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November 2016

to Your




4 give thanks to your tech volunteers Who will encourage them if you don’t? As a leader you can create a culture of thankfulness.


IT Security 101: Class Is In Session. here are the basics...


Can Your Team Fight Off A Brute Force Attack?

IT security isn’t difficult, but it is essential.

It’s like coaching soccer: make sure you’re strong on the fundamentals.


What if you throw a great party, but no one comes back next week? 14 START-UP | A Grand Experiment in App Design . . . . . 8

Anatomy of a Great Church Website Homepage . . . . 22

4 Tech-Based Tips for Managing Church Expenses . . . 24

2 |

26 how to turn online minefields into mission fields When’s the last time you reviewed your web strategy?

A Word from the editor Ray Hollenbach Editor Ray Hollenbach

Art Director Beth VanDyke

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. Views expressed in the

Give Thanks!


ne great temptation that flows from the world of technology is a lack of thankfulness: we work with gadgets and gizmos; we fine tune software and sound systems; we work hard to build reliable systems that operate perfectly every time (or so we hope!). We deal in details, but we might be tempted to forget that the gear and the good connections are not the goal: we are trying to serve the Lord and his people! And in the realm of relationships, gratitude needs to play a big part. Contributing writer Mike O’Brien (in his first contribution to Ministry Tech) reminds us of the importance of demonstrating our appreciation for all those who labor to make everything run smoothly. His article, “Give Thanks to Your Tech Volunteers,” brings us back to the people behind the tech. Two things are true: people are the recipients of our service, and we cannot achieve tech excellence apart from people who help us. This issue of Ministry Tech covers a wide range of topics, but service is always the recurring theme behind

the details, whether we learn IT Basics from Nick Nicholaou, or the importance of follow-up planning from Yvon Prehn. Our strong team of writers includes Russ McGuire Steven Sundermeier, Jonathan Smith and Kevin Purcell: each one provides unique insights into the various aspects of the intersection of technology and ministry. As the editor, I realize the role (and impact!) that so many people have in bringing this publication to life, month after month. What better month to say Thank You to our team members? The behind-the-scenes work of Beth VanDyke (our brilliant Art Director) and Joey Tindell (the big boss at Outreach, Inc.) rarely get a notice. But they should! Even our business partners, the regular advertisers and content-providers are focused on serving the church at large. What better time to give thanks? And finally, you: our readers! We appreciate your sustained support of Ministry Tech, and we hope we are serving you well, because we’re grateful for the unsung roles you play at thousands of churches and ministries. Grace to you, and peace!

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 You can reach him at November 2016 | 3


to Your

Tech Volunteers Who will encourage them if you don’t?

[ by Mike O’Brien ]

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everal years ago our church sent a survey to our volunteers. We asked them how they would like to be thanked for what they do. The answers blew our

minds . . . Some people loved our annual volunteer party while others loathed it. Some enjoyed a written note and others preferred quality one-on-one time. Knowing how to the hit the appreciation target for each person on your tech teams will create stronger, longer lasting teams that thrive under our care. Tech teams in church usually only get feedback when there is feedback or a misspelled word on the screen! If we do our jobs with excellence, there is usually little fanfare. As leaders of church tech teams, we need to be vigilant to create cultures that value volunteers through targeted appreciation and thanks. Here are seven simple ways to say thank you to your team. Take note which methods really speak to different people on your team and repeat.

November 2016 | 5


Write Words of Encouragement

Written words go a long way in encouraging most people. It means you took time out to think about them and respond. Try some things like this: l  Write a thoughtful note card and drop it in the mail to their home address. l  Leave a Post-it note of encouragement on the soundboard or computer screen: “Bob, thanks for running sound today, I love your commitment to excellence. You are a treasure to this church body.” l  Text an encouragement on Sunday afternoon: “Hey Lauren, I am so thankful for your heart. When you do slides, it brings joy to my heart to see you singing along! Hope you have a great week.”


