Monthly Archives: December 2012

Celebrating Christmas with Each of You

Last night after our Christmas Eve Service, our family sat around our table and lit the advent candles as we have done most every night in December. As we reflected on Christ’s birth amid the sugar buzz from the cookies, we talked about how millions and millions of people in every corner of the world were celebrating with us this very evening!

It’s an amazing thought. As I celebrate Christmas with my family today, I will actually be remembering our Savior with each of you and millions of others on every continent and in every country. The Good News of Jesus’ birth has spread that far!

That takes our Christmas celebrations to a whole new level. As we more clearly understand that God’s words throughout the Bible are being realized in front of us, the only response is stop all the activity of the holidays and worship Him.

In Isaiah 25:8 God’s Word says, “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.” Each Christmas is a step closer to this promise. As we celebrate with those we love today, let us ask God to allow us to be part of bringing in His Kingdom as we get ready to begin a new year.

I pray that each of you will have a Spirit-led, intentional role in God’s Kingdom this year.

Listening to Who God Brings Your Way

There are many disciplines related to listening. That is something that our team at GMI is always processing as listening is such an important part of what we do. Listening is so multifaceted because it is an exercise focused on the needs and opportunities in the lives of others.

One area of discipline for us in listening is to those who God brings. We like to listen to people we choose, but many times God has the most to say through people we would never have asked or paid attention to.

Think of the word of wisdom that comes from your child, the idea that arises from someone in another department or the insight that comes to you from a news article. Those might not be the sources you expect to learn from, but God can use those voices in powerful ways.

Throughout the Bible people were constantly being surprised by the sources God used to provide insight. Think of Moses and the burning bush, Balaam and the donkey, Elijah and the wind, and finally Israel and a tiny baby boy born in Bethlehem.

In the first few months of 2013 GMI will be challenging our partners and friends in the global mission community to do some listening about the effectiveness of their Websites in engaging with potential missionaries. We are launching our 2013 Agency Web Review to help Great Commission organizations listen to potential missionaries and hear what they have to say. We hope that as these organizations listen to those who are being called into missionary service, that they will be able to make Spirit-led decisions about how to best engage them online.

So many times Web strategy is driven by the latest technology, the blogs of Internet gurus or the internal politics of an organization. Wouldn’t it be better to be driven by listening to those we strive to serve.

If you are an agency serving missionaries, I challenge you to connect with us and take this opportunity to listen to those who are engaging with you through your site. I also pray that God will show each person reading this blog the people in your life He wants you to be listening to today.

Analysis links website “personality” to follow-up actions

 
Third in a series of three posts looking forward to the 2013 Agency Web Review by reviewing highlights from a prior edition of the study.

As in 2004, the upcoming edition of the Agency Web Review will not only consider the rational elements of a missions website (clarity, functionality, information) but also the emotional side—its “personality”—and how that aligns with visitors’ responses and potentially influences follow-up activity.

From a list of 40 or so descriptive terms, respondents select the ones that they felt best describe each website.  Once data collection is complete, GMI analysts use factor analysis to boil those characteristics down to a smaller set of themes, or personality factors.  Then, they use regression analysis to measure how those themes correlate with the follow-through outcomes that agencies are looking for: revisiting the site, recommending it to peers and pursuing service opportunities.

In 2004 four out of the 10 personality factors correlated strongly with desired actions.  Web designers for the participating agencies learned about these factors and were able to draw on them in adapting their sites to encourage future missionaries to take the next step.  Those four factors are shown in this chart:

The degree of correlation varied depending on the follow-through action being studied.  For Intent to Recommend, the strongest link was to the “Creative” aspect of a site (a factor comprised of “Creative,” “Fresh,” “Visual” and “Non-Traditional”).  For overall website appeal, the same four factors emerged, but with “Energetic” (an absence of characteristics such as “Calm,” “Simple” and “Casual”) at the top of the list.  

