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A Free Christmas Invitation Video

04 Dec

I worked with the Acts 8 Movement to once again create a free video for Episcopal Churches to use on social media or their websites. The English language version is above, the Spanish language video is below. Videos in other languages in which the Episcopal Church worships are in the works. You can find out more and download a copy for your congregation’s use here: www.acts8movement.org/your-free-parish-christmas-invitation-video-is-ready

 
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Posted in Jetsam, My Videos

 

Two Ideas from Evangelism Matters

30 Nov

The Evangelism Matters Conference brought together 425 people from across the Episcopal Church from Hawaii to the Dominican Republic and Seattle to, well, Georgia. As one of six members of the Planning Team, I was pleased not so much by the turn out as the energy around sharing our faith in Jesus Christ. I was especially grateful for the excellent workshops that came together. While the event has come and gone, videos of many of the presentations remain. The Evangelism Matters YouTube Channel offers 16 videos from the conference including our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s inspiring preaching and the full content of seven workshops. I recommend two videos in particular:

Cardboard Testimonies
This video demonstrates a project any congregation can do (it was piloted by a church with about 20 people on an average Sunday). My colleague Stephanie Spellers walks the conference participants through an exercise you could do in your church on a Sunday between services or after the main liturgy. I will let her describe it for your, but I want to share how this exercise got me and a complete stranger first, discover how God had been in our lives anew and then, got us each talking about significant issues with each other in a very meaningful way.

The Episcopal Church’s highly skilled video team then cut a video showing the results. That is online here at Cardboard Testimonies

From Visitor to Member in 12 Months
When Mary Foster Parmer presented on Invite-Welcome-Connect to our recent diocesan convention, I really came to understand how the connect piece is the one I probably needed help with the most as a parish priest. Chris Girata and Elizabeth Carrière Peeples brought a workshop to the Evangelism Matters Conference on moving a person from a visitor to a member in 12 months.

While the 1 hour 20 minute video length will seem daunting, this is an excellent workshop ready to give you tools to connect with newcomers in a meaningful way. If you long for your congregation to help visitors become a vital part of your congregation, is there a better use of and hour and a half than learning proven ways to make this happen?

Peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Seeing Rightly

20 Nov

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue preached this sermon at The Church of the Transfiguration
in Dallas, Texas on November 20, 2016

Seeing Rightly
Luke 23:33-43

Our Gospel reading brings us to the foot of the cross to see Jesus’ with his arms of love nailed to the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of his saving embrace. Even as Jesus proclaimed forgiveness to those who are in the act of killing him, he is challenged to prove that he is Messiah and King by saving himself. We who follow Jesus two millennia later get the dramatic irony that it is only in not saving himself that Jesus will save us.

Those present at Jesus’ crucifixion who knew the scripture best failed to see what God is doing through Jesus. Rather than standing over creation in judgment, God came in the Second Person of the Trinity entering the creation in weakness. He who the universe could not contain was born to a poor girl in Galilee. Soon after he was born, his family were on the road as refugees. God took on human form in the person of Jesus. As the great champion of the faith Athanasius would put it, “He became like we are that we might become like he is.”

Jesus loved us so much that even when the cost of that love was suffering and death, he would not give up on that love. Through his death on the cross, Jesus broke the power of sin and death that we might have forgiveness and life eternal. And yet, the only one who sees rightly that salvation that can come through Jesus is the thief dying on the cross next to him. He knows that Jesus is sinless and yet is condemned to death.

Dying on a cross alongside Jesus, the thief has just heard words not of judgment or condemnation, but of forgiveness. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” The man who remains nameless to us was known to God. The thief wanted the forgiveness and reconciliation with God that could come through Jesus and he says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Such unlikely words of faith. The thief knows that though Jesus is dying, the Reign of Christ is about to begin. How is this perception possible when everyone else is missing it? How does the thief on the cross see the truth that the sinless one alongside him proclaiming forgiveness is even then able to welcome him into paradise? This takes seeing with the heart.

As I prayed through this passage preparing for this Sunday, I recalled a favorite book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic, The Little Prince. I already knew by heart my favorite line from this gem of a book, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

I decided to look the quote up and see the larger context for those words. I was amazed by what I found. I want to share that journey with you as we consider the story of The Little Prince alongside our Gospel reading. For “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

The sermon is continued here: Seeing Rightly (full sermon)

 
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Weaving the Threads of Evangelism Matters

19 Nov

I gave the Closing Plenary Talk for the Episcopal Church’s Evangelism Matters conference with Alex Montes-Vela. I summarized the conference and then Alex brought it all home with a challenge and a blessing. Here is my summary of the conference:

Alex and I were talking on the way to our hotel last night and he told me about meeting someone here he only knew through Instagram and the person told him how great it is to be in a place where you don’t have to explain yourself. That really resonates with me. We have spent this day and a half immersed in the love of God together with Episcopalians who want to share the joy of Jesus with others in a way that is both winsome and humble.

In recent years, we have heard “The church isn’t dying. We are killing it.” And yet in this time and in this place we have heard that Anglicans are not allergic to Evangelism and we need not take Excedrin before saying the word. This is a call to go back to who we really are. Instead of saying “The ‘E’ word”, we can claim Episcopal Evangelism not as an oxymoron. Evangelism is not about growing the church, but sharing the love we have experienced with a hurting world.

And as we prepare to go back out into the world renewed by the power of the Spirit, Alex and I want to first remind you of some of what we have heard in our plenary sessions and then to challenge you to consider how you will take this conference home with you.

Our Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation, Stephanie Spellers, let us all know as we began yesterday saying we are The Jesus Movement: We are following Jesus and growing loving, liberating and life giving relationships with God, with each other, and with creation, alleluia! This is not a program, she reminded us, but a way of life.

