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:
A number of guys are struggling with the lack of social interaction and their empty schedules.
Some men have already started taking advantage of virtual connection opportunities, reading daily from a novel to their grandchildren, for instance.
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.”
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. ‘
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:
Choosing a new book you want to read, or a book you love and want to share with others.
Deciding on a weekly meeting time for your virtual book club.
Creating a free account with Zoom, and creating a repeating meeting / videoconference at your desired time.
Creating a REPEATING EVENT in your Facebook group, including the Zoom conference JOIN instructions.
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?
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.
‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ‘
During our lesson, I also mentioned the remarkable November 2019 PBS Frontline documentary, “In the Age of AI.” It’s two hours long, and I’m planning to spend one of our upcoming Sunday School lessons discussing it and watching a short excerpt. It’s possible I may be able to lead a multi-week study and discussion of this video over the summer, likely in June. AI is already reshaping some aspects of our society and the way we live, and it’s projected to transform even more in the years to come.
I hope these resources are beneficial for you as you learn more about bioethics and the topics addressed in this presentation. In addition to these resources, you can follow me on Twitter @pocketshare (my Christian channel) and @wfryer, (where I share things generally related to educational technology and learning.) You can also access my book, “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” on pocketshare.pressbooks.com.
Building on the four part framework for sharing your story / sharing your testimony that our church staff wrote back in August in the post, “Going Deeper Into Your Story,” I am encouraging members of our Sunday School class to use this model to frame their stories of “everyday Gospel encounters” as well as “bigger” stories, like our testimonies of how we came to faith in Jesus Christ.
‘My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord ; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. ‘
In “Going Deeper Into Your Story,” we are encouraged to use a four part framework for composing and sharing our Gospel encounters with Jesus: Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. Each of these phases are explained in the post. It can be challenging to know how to share our stories of faith, and this framework can be very helpful as a “template” we can use to fill in our background and the significant events in our story which we want to share with others in a concise, effective way that points primarily to Jesus, God, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
I definitely like and have used this four part framework, but the second element, “crucifixion,” suggests that this model is only focused on stories about the darkest and deepest valleys of our lives when God intervened. Those are stories we may be called to share, but there are also important Gospel encounters which may not fit under the dramatic category, “crucifixion.” For that reason, today I suggested also thinking about and praying about Gospel encounters in our lives we can share which are more everyday events. God is at work all around us, all the time. Our busy lives and full schedules can be impediments to our ability to discern and “see” God’s work in our week. With this in mind, I substituted the word “crucifixion” with “encounter” in this four part framework.
Script: Write your story in chronological order, keeping in mind Adobe Spark Video limits you to 30 seconds of narration per slide. This is likely the most challenging and time consuming step of this workflow.
Find Photos: Either locate photos you have taken and save them to the device you’re using to create the digital story. In my case, this was the Photo Roll of my iPad. If you don’t have photos, Adobe Spark Video lets you search for icons from The Noun Project. You can alternatively find copyright-friendly images from websites like Unsplash. Insert these photos into Adobe Spark Video.
Record: Find a quiet spot and record the audio narration for each slide of your story. Then export your final video and upload to YouTube for sharing via social media, email, a website, etc.
After watching my example narrated slideshow about my friend, Bob, I asked class members to respond. We used “the two lenses of analysis” for digital storytelling which I learned about presenting lots of workshops from 2006 to 2009 for Storychasers. These lenses are “content,” when you focus on elements of the story, and “technical,” when you focus on technology details and process elements.
Our closing challenge in today’s lesson was to think about Gospel encounters we can share in the weeks and months ahead, either in person or as short, narrated slideshow videos. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to offer a Saturday morning workshop in February or March this year on the process I modeled and explained today using Adobe Spark Video.
Here are the slides we used in today’s lesson. If you find these ideas helpful, have questions or feedback, please reach out to me via Twitter (@wfryer) or my electronic contact form, which will send me your message via email. I pray God will empower you to be bold and courageous as you share your stories of faith, walking with Jesus Christ.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
Audio record at least a five minute faith story with an iPhone
Ask for your interviewee’s permission to share their story with others online
Share the story electronically by either:
Posting it as a video to Facebook
Emailing it to other relatives
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.
Ask good open-ended questions like these:
How do you know God is real?
Who do you believe Jesus is?
How have you seen God act in your life?
Tell me a story about your life when you have needed God the most.
How has your relationship with God changed as you’ve gotten older?
Press STOP (square icon) when finished.
Tap the CAMERA icon to add a photo if desired. (optional)
Choose SAVE IN PHOTO ALBUM – SAVE.
Select the desired template which will show date/time info and a photo if you added one.
SHARE your recorded interview as a video:
On Facebook by uploading it to your profile with a short message. Add the hashtag #dw4jc
By emailing it to other family members
Step out of your comfort zone to accept this challenge! God calls us to be bold and courageous!
Find a quiet room to record your interview.
Share the questions you will ask with your interviewee in advance.
Take a photo (selfie) of you with your interviewee before you start recording.
Consider also uploading your audio recording (saved as a video) to YouTube.
Ask someone else for help if you get stuck on any technical issues.
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.
This is the timely scripture Mark Veasey shared this morning as we started our Friday morning men’s group. Of course these verses make me think of Syria and Syrian refugees, and the ways people in the United States are responding to this crisis in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in France.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?””
I am also reminded of the 8 minute documentary “Clouds Over Sidra,” which is an immersive VR story sharing the life and perspectives of a 12 year old Syrian refugee. I shared that yesterday in an after school workshop on “Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard.” We need to find ways to promote empathy and understanding for the war/crisis in Syria and those caught in the crossfire.
The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us that we are called to show hospitality to others and serve those who are in prison. These verses challenge me to think and consider the ways I am living my life. It also reminds me of the importance of reading Scripture daily, to keep my focus on God and Jesus instead of the depressing world news of the day.