Speak Words of Encouragement

l  Running to catch the sound guy in the parking lot: “Hey Dave, sound was epic today. Thank you for coming early and setting up, we appreciate all you do.” l  Give public praise: If you have a public platform, use the microphone and thank someone specifically and tell them what you love about them. “Rebecca is our faithful media volunteer, we love you Rebecca. She’s been here since 8 a.m. and is so patient to put up with my messy slides!” Remember, that it’s ok to do for one what you want to do for all.


Buy Food

For some, quality time around a cup of coffee or a shared meal will make them feel deeply loved. This can be difficult navigating appropriate age and gender limitations, but get creative by meeting at the church or bringing others with you. Here are some ideas:

This method is quick and effective, although it will require more courage for some. During the course of a service, stop a volunteer, look them in the eye and encore them. Be specific. It might look something like this:

l  Buy lunch for your whole team (and their families). Have it delivered and ready to go immediately after church. Prepare for kids, spouses etc. . . . Invite the pastor and ask him or her to speak a blessing for the team.

l  Approaching the sound booth: “Hey, Jim (sound volunteer), that electric guitar sounded amazing during worship. Thank you for   all you do to make sound so good   every week.”

l  Simply show up with an unexpected treat to rehearsal, pay careful attention to those with specific needs (gluten free etc. . . . ).

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l  Text your media team early in the morn—“Starbucks on me this morning, text me your order.”



Buying a thoughtful gift for a member of your team can be a treasure like no other.

l  $5 Starbucks gift card for a coffee lover

l  $5 iTunes gift card for a music/app lover l  A local, one of a kind gift that shows you took note of their favorite things (food, sports,   books, etc. . . . ).


Plan a Party

Some people love a party. A couple times a year invite your team for a gathering at a park, restaurant, bowling alley or home. During the event take some time to say thank you and let them know how important their role is to the ministry. Create easy exits for the introverts and try to cover as much of the cost as possible. A little food, a little fun, a little vision and a time to say “thanks.”


Share the Testimonies

Leaders often get letters and emails of testimony that the church at large misses out on. When YOU hear of those stories, pass them along to your team: l  Group text to team: Hey media team. Word is 4 people gave their life to Christ during the Wednesday service. Thanks for all you do to

set up the slides and prepare the sermons, it makes a difference!” l  Email to video team: “One of our congregants away on a business trip let us know that he was worshipping with us from his hotel room in Japan. Thank you for streaming the service each week and helping us reach the nations!”


but there is one surefire outcome you can control. As a leader you can set the culture of thankfulness, which will have immediate result. How will you say thank you to your tech team this week? MT

Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. He has worked as a producer, engineer and mixer at Lucko Sound Studio, and with a collective of over 25 musicians called Poured Out Like Wine. Together, they produced 7 albums with over 15 published songs with Vineyard Worship USA. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife,

Mike O’Brien holds a B.A. in Music from

Susan, and son, Ezekiel. You can reach Mike

Kennesaw State University and Master of


Provide Ongoing Training

Ultimately, people will be faithful to those who are feeding them. In other words, if you continually train your team, they will stick around. It is an indirect and powerful way to say thank you! l  Send links to individuals on your team to pertinent training: “Hey Jill, check out this training video on pro presenter. What do you think? Would it be a good fit at our church?” l  “Jack, when I saw this Ted Talk, I thought of you. You do this so well.” l  Consider bringing in an outside voice to encourage, inspire and train your team. Most church ministries live in a bubble of their own existence; when you hire outside voices, they can help excite the mission of the team and church!

There are so many unknowns in the volunteer world of church. People come and go, call in sick last minute, and quit teams with little or no notice, November 2016 | 7


A Grand Experiment in App Design Does God Speak Through Market Testing? by Russ McGuire


hat if Google did Spiritual Formation?” That’s the title of an article Neil Ahlsten wrote a couple of years ago for a Christian university. It accurately reflects the opportunity that Neil and his team are pursuing in his startup, Carpenters Code. Neil, who spent several years at Google, knew that at any given time the company would be running 5,000 live experiments on search, and 90 percent of those experiments fail. The lesson? Until you have real proof, you don’t know if your idea will really work. Carpenters Code was formed to use that kind of applied research to develop technologies for people to draw closer to God.

