I’m Terrible at Fasting…

In an attempt to always share real life, I need to confess: I’m a terrible faster.

But really, I’m so bad at it.

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I didn’t grow up with fasting being a regularly practiced spiritual discipline; despite growing up in a passionate and God centered home, that wasn’t something we did.

Prayer, Bible study, learning, teaching, serving etc.. All normal practices in my home growing up.

Fasting? Not so much.

In fact, I was in my early 20’s the first time I fasted! – That was a bad day, and I was hungry and frustrated all day.

I can confidently tell you that as I am about to turn 32, I’m still bad at fasting, but I’m practicing it more regularly now.

I have fasted food, social media, TV, meats and dairy products, sugar, caffeine… So many things, but every single time I come back to the understanding that I think I may be doing it wrong lol

Here’s what I have decided and/or learned as I practice fasting:

Fasting takes practice. 
It isn’t about success or failure for me, it is entirely about learning HOW to fast well. Because, if I am being honest, I don’t entirely understand it… I mean, I understand the concept, but it doesn’t seem to be for me what other’s explain fasting to be…

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have experienced a more full and fulfilling life while fasting!
I have had a shift in perspectives!
I have even been able to see something’s grip on me get broken (think you may have an addiction to food, sugar, social media, tv? – Fasting is where it’s at!)

Fasting is hard.
Literally, it is actually really difficult to fast.

Fasting sets you up for some really bad days.
I have yet to experience a day/season of fasting that wasn’t actually really frustrating. I have concluded that all of the things that come up while fasting are classic case devil tactics. – I recognize the tactics for what they are, but sometimes not until much later… After I have been ready to kill people (oops) haha

Fasting can kill your focus.
Reportedly fasting can give you mental clarity… That has not been my experience. At. All. – In fact, on days I fast, a lot of the time I find myself unable to focus on anything longer than two minutes; and end up rotating between 15 different projects in order to see some sort of productivity!

Fasting by yourself is the worst..
I have fasted alone, and I have fasted with others… Fasting alone is terrible. I can never seem to get it right when it’s by myself. My focus, attitude, attention, perspective, all awful.

AND, sometimes I forget to even pray on days I’m fasting.

I’m terrible at fasting.

Fasting with others can make all the difference.
When someone is agreeing with you in prayer, and when you’re able to share the frustrations of the day, it makes or breaks the fast… (at least for me currently).

When I fast with others, and talk about it with them; we began to notice more of the prayers being answered, clarity on each other’s behalf, and we can see more tactics being used by the devil. Not to mention, more solidarity as we learn to navigate through how to fast better when we reflect on the successes and failures from the day/season.

Fasting requires preparation.
If you go into a fast willy nilly style and expect God to show up, you’re going to fail. Every time. – But really, this has been my experience.
If you are doing the Daniel Fast, you will need to prepare with the right foods.
If you’re doing liquid only, you need to prepare your day.
If you’re fasting social media/tv or something else, you need a plan for what to do instead. Otherwise you’ll fill your time with equally useless things…

But, you also need to know what you’re praying for/over, otherwise your focus will prevent you from praying well… or maybe at all.

I think it should be said again: I have fasted before and forgot to pray for the ENTIRE DAY.

Fail.

Fasting should include Bible reading.
Read your Bible kids… I have failed at this frequently. How do you forget to read  your bible when you’re fasting? I dunno, but I do!

More than just reading your bible, know what you’re looking for and planning, otherwise it can feel like empty words. (trust me)

Fasting doesn’t always mean better Jesus time.
I often find fasting to feel more like an uphill battle trying to connect with Jesus rather than a sweet beautiful or intimate time with Jesus and the Holy Spirit!

Fasting can make all the difference.
I know with all the confidence that some strongholds can only be broken through prayer and fasting… I’ll let you know when I experience a life changing stronghold being broken. I have complete faith that this is crucial and important, which is why I continue to press in and practice fasting.

One day it will make all the difference.

Fasting isn’t as simple as people make it out to be.
Fasting isn’t as simple as: “I’m going to pray, read my Bible and then *BAM* the Holy Spirit shows up and we have a beautiful time together.

Fasting is actually really hard mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even spiritually. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that either these people are lying, or they just have more experience at practicing fasting than I do. So, because I believe that fasting matters, I continue to press in. I continue to practice, and I will slowly get better at this… Maybe. 😉

What I know for sure is that I am terrible at fasting; but, I need to hone my skills and tactics for doing it better…

But, as of today, I am still pretty bad at it. 🙂

Is there a classic spiritual discipline that you’re terrible at?

