Tag Archives: grabill missionary church

on church and facebook

I am not a Facebook person.

I’ll acknowledge that I did stay up to 12:01 on June 13 and I did become www.facebook.com/jnswanson, but that is just about keeping my brand intact (email, twitter, flickr, tumblr, and other things that no longer exist). But I have been much more connected to social media platforms outside Facebook.

When I have come inside the pages of The Book, I have been somewhat frustrated with all the games and quizzes and “how well do you know me.” I have limited the number of people that I have friended, primarily because I lack the energy to connect as well as one ought to with all the people I have known across the years.

grabill missionary church logoThis week, however,  I realized that Grabill Missionary Church has to have a page on Facebook (Grabill Missionary Church).

What led to this shift?

1. I keep having conversations with people in real life who are continuing conversations started in status updates. In contrast to the many Twitter conversations I have with people far away, these are intensely local, mixing off and online. We want to be available for those conversations.

2. There are many people who come to our building on Sundays but who miss pieces of what is going on. How we help them catch up is always a challenge. I realized that I keep seeing some of them on Facebook.

3. We have moved from print to an enewsletter, but there are many people who change emails, who seldom check email. While I was trying to figure out how to connect to some of these people, I realized that some of them were my friends on Facebook.

So, after getting some advice on Twitter, we started a page on Thursday. I invited everyone from our congregation that were already my friends. I included a link in our enewsletter.

As of Saturday night, we have 49 friends.

We’ll keep it simple at first. We’ll let people know when the podcast goes up each week We’ll let people know when the enewsletter goes out.  (And if the link is a bit.ly link, I’ll know how many people clicked) We’ll let people know what the next Sunday’s sermon is. We’ve already put up video about worship and service. And we’ve started putting up pictures from the previous week’s events.

A couple final observations.

1. The intention of the page is to help people who are part of the physical congregation stay connected throughout the week. To use unspiritual language, rather than being primarily about external marketing, this is about internal customer service. However, we will be incredibly aware of people who are looking in on Grabill Missionary Church or on church in general.

2. We’ll remember that only some of our congregation attend Facebook. Others attend email, snail mail, small groups, Sunday school, and other communication and fellowship settings. This will force redundancy, which will be healthy.

3. We’ll stay focused on people rather than platforms. Our passion is not on connecting to new technologies. Our passion is connecting people to God and to each other. This new page will probably help. But if it doesn’t, we’ll blow it up.

So what do you think? Are we thinking about this the right way?


an interesting marketing opportunity. need advice.

I got a letter last week from  a couple account reps for a couple radio stations: “Especially when times are tough, the community could benefit from the positive message of faith that your organization delivers.”

I’m not big into radio advertising.  I’ve done it a couple times. I understand how it works. And how it doesn’t work.  (I have a degree in broadcasting, for goodness sakes.) I understand the need for sustained presence and the cost of that kind of presence.  I am particularly not in favor of using broadcast media covering large areas when you are a local church. It doesn’t seem to be the best use of limited resources. I feel a particular tension in using broadcast media when you are trying to build relationships.

But I was curious.

So when they called, as they indicated in the letter, I scheduled an appointment.

This morning I called to see if they could get done in 25 minutes so I could get to another appointment. When Brad called back he said, “sure.” I was impressed. They weren’t going to try to linger. They apparently believed that they had something that could be presented clearly and quickly.

They were early. I was on time.

I told them of my bias against broadcast and for narrowcast.

He said he understood.

What they presented was a website that will be promoted on the two stations and on their websites. This platform, called faithandfamilyguide.com, is designed to provide a landing place for the people in their audience who are at life and family transition points and are wondering about faith questions.

The site, limited to 10 churches, has articles about faith and family. It has links to landing pages for the 10 churches, with a common set of audio, video, and information resources, and links out to the sites of the churches. The site will carry advertising, will have its own contests, will have regularly updated calendar info. It will have an “ask the pastor” feature. It may accept content written through the churches (yes, I gave them links to this site and to 300wordsaday.com).

