TECHNOLOGY EMPOWERING MINISTRY www.ministrytech.com
Is Your Data Part of a
Oil Spills and Data Spills Have Plenty in Common >> BIBLE READING IS DOWN | PART 2 >> HAPPY 1ST BIRTHDAY, WINDOWS 10! >> HOW TO FIND AND CREATE GREAT SERMON VISUALS
8 bible reading is down! Part 2 Technology is poised to make a difference in how we hear God’s word.
Happy 1st birthday, windows 10!
Is your data part of a massive spill?
Even after a year, though, the question remains as to whether or not you should upgrade.
There’ve been massive data spills in recent years—here’s one way to know if your data is out in the open.
11 6 steps to starting an effective church blog
It’s not a new concept, but blogging has stood the test of time.
START-UP | From Software to Seminary to Missions . . . 16
Turning Faithful (and Occasional) Givers Into Recurring Givers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
how to find and create great sermon visuals
Strategic Communications for Churches . . . . . . . . . . 24
(And Make Sure You’re Not Breaking the Law)
NICK’S PICKS | Software Especially for Churches & Ministries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2 | MinistryTech.com
A Word from the editor Ray Hollenbach Editor Ray Hollenbach email@example.com
Art Director Beth VanDyke bethvandyke.com
Contributing Editors Yvon Prehn Nick Nicholaou Russ McGuire Jonathan Smith Steven Sundermeier Kevin Purcell
Copy Editor Rachael Mitchell
Outreach Inc. 5550 Tech Center Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80919 (800) 991-6011 Ministry Tech® is a registered trademark of Outreach, Inc. Written materials submitted to Ministry Tech® Magazine become the property of Outreach, Inc. upon receipt and may not necessarily be returned. Ministry Tech® Magazine reserves the right to make any changes to materials submitted for publication that are deemed necessary for editorial purposes. The content of this publication may not be copied in any way, shape or form without the express permission of Outreach, Inc.
The Great Goal of Tech Ministry
tech problem is a tech problem, right up until it’s not a tech problem—because people use technology. For example, in our cover story this month Steven Sundermeier writes about the after-effects of a data breach, comparing the situation to an oil spill. But the “residue” of a data breach affects the lives of people—people in your church or ministry. The harm of a data spill is measured not in the number of files hacked but in the lives of people. Russ McGuire shares the story of how a seminary student developed a unique Church Management Software package that’s something more than a mere database management system. In part, that uniqueness flowed from the very personal side of the developer’s church ministry and life calling to world missions. Call it software with a heart, because people are at the center of the software. In the second part of a series on Bible reading, Yvon Prehn points out that although technology has made the Bible more widely available than at any time in human history, Bible
reading is down! Why? Because engaging God’s word is always a human problem. If we avoid reading the Bible, the issue at hand isn’t whether the Bible is in print, on an app or even available on a gaming system: the issue is what’s going on inside our hearts. Technology can make the Bible available, but we must still hunger for it. Spiritual needs will always be just that—spiritual. Presentation software and projectors help minister to everyone in the room. Databases and mail management keep us connected and up-to-date. Sound systems multiply the reach of ministry. But in all these cases, the object of ministry tech is the same: people. Check out Nick Nicholaou’s software picks in this month’s issue. Or visit Kevin Purcell’s helpful advice on the choices available in presentation software. But let’s keep in mind the goal of our labor: to care for God’s people and reach those who have yet to become God’s people, because the great calling of tech ministry is the great calling of all ministry—people!
Views expressed in the articles and reviews printed within are not necessarily the views of the editor, publisher, or employees of Ministry Tech® Magazine, or Outreach, Inc. © Copyright 2016 Outreach, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Ray Hollenbach is the Editor of Ministry Tech magazine. He has previously served as the editor of Outreach’s Better Preaching Update, and as the editor of the Pastor channel at Churchleaders.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. September 2016 | 3
Is Your Data Part of a
Oil Spills and Data Spills Have Plenty in Common PROTECTED WITH PURPOSE | by Steven Sundermeier
4 | MinistryTech.com
fter ruminating on the choices of Summer Vacation destinations, we decided to forge a new trail at the advice of my cousin and his family and headed due south to the Gulf Shores of Alabama. As a Midwesterner living in a cold(er) weather state like Ohio, the idea of spending a week on the beach in 90+ degree heat with excessive humidity actually sounded nice. The area of Gulf Shores we decided on was Fort Morgan, which is known for private beaches, being less populated, and in a word—peace!
We fell in love with Alabama and nothing disappointed. The beaches at our location were fantastic and almost deserted. The sands were soft and white (but not too hot to walk on), the calm surf allowed for superb fishing for my father and me, and excellent wave jumping for the kids. There was no riptide or under-tow, and God’s creatures of the sea were plentiful (many species of birds, crabs, fish, tiny sardines-types and even jellyfish!). There was one striking difference on the beaches of Alabama that separated it from other beaches we’ve enjoyed on other vacations to Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia. Ominously planted in the watery horizon were the unmistakable figures of offshore oilrigs. And while the oilrigs didn’t take anything away from our delightful visit to Alabama and its beauty, we did encounter small and consistent traces of oil on the shores. These traces of oil served as a reminder of the terrible Gulf oil spill back in 2010 that many recognize as the worst spill in U.S. history. Call it the Information Security person in me, but as I jogged the beach one morning with the rolling waves crashing and lapping at my feet, my thoughts took me to online security: I began thinking about a different type of spill—a data spill (or more commonly referred to as a ‘data breach’). A data breach can be defined as an intentional or unintentional release of private and confidential information to an unwanted source (think hacker or other form of cybercriminal). Not all data breaches are created equal, and they can appear in different shapes and sizes. In most cases, data breaches are a result of an intentional effort by professional cyber thugs to seize your information. However, a breach on your data could also result from something as simple as you forgetting to wipe your smartphone or computer of its data prior to you throwing it out, trading it in, or donating (Cont. on page 6)
September 2016 | 5
Like an oil spill, a data breach is unexpected, unwanted and can have very detrimental effects. Both can be prevented. it to some charitable cause. Regardless of how the breach occurred the bottom line is frightening— your confidential information (including credit card info), account usernames and passwords, personal health care info, and online banking credentials may all be exposed and at the mercy of those whose goal is to do harm to you. It’s rare that a week goes by without media coverage of news of a new breach. In most of our minds, the largest breaches still ring loud and clear. You may remember when Adobe Systems publically stated that it was a victim of a cyber attack and an estimated 130 million user records were stolen. (Do you know if you were one of those users?) How about when Home Depot revealed a data breach on its systems may have resulted in the exposure of 56 million credit cards numbers. Or last year, when insurance giant Anthem made the admission that close to 80 million healthcare records including personal information like social security numbers and 6 | MinistryTech.com
