How Writing Can Boost Your Church Website’s SEO 

BY HANNAH OSBORNE

SEO is a scary acronym.

Everyone seems to be talking about SEO, and it sounds important, but how does it fit in with your church? Isn’thaving a website enough?

Not anymore—now, your website must be optimized for search engines. It sounds like a time-consuming, expensive process, but improving your church website’s SEO is actually pretty easy.

First, a little SEO crash course: search engine optimization (SEO) is basically what allows search engines (like Google or Yahoo!) to find your website and determine where it falls in the search list (are you the first link or are you on the tenth page of results?). A large number of factors play into SEO: website code, the URL, integrated media, text, and much more. Based on these critera, the search engine will decide where your website will fall in the list of results.

While SEO might sound a little like luck of the draw, it’s actually a very calculated science. And while there are a number of ways to boost your church’s SEO, one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways is to edit the copy (or text) on your website. All you need are a few basic tips, and your site’s SEO will instantly improve:

Read the rest here.

Global Lutheran Education: Be An International Partner!

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International Partners

International Partners (IP) is building on the success of ILT’s International Educational Ministries, listening to and working with Lutheran leaders in Asia, Africa and the Americas, and translating that mission back to our partners. Hence, an International Partner is either an overseas denomination, or an individual/congregation/non-profit that desires to receive or to help provide Lutheran theological education.

In 2015, as part of ILT’s certificate program, we launched international education, beginning with the Lutheran Church of South Sudan, then in India, followed by three countries in Southeast Asia. IP is training pastors and church workers there and has been invited to work in more countries, which can begin once we have additional contributors.

International Partners’ mission is to address the growing demand for international education and connect with sponsors who envision a faithful, growing Lutheran church. Together we are working to:

  • Provide teachers and curriculum to train pastors, evangelists and church workers

  • Train and credential seminary faculty of partner international seminaries

  • Train international students currently in North America

  • Encourage collaboration between mission groups and cultivate support for partner projects

Our financial need is to raise $110,000 in the first year. Funds are designated for development of a basic curriculum of eight courses, scholarships, ministry projects for select students, travel and staffing.

We believe the future growth of the Lutheran Church in the long term is in Africa, Asia and the Americas.  If you have a vision and can grasp the opportunities for Lutheran mission around the world we invite you to partner with us in this vision. Please consider this prayerfully.

Find more info on the areas of the globe where we are at work here.

The Spread of the Gospel!

How far did the Church spread in the first century? Who took the Gospel to Ukraine in the AD 60s? Ethiopia in the 4th century? China in the 7th century? Greenland in the 11th century? What was happening with Christianity in the 300s? 600s? 900s? The Spread of the Gospel Map is a powerful visual depiction of the most important movement in history: the spread of Christianity. Charting the geographic progress of the Gospel over the last 2,000 years, this map shows the missionary journeys of the apostles, the outposts of the early church, the hotbeds of persecution, the staging grounds of the Church’s major theological battles, and more. Be reminded of the power of the Gospel to transform “every nation and tribe and language and people,” and be inspired by the legacies of the brave brothers and sisters who faithfully carried the Gospel of Christ to the farthest ends of the earth. Go here to learn more about it.

The Wise Still Seek Him

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James Tissot (1836–1902), “The Journey of the Magi”. 1894. One copy is in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, another painting is in the Brooklyn Museum.

Both images are in the public domain and are made available through Wikimedia.

 

The Visit of the Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

 

(Matthew 2:1-12 ESV)

Jesus and Santa

Lately, it seems like some of us have been confusing Jesus with Santa. After all, they both have beards and several nicknames, and often, we get caught up hoping that they both bring us everything we want. However, this season let us remember that one of them comes to give us what we think we want; the other came to give us what we need.

Downloads are available at http://www.ignitermedia.com.

