Monthly Archives: July 2012

What a Great Idea! Does your church do this?

I receive newsletters from a few of the churches I visit, a welcome and appreciated gesture. Amazing Grace Lutheran Church (AGLC) has been putting smiles on my face, for some time, with their pre-Sunday service newsletter. Last week’s version was titled “Commemorating a Harlot? at AGLC this Sunday”. [img_assist|nid=161868|title=Masthead of AGLC Newsletter|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=222]

The special newsletters are a collaborative effort between Pastor Martin Dasler, and Supply Clergy Gary Steele. Designed as a teaser for the Sunday service, and as a briefer for those unable to attend, the catchy grabber headlines puts smiles on my face, often piquing my curiosity just enough to draw me into a service. I’m surprised more churches don’t use this extremely effective technique. Most churches announce Sunday services, even special ones, in long and boring text-based screeds. [img_assist|nid=161869|title=Newsletter Portion Referring to Mary Magdalene|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=152]

Take a look at Amazing Grace’s well-done and provocative pre-Sunday newsletter mentioned above by clicking here. I like the strong use of graphics and spare text. The headlines are usually quite strong and “grabbers”. There is a strong focus on the lectionary Lutherans use in their Sunday liturgical flow. The sub-header in the masthead (illustrated above), “Pentacost +8”, refers to last Sunday being the 8th Sunday after Pentacost. The flowing illustration at the top is a contemporary representation of the Holy Spirit descending as tongues of fire. Marvelous![img_assist|nid=161870|title=Newsletter Portion – Closing|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=197]

Last summer Amazing Grace published a number of these special teaser newsletters which you can view by clicking on their titles below. Enjoy!

Good Water – Bad Water
Where Two or Three Are Gathered
Baby’s and Butterflies: Small Actions – BIG Consequences
The Gospel According to the Berenstain Bears
Falling Up- Failing Your Way to Success  
It’s Ketchup and Mustard Sunday
Holy Staircases, Aztecs and Chickweed
Amazing Grace Lutheran is a consistent church offering warm greetings, genuine hospitality, music for worship and not entertainment, and well-delivered sermons. Thanks Amazing Grace for amusing, enlightening, and informing your congregation and the public with this excellent newsletter. You are a fortunate congregation. We look forward to seeing more of your unique ways of communicating!

ChangePoint’s App Hits 1 Million Minutes of Use

On April 20, 2011, ChangePoint released its mobile app to the world. After less than 1 ¼ years of use, they celebrated its millionth minute of use yesterday. This is a significant achievement for Alaska’s largest church! [img_assist|nid=161699|title=ChangePoint App Splash Screen|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=367]Church Visits blog has chronicled the ChangePoint app’s story from the beginning in these posts:

ChangePoint: First Alaska Church to Release an App!
Two Month Update on ChangePoint’s App
ChangePoint’s App Hitting Stride – 3 Months Along
ChangePoint’s App: Use Still Growing After 6 Mos.
ChangePoint’s Communications Director, Adam Legg shares some impressive statistics and answers to some of my questions.

• 4,500 – number of Apple & Android devices which have installed it
• 34,000 – times the app has been used since launching just over a year ago
• 1,000,000+ – number of minutes of use of the app since inception
Why was the app launched?
“It’s our job to communicate with people the way that they are already communicating. I noticed this sitting in our auditorium before services, seeing a lot of people on their phones. We tend to be a younger church so it makes sense that we are a bit more mobile connected, so if that’s how our church is already communicating why wouldn’t we utilize that?”

Was cost a factor in launching it?
“Cost has been a major factor, but not in the way you may think. In fact the app has allowed us to SAVE money. It has more than paid for itself in the simple fact that we are able to print less because people are getting information from us in a way that is more cost effective, environmentally friendly, AND utilizes technology that people are already using!”

Any ‘use’ stories to share about the app?
“I have a fresh story to share about how our app has made a difference recently. A couple recently moved to Anchorage, transferred here from Chicago, in connection with the husband’s job. When they found out Anchorage was where they would be located, they began looking at church websites and searching the internet for potential churches that could be “home” once they got here. They came across ChangePoint, visited our website, and downloaded the app. They began to listen to our messages via the app, started learning who we are, and what we are all about. When visiting Anchorage for the first time they visited us. Because they had been able to connect with us via the app, they already felt a sense of connection here. Now settled in Anchorage, they’re enjoying community here at ChangePoint. Usually, when I see them, they make it a point of telling me how much they loved using the app to connect with us prior to arriving in Anchorage!”