Your Social Media Voice Needs Rules…

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Back when Social Media mainly consisted of Chatrooms, Myspace, my blog was on Xanga and Facebook had yet to become a major player; I had a professor tell a class that I was in, that we had to decide what our online voice would look like.

How would we conduct ourselves?
What were our rules of engaging?

He insisted that at some point in the future, potential jobs would look to our social media presentation of ourselves to decide if we would indeed be a good addition to their company/organization.

He stressed how much it mattered how we presented ourselves online… I remember very little from that class, but that discussion has stood out to me for 10+ years.

Fast-forward to today.

Social media can get exhausting.

There is a never ending plethora of soap boxes, opinions, emotions, facts, “facts”, images, politics blah blah blah blah.

Fatigue.

But, let’s be honest, there’s also puppies, funny memes, jokes, beautiful pictures, interesting things, movie/tv show trailers, touching stories, actually keeping in touch with all of life’s ups and downs, and great conversations…

There is connection and a real sense of community when social media is done right and well.

However, let’s be real here, it can all get overwhelming and exhausting trying to wade through it all.

I have been thinking a lot lately about Social media etiquette, and how SO many people seem to not have pre-decided rules for engaging… Likely because they have just never thought of it before.

Here are some suggestions for rules of engagement, some do’s and don’ts to consider:

  1. Assess:
    ~Is your post Inclusive or Selfish? – Meaning, does it encourage community and engaging or is it “look at me” or “listen to me” selfish style.
    ~If your post is not inclusive, how can you change it to be more engaging and involving of others? – Trust me, make that change.
  2. Stop Doing These Things:
    ~Never post when you’re angry… As in, just don’t do it.
    ~Never respond or debate when you’re angry.. You will be incapable of communicating clearly.
    ~Debate in general. Stop debating on social media. – Your pride becomes more important than the person you are debating with. – Knock it off because your “rightness” will never be realized by the other person.
    ~Everyone gets sucked into debates now and then.. it happens to the best of us. – But for real, let’s all just stop it and move back to in-person debates if they are necessary.
    ~We (errrbody) are all tired of the soap box rants. – Stop telling people on the digital stage what you think about polarizing topics… Not. Helpful. and definitely not insightful.
    ~ Stop sharing inappropriate things that you wouldn’t show or say in proper settings (or show/say to your grandma).
  3. In fact, let’s just all agree to stop posting when we have any dramatic emotion other than happy… Avoid. Abort. Delete.
  4. Can We Just All Do More:
    ~Posting of things that are funny, inclusive, brings people into conversation and digital community.
    ~Share loving things, encouraging things, interesting things, helpful things, funny things.. Good things.
    ~Puppies and kitties – These are great, when in doubt: cute it up.
    ~Funny/ridiculous/embarrassing personal stories that show your life isn’t perfect! – No really, these types of posts would make the world a better place for all of us.

So much of what is now  “acceptable Social Media engagement” has replaced communication that is actually supposed to be done in a personal face to face conversation.

People are saying and posting things that they have no business sharing with your cousin’s best friend’s mom because it happened to be liked or commented on by a mutual friend or two.

Things are said that would be considered with much more wisdom “in real life” if that person was sitting in front of them.

Feelings are disregarded too easily online because we can’t see the facial expression of the person we are interacting with… We actually care less and love them less. Basically meaning, we fail.

Keep in mind, this is just my opinion…. like everything else online: Consider and take it, leave it, share it, take parts and leave other parts… But, for the love, please consider something new for your rules of engagement!

It is time we ALL re-assess our rules for online engagement.

So, what are your rules of engagement?

How are you intentionally creating your digital voice and presentation of self?

What are you doing to add to or detract from the online world?

Do you say things on social media that draws people into community or
are you saying things that more closely resembles reality TV?

Take some time and consider what your social media etiquette should be and how you should/n’t engage.

Excitement and Nervousness…

It has been 51 weeks since I have had full-time job. For the last year, I have put almost all of my effort towards finding a new job and moving forward. In the course of the last year I have dabbled in my consulting work, and really just used it to help cover the basic financial needs that I had.

Throughout the course of job-hunting, I have been struggling with frustration, timing, and desperately trying to hold onto any bits of hope I could find. And then, recently I have started to realize that maybe God is just telling me “no”… But, then what if he was saying “wait” instead.. And then, concern and frustrating would grow deeper because I could not get a clear grasp of the situation or direction.

Within the last few weeks, three more job possibilities fell through, and at the same time I had several people (separately) start encouraging me to really think about and pursue my consulting work… After all, I was already building a client list that includes people in several states, another country, and a vast array of industries… Technically, I was already “succeeding” even though I had not stopped to look at it in that way.

