6 Ways to Safely Serve Others During COVID-19

Yesterday our “Friday Morning Men’s Group” at our church met for the first time over a Zoom videoconference, which is the first time we’ve ever gathered virtually in the history of our group. Things went well overall. It was great to see and check in with everyone. We had about 30 of us in the conference I think, and everyone’s camera and microphone worked. We used a basic format, after an opening prayer we took turns sharing an update on a “silver lining” or challenge from our current time of “sheltering in place” at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was struck by a few things:

  1. A number of guys are struggling with the lack of social interaction and their empty schedules.
  2. Some men have already started taking advantage of virtual connection opportunities, reading daily from a novel to their grandchildren, for instance.
  3. Many are finding it difficult to have their grandchildren close by, but not being able to be with them / hug them / interact with them “in person.”
  4. Many are finding it difficult to not know how long this situation will go on, and are very eager to get back to “normal schedules.”

During the course of our videoconference and conversations, six things stood out to me as ways we can safely serve each other during COVID-19. There are clearly a LARGE number of needs we have within our group and in our larger communities. Finding tangible ways to serve and help each other during this disruptive time of crisis is important and can be a healthy addition to our schedules and lives.

1. Setup Virtual Family Dinner Connections

At least two of the guys in our group have already setup a “virtual family dinner” meeting via a Zoom videoconference. We did this with a friend and school colleague about a week ago, and it worked well. We connected to him via a Google Hangouts Meet videoconference on my iPad, and then put the iPad at our dinner table at the place where he’d sit if he was with us in person. Tomorrow for Easter Sunday, we’ve scheduled “dinner together” with my parents in Kansas and my sister and family in Missouri This reminds me of the Biblical exhortation we read in Hebrews 10:23-25:

‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ‘

Hebrews 10:23-25

2. Invite Others to and Consider Leading a Small Group

The COVID-19 pandemic has moved us as individuals, families, and communities into a season for many new things. Remote learning for school, or closing schools. Staying at home with family perhaps more than ever, cooking and spending more time together. Finding more ways to share our resources with others in need, via non-profits like our Oklahoma City Regional Food Bank and Project 66 in Edmond.

I want to suggest it’s also the SEASON for virtual small group meetings. We have outstanding, free tools to facilitate small group interactions and meetings at a distance. These include FREE (40 minute or less) videoconferencing with Zoom, and Facebook Groups. While Zoom specifically has drawn a lot of recent, negative media attention for conference security problems, these have been addressed swiftly. If you have access to another collaborative videoconferencing platform or are willing to pay for one, by all means go for it. But if not, Zoom is a viable and good option for small group virtual meetings.

Our adult Sunday School Class, “Curiosity and Questions: Jesus and Science,” has continued to meet the past month as we’ve started “sheltering in place” as a city and a state. We’re meeting over a videoconference at our “regular time” on Sunday mornings between our church’s virtual worship services. We’re using both a private Facebook group and Google Classroom to share resources and updates. Our church’s recent move to “Realm Software” as a church-wide information system has empowered individual teachers (like me) to directly email and contact our group members. I don’t think our church small group connections should end with Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, however.

In addition to considering JOINING a virtual small group, I want to encourage you to consider STARTING one. Start a book club. You might do this by:

  1. Choosing a new book you want to read, or a book you love and want to share with others.
  2. Creating a Private Facebook Group, which you can moderate and control (both members and posts)
  3. Deciding on a weekly meeting time for your virtual book club.
  4. Creating a free account with Zoom, and creating a repeating meeting / videoconference at your desired time.
  5. Creating a REPEATING EVENT in your Facebook group, including the Zoom conference JOIN instructions.
  6. Inviting your friends and acquaintances to join your small group / book study.

As we each grow more comfortable and proficient at meeting over videoconferences, the number of available small groups will grow. Your group does not have to have a large number of members to be “successful” and beneficial, to both you and other members. Small groups should be all about connecting, relationships, interacting, as well as learning.

Step out and create your own small group, for a book study or other purpose. The ideas you discuss together with your small group members and the connections you make in upcoming weeks can be IMPORTANT pieces of the wellness / self-care plan we each need to not only survive but also THRIVE in this COVID-19 pandemic season.