birth dates, were compromised. (Is your health insurance covered by Anthem?) Even as recently as this May, LinkedIn told its users that a recent breach on its server may have resulted in as many as 100 million usernames, passwords and email accounts being stolen. (Do you have a LinkedIn account?) These data breaches are some of the larger ones publicly known; however, unless you cover data security 24/7 for a living, you are probably not aware of each and every breach and the effect they have on millions of people on a daily basis. The risk of identity theft is real, and is also why past articles have emphasized the importance of taking simple, effective counter measures like creating strong passwords for your online accounts and changing them regularly. Back to the beach: As the morning heat started to take a toll on me and my jog on the beach was nearing its end, I reached my hands down into the salty ocean and splashed a
little water over my face. I noticed something odd: for the first time all week I obtained a black residue on my fingers. I can only assume that the black on my fingers was an oil remnant/particle from an oil leak/ spill from the distant oilrigs. An oil spill or oil leak is something you can see, touch or taste (though I would strongly advise against that), but what about its online counterpart, the data spill? How can you know (see) if information has been spilled/ leaked online due to the hundreds of known exploits and data breaches? There now may be a way: I’ve recently come across the website haveibeenpwned.com, a site that allows a user to check to see if their email address has been posted online, sold or made available in some other way to cybercriminals due to the hundreds of data breaches. The site was started by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director who created haveibeenpwned. com as a free resource to quickly determine if your personal information may be at risk. I have verified the authenticity of the website and even run several tests on my own. If an entered email account doesn’t register on the website as being compromised, it displays a message that says, “Good news—no pwnage found.” If an email does register as being breached, the message, “Oh no—pwned!” will appear. If you are curious to see if your email account has been compromised by any of a number of past data breaches (most of them are listed on the website), I’d
strongly recommend that you give the website a test. Regardless if your email address has been “pwned” or not, it is important that you maintain strong passwords and that you are changing them regularly. (Please re-visit the July Protected with Purpose article for all the password recommendation tips.) Like an oil spill, a data breach is unexpected, unwanted, and can have very detrimental effects. Both can be prevented. Once you have had a spill, it is messy and almost impossible to get rid of the residue. Let’s get serious about having fresh and difficult passwords. Change them often and don’t share them. If you do experience a data-leak, take the time to clean up what you can, immediately and with full measure. Go to your main sites/accounts and update your passwords. Make changes that can ensure your (online and data) safety moving forward. And also, be prepared to experience residual effects of the data breach. Be on alert in the coming weeks and months for curious behavior or results with your online accounts. And (as with an oil-spill) make the effort to clean each one up carefully and completely as it comes along, so there will be no repeat action. I don’t know if it is ironic or sad that even in the midst of a GulfShore vacation on pretty beaches and with great food and family, my mind is still drawn to paralleling that experience with today’s Security and Technology trends. But that’s who I am. MT
Steven Sundermeier is the owner of Thirtyseven4, LLC, a leading provider of antivirus/security software. With 17 years of experience in the cybersecurity field, he is one of the nation’s leading experts in virus, malware and other threats. Before founding Thirtyseven4 in 2009, Steven worked in a number of roles in the anti-virus industry dating back to 1999. His desire is to serve the public with the most aggressive antivirus software on the market accompanied by unparelled support services.
September 2016 | 7
Bible Reading is Down! Part 2
How We Can Respond Positively in a World of Declining Bible Engagement by Yvon Prehn 8 | MinistryTech.com
ast month we talked about how biblical interaction is declining in America today. We looked at the three primary ways people have taken in God’s Word throughout human history as summarized in the terms: Listening, Drama, Reading. We challenged church leaders and communicators to not be discouraged, but to look beyond engagement with the Bible only in terms of reading a book, and to consider some of the exciting new ways technology gives us to get our people into God’s Word. What follows are suggestions from my life not so much as a professional church communication writer and trainer, but as a Bible teacher, and someone deeply involved in the life of my church, helping people of various ages to become disciples of Jesus. I didn’t need a Barna study to tell me it’s really a challenge to get both adults and kids into God’s Word today. I’m committed to getting people into God’s Word. Here are some things I’ve found useful, but before you read these suggestions let me say as strongly as I can: Demonstrate, don’t just recommend! For all these new recommendations in technology, you can’t stop with simply telling your people to do them. You must physically demonstrate what you are talking about. You have to teach them, and you need to have people who can patiently work with others to show them how to do things with the technology. This is one of the most difficult challenges: without training that goes beyond recommendations, your people will remain in danger of being a statistic of the unengaged. What follows
is far from perfect, but are some suggestions I’ve found worked.
Listening to the Bible today One of the most common reasons I hear from people who struggle to spend time in God’s Word is: “I don’t like to read.” These are not comments from illiterate people—two recent comments came from both Gen X- and Millennial-age young men who were business owners. Their professional work was creative and physical, and both explained that they rarely read much on any subject. They listened to podcasts, watched videos, read short social media posts, but sitting down to read a big book just wasn’t going to happen in their lives. Both were excited and intrigued when I told them, “No worries! People didn’t read the Bible through most of human history. They listened to it.” I went on to tell them that there was nothing super-spiritual about sitting down to read the Bible: the content was the same if they listened to it, or watched it, or however they wanted to take in the content. I shared my favorite way to do this through the YouVersion Bible: https://www.youversion.com/. It’s a free download for any electronic device—computer, tablet, Kindle, or phone. You can read it, but you can also use it to listen to the Bible in nine different versions including contemporary ones like The Message and the New Living Translation. One of these guys told me later that not only had he just never thought about doing this, but it was such a relief to know this was possible because although he grew up in a Christian home, and knew he
should be spending time in the Bible, he honestly just didn’t read anything anymore. When he realized he could listen and that was OK, he was excited about re-engaging with God’s Word in his life. In addition to younger generations enjoying listening to the Bible, seniors are another group with whom I’ve shared this method of listening to God’s Word. For many seniors, reading has become difficult, and to be able to listen to the Bible is a comfort and a joy. With this age
though God’s Word never changes, we need to stay open to the exciting ways He gives us to share his timeless truth through ever-changing technology. group someone must spend some time with people showing them how to do this either through their phone, computer or tablet, but it can be a wonderfully enriching experience for them.
