Strategic evangelism is at the heart of every project we take on at GNPI. We are constantly asking ourselves how we can make the gospel more accessible to more people, believing it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone. Through carefully planned strategies and processes, we’re sharing the story of Jesus around the world in ways that are meaningful and relevant to the people groups we’re reaching.
In the last few years, digital technology and social media have changed the way we communicate and have created new opportunities for our team. We’re re-imagining old ideas and finding ways to harness the full potential of these new platforms.
One of our most exciting projects is a fully integrated media strategy designed to reach Muslims, called Amazing Stories. Not only does it have the potential to reach families with the gospel in an innovative format, but it also incorporates a media strategy that we can reproduce and use across our global network.
The seed for this idea was planted nearly 20 years ago when Shawn Tyler, a missionary working in Kenya and Uganda, approached GNPI about producing a children’s book series.
Shawn wanted to present Bible stories told from a “new angle,” from the perspective of those who were present when they took place. For example, Shawn wanted to tell the story of Jesus raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead. However, he wanted to tell it from the perspective of Jairus’s daughter. In the script, she relates the story as an adult to her own children, encouraging listeners to imagine how this miracle affected Jairus’ whole family and their future.
Shawn’s idea sounded like the perfect tool to help Muslim audiences connect with familiar prophets and stories from the Bible before introducing them to stories about Isa (Jesus). Next, we needed a strategy for making these stories accessible to Muslim families. That’s where another worker comes in.
This worker has served for 25 years in a country with one of the world’s largest Muslim populations. (For the protection of our partners there, we won’t mention his precise location.) His research involved understanding how the jihadi movement was so successful in recruiting people to their cause. With his education and experience, this worker figured out how to build relationships among the Muslim population and was willing to help us think through our project to reach these same people.
As a core team came together, our next step was to build an integrated media strategy. Although Shawn’s original idea involved a series of printed books, we saw massive potential in using digital technology to tell these stories. Because we had a particular Muslim nation in mind as the focus group for this project, we hired a production company in that nation to help us produce the media materials. Interestingly, the founder of this company studied in the U.S. and even came to Joplin to meet GNPI’s founder, Ziden Nutt. Their interactions inspired him to establish his own company, and he was thrilled to see this connection come full circle.
At the advice of our production company, we named the project Amazing Stories. Then, we began brainstorming about our target audience and how we would reach them. We imagined three personas:
An eight-year-old girl who lives in a small village with her parents. She’s motivated to learn more about the world outside her village.
A twelve-year-old boy who lives in poverty but loves the media he can access through his mother’s second-hand smartphone. He sees media as a way to not only entertain himself but to answer his questions.
A 28-year-old, divorced mother who is raising her daughter by working a factory job. She wants her daughter to learn new concepts and is very concerned with developing strong morals in her. She hopes her daughter will have better opportunities than she had.
Each “persona” helped us think about different economic, social, educational, and spiritual needs. With these audiences in mind, we created animated videos based on the stories Shawn had written. In addition to the videos, our production company is creating an interactive mobile app with additional resources. Parents can download the Amazing Stories app to find written versions of each story, the link to a Bible app, and a response form for viewers to start discussions with our follow-up team. The purpose of the app is to capture the attention of our audience and open conversations which paves the way for deeper interactions.
Through social media sites and messaging platforms (like Facebook and WhatsApp), we’ll share the Amazing Stories videos online. We’ll also use digital advertising to target Muslims who may have questions about the Christian faith and use these videos to introduce them to biblical truths.
Whether we’re sharing the videos on social media or using digital advertising to reach people, our goal is to point users to the Amazing Stories app. Through the app, we can connect with users to turn online interactions into real-life connections. How will that happen? We’ve outlined a six-step process to reach our goal.
Step One: Build a Follow-Up Network
To help us turn online interactions into real-life connections, we joined a consortium of ministries and churches who share a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database. This database will allow us to track users who watch or share the Amazing Stories videos, people who respond to our digital ads, and those who download our app. The CRM database helps us gather, analyze, and use the data we collect to guide future interactions with the app users.