Digital Evangelism Issues: Christmas

Using powerful online opportunities before Christmas

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I‘ve had to switch radio stations more than once recently, to avoid wall-to-wall Christmas music starting right at the beginning of December. Too much, too soon!

But, out in cyberworld, many millions of non-Christians around the world are already searching online for Christmas-related topics, be it the origin of Christmas, Christmas customs around the world, recipes, songs, how to make decorations, and much much more. And Christmas is a ‘thin space’ – a time when the gap between spiritual reality and physical life can be particularly narrow and transparent.

Your church website, or personal blog, could provide some of the answers they are seeking, while maybe leading them to further insights they did not expect. Yet without preaching, and with an outsider-friendly, jargon-free approach.

Web evangelist Rusty Wright is a very useful source of outsider-friendly free-to-use articles. Here are a selection of his Christmas-related articles that any church or ministry can use, in print or online:

Coping with Loneliness at Christmas. Feeling low this Christmas season? You’re not alone. Amid holiday cheer, many lonely people are crying or dying on the inside. Maybe you’re one of them. I was.

The Christmas Story: Does it Still Matter? Christmas often means time with family, hectic shopping, parties, cards and gifts. But what about the first Christmas? Why is the original story – the baby in a manger, shepherds, wise men, angels – important, if at all? The answer may surprise you.

Are You Listening? Do You Hear What I Hear? Have you ever missed a great opportunity because you weren’t listening carefully? Twenty centuries ago some clues to impending good news of monumental import eluded most folks. Fascinating prophecies of Jesus’ birth and life bring revealing insights into your own life today.

Rusty offers a range of other free-to-use articles on a variety of topics at RustyWright.com.

More resources for Christmas

Video shorts
Another key opportunity is to embed video shorts in your website or blog. You can also post them on social media, or use them in church events as Christmas approaches. The curated video shorts at YesHeIs.com are a good place to start. Check their current Christmas videos. Here’s one:

The cartoon, by the great political cartoonist Papas, appeared in UK’s Manchester Guardian paper circa 1960. Santa Claus is telling the Christmas story to a child, who asks, “But how did it end.” The unnoticed backdrop to the scene: the Cross. Used by permission of Guardian Newspapers.

Digital Evangelism Issues is a premier online ministry headed up by Tony Soon.

Is This What We Are Going to Do? Really?

 

From what I see on social media I am very concerned about conservative Christians. Why? Well, if it is the case that what people post on social media is indicative of what they are feeling and thinking, my friends at least have gone over the edge. Obamacare, SCOTUS and the Iran Deal have taken their toll.

I am also concerned about my social media friends who embrace the progressive view. They perhaps have forgotten reading Animal Farm and Brave New World.

What was true for a few is becoming normal. I realized yesterday that I can no longer post anything to do with politics without collecting comments that are so unpleasant that I, and the ministries I work, with cannot help but be sullied.

So, what should I and people who are experiencing the same thing do?  Stop expressing opinions about politics completely? Perhaps. But I would not want to go there. That’s very much like the argument, “That’s letting the terrorists win.”

Of course, we are not talking about terrorists, but the Lizard People.

The Lizard People? Yes, The Lizard People. I was taught about The Lizard when I studied Family Systems. The major thing to know here is stress does something to families and family systems. This includes any grouping of people and churches, which is why I needed to learn it. What does stress do? Well, initially, it makes us stupid. Not everyone. Some people perform well under stress. They can ride it to victory. But too much stress makes any individual reactive. You all know this, and you are also familiar with the term “Fight or Flight.”

Many conservative Christians are choosing to fight it out on social media. Bad move. When the limbic system is in charge and we happen to be on social media, we might very well decide to straighten people out. This is a bad move because that is not what it is for. It’s called “social media” after all. Lizard People are doing what marketing people call “damaging the brand.”

