3 ways to use social media (for good)

When it comes to social media, I think many of us have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. There are so many positive aspects about the connectivity it can generate, the relationships it can develop, maintain or strengthen and the exposure it can bring to many forms of information and inspiration. But there are also well documented aspects of social media that lead some to avoid it. Here are three redemptive uses of social media that I believe could make it one of our greatest assets in making the world a better place!!

1. Advocate & support

Social media provides a powerful platform to raise awareness, profile and funds for deserving people and causes.

Through social media, we are connected with needs and opportunities that might not otherwise come to our attention. From the comfort of our own couches we can donate to worthy causes, support individuals in their world changing efforts, sponsor research initiatives, support small business, petition governments and change agencies, and shine a spotlight on need and injustice. We can also share stories of courage, inspiration and hope.

The simple act of ‘liking’ a post increases its reach, ‘sharing’ or re-posting even moreso and our comments offer encouragement and support to the person or organisation – cheering them on to bigger and better accomplishments on behalf of those who need it most.

So whether it is the opportunity to support a friend’s child in the “Jump Rope for Heart” skipathon, or sign a Collective Shout petition to take steps to rid the world of sexual exploitation, or read a story that awakens our hearts to injustice, or sponsor a young person travelling overseas to understand more of the needs of the world, or donate goods to a prison or homeless ministry, or donate to aid men’s mental health, or like, share or comment on the activity of someone championing another worthy cause … or to utilise the platform to raise funds or awareness for those things God puts on your heart – do it!

A sure fire antidote for the draw of social media to be about self-indulgence, comparison, appearance management or complaining is to consider how we might use the platform to draw attention to what matters and use our voices on behalf of those without one.

2. Honour & encourage others

There are no shortage of places a person can turn to if they’re looking to be torn down. Even without trying we can find ourselves on the end of others’ (or even our own) criticism, judgement and exclusion. Social media offers a place to reverse that experience and to bring encouragement, affirmation and honour into one another’s lives.

Special occasions – birthdays, graduations, achievements, Mother’s/Father’s/Valentine’s Days, anniversaries, new jobs, farewells (etc) – are a great opportunity to publicly honour people of significance in our lives. Those we admire, those we are proud of, those we desire to champion and celebrate. And even on no-special-occasion-at-all days! What a great opportunity social media presents to say a kind word or two – to or about another person. To pause just a little longer to find words to articulate what you appreciate about them or how they are positively influencing your life and the lives of those around them.

I love the chance to share a photo and a ‘shout out’ to someone who is giving their all and living their best life. How grateful are we for people around us who do that in a way we can aspire to and be encouraged by!? Why wouldn’t we take the opportunities to share that sense of gratitude with others and give their spirits a boost in the process?

But even more than that, we can honour and encourage just in the ways we react to other people’s sharing. I often hear people talk about social media being a place they find hard because, for them, it breeds jealousy and discontent. What mental and/or heart shift might we make to see or hear of another’s success or enjoyment and choose to celebrate them rather than give voice to the negative or self-focussed emotions that might otherwise threaten to come to the surface? What we speak out to others we speak into our own psyche also – the choice to affirm or celebrate can do as much for our own wellbeing as it does for the object of our comments.

3. Spread joy!

If you have a bad customer service experience at the shops or on the phone to your insurance company. If you have opinions on the ineptitude of …**insert people of greatest annoyance here** (other road users, politicians, attendants at McDonald’s drive thru windows, people who misuse apostrophes etc). If you have a grievance about, well, anything or anyone – you will no doubt find some cathartic relief in bashing out a well-worded (or otherwise) rant on social media and then find a degree of satisfaction in the responses of others. People are very ready to jump on board with their own stories or deep empathy for your plight.

I’m just not sure it really helps much in the long run. In some cases, it does nothing more than rally people towards judgement and bullying. In most cases, it achieves nothing positive.

Social media platforms are perfectly poised to be a mechanism to bring joy, hope, life-giving encouragement and edification. To bring laughter to someone’s day (I find a story of your own epic failure is a great way to get people laughing!!), to acknowledge difficulty and share burdens, to speak words of peace, promise and potential into another’s circumstances. To give a cyber high-five to people who are succeeding at being an adult (you know, doing all the things!) or a cyber hug to those living through difficult seasons.

It’s a good question to ask of what you post yourself – and also a posture to adopt in your responses to what other’s post – does this spread joy? Does this perpetuate positivity? Does this point people toward things that are beautiful and creative and life-giving and hope inspiring and people honouring and smile inducing and motivating? When you could respond in jealousy, will you choose celebration? When you could dismiss or minimise the needs and hurts of another, might you choose words of empathy and compassion? When you could highlight the negative, would you choose instead to emphasise the positive?