How did designers use this information? Here are two ways: 

  1. Striking the right balance between identifying with who your audience is and who it aspires to be.  The presence of Energetic and Creative suggests that an agency should demonstrate that it understands the next generation of workers and is relevant to them.  This is the classic affinity principle—demonstrating that an agency is “for people like me.” Prospects are drawn to organizations that have and welcome high-energy people with a creative spirit.At the same time, the presence of Wise (“Humble,” “Experienced”) and Capable (including “Secure” and “Aware”)  suggests traits that future missionaries do not yet have—especially in terms of cross-cultural effectiveness.  Prospects desire to develop these qualities and hope that an agency will be able to draw them out.  Prospects look for signals that an agency knows what it is doing and can help new people get where they need to be.

    It is easy to miss the mark a bit one way or the other.  Too much creativity can be misinterpreted as an emphasis on style over substance.  Too much emphasis on experience and resources can be misread as close-mindedness or lack of need.  In short, prospects don’t want agencies that aspire to be “like them”—rather, they do want to be understood while being given something to aspire to become.

  2. Designers also need to understand what is not helpful.  In this case, six other website personality factors were not significantly linked to any of the key follow-through behaviors:  intention to revisit, refer or respondto opportunities.  Websites that were viewed as “Courageous,” “Concerned,” “Sharp” (incorporating “Confident” and “Smart”), “Thoughtful” or “Fun” likely did not generate the best possible response from visitors.(Note that positioning does not refer to the inauthentic donning of characteristics that are not part of an agency’s identity, but rather to expressing aspects of one’s true identity that are likely to resonate with candidates.)

Web designers usually know how to help make a website more usable or functional.  Some also have intuitive skills that enable agencies to strike the right notes in messaging and imagery. But for those who don’t—and even for those who do—message modeling can provide a well-defined target to shoot for and criteria to assess whether the messages are hitting their mark.  Such models are a standard feature of the Agency Web Review report.

Eight years after the first review, who knows how the personality characteristics may have changed?  New factors are likely to emerge in association with key outcomes.  To find out, be sure to register for the 2013 Agency Web Review.

 

From their keyboard to your web designer

(Second in a series of three posts)

As we introduce the 2013 Agency Web Review, we are reviewing highlights from the 2004 edition.

It is great for an agency to get numeric ratings on various aspects of its website—especially when comparable ratings for a group of other agency websites are available to show relative strengths and weaknesses.

But the ratings come to life when designers and mobilizers learn the specific reasons beneath the great ratings—or when they get suggestions to improve elements of their site.

Back in 2004, when we first gathered opinions of dozens of agency sites, social media was still in its infancy and dialogue with prospects was much less prevalent—so getting actionable feedback from the target audience was more difficult.

Today future missionaries have more channels to offer ideas—the challenge is getting them to take time to look closely and consider how their input can help.

Next month, the Agency Web Review will provide incentives to those considering cross-cultural service to spend several minutes observing agency websites—and then offering their opinions about them.  In addition to numeric ratings, respondents will provide open-ended feedback on their initial impressions, the website’s strengths, and elements that can be improved.

Here are some of the verbatim quotes from future missionaries.  Would any of these apply to your site?

It was attractive, but it wasn’t obvious what they did.

 

It was a little cluttered with things and I really didn’t know what I should click on. But it was VERY informative.

 

Really liked the home page and the different pictures that come up when you point at the options to enter.

 

Opportunities— list was hugely long—I had no idea which ones to select.  Perhaps narrow the categories a bit for a first selection.

 

They recommended books which would be helpful for someone looking for more resources and help in a particular area.

 

I liked the opportunity boxes that popped up over the world and then I could click on them.

 

Include more stories about past missionaries’ experiences.

 

I love the emphasis on prayer. I think that it probably points to a good orientation.

 

Things weren’t hidden in fine print from what I could tell in my brief study. Everything seemed very up-front.

 

Give more detail about service opportunities without requiring a person to receive mailings.

 

I could not find a belief statement.

 

It is impressive they have the site in a different language.

 

Increase the size of the font, I can barely read it.

 

Visually a bit sparse, but seemed spiritually grounded.

 

There is a lot going on, visually creative. I wanted to learn more.

 

Seemed to be more focused on their organization than on the people they were serving, kind of a turn off.

 

Mission and values were clearly stated and inspiring.

