Our guest blogger this week is one of our very own Jim Fairchild. Jim attends Community of Christ in Topeka. Jim has been a co creator of this blog as he has taken on the responsibility of managing our website and doing all of our social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. He has learned a lot from this endeavor and is wanting to share some of that knowledge with you. So a big thanks for Jim being willing to share with us.
I have been a life long member of the RLDS/Community of Christ faith community. I was very active as a youth and attended Graceland College (University). Although I was seeking a career in health services, I was unable to find a suitable career path without further professional education. I was encouraged by friends, who also attended Graceland, to utilize my social science credits, to seek employment with the Missouri Department of Social Services. I worked in Child Protective Services as a rural field supervisor for almost ten years. I continued to remain interested in a health services administration career and obtained an administrative position at a Kansas psychiatric hospital in Topeka, which would permit me to attend KU and obtain a master’s degree in health services administration. I remained very active in the church in Topeka and served in the office of Priest.
After completing my professional training, I obtained employment as a healthcare administrator, working for several rural hospitals as a Chief Executive Officer. I spent the last fifteen years of my professional career as a healthcare administrator in the central part of the United States. While I had a successful career, my work took me far away from my faith community. Planning to return to Topeka upon retirement, I kept my membership with the Topeka congregation.
A few years ago, I retired and moved back to eastern Kansas. I also decided that in retirement I would maximize my time and talents in volunteer service to the church. I currently serve in the office of Elder, and serve as the Congregation Financial Officer.
My Invitational Ministry Plan
Early 1960s church membership statistics show the success of evangelizing methods. Effective use of the developing technology, personal evangelism materials, and a strong determination to proselytize, are among the many factors that account for the steady membership increase. I am very concerned about the decline of Community of Christ membership which was shared by Steve Veazey in his “Time to Act” message to the church. (September 2017)
In response to this “call to action” I looked for things that I could do as an individual, as well as, successful outreach methods that could easily be implemented in a local congregation. I have been always interested in Invitational Ministry, however my only experience was through proseltyzing “door-to-door” with tracts. Due to changes in cultural demographics and technology, this did not appear to be a viable option for Invitational Ministry.
Why Virtual Ministry?
I am familiar with D&C Section 155:7. But what does this scripture mean by “many techniques for proclaiming my word?” As Disciples, we are called to go places where we have never been, to do new things that we have never attempted and to be things we have never envisioned.
I decided to search the Internet for information regarding successful church growth strategies. There were numerous church growth websites, classes and books on the topic. I searched YouTube for presentations (videos) about successful ideas that other churches had used for church growth. I found many (free) video presentations on YouTube about using electronic outreach, including Church Websites and Church Social Media accounts to promote Church Growth. I thought outreach through Electronic Media might be a good methodology for me to utilize for invitational ministry, Invite People to Christ. I was computer literate but knew nothing about church websites or social media.
At the time, Community of Christ had very few resources on electronic outreach, however some Community of Christ Mission Centers were experimenting with this new technology, and sharing their information on line. (Community of Christ has since significantly increased it’s resources in this area and you will find a lot of this information on the Community of Christ YouTube page.) The Community of Christ Communications Department also provides free downloadable graphics which can be used for outreach.
OK, it’s time to act!
The Topeka Congregation had a free Weebly website which had been developed by a member, more than ten years ago. The website was still online, but no longer being managed, so I took responsibility for managing the Topeka Congregation website. The free Weebly software is limited and has ads. Based upon what I had learned, specific to church websites, I upgraded to the Weebly Pro website software and re-formatted the Topeka Congregation website.
I am not a Social Media person, and prior to this project I did not have an account, and knew very little about Social Media. However my research had indicated that churches should use Social Media for outreach, as it is a very effective outreach tool. So I learned (YouTube) about church Social Media. I established Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts for Topeka Community of Christ. Social Media is an ever changing technology. The learning is ongoing and systematic.
At the same time, Seventy Craig Hidy was developing a church group in Emporia, Kansas. This group is a “House Church” and doesn’t have a church building. Members of this group communicate by email concerning group activities. This group is also a Community of Christ Latter-day Seekers Ministry (Emporia Ministry). A website would be a good method to communicate the ministry’s presence in east-central Kansas for seekers.
Craig also thought a Blog might be beneficial for church outreach. I volunteered to set up and manage a website (website fees paid by MMC) for the Emporia Ministry, a Blog for Craig on the website, and Social Media accounts for the Emporia Group.
Aware of my success with Electronic Media Outreach for the Topeka Congregation and Emporia Ministry; Midlands Mission Center leadership asked me to do a presentation at the Fall 2018 Mission Learn. The Mission Learn presentation was titled: “Seize the 167!” An invaluable resource to my “Virtual Invitational Ministry” has been from a Canadian Company “Pro Church Tools” which sells software and services to churches for electronic and social media outreach. The company provides weekly videos on YouTube regarding the utilization of this ministry. This is a link to their “Seize the 167!” video for churches that inspired me to embrace this technology.