Drama—seeing the Bible acted out today My experience with sharing this method with people makes use of an incredible, free online resource: www.freebibleimages.org. This group has both illustrations and photos online of Bible stories. This is no cheesy Christian
clip art site. They use a variety of illustrators and their photographs are particularly useful. The site uses actors who are ethnically correct (no white Anglo-Saxon Jesus!) and in culturally appropriate settings. All of the images are available in many formats and sizes—and none of them have text attached to them (though they list the Bible passages they are based upon). They do this intentionally so that they can be shared in any setting or language. There are many ways you can use these images. Following are two videos I created as illustrations for Sunday School classes. I took the images, downloaded them in PowerPoint format, loaded them into www.animoto.com (an extraordinary program for quickly creating videos), added the text, used music from the animoto library and ta dah! You have little teaching videos! Here’s a link to one of my finished products—just a couple of minutes long. This one is on my church communication website, and the post also goes over how you can create your own. It’s based on the story of the Prodigal Son and uses photographs from the site: http://www.effectivechurchcom.com/ how-to-create-a-bible-teaching-andstory-video-using-free-bible-images/ Though I haven’t done this as yet, the same images could be projected on a wall (make it really big: the resolution will work!) and a teacher could stand to the side and tell the stories. This would work especially well for kids who will watch a screen without punching each other nearly as much as they do when the teacher attempts to get them to simply listen to the sound of her voice. (Cont. on page 10) September 2016 | 9
Reading the Bible today We can read the book itself, but we can also read online, and in addition to that we have many sources online that we can use to enrich our study of the Bible. But again, for your people to be able to make the most of this, you have to show them how. Below are links to little videos I did in the past, (they need to be updated, but this is all I have to
illustrate for now) to show people various ways they could read the Bible and the online resources that would help them do it. The videos were all done using Camtasia by Tech Smith for the PC. I did these as a demonstration not only of ways for people to get into God’s Word in more depth, but as a witness that the Bible is worthy of our time and study. As leaders and communicators in the
Are your church communications accomplishing all you want them to? Yvon Prehn's new book can help you organize your communications into a 5-Step process that takes unchurched people and moves them step-by-step to become mature disciples of Jesus.
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church, we need to demonstrate that in our lives if we want our people to do the same. This link has a series of little videos I did in the past: http:// www.untilfulllight.com/category/ videos-in-lessons/
So many more tools We don’t have to be part of sad statistics—though God’s Word never changes, we need to stay open to the exciting ways He gives us to share his timeless truth through ever-changing technology. The methods shared here have worked for me and they can work for you if you are willing to take the time and effort to train your people in how to make the most of every tool so God’s Word becomes a part of their lives, no matter what the times or technology. MT There are many other ways we can use the tools mentioned here, and there are plenty more available. If you have ones that have worked well for you, particularly that have worked to get your people involved in God’s Word, I’d love to hear about them. Email me at email@example.com and I’ll pass them on at my website.
Yvon Prehn is the founder and director of Effective Church Communications, www.effectivechurchcom.com, a ministry that helps churches create communications that will help them fully fulfill the Great Commission. She has been writing and teaching about church communications for over 20 years. Her latest book is The Five Steps of Effective Church Communication and Marketing.
Happy 1st Birthday, Windows
What’s Good, What’s Not So Good by Jonathan Smith
t’s hard to believe that we’ve been in the Windows 10 era for a year now. It seems like just yesterday we were anxiously awaiting the final release, after two years of testing and development. (Of course, technology years are like dog years with things moving so fast.) Microsoft’s goal for Windows 10 was to have 1 billion devices running this version within the first three years. They have admitted recently that after this first year they probably aren’t going to hit that goal, mostly due to the failing Windows 10 phone market. If you don’t know what this means, ask how many of your friends have a Windows phone and you’ll soon understand. Even after a year, though, the question remains as to whether or not you should upgrade. Microsoft allowed users to upgrade for free through the first year. Since the free upgrade has expired, is there any real rush to upgrade, especially now that you have to pay for the upgrade and the fact that Windows 7 is supported through 2020? If you did not take advantage of the free upgrade, then you probably aren’t going to pay to upgrade your existing device. You might wait and get Windows 10 when you purchase a new device. There will
undoubtedly be a plethora of new Windows 10-based devices available as we inch closer to the holiday shopping season. The release of Windows 10 Anniversary Edition is momentous for several reasons. First, Microsoft kept its promise in terms of the new Windows paradigm shift. No longer is Windows a product that you upgrade once every few years to a new version. Now Windows is in a perpetual state of evolution, constantly changing with feature updates and changes included with security patches. Many doubted whether Microsoft could upgrade Windows several times per year, and so far they have proven they can. The Anniversary Edition release also shows us that once a device is running Windows we won’t have to upgrade the operating system every few years. Every organization dedicates significant IT resources to operating system upgrades. Once your device is running Windows 10 it will upgrade itself—there won’t be the need for organizations to dedicate time and money to imaging machines when the next version of Windows comes out. As an IT person who has done countless Windows migrations and upgrades, this is what I’m most excited about. (Cont. on page 12) September 2016 | 11
Windows 10 Anniversary Edition also contains a ton of features additions and security improvements. Here are just a few of the highlights . . .
built into the update. Windows Ink allows you to write on your screen and convert handwriting to text. It also provides for greater interaction using a pen or stylus with Microsoft Office and other apps that have the Ink functionality built into them.
u The new browser in Windows 10, Microsoft
Edge, is also starting to gain some maturity. Edge was released with Windows 10 but it too is undergoing an evolutionary process. With the Anniversary Edition, Microsoft Edge now supports extensions and many more web standards, including HTML5. It has also had significant under-the-hood improvements. Translation— you can start using Edge on many of the sites that didn’t work on it before. Only time will tell whether or not this will convince you to switch to Edge as your browser of choice.
u My favorite improvement is the ability to pin apps
u One of the coolest features of Windows 10 running
on a Surface is the Windows Hello authentication process. This allows you to unlock your PC just by looking at your device. The Windows Hello camera logs you in based on your face. I love this feature, and in the Anniversary Edition you can now use Windows Hello to login to websites and apps. Instead of remembering your password you just have to remember to keep your head on your shoulders. This may be problematic for those who say they would forget their head if it wasn’t attached. u There have also been a ton of other under-the-hood security improvements, including an updated Windows Defender and an enterprise version called Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection. It remains to be seen if these built-in security features will have any impact on the third-party security/malware/anti-virus markets. u For touch screen users Windows Ink has also been 12 | MinistryTech.com
to virtual desktops. Windows 10 first brought virtual desktops to Windows users (better late than never). Virtual desktops allow you to have different applications running on different desktops so you don’t have to open everything in a single place. One desktop could be running Word, Excel, and Outlook, while another desktop could be running all of your open browser windows. You could then have all of your games running on a third desktop, then when the boss walks by . . . u With Windows 10 Anniversary Edition you can now send a single app to all your desktops, so if you want to be able to view your email across all your virtual desktops you can now open it once and have it appear on all desktops as opposed to having to open your email individually on every desktop. u Other improvements include more functionality for Cortana, better gaming integration with Xbox, additional desktop themes, more control over the action center and notifications, and better management tools for education and classroom environments. Windows 10 is here to stay. While there may be a learning curve for some users, it is hopefully a learning curve you will only have to experience once. MT
Jonathan Smith is the Director of Technology at Faith Ministries in Lafayette, Indiana. You can reach Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org and also follow him on Twitter @JonathanESmith.