3. Utilize Daily Devotion and Bible Reading Apps

We all can benefit from daily “quiet time” to pray, read scripture, meditate, and seek the voice of God. I have been using the free “Pray as You Go” app and website for the last couple years, and highly recommend it. Pray As You Go is a project of the Jesuits of Britain, Each day they post a 15 to 20 minute meditation which focuses on a different Bible verse or series of verses, which are repeated twice during each devotional.

Use a Bible reading app like the YouVersion Bible, which includes a variety of Bible Study reading plans, the ability to connect to others for prayer and encouragement, and videos from amazing Christian theology and evangelist media creators like The Bible Project. The verse of the day feature, the ability to highlight and share scripture verses, and even create Bible Verse InfoPics right within the app are fantastic and powerful ways to focus our minds above “on the things of God” when so many current events “down below on earth” seem chaotic and troubling.

4. Keep a Daily Written Journal

Journaling about your life, your day, your fears, your hopes, your dreams and other aspects of your thought life can be an extremely healthy and healing activity at any season of life. Particularly as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, something no one alive today has previously experienced, journaling can be a constructive and beneficial activity. When I was in college and after college graduation, I was an avid journal writer. Then sometime around 2003, I discovered blogging. “Writing in public” on a blog or via a social media platform can be beneficial in similar ways to keeping a private journal, but there are more complexities to digital, shared, interactive writing. When deciding whether or not you’ll keep a journal during COVID-19, remember the benefits of your writing times may not be limited to you. Your grandchildren and other descendants may read what you write this week! We are literally living through history, so why not document your journey in detail for your benefit and the potential future benefit of others?

5. Engage in Oral History Projects with Family Members

There’s no time like the present to start a family oral history project. A few weeks ago, I shared a one hour free webinar on “Family Oral History Projects” which was recorded and is now available on YouTube along with several others.

The full description of that March 19, 2020 virtual workshop was:

As parents, children, and teachers are staying at home practicing “social distancing,” it’s a perfect time to create family oral history projects! In this 60 minute, interactive webinar, Dr. Wes Fryer will share a variety of tools and strategies to conduct oral history interviews and create oral history digital stories which can be shared with your family and the world.

Description of “Family Oral History Projects” by Dr. Wesley Fryer

Who tells your story? You are the best person to tell it, and there’s no time like the present to get started.

6. Be a Digital Witness for Jesus

As Christians, we are called to not just share the story of OUR lives, but also the story of how GOD has moved and continues to move in our lives. Check out my 2020 book, “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Christ,” for more ideas and project suggestions about how to do this. The full book is available free online. It will be available for sale on Amazon soon.

Thinking about Christian bumper stickers

So this is an unusual find this weekend. One of Alexander’s roommates shared this with me. You can ask for 10 random “Christian” bumper stickers from the website below, or select 10 that you want for free. I definitely do NOT agree with all the messages included in their bumper sticker menu, but I DO agree with many of them. In most cases, these short messages encourage some worthwhile, critical thinking. Some reference Bible verses, most do not.

As an example of a bumper sticker message with which I disagree: We don’t simply need to require / mandate prayer in public schools to remove all ills, like drug abuse or premarital sex from teen and adult culture. I happen to work at a school that mandates chapel for all students, and I can tell you this is not received well by many of the students. At some point I will write a blog post reflecting on mandatory chapel. I am definitely a fan, and I love having chapel services at our school, but it is recklessly naïve for people to think we simply need to mandate prayer and Bible reading in schools and this will heal all of our society’s ills like a magic wand. God has the power to heal any of us at any time, but the mechanism of his healing for our culture is not via a mandated school Bible curriculum in public or private schools. If you’re a little fuzzy on historic problems with mandated religion, refer to the English Wikipedia article for the “European Wars of Religion:”

It is true bumper stickers on our cars can provide an opportunity to encourage people to think about questions of faith, morality and propriety. I don’t think putting a bumper sticker on your car is going to realistically lead to immediate, life changing decisions for people to turn their lives over to God and reject evil, but it’s worth considering whether or not this is something you want to do. Check it out: www.christianbumpersticker.org

I think a more random selection of these bumper stickers could be used as a catalyst for excellent conversations in a Sunday school class, about our beliefs and the ways in which we are called to advocate for and work for God‘s kingdom on earth.

