by Michael Hartman
from León, Mexico
Until now the focus of the Academia Cristo online school project was to become a known entity in Latin America. That work will continue, with the process now in place - see conference session "Using Social Media to Become Known Throughout Latin America."
An additional focus for 2016 – we call it "Phase Two" – will be connecting with some of those who reach out to us and training them to become leaders. We want to use online means to train people for on-the-ground ministry. We plan to launch Phase Two on April 3 at the beginning of the CELC regional meeting in Medellín, Colombia. If you are reading this before that date, your input, feedback and questions are welcome as we prep. After April 3, this message will be updated to enable you to connect to the new website. [post-April 3 update: connect here to a video describing the new phase.]
Reaching out through mobile devices continues to be a high priority in our planning, especially in view of these facts: Over 77% of those who connect to Academia Cristo's website do so via mobile devices. And over 92% of those who connect from mobile devices do so using an Android operating system. Considering our limited resources, everything we produce must be Android mobile-friendly. Everything else is a far lower priority.
Here are some of the changes coming to the website in connection with Phase Two:
- The home page will be redesigned.
- Visitors will be invited to click on "Conócenos" (Get to know us). Those who do can view a 3-minute video that explains how to use the school site.
- Visitors will also be invited to sign-up for live classes. This is the big change that is coming. Starting in April we will begin to offer live classes. Everyone who signs up for the live classes will start by taking an introductory class. Our goal is that by 2018 we have 25 live classes going on at any given time with 70 people trained to lead those classes. 50 of those people will teach an introductory live class.
- The live classes will be taught using GoToMeeting because it is the most mobile friendly of the platforms we tested.
- Each class will have its own WhatsApp group led by the teacher. WhatsApp has become the most common way for people in Latin America to communicate on their mobile devices. We can take advantage of this. Using WhatsApp, the group can communicate outside of class and the teacher can share discussion questions during the week.
- Finally, the emphasis of each class will be to teach the students how to share what they learned with others. Our focus is to use online means to train people for on-the-ground ministry.
by Martin Spriggs
from Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA
The WELSTech Podcast is a weekly conversation exploring intersections between technology and ministry. Produced weekly in both audio and video formats, WELSTech has been airing since January 9, 2008 and is approaching 440 episodes. Since it is available through many outlets like iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, WELS Mobile, and RSS, it is hard to estimate viewership, but it's likely that each week between 500 and 750 listeners/viewers tune in. However, over the years the show has likely touched many more than that. These include people from all over the globe, including Mexico, Canada, China, Africa, Germany, India, and Pakistan.
The show format includes a primary discussion topic, occasional interviews, tips/picks of the week and ministry resources. Other regular segments include book reviews, how-to's, and special event /on-location interviews. A special focus during the 2015-16 season is a photo challenge where listeners are encouraged to submit original photos to our public domain image album. Over 450 images, suitable for use in ministry settings, have been added to the album thus far.
One of the key features of the show is contribution from listeners. Each week any number of emails, social network comments, voice mails, and mailing list posts provide commentary, questions, answers and ongoing discussion that feed, or are the result of, show topics. The show "theme" is "join the conversation." These conversations give the show variety and wider appeal as it deals with topics that pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and technology leaders from around WELS and ELS want to talk about. The show's primary goal is to enable Gospel ministry through the technology tools of today.
The show hosts are Martin Spriggs, WELS Chief Technology Officer, and Sallie Draper, WELS Business Analyst. Regular guest hosts are teachers Jason Schmidt and Gail Potratz, who assist with a once-a-month classroom technology focused show.
The technology that makes the show go includes the following:
- WordPress – provides the blog platform which houses the show notes, embedded video and audio.
- Vimeo, YouTube, and Azure Cloud Storage – provides video and audio storage for the shows themselves.
- Google Sites – the platform used to house the WELSTech wiki, a companion site that allows contributions of ministry related assets from show listeners.
- Google Hangouts On Air – used each week to conduct the show and record it. It is later downloaded for editing from YouTube.
- Adobe Premiere – the software program to edit the video.
