Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Josh, Social Media Guru (AKA The Student Who Became My Teacher)

I am celebrating my 20th year of teaching by profiling former students who are doing great things in their field. As I've watched them grow into adults, I have been impressed with an aspect of their lives and want to share them with you. I fully recognize that I was merely a small part in their growth and development, but I can't help to be proud. By highlighting these former students I hope to encourage other teachers that what we do is a noble and worthy cause. We have the ability to boost others to greatness we have never considered. 

Blogs have been a part of my life for a number of years, well before I started blogging my professional life. As I began to explore the blogosphere I discovered that some of my former students were blogging too, so it was natural for me to read what they were publishing. That’s how I started reading Josh’s blog.

As I read his blog about social media in for churches, I started to think about my school.  We had no social media presence, and many other local private schools did.  While there is a distinct difference between church and Christian school, there are also a few similarities. I eventually asked our administration for permission to start a Facebook page and got the green light! Josh the Former Student became Josh the Facebook Guru as I used his blog (and some direct question and answer time) to figure out the best way to launch our school Facebook page.

I have known Josh and his family for a very long time, even before he was my student. We went to church together, and I worked alongside his mother (who just happens to be the principal at my daughter’s school).  One summer, we all convened at a friend’s house for a Fourth of July party, and I was shooting hoops with the kids.  In my “welcome to my class” postcard later that summer, I mentioned playing ball with him.  His mother told me later that meant a lot to him. “He remembers me!” As I recall things, Josh came to me after being homeschooled for a few years. He was a shy but likable kinda guy who was into sports.  And...I’m struggling to remember much more. Isn’t that terrible?!?! Years later, I got to see him mature through our church’s youth ministry.  I never worked directly with him, but I watched as he became involved in the media team and was mentored by our youth pastor.

I asked Josh how my teaching impacted him along his life journey.  Fortunately, he remembered more than I did.

When I think back to my time with you I can remember that while you were a great teacher, and stern at times, you also had a great sense of humor. I think this helped me to lighten up a bit as I got older. Also, I remember that you were always using some sort of piece of technology. I valued the ‘computer time’ that we got in class. In fact, I think I built my first website in your class on Geocities.com Ha! So I guess in a small way you contributed to my passion for using the web.

Also, this may sound elementary, but I remember having to do a lot of reading and writing in your class. I can’t help but think that it contributed to my writing skills today, as I’m writing constantly for my blog, or other publications.

Personally, I think he’s just being nice there. :)

After high school, Josh went on to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago to study sports ministry.

It was during my time there that I realized that I had 2 passions in life. One was sports, and the other was media and communications. I had seen how both of those gifts could be used to further the gospel, but my passion for communications continued to grow during college, so much so that all of my time outside of class was being spent growing and honing those skills. During my time in college I had been volunteering my time doing media and communications at my church here in Chicago, which by the way, if you’re young and looking to get into the communications field, the best thing you can do is volunteer your time for free. It helps you learn, and you can begin to build relationships and a network.

This passion for using social media to spread God’s love led to his current job as Director of Web and Social Media at Park Church in Chicago. A formal degree in this field isn’t a necessity. With plenty of volunteer experience and a large portfolio, Josh was able to continue what he was doing at church full time.  He says, “I’ve been in this position for almost 4 years, and I absolutely love it. I get the opportunity to reach thousands of people everyday through social media.”

Not only is Josh able to reach people in his church, but he also has a blog readership of nearly 400 people who are interested in learning more about social media in the church (or in my case, in schools).  His blog is chock full of great ideas for launching your own social media campaign and making your digital footprint truly social -- even if you’re not at all connected to the church.

Josh’s future goals?

Professionally, I’m actually in a phase of figuring out what my next goals are. I believe that social media is akin to the printing press of our time, so I want to continue to see people reached for the gospel through social media. What that looks like for me in the future is still to be determined. I’ve seen a huge need for resourcing churches all over the world with skills and tools to use the web and social media better, so I would like to keep pursuing that through my blog and email newsletter. I’ve also been blogging for a year for NBC Chicago’s small business blog, so I love to help businesses figure out social media as well. I think continuing to resource churches, non-profits, and businesses in how to tell their story through social media is going to be a big part of my future.

However, there is more to Josh than just social media.

In his questionnaire, he couldn’t stop raving about his “beautiful Australian wife,” Amy. While this post is about Josh, not Amy, he claims that her part of the story could fill a book… and she’s the most amazing person he has ever met, period. Come to think of it, Josh and Amy are the first -- and maybe only -- people I know who used a Twitter hashtag for their wedding.

Josh and Amy work with at-risk youth in Chicago, working to fight social injustice in their city.  They love seeing growth among “their kids” and can’t wait to see the strides these students make as they mature over the next 10-15 years.

My wife and I are extremely committed to seeing the city renewed with the gospel. One of our goals is to own buildings in low-income areas that we rent out at affordable rates to people in need. We believe housing and education are some of the largest obstacles for those in poverty, so we’d like to play a larger role in those throughout our lives.

I’m proud to know Josh and it’s great to know that he’s spreading God’s love through the Internet and through loving those less fortunate.  It’s a great reminder that our lives ought to be more than pixels lurking about the Internet. It’s important to be real and intentional with those we can see around us every day.  

When I thought up this blog series, Josh was one of the first people I thought of to write about.  I had no idea about the mentoring he does, but I was intrigued by his social media work. I love the fact that the student has become the teacher, literally leading me through the setup of my school’s Facebook account. It will be interesting to see how things continue to grow and change in his life as the web and landscape of Chicago change over time.  

Thanks, Josh, for being so awesome!

Some old school Josh
Yes, my legs rock!

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