Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Advice for online Christian ministry women

I try to maintain a social media presence only to the extent that it serves me posting things about Jesus. That's my main focus. Occasionally I become aware that there are other venues out there besides Facebook, Blogger and Twitter for social media engagement, There's LinkedIn, which I haven't used, new things like Snapchat, Periscope, and Meerkat, but those platforms have content expiration dates, which defeats the purpose of having a long-term stable platform onto which a person can find my material years later. There's Instagram, but I don't have a mobile phone. There's Peach, Kik, YikYak, Bebo and lots of new, trendy platforms coming along now. The wheel is getting bigger all the time, even as they claim the world is getting smaller.



Just as you do when starting a business, I think that incorporated Christian bloggers or even lone Christian bloggers with a particular mission in focus need to have at least a mental "business plan." Personally I am gearing up to incorporate simply because I want to sell an eBook or two and being incorporated is the safest way to go when it comes to tax time.

However, I only investigate using a new social media to the extent that it prayerfully seems to serve my two purposes, which are, make Christ and His glories known; and to offer credible resources that connect new Christians, mature Christian women, and seekers, to quality content that will help them grow. That's my 'business plan'. Those two. Every once in a while I reassess to make sure those are still two viable goals and if I am still tracking in them. It's easy to drift in ministry, even online ministry. Especially online ministry!

It is so easy to wander into a Jen Hatmaker or Glennon Melton or She Reads Truth blog and think one is reading about Christ, and thus the new Christian babe gets confused from the start. I'll always be grateful that after a false walk with Joel Osteen my first months out of the gate after the cross, I landed at John MacArthur's Grace To You radio program and there I am still. Who MacArthur quoted, I read. Who he mentioned, I followed up with. And so it expanded from there to Phil Johnson, Don Green, Justin Peters, Boice, Barnhouse, Shepherds Conference speakers like Mohler, Lawson, Begg, Pennington, Sproul, etc, and you see how the circle expands from there.

Get lumped in to a Voskamp blog or study and you wind up with Angie Smith, Shauna Niequist, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer and the rest. The circle goes both ways. It is wise not to get drawn-in to a bad one. Those kinds of circles shrink around you like a boa constrictor, attempting to squeeze the life from you.

It is also very easy to become distracted from whatever is the main, online goal you have set before you. The Lord has allowed me to organize my life in a way that I have a stable, fulfilling job which salary sustains me in a reasonably frugal way yet not left wanting, and leaves me energy afterward to do my real work, which is write. I employ the gift of the Spirit of edification and discernment in my writing and this serves me in my local church, in and among the women with whom I work, and in online-only relationships. Those are my three spheres. I look at my life as one of service where my 9-5 job is not my real job but only the vehicle that allows me to study, worship, attend church, charitably support, and minister. Like Paul's tentmaking. (Acts 18:3-4).

It is good for a Christian woman who maintains an online presence occasionally to ask herself some questions. Just as we are to test ourselves occasionally to see if we are in the faith, (2 Corinthians 13:5), so too, like careful stewards of the "Father's Business Plan" we need to make sure we are still on His point.

1. Am I still in the center line of His will? Years ago if you've started a blog, or an online endeavor of some kind, like a newsletter, or an online course etc, if it does not seem to be working any more it is OK to reassess. We usually maintain the same gifts throughout our lives but sometimes He might want you to concentrate on one of your other gifts entirely, or use the same gift in a different way. See below regarding Benziger and Lesley.

2. Am I still effective at this? I am not thinking of results. Results are the Lord's. I'm thinking, it is still a joy to perform the online ministry? Do you approach it with dread? Prayerlessness? Bitterness? Habit? Or does it still fulfill you spiritually? Bring tears to your eyes for the small mercies and quiet triumphs? For even one lost or questioning soul connected? Do you still have an awe or fear of the Lord when you perform it?

3. Does it seem like the Lord is moving to allow time for your online endeavor, or is it taking away from the family? Have the number of family complaints increased lately? Have other more important or more local things suffered as you've devoted time to the online world? When you're on the online world, do you drift away from the ministry and become unfocused and waste time? Are you staying up late to hurriedly finish because you've wasted time online during the day instead? Do you feel the quality of the work is still good enough to lay at the Lord's feet?

4. Have I compromised? Have I succumbed to neediness or wanting acceptance so I have linked to blogs that are not as edifying, or quoted a few popular females in the dazzling Christian celebrity world, simply to get attention or hits? It's easy to do that. Compromise is always incremental. you don't wake up one day with a blogroll full of Raechel Myers' or Jen Hatmaker links, it happens slowly, then all at once. Have I avoided hard topics because I don't ant controversy or am I still writing or ministering without fear of favor, throughout the entire Bible?

