Let's Do Right by Teachers

From Monday, May 6th to Friday, May 10th, we celebrate Teacher’s Appreciation Week, paying tribute to the world’s most important occupation. This is the week in which we pour out our feelings towards the teachers who were the most influential in our lives. We think back to how much they impacted our lives, how they invested their time, effort and resources to ensure that we were fully prepared to face the real world.  

Then, on Saturday, May 11th, we go right back to taking them for granted.

Like so many good causes we relegate to a day, or a week, teachers and their struggles are at best placed on the back burner and at worst ignored altogether for the rest of the year.

Of all the memories that I have of my parents, the ones that resonate with me the most are the ones that showcase their work ethic. Every morning, like clockwork, my father would lay out his clothing, polish his shoes, get dressed and go to work. My mother, on top of getting my brother and I ready for the day, would do the same. They were both teachers, and they were dedicated to their craft.

Yet every summer, when they were off, both of them had to work extra jobs to make ends meet. As a kid, I was blissfully unaware of those struggles. When I got older, though, the truth about their plight, and the plight of other teachers, became more plain. Having been charged with the monumental task of shaping and molding our youth into future leaders and thinkers, they were often severely under-equipped and over-extended. Their jobs didn’t end when the final bell rang. They often had to stay late to catch up, or spend their evenings grading papers all for a meager salary.

As difficult as my parents might have had it, in some ways, teachers of today have it much worse. With new innovations in the profession, there are new and exciting ways of keeping children engaged. New interactive activities have been designed to help children learn better. However, many of these activities are being funded by the teachers themselves. They pay for printouts, lamination, cardboard and other necessary supplies. With an already low salary, these added expenses can leave quite the dent in a teacher’s pocket-book. This past year alone we’ve even heard of teachers having to sell their own blood to make ends meet.

Despite everything teachers of my parents’ generation had to go through, they at least had the support of their students’ parents. Parents back then were generally more invested in their children’s education, and worked together with teachers to solve problems, be they academic or behavioral. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but nowadays many parents simply view teachers as babysitters. Not only do they rely on teachers to raise their children academically, but they disavow their own responsibilities and blame teachers for all of their child’s shortcomings.

Teaching can be a thankless job, but it can definitely be worth it. I can’t count the times that I’ve been out with one of my parents and a former student would approach us and fondly recall the fun times they’d had. At my father’s funeral, I was taken aback by how many of his old students came to pay respects. They regaled us with all the weird little ways that he endeared himself to them, despite his strict nature. They spoke of the times he would stay with them after school to help them grasp concepts they didn’t quite get the first time, the times he pushed them a little harder than the other students because he knew they had the potential to do great things, the times he bought them food and school supplies with his own money when he noticed they were always without. Because of these things, my father had a place in their memories and in their hearts.

These sentiments show exactly how important and influential teachers can be.

So, this Teacher’s Appreciation Week, I challenge everyone to make a pledge. Do whatever’s in your power to make things a little easier for a teacher in your life. Offer to purchase school supplies, send a random thank you note or email to show your support, partner with the teacher and be an active participant in your child’s education, and finally, do it all year round.


Using Social Media to promote your Church

From businesses to entertainers, social media has become a dominant force in promoting your brand. One subset of social media marketing has recently been on the rise. I’m speaking, of course, about the church. Many churches, from independent to organization-based, have begun to embrace social media as a means of connecting with their congregations, organizing church events or simply as a repository for pictures of said events. These are all great uses, of course, but there is so much more that social media can do for your ministry. 

So, how can you use social media to maximize your Church’s reach?

1)    Figure Out Which Social Media Platform is Best for Your Church

Not all social media platforms are ideal for nurturing a Church’s digital presence. Instagram and Snapchat are great for posting pictures and videos of events, but can lack substance due to limited room for text. They should be used in more of a supplemental capacity, or to share high-impact visuals from the church. According to Sproutsocial, a large swath of adult social media users are on Facebook, with a high middle-age to senior citizen demographic. Chances are that most, if not all of your congregants use it. Create a Page for your church, highlighting your mission, services, programs, events, or daily scripture reflections. This is an ideal means of presenting your ministry to the world at large. A carefully curated Facebook Group is also very useful. You’ll find that inviting your members to join, allowing them to interact with you and with each other gives you an efficient way to engage with them not JUST on Sundays, but every single day of the week.

2)    Broadcast Your Services

For something that seems so obvious, this is typically a controversial suggestion. Some churches that I’ve done audits for seemed reticent to bring the world into their sanctuaries. One concern is that making it easier for people to remotely access your live-streamed services could result in lower attendance rates. I’ve found that to not actually be the case. In churches that I have helped implement this change, attendance remained consistent among the congregation, and the stream even drew visitors. There is a culture within the Church that makes it a taboo to miss even one service. Most church-goers found it comforting to be able to go on vacation with their families and still be able to catch their church service online. Not only does this foster a guilt-free atmosphere, it builds feelings of loyalty and ownership among the congregants. The second benefit of broadcasting your services is an obvious one: it brings new eyes to your ministry. The goal of any Church ministry is to win souls. And with the amount of souls from across the globe currently residing on social media, it is the biggest platform you have to spread your message. Live-streaming your services can act as a low barrier of entry for people who aren’t comfortable in a church environment.


