What Are You Thinking? – by Mary Ann Weber

What are you thinking? It’s my job as an editor to find out. Or, at least it is as long as your thoughts are about resources produced by MennoMedia.

That’s why I spent time earlier this summer exploring how to develop surveys. What makes a good survey? How can I convince people to complete a survey? How can I write a survey to get the information I need?

I discovered that it’s good to offer an incentive to complete a survey. For example, we frequently include a discount code that can be used toward a future MennoMedia purchase at our store. I learned that it’s helpful to let people know about how much time they may spend taking a survey. No one who has two minutes of free time wants to get trapped in a survey that takes five minutes or more to complete. And I gathered that it’s good to include a no-answer option for those who want to take the survey but don’t want to respond to a specific question.

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(We generally use Survey Monkey to create handy online surveys
that are actually kind of fun to complete.)

With my new found knowledge, I put together a number of surveys related to projects I’m working on. Are churches interested in an intergenerational worship resource? How do pastors and other church leaders find resources for their ministries? What would be a good title for an upcoming Bible study guide? Which cover option will make people want to purchase a book? Why does your church offer vacation Bible school? As you can tell, survey topic possibilities are endless.

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The information I receive is used to shape current and future projects. It turns out that half of the people to whom I sent the survey about intergenerational worship resources, responded. That might sound like a small percentage in general, but in the world of surveys, a 50% response shows tremendous support. Those results spurred me to begun preliminary steps to create a worship resource that all generations can use together.

We can track how many times the offered discount codes are used. Surprisingly, they are not redeemed very frequently. Maybe it’s the idea of receiving something, instead of actually receiving something that motivates people to complete surveys. Or, maybe people just understand that if they want their voices and opinions heard, they need to take a few minutes and tell us what they are thinking. Surveys also help us involve a wider spectrum of the church and the public in developing or fine-tuning the projects and products we produce. They give us some hard data to go on, instead of guesses.

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If you ever receive a survey link from a MennoMedia staff member, we’d appreciate if you take a few minutes to work through it. Your willingness to do so means that we can continue to create and offer relevant products that meet real needs. Thank you!

If you would be willing to give occasional feedback by means of surveys, please indicate your interest by leaving a comment below. We will then be able to have your email address as well as your area of interest. Here are some key areas in which we solicit feedback:

  • Trade books
  • Book content, titles, and covers
  • Curriculum materials
  • Websites
  • Periodicals

Thanks again for any help you are able to offer!

Mary Ann Weber, Curriculum Managing Editor120127_3988

Announcing a New Tagline for Third Way Website and a Request for Your Help

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At MennoMedia, we are in the midst of an update and relaunch of Third Way. This website is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, helping the general public understand what following Jesus as Mennonite or Anabaptist Christians is all about.

A couple weeks ago we identified the new tagline chosen for the updated website, “Simply following Jesus.” While we looked at and tested and played with a number of phrases, this one seemed to say it all in a way appropriate for the website.P1060424

New tagline and logo look for Third Way website.

The new site will focus on six key values, in addition to a general section on Mennonites:

  1. Jesus,
  2. Community,
  3. Peace,
  4. Simplicity,
  5. Service,
  6. Justice.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but I wanted to use this blog to solicit your help and ideas for one new section focusing on community or the communal aspect of our faith, even though Mennonites are not generally living in the same houses or a commune or closed-type community like, for instance, a Hutterite colony.

It’s “community” in a broad sense like spiritual connectedness, but it also includes flesh and blood connectedness—the ties we experience as we get to know, love, work, and fellowship with others trying to follow Jesus in all aspects of our lives. The early disciples certainly formed a community; the early Christians lived together and had “all things” in common, including the purse; and the Reformation-era Anabaptists were a further-flung community over several countries at the time, bound together by common beliefs and suffering.

Over the years of hosting Third Way, we found persons deeply longing for and needing the kind of community they hear exists among some Mennonite and Anabaptist faith communities. One frequent complaint and question at Third Way has been: “There is no Mennonite church anywhere near me, so how can I find that kind of community?” The underlying question with that is “Can’t you please help start more churches in outlying areas?” We have frequently referred such pleas to regional Mennonite conference bodies for their awareness, prayer, and possible action—church plants or exploration. But people are longing for cross-generational community.

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I have heard people say “I wish my church was like that” when it comes to offering support, especially in times of serious illness, grieving, and even tough decision making. I have heard people speak of visiting their own loved one in a hospital and observing others who had no one visiting, or they accompanied a family member for cancer treatments, and saw that others had no one accompanying them. It’s the barn-raising spirit in urban or suburban form.