Initially, I dismissed the notion of working to survive off of my consulting work. After all, the level of income I would need means my number of clients would be absolutely ridiculous.. and, I was fairly confident I would not be able to pull it off without killing myself.

Yet, after a couple of weeks of someone mentioning it almost daily, I began to really consider the possibility, but found myself truly struggling with fear of failing. –Which was a unique experience since fear is not often a factor that inhibits my decision-making.

I was plagued with hundreds of “what ifs” and overwhelmed with the possibility of trying and failing, then frustrated all over again that those two things were impacting me to such a degree that I was refusing to move.

So, several weeks later, dozens of conversations with a whole lot of different people, thinking, praying, and really processing what would need to happen in order for me to survive off of my consulting work.. All of which I am fairly confident drove my friends and family crazy (thanks for the patience), I have finally settled with some excitement and trepidation on a decision:

I am going to pursue consulting as a full-time/main source of income.

I may upon occasion still apply to full-time jobs that strike me as particularly exciting or interesting, however, I am no longer going to mainly focus on applying for jobs. If God opens a door for me to walk through that seems right, then I will, but until then, consulting work seems to be the only door open.

Which of course leaves the question, what am I consulting on?

Marketing,
Communications,
Advertising,
Social and Digital Media,
Content and Copy Writing,
Branding,
Strategic Planning,
Business Development,
Leadership Training,
Change Management,
Among a few other closely related items…

I mean after all, I already have a large portion of the up front work done:
www.backinconsulting.com
Facebook

I have been slowly gaining clients through freelance sites online, but I have been amazed by the word of mouth clients that have come along unexpectedly. I am also excited that I have found an interesting niche in consulting for smaller churches.

I really do love and enjoy both the field of marketing and when I get to do consulting work, I like getting to know new people and researching their industries. However, I think what I enjoy the most is using something that is relatively “useless” in the grand scheme of things, and getting to impact people’s lives in a significant and meaningful to them way.

Along the way, some of my biggest hold ups have been that it was not in my plan to switch to consulting work as my main career focus… My plan was to do consulting work if I ever got married and needed to follow my husband, and/or needed to stay at home with kids… But, as a single woman, I never really considered it to be a real possibility… Yet here I am not only considering it, but working towards it diligently every day. Yikes!

A small part of me almost expects a full-time job to come around now that I have shifted my focus, but I am building my clientele slowly enough that I would be able to have both a full-time job and maintain my clients. Plus, I am trusting that God is using this change in direction to restore, rebuild me, and shape my future entirely differently than I had anticipated and planned for.

It is all both exciting and makes me really nervous.

Please pray for me and that I am able to build my clients to a decent level, but also, that I can move forward without fear motivating me one way or another.

Also, I would appreciate you keeping me in mind as you hear of people/companies/churches that may need help!

I think it is finally time to start regrowing.

IMG_1699“My Tree”, you can read more about the story behind this tree here.

 

Social Church Summit

I do not often post informational things or “work” style things on my blog, but I felt like this was a better and more useful Social Media Platform for sharing the content from the #SocialChurchSummit earlier today.

Some of the notes below are directly from the summit, other portions are me expounding on the information to help clarify or adding my own thoughts and recommendations.

Also, this is not a total or complete transcript or notes from every point made. This is a compilation of the ones I found to be the best and most important.

The first speaker was , and he shared about content strategy:

Content must have a solid strategy.

He shared five strategies that they utilized:
Inspiration – Churches have lots of inspiration to share! Scripture, pastor or speaker quotes, theologians etc.. All can be put to graphics, videos, meme’s etc..
Information – Churches have lots of information to share, groups, events, needs, etc..
Communication – Social media is meant to be SOCIAL. Which means things should be shared, retweeted, liked, commented on, responded to etc..
Diversification – Diversify between platforms. Obviously there simply isn’t time to cover ALL social media platforms, but choosing a few to focus on is very important.
Consistency – Posting and sharing on a regular basis is crucial to engage with the people you are trying to reach and connect with, as well as the congregation that already attends your church.

Different platforms need different messages.

“We would never close our church doors, so we would never ‘close’ our social media.” (We should be consistent and open to communicating with people in this way)

Next, the real questions is, Ok, so we must use different platforms, and change the message depending on the platform. How and what does that mean and look like?

Where to say it?:
Start by learning the basics of Facebook, then learn how to adapt that to other platforms.
Start with a Personal Profile. This will be your personal voice and face in the social media realm.
Second is a Page. This will be the corporate voice and face of the organization in the social media realm.
Third is the Groups function. In groups is where community really happens on Facebook.
Each of these are different and serve different purposes.