Beginning a theme that has threaded through our time together, Bishop George Sumner, reminded us that sharing the Good News is not about church growth. He said we might well in our Evangelism welcome people into our church, but what we are really about is getting people to join King Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. Ride on King Jesus.

In our opening Panel Discussion Mary Parmer began a second thread woven through this conference saying Evangelism is helping people fall in love with Jesus. Carrie Headington said Evangelism is an invitation to a feast that is out of this world. Marcus Halley told us that the picture of evangelism is the cross, the nexus of God and man where we see those things that were cast down are being raised up.

Alberto Cutie said many in society have given up on Jesus without having even been introduced because the people they do hear talking about Jesus are scary freaks. So, our biggest challenge as church is what will we offer to help people want to connect with this Jesus we know and love?
Marcus Halley told us that in a society filled with fear and divisiveness, we need to trust in abundance; we have enough to do what God is asking us to do. We need to overflow into our world letting people know that you are always welcome at this table, because there is always enough.
Mary Parmer quoted no less an authority than Wikipedia in a way I found moving as the entry on Evangelism says, “The New Testament urges believers to speak the Gospel clearly, fearlessly, graciously, and respectfully whenever an opportunity presents itself.”

Then when the panel discussion opened up to the nave, we were given eyes to see the larger vision with a perspective from the Dominican Republic about how this a moment for the whole world and how much this work matters. Evangelism is work for the whole church toward the whole world. A participant from Mexico said that evangelism is walking with sisters and brothers and finding out that God has arrived first and then just being present.

We started to trend on Twitter with #evangelism16 as the panel continued. Carrie said, “We need people gossiping the Gospel.” Alberto said, “Sheep make sheep. Shepherd do not make sheep. This is a biological fact.” He was reminding us that work of making sheep is not for the clergy alone or even primarily. Marcus Halley said we need a church where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.
Then as we told in tweet length answers of the hope that is in us, from the nave we heard, “My hope is that the world becomes on fire for Jesus. I would not have a life if not for Jesus and so many other people are broken and need Jesus in order to have life.”

After lunch Bishop Curry did not preach a sermon. No he was clear it wasn’t a sermon right before he launched into a great sermon. He said that we may be taking part in a re- evangelization of the western world. Taking his text for what was definitely not a sermon, he chose II Corinthians 5 beginning at the 14th verse: saying that the “Love of Christ Urges is on”… “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Bishop Curry said, “Evangelism is about going home and helping each other find our way home.” We got the people and the brain power, he said, and we are working on the heart power. Then he opened up a real challenge.

What if we became Episcopalians without borders? My mind was blown. We could use the money from closing churches to start new ones as we steward the money entrusted to us even across diocesan boundaries. What if every person being preparing for ordained ministry learned Evangelism as we have learned Clinical Pastoral Education? We would change the culture of the church and would change the world.
Bishop Curry added, “I have no illusion of vast numbers of Episcopalians going out two by two with Forward Day by Day and The Living Church under their arms. But we have Episcopalians on Facebook. I know, I have seen your cats and your dogs!” To this I say, I have seen your cats and your dogs, but have your friends seen Jesus through your posts. Bishop Curry said, “This may be the new Roman highway. Facebook may be the way to help our brothers and sisters to find their way home to God and to each other.”

Then our Presiding Bishop talked movingly about helping someone find his way home. He met with a drug dealer who he came to know through his parish in Baltimore engaged in its community. Over time they shared stories and it became clear that this man who wanted out really wanted to know more than just to know about Jesus intellectually. He wanted to know Jesus. Eventually, the man wanted to be baptized. A small community gathered. Bishop Curry said that he never heard the service of baptism in that way. “When that man renounced Satan and the powers that rebel against God, he took his life in his hands.” You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. “He was out. He was free. Jesus set him free. That is the movement we are a part of and that is what is what evangelism is about, a love so profound it can call us home and set us free.”

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon spoke of the two legs of evangelism as proclamation and mission. Mission flows from first coming to experience the power of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Then the Archbishop took up the title of our Presiding Bishop as Chief Evangelism Officer and said that if we really want to have a movement, we need to add to this by getting each bishop to be the Chief evangelism officer of his or her diocese, and then each priest to be the chief evangelism officer of his or her parish, and then by getting each individual Christian to be the chief evangelism officer of his or her family. Then we would have a movement.

During the Eucharist, Bishop Curry took the Great Commission to go to all the world and make disciples and connected this to the Great Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”
He gave us a song to sing “Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.” And I don’t know about you, but I have felt my heart revived in our time together. Bishop Curry then gave us a way of Episcopal Evangelism from the old spiritual, “If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say, ‘He died for all.’”

Baptism is about being immersed in the life of the Trinity, which is a life of love. In sharing this love we see that the Jesus Movement is not about bigger churches; it’s about a better world. This connection to telling the love of Jesus means, “Evangelism isn’t about Christian imperialism. It’s about saturating the world in God’s love.”

This morning after Morning Prayer, we gathered in Plenary once more and Canon Stephanie Spellers asked “Why do we need a conference to proclaim that Evangelism Matters?” Proclaiming evangelism is counter-cultural to the Episcopal Church. She then noted how Episcopalians have shied away from this work and asked us to consider why. And shouting out the answers, participants said that we have a fear of rejection, a fear of looking tacky. Hurtful things have been done in the name of evangelism and people think this is for the clergy or that you have to be especially gifted in Evangelism.

Stephanie said that what we need to get out there and tell a different kind of story. We can begin this by noticing what God has done in our lives, seeing what God is doing in the lives of others and then letting people know how we see Christ in them.

Then she led us through cardboard testimonials. I don’t know about you, but I saw how readily we could identify the pain, the hurt, the loss in our lives. My partner in the exercise and I quickly got real about some deep hurts and then the great joy we found in Jesus. I heard the level of energy go up in the room as we all shared our cardboard testimonials. It turns out evangelism wasn’t as difficult as we thought. When you see the pain and the joy on inverse sides of those signs, you see that we are less interested in evangelism because it will get people to heaven one day as wonderful as that is. We share the joy of Jesus to get people out of the hell they are living in right now.