Thoughts for action :-

Do you use Social Media in these positive ways? How might you change your online engagement to utilise these platforms to advocate and support, honour and encourage and spread a little more joy?

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5 ways to build up your kids min team


Kids Ministry is an exciting and exhausting place to serve. Those who do it well will absolutely love it and give their all to it – but that doesn’t mean they are immune to feelings of doubt or fatigue.

Here are 5 very simple yet super effective ways you can make your Kids Min Team better – building them up in their sense of purpose and energy to continue to invest in our kids and community.

1. Thank them

Give them a high five at sign in. Tell them you appreciate their commitment to your children. Help them understand the impact their serving has on you and your family. Remind them of the important part they play in your church community. Drop them a note, give them a FaceBook shout out, or speak it out loud.

 

2. Know their names

Make the effort to learn and remember their names. Get to know them. Find out what year they’re doing at school, what they’re studying at Uni or where they work. Try and discover what they do for fun, what their favourite chocolate is, what music they listen to or what sport they follow. Your effort will communicate such high value to them.

 

3. Bring them coffee

Because Sunday mornings are hard y’all!! Surprise them with coffee or breakfast donuts and fruit. Buy the night team a pizza for supper or bring slurpees on a hot day.

 

4. Give them feedback

When your kids remember something they learned at Kids Min or when they tell a story about something their leader did – pass it on. Help them understand how their influence reaches beyond the scheduled ministry times. Encourage them to know the impact they are having in your kids’ lives.

 

5. Serve with them

Join the team – Kids Min teams ALWAYS need more members – and multiply their ministry effectiveness by adding your own gifts and skills. If you can’t be part of the scheduled ministry times, find ways to serve from home or during the week.

PICK ONE (or more) – and do it NOW!

comparison is not a compliment


“You are so much better than my other hairdresser.” “I like your sermons much more than my previous Pastor’s.” “This chicken tastes better than what I make.”

These comments, and others like it, represent one way we try to compliment others that is sometimes not that complimentary at all. Comparison.

Comparison – by definition – is putting two things side by side and assessing them in relation to one another.

We do it when we’re shopping for apples, cars or schools. We do it when we are determining best value for money on insurance policies and home loans. This one is bigger, faster, fresher, or cheaper. This one has more included or provides greater flexibility. Based on what we value most we make a choice between the two (or several).

There are a number of reasons comparison as a means of encouragement can be deficient.

  1. The thing you’re comparing to might be rubbish and so it may not be complimentary at all. “Your choc chip cookies are so much better than my mum’s (… which are so rock hard I’ve chipped three teeth!)”. In this case, you’re essentially saying “Congratulations, your cookies are edible!” That’s a low bar to jump. Without a quantifiable measurement of the person or skill you’re being compared to, it lacks the substance to bring the encouragement we would hope. 
  2. You communicate that the focus of our striving ought to be on outdoing others rather than doing our own best. “You are such a great runner, you ran faster than Johnny …(who is 84 and has had 2 hip replacements).” Again, hardly a high bar to clear and probably not the goal an athlete has in mind when they hit the track. Our encouragement should never be to be better than anyone other than ourselves. Even comparison to the most elite in any field can become inadequate if our best would call us beyond that or to a different expression. 
  3. We call the recipient of our praise to pride. “Give yourself a pat on the back, you did better than the other guy!” Again, without any reference to how we’ve gone in relation to our own capacity, growth or expectations, we are drawn to consider our own performance in light of another and find significance in that difference. Developing any sense of superiority should never be the goal of encouragement. 

Complimenting by comparison doesn’t edify the person being complimented or the person or thing they’re being compared to. Encouragement that builds up and feedback that empowers should stand alone. 

These cookies are delicious – full stop. You did a great job – that’s all. Your efforts were amazing – the end. 

the power of gossiped encouragement


None of us is immune to the positive power of encouragement. 

I’m not talking about empty praise – I’m talking about true encouragement. Words that give courage through genuine affirmation of repeatable actions and admirable qualities. Or the steadying empowerment of a well-timed and well-meant “you’ve got this!” There’s nothing like encouragement to inspire and energise us; to champion us on to better and greater. 

Encouragement doesn’t count until it’s spoken. 

It might sound obvious but just because you’ve thought encouraging things doesn’t mean you’ve encouraged someone. In fact many live in the discomfort of being unsure about themselves, their performance or their contribution because encouragement remains uncommunicated. You have to say it. Write it. Sing it. Post it. Convey it with a high five or a knee squeeze. Don’t hold it in. 