Progress, so far.
For the past two years I have been managing “Virtual Invitational Ministry” for one congregation (Topeka KS) and one group ministry (Emporia KS). How has that worked? As a congregation CFO, I am happy to report, that the Topeka Congregation has reduced their outreach expenditures (primarily for print ads) from $1100 per year to $150 per year for Weebly Pro Software.
In our previous efforts utilizing print media ads (yellow pages and newspaper) we had no measurable results for our expenses. We had not initiated any of the traditional prostelizing methods, door-to-door tracting, missionary home visits and special missionary preaching services for many years. Using Virtual Invitational Ministry, the Topeka Congregation Website averages over 1,000 visits per month and is open and working to extending our invitation to Christ, 24 hours per day every day of the year. The congregation also has daily posts to FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter. Website analytics indicate, other than our landing page, most visitors go to our “Activities” page to see how we are implementing the Mission of Christ in our community. I invite you to take a look at the Topeka Website and see what you think.
The Topeka Social Media accounts have a wide range of viewers, and I am focusing on improving engagement. I use these accounts to promote Community of Christ Mission Initiatives, Enduring Principles and Inviting People to join with us in Worship and Community. Our Twitter account averages about 8,000 views per month, with a high of 12,000 views per month.
The Midlands Mission Center pays for the Weebly Pro subscription for the Emporia Ministry of $150 per year. Using Virtual Invitational Ministry, the Emporia Ministry Website averages over 1,000 visits per month and is open and working to extending our invitation to Christ, 24 hours per day every day of the year. The ministry also has daily posts to FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter. Website analytics indicate, other than our landing page, most visitors go to this BLOG. I invite you to take a look at the Emporia Ministry website and see what you think.
The Emporia Social Media accounts have a wide range of viewers, and I am focusing on improving engagement. I use these accounts to promote this Blog, the Emporia Latter-day Seeker Ministry and Inviting people to join with us in Worship and Community. Our Twitter account averages about 6,500 views per month.
What can you do to help?
In a simple word “Share” and "Comment" on the Blog and Social Media Posts. Most of you probably have social media accounts. User data shows that FaceBook has over Two Billion active users per month, Instagram has over One Billion active users per month and Twitter approximately six-hundred thousand active users per month.
This is easy for you to do. For this Blog you will find a share link for FaceBook and Twitter at the bottom of each blog post. If you click share, you are inviting members of you social media network to visit the blog post.
You will also find links to the Emporia Ministry Social Media Accounts
A big thanks to Jim for sharing his knowledge and information with us.
This week please post something about your church online, share one of our posts, or comment on one of our blogs.
According to the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society loving kindness meditation is a method for developing compassion. Compassion for self, for others, and for the world. There are no conditions, its an inclusive love that is not measured but is deserving of everyone, even if you don't think so.
It is known as a metta prayer which is wishing good will and intentions upon yourself and others. Often we self-criticize or self-loathe creating an unhealthy picture of who we are. Loving kindness meditation helps us accept who we are as we are.
If meditation isn't really your thing and you want more factual information about how something like this is beneficial. Please check out the "18 Science-Backed Reasons to Try Loving Kindness Meditation" by Emma Seppala. You will find various research explaining increased health benefits, better social emotional regulation, and increased brain activation.
1. Get in a comfortable position, relax your body and close your eyes
2. For a few minutes breath deeply focusing on your breath moving in and out letting go of any other preoccupations
3. Recite these phrases about your well being internally or out loud to yourself (you can identify phrases that work for you).
May I be filled with loving kindness
May I be free from inner and outer harm
May I be healthy and whole in body and mind
May I be happy and at ease
4. Listen and internalize the meaning of the words, think of the kindness you have shown to others. Picture yourself being loved. Feel free to recite the words multiple times.
5. Next think of someone in your life that you care for or love. Someone you have a relationship with and recite these words.
May you be filled with loving kindness
May you be free from inner and outer harm
May you be healthy and whole in body and mind
May you be happy and at ease
6. Allow your images and feelings for the person to come forth and be free as you imagine these words to support the individual. See loving kindness in them.
7. At this time you can refocus to your breath or choose another individual to repeat steps 5 and 6 before ending your meditation.
Tips For Practice
It's important to set aside a time to practice the meditation every day. Start with a short amount of time like 2 minutes and create a timer on your phone. Sometimes it can be difficult to say or imagine ourselves with loving kindness. However it is important that you say these words to yourself even if you do not believe them. Think of the intentions behind them. Once your comfortable with the meditation you can focus on those individuals whom you may not be getting along with.
If you need some guidance check out this short youtube video below which leads you through a loving kindness meditation.