The Gospel Encounter of the Apostle Paul (Part 1)

Last week in our “Gospel Encounters” adult Sunday School class on February 3, 2019, we started a multi-part study on transformative experiences of the Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, on the road to Damascus. These were the notes I took during our class discussion:

We started by using the KWL strategy about Paul’s life and conversion: What do we KNOW, what do we WANT to know, and what have we LEARNED?

Some of the things class members shared that they know about Paul, his life and his conversion to become a follower of Jesus were:

  1. Saul was a persecutor of the early Christian church
  2. Saul was highly schooled (reminded us of Pastor Mateen Elass)
  3. He was “a Pharisee’s Pharisee” (someone who ardently followed all the directives and prescriptions of Jewish law)
  4. He was born a Roman citizen
  5. He was zealous
  6. Paul wrote most of the letters included in the New Testament
  7. Paul had important arguments with the Apostle Peter, over the historic requirements of Jews to follow dietary restrictions and men to submit to circumcision
  8. Paul went on several important missionary journeys
  9. Saul was a tent maker by trade
  10. God annointed Paul as His missionary to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Gentiles (non-Jews)
  11. Paul’s letter to the Galatians addresses the toxic organizational structure of that early church, and includes his teachings on how to properly handle church leadership and organization

Things we WANT to know include:

  1. Where was/is Tarsus? (a historic city in south-central Turkey)
  2. How did a person become a Roman citizen?

We read the 9th chapter of the Book of Acts from the New International Version, which is the first of three accounts of Paul’s conversion which are included in Acts. (The others are in Acts 22 and Acts 26.) After reading this chapter, we watched the 5.5 minute video, “The Road to Damascus – Saul Takes his Journey.” Since this video was published by the Mormon Church, I shared the same disclaimer I have before when sharing Mormon videos: Some of the videos shared by the LDS church (like this one) are outstanding, but my use of them in teaching does NOT constitute an endorsement or recommendation of LDS theology.

After watching the video, we discussed in small groups and then shared together things which stood out for us, after reading Acts 9 and watching this video. Some of the standouts were:

  1. Paul’s conversion experience was VERY dramatic
  2. The events detailed in scripture and depicted in the video required obedience on the part of both Paul and Ananias.
  3. The video did a good job portraying the tenderness of Paul after his conversion experience, it’s both understandable and reasonable that he was extremely humbled by this experience on the road to Damascus.
  4. In his communication to Ananias, God reveals his plan for Paul to be his missionary to the Gentiles, bring them the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  5. Paul’s response to his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus included baptism, an act in which his old identity (Saul) was washed away and he was reborn into his new identity (Paul)

This coming Sunday (tomorrow) we’ll continue our study of Paul, his conversion experience, and the lessons we can glean from this powerful Gospel encounter with Jesus Christ!

Gospel Encounters: Sharing our Journey of Faith to Jesus

Today in our adult Sunday School class, continuing our focus on both historical and contemporary “Gospel Encounters” with Jesus, I shared my personal testimony as well as a framework for “Sharing our Journey of Faith to Jesus.” This is based on a four part framework explained on our church‘s new website, “7 Core Practices,” detailed in the post from August 2018, “Going Deeper Into Your Story.” Here are the slides I used during today’s lesson.

I referenced a video about part of my testimony which I recorded and posted to YouTube in September 2011, titled “God Answered My Prayer in Pilot Training.”

I initially wrote about this on my professional blog in August 2006, before I created this separate space as my “Christian blog.” It was initially named “Eyes Right,” before I changed it to “Pocket Share Jesus” to align with the “Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” book and evangelism empowerment project.

This was the first time I shared parts of “my story” publicly which followed the events described in the above video. Those experiences from my life in February 1994 are likely things I will never put online and share digitally, but I am glad to have an opportunity to share them in person with others with the hope and prayer they will serve as an encouragement which points others to Jesus Christ.

I hope and pray today’s lesson highlighted the ways God has and continues to be active in my life and the life of our family. I also hope it was an encouragement to us all to share our own Gospel story with others. Check out 7corepractices.com for more inspiration and practical suggestions about ways we can serve and share Jesus Christ in our homes, workplaces, and communities. Also check out www.dw4jc.com for suggestions and strategies for how we can share scripture, our stories, and our witness of God’s Holy Spirit being active in our lives using digital media.

