First UMC Angleton Hosts “Fifty Shades of Grace”
This 50-day post Easter campaign promoted spiritual growth in a highly shareable fashion.
If only…The Book would get as much attention as the book -- Fifty Shades of Grey -- that topped best-seller lists around the world last year for less than honorable reasons.
“When I heard about the Fifty Shades book and all of the hoopla surrounding it, the first thing that popped into my head was an idea to bring good out of bad,” shares Rev. John R. Black, Angleton First UMC. “I remembered that there is one 50-day occasion on the church calendar. Eastertide is the 50 days from Easter to Pentecost Sunday. I decided to put together a spiritual formation campaign that focused on grace called Fifty Shades of Grace: Real Love Doesn’t Hurt.” For some people, it was a shocking parallel to a secular phenomenon but the pastor’s hope was to leverage the record setting international fanfare in a way that could be transformed into a spiritual discussion. “How ideal – to start this seven sermon series and 50-day personal devotion program right after Easter,” he adds.
The “Real Love Doesn’t Hurt” tag line created a spiritual launching pad to preach concepts including the definition of grace, how to receive grace, live under grace, have grace for others and yourself, what grace isn’t, and how to share grace. The campaign description suggests that people often feel helpless and hopeless, thinking they need more money, more education, fame or power – all of which are out of reach. The contrast in this faith journey, however, included a challenge to hear from God about what people really need: Grace.
Black spent weeks developing 50 brief devotionals around the topic of grace that followed the R.E.A.P. model. Each day included a scripture of the day to READ, three questions to help EXPLORE, a space for journaling on how to APPLY the scripture to life, and a PRAYER for God’s help in understanding and sharing grace.
He developed the main graphic for the study using the cross from the sanctuary pulpit. The daily study was promoted each day via email, Facebook and other social media platforms. “About 75% of the subscribers opened them regularly.” he reports, “Since we had several people subscribe to the daily emails who were not part of our church family, obviously some of the recipients forwarded them to friends and loved ones.”
The Best Part
“You can’t help but grow closer to God when you are in the Bible studying one topic for that many days,” he shares. “I probably spent over 100 days focused on grace by the time I prepared the materials and then went through it along with the church. The nice thing about a 7-week sermon series is that I had time to delve more deeply and impact more people by examining different aspects of grace.”
“One good thing about technology is that you can set it up to publish content in several forums at the same time every day.” notes Black, “If I had it to do over, I would promote it at least two months ahead of time and give more time and attention to publicizing it to the public, since it was a title they were familiar with, but a concept they probably needed to become more familiar with.” He also regrets not urging members to share their devotionals with others and invite them to hear the sermon series. Black added, “I could also improve on setting up the study pages and publishing links that are easily shared. We had a few technical glitches in the daily delivery that I would troubleshoot better next time. Even so, it was a successful topical study that engaged many in an extended daily Bible application process that promotes spiritual growth and a new sense of awareness of God’s grace.”
Angleton FUMC is happy to share this material with other churches that would like a current-event-inspired devotional and sermon series. Contact the church at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
50 Shades of Grace Podcast