How is the app consistent with ChangePoint’s vision?
“At ChangePoint our vision is “Life in Christ for every Alaskan and the world beyond”. The ChangePoint app is one tool that allows us to take a message of Life in Christ to places and people across our state and around the world.”

Thanks for the good report Adam, and again, congratulations for a successful app! We look forward to the 1 ½ year report in October.

Quite frankly, I’m a bit stunned at the Anchorage church community’s lukewarm acceptance of this groundbreaking technology, i.e. apps, that has become a worldwide phenomena in less than five years in the burgeoning mobile community. Maybe churches are inherently late adopters of emerging technologies such as apps. The state of church websites in Alaska confirms this in my mind. Homepages lacking worship times or locations, pictures of mountains, lakes and streams, overly crowded and confusing homepages, a growing dependence on Facebook, and stale-dated material are good indicators apps, like websites, may be unsupportable by most churches.

I’m aware of only four churches in Alaska offering apps.

• ChangePoint
• ACF – Eagle River
• TrueNorth
• Soldotna Bible Chapel

Of this you may be sure; These four churches understand technology, how to use it, and it’s impact. I’ll feature the other three soon in a post.[img_assist|nid=161700|title=ChangePoint App Home Screen|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=367]

Funny But True: I’ve Seen All These Behaviors During Church Visits

Please take a minute to watch this brief YouTube video What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable. by clicking the title.

This humorous video portrays off-putting behaviors I’ve personally observed during many area church visits during the past 12 years. Sadder still is the average visitor decides in 5-8 minutes whether to make a return visit to a church. This video lasts 5 minutes 33 seconds, a similar amount of time.

Starbucks prides itself in providing a great customer experience. Clearly they would not be successful if they treated their customers like many churches treat their guests. There is much to be learned from this brief video.

If you’ve had similar experiences, I’d be happy to share them with blog readers from time to time. Please send your stories, without naming the church, to Humor tends to make a point without wounding. I hope you enjoy the video and look forward to reading and sharing your stories.

Modern-day Slavery Addressed at Turnagain UMC

Unusual Program by Anchorage Church Standards
Rarely does my social consciousness get raised in my many Anchorage area church visits. Bob, a good Rotary friend, emailed me of an upcoming presentation dealing with Sexual Slavery scheduled to be presented at Turnagain UMC last Sunday. I was immediately intrigued as to how churches dealt with this incredibly damaging issue, and made plans to attend, though I was concerned there were no other announcements of this presentation in the local press.

Great Pastoral Judgement
Turnagain UMC had a normal church service this day except new Pastor, Bob Smith, surrendered his pulpit to Mark Wexler to share this issue. Mark is co-founder and Executive Director of “Not For Sale”, a modern-day abolitionist movement networking churches, communities, state leadership, and leadership in other nations to stop human trafficking. Learn more about his organization at .[img_assist|nid=161669|title=Mark Wexler, Guest Speaker – Turnagain UMC|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=278|height=490]

Slavery Huge Problem and Growing
Initially Wexler noted there are currently, worldwide, more people in slavery than at any other time in history, approximately 30 million with between 100,000 and 200,000 of this number in the U.S.! He first showed the slavery of young boys that supports the worldwide cocoa/chocolate industry. The Ivory Coast in Africa, one of the largest cocoa producers in the world, is estimated to use the slave labor of 15,000 boys from other African nations to support its production. Despite legislation and compacts to the contrary, this practice continues to grow supported primarily by Great Britain and the United State’s dependence and strong demand for chocolate goods.

Sexual Tourism/Slavery
Wexler then transitioned into the worldwide sexual slavery problem presenting the story of artist Kru Nam in Thailand who became aware of small children who’d been sold as sex slaves, and began to rescue them. Wexler’s organization is working with Kru Nam by building housing for hundreds of children to house them after they are rescued, and to give them a better life, including access to education. Sexual tourism is a huge worldwide industry supported by many people from the U.S. People of faith should not tolerate it, solidly raising our voices against it. Be informed. Wexler’s group has detailed slavery information here and an interactive worldwide slavery map here.

An excellent documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate, may be watched for free by clicking here. Fair-trade and slavery-free lists of chocolate can be seen by clicking here.

I applaud Turnagain UMC for having the courage to present this program during their normal worship hour, an extremely rare event in my Anchorage churchgoing.