How to Find & Create Great Sermon Visuals (And Make Sure You’re Not Breaking the Law!) by Kevin Purcell
hen I’ve finished writing my sermon and preparing my preaching notes I’m still not prepared to preach. I like to provide a visual element with very major point and illustration. That means in, say, a sermon about grace, with a major sermon point reading “Grace Covers My Sin,” I’ll use a slide to show on the projector screen. And I may also tell a story about a father ignoring his remorseful daughter’s disobedience, so I’ll also show a picture, maybe of a father embracing a crying daughter. Where do preachers find visual elements? How can we quickly and easily create attractive slides for sermons?
Sources of Visual Sermon Material
Some popular Bible software tools available today include databases of images and even video: you can find maps to help people understand the geography of the Bible, and Bible dictionaries often include images of archaeological finds—helping us understand more about a 1st-century Galilean home. This could benefit our hearers during
Look for the following kinds of media in Bible study software: n
aps—Accordance Bible Software M has one of the best sets of maps
Background images from archaeology
harts and graphs—see Visual C Theology from Olive Tree (http://bit.ly/2acpVSr)
ackground images useful for B certain themes
Logos Media Browser
a sermon about the four friends of the lame man who dug a hole through the roof of the home Jesus was in while he taught (Mark 2 or Luke 5). Look at your Bible study software and see if they offer or already include images. For example, Logos Bible Software includes something called a Media Browser found under the Tools menu. It also includes a section in the Passage Guide that shows media about a given passage. If you want to create a beautiful slide with a quote from a book or the Bible, use the handy Visual Copy tool. It superimposes the quote onto an attractive background. Some of these are more artistic than others, especially with popular Bible verses or books by well-known authors.
The last item, infographics, is a popular way of presenting data in visual ways. Most of these will export into a JPG or BMP image ready for you to import into your media presentation software.
Logos Infographics (Cont. on page 14)
September 2016 | 13
“noncommercial” images since churches are nonprofit, but you never know when an image copyright owner might not consider a church that collects an offering a noncommercial entity. So be safe and use only those labeled for reuse. Google Image Search
Google’s image search offers a great source for free images. However you can get into trouble if you don’t change some advanced settings. Go to the main Google Page and search for something you want to display. Click on the Images tab at the top of the page. It will show a bunch of images, but a lot of these will not be free to use. So then click on Search Tools in upper middle part of the screen below the search box. A new toolbar shows up below the Search Tools box. Click on Usage Rights and you’ll see the following list: n
ot filtered by license—shows all N images Google can find.
L abeled for reuse with modification—allows you to use it for free and you can change the image.
L abeled for reuse—you can use it for free but you can’t change the image.
L abeled for noncommercial reuse with modification—nonprofits can use and change it.
L abeled for noncommercial reuse—nonprofits can use it.
The second item is the safest one to use. You might be able to get away with using the 14 | MinistryTech.com
Another similar source is Flickr. Search at http:// www.Flickr.com. In the results, click on the Any License drop down box. It offers more options than Google’s search, but they’re similar. I always pick “Commercial use & mods allowed” first. If I don’t find anything I will select “Commercial use allowed” and then make sure not to change the image.
Flickr Image Search
People with a budget can look in other places that charge for their images. Religious image database websites abound. Try SermonCentral: go to http://www.sermoncentral. com and scroll down till you see the Sermon Central Media collection links. They offer Video Illustrations, Background Images, PowerPoint Templates and others.
(Full disclosure: SermonCentral is owned by the same company that owns our magazine). Other church related media collections include one of my favorites, ShareFaith. com. You can also look at http://www.PreachingToday.com, http://www.SermonSpice and http://www.GracewayMedia.com.
Finally, don’t forget your own collection of images. If you take a lot of photos you might have a wealth of sermon illustration material right on your own computer or phone.
Or if you’re not much of a shutterbug, consider getting others involved. Do you have a talented photographer in your church congregation? Ask him or her to partner with you. Perhaps you could provide a shot list early in the week and your people could look through their own collection or go out and take some shots to fit what you’re looking for. This will take some planning but it will be worth it in the savings over paid media or the time you will save by letting someone else collect them for you. Finally, getting someone else involved opens the door for some creativity you might not produce on your own. Plus, those other people will be more focused during the sermon since they are looking for their pictures in the presentation.
How to Create Attractive Visual Materials for Preaching Some images come from other sources ready to load into our presentation software without any changes. However, you might need to add an attribution line. Add a small text box in PowerPoint or add it as a text slide in MediaShout with the image as the background and the attribution link as the text. Make it small and display it at the lower right or left corner. However, if you need to put a few pictures together with some text to create a richer slide, then consider using a program like Photoshop. You can get Photoshop CC from
Sermon Visual Slide
Adobe for only $10/month. If you need the other programs in the Adobe Creative Suite for powerful video editing, document creation, website development, then go for the whole Creative Suite for $50/month. Students or teachers can subscribe for about $30/month. If you own an iPad, Adobe makes a great app called Adobe Comp. Create simple slides with images and text. Export them using the operating system’s build-in sharing features. Check it out at http://www.adobe. com/products/comp.html. (I created
Pixlr Editor Online Photo Editor
the above image using Adobe Comp.) People who don’t want to pay for software but want a powerful image editor can try out GIMP. It does most of what you can do in Photoshop but comes free. Find it at http://www. gimp.org. A fairly powerful online photo editor called Pixlr Editor also comes free. You can use it without installing anything (https://pixlr. com/editor). There’s not enough space here to teach you how to create images. However, consider these basic steps. First, crop the photo to show only what’s needed. Second, enhance the image using tools to correct poor exposure and color. Third, sharpen the image a little. Next, text if you need to. Save the image as a JPG unless you want part of the image to show transparently, then use GIF or
PNG file formats. And be sure to save in a resolution of 1366x768 or higher. If you’re not working on the computer where you plan to present the images, then either save them to a flash drive or upload them to an online storage site like Dropbox or OneDrive. That way you can download them on the sanctuary computer and put them into your presentation software. Some presentation software lets you create the sermon presentation or slide show and sync it through the Internet. Others let you save the whole presentation to a flash drive or hard drive. Then sync it to an online storage site. MT NEXT ISSUE: What are the biggest mistakes preachers make when using visual media during their sermons?