 

The global map links on the home page didn’t all work.  I couldn’t find a webmaster link to report it.

 

How do I actually work for (agency)!? I have no idea how to apply or what to do if I want to work with them!

 

Present more ‘in your face’ opportunities to serve or donate.

 

I really liked that one of the first things I saw invited me to pray with the group.  It gave me a way to get involved right now.

At the agency level, this kind of feedback is especially valuable for designers.  Collectively, comments about dozens of sites can be coded and analyzed for helpful trends.  Comments in the 2004 study most frequently related to the following:

  • Ease of Navigation
  • Quantity of Information
  • Organization of Site
  • Design / Layout / Color
  • Graphics / Photos

The most-frequently-mentioned opportunities for improvement fell into these categories:

  • Information about Opportunities
  • Visual Style / Layout
  • Information About the Agency
  • Text / Font
  • Verbal Style

What kinds of ideas has your agency implemented on its website based on the suggestions of visitors?  Add a comment and let us know!

 

God’s Relentless Pursuit of Us in Love by Jim Feiker

Note: It was local Kenyan wisdom to pay special attention to the last words of a wise and Godly man.  Well, Jim Feiker fits both descriptors.  Jim was in communication with his Lord until the very end and this article points to that growing edge.  Thanks Bev for your work of love in completing the final edit.  Read and be refreshed by this reality.  Ken

 “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life”                                 (Psalm 23:6a, The Message)

 In the past, I have often written on our pursuit and passion for God and our longing for intimacy with Him.  Now I want to correct an imbalance I have found in my life Continue reading

Getting to know you: Future missionaries surf for agencies

 

This is the first in a three-post series.

Every day, people considering long-term cross-cultural service visit sending agency websites and social media pages.  What they experience in a few quick clicks can inspire them to bookmark a site, tweet about it to friends or complete an inquiry form.  Or it can lead them to a quick exit.

With mobilization events like Urbana and MissionsFest taking place in the next few weeks, agencies should be ready to put their best foot forward in assisting field-bound people to discover the next step in their journey.

Next month, GMI will field the 2013 Agency Web Review, in which hundreds of people considering long-term cross-cultural service will explore dozens of sending agency web sites, evaluating various website elements and providing helpful open-ended comments. Participating agencies will receive agency-specific reports with detailed feedback on their site, plus comparative data showing how the site’s ratings compare to a group of several dozen other agencies.

The study draws on GMI’s opt-in panel of more than 3,000 people who have confirmed that they are considering a career in cross-cultural mission. 

Eight years ago GMI fielded the first edition of the Agency Web Review, which provided actionable results for agency web designers and mobilization staff.  Kristi Crisp of World Gospel Mission had this to say about the study:

The Agency Web Review results helped us to set a better direction and convinced us of the need for changes.  …The World Gospel Mission website is a completely different site now.  We changed our focus to getting people actually going…whether with our organization or with somebody else.

In anticipation of the 2013 study, we are taking time to review a few of the highlights of the 2004 study.  The electronic communications landscape has changed dramatically since then, but many of the findings from 2004 continue to be useful. 

We asked which of 11 key activities people considering a missions career had done.  Visiting agency websites ranked fourth on the list (after attending conferences, reading mission books/newsletters and talking with missionaries).  Six out of 10 prospects had already visited the website of a sending agency.

The following chart reveals stated priorities for missionary prospects when visiting an agency site:

 

To us, the results suggest that the primary questions visitors of website visitors relate to identity: Who are you?  What do you do?  Where do you do it? What do you stand for?

Once those questions are answered, prospects feel free to consider, “OK, how would I fit in?” “What would it take for me to be a part?”

Stated priorities don’t reveal the degree to which elements of a website are linked to key response actions (more info in a few days on that), but they do express visitor expectations.  Therefore, we recommend that web designers make sure expectations are easily met without a lot of searching.  That means a well-placed “About Us” heading, opportunities that are dated and kept updated, and some explanation about what people can expect to happen after the inquiry form is submitted.  (That last item was the lowest-rated of 21 site elements tested across all organizations.)