This work of evangelism is embedded within the baptismal covenant where the baptismal candidate, or his or her parents and godparents on behalf of a child, are asked, “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” The answer is, “I will with God’s help.”

We know that this work is not about growing our churches. Evangelism is about falling in love with Jesus and then sharing that love as naturally as we recommend a restaurant, book, or movie. Then when we really listen to others and when nudged by the Holy Spirit humbly and gently proclaim the difference knowing our triune God has made in your life.

What I have heard is that this evangelism is a work of the Holy Spirit in which we get to participate. I have no fear that Episcopalians will hear this message and go out handing out Forward Movement pamphlets in front of the 7-11 or that you will get so inspired by the Good News of God in Christ that you will beat people up with Bible passages to prod them toward heaven. That is not going to happen. Fear not.

My hope is that we will really hear the word from our brother in Christ, Archbishop Josiah who said that if we really want this to be a movement, we have to move beyond our Presiding Bishop as the Chief Evangelism Officer. As much as I love and admire Bishop Curry, he is not Jesus and we need to not leave him alone to the work of lighting a fire across our church and then the world.

What excites me most about this day and a half is the passion I have heard, the joy in this gathering, and the hope of lives transformed by the loving, liberating, and life-giving power of Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen. The bishops among us need to go proclaim they are now chief evangelism officer of their diocese. The Rectors and Vicars need to proclaim that you are now chief evangelism officers in their parish. And all the baptized need to become chief evangelism officers in their families. That, my friends, is a movement.

-Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue

 
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Implement Invite-Welcome-Connect

16 Nov

In nearly two hours of training across the two days of diocesan convention, Mary Parmer brought the basics of Invite-Welcome-Connect to the Diocese of Georgia. Her work has been to gather the proven resources which are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and designed to shape an authentic culture of effective newcomer ministry. This is designed for congregations of any size. Whether you were at the convention or not, the tools to begin this work are readily available. I want to lay out a plan to implement this in your congregation.

Gather a Team
While larger congregations might end up with three teams, the work begins with a group meeting at the church in three sessions. In each hour-long meeting, watch one of the half-hour videos Mary offers at www.invitewelcomeconnect.com. You will find one video for each of the three essentials. In advance of the first meeting, download the 20-page booklet found on the Resources Page of our diocesan convention website: Convention Resources Page. This provides an overview together with checklists for each of the three areas.

Map out a Plan of Action
During the three sessions, begin to pick some of the strategies that will fit your congregation well. Mary calls the three areas essentials as churches that do one or more of these well, but fail in others will not succeed as well in attracting newcomers and integrating them into the life of your congregation. The plans will vary for each congregation as this is not a cookie cutter program, because one size never fits all very well. Instead, Mary highlights concerns and offers tools. Our largest congregations will want separate teams working on Invite, Welcome, and Connect, while most of our churches will benefit from one group working together to set out a plan and then begin working through the action items.

The One Step I Recommend for Every Congregation
Any size congregation in this diocese will benefit from a Sharing Faith Dinner, and those with fewer than 50 (or fewer than 20) in worship on Sunday may even find it more transformative than larger churches. This might sound scary, but this is the easiest option for Episcopalians. One person needs to download the full information at sharingfaithdinners.com Gather 8-12 people for a meal. Then follow the plan in which you pick a card with a question and in answering that question, those sharing a meal with you will learn more about you and how your faith in Jesus has shaped your life in some way. I guarantee that this will be eye opening even when everyone present has known each other for years (which is why smaller congregations will really enjoy this).

There are no silver bullets and no one idea will transform the world. But you will learn more about yourself and those with whom you worship in one evening than would seem possible. Discovering how faith matters also builds up deeper roots. Growth is not only about moving out, but also about deepening our connection to God and those we already know. While that is not the one solution that unlocks all the spiritual growth we need, Sharing Faith Dinners is an important tool readily available thanks to the Diocese of Texas.

As you begin this work, let me know how it goes. Nothing will help us as a diocese set about this work more than sharing stories of how it is working in our congregations. We will want to share your stories here.

Peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Lead – Grow – Share Videos

12 Nov

I created these three videos to highlight some of the initiatives started in the Diocese of Georgia in recent years. Some great ministries helping us to lead, grow, and share the Gospel.

 
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The Pastoral Side of Dealing with a Disaster

05 Oct


Staff and volunteers move the Christus Rex that hangs over the altar at Honey Creek to provide safekeeping in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew’s arrival this coming weekend.

Having a video record of church belongings is great. Securing church property and removing any items which need to leave with those evacuating is even better. But the church is the people and in any disaster, preparing to stay in touch with parishioners is paramount.

Stay in Touch
Having up to date contact lists available is critical. Following any disaster, the first impulse is to make sure that everyone is okay. To do this, you need a system. Know who will call whom and how you will share the news if assistance is needed. If a few people have hard copy and electronic copies of your contact list, you will be able to reach any potentially vulnerable persons quickly. Having cell numbers and email addresses of members will be critical if this is to work as you will otherwise not be able to reach persons who evacuated. As a disaster unfolds, no member of the church should seek to assist another directly. Venturing into a flooded area to help may double the job of first responders. If you know someone is in need, alert emergency personnel to the issue and offer to meet up with him or her at a safe location.

Communications
Decide how existing communications channels will benefit the church in a time of disaster. If you have an active email newsletter and Facebook page, these will be more valuable than your website in getting the word out to parishioners. Let folks know in advance that an email and Facebook post will alert them if Sunday services are cancelled or moved to an alternate location. This information should also be added to the website. Before leaving the church ahead of a storm or other disaster that comes with some advanced notice, change the answering machine to let callers know where they can get the latest information on your church.