@seancannell shared about Marketing and Content creation…

“Good marketing won’t make up for bad content.”

Content:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Provide value
  3. Level up your production
  4. Engage your audience – Calls to action

Marketing:

  1. Optimize your videos for discovery – Name things well, tag them with key words, anything that will aid search engines to find your video.
  2. Maximize your social media channels. – Post and promote across several channels.
  3. Don’t just publish videos, build a brand. – Build a catalogue that is strategically tied together so that everything you post builds upon what you have posted previously.
  4. Review your YouTube insights. – What’s working and what’s not?.. What gets lots of views? What is not getting searched? Did a particular tag work well?

What is your Brand? Simply put, it is what people think and feel about your church/ organization.

“Content is fire, Social media is gasoline”

You can learn more about ways to utilize Youtube at your church from: Youtubeforchurches.com

@HaleyVeturis  shared about Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat, and how churches can use them effectively.

Instagram is similar to twitter but with images and videos (and no character limit)

  1. This is a fun way to connect with your audience – be sure to Follow Back.
  2. Use quality to get to quantity – Take a bunch of pictures, and post the best one. She suggested Afterlight as an app to use. Personally I also use Picstitch to create collages.
  3. Spread out your posts – 5x per week up to 1-2x a day
  4. Hashtag it. (What is a hashtag?.. The pound sign: #) – Why use a hashtag?.. It creates digital “file folders” for searching, so everyone that used that same hashtag will be added into the same “file”. – Use them to create fun or funny things. #IAmAwesome #- Make everything one word, and no punctuation is useable.

Pinterest is a virtual idea bulletin board. You can create boards for different ideas.

  1. Organize and categorize your boards. For example, “The Word” board she created has typographic scripture.
  2. Provide useful content – The “wisdom” board has content from pastors/speakers/theologians.
  3. Youtube video boards
  4. Connect with your pinners – Follow back
  5. Use strong key words – Be sure to use good searchable keywords
  6. Pin and Repin (aka share)– “Become a curator of great content”

Snapchat is an app that allows you to view videos and pictures for up to 60 seconds at a time before they go away.

  1. Usually the pictures are something you share with a friend throughout your day that is fun/silly/random.
  2. Not for churches or organizations, it is more for individuals.
  3. It is important to note that Snapchat keeps all pictures, and people can screenshot, although you are given a notification when they do.

How do you manage it all? After all, because it is social, you say things, then people respond, and then you have to respond again! Sometimes it can get overwhelming.

Be sure to:

  1. Monitor your time. (Not just with Social media, anything that takes time should be monitored.) Be sure to carve out specific time. – Many spend too much time on Social Media wasting the time that should be spent elsewhere.
  2. Set goals and develop systems for how best to approach social media.
  3. Empower people – It’s suppose to be social and interactive, but you don’t have to do it alone. You will be more successful if you do it together as a team.

Personally I have struggled with absent-mindedly going to my social media sites… So, how do you prevent absent-mindedly going to Social Media? I recommend installing the SelfControl app to help.

FaithSocial is also listed as a resource able to help churches. (They also were a main sponsor of the summit) @mick_twomey 

“It’s important to embrace both your current and future people where they are at.. Online.”

“Too many people are targeting outreach with people who have never engaged with the church before.” – You must switch how your church communicates.

Where are the churches really struggling with social media? – The ones who are struggling tend to because of resource issues. Social Media can be a pretty daunting experience because it takes time and effort to put it together and pull it off.

“Engagement and Effective Growth are tied together.”

Physical presence is critically important, but you have to be more than physical in order to be successful right now.

@djchuang shared some of the churches that are succeeding with Social/digital media:

  1. LifeChurch.TV is the most known church for social media and innovation. – They have a team set aside specifically to develop the missional use of technology. – They are also the ones that created and launched the Bible App Youversion.
  2. Mars Hill Church – Seattle
  3. Crosspoint Church – Nashville
  4. Gateway Church – TX – They also have the Table project, and it is free software for churches!
  5. Community Bible Church – TX

He DJ said that Domain extensions are going to become more popular, and the internet will no longer be just .coms.

I can think of a few other churches that I would add to this list as well, but for now I won’t add to his list.

“It’s all about storytelling – How do I get the message across on this platform?” – @garyvee – If you cannot be the best storyteller, then you need to find someone who does and can be the best storyteller on social media.

His theory and approach to social media is: Delegate a lot of the ‘not as important’ things to other people. And, we spend at least 2 hours a day on things that truly don’t matter as much because we are used to doing them, leisure, habit, laziness etc..