Christians in America today do not need this. Sure, it is nothing new. Hollywood in general has been stereotyping us as mean-spirited hypocrites for quite a while. However, it seems we don’t need Hollywood to do that for us anymore. Why? Because we have Facebook. Judging from my timeline we are not only mean-spirited, we are also foul-mouthed and completely disrespectful of anyone who does not agree with us.

Drop the pundit routine. You are not a politician! I want to bring in an expert here to show you what I mean:

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. (Mark 7:21-22 ESV)

Yeah. Pretty much nails it. Foolishness. Epidemic rates of foolishness. Conservatives and liberals alike, no one is going to take your opinions – much less your hard-won principles – seriously if you are always on the attack.

Isn’t it rich? Aren’t we a pair? Liberals and conservatives. Send in the clowns? They’re already here.

It really isn’t that hard. One only needs to sober up. Getting drunk on ideology many seem quite intoxicating, but in the end it ends up in addiction and believe it or not the analogy works. One can end up losing their job and family members.

Law and Gospel works for me. If Jesus places slander and foolishness in the same list as sexual immorality and adultery, that gets my attention.

For some reason I keep forgetting that foolishness is a sin. Perhaps I am so prone to it that it is a blind spot!

Maybe we all do. Maybe if we really feel called on to point out error and wrong-doing on social media, we should study our Bible first.

I am certainly not saying that one should not point out error. When we study Scripture we learn that we are to admonish fellow believers as well as build them up. But on Facebook? Really? In an epithet-laced ad hominem? Really?

If one really wants to be effective, try the essay form of writing. Sitting down and trying to collect one’s thoughts while reflecting on some key teachings that guide the way you have learned to live, somehow is much better than firing a salvo from the top of your head. In a time of great foolishness there’s a lot of stuff flying and we are getting hit in the face with it. We need good writers right now.

Why? We are perhaps at the tipping point. I am not one who thinks it is wise to predict the future, but as one who spends a lot of time online managing social media for ministries, I do see trends. One is Christians asking other Christians to be more careful in how they express their beliefs online. Yes, sort of like I am doing here.

Am I evolving? Perhaps, but maybe it is more accurate perhaps to say I am learning from Jesus. The gentle-as-doves and wise-as-serpents, live-by-the-sword, count-the-cost-before-going-to-war Jesus was not entirely a pacifist, and neither did He censor His disciples, but he taught a different way and the Holy Spirit urges us on in a different manner than the worldly one from pundits and news outlets.

So I would want us all to realize that people who are important to us are watching us and listening to us these days. Train up a child in the way he or she should go. Bequeath wisdom, not bitterness. We are in this for the long haul and we need the younger generation. If we become an embarrassment to them, and this is exactly what some forces are attempting, we certainly will diminish. Worse, the younger generation will fall away from the faith completely. Of course, it is not just the younger generation that will drop out, but all who do not want the grief of being part of the marginalized.

Now, more than ever, we shall endeavor to keep our eyes on Jesus. Our good Lord does know exactly what we are going through and He knows where it will end. Rest in Him when anxiety comes. Really.

-Rev. Eric Jonas Swensson

 

The Good Lie: Free Materials for this Heartwarming Film

Culture watch team Damaris are offering free official community resources for The Good Lie. This engaging and heartwarming film, starring Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, reflects the real-life stories of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan’s 1983 civil war, their challenges to integrate with Western culture, and how their beliefs and values encourage others to find a wider understanding of family and community.

This film, and the true events on which it is based, are deeply moving. Sudan’s civil war displaced 20,000 children who were forced to run from their homes, walk hundreds of miles in search of refuge and then wait indefinitely for resettlement.

The Good Lie
uses an authentic approach, featuring a cast including real-life Lost Boys and their children, and former child soldiers. It is a hopeful and engaging film which encourages us to think about how to deal with differences in cultures, and what “family” and “community” really mean in this globally connected world.

Damaris’ free resources encourage discussion about these important issues and provide a wonderful means to get the most out of a group viewing. (Film now available on DVD in USA, releasing in UK 24 April.)

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