Kevin Purcell is a news and reviews tech writer for gottabemobile.com and brings more than five years of mobile technology experience to MinistryTech magazine. You can email Kevin at email@example.com or connect with him on Twitter @kapurcell.
September 2016 | 15
From Software to Seminary to Missions by Russ McGuire (firstname.lastname@example.org)
aul Prins isn’t your typical software company founder. This month’s entrepreneur moved his family to Paris to help plant a new church while continuing to operate and grow Fresh Vine, the software company he started while in seminary. That’s not the typical startup journey for a high tech entrepreneur, but each step grew out of a desire to serve God and the church.
Getting an Early Start Paul formed his first start-up in 1999, while he was in 8th grade. At the core of the business was a website, MidwestSkier.com, but not having a lot of life obligations at that point, Paul had fun with it and branched into other areas, including organizing competitive events and producing sports action films. At one point, he even competed as a semi-pro freestyle skier. MidwestSkier.com was never big enough to support all of his dreams, but it did provide a great education in technology and business. He sold the website in 2005, clearing the runway for the next calling on his life. 16 | MinistryTech.com
During his undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin, Paul had the opportunity to spend a year in France with Campus Crusade (now known as Cru). As graduation approached, Paul began praying about what was next. He and his wife knew there was a ministerial calling on their lives. Specifically, they felt called to return to France as church planters. Anyone who has traveled or lived in Europe knows that France is a costly place to live, and church planting typically isn’t the fastest path to earthly riches. Paul and his wife realized theirs would be a bi-vocational life.
From Vision to Reality At this point, they were getting clear glimpses of their future calling— bi-vocational ministry plus church planting in France—but several pieces had to come together for the plan to be complete. In 2008, Paul began working on his M.Div. at Bethel Seminary; in 2009 he had the chance to serve as a pastoral intern at Substance Church, where he helped establish a new church location; and upon completion
Russ McGuire A trusted advisor with proven strategic insights, Russ has been blessed by God in many ways including serving as a corporate executive, co-founding technology startups and writing a technology/business book. More importantly, he’s a husband and father who cares about people, and a committed Christian who seeks to honor God in all that he does. His newest venture is as Entrepreneur in Residence at Oklahoma Christian University.
of his M.Div. in 2012 Paul and his wife joined with Communitas International as church planters. But it was actually before any of those critical ministry steps began that life as a bi-vocational entrepreneur took shape. In the fall of 2007, as Paul was wrapping up his undergrad degree, he took on a technology project for Substance Church. At Substance, they say that church really begins after the worship service, and is centered in community and relationships. But the church management systems available at the time seemed to be accounting packages with social networking features bolted on. The Substance leadership asked Paul if he could write the software they really wanted. Wisely, he said he’d only do it if there were a market for it beyond one church. Before long, a handful of churches with similar needs had joined the request,
and Paul realized that maybe this was the other half of his bi-vocational calling.
Operating Differently I asked Paul why he would choose to enter such a crowded, competitive space, filled with well-entrenched competitors. He said that there were two main factors that convinced him that it was worth taking a shot. First, a group of churches told him existing products weren’t meeting their needs. Second, the cost of starting a software business is pretty minimal. Simply signing up the churches encouraging him to build it would immediately provide enough revenue to cover his operational costs.
Paul and his wife chose to bootstrap Fresh Vine, meaning they wouldn’t need to raise outside funding, but they also wouldn’t pay themselves until the business was generating enough profits. I guess you could say that Paul became tri-vocational for the next couple of years as he built the Fresh Vine business (writing software, serving customers, and selling to new prospects), pursued his seminary degree, and took on outside contract work to pay the bills. He survived, and Fresh Vine began to grow. He got the first Minimally Viable Product (MVP) into customers’ hands in March of 2008 (the month before starting seminary)
and continued to iterate, and by Spring 2011 they felt they had true Product/Market Fit (PMF), which opened the way for a more public push for sales. Fresh Vine doesn’t see themselves the same as other church management software. Many of the features that are core to the existing market leaders haven’t been high on Paul’s priority list. From the beginning, Fresh Vine’s focus has been on fostering engagement and involvement in and through the community. They see the same needs beyond the church, so Fresh Vine is positioned as a software-based solution for nonprofits, including churches. Paul wants to help (Cont. on page 16)
August 2016 | 17
organizations create great relationships between the organization and people in their community, and also between the people themselves. Fresh Vine uses three main marketing touch points: events, contributions, and e-mail to accomplish this. Fresh Vine is also different from most software companies. Sure, there are lots of technology pieces, and hundreds of thousands of lines of code, and the collection of relevant
data. But the goal isn’t to drive automation to minimize the necessary human interactions. If the data indicates someone (let’s call him “Max”) hasn’t been to any church events in a few weeks, Fresh Vine won’t generate an automated email to Max. Instead, Fresh Vine will make it easy for someone to call Max and engage with him. I asked Paul about the challenges of being a Christian entrepreneur
and, not surprisingly, he pointed to grace in community. “Minneapolis has a fantastic startup community. Many entrepreneurs are not Christians, but all are under intense pressure—most startups fail. On one hand, there’s nothing wrong with being a champion for your business, if you believe that it’s doing good and serving others. On the other hand, your identity is in Christ, and it’s not about making yourself the center of every discussion. Sometimes, loving your neighbor involves nothing more than just being present for a fellow entrepreneur, maybe when they’re feeling down, or maybe when they are celebrating some great milestone. Unfortunately, given our human nature, that love and grace is often really hard.” Jesus taught “You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37b-40 ESV) MT In this article series, we’ve defined a Christian entrepreneur as: a person, driven to glorify God in all he or she does, and ruled by the Word of God, who starts a new venture and is willing to risk a loss in order to achieve the success of the venture. Each month I’ve been introducing you to specific Christian startups and entrepreneurs, some of which may be helpful to your church, ministry, business, or family, but my main intent is to encourage and inspire you to be entrepreneurial in your ministry and career. Are there Christian startups I should know about? Contact me at email@example.com. May the love and grace of Christ encourage all of us as we love God and love our neighbor in whatever way He has called us. 18 | MinistryTech.com
Nick’s Picks by Nick Nickalou
Software Especially for Churches & Ministries Veteran IT consultant Nick Nicholaou has helped churches for years, and you can go to school on his experience.
ur team is privileged to have served many hundreds of ministries nationwide as IT strategists, engineers, and consultants. We don’t sell or profit from any of the software we recommend, but in those IT roles we’ve found that some software works better in church and ministry offices than others. It is with that perspective that we make the following recommendations. Software comes in three general categories: operating systems, applications, and games. Although games are the most fun, in this article we will only look at operating systems and applications.