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Just today over at Practicing Parents blog, Lee Hull Moses writes about helping to raise other people’s kids: “We’re all in this together. That’s why we take meals to new parents and offer to babysit. It’s why we share hand-me-downs and advice. But it’s also why we volunteer in schools and read books to kids who are not our own. It’s why we advocate for laws that protect and provide for children. It’s why we support community programs that work to keep families out of poverty.”

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These are some of the things we mean by community, and lots more. Who is living and writing about this kind of stuff in blogs, articles, or even church newsletter format? Where would you point us? Who might be willing to share their experiences and insights? (You have a supper club meeting once a month or more? That’s community! How does it work, keep going? You have a small group that is your community? Who is doing a good job of expressing those kinds of connections? You have a service group or mission activity that has built relationships and connections across cultures or neighborhoods? That’s community.)

I hope to hear from you with recommendations, links, names of blogs, writers, pastors who are all about community. Go!

And thanks for your leads. That’s community.

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How do you define community? What makes community work for you?

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To know more about the work that MennoMedia is doing to update and relaunch the Third Way website, click here and here. And sign up here for the MennoMedia Links newsletter to be among the first to know about new products like this.

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Comment here or email me privately at melodied@mennomedia.org or any of us here at MennoMedia.

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If you want to support the outreach word of MennoMedia through Third Way website, here’s a way to do so online. Bless you!

TGIF: How to Get Great Free Books

 

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If you see the MennoMedia Facebook page, you likely know about Goodreads.

If you read a lot of books anyway, and would like to get more books, you would likely enjoy Goodreads. It’s one of those social media sharing sites for people with specialized interests. Giveaways are popular through social media, but time consuming to manage and administer, so that’s why, with a very small staff, we at MennoMedia and Herald Press use the Goodreads program frequently.

Right now we have three Goodreads giveaways offered:

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  • Two copies of Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds are on the giveaway block at Goodreads from now until September 22. Bonnet Strings is a memoir by Saloma Miller Furlong about a woman who grew up Amish and then made the traumatic decision to leave her community as she fell in love with and married her eventual husband. A great book to curl up with this fall and winter … or share with a friend or family member! More info here.

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  • Five copies of Rebecca, the second of Mary Christner Borntrager’s Ellie’s People series are up for grabs on Goodreads beginning Monday, September 15, and running through October 1. If you know girls between the ages of 8-14, they just might enjoy this book. Read more about the series in our earlier blog post. (And you have to be at least 13 to enter on Goodreads.)

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  • And here’s a different giveaway over at Valley Living, a Harrisonburg-area magazine for families that I edit in my spare time. On November 1, Valley Living will give away one free copy of Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations in a drawing from all those who complete a word search from the Valley Living website (the magazine is doing this to promote the website too). Here’s where to download the word search, this one on “the skeleton,” which can help kids learn about bones. So if you have kids, grandkids or teach kids the right age, they might enjoy helping do the word search, or even sending it in to win the free book for their mom or grandmother (hint hint). It has to be downloaded to enter it in the giveaway. For more on the beautiful book, check here. Not into a word search? That’s fine—share it with a friend.The deadline to submit the puzzle for the contest is October 29, and the address to send it to is printed on the puzzle.

That’s the point of all these giveaways anyway: sharing information, helping people know about good books available for a wide variety of interests and tastes, and keeping the love of reading and demand for books alive, regardless of whether you prefer ebooks, softbacks or old fashioned hardbacks.

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All of these books and more are always available at our store (or by clicking on the photos above) or by calling 800-245-7894.

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Do you know of other book giveaway sites? What is your favorite? Let us know! And enter any and all of these giveaways for some wonderful books.

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If you’re curious about the “rules” from Goodreads, here are some of the guidelines:

  • No purchase necessary. Only one entry is allowed per household. You must be 13 or older and a legal resident of one of the countries this giveaway is listed for.
  • The publisher or author, not Goodreads, is responsible for shipment of books to winners. To list a book, the publisher or author has already agreed never to send you anything except the book in question.
  • You are not required to review the book if you win a copy. However, we encourage you to do so, as it’s the reason the publishers are giving us free books in the first place. People who review the books are also more likely to win more advance copies in the future.
  • By accepting an advance copy and posting a review, you grant Goodreads and the publisher an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, fully paid, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, and distribute your review.
  • In compliance with FTC guidelines, please disclose in your review that you received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

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Melodie Davis, managing editor and author