first things first


A blog about whatever crosses my mind, ordered by importance.


Digital Leadership

April was a fairly slow month. We had our normal schedule of a professional meeting and a social time. This month we had fewer people than normal, but we had a lot of new people which was very interesting. I’ve had several opportunities to follow up with contacts, though this appears to be a busy time of year for most of the professionals. We are trying more to model the follow-up process for our partners, inviting them into these meetings and giving them opportunities to lead. Albert has been doing a great job helping me mentor one of the new believers in the first steps of learning about his faith.

At the end of the month we also got to celebrate my 30th birthday! I invited everyone I knew to one of my favorite restaurants, Zgarra Korçare. It’s cheap and it has my favorite beer on tap, Korça e zezë. I really enjoyed celebrating with all the new friends I’ve made over the past year and a half.

My birthday

Albert, Egli, Kyle and I also went on a day trip to Shkodër. We saw the castle there, and ate lunch at a delicious place called ‘Mrizi i Zanave’, which means something like “the fairy’s glen”. The food was all fresh from the attached farm; I especially enjoyed the pork.

Shkoder castle Shkoder castle

The next day, May 1st, I left for a conference in Budapest.

Digital School of Leadership

I went to this conference for a couple reasons. One, I’ve been helping Afrim Karoshi (the head of Albania Digital Strategies) to do some work related to a PHP application he has inherited from the Romanian digital strategies ministries. I’ve convinced him to open-source that project, and to try to build an open-source community with the rest of the region. So I went to promote that. You can check out our project website if you’d like to help us out. The second reason is that I’m considering joining CRU as full-time staff in order to be with Digital Strategies in Albania. So this was an opportunity for me to explore what that looks like.

We learned a lot about what it means to have a digital strategy. CRU as an organization came of age in an offline-first world, where ministry is done face-to-face. However many young people are becoming online-first, preferring online interactions to offline ones where possible. The overarching strategy of CRU in Eastern Europe is to provide choice; that is, choice of the point of contact through which they can grow in their faith. At each step we need to provide opportunities for people to grow in their faith online as well as offline. This needs to be integrated into an overall strategy to shepherd people from “completely unaware” to “sent”.

Choice - offline or online

One slide from the first session showed the various stages on the road to digital maturity. I think this really captures the state of digital ministry in Albania today, and helped clarify for me where I can fit in. We did an exercise where we wrote down our ministry name on a sticky note, and placed it in one of the four quadrants. I put Sotmëria in the bottom-right quadrant, “conservative”. We’ve been saying for some time that we need a digital presence but have not been able to take real active steps to work with facebook, instagram, our website, etc. to fulfill our digital vision.

On the other hand, the Digital Strategies team led by Afrim Karoshi sees themselves more in the “fashonistas” quadrant. They have several websites and web initiatives, but have been unable to combine them into a cohesive strategy, or build coordination with the other teams. They’re missing the connecting points. This is both an organizational and a technical problem. At an organizational level, Afrim is pushing hard in the “transformational leadership intensity”. At a technical level, I can provide the expertise necessary to connect these various independent silos into a cohesive strategy, and support to the other ministries who are trying to move from “Conservative” to “Mature”.

Digital Maturity matrix

In processing whether I should join CRU as full time staff, I’ve said that I don’t want to raise support to do something that an Albanian could do. For these past two years in the professionals ministry, I think that I have definitely brought something they didn’t have. Now again, I’m seeing that on the Digital Strategies team. There’s a need there not just for programming expertise, but overall project management experience and a general understanding of what is possible. As we were discussing on the last day of the conference within our team, I brought up that we don’t necessarily have to think inside the boxes of [ wordpress website ] [ facebook page ] [ email marketing ]. We can build whatever we decide that we need, if we have the expertise.

Church Leader’s Conference

As I wrote last month, several of the Albanians have gone to Watermark’s Church Leader’s Conference. They just returned to Tirana yesterday, and I haven’t had a chance to catch up with them. But from what I saw on Facebook and heard through group chat, it sounds like they got a lot from the conference! I can’t wait to have a debrief with them and see which things they want to focus on over the coming months at our church. I especially want to hear from Mira and Bela, who got a good tour of The Porch. Bela is on staff with the professionals ministry, and Mira is one of our key volunteers. I’m hoping they can bring a fresh perspective to our ministry.

Check out some photos from the conference on Facebook!