Spiritual practices are essential to our ongoing walk of faith. If you have a spiritual practice that's important for you please share it with us. Visit our contact us page and let us know.
This week take a few minutes to do this loving kindness meditation.
As our social distancing and self quarantining continues fear continues to be prevalent among us. It’s a scary time right now. Our routines have been dismantled. Anxiousness fills our minds. Fear about our loved ones and day to day lives moving forward stays on the forefront of our brains.
So how do we focus on hope when fear abounds in our daily life? It’s important to note that we are not the first ones to have a life changed and occupied by fear. There have many historical events that changed peoples lives. They have all brought an opportunity to identify what really matters to people.
Often in times of great struggle or uncertainty people turn to find God. This is because our relationship with God is more important then we usually tend to acknowledge. Our daily lives get overrun with responsibilities and obligations. In this time we each have this opportunity to seek God in the midst of chaos.
So what do we do with this fear? How do we seek God during this time? How do we deeply connect with the divine? Let’s explore further.
Acknowledge Your Stress, Worry, and Fear
This chaotic time is something we have not known. But most likely you are feeling some level of stress, worry, or fear. Often we may not even recognize our stress. Other times we run from it and eventually get to the point where it is too much. Stress can come out in many ways.
Here are some things to look for:
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Change in eating and sleep patterns
- Constant fear and worry (checking phone for new updates constantly)
- Increase use of alcohol, drugs, etc.
- Health problems worsen or unexplained headaches, etc.
- Irritability, anger, short tempered
Know you do not have to bear these emotions or the emotions of your household alone. Take this opportunity to sit with your feelings and start on a path of resilience. Be vulnerable and acknowledge your feelings. This will not only help provide some relief for you but give others opportunities to support you as well as share their own. Being real with ourselves in these moments puts us on the journey to figuring out how to manage them. With any loss of life there is a natural grieving process we go through. This in particular is challenging because we are a part from the people we connect with on a daily basis.
Its important you take care of yourself during this time. There are many ways to do this. It's important you connect with others through text, phone, or video interface, exercise and take care of your body, and talk with others about the facts. Faith can also be a major resiliency factor in these times. Faith provides hope in times of uncertainty and calms our fears. There are some ideas of how you can find your faith during this time below.
NAMI provides some wonderful ideas of taking care of your mental health in this article "Mental Health Coping Strategies." You can also check out the CDC's recommendations for "Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event." Hang in there we are all in this together.
Remember fear only has a hold on us if we allow it to. Lets end this section with a famous quote from a Kansan.
“I am not afraid of tomorrow,
for I have seen yesterday and I love today.”
- William Allen White
Avenues for Faith
People are using unique ways to connect their faith groups. I have seen virtual worship's, a car drive up worship, family church time, or even neighborhood get togethers (with distance). Now is exactly the time to try something different! Some people are anxious and stressed and need the comfort of knowing God is in their lives.
Online Worship - There are various churches providing online worships through interfaces like zoom, skype, Facebook Live, or live streaming services. I encourage you to check out these options. This last week Midlands Mission Center hosted a Thursday night connection group via zoom to worship and dialogue together. If you are interested in joining next week go to our contact us page and submit a request and I will get the information to you. You can also check out Community of Christ Online Ministries for more options.
Spiritual Practices - I have heard many people say this last week has really helped them draw away to spend time with God. Finding a spiritual practice that works for you is essential. Spiritual practices are acts that help us connect with the divine in a deeper way. Check out our past blog posts on spiritual practices for more insight. Practicing kindness, prayer, exercise, meditation, silence, music, knitting, scripture study, etc. can all be forms of spiritual practices. Find one that works for you and do it.
Out of the Box Ideas - Be creative in expressing your faith. People are sewing face masks for hospital staff. Others are creating scavenger hunts in neighborhoods and cities you can do in your car. Some are asking elderly neighbors to get groceries for them to ensure the most vulnerable are isolated and safe. Faith in action is using love to think of others. Use your creativity!
Connecting to God
Connecting to God is about searching your heart and seeking something greater than yourself. Holding the understanding the gospel is not about me. When we move out of the way and focus on God and others we see with different eyes. I encourage you find a quiet place, close your eyes, and search your heart and mind for God in this moment. God's spirit is all around us and through us. God is in our suffering in these dark hours. God's spirit breathes in you! Allow love to come forth and there you will find God. There you will find hope amidst the fear.
This is a challenging time. I pray we will be led by our faith and that fear will be wiped away with hope. May you all stay healthy and well.
Find time to connect with God this week in whatever form you see fit.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
The mission of the Seventy
“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” Luke 10:1-3 NRSV
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting.
They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation.
They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
c/o Midlands Mission Center
7615 North Platte Purchase Drive
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Phone: (816) 221-4450
Copyright Midlands Mission Center 2020
Community of Christ
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Independence, Missouri 64050
Phone: (816) 833–1000 or (800) 825–2806