Workstation Operating Systems Operating system software (often called the OS) is what helps computers know what to do with the commands they receive from users and programs. Desktop and notebook OSes today are mostly
from Apple or Microsoft. Our current Windows OS preference is Windows 10 Pro. Win10 is consumes fewer computer resources (processor, RAM, etc.) than its predecessors, but to run it well we recommend buying the fastest processor you can afford with at least 4Gb of RAM. We also recommend avoiding Home and Student editions in office environments, and Microsoft agrees. Our current Mac OS recommendation is 10.11, El Capitan, but that will likely change this Fall when Apple releases Sierra.
Network Operating Systems The discussion of Linux vs Novell NetWare vs Microsoft Windows Server has been settled, and Microsoft has won the NOS (Network OS) wars. Our current recommendation is Windows Server 2012r2, but that may change once we’ve seen and evaluated the final release of Windows Server 2016 (due out this Fall).
Hypervisors Hypervisors turn computers we’ve historically called servers into hosts for many virtual servers. Though it sounds complex, it’s actually simple once seen. Some of the reasons this new category of software has gained so much acceptance in corporate America are: n The computer’s processor chip is the most expensive component in the computer. Most servers’ processors only use 5–10 percent of their processing capacity after they’ve started, and so this very expensive component usually goes mostly unused. By installing a hypervisor and then hosting virtual servers on top of it, you are able to get more use out of your physical server computers, achieving a much higher return on your investment. n Windows Servers function best— most reliably—when they only run one service, like Exchange for instance. That means (Cont. on page 20) September 2016 | 19
in a Windows network you’re best to have many servers, which can be expensive if they’re physical servers. Using hypervisor technology reduces your cost significantly because you’re able to run many virtual servers on one host, and the only additional cost to configuring a host is that it may need more RAM. n In most church and ministry networks, the version of hypervisor software needed is completely free! Hypervisor software is the latest battle focus for IT domination, which is good for consumers. The company that invented the technology for the PC platform is VMware, and their software is currently the best—no contest. Microsoft, Citrix, and others are also in the marketplace, so that may change someday. But for now, VMware is the software to go with. You can download it for free at www.vmware.com.
Network Utilities The simplest tool for distributing standardized workstations across a network is still Symantec’s Ghost. It allows you to create an image of a workstation hard drive, store it, and then distribute it to other similar workstations; in effect, cloning them. Our favorite network back-up software is from Veeam. There’s no better protection available today to help protect the valuable data on a Windows network—virtualized or physical. The best anti-malware for churches and ministries is Thirtyseven4 (www.thirtyseven4.com). It is 20 | MinistryTech.com
capable, works on Windows and Mac computers and servers, and it is affordably priced for churches and ministries. And speaking of protection, we recommend purchasing uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) with software that communicates with each server. This kind of protection keeps the server and those logged in to it aware of any power changes that could impact the network. The best is PowerChute, which ships for free
The best spreadsheet available is Microsoft Excel. The formula, charting, pivot table, and diagnostic functions are powerful and easy to use. And Excel spreadsheets and charts paste easily into Word documents. Excel can also link to databases (using pivot tables), providing real-time diagnostic charting to help make good management decisions.
with American Power Conversion’s Smart UPSes.
Applications The programs we use to get our work done (I refer to this category as productivity software) can come in separate modules or in suites. Microsoft Office 2016 dominates the productivity software field.
Word Processor and Layout Church word processing is highly layout and mail-merge oriented, as opposed to simple document processing. If your team uses Microsoft Word, then you probably augment the layout function with a light desktop publisher like Microsoft Publisher (Windows only). The most capable and preferred desktop publisher suite, however, is Creative Cloud from Adobe. Creative Cloud includes many powerful tools like InDesign, PhotoShop, LightRoom, and Acrobat that can take your publications—print and online—to the next level.
This software lets you put together lessons, sermons, classes, and more in outline form. Those outlines can be presented as attractive slide shows that can be projected through monitors or projectors with attentiongetting graphics and animation. The best app in this area is Microsoft’s PowerPoint. The two greatest benefits are: 1. Reduced preparation time since the software works in outline form; and 2. Enhanced delivery of your message because it involves more senses and can be graphically memorable.
Email, Calendars, and Task Management Outlook and Exchange are the combination of choice for this category. Exchange is the email server, and Outlook is the client that presents Exchange’s contents to the user. Beginning with Office 2011, Outlook is included in Office for Mac, allowing better collaboration among all team members!
Database Most ministries do best to buy a ministry or church management system (ChMS) that is designed to serve the needs of ministries rather than to buy a database engine and develop a database of their own. There are many good ChMS providers listed in this journal. But don’t try to buy a database engine and develop your own; it takes too much time and is too hard on the staff.
Bible Study Tools and Libraries There are many good tools to help in this area. My favorite two are Logos for study and
sermon prep (www.logos.com), and YouVersion—free!—for devotions and reading on the go (runs on any SmartPhone). YouVersion can even be incorporated into your live events! See www.youversion.com.
Brainstorming/Note Taking Tool A great tool for brainstorming and note taking is iThoughtsX. It runs on any platform and is terrific for meetings, workshops, sermon preparation, and more.
Electronic Wallets There are many electronic wallet solutions available today. My favorite is eWallet from SPB. The data is stored on my devices rather than on
someone’s server (those servers are big hacking targets), and each of my devices synchronize changes made with each other. Great security and convenience!
Happy Shopping! Churches and ministries qualify for steep discounts for many of these solutions! If you’re a church or ministry, never pay retail without first checking with others or the manufacturers to make certain you’re not overspending. Nick Nicholaou is president of MBS, an IT consulting firm specializing in church and ministry computer networks, VoIP, and private cloud hosted services. You can reach Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his firm’s website (www.mbsinc.com) and his blog at http://ministry-it.blogspot.com.
September 2016 | 21
Turning Faithful (and Occasional) Givers Into Recurring Givers The less focused you are on your preferred giving method, the more likely people are going to fall through the cracks.
ouldn’t it be wonderful for your church to have a steady, growing income that you could depend on—even during the summer months? Can you imagine how things would change if even sporadic givers became steady contributors? Recurring giving can make that happen!
a mobile app is your best bet for getting people to sign up for recurring giving. Among other reasons, it gives people the option to sign up for recurring giving the moment they have it on their mind. You can encourage recurring giving sign ups in places like:
Recurring giving through a mobile app
n Membership classes
Digital giving solutions have made giving to churches simpler, faster, and much more convenient. But if you don’t have a strategy to get your congregation set up to automate their giving, you’re missing out on a big opportunity. While most forms of digital giving have a set-it-and-forget-it option, 22 | MinistryTech.com
n Bulletins n Website n S ermon series on giving and generosity n During offering times on Sunday morning The Total Engagement Package from echurch (which is powered by Pushpay) reinforces your strategy by encouraging donors to become recurring givers.