Staying in touch in the immediate aftermath and using existing communications channels well will greatly assist in caring for the people of your congregation.

Peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue,Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Share your church life on Social Media

21 Sep

Sunday, September 25th has been designated Social Media Sunday–the day when Christians everywhere are encouraged to share the good news via social media. Started at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tariffville, Connecticut in 2013, Social Media Sunday has grown in the three years since to include people of faith everywhere.

Suggestions include using the hashtag #SMS16 with posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Go even further and add the hashtags #Episcopal and #DioceseofGeorgia. Instagram a selfie with the choir or congregation; tweet the sermon; update your status on Facebook to show that you’re at church; share a photo of your beautiful building and your beautiful friends.

And then, at the end of the day when you check those sites do a search for the hashtags and see how social media connects us and helps us share the good news!

To print out some bulletin inserts created by Acts 8, go here.

peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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St. Swithin’s Can Moo, Can You?

24 Aug

The most effective means of attracting newcomers to any church is a personal invitation from a parishioner. If this makes you nervous about being turned down, know that survey after survey shows that three-quarters of people say they would go to a church if a friend, neighbor, or co-worker invites them. The question is, “Do you have a church home?” And if the answer is no, just say, “St. Swithen’s means so much to me and my family, I would love it if you would visit us sometime.” It is that simple.

In order to make the invitation even easier, Mary Parmer of Invite-Welcome-Connect recommends printing low-cost cards that church members can share with those you want to invite to worship with you. She prefers cards from moo.com as that company permit orders with up to fifty different photos on the set of cards. This means the prospective newcomer will see your church through photos of the building, or even better of worship or another parish event. Mary offers that the many images give a chance for you to fan out several cards with photos and let the person pick the image that appeals to him or her most.

On the backside of the card, offer information about the church including at least the physical location, phone number, web address, and Sunday service times. You may also want to add the web address for your congregation’s Facebook page, if that page is active.

Bless the cards during a Eucharist and invite members to pray about who to invite and then take cards with them. When I served as a parish priest, I had a map with directions and service times on the back of a business card. That one small item often converted a conversation in the community to someone showing up for worship.

We readily share restaurants, movies, and books with friends and co-workers. Why not also share your church with those you love. It is easier than you think.

peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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The Proven Way to Get Closer to Jesus

27 Jul

Want to get closer to Jesus? Attending church helps, but the proven ways to really connect are in your daily life rather than in weekly worship in church. I know you are busy, but the busier you are, the more you need to carve out time each day to be with God. The proven method is simply this: Read the Bible and Pray every day. That’s it.

How not to use the Bible
The reason is that when life gets tough and we need answers, the Bible is a poor guide. The text wasn’t designed to work that way. There is no chapter or book on raising children or on dealing with problems in your marriage. The Bible is not a troubleshooting guide for life. The Bible is God’s living word created to speak to your heart each day. This is the story of God’s love for us and the story is meant to be read again and again so that we see the pattern in scripture of God’s unfailing love and then see it in our lives. The people I see who weather the storms of life well are those who have been marinating their hearts in the Bible for years. Folk like that don’t need a chapter or verse to know God will be faithful when times are tough. They know that truth in their bones. The way to get there, is to begin with baby steps.

Start small and reward yourself
Building new habits takes time. Make this one easy on yourself. If you are not used to reading the Bible, try reading your way through the Gospel of Luke. Read just one chapter each day for 24 days and you can build a new habit. Build in a reward. Read the chapter for the day and then treat yourself in some small way, such as with a piece of chocolate. After 24 days, move on to another Gospel. Once you are through all four, you will have spent months following Jesus.

Daily Offices
Central to our identity as Episcopalians are Morning and Evening Prayer, which are known as the Daily Offices. These short prayer services have a pattern of scripture reading that will have you reading most of the Bible in two years. After months with the Gospels, you will be ready for Morning or Evening Prayer.

Praying these Daily Offices and reading the Bible with the lectionary that goes with them is to be practiced by all clergy and remains the norm for laity. Typically our churches have copies of Forward Day by Day, which offers reflections for each day to fit the same readings as found in the office. You can also find Morning and Evening Prayer online with the readings in place here:

prayer.forwardmovement.org/daily_prayer.php
or
www.missionstclare.com/english/

The Church’s Role – Teach and Model
As congregations, if we are not teaching those who attend worship some practical ways to make our Triune God part of their daily lives, then we are teaching by omission that attending church is all there is to the life of faith. This is not only untrue, it is not fair as that sort of faith will not meet the demands of the real world. We know that daily scripture reading and prayer draw us each closer to God. Let’s be honest and both teach and model that these spiritual disciplines are important to our life of faith and will add immensely to the benefits of weekly worship.

-The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Pokemon Go presents unique opportunity

13 Jul

A free smart phone game has hundreds of thousands of gamers standing around in front of churches. The new geolocation game Pokemon Go is a real sensation bypassing Twitter and catching up to Facebook in time spent engaging online. The free app created by the Google spin-off company, Niantic, uses the players’ GPS in the phone to locate where the gamers is and then makes Pokemon appear on the phone screen in real-life locations giving players a chance to “catch” all 151 virtual creatures on the streets of their town. Many Episcopal Churches (including Christ Church Savannah shown at right in a games screen) have learned that they are “PokeStops” and “Gyms” where players can gather in the real world to capture and battle their virtual Pokemon. The only way to find out if you church is in the game is for someone to download the app and to visit your church.

Turning your church into a “charging station” for players is one way to engage with gamers. As it is hot across south Georgia, offering cold water or a chance to come in air conditioning during church hours can be a way to show off your church to folks who may not otherwise find you. While this fad will fade and likely the vast majority of those playing the game will only find themselves standing near a church in their game play, not entering one, the Holy Spirit uses all kind of ways to get folks attention. Doing what you can reasonably to welcome those God brings your way is always a good idea.

peace,
Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Your Church’s Free Welcome Video for Fall

10 Jul

I worked with others in the Acts 8 Movement to create a 1-minute video any Episcopal Church may use for free to encourage their neighbors to visit this fall. To make the most of the opportunity, we also encourage you to review the Hospitality Checklist offered by Invite-Welcome-Connect to get ready for those newcomers.

