San Antonio

Celebrating 2012

2012 was a great year for me personally.  I have a tendency to constantly look ahead and miss looking back and celebrating all that God has done.  Trust me, I'm looking ahead, but I do want to take a moment to celebrate some personal highlights of 2012: - Katie and I had our second daughter, Shelby

- My leadership at CBC was expanded joining the Executive Team as WebPastor

- Writing the Social Media Guide for Ministry and signing publishing contract with Group

- Consulting Opportunties with LifeWithout Limbs, St. Stephen Church, Japhet Builders, and several other great organizations

- Online Church Facebook Page reaching the milestone of 250,000 Facebook Likes

As I look at these highlights, I know that several came only by the favor of God in these situations and many also came with time sacrifices and lots of hard work.  There are so many great people involved in each of these, but there are 3 relationships in particular that I want to express my gratitude for in 2012:

1) My wife, Katie.  Katie is my biggest cheerleader and has encouraged me greatly throughout the journey.  Katie has remained flexible with the time sacrifices this year that we have needed to make and patient with the many late nights of 2012 due to a new baby and a new book.  I married way over my head and am so grateful for such an incredible wife!

2)  My boss, Chris.  Chris is the greatest leader I have ever had the privilege to serve under.  He does not just empower me to risk and try new things but challenges me to do so on a daily basis.  The past 2 and a half years have been incredible and my prayer is that God allows us many more years of locking arms together in ministry.  Chris is not just a good boss, but a great friend to me and my family.

3) My mentor, Trey.  Trey has taught me more than I can begin to describe about technology, leadership, innovation, and ministry.  Trey thinks differently than anyone that I have ever been around, which has helped me to grow more than I can explain.  Much of what I write about on this blog comes from core principles that I have learned from Trey.  His encouragement and belief in me has meant so much to these highlights in 2012.

Thank you Jesus for all of your many blessings that came in 2012!  I am blessed beyond belief.

3 Tips to Accidental Success

Last week I was introduced as someone with more "accidental success" in ministry than most people ever have with intentional efforts.  I had never thought of it this way, but it was an interesting statement and there are some reasons that I think this has been the case in my ministry career. I want to make sure to clearly state from the beginning though, that I know that any favor that I have experience comes from God and not my own doing.  I believe though, that many limit what God is able to do in and through them because of their actions and lack of faith.  I also want to state that I don't just lead in directions without intentionality, but that God often changes that direction with achievements that I was not seeking after.

Let me better explain by sharing the 3 "Accidental Successes" that were described in the introduction:

1) Growing the Largest College Ministry in San Antonio.  Several years ago 2 college students asked me to start a small group Bible study in a home.  My goal was to grow that group of 2 to a healthy small group of about 12-15.  Within 2 weeks we hit that goal, 6 months after that we had to move spaces as we outgrew our living room, and 18 months later we were averaging 200 college students each week.  I had a goal, but God had a greater one!

2) Accepting my Dream Job as a Social Media Pastor.  Three years ago I was in the process of launching a non-profit organization and was meeting with ministry and business leaders around San Antonio building support.  One conversation led to another which led to being offered the opportunity to write my dream job description as a Social Media Pastor in largest and fastest growing church in the city.  I had a direction, but God had a better one!

3) Signing a Book Deal with Group Publishing.  I was not seeking a book deal and did not even consider what I wrote to be a book.  It was a simple PDF document that I hoped might become a resource for any churches interested in maximizing Social Media.  The document was forwarded twice and before I knew it I was signing a book deal that will allow that information to reach thousands of ministry leaders.  I had good intentions, but God had bigger plans!

As I thought through these experiences, there are 3 tips that I recommend for anyone who hopes to also experience "accidental success".  This list could probably be much longer, but these are the first 3 that come to mind:

1) Hustle Always.  I don't sit still very well and this has been a very helpful trait over the years.  Christians often cling to the verse that says: "Be still and know that I am God" which is a very important passage and words to cling to.   Prayer and meditation are essential to spiritual growth, but I believe that they are too often used as excuses for laziness.  I too often hear Christians say that they are "waiting for God."  Robert Emmitt describes a healthy process well in saying that while we're waiting for God to open the right door we shouldn't kick doors in, but that also doesn't mean we shouldn't stop knocking on doors either.  Pray and seek God's leading, but don't stop knocking on doors in the process.

2) Experiment Often.  While I have had some BIG ministry successes over the past 3-5 years, I have had at least double that in failures.  Part of knocking on doors is experimenting and trying new things.  We tend to get comfortable where we are, especially when we experience some sort of success, and stop innovating and experimenting.  Never stop trying new things and never hesitate to quit doing something that's not working.  My first experience with Online Church came as an experiment with a Handy Cam, a laptop, and Mogulus (now LiveStream.com).  That experiment changed everything!