The Pareto principle for churches Management consultant Joseph M. Juran once suggested that in many situations, it’s common for 80 percent of the effect to come from 20 percent of the effort you put into it. This is called the Pareto principle (or the 80–20 rule). You may feel like the same could be said of your church’s giving. In a 2013 study, Christianity Today found that only 10–25 percent of families in a church tithe, but they often provide 50–80 percent of a church’s funding. But recurring giving is helping churches like Sojourn Heights in Houston, Texas, turn the Pareto principle on its head. Since their transition to Pushpay 90 percent of the church is giving. Of those givers, 97 percent are giving
through their mobile device, using an app—with a significant percentage of them signed up for recurring giving. When someone in your church gives twice within 30 days through their echurch app, they are prompted via email to sign up for recurring giving. This email will send them directly to their account to get started. This boosts your strategy’s effectiveness to inspire recurring giving in your congregation in a completely natural and seamless way. On top of that, they receive an email at the beginning of the month before their credit/debit card expires so that there’s never a lag in their giving. If they don’t update their card by the end of their expiration month, they receive another reminder email.
HOW TO ENGAGE
MILLENNIALS Bridging the gap to the fastest growing segment of your church
Adoption is the key The most important thing you can do to encourage recurring giving from your church is to have a single giving platform that’s your primary focus—and then work on an adoption strategy. You may still take offerings or have a giving form on your website, but the less focused you are on your preferred giving method, the more likely people are going to fall through the cracks. Many churches already have digital giving solutions that facilitate recurring giving, but because of a lack of strategy and focus, they’re not having a lot of success. However, echurch has a plan to help you get everyone in your church on board. And it works: the rate for getting congregants using our app sits at about 76 percent. If you’re interested in finding out more about how the Total Engagement Package can help your church increase its giving, contact echurch today. MT
GET INSTANT ACCESS
September 2016 | 23
Strategic Communications for Churches... by Amy Lindsey
Start H ere!
he last thing many churches want to be compared to is a business. Yet there are some valuable insights that can be taken from business playbooks. One of those lessons is: communicate strategically. If we value those with whom we communicate, it’s worth taking the time to be intentional in how we communicate with them. Strategic communication is a purposeful approach to communicating. It requires analysis and planning, and while that might seem daunting at first, it’s actually pretty straightforward. Here’s how:
Know Your “Why” Start by articulating your “Why”: Why does your church exist? Knowing this is the key to presenting your church in an authentic manner. For example, was your church created to serve the inner city? If so, that may change where you communicate, and the message to convey. Was your 24 | MinistryTech.com
church created primarily with a service mission? Ultimately all your communication and your actions should relate back in some way to why you exist. Your “why” makes a difference.
Determine Your Target Differences in age, culture and income are just a few of the many things that influence preferences for communication. And because resources for congregations are often limited, you are probably going to be more effective by focusing your resources on particular audiences. For example, if your church is in a large metropolitan area but your funds are limited, it might make sense to choose one section of the metro area on which to focus. Or, if your church is heavily focused on hands-on mission work, perhaps you’ll want to focus on recruiting like-minded individuals to become members.
Choose Your Channel There are so many ways to deliver communication today! We’ve
If we value those with whom we communicate, it’s worth taking the time to be intentional in how we communicate with them.
expanded from snail mail, flyers, and landline phone calls to email, websites, texts, and cell phone apps. Some of the newer technologies have taken hold because the cellphone has replaced landlines in many households. This reliance on cell phones means people don’t have to be in their homes or offices for us to reach them, making it easier to get in touch in a timely fashion. While some of these newer technologies have already become commonplace among churches, others still have a long way to go before the majority of congregations have adopted them. Texting is a perfect example of a newer, less-adopted technology that has great potential to improve your church communication. Why? Because it works. Consider that 85 percent of Americans own a cell phone, and of those, 80 percent utilize text messaging. Now consider that 95 percent of text messages are read within five minutes and you realize that texting is one of the most effective and timely ways to deliver a message.
It’s tempting to use a one-size-fitsall approach, but don’t do it! Certain demographic groups will respond better to some forms of communication than others. Once you know your target audience, you can pick the most appropriate channels. For example, if you’re trying to recruit young adults, you’re not likely to have success by advertising in the newspaper or posting flyers. More specifically, you can focus efforts on social media: Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for teenagers and college-students, and LinkedIn for young professionals. For older audiences you might promote church activities on MeetUp.
Also: Choose Your Channel for the Type of Content in Your Message. The channels you use to communicate should also be appropriate for the type of content. External vs. internal, long vs. short, visual vs. written, small group vs. entire membership—these are all potential differentiation points. If you have rich visual content, Instagram is a great way to spark engagement with your church. Conversely, if your graphics are just average and you must rely on written content instead, Facebook or Twitter would be more appropriate. For longer content—like a pastoral blog post—it’s appropriate to post it on the church website, as well as to send a one-paragraph summary and a link to the article via email to those who have signed up to receive your emails. Internal communication belongs on private channels such as a passwordprotected section of your website or a members-only Facebook page. It can also be distributed (Cont. on page 26)
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September 2016 | 25
to members directly via automated phone, text, or emails. Communication that’s specific to a particular group should be sent directly to those group members instead of your entire congregation. Particularly if it is time-sensitive, phone and text may be the best message. If it is less urgent, email may suffice. A prayer circle triggered by automated phone, text and email messages is a great example of how you can reach a large group quickly and effectively. Using the same technology, you can blast important messages that are relevant to your entire congregation—such as weather cancellation notices. Here are some key considerations that will help you decide what method to use. n Is the message urgent? Automated texts, phone calls, as well as social media, are great for reaching everyone quickly. n Do recipients of your message need to be able to respond or discuss further? If you use automated texts you can ask recipients to respond to your message. With email messages you can include a link for more information, or a phone number that can be called if recipients have questions. n Do members need to be able to retrieve/review the information in the message later? If the content is not easy to remember, send it in an email or text message, or post it on the website or social media sites. Phone messages are not as visible, so best to avoid them in this situation.
at no cost. You can start here with a free download of the Re-engaging Millennials guide. MT
3. Choose communication channels that make sense for: • your target audience, and • the type of content in your message. This article doesn’t go into all the details of communicating strategically, but approaching communication thoughtfully and purposely is the first step. If you’d like to learn more, Phone Tree offers a number of communication guides
With 20 years of experience, Amy Lindsey has provided nonprofits and sociallyresponsible businesses alike with strategic communication services. As technology has evolved, her focus has shifted to digital marketing as the primary tool for helping organizations reach their audiences. As User Experience Strategist for PhoneTree, Amy enjoys working to craft exceptional experiences for clients.
