Church

The Video Pivot

I suspect the quick pivot to online video many churches have made the past two months will affect their posture for a long time to come. Best case, if in-person church gatherings resume per usual in the next couple of months, those leaders who have spent these weeks learning and improving an unfamiliar medium for gathering and sharing will have a tool in their pocket they didn’t have before (as well as some stories to tell). Worst case, we keep learning and getting better at it–because what other choice is there?

It feels like one element that we’ll have to really focus on in that worst case is the character of video sermons and youth groups. I say “character” and not “quality,” because it’s probably not a matter of technical upgrades, cameras and microphones. Rather, it’s a matter of adapting expressions of church life to the biases of the required medium. Youth group lessons designed to be shared in-person that are recorded and shared online are a different product altogether from youth group lessons that are designed to be consumed as video.

Video is intimate. You face is close to the camera and you look right through the screen. Facial expressions mean a lot. Reading something off camera from three or four feet away, looking down at a book or a script, works to convey that this is a recorded version of something we would normally be doing in-person, but the question is how long we can keep doing that. When will another pivot be required, the one to designing classes, worship services, and small groups first and foremost as videos?

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Church

Back to Twitter

I started using Twitter again last week because I was afraid to miss developments and insights. I re-created my account and followed some of the journalists I like to read and listen to: John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon, Michael Barbaro, Caitlin Dickerson. This, I told myself, is the right way to use Twitter: to eavesdrop on the conversations being had among reporters about important matters of the day.

Nope.

I forgot that Twitter is not a platform for conversation. 90% of the tweets in my feed are links to articles in publications I already read, often with a sentence of commentary attached. The other 10% is a mishmash of observations about anything and everything. It’s not bad. It’s just not informative. It’s entertainment .

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Church

Can We Build It? (Yes We Can)

You used to lead a youth group. You met once a week in a church room to hang out, play games, and grow in faith through study and dialogue. You knew the people, you knew the routine. It mostly worked.

Then the Coronavirus happened and your youth group moved to Zoom, like quick. It mostly worked, too: you can play games on Zoom, and the benefit of seeing those familiar faces made up for garbled audio and video that constantly freezes. The “Breakouts” feature even let you have small group discussion.

Now you get to build something new. Youth ministry for this next season can be built for the moment, more than adapting to it. We know the deal now: it will be weeks, at least, before conditions permit in-person gathering. So why not design our time for that constraint? Why not build a youth ministry that could only work online?

Weekly youth group? Online. Mission trip? Online. Family fellowship? Online.

The limits we know. But do we also know the advantages? The immediacy of video, the order provided for conversation, and, most critically, the motivation of the participants? Those are tools for powerful ministry.

Let’s build it.

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Church

8 Youth Workers in 8 Minutes (Almost)

Yesterday a friend and I convened some colleagues on Zoom for a simple exercise: share one thing we’re doing in ministry right now that feels helpful. We recorded it and shared it. It was shockingly easy.

I ripped this idea off from these folks who did a “9 Virtual Meeting Tips in Less Than 9 Minutes” video that I loved.

Here’s some of what participants said they were finding helpful:

  • Remembering that whatever they’re doing doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Making space for young people and their families to talk about grief.
  • Focusing on consistency .
  • Honoring graduating seniors.

We may do this again. As with a lot of meaningful work, doing it the first time is the highest hurdle. Thanks Tully, Jimmy, Matt, Sarah, Tyler, Shelley, and Chip!

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Church

Stop Using “Discuss” As A Verb in Curriculum

“Discuss.”

“Remind.”

“Explore.”

These are less helpful verbs in a curriculum than:

“Say:”

“Ask.”

“Instruct.”

This is what I’m trying to get better about in writing curriculum, now only for Zoom: employing  verbs that are concrete and specific, so that the person leading (including me, in the future) doesn’t have more work to do.

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Church

Complaint

“And another thing . .  .”

“Not even to mention . . . ”

“And on top of that . . . ”

If there were an award for best complaint, I’d win it some days. If the complaint Oscars had subcategories recognizing achievements in presentation and drama I would contend. Especially these days.

The Academy that would award such recognition would be miserable company, though, wouldn’t it? Skill in nurturing grievance does not endear you to anyone, and that’s more than a “you” problem, because we need you constructive.

I’ll drop out of the complaint Oscars if you will.

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Church

Advice

Advice is valuable, especially when solicited from people whose expertise, motives, and knowledge of us we trust. Yet maybe we don’t need as much of it as we think we do. We’ve been at this long enough by now to have learned a thing or two and honed more decision making skills than we’re maybe conscious of, and yet some of our first reaction when faced with a big decision is still to reach out for counsel. Maybe that’s a healthy humility at work. It could also be a lack of confidence. It could be fear.

Two considerations, then, when our reflex is to go get advice: first, it’s a request on someone’s time and emotional energy; are we clear enough about the range of options and possibilities, as well as our values, to ask for useful advice? Could the matter we’re asking advice about today change by tomorrow?

Second, how might we advise someone else facing the same decision? In other words, have we sought advice from our own store of experience and insight first? There’s more there than we might think.

 

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Church

A New Tool

Mark Collard at Playmeo shared a nifty tool this week that I’ve already used twice. It’s a shared online whiteboard called Whiteboardfox. Here’s how it works: go to the site, click the big orange “Start Drawing” button, choose if you want any participant with the link to be able to draw on the board or just you, and then–voila!–you have a whiteboard you can draw or type on. If you’ve given anyone with the link access to it, you have an instant group composition surface.

I used it with jr. high youth this week to replace an activity requiring each student to draw independently, and I used it with sr. high as a kind of unofficial start to our Zoom youth group; as people arrived I sent them to the link and asked them to add something to the whiteboard that represented their past week.

You could even use it on a blog. Click this link to be taken to a whiteboard for yorocko readers, then contribute something constructive for the community!

 

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Church

Proposal

This feels like a moment to get good at proposals. Nobody knows what we’re doing, but everybody has the same opportunity to propose things to do. An online youth service learning cohort. Livestreamed worship. Sabbath. All of these options had to be proposed by someone who was willing to be told “no” or willing to try a thing that could flop. If it did flop, the person who proposed the idea would be known.

I want to get better at proposals, which means (I think) that I need to get better at thinking on my own for longer before I share an idea and solicit input. “What could we do?” feels a lot less useful than “Here’s what I propose we do,” because “Here’s what I propose” contains actual content people can react to, and reacting to content flexes a different muscle than coming up with something out of thin air.

Maybe collaboration works best when it starts with a specific proposal.

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