* Added 27 October 2018: I shared a modified version of these slides, with a few photos from pilot training which I dug out of our garage, in a presentation for our Friday Morning Men’s group on October 26, 2018.

Podcast12: Unleash Your Digital Creativity for Jesus (May 2018)

This is an audio recording of Wesley Fryer’s workshop at the May 5, 2018, MoRanch Men’s Conference near Hunt, Texas. The title of the session was, “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Christ.”

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The session description was:

This workshop will empower you as a Christian to share the transforming reality and love of God with others around the world through multimedia and social media. By creating and sharing Bible verse “infopics,” creating sketchnotes and narrated sketchnotes and recording “quick edit” video interviews on mission trips, we can digitally amplify and share God’s Word and work with others.

Slides for this session, which include live hyperlinks, are embedded below and also available on wfryer.me/mo2018. This presentation is also linked on the main project site for “Pocket Share: Be a Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” www.dw4jc.com. Videos shared and referenced in this presentation are also embedded below. Refer to the podcast shownotes for links to many referenced resources from this session.

Show Notes:

  1. Presentation Slides on Google Slides
  2. MoRanch Men’s Conference
  3. Contact Wes Fryer
  4. Wes Fryer’s Christian Twitter channel: @pocketshare
  5. Wes Fryer’s professional Twitter channel: @wfryer
  6. Wes’ Bible Verse InfoPics on iCloud: wfryer.me/bible
  7. Photos on Instagram tagged #dw4jc
  8. Wes’ Flickr album of Bible Verse InfoPics
  9. YouVersion Bible App
  10. InfoPics Chapter of Pocket Share Jesus
  11. Recommended website source for royalty free/remixable photos: unsplash.com
  12. Adobe Spark Post (online version)
  13. Adobe Spark Post: Poster Maker for iOS
  14. 7 minute [VIDEO] tutorial – App Smash: Bible Verse Infopics
  15. Sketchnotes Chapter of Pocket Share Jesus
  16. Flick album of Sketchnotes by Wes Fryer (includes sermon sketchnotes)
  17. 63 second [VIDEO] tutorial: Tips for Sketchnoting
  18. The Noun Project (great source for icons)
  19. Best TEDx Talk Ever: “Drawing in Class” by Rachel Smith (@ninmah)
  20. John 15: Bearing Fruit for Jesus (Narrated sermon sketch note)
  21. Narrated Sketchnotes Chapter of Pocket Share Jesus

Family Faith Story Sharing Challenge

Since our regular Sunday School teacher has come down with the flu and is also planning to travel out of town over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I’m going to have an opportunity to teach as a substitute the next two Sundays. Our teacher gave me the green light to depart from our normal book study lessons (on “The Comeback” by Louie Giglio). Tomorrow I’m going to share a challenge inspired by the “Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” project.

You can access the full, printable, 1 page “Family Faith Story Sharing Challenge” as a Google Document.

Please share this document and project with others! To facilitate easier reading and sharing of this project, I’ve copied and pasted the text of the Google Document project description below.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Why: God calls us to praise Him, to share the reasons for the joy we have, to show & tell the love of his Son, Jesus, and to be his witnesses in our communities and around the world. (More on www.dw4jc.com/why/)
When: As you gather with family this holiday season…

What: Take some time to:

  1. Audio record at least a five minute faith story with an iPhone
  2. Ask for your interviewee’s permission to share their story with others online
  3. Share the story electronically by either:
    1. Posting it as a video to Facebook
    2. Emailing it to other relatives

How:

  1. Download the free iPhone app “Voice Record Pro” (wfryer.me/vrp)
    Press the red REC (record) button to start recording, then START in the upper right corner.
  2. Ask good open-ended questions like these:
    1. How do you know God is real?
    2. Who do you believe Jesus is?
    3. How have you seen God act in your life?
    4. Tell me a story about your life when you have needed God the most.
    5. How has your relationship with God changed as you’ve gotten older?
  3. Press STOP (square icon) when finished.
  4. Tap the CAMERA icon to add a photo if desired. (optional)
  5. Choose SAVE IN PHOTO ALBUM – SAVE.
  6. Select the desired template which will show date/time info and a photo if you added one.
  7. Tap CONTINUE.
  8. SHARE your recorded interview as a video:
    1. On Facebook by uploading it to your profile with a short message. Add the hashtag #dw4jc
    2. By emailing it to other family members

Tips:

  1. Step out of your comfort zone to accept this challenge! God calls us to be bold and courageous!
  2. Find a quiet room to record your interview.
  3. Share the questions you will ask with your interviewee in advance.
  4. Take a photo (selfie) of you with your interviewee before you start recording.
  5. Consider also uploading your audio recording (saved as a video) to YouTube.
  6. Ask someone else for help if you get stuck on any technical issues.
  7. Access examples of faith story interviews on faithstories.speedofcreativity.org.