In addition, we suggest providing some unexpected elements of “delight.”  A few of the unexpected pleasures encountered by site visitors include:

  • an opportunity to be prayed for by agency staff
  • engaging videos from field staff that give people a taste of daily life on the field
  • links to helpful resources for people considering service—even from other agencies

We noticed that the highest-rated agency websites tended not to minimize their service requirements, but they worked hard not to represent those requirements as barriers.  Their positioning was something like this:

“Becoming a missionary takes real commitment, knowledge and skills.  It’s not easy, but it is do-able, and we will walk alongside you to help you develop into an effective cross-cultural servant who enables others to realize all that God is calling them to.”

Do you know of an agency that incorporated user feedback into its website makeover? We’d love to hear about examples or standout experiences you’ve encountered.

Learn details about how to take part in the 2013 Agency Web Review here.

 

Settling for Worry instead of Wisdom

“Worry is undisciplined foresight.” E. Stanley Jones, The Way

You are probably worrying right now! You might be concerned about some decision you have to make at work or a situation you are wrestling through with a family member. Whatever it might be, our brains are wired to plan and process all of the time. Since we are constantly processing, our sin nature takes over and focuses our planning on speculation and consternation.

When Jesus warns us against worry in Matthew chapter six, he is trying to reorient our minds and our efforts to plan. He knew that his disciples (like everyone else) naturally fixated on things that most directly impacted their quality of life. So Jesus mentions clothes, food and drink as examples of those immediate and all-consuming things. But this passage isn’t about clothes or food. It is all about reorienting us around the Kingdom instead of the concerns in this world. In verse 33, Jesus challenges the Disciples to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”.

So why is this reorientation so important? We are wired to process our future, seek insight, and make decisions. God made us that way! But unless we are seeking Kingdom insight, we are squandering the gift of foresight God gave us. On most days we use God’s gift poorly and we miss the chance to engage with what God is doing in His Kingdom. We focus our desire to seek insight on worrying about how this or that might turn out and how it might affect us. This makes it almost impossible for us to make wise decisions for Him. We settle for worry instead of wisdom. This is a tragedy and a victory for the Evil One.

But it doesn’t have to be. If we will seek God each day and ask Him to reorient our thoughts in order to seek His Kingdom, then our thoughts would lead to the discernment we desperately need. Are you settling for worry instead of wisdom? Ask God today to transform your self-focused foresight into God-focused discernment.

Making Shifts When the World Changes

How are we at shifting our assumptions and decision making when the world changes around us? It’s harder than we think isn’t it? But it could not be more critical to our success as leaders.

Take the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza. The November 24th issue of the Economist led with this title “Old battles, new Middle East . . . Gaza, Israel and the Arab Spring.”

What we have all learned from watching the latest outbreak of violence in the region is that the rules have fundamentally changed since the revolutions of 2011. These changes require all the parties to adjust their thinking and expectations as they seek a way forward.

The same is true for all of us on mission. The rules of global mission have fundamentally changed. These changes are being documented well in many corners of the Kingdom, but much of the time we fail to change our decision-making accordingly.

We read the latest book on mission trends and then go out and make our next major ministry decision as if those words had never been written. Why do we do this? Partly it is because of familiarity, it could also be a lack of discipline in our decision-making and it may have to do with the inherent risks involved in making decisions in new ways.

Whatever the reason, the affects are obvious. We see poor decisions being made in every corner of the missional endeavor. People are working off of old rules and wondering why they do not see the expected results. This is so sad because most of the time people do not mean to make these misinformed decisions. They simply don’t have the framework necessary to make a successful decision.

But these failures in decision-making can be avoided. Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself before you make your next major decision:

  1. Are the rules that I am using to make this decision still in place or have they changed?
  2. What new realities are influencing the decision I am making today? Have I considered their implications?
  3. How would someone in a different generation or culture look at this decision differently? Do they bring key insights I need to evaluate?
  4. Do I have relevant and up-to-date information that will allow me to pray intentionally for God’s wisdom?

Try asking a few of these questions and give me some feedback about what you hear as a result. Let’s strive to shift with our world and seek God about decisions with a more realistic understanding of the situations that we are called to influence.