From what I can tell, their project is a good example of  content marketing. They are trying to gather resources and content-creators (the churches) and offer that content to their listeners. They will promo the site on air and will link to it from the two station websites. At the same time, they are qualifying leads and bringing them to the ten churches that sign up. No one has to go to the site, but they can if they are wondering about family or faith issues. And the stations hit a demographic that is full of family transitions.

We would pay a monthly fee. We would get the landing page and 24 spots a month on the stations.

Here’s where I need your help.

Does the concept make sense?

What questions should I ask them?

What should we be thinking about?

Does this approach take us to people who live around us that we would not talk to in other ways?


(Just so you know, I love the concept. I love watching the stations branch out from straight ads to a new idea that can have a measure of interactivity. I love the funnelling. But I could be dazzled because of my low initial expectations. That’s why I need your help.)

Where would Jesus sit for the parade

I work in a small town, if work is what pastors do. It’s Saturday morning, 10:30. I’m sitting at my desk, feet up, typing. This.

My window looks out on the main street into town. Most days I see cars, Amish buggies, trucks, and the occasional fire engine. At this moment, I’m watching the Leo High School marching band. It’s the Grabill Country Fair Parade.

I’m supposed to be working on a sermon for tomorrow morning. I don’t preach very often here, which is probably good for everyone. I’m pretty unstructured, pretty story focused. It’s helpful and thought-provoking…in small doses.

I’m trying to understand for tomorrow what it means to be a disciple. An everyday disciple.

The cashiers from the grocery store are walking by. Tiffany is one of the managers. She attends here. She’s a disciple. She’s working hard to take what she knows about Jesus and live it in a life that has been challenging.

I wonder whether I should be out there, talking with people, listening to people. Isn’t that what Jesus would be doing? Instead of sitting in here, I mean?

I mean, we’d make him the Grand Marshall, instead of the Turner Cup champion Fort Wayne Komets. Minor league hockey is cool, but a guy who walks on water? Maybe he’d take the parade across the reservoir. Of course, the last parade he was in ended very badly.

Instead, right now, there’s a big gap in the parade. Something must be coming, but I can’t see it.

Or maybe Jesus wouldn’t be the Grand Marshall. Maybe he would have been walking along the route campaigning.  “Jesus for Senate,” the buttons would say. There would be flyers and promises…and cynicism.

He probably wouldn’t be driving the old tractor pulling an even older harvesting machine. Unless he were talking about sowing and reaping.

It’s possible that he’d be riding as an honorary citizen. The ones that just went by? He’s been the bank president for a long time and just retired. He’s been pretty committed to being low key. When I think of him, I don’t think of bank assets. I think of a guy who wants to spend more time teaching  and understanding the next step of following Jesus.

Jesus might have been walking along the parade route just talking with people. Paul, for example, has known Jesus for a long time. They are personal friends. But last week Paul found out that the spot on his pancreas is cancer. Patrick Swayze got a standing ovation last night on TV and is making progress with his cancer. Paul probably won’t be on TV, probably won’t get the ovation, probably won’t get much treatment…he’s been through so much that there aren’t many options. I’m guessing that Jesus would spend a little time with Paul. Would He touch him? Would that touch be full of the healing that chemo can only dream of? Or would it be the touch of a friend that says, “no matter what, I’m here.”

People are wandering away. I think the parade may be almost done. I need to go unlock the gym so that people can come and look at the pumpkins and the photographs and the huge sunflower and the quilts. I’m hoping that the smell of the overripe cantaloupe is gone by morning when I’m preaching.

Ah wait. There are the little gymnasts, the ones who are about three feet tall, with mothers and dads who think they are incredibly cute, who are trying to figure out how to keep up. They are about as far from Beijing as I am…but they have an audience. They are loved. They get to wave. And Jesus said that they mattered, that to understand the Kingdom of heaven, we had to look at, become like, those little scouts and twirlers and tumblers who have no clue what a straight line is, who don’t know how to march in a parade. How could they be the standard. They can’t do anything for themselves.

