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.

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.

Energized to Tell God’s Story Through Creative Expression

Yesterday on Saturday, August 22, 2015, Shelly and I participated in a wonderful morning workshop at Frontline Church in Oklahoma City. Our friend Kori Hall was one of the organizers of this unique event, called “Story: The Six Days In Between.” The description of the event on the Frontline blog was:

A conversation and workshop
For artists and creatives
Telling the story
Of gospel collision
With human lives

I’m not sure exactly how many people attended, but I’d guess around 75. The morning started off with musician and worship leader, Charlie Hall, explaining the background and vision for the Story Workshop.

I hadn’t pre-planned doing this, but I realized shortly after the workshop started it might be good to broadcast and archive some of the event via Periscope. Last week I learned about and registered with Katch, which is a free cloud service that archives Periscope video broadcasts so they remain online and archived longer than 24 hours. I didn’t Periscope Charlie’s initial comments, so I’ll attempt to paraphrase.

Basically, some of the leaders within Frontline Church have been planning this Story Workshop as a way to encourage networking and collaboration among artistic creatives within their community as well as the larger Oklahoma City metro area. We all have different gifts from God, and I liked what Charlie had to say about how the things we make with our gifts do NOT define who we are… yet that is a tendency we all have as human beings. Charlie encouraged us to lay our gifts at the feet of Christ, and seek to find ways to collaborate together to creatively share SNAPSHOTS of life as followers of Christ to a world in need of the hope which God offers. I love Frontline’s core mission: “To love God, to love others, and to push back darkness.” The Story Workshop is a way to invite and empower a diverse group of creative individuals to intentionally focus on telling God’s story in our community through a variety of voices and mediums.

I started to Periscope the opening session as filmmaker and videographer Derek Watson (of Lampstand Media in OKC) shared about the power of story and introduced a short video collaboration he created with Kori. I later cross-posted this video to YouTube.

I hope they will post that video online at some point, and if they do I’ll definitely update this post and insert it. It was powerful. Kori is an amazing “spoken word” poet and performer, and the video featured prose she wrote and shared.

After the introductory session, we each selected a different breakout session. The choices were Film, Visual Art, Performance Art, Writing, Photography, and Music. I was going to attend Film, but Shelly asked if I was going to writing… she was planning to stay for film. She’s helped her 3rd and 4th graders at Positive Tomorrows the past two years create and share some wonderful videos on their classroom YouTube channel,  and wanted to get some ideas for elevating their digital storytelling projects. Since I’m continuing to help organize the local “Write Well, Sell Well Conference” for writers in Oklahoma City, it did make sense for me to join the writer’s breakout… and I’m very glad I did.

We had a great turnout of over twenty people for the writing group, and we started (similar to a WordPress OKC Meetup) by having everyone briefly share about themselves and their current writing project(s) or interests.

I have worked on a variety of Christian-related media projects and websites the past 9 years, since we moved to Oklahoma, but this month I got the idea of naming the book project I’ve been wanting to write “Digital Witness for Jesus Christ.” I registered this domain on August 8th (dw4jc.com) and decided the corresponding hashtag (#dw4jc) would be both unique and good since it’s so short. I brainstormed and wrote down about seven book chapter titles, and then set aside this project to work on later.

During Saturday’s Story Workshop, I was struck (again) by how important it is for writers to have both catalysts for writing and accountability partners. I often create because of deadlines: Conferences at which I present or deadlines which are related to upcoming professional development events.

During our writing time in the breakout session, I uploaded and configured WordPress on the dw4jc.com website, but didn’t have time to write much content on it.

Inspired by the Story Workshop, last night I spent about five hours installing CommentPress, creating the chapter pages for the “Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” book project, and writing some content on each of the pages so early visitors could get a partial look into the focus and ideas of the project.

Four years ago when I was teaching one day per week at the University of North Texas and writing the first three chapters of my dissertation, I thought of the “3 Minutes About Jesus” project and registered a corresponding domain. In the succeeding years, I recorded and shared several videos on the site… but it wasn’t something that “took off” or I spent lots of time trying to develop.

When I thought of the dw4jc.com domain earlier this month, I also thought it would be good to use the October 23-24, Write Well, Sell Well Conference as a deadline to get an initial version of the book finished to share in printed form. This may seem like an unrealistic deadline, but it’s similar to timelines I’ve followed previously for other books I’ve self-published. I’m not positive if I’ll make that deadline, but the Story Workshop certainly served as a catalyst for me to take significant steps in this writing project.

Here’s the Katch archived Periscope video of the Story Workshop closing session with Charlie Hall. It’s also cross-posted to YouTube.

Like Kori, I’m looking forward to seeing where this collaboration is going to take us!

Here’s a Storify archive of all the tweets sharing during yesterday’s workshop.