3) Be Flexible.  God might call you to move in one direction today and a new direction tomorrow.  Be flexible to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the circumstances in your life.  It seemed so clear to me that I was to launch a non-profit 3 years ago, but as I look back God had even greater plans.  He used those conversations and relationships in the efforts to launch to do even greater things.  God's direction for our lives rarely looks like a straight line and often requires many stops and turns (and sometimes U-Turns).

Please know that doing these things does not in any way guarantee accidental success, but I do believe that they prepare you to experience success removing many limitations to success.

I would love to hear about some of your "accidental successes" and some tips that you might add in helping others experience similar success.

Men's Techno Breakfast Tomorrow

307 I'm excited to invite you to the Men's Techno Breakfast tomorrow morning at 8am in San Antonio, TX at Community Bible Church.  I will be presenting the basics of Social Media and you will also hear from the great Robin Whitson as well as Art Clark and Craig Gaines who are on staff at CBC in IT.

We'll spend the first half of our session presenting the basics of computers, mobile technology, and Social Media and the second half answering any questions that you might have.  The event is open for all men and will be valuable whether you know nothing about technology or are a super geek.  Trust me, it will be worth getting up early for and the breakfast will be great!

Interview in Church Executive Magazine

I'm honored and excited to share with you this article from Church Executive Magazine.  The article, titled Six Trends in Staffing, was written by my friend William Vanderbloemen of Vanderbloemen Search Group.  Below is a portion of the article that includes his interview with me, but I hope you will take the time to click here to read the entire article in this month's edition of Church Executive.

Nils Smith: Church hires social media pastor

Last year Community Bible Church in San Antonio, TX, with weekly attendance of 21,000, hired a pastor of social media, Nils Smith, and credit some of their growth to leveraging these forms of communication and building relationships. William Vanderbloemen had a brief interview with Smith, who previously served as a youth pastor for eight years, and six months as a college and community online pastor before transitioning to Community Bible Church.

What are your primary responsibilities? Launching CBC online which is our online church campus, as well as oversight of our multiple Facebook pages and Twitter account.

What is the average CBC online attendance look like? We launched the online campus about a year ago with about 200 to 300 weekly attendees and today we average about 6,000 to 7,000 people logging in each week. We have an average of more than 100 countries represented every week and to date we have had attendance from every country in the world except for 12.

What exactly is CBC online? It is our online church service where we broadcast one or two worship songs along with the weekly message. We also have live chat that people can log into through their Facebook account and interact with each other around the online service. We currently have four channels or sites that we have launched and we recently launched a Spanish channel that has allowed us to become much more effective in reaching people in South and Central America.

We also broadcast our music online 24-7, in a coffee shop style space that allows people to log on and chat as well as listen to the great CBC music. Our most recent addition to CBC Online is the launch of our Online Lifegroups where people can login at the same time and watch a video teaching, have a time of discussion and prayer, and simply experience community online just like they might in a living room setting.

What does your typical day look like? I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical day, but generally I log in and check the prior day’s stats, make sure that our volunteer teams are checking up with new online believers, check in with the folks who are managing our Facebook and twitter accounts, and I also meet with our media team to see what updates to our online content we are going to be making. Our process with our online ministry has been to create, recruit, train, empower and support. As we’re constantly launching new areas of ministry online we are in different phases of this process, but my daily focus has quickly changed from primarily creating to now doing a lot more supporting as we have built an incredible team of volunteer leaders.

How have you implemented FB and Twitter with the Online Experience? For the most part we centralize everything that we are doing online with our Facebook Fan Page, which acts as our central hub for communication. We use an incredible platform called Media Social [ mediasocial.tv ] that has been our primary resource in our online ministry that integrates video content closely with Facebook.  Generally people connect with us through finding a link that someone posted on Facebook, attend an online service, and then “Like” our Facebook page.

We make unique videos and various online content specifically for Facebook and try and maximize our page as a place for community.We have found that simply asking questions of the community has been the most effective use of the page in building community. Currently we have more than 45K fans on Facebook, and interestingly enough, we actually have more fans in the Philippines now than we do in the U.S.

What is the best piece of advice that you can give churches that are looking to create a social media or online presence? Take the step and start somewhere, start with a building and regularly updating a Facebook page or try broadcasting on Ustream.com. Initially utilize the free online resources available. Once we started our Facebook page, our fellow staff members got on and promoted it and it really grew and took off. It isn’t perfect and continues to be a work in progress.

You don’t want to put out a poor product, but sometimes you can refine and polish things so much that they never get released. There is the need for some experimenting initially and you will begin to figure out what works and does not work for your ministry.  — WV