Find out more and download the video in English and Spanish here: Your Church’s Free Welcome Video for Fall.

 
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Send a tornado into their hearts – An Ordination Sermon

14 May

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon at St. Paul the Apostle Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia on May 14, 2016 for the ordination of Donald Holland, Ian Lasch, Tommy Townsend, and Ray Whiting to the Sacred Order of Deacons.

Send a tornado into their hearts – An Ordination Sermon
Acts 2:1-21

“What does this mean?” Bewildered, amazed, astonished, and perplexed is how our reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes the crowd gathering that Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Devout Jews from every nation under heaven are living in Jerusalem. Each person hears someone talking in their mother tongue, the language of home. The Good News of Jesus flows fluently from somewhere. As they gather, those seeking the source of the commotion discover a gaggle of Galileans full of the Holy Ghost.

The crowd levels at the disciples a version of the same complaint made against Jesus: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth”. How can these hicks just in from the sticks be speaking clearly in the language of Parthians, Medes, Egyptians, and so on. In the midst of their bewildered amazement, one solution presents itself: These men must be drunk. The part left unsaid is, “Hello. Galileans.”

God is doing a new thing and the crowd gathering on that day when the Holy Spirit first came in power has only their old categories. Based on the existing prejudices about a group of Galileans, the way to make sense of this Pentecost event is to dismiss the clear proclamation of the Gospel as mere nonsense, because the messengers are fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and so on—far from the spiritual elite. The devout Jews from all over the world want to know can we possibly hear God speak through such clearly imperfect vessels as these men?

The question is probably more relevant than you would like me to admit. We are here this morning to take part in the ordination of Donald, Ian, Ray, and Tommy to the Sacred Order of Deacons. So I will repeat the question, “How can we possibly hear God speak through such clearly imperfect vessels as these men?”

Don’t hear me wrong. I think the world of all four ordinands, but to prepare for this sermon I read back through the spiritual autobiographies of all four men and read their extensive psychological reports and more in the five inch stack of paperwork collected by the Diocese of Georgia in the past four or more years. Certainly, those psychological reports did not reveal these men to be any crazier than the rest of us, but spending time with their life stories does show that the path to this day has not been a straight line for any of them. While no individual among the four shares all of these characteristics, as a group they have experienced severe health issues, alcoholism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, periods of doubt and unforgiveness or of notable pride and arrogance, broken marriages, and other twists and turns to their lives so that each of them has friends who will hear of today and think, “Really. What is the church thinking?”

This is where the deacons, priest, and bishop can say, “Welcome to the club.” We too gave some people who heard of our ordinations pause to wonder if the church might be scraping the bottom of the barrel. This has been the reaction to those God calls to serve him since before Mary spoke to an angel and learned, among other things, her next conversation with Joseph would be a doozy or even before Miriam learned that God called her stuttering brother Moses when he was on the run for murder.

Click here for the full text of the sermon: http://loosecanon.georgiaepiscopal.org/?page_id=1635

 
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That They May Become Completely One

08 May

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
in Charleston, South Carolina on May 8, 2016

That They May Become Completely One
John 17:20-26

Let me tell you about my friend Jesus.

Jesus was and is God.
In seeing Jesus, we come to know our Triune God more fully.
In Jesus life and ministry, we see God.
So let me tell you about my friend Jesus.

Jesus was born to a poor mama and poor step daddy. Jesus was a great kid, who grew up to be the man everyone wanted to hear speak. But Jesus was also born into the Roman Empire, so Jesus, the King of all creation, knew disrespect. Jesus grew up in a world that disrespected him at any good opportunity.

A good kid from a good family. A man who would change the world. But if Jesus ducked into a store catering to Romans to buy something for his Mama, he might have to wait a while. Standing there waiting for the others to be served first. Truth be told, the shopkeeper might act like he didn’t even see him until all the right people had been served first. They would not have seen the content of his character. One look at Jesus and they knew his kind could wait. That’s the world my friend Jesus knew.

And if anyone wanted to change the way the world worked, the Empire lined the roads with crosses. Get too far out of line, you would get hung on a cross as an example to the rest.

So what did my friend Jesus do?
He turned that world upside down every chance he got.

Oh the world fought back. The creation that had already turned its back on God always fights back against the way the world should be. But that kid from Nazareth conquered the Roman Empire and he has been conquering principalities and powers ever since. My friend Jesus sees the crosses, the beatings, the lynching trees, the electric chairs, the prisons full of lives of promise cut short. Jesus sees all the ways we put people down and it breaks his heart. Jesus sees the heart of every man and woman. He knows us, the good and the very bad, and he loves us anyway, completely, unreservedly.

As our friend Jesus tells us in our reading this morning from John’s Gospel, he and God the Father are one. He tells us that he is in the Father and the Father is in him and he wants us to be in them too. Our friend Jesus talks like that sometimes. Especially the way his Beloved Disciple John tells about Jesus.

Jesus wants us to know that before the very foundation of the world, God was in relationship. No I can’t describe it fully. The Trinity is a divine mystery. But Jesus wants us to understand something about the nature of God. Jesus tells us that he and the Father and the Holy Spirit were in relationship before the creation.

Somehow in God’s own being there was and is love. And when this Triune God did create, God created out of that love for love. Yes, it’s a mystery. No, we can’t fully comprehend it, but there is something to this Trinity of persons that is written in to the very fabric of creation. Everything is interconnected. All creation is meant to be in one harmonious relationship.
God did not create one kind of person just so another kind of person could put them down. God did not create some kid just to stand aside in a store unseen until all the right people bought what they came to buy. Sin created that mess.