- VLC – the software used to extract just the audio from the finished video.
- Mindjet Mindmanager – mindmapping software used to track show topics, brainstorming, and an "in show" script.
- Social Media – the show maintains a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Diigo
Be sure to "join the conversation" at WELSTech.
by Bruce Becker
from Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA
Time of Grace Vision: Transform lives now and forever
Mission: Connect people to God's grace
How: We connect people with the timeless truths of God's word through television, print and digital media
Reach: Nearly 2.3 million pieces of content are engaged with monthly
- Time of Grace television program airs on three national networks, twenty local markets, and American Forces Network (AFN)
- Television program reaches 400-500,000 people in the U.S. each week
- Network added: Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN)
- Networks exited: The Church Channel, Daystar
- Markets added: Columbus Georgia, Birmingham Alabama, Salt Lake City Utah
- Markets exited: Orlando Florida, Flint Michigan
- Since October 2013, 1.6 million completed reading plans on YouVersion® the Bible app
- Plans available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese
- Nearly 15,000 "likes" on Facebook
- Nearly 10,000 people receive daily Grace Moments devotions
- Research on Wisconsin viewers conducted November 2014
- 33% Lutheran
- 14% Catholic
- 15% None/agnostic/atheist
- 30% are lapsed church goers or unchurched
- 90% have a favorable impression of Time of Grace
- 65% claim Time of Grace has strengthened their faith
- Active donor base grew 24% versus 2014
- Market added: Charlotte North Carolina
- Launched Your Time of Grace (January 18)
- As of March 25
- 56,256 Facebook Likes
- 5,002 YouTube subscribers
- Nearly 3.5 million total views
- Time of Grace Facebook likes up to 25,386
- Brand "refresh" launched Easter Sunday, March 27
- New look and feel around the core program message
- Tagline "It all starts now"
by Mark Parsons
from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin USA
Bread for Beggars is refocusing its emphasis onto providing church-year-based materials for called workers and lay people; this emphasis will appear in its new series How Great Thou Art.
How Great Thy Art will be a weekly Bread for Beggars blog post featuring a piece of classic or contemporary Christian art that captures a scene or concept from a lesson in the coming week's Scripture readings. The blog posts will contain historical and biographical content about the artist, summary of the style and type of artwork, commentary on the artwork itself, and a devotion based on the Scripture upon which the artwork is based.
A high-resolution image of the artwork will be the featured image each week. In addition, the post will provide free of charge two slides for download. One slide will contain a stylized version of the artwork size 1920x1080 px, and a second stylized slide of the same size will provide biographical information about the artist and the painting. These will be specifically designed for use in the classroom or for brief Bible study devotionals conducted by pastors, teachers and lay leaders.
Each post will provide a link to enable users to purchase a complete set of slides based on the weekly art and appropriate for use in Bible class or worship. The stylized slide set will feature the following slide types: Welcome, Header, Hymn, Scripture, Spoken Response, Prayer, Announcements, and Generic.
Please keep this project in your prayers. We plan to launch it during the season of Pentecost for the current church year.
by Tom Walters
from Eden Prairie, Minnesota USA
Truth in Love, a ministry for reaching out with the Gospel to Mormons, recently adopted a new vision: to match the Mormon mission force one for one. Each year the Mormon church has about 80,000 missionaries around the world. Our goal, therefore, is by 2021 to train 80,000 Christians to share Christ with Mormons.
Obviously we will have to rely heavily on technology to make this vision a reality. We will need to develop an online curriculum with an adequate infrastructure for tracking. We are also looking at making an app-based version of this curriculum. In addition, we are hoping to develop another app that people can access right while they are witnessing to Mormons. This app could give them passages and witnessing tips for specific topics.
We have been encouraged in this endeavor by the positive reception of our website, pleaseopenthedoor.com. This site is dedicated to helping people witness to Mormon missionaries. It has four layers of security with people being able to access additional levels as they progress in their activity. We have found this has kept the site from becoming overwhelming to many people.