3)    Repurpose Your Old Media

With Social Media, content is king! There’s no point being present on social media platforms and not have anything to say! As a church, there are a variety of things you can post: inspirational quotes, daily scriptures, information on upcoming events, among other things. However, there is much more that can be done. As stated in the #2, regularly live-streaming services, bible studies and other instructional material can be a very effective means of bringing eyes to your ministry. The further upside to this is that you can edit short clips of sermons that pack powerful, meaningful messages and post them intermittently on your social media. These are often more impactful than just written messages, as the emotion comes through more clearly. And what about audio? Most Churches record their sermons on CDs and, depending on how old the ministry is, can have years of these old messages stockpiled. With some creative editing, you can repurpose these audio recordings into Podcasts. As the graphic shows, a Podcast is an incredible way to spread the word of God to a large swath of people. Curating your old sermons into a single, regularly updated Podcast is an excellent way to bring in a new audience. Not only that, but newer members of your congregation would be able to benefit from listening to sermons that they have missed. Maybe something in your Church’s archives could be the message that speaks directly to them?

As often as social media is portrayed as a scary, wild west-like frontier, it is important to realize that it can, in fact, be a blessing to any Church’s ministry if used correctly. These are just a few tips to get started, but it is important to note that if you treat social media as it was intended, as a means of bringing people together instead of dividing them, you’ll definitely be able to do God’s work, win more souls and nurture the souls that you have already won.




There's something I need to get off my chest....

“Let’s not beat around the bush. This is a termination meeting.”

That’s how it all started. Freshly back from a vacation that I had been loathed to take because we were short-staffed and I knew my team needed me, I got called into my boss’ office and told plainly and simply, that I was being laid off. Not just me, but three other members of our close-knit team had been given the exact same news. There’s something to be said for the sheer range of emotions a human being can experience within a split second. For one, I was extremely startled: Where was this suddenly coming from? Then the denial: Nah… this isn’t really happening. It’s a joke! To anger: I’ve been here for almost four years, my responsibilities have more than doubled during my tenure with no raise or bonus in sight; was this to be my reward?

By the end of it I was just numb. My boss was still talking, “This isn’t a performance thing. You’ve been a great asset and your work speaks for itself.” By the end of it, I could see that he, himself, would have given anything to not have to be the bearer of such bad news, that he was just relaying orders from higher up, but it didn’t make the situation any easier to bear. At the end of it, exhausted by the rollercoaster of emotions, all I could do was shrug, sigh and thank him for the opportunity and that I appreciated his support over the years.

I was allowed to gather my things, all the little knick-knacks that I’d accumulated within my workspace, take care of a few loose ends, and then it was all made incredibly official once I handed in my keys and badge to get into the building. The moment I left, I looked back up at my office building. In place of the once welcoming, comfortable constant now stood looming, dark foreboding fortress that I could never again set foot in. (That’s a bit over-dramatic, as I’ve been back several times to catch up with former co-workers)

I sat in my car for another hour, hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles were getting pale, willing myself to be strong, to stay positive, to not panic. I DID, of course panic when I realized I’d have to tell my wife what had happened. How exactly does one tell their spouse that all of the plans you’ve made together, plans hinged entirely on two steady, consistent incomes, were now severely set back? Easily, it seems. There wasn’t anything but to do it. After a brief pause on the other end, my wife simply said that we’d get through this, that God will work it out, and that I was forbidden from feeling like a failure. She’d always been able to read my mind like that. My wife has been incredibly supportive throughout this period, and without her I would have lost myself to despair long ago. AND thankfully I have a part-time job that I’d been doing on the weekends, so we weren’t completely done for, but would it be enough?

And… how does one not feel like a failure when you continually fail at securing work? Everyone says that job-searching is difficult. They’re wrong. It’s surprisingly easy. Jobs are everywhere, if LinkedIn, Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter and all the other job searching sites are any indication. What IS actually difficult is getting one of the many prospective employers to accept your application. In the three months I’ve been unemployed, I’ve applied to possibly over 300 jobs, with only two call-backs. One thing I will say for the internet age, it’s that rejections are a lot more palatable via email. The words: “Thank you for your application. Unfortunately we’ve decided to move forward with another candidate,” or some variation thereof, have become my daily existence. I’ve even applied for retail jobs, to sustain myself until I get something else. But no luck either. They say I’m over-qualified. What?!

My days have become a routine of chores, job-searching, keeping current on the industry and brushing up my skills via LinkedIn Learning. Any attempt to de-stress leads my brain to yell, “Why are you watching TV? Why are you surfing the internet!? You don’t have a job, man! If you’ve got time for this, you should be putting in another application!” Needless to say… relaxation hasn’t really been an option. I sit at home, and feel effectively useless.

Oddly enough, there HAS been at least two positive effects of my unemployment. As I mentioned earlier, I have a part-time job on the weekends. When I was fully employed, that meant I was consistently working 7 days a week. I did that for nearly a full 4 years. I was tired a lot of the time, and didn’t have much time for socializing, or exercising. Now, I’m always well-rested and full of energy. I go to the gym as often as I can, and I’ve actually seen results!

The other positive is that I’ve got more time to get closer to God. As you can imagine, I have a lot of time for reflection… and through this trial, I find myself relying more on God’s Word than I ever have before.

And that’s where I’m at currently. I’ve been keeping this news close to my vest all this time out of equal parts shame, pride and privacy, but I’m finally at a place where I’m ok with it. I’m experiencing what thousands of Americans are feeling every day, and it is most certainly humbling and rough, but I’m trusting in God, and doing everything within my power to gain employment.