God created a world out of love for love. God imprints on each human the very image and likeness of God. God sees us and calls us good. It’s sin that leads to world with roads lined with crosses and lynching trees.

In our reading from John’s Gospel, it is the night before Jesus is to die. He knows the Empire has a cross with his name on it. Jesus did not have to go looking for his cross. Jesus loved like there is no “us” and “them.” Jesus showed compassion to the lost and the left out. Jesus loved as God loved breaking down divisions among people. The cross found Jesus.

The full sermon continues here: http://loosecanon.georgiaepiscopal.org/?page_id=1624

 
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Remember Me – Palm Sunday Sermon

21 Mar

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this sermon
at Christ Church Frederica on Palm Sunday 2016

Remember Me
Luke 22:14-23:56

On the night before he died, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” So begins the long reading of the Passion from Luke’s Gospel.

We begin with Passover. Later, Peter will forget Jesus prediction and will deny three times that he even knows Jesus.

Then much later as Jesus after he has been crucified and looked out on those killing him, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” A criminal dying alongside the innocent Jesus wants this mercy too. The thief says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Our reading begins with an act of remembering, then out of fear Peter feigns amnesia trying to forget his connection to Jesus, and finally a criminal next to Jesus asks that the Lord remember him. I want to pick up this thread of remembering, forgetting, and remembering as a lens through which to look not just at Jesus’ passion, but also at our lives.

Remembering is essential to any understanding of Judaism and so the roots of our own faith. The most basic statement of the Judaism, to be remembered by all, is the Shema, a simple prayer taken directly from the Torah which Jews are to pray twice daily and are, if possible, to be reciting as they die. The words are:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

These are the words written inside the phylacteries, the two small square leather boxes traditionally worn on the forehead and the left arm during morning prayer by Torah observant Jewish. These words also go into a Mezuzah, the decorative case that goes alongside the doorways of observant Jews. The central proclamation is to be recited to your children and talked about when you are at home and when you are away when you lie down and when you rise.

One story points to how powerful this act of remembering can be. Immediately on peace coming at the end of the Second World War, Rabbi Eliezer Silver went to Europe to find Jewish children hidden among non-Jewish families to escape the Holocaust. To find the children, he would later recount how he went to gatherings of children and call out:

: אֶחָד יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה יִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁמַע
אֱלֹהֶיךָ יְהוָה אֵת וְאָהַבְתָּ
מְאֹדֶךָ –וּבְכָל ,נַפְשְׁךָ- וּבְכָל ,לְבָבְךָ- בְּכָל

Shema Yisrael, Ado-nai Elo-heinu, Ado-nai Echad.
Vuh-ahav-ta ate Ado-noi Elo-hecha
Bi-chol li-vav-cha oo-vi-chol naf-shecha oo-vi-chol mi-odecha

Rabbi Eliezer would then scan the crowd and could see the children remember who they were as those words spoken by their Jewish parents spoke deeply to kids scarred by war. Just as they were trained to do from bedtime onward, the words Hear O Israel spoken in Hebrew broke the spell, cured the amnesia, and let the children remember who they were, and restored them to community.

The Torah instructs the faithful to tell of God’s great deeds to their children and their children’s children. This daily act of praying the Shema is coupled with the central act of remembrance, the Passover. At each Passover Seder, Jews recall that if God had not brought the children of Israel out of Egypt with a mighty arm, they would still be slaves.

An important part of every Passover Seder comes when a child asks the central question of Passover, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The traditional response is, “On this night we remember we were slaves in Egypt…”

That key question traditionally comes after the second toast of wine. And Luke records in his Gospel the two toasts as well as Jesus’ words. After the second toast, Jesus, as the head of the Passover celebration, would be expected to tell the Exodus story.

Jesus should have said, “On this night we remember we were slaves in Egypt…” But that’s not what he said. What Jesus did say was, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” And Jesus also said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Our word “remember” as we use it today is a weak compared to what is meant here. The Greek word is Anamnesis, which does mean remember, but it means this in a very real sense. If my arm or my leg is cut off, I am dismembered. Anamnesis is the opposite of dismembering. We re-member when our members are once more attached. We are made whole. We are fully ourselves once more.

Jesus said that when you do this, I will be re-membered. The Body of Christ will once more be whole. It is not that we will recall who Jesus was, but we will know fully who we are as he is present to us and we are part of his mystical body.

The full sermon continues here: http://loosecanon.georgiaepiscopal.org/?page_id=1601

 
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Improve Your Congregation’s Welcome

16 Mar

Among the areas proven to be critical to growing any size church, the most important are welcoming and following up with newcomers to get them connected to the congregation.

To assist congregations in the Diocese of Georgia with a hospitality tune up, I created a 3-page checklist, which is online here: Hospitality Checklist. The checklist takes a visitor’s encounter with your church from before they arrive until after they are home. Included at the bottom of the checklist are two other ways to put your hospitality to the test:

  1. Have members of your vestry or greeting teams visit other Episcopal Churches and churches in your area of other denominations. Then have these teams return to brainstorm what was learned, seeing your own church with new eyes and incorporating good ideas from other churches.
  2. Ask a person with no church to be a “mystery worshipper” and make a report back on their experience. For examples of reports see: http://www.ship-of- fools.com/mystery/

Invite-Welcome-Connect
Another helpful resource is Mary Parmer’s Invite-Welcome-Connect website created by the Diocese of Texas. That diocese created intentional structures of invitation, welcome, and connection which were researched, designed, and implemented in test congregations with reporting back on data to see the impact. The result is this well thought out and field-tested material. We know that cultivating new practices of invitation, welcome, and connection that are rooted and grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ will gradually change our congregations and help shape an authentic culture of effective newcomer ministry. The free resources at that website show how to improve your congregation’s welcome.