As we learn more about the people who are using our resources and how they’re using them, we’ll also learn more about their spiritual needs. We can craft content that addresses the questions they have about Jesus and encourages further connections. (More about that in Step 5).
Step Two: Design Media Interfaces
To date, Shawn Tyler has written 10 New Testament stories and 10 Old Testament stories for the Amazing Stories project. From these 20 stories, 15 animated videos have already been produced. We’re currently testing the mobile app described above, and we’re developing a texting system that will help us interact and follow-up with users, too. We’re also planning to create printed book versions of the stories in this series, with artwork that corresponds to the videos and text that can be translated into multiple languages.
Step Three: Create A Virtual Social Network
To engage our target audience, we’re launching a social media campaign that will reach the three personas we identified as our target audience. One site will appeal to our 28-year-old single mother, with topics that will interest her and resonate with her own life story. A second site will have content that appeals to raising successful families with ineractive advice on parenting, health, and nutrition. A third site will be specific to the animated video series and provide release dates, topical discussions, and a response portal for the viewers.
We’ll use digital advertising to point people to these pages and encourage sharing and comments. All of these sites will send user data to our CRM database and help us better engage with individual users.
Step Four: Gather Information
As users watch videos, interact with the app, and participate in social media conversations, we’ll be learning more about them and their beliefs. Our CRM database tracks all this information and helps us move people through an evangelism process.
As we suggest additional parenting resources, discipleship groups, and other opportunities to users, we are moving them toward connection with local groups of Christians. This is the end goal of the project. The stories, videos, resources, and app are all designed to help Muslims understand who Jesus is and then to connect them with someone who knows Jesus.
Step Five: Facilitate Interactions
As users engage with our content online, they’ll be encouraged to download the Amazing Stories app to access additional videos and family activities. Since the app requires a name and phone number or email address, we’ll be able to collect contact info for individual users.
When users download the Amazing Stories app, they’ll have access not only to the stories but an entirely interactive experience. The app asks users to respond to videos through questions that pop up as they view content and offers viewers the written version of each story. A link is also provided which allows viewers to download a Bible app so they can read more stories directly from God's word. Ultimately, it provides users with the opportunity to connect with local discipleship groups where people can answer their questions about the Bible, the gospel, and Jesus.
Step Six: Archive, Process, and Act Upon Data
Our CRM uses a well-known data analysis software program used in the business world, which helps us to generate and nurture leads. The data in the system helps gauge user receptivity and tells us when a viewer is ready to visit with someone about spiritual issues or to make a decision to follow Christ.
Our partnerships with local congregations provide ideal opportunities to pass along this data for follow-up and to connect users with discipleship networks. The data collected is used by a collaborative network to respond to user requests for more information, resources, or access to personal interaction through a discipleship group.
Although we’re developing and testing Amazing Stories for the Muslim population in a specific region, once established, this project can be adapted for many other languages and people groups. The Amazing Stories project is a great example of how digital technologies have changed the way GNPI and other groups think about reaching people with the gospel.
Throughout our history, we’ve focused on producing media for different cultures. We used these methods to effectively tell the story of Jesus to people all over the world. We were always careful to share the gospel in ways that were relevant to each culture.
Now, through digital and social media, we can put new tools into the hands of church workers and missionaries that are targeted to the specific people groups they’re trying to reach. We can craft content and resources with a particular audience in mind, and through these platforms, it’s easier than ever to distribute our content.
Not only that, but as we collect data, create social networks, and track virtual interactions, we can achieve measurable outcomes. We don’t have to wonder if these methods are effective; we can measure results and know for certain whether or not we’re having an impact. Through Amazing Stories, we’re using digital and social media to share the gospel more strategically and with more people.
Amazing Stories will cost approximately $358,600 to complete. GNPI has secured 82 percent of the funding so far, and we hope to raise the remaining funds by the end of 2019. As one of our partners, you can help us see this project through to its full potential. Click here to contribute toward our goal and help get Amazing Stories into the hands of Muslim parents and children around the world.