You want the freedom to … reach out … minister to people … create fellowship … contribute to your community PowerChurch Plus was created for just that!
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In a Nutshell 1. Make sure your communication is grounded by your “Why.” 2. Determine who your target audience is. 26 | MinistryTech.com
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7/14/11 10:23 AM
6 Steps to Starting an
Effective Church Blog INSPIRE. ENCOURAGE. INFORM.
So, you want to have greater impact. You want to be an influencer in your community. You want to reach more people. And so you should. In the heart of every church leader there should be a desire to reach more people with inspiring, encouraging, informing, and transformational messages.
There is a high likelihood that you have a lot of people in your church who have some great things to share. Like the lamp on a hill in Matthew 5, you should elevate and promote the great resources and insights sparking flames of faith from within your church that will be seen outside your church. Don’t put it under a bowl! With your growing to-do list you strive to maintain relationships with long-time parishioners, welcome those new to your church, and be present in the community. Finding time to make an impact can be challenging. One of the best, and most common, ways to share what you’ve got with others is through a
blog. This is not a new concept. But blogs have stood the test of time as a consistent and well-consumed vehicle of information that can lead to transformation.
Blogging in your church can help you: n Promote interaction—Blogging lets you connect with others. Since readers can comment on your blog posts, blogs naturally promote interaction, as you can reply to comments and have conversations with your readers. You never know—some of these interactions may spark ideas (Cont. on page 28) September 2016 | 27
for teachings or for other blog posts. It also helps out-of-town church members and friends stay connected with you and your church. If your church is large, reading your blog may help those inside your church connect with you as well, especially if they are newer or more comfortable with electronic interaction. Asking questions is a great way to promote
n Share your personality—Too often, church members and visitors know little about the pastor besides what they see on Sunday morning. Blogging lets pastors show their congregants and friends that they are real people with real joys and struggles. It gives readers a small glimpse into a pastor’s life and mind outside the pulpit. You may not have time to share a story on Sunday
Blogs have stood
services, and teachings. Pretty much, if you have ongoing content, your blog is the best place to display it. But for every successful blog there are numerous failures. Many blogs start strong and then fizzle out when traction isn’t immediately seen. Other blogs don’t have a plan or system to support good content creation over the long haul. Other blogs just kind of miss the mark because the bloggers aren’t responding to feedback and their audience in a way that enables them to tweak their messages to meet a need. And sometimes, people just get lazy and stop posting. That’s no way to become an influencer.
the test of time as a consistent and well-consumed vehicle of information that can lead to transformation. interactions on your blog, providing a forum for faith discussions even after services are over. n Establish your church’s reputation online—Like a website or Facebook page, a blog is a great medium for establishing your church’s online reputation. If you link your blog to the church’s website, potential guests may visit the blog before visiting your church to learn more about you and your ministry style. Unlike social media, blog readers don’t have to be registered members of a site to read, comment and enjoy your blog; it’s open to anyone with a web connection. 28 | MinistryTech.com
morning, but you can share it on your blog. Recommending books you’ve enjoyed may not fit into this week’s sermon topic, but you can recommend them on your blog. You can also use blog posts to expand upon your sermons if you think of something applicable after Sunday morning. Blogs give you the space to tell a story with your messages that social media sound bites can’t. They are a great conduit for sharing more rich media, resources, and testimonies that have an impact. Blogs also serve as a repository for past information like sermon messages, worship
There a few things you need to understand about a blog: n Posts are not just words. A post can be a video, image gallery, or even an event, depending on how your blog is setup. n A blog can be integrated into your existing website, or a separate site with it’s own brand and purpose. n It takes time to grow an audience, be patient! n You don’t always have to be original. Of course, you need to share your view, but reposting content from other blogs, with your commentary (and appropriate credits), is a great way to cultivate valuable content. n Not everybody wants to read long-form posts. Keep the content varied. Consider posts that use humor, resources, video, tips and tricks, and even quotes.
Six Steps to Starting an Effective Church Blog:
Turn it on. Find out if
your website platform has a blog function. If it does, there should be an easy way to “turn it on” by adding a link to your website navigation and start posting. If your site doesn’t have a blog function, you’ll need to choose a blog platform like Wordpress, Tumblr or Blogspot to get started.
Create categories. Once
you figure out how to get a post online, you’ll want to create categories for your blog so people can search and find what they are looking for. There are no rules here. Just keep it easy to understand. If it’s too complicated for you, it’s probably too complex for your audience.
Your pastor will likely be a main contributor to the blog. Also, sermon audio/video, lectures, and image galleries are all things you can recycle. But you’ll want fresh content from multiple sources to keep things relevant. Find leaders and insightful (and funny) people within your church to post regularly. They could be your next influencer.
September 2016 | 29
Set a calendar. Most blogs
fail due to lack of followthrough. Setting a good content calendar will keep your bloggers on track and let you see how your blog performs over time. Make sure you have due dates for first drafts, final drafts, and posting dates. Consider using a spreadsheet to plan out topics and types of posts for the next three, six or even 12 months.
And stay on top of it! A calendar won’t do you any good if you don’t have due dates and assignments that are regularly followed.
Get it out there! After you have a decent amount and variety of posts on your blog, publish it by
creating a link on your website navigation to your blog. Then, share posts on social media, through your church ministry software and from the stage. Constantly remind people of the value of the blog by pointing to specific posts and how they apply to daily life.
Stay consistent. Nothing turns readers off more than going to a blog and noticing the last post from last year. People want to know that you’re going to be a source of meaningful, valuable content that can really add something to their lives; that’s how you become an influencer.
The most important thing to remember is, the blog isn’t your platform to sound off. If you do that, people will just tune out. Your audience needs insights, resources and encouragement that actually speak to them. The litmus test for your post should be answering this question: “Does this provide a benefit that my audience actually wants?” If you can answer “Yes” to that question, stay consistent, and get the word out, you’ll do just fine and become an influencer in your community. Be creative, test things out, follow God’s leading, find out what works, and run with it! MT 30 | MinistryTech.com
the most valuable asset your church has is ______________ .
Your building? Your sound system? Your programs? The most valuable asset your church has is your team. How effectively are you leading them? Learn to lead a team that moves ministry forward. Sign up for our free course, Becoming a Healthy Team Leader, and get access to free video tutorials, audio downloads, and other great downloadable tools and assessments.
Move your ministry forward. Visit ministryu.com/outreach to start your free course now! September 2016 |
THE LAST WORD
But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
Psalm 94:22 (NIV)