And the float from the Cedars. Most of us would call the people on that float “the old people. ” They live in a retirement center. They’ve done what they are supposed to do in life already. That’s why we keep them there. Except, there’s something about the eyes of the driver. They look familiar.

There is the float that says “Need Help? Burn TV. Read the Bible.” It’s covered with verses about sin. I look at it and think, “That can’t be where Jesus is sitting.” But that’s a pretty critical thing for me to decide. Especially since He said some of those things.

I unlocked the door, but the parade is still going. We don’t have public restrooms, I understand from the past, but I decided to not worry about the restriction. “What happened. Oh. The church wouldn’t let you? Oh.”

I’ve got to get busy on that sermon. About following Jesus. About listening to Him and talking with Him and learning how to live my life as if He were.

I wonder where to start.

thoughts on getting ready for Sunday

Tomorrow morning I am teaching two different groups of people. The first group is about 10 people, mostly in their forties. The second group is about 30 people, all at least 70. Tomorrow night I am teaching a group of unknown number, of mixed demographic. Their one common link is that they all are leaders of adults at our church.

So why am I writing a post right now instead of studying and reading and writing? Because I needed to tell myself a few things.

1. There will be other times. Don’t pack everything into one session.

2. It’s better to have one thing understood well than a thousand things mentioned briefly. Really. (No, really. Because if it matters, then it is worth making sure they–and you–understand it inside and out.)

3. Think about the people and the ideas and how they connect. Not about what will make me sound good, or make them feel bad.

4. Since I’m talking, in part, about how to teach…teach that way. It’s called modeling. And not doing it is called either lazy or lacking integrity.

5. If you need to prove that you know something, put it in a handout. And then maybe forget to hand it out.

6.  Remember that you always feel this way and you take it seriously and it always ends up okay because this is what you are built for.

7. Remember to not be complacent about number six.

8. It’s not performance. It’s relationship.

Okay. That’s all. Thanks for listening. Back to work.

Turning left.

This morning, at the corner of Trier and Hedwig, we will turn left instead of right.

For the last eleven years, on Sunday mornings we have gone to the right. Sure, sometimes we went straight at that intersection. Sometimes we went in two cars and each took a slightly different path. Sometimes we went other directions because of vacation. But for the past eleven years, our path has gone southwest rather than northeast.

In less than an hour, we’ll turn left.

And we don’t know what will happen.

I mean, we know that my new title is executive pastor at Grabill Missionary Church. But we don’t know what that means for us. Because it’s not a job.

We have lots of pictures of what church is. But I have to work from what God says church is. And it isn’t a job. It’s a family. It’s the Body of Christ. It’s a temple (the people are, not the building). It’s a flock of sheep. It’s a bag of change. It’s a vineyard and a vine. So this isn’t like a job.

And it’s not just about me. That group of people playing with new cell phones, laughing with each other, they have been part of the southward journey for the past decade. They are not longer nine and five. They include a girlfriend. My whole family is part of this, because they are all part of this family/body/temple/flock/change/vine. At least once a week, they show up at the place that holds my office and it has to be more than my office building. Somehow, it’s gotta be the place where the family reunions are held, where the body stops and looks in the mirror, where the temple find out whether there are any new bricks.

And so, this morning, I’m wondering what kind of organ transplant is happening today. How long will the surgery last? Will the antirejection drugs work, will we be the right size? Will the blood start flowing right away?

Or will the bricks we are fit into the building being built in Grabill? Will it be clear that it was the same craftsman that shaped us or will we wear too many marks of our own attempts to fit into the spaces?

But people have been making this kind of journey and these kinds of changes in response to what they believed God was asking them to do for millenia. Paul talked about his own imperfection and his own spiritual aspirations and wrote, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

So this morning, though I will confess to a measure of anxiety, I know the Surgeon. I know the Shepherd. I know the Builder. I know the Vine and the Gardener and the Head. And so, as we turn left this morning, I’m confident that the one who started a process of transformation in me will see it through to completion.

And you are going along for the ride.