Image Attribution: Turkey icon by IconFactoryTeam on The Noun project. Microphone icon by Edward Boatman on The Noun Project.

App Smash: Creating Bible Info Pics

Today I’m sharing a chapel talk at school for upper division, middle division, and lower division students. The talk is repeated, so I’ll simplify it in several ways for the younger elementary students. The title of the talk is, “Pocket Share Jesus with Bible Verse InfoPics.” These are my slides, which include a sped-up video (4X) showing the steps for using these apps. iPhone apps demonstrated include the YouVersion Bible, Safari with the website PhotosForClass.com, Adobe Spark Post, Instagram and EchoFon.

I created a 7 minute narrated screencast demonstrating these steps as well, which I published to YouTube.

These resources are now included on the InfoPics page of the “Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” website, as well as the “Pocket Share Jesus” page where I’m sharing presentation slides on the topics of this project.

This is a work in progress! Please send feedback / suggestions to @wfryer on Twitter or via webform.

Sermon Sketchnote on Psalms 78:1-8

This is my narrated sermon sketchnote and sketchnote for today’s sermon by Jen Howat on Psalms 78:1-8 at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma. Key points were:

  1. Don’t hide God’s good news about Jesus Christ!
  2. Remember God calls us to SHARE with others
  3. As disciples we should be reproducing: Helping GROW other disciples!
  4. People can’t follow Jesus if they haven’t heard about him from someone
  5. Remember those who POURED their lives into you as a believer, and resolve to “pour yourself” in a mentor/apprentice relationship into others
  6. It’s good for God to create TENSION in our hearts: Encouraging us to SHARE JESUS with others!

Pocket Share Jesus #MoRanch2016 Workshop Proposal

This year during the first weekend in May, I’ll make my annual pilgrimage to the Hill Country of Texas to participate in the Mo Ranch Men’s Conference. This is the largest gathering of Presbyterian men in the United States every year, and it’s become an important weekend of both fellowship and renewal for me. My dad will not be able to come with me this year, unfortunately. The years I’ve been able to attend the conference with him have been some of my favorite memories in recent times.

I am going to share a workshop this year which continues the book and media sharing project, “Digital Witness 4 Jesus Christ.” Since most of the conference attendees are older men, however, it’s vital I choose a session title and focus which is not intimidating or scary. Otherwise (as I’ve learned in past years) not many men will come to the session.

Here’s what I’ve come up with for this year, with the help of my wise wife. The title will be, “Pocket Share Jesus.” The description is:

Come learn how to share your favorite Bible verses with your children and grandchildren, using your phone or iPad. Learn how to share inspiring quotations from a Kindle book you’re reading from Amazon. Practical and hands-on steps! This session is designed specifically for grandfathers who are not tech savvy! Resources on www.dw4jc.com

This is what I shared for my conference bio:

Wes Fryer is a follower of Jesus Christ in Oklahoma City. He is active in his church men’s ministry, kids ministry, and adult Sunday school class. He is an ordained church deacon and elder. He is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma. Wes’ background includes service in the US Air Force and work as an elementary school teacher. He is currently the Director of Technology for Casady School in OKC.

Last night I added two more chapters to the #dw4jc project website, one for “eBook Quotations” and one for “Narrated Sketchnotes.” I’m going to also add one for Bible quotations, primarily using the YouVersion Bible app. In my Mo Ranch workshop this year, I think I’ll focus on the “Bible Quotations” and “eBook Quotations” skills, along with a little about why we should digitally share our faith.

Rather than focus on “outside sharing” with social media, however, I think I’ll focus on “inside sharing” with family and friends. This builds on some ideas I shared in a secular / educational conference setting last Friday in Tulsa. I’m looking forward to another spring weekend with other Christian men at Mo Ranch!

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