“Your customers are living on these platforms.” – So why would you not engage them here? – My personal perspective is that if you are in ministry (and in business) you do not get a personal view of social media, you are to suck it up and engage at the ‘modern day’ watering holes of the people who need you. Social Media is not about you when you are in ministry, it is about others… Just my personal perspective.

Outreach through In-reach.

Regardless of your personal view of social media, reaching out socially IS real, and IS personal. The more personal and relational you can be with others, the more you will connect and help them also to outreach and more effective.

The sponsors for the summit were:
FaithVillage.com
ARC Association of Related Churches
Media Fusion
Group.com
VanderBloemen Search Group

I hope that this was helpful.
If you have any questions or would like some more personalized help with your social media, feel free to contact me. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @kpbback or my Facebook page: BackIn Consulting

Go to Twitter and type in #SocialChurchSummit in the search bar and you will be able to see thoughts, comments, questions, and people engaging in the summit as well to broaden your understanding and connect with others.

Love of Social Media…

I love social media.

Sure, there are drawbacks, such as getting sucked into an ultimately meaningless debate and allowing it to drive your blood pressure up.. or taking the 400th quiz just for the heck of it… or spending waayyyy too much time stalking yet more engagement, wedding, honeymoon, baby, vacation pictures of people you haven’t talked to you years.

But, here is the thing, I think social media is not only useful, but something that should be viewed as a perfect medium for connecting with people you are unable to see face to face as often as you would like.

I think social media should have some forethought put into it, and because of that, I have compiled a list of 7 thoughts to share with you:

1. Social media isn’t about you. 
Social media is about us, all of us, the community that we are connected to via the internet; which is why selfies and obscure passive aggressive posts annoy most everyone. So, if we handle social media as though it is about “me”, the “social” point is missed entirely.

No one likes talking to someone in person who only talks about themselves; social media is the same way.

If your posts are about things that others can relate to, find funny, care about, find interesting (even if you are the topic), then your posts invite others to be a part of your life and to have actual community with you.

ii. Social media is actually about staying connected.
I literally cannot count the number of times that I have found encouragement from something that someone I have not talked to face to face in years shared/posted/tweeted/instagramed etc..etc..

Other times, I have found out about life threatening illnesses or injuries that I would have been unaware of without social media. I am unsure about others, but the people I am connected to online I actually really do care about, even if I do not get to see them in person… Which then because of the nature of social media, it allows me the opportunity to pray for them, send encouragement, or show up and support physically.

C. Social media is what you make it to be.
More often than not, I am always blown away, and humbled by the love of my “social media community.”

There are a plethora of instances where I am shocked and amazed at the people who step in and support me when I need it the most. At times, people I have never met in person have rallied on my behalf to fix my car while being unemployed, or sent me care packages, letters, notes, funny videos, or music that I needed to hear… I have been brought to tears by these people on numerous occasions.

But, unfortunately, So. Many. Times. I have allowed my social media to turn into a negative, blood pressure raising, agitating, place that has brought out the worst in me.

Four. Social media can give perspective.
There are more days than I care to count where I have been self involved and focused on my #FirstWorldProblem. However, usually at the exact right time someone will post or share something going on in their life, the lives of people they know, or even world news that I am oblivious to, and suddenly my “problems” are no longer a problem at all. Perspective is given when I can see life through the eyes of those I care about.

And, because I have the absolute widest range of people in my life, I read, hear, and learn about things that I would otherwise have been totally oblivious to. I do not always agree, and sometimes I like parts of the points made, while other times I am fired up passionate about it… But, social media can always provide perspective.

Cinco. Social media is a tool.
I find amazing resources because of social media. I meet fantastic people, and get to see some of the most beautiful or funniest things out in the world. Social media allows for me to see places I have never been or add things to my bucket list. So, saying that it is a tool is probably a huge understatement; but, all tools can be used to create amazing things over a period of time, or destroy them in seconds flat.

From where I am sitting, social media is an amazing tool for me to stay connected. I am able to talk to and share life with friends, family, and clients all over the world; it is pretty amazing.

Lastly. Social media is fascinating.
I realize that I am a “communications person” so social media comes with my field like peanut butter and jelly, but I find it totally fascinating. I will often read up on new platforms, research, demographics, and the effectiveness of various campaigns etc.. I definitely geek out a bit when I get to talk about it, and all the good that can or has come from social media.

So, while social media has its flaws, just like every single other things in the world, I love it. From my perspective, with a few self-imposed guidelines, social media truly can be an amazing way to connect with others, network, and find encouragement or help.

Personal PS side note:
Stop it or make it your rule to never do the passive aggressive posts. They do no one any good and are incredibly annoying to everyone… Even more than selfies!