Can You Save the World Through Economics? Neil grew up as a real math geek. He loved to solve equations. He wanted everything to fit neatly together and make logical sense. He 8 |

wanted to save the world through economics. Neil earned an M.A. in Economics and Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. While he was still in school he felt called to overseas ministry, and after graduating he spent a season of his life going to war zones around the world working with limited resources to solve really hard problems. God used Neil in amazing ways. Neil came to love pulling together diverse teams, and helping people recognize and use their God-given talents to accomplish amazing things. When he returned Neil found himself about as far from resourceconstrained war zones as you can imagine: working in Silicon Valley for Google. He spent seven years at the company, where he had the chance to work on some of the company’s biggest projects before they launched. He was also able to see how Google’s leadership made decisions about what products to nurture and what products to kill.

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.

He learned. In fact, Neil described it to me as being “like going to Internet business school.”

God’s Will vs. Man’s Will Neil observed some of the brightest minds in the world as they attempt to solve Google’s biggest business problems. He saw them work to deliver solutions people would value. He saw how technology impacted people’s lives in very deep ways, and how Google used applied research to get people to do what Google wanted. At the same time, as a Christian, Neil was very aware of the faithbased technology industry, and how well-intentioned believers approach incredibly important areas of our spiritual lives. Neil described what he saw this way: “God’s Word says thus-and-so about how He wants us to live and be in relationship with

Him, so Christian developers were saying, ‘I’ll apply this technology to accomplish it and He’ll bless it.’ I know God’s Word is true, and I believe that God’s Spirit is active and true, but that doesn’t mean that the way that you are implementing this technology is effective at helping people follow God’s will.” James 1:17 tells us that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Neil felt called to take the successful practices he’d learned at Google and try to understand how

them rate its effectiveness. Based on what they learned, they started building a real app, called Abide, which is available in mobile app stores. The experimentation didn’t end with the launch of the app. They continue to test each hypothesis as efficiently as possible. For example, they thought Facebook Connect might be a way to make prayer more social; so to test it they spent 10 minutes adding a button. When people clicked it, it told them “That feature is not available.” If lots of

people clicked it, they knew it was worth building out. If not, they would just remove the button. They develop many of their features initially to only 80–90 percent of completion. If the feature proves to be of high value in how people use the app, they invest the last 10–20 percent. If not, 80-90 percent is good enough.

Providing for His People It takes money to support full-time workers and all the costs associated with running a startup in Silicon

God could use technology specifically in the area of spiritual disciplines.

Abiding With Christ Neil pulled together an incredible team at Carpenters Code, including five full-time experts in software, data analytics, design, user experience and ministry, as well as a community of contributors still working full-time at leading technology companies including Google, Tesla and NetApp. They focused first on helping people with their prayer life. Neil called his firm’s methodology “The Wizard of Oz approach”: develop a prototype without really building anything, get it in people’s hands, and see what really helps them pray. Carpenters Code bought a targeted audience through SurveyMonkey, took them through a specific twominute experience, and then had | 9

Neil Ahlsten felt called to take the successful practices he had learned at Google and try to understand how God could use technology specifically in the area of spiritual disciplines.

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Valley. The team is making progress in finding ways to monetize the Abide app without dishonoring God by making people pay for prayer. They hope to be self-funding in the next 12–18 months. In the meantime, they’ve had to go through the humbling exercise known as seeking investment. Silicon Valley doesn’t embrace Christian startups. It’s not that they are persecuted, or even looked down on, it’s just that the motivations and priorities of a faith-based venture are out of sync with the culture of the technology startup community. Tech venture capital firms are looking for companies with a multibillion dollar exit, and Carpenters Code’s financial ambitions are more humble than that. Neil was able to raise funding from some California-based believers, but most of it came from parts of the country with a higher appreciation for prayer. Developing this app has been a community exercise: God has provided an amazing team of investors and strategic advisors who bring academic wisdom and real-world business experiences that are strong complements for Neil and his team. 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

PROTECTED WITH PURPOSE by Steven Sundermeier

Can Your Team Fight Off a Brute Force Attack? How to Guard Against