Personal Invitation
Survey after survey shows that people most often connect to a new church after a personal invitation from a family member, friend, or co-worker invited him or her to church. There is no better time to invite someone to church than Easter. Pray who God would have you invite. Then when you feel that nudge of the Holy Spirit, don’t hold back. Just ask.

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue

 
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Prepare Now to Advertise Your Easter Liturgies

02 Mar

The Easter Sunday liturgies not only represent the pinnacle of our faith in Jesus Christ, that Sunday is also the best opportunity of the year for inviting your community to worship with you. We know that many people only want to be asked and they will say yes to coming to your church. The best way to ask is for parishioners to personally invite their friends, co-workers, and family members. You can prepare the way for this by advertising on Facebook where many of these connections already are linked.

I partnered with friends around the church (including our Presiding Bishop who added his voice to kick off the English language video) to create videos in English, Spanish, and many of the other languages in which Episcopalians worship. The video is free for you to share as your congregation’s own in order to advertise your Easter liturgies. The video is online here: Your Free Easter Invitation Video. You can also see our still rather anecdotal evidence suggesting increased attendance at churches that used the Ash Wednesday Ad: 7 Lessons from the Ash Wednesday Facebook Video Experiment.

Creating an Inexpensive Ad on Facebook
To support parishioners in asking their friends, try a Facebook ad starting either March 13 or Palm Sunday, March 20. We have found targeting Friends of those who like your congregation’s Facebook page who also live within the area of your church is a very effective group. The following tutorial is provided to walk you through the process of downloading the video from this post, uploading it to Facebook, and creating a Facebook ad:

Then after Easter, share your experiences (good or bad) with trying this means of advertising.

peace, Frank
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue

 
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Closing the Gender Gap for Clergy Pay

21 Feb

Churches in general, and the Episcopal Church in specific, are no better, and often worse, than society at large in paying female clergy less than their male counterparts. This fact is supported by good data from across the Episcopal Church collected by the Church Pension Group and reported in their 2014 Church Compensation Report and echoed in a recent editorial in the Christian Century: The Pay Gap at Church. We do not need more data. We need to address the problem.

In the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, we have addressed this problem directly in the past six years and have achieved equal pay for equal positions, but still have work remaining. We followed a common sense approach which will close the gap in any diocese. I want to briefly outline the actions we took and challenge other dioceses to take up this important work.

1. Name the problem and decide to address it
While not every diocese has a starting point this far off the mark, we found that the few female clergy in the Diocese in 2010 were paid much less than their male counterparts whether an assistant or in charge of a congregation. Some male clergy were also outliers whose compensation also needed to be addressed to begin to approach equity. I think the most important step came when Bishop Benhase named this inequity as a problem and Diocesan Council, the bishop, and bishop’s staff agreed this needed to be addressed.

2. Set appropriate minimum compensation
The first step was to update the minimum compensation for all full-time priests from the then minimum of $39,000 for salary/housing/SECA which had not changed since 2003. I proposed a new system, approved by the Bishop and Council, which replaced the one-size minimum with a chart that increased the minimum by size of congregation and tenure as a priest. That chart is shown at left.

Assisting priests compensation is set as a minimum equal to the under 75 in Average Sunday Attendance column on the chart. Two years later, we added a chart making clear how this minimum applied to part time clergy with an example of quarter-time, half-time, and three-quarters time compensation. While still low compared to other parts of the country, this chart put us closer to our neighboring dioceses of Alabama and Upper South Carolina whose minimum compensation had not lagged as ours had.

Also important is that starting in 2010, the Bishop and staff moved to the High Deductible Plan for insurance with the employer also contributing the Health Savings Account. We encouraged clergy to move to this plan and later set it as our standard. In the process, we lowered insurance costs initially by 11% and have kept increases lower. This assisted our congregations with lowered benefit costs as we sought to increase priests’ pay.

3. Publish an annual compensation survey
Beginning in 2011, we started publishing an annual survey of the compensation for full-time priests. This survey went into our weekly email newsletter for the diocese and is published on the diocesan website. In 2015, we added a separate full chart for assisting priests. All of these surveys remain posted at the Reference Library of the diocesan website. One will note that the priest’s name is not listed. This was for clarity rather than anonymity. Listing a priest’s name is less important for understanding the data than knowing the budget of the congregation, its average Sunday attendance, and the number of years the person has served as a priest. The chart then gives this data for easy comparison. Anyone curious can work out who is who with little effort. This survey has also been very helpful in working with search committees to set the compensation for new calls in the diocese. (click the infographic at right to see a full sized version.)

4. Directly address outliers with vestries on behalf of the priest
This step proved vital. In 2010, we looked at the data and knew we had a problem. In consultation with the bishop, I determined the half dozen priests, both male and female, who were paid much less than their peers in a church of comparable budget and attendance. I then called the priest to let her or him know I would be addressing this. Then I called the Senior Warden, gave them the data and said we either needed a plan to work the priest toward appropriate pay or we would need to assist the priest in getting a call to a congregation where proper compensation could be offered. We would then need to assist the church in calling a priest at proper compensation. This was always done with reference to their budget and with an eye toward moving in steps.

Outcomes in Georgia
Within four years, the median pay for male priests raised 8% while the median pay for female priests raised 20%. These percentages are based on pay adjusted for inflation to reflect constant dollars so the increase is beyond inflation. Women in comparable positions receive comparable pay. But we all know the inconvenient fact hidden in that statement. Female priests are  in charge only of congregations in our diocese with an attendance of 140 on Sunday or less. To address this last problem, I have worked with the bishop to make sure all searches have good, qualified female candidates to consider. We ask that even if they are unsure about calling a female priest, congregations include qualified female priests in their face to face interviews. In 2015, three female priests became rectors of congregations previously served only by  male rectors. We believe that as our larger congregations interview the top notch female priests interested in a call to their church that we will make progress with this more persistent issue.

