac Newton, the law of gravity is that “Every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the particles and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”  In other words, the bigger the mass of an object, the more the gravitational pull of that object.

This means that although we depend on gravity for life as we know it, if we take the principle of gravity for granted it can destroy us. Think about hoarders, people whose lives are dramatically affected by their need to collect and keep more and more stuff.  Something that is good, when taken to extreems can become something so large that the gravitation pull can crush us.

I know most of us are not hoarders where our stuff crushes us, but many of us experience the same gravitational pull in other areas of our lives.  Making commitments to help other people is a great thing.  When we start promising to help everyone with everything, all of a sudden the mass of all of those commitments begins to have a gravitational pull that can crush us.

The principle of gravity is at work in the story of the sisters: the more stuff they had, the more they wanted. We may think we would never get to that point, but we struggle with this more than we realize. The greater the amount we have of something, the stronger the gravitational pull, and so the more we want and the greater the risk of collapse. Think about our relationship to comfort, to commitments, to eating, to self-confidence, etc. Some is good, but the more we have, the more we want, and what we thought would give us life, ultimately can crush us.

The relationship we have with our stuff is such a serious issue that Jesus spent more time talking about it than about any other subject.

Read Matthew 16:26. “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?”

Jesus is speaking to the disciples, and is talking about what it means to actually follow him. He reminds the disciples that to be a disciple means to see things from a divine perspective, to realize that what they have or gain on earth is temporary, so they need to be careful about how much worth and value they put on it. This is good for us to hear, as well. So many of us are focused on getting more and more, and don’t realize that doing so might cost us our lives.

Think of a star. A star is a collection of gas that is held together by gravity. If the gravity continues to build as the star grows, eventually the star will explode and then contract, forming a black hole - the gravitational pull of which is so strong that not even light can escape.

Just like a star, as disciples of Jesus, we must recognize our need for balance in order to resist the pull of more and more stuff in our lives. Scientists refer to it as hydrostatic balance. It’s what allows stars to exist in a stable way: the gravitational pull of the star is trying to collapse the star, but the nuclear reactions the star push light, heat, and radiance out from the star at the same time, creating balance.

God helps us to find that Equilibrium.  The more we have, the more we need the light of Jesus in us.  The more we need to give off light and heat as we allow God’s love to transform our relationships.  It is so important to remember that the more I have been blessed with, the more I need to grow my heart and allow God to transform my relationships.  It’s easier to see the outward additions of drugs, sex and crime that create black holes that can take away our light, but most of us don’t see the gravity of our stuff creating the pressure of a black hole that can crush our soul. 

Science can help us understand how God created things.  The basic pull of Gravity, the need for Equilibrium and the darkness of the black hole, all point to the need for us to give off the light and radiance of Christ in our lives.

"How Many Loaves Do You Have?"

When we talk about an exciting vision or ministry that will change lives or make a difference in our community someone always begins the conversation with, “We could do that if we had...”, and they begin to list all of the resources we don’t have.”  I remember a friend of mine as we were growing up who always had crushes on the most popular girls in school but would never ask one out because he felt he didn’t have the goods to be in their league.  I talk with people all the time who feel called to a ministry, but are unwilling to step up into leadership because they don’t feel prepared or gifted enough.  We tend to focused on the issue of feelings of being  inadequate or underprepared to do something we feel called to do.  We start with what we don’t have.  I would do that if...?  Have you ever felt that way?

Read Matthew 15:32-38.  In this passage, Jesus has been teaching for several days and a massive crowd has gathered around him.  Jesus doesn't want the crowd to leave hungry. The disciples seem to scoff at the idea of feeding the crowd -- they let their resources dictate their vision and immediately focus on their inadequacy.  Jesus then poses a rhetorical question: "How many loaves have you?"  He then proceeds to take their small number of loaves and feed thousands. 

Observe that by posing this rhetorical question, Jesus wants his disciples to focus on their blessings in that moment.  He wants them to take an intentional inventory of what they do have and not focus on their inadequacy.  Note that we are often like the disciples in this passage -- when we set out to accomplish something, we often first focus on the resources we don't yet have.  Like he did with the disciples, Jesus is asking us, "How many loaves have you?"  Jesus wants us to do an intentional inventory of all that God has given us and to have confidence in these blessings. 

Scripture is clear that God has given each of us the gifts that He intends for each of us to have (check out, 1 Corinthians 12:18and Romans 12:6-8).  Whatever traits, skills, talents, and interests you have, God has made that combination unique and special to you -- and God wants to use all of these gifts for good.  Sometimes, however, we don't use the gifts we have been given.  Perhaps we don't have confidence in our gifts because we haven't taken the time to take an inventory of our blessings.  Or perhaps we have decided some of the gifts God has given us are irrelevant and we have taken them out of play in our lives.

Part of knowing God is knowing the gifts God has given us. I hope you will join me in setting aside some time to prayerfully and intentionally take an inventory of the gifts God has given you.  As we express thanks to God for the gifts, I hope we will also turn them over to God for Him to use.  With God all things are possible.  May we stand in awe of God's life-giving and life-changing power as we recognize our unique gifts and trust God with their potential.  Is there a ministry you are called to lead?  Is there something God is calling us to do?


David Stewart is the Lead Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.