These are just a bare few ideas about us women maintaining an online ministry. Tim Challies wrote a while back about conservative women's blogs that have gone cold. It might be worth a re-read. Several male bloggers, podcasters, and other online presences have recently announced they are taking time off, or redirecting their energies elsewhere for a while. Sometimes that happens. As I said, when one becomes unfocused and "diversifies" in one's ministries too quickly. Sometimes it happens because other life events simply come along. It is OK to let it go, as the overused saying, well, goes. It is OK to reassess and prayerfully decide to take a step back.

Or perhaps the Lord is moving you in a direction that will stretch you and magnify Him even more!

Sometimes even more joyfully, reassessment means to take a step forward! Blogger Erin Benziger announced she was starting Equipping Eve, and twice monthly radio show under the auspices of No Compromise Radio/Pastor Mike Abendroth. That led to an opportunity to lead a discernment talk at the Answers for Women: Discern Conference. Michelle D. Lesley announced in January of this year a slow-down in daily blog writing and a restructuring of the blog's content in order to focus on a book project. Recently she also announced she was organizing a conference for women. She also began to solicit guest bloggers. Even a bit further back Tim Challies allowed for sponsorship of his blog and the guest posts that come with it, in order to aid him in a restructuring of content and his own daily tasks.

Our lives in service are fluid and at His behest. If you're a woman reading this, your first point of service is your own devotion to Jesus in reading the Word, prayer, and home. Then faithful worship and service at church, and to the saints there. And then online activity/ministry.

Stay prayerful and intentional with your online ministry. Try not to diversity too fast. A while back an offer came along but I humbly declined it because I felt I was not up to the task. And that is the crux of it. We don't do this for ourselves.We don't do this even for the sisters. We do this for Jesus. I want this to be my best work, all the time. Because He is worth my best efforts.


8 comments :

  1. I can relate to the "it doesn't seem to be working anymore" thing. For about 18 months I was an online missionary with Global Media Outreach. Initially, it was very fulfilling and was a great way to work for the Lord as a stay at home mom. Over the course of time, the program changed the way the websites worked and there were less and less people wanting responses from missionaries. At the same time, my kids were entering a new phase of needing more of my time for counsel and teaching and I began to realize it would be better to step back and focus entirely on my primary ministry, my family. For now, I am right where I need to be.
    Jennifer

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    1. Yay, just so. Glad you contributed, Jennifer, good comment :)

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  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    I really liked your post today even though I am not a blogger. It was a good challenge to those of us who like to READ blogs and participate in online ministries (Naomi's Table, for instance). As someone who enjoys taking in information and learning more and more, it is good to be reminded of my most important tasks--growing in the Lord, tending to my home, my children and household.

    It's wonderful to enjoy edifying teaching but even too much of a good thing can become a distraction.

    The Discern conference was great--I got to briefly meet Erin Benziger.

    This verse at the end of your essay was great--I should put it on my fridge:

    I would have commented directly on your blog but my phone doesn't like to work that way.

    Have a pleasant evening,

    Melissa

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    1. Hi Melissa,

      I'm so glad you were edified by anything you read. It was a surprise to me that a non-blogger could be helped but what you said made a lot of sense in a woman participates in online studies etc! Thanks again for educating me.

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  3. Hi I also feel like a small fish in the blogging community. But I hope to encourage others in being a Godly and content in their calling. I pray before I write and I do not put blogging first,but as in my own life I am growing and desire to have this place to minister. This was a good post. Thanks, Roxy Living from glory to glory blog

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  4. I love this. I am constantly praying that God will use my words to draw women closer to Him - to reach them for Him - to teach them the Truth. I don't want any glory (which trust me, is a hard prayer, but an honest one). I don't want to become one of those women who exchanges Truth for fame or fortune (gains the whole world but loses my soul). I think this is FABULOUS and spot-on advice.

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  5. Thank you so much for this post, Elizabeth. I really appreciated it and am in total agreement with you! Do you happen to know of any blogging conferences that exist for bloggers like us? I went to one a few years back and enjoyed meeting other bloggers, although I found most to be more the Jen Hatmaker type. In fact, much to my dismay, I heard Anne Voskamp speak. I didn't know much about her before I went, but I walked away absolutely mortified not only at what she said but at the way the women almost idolized her. It was a sobering sight--to say the least!

    I wondered you'd have some ideas about biblical conferences for bloggers :) Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Leslie,

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. I'm sorry, I really don't have a resource on Christian women bloggers! What a good idea though. Maybe Challies.com has some resources, or you could ask solid Christian bloggers like Michelle D. Lesley or Erin Benziger, who is also a podcaster. Sunny Shell (Abandoned to Christ) Christine Pack and Marsha West (Formerly Sola Sisters but are still on Facebook) might also be good resources.

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