Remaining Problems
Do not hear anything written above as stating that we have solved the problem of pay inequities. We have acknowledged this and taken steps to address it, but serious problems remain and I don’t have an answer to all of them. For example, we have good priests doing great work in places where the town has been stagnant or in decline in population. The budget of the church is not going up and the benefit costs are rising. We simply cannot advocate for higher pay, even though it would be right for the priest, as the church cannot pay it. The only way to get proper pay is to move and priests can decide not to leave for another call for a variety of good reasons. So we still have many priests, both male and female, making less than is fitting for their length of service to the church and faithfulness in serving. Similarly, we have some priests making well more than others and we will not advocate for less pay. Short of a national standard adjusted for cost of living, these inequities will remain.

A Challenge to the Church
We can use the excuses of not enough data, or try to explain away the problem. But we know enough to state clearly that women are paid less than their male counterparts to serve as priest of a congregation. This is not just. We can not give away what we do not have, so we have no place to stand in a advocating for justice while our house is in such disarray. I am open to other paths to closing the gap, but feel sure that the four steps named above will result in greater equity for all priests. Given the demanding work to which we are called, the church should expect nothing less.

Frank
The Rev. Can Frank Logue
Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Georgia

 
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Grow Christians: An Intergenerational Resource

10 Feb

For busy families, finding the practices to nurture your faith is no easy task. Two friends of mine have teamed up to create an important resource this Lent in the GrowChristians.org website. The site launched early to encourage registrations for the updates throughout Lent and the reflections at the site have been though-provoking as Ben Irwin wrote about talking to kids about hard stuff in Lent and Derek Olsen shared why he considers taking our kids to the Ash Wednesday liturgy to be so important.

The ambitious goal of GrowChristians.org is to “create an online community of discipleship focused on the practical details of life at home.” To accomplished this, they have brought together reflections, stories, images, and recipes from a diverse group of Episcopalians around the church. The group blog is a pilot project intended to inspire “generations to come together as they celebrate the presence of God through the Christian year.”

I know Nurya Love Parish, the Episcopal priest behind the Diocese Western Michigan’s Plainsong Farm and Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement and I am grateful to these two leaders for creating thoughtful ways families can engage with their faith meaningfully this Lent. I encourage you to sign up for the email updates.

Peace, Frank
Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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Advertise Your Congregation on Facebook

03 Feb

Harness the power of a friend of a friend to invite neighbors to your congregation this Easter using Facebook. With 1.4 billion users active each month, Facebook users in America alone log a collective 335,000 years per month on the site. Your community has thousands of typical Facebooker users, who each average 20 minutes per day at the site. Even with very little time and a tiny budget, you can make an impact using a Facebook ad.

One church in the Diocese of Georgia with experience in social media advertising is Christ Church Frederica, where Facebook is the foundation of all of their advertising. The Rev. Tom Purdy, Rector of Christ Church, says, “We like to use Facebook because we can target a specific demographic of person, based on age, gender, place of residence, etc. it will even let us enter keywords that a person may have used in a comment or share from another post. So that people reading our posts have already displayed some affinity for our event or our parish.”

The church uses Facebook to advertise special events, concerts, and worship services. One recent example is that Christ Church paid $75 to run their Christmas ad for four days preceding Christmas eve. The ad reached 9,201 people. The video was viewed 4,775 times, with at least half of the video watched 522 times. The video also garnered 140 likes, comments, and shares on Facebook.

Purdy notes, “We did not have a way to measure the impact on attendance as a direct result of the ad, however, we did see an increase of about 100 persons in terms of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attendance, or about 15% over last year.”

Even $20 could get your Easter services in front of many neighbors who might not otherwise consider joining you for worship this year. Here are the three steps toward starting your congregation’s marketing campaign on Facebook:

1. Update your church’s Website and Facebook Page
Before inviting neighbors to take a look, make sure your online presence is up to date. You don’t want to encourage internet savvy folks in your community to check your church out, only to have them find the 2013 acolyte schedule posted at your website. Make sure that both the Facebook page and website have current information with good directions, current service times, and accurate contact information. Having fewer pages is fine. Just make sure what is present at your website is accurate. If you are not currently doing so, start posting 3-5 new items each week through Lent in order to keep your Facebook page active.

2. Create concise and compelling content to promote 
Make your invitation brief and crystal clear. Use an appropriate image with the text to invite your community to worship with you this Easter. In order to assist Episcopal Churches in offering eye-catching content, www.acts8movement.org offers an Ash Wednesday video you can customize and use for free now, and an Easter video will be online February 24. When posting this video on your Facebook page, be very concise:

Celebrate the love of God this Easter at Christ Church.
Join us at 10 am and stay for the Easter egg hunt following our worship.
or
Join us for a joyful celebration of the Good News
of Jesus’s Resurrection this Easter at 8 and 10 a.m.

Then link this brief text and a photo to a webpage that gives Easter service times and directions, availability of a nursery and other information of interest to a first-time visitor.

3. Boost your post using Facebook’s ad manager
With a Facebook post now online, you can capture more attention with a $20-$50 ad. The advertising part of this is essential. Facebook bases a users feed on the people and sites he or she interacts with most often. Post on your churches Facebook page will only be seen by about 16 percent of the people who like and follow your church page. Advertising allows you to target the People who like your Page, the People who like your Page and their friends, or People you choose through targeting. Targeting is based on location, interests, age and gender. Not sure which to choose? Try a test with a $20 ad to People who like your page and their friends and a second $20 ad targeting people who live near your church.

Make sure to use Facebook’s Ad Manager to boost your post rather than clicking the “Boost Post” link on the post itself. The Ad Manager will give you additional targeting, better statistics, and the ability to make changes to how your ad is targeted while the campaign is underway.

Peace,

Frank
Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

 
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