We also are conscious of the need to nurture people leaving Mormonism. Our plans include the creation of a virtual congregation that, at the very least, would act as a bridge for these people before they connect with a local congregation. We are hoping that this virtual congregation would give them opportunities for worship, education, fellowship, and even service.
We are encouraged in this by our two secret Facebook support groups: one for people with a loved one in Mormonism and one for those witnessing to Mormon missionaries. Just last week a woman whose daughter became Mormon wrote us telling us how the support group has changed their lives.
Another important component will be using social media and other platforms to alert people to these various resources.
We are presently in the process of gathering a group of experts from various fields to act as our consultants. After listening to their advice we will begin creating the various components needed to make our vision a reality.
by Brian Keller
from Adrian, Michigan USA
The Wartburg Project is a group of WELS and ELS pastors, professors, teachers, and laypeople who are working together to produce a new Bible translation called the Evangelical Heritage VersionTM or EHVTM.
Translation tools - From its beginning in September, 2013, the Wartburg Project has made wide and regular use of computer and internet technology. Team members regularly use the tools available through Logos and BibleWorks to translate and check translations. It is much faster to check the lexicons and other technical resources by using these tools. We've used word processing technology to take draft translations and revise them. Technical reviewers were able to make comments on documents and send them to the editors by email. We've used computer technology to check how often a word is used in the Hebrew, Greek, or English text. It's been possible to consult and communicate with many experts and team members without any travel time or costs. As a result, the New Testament and Psalms translations are finished and being prepared for publishing by NPH. We are making rapid progress through the Old Testament with this very efficient method, utilizing technological capabilities.
MEETINGS - The Wartburg Project has had very few meetings in person because we've been able to have conference call meetings. We've communicated via email and telephone. This permits each team member to serve where he is. It has saved travel time and costs, as mentioned above.
KINDLE - We were able to publish the test translations of Matthew and Psalms through Kindle publishing at Amazon.com. This was very efficient for us to publish a book and have it available to many people very efficiently. Matthew has now been revised in an updated translation too.
UPDATES - In the old days, to get the word out, someone would have had to mail newsletters. We are able to share information very rapidly and widely via email, Facebook, Twitter, and our website. We've also been able to receive input, as we did for example before choosing our Bible name, "Evangelical Heritage Version." We are able to post responses to Frequently Asked Questions on our FAQ page.
PASSION HISTORY - Many pastors and congregations downloaded the 2014 Passion History. We were able to make this available for free and provide it without postage costs, utilizing PDFs and the internet.
LECTIONARIES FOR 2016-2017 - We plan to make EHV Scripture lessons freely available using internet downloads from our website beginning this Advent. From that point on, we expect to freely provide Scripture lessons (Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel) for worship services on our website. Scripture lessons will be provided for the lectionaries of Christian Worship (three year and one year), Christian Worship Supplement , and the Lutheran Service Book (three year and one year). Yes, this includes the Old Testament lessons. We hope that this will permit pastors and congregations the opportunity to use and test what we've been working to produce. Pastors will be able to cut and paste EHV texts into bulletins for use in worship.
WEBSITE - Our website has more information. See FAQ #15 on the Bible name and the paper in the "Resources" section. Sign up on the "Contact" page to receive free monthly e-newsletters. Like us on Facebook to receive the latest updates posted there. (There are no debates on Facebook, but we've been able to share information with many people very quickly that way.)
PAYPAL FINANCIAL SUPPORT - The Wartburg Project has not been subsidized by any synodical funds. We have used technology to allow our supporters to provide financial support, using PayPal. Most of our support has come via checks. (PayPal does take a cut of whatever amount is sent.)
We continue to be a "purely positive" effort, avoiding debates and controversy. We are just quietly and humbly trying our best to translate the Bible "to spread its light from age to age." So far, so good! God has richly blessed us. To God be the glory and praise for all of his blessings!
God's Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever.
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way.
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant while worlds endure
We keep its teaching pure
Throughout all generations.
We are on track to publish a New Testament and Psalms special edition in 2017.
See the latest book-by-book progress chart at the Wartburg Project website.
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