Okay. Let’s assume you’ve got that part sorted (yeah?) the next step is gossiped encouragement. 

Gossiped encouragement magnifies personal encouragement. 

Let’s say Dave does something particularly great. I tell him. I let him know what was so great and how I or others were impacted by the greatness. He’s chuffed. 

But then I bump into Steve and I say “Steve, you won’t believe how great a job Dave did – let me tell you all about it.” Steve is pleased for Dave. 

Then Steve catches up with Dave and casually mentions that he’s been talking to me and heard great things about the job Dave did. Dave’s sense of chuffed-ness just went through the roof. 

Dave realises I must have really meant what I said. I haven’t just said it to his face, I’ve repeated it to others. I get to esteem Dave in the eyes of his mate Steve. And for me personally, I’ve spread a bit of positivity and communicated something of what I value and appreciate  too. 

So there’s two simple steps for us to follow when the opportunity comes to encourage someone. 

1. Do it!  

Don’t hold it in. Communicate with content and purpose the encouragement-worthy attributes or actions of others. 

2. Tell someone else!

Multiply the power of encouragement by gossiping it to others. Speak to their parents, friends, coworkers, spouse or team-mates. Give others a chance to appreciate their encouragement-worthiness too. 

Go on. Do it now. 

Who should you encourage RIGHT NOW? 

Who else can you tell? 

your teen needs you!

There are times in the parenting (or leading and teaching) journey when this feels far from true. Your teen may not LOOK like they need you, they might not ACT like they need you and they may even SAY they don’t need you! But they do.

The cry of the teenage/emerging-adult heart is for relationships and community where three things are present – Trust, Respect and Belief. Sociologists report this drive as the key factors behind gang or ‘bikie’ culture. Such is the need of the heart that it draws a person to connection and belonging ANYWHERE these things are present. It’s true of adults too – but (hopefully) there is a greater degree of discernment to determine whether the presence of trust, respect and belief outweighs any negatives about the people or culture who are offering them.

Let’s unpack these three factors further.

TRUST

What they want …Teens want to be trustworthy but they also want to believe they are capable of trustworthiness and so will crave actions and communication that demonstrate this trust and confidence.

What they fear… Questioning their decision-making skills, their ability to consider all outcomes and options, or their self management or control, translates as an absence of trust.

What to try…

  • Give ample time and opportunity for your teen to explain what they do know and what they have considered (rather than assuming they haven’t really thought things through).
  • Ask questions or use hypothetical scenarios to extend  their awareness of potential outcomes and concerns and grow their consideration.
  • Express your desire to ‘assume the risk’ for the unknown or potential consequences of a decision rather than burdening them with that when their experience or vision is limited. In other words, sometimes a parent needs to be the one who decides because the decision and its outcomes are too weighty for a young person to have to bear.

BELIEF

What they want… In the face of sometimes crippling self-doubt, insecurity, fear of the future and competition teens will gravitate to people and places where they are encouraged to dream big dreams and imagine an extraordinary future.

What they fear… Youth are constantly wondering if they really have what it takes to succeed in life (aren’t we all!). They don’t have the history or experience of seeing how things will play out and so their capacity to predict the future is limited. They are highly sensitive to any inference from adults in their world that what they hope for or are aiming for in their future is not possible.

What to try…

  • Check any language that overloads current decisions or actions with future impact (“if you don’t do well at school you’re not going to have opportunities in work later”). Of course all choices and actions have consequences but then all consequences have options, grace and capacity for recovery. Finite, exaggerated or fatalistic language will scream dis-belief.
  • Encourage aspects of character, attitude and heart that, if they continued to develop them, will open up a world of opportunities to live a productive and impact-ful future.

RESPECT

What they want… As teens transition into adulthood, they are super sensitive to insinuations of immaturity. While they fight for independence they want adults around them to start seeing them as emerging adults and treating them accordingly.

What they fear… Commonly the language and tone we use when talking to young people is quite different to how adults would talk to peers. We can present as quite condescending and they feel that we are unable to see them as anything other than a child.

What to try… 

  • Ask the question “How would I handle this situation if this were a co-worker or peer rather than a teen?” (For example, if a coworker knocked a drink over at a meal table we’d probably be quite quick to help them feel ok about the mishap rather than chastise them for their behaviour.)
  • What actions or statements can you change or add to your interactions that communicate respect of their property or privacy, of their opinions and perspectives, and of their insecurities and fears?
  • Consider how you could deescalate a situation by prioritising respect – both given and received.

How about you?
How have you seen this need for Trust, Belief and Respect manifest in your teens? What do you recall of your struggle with this in your own journey into adulthood? How might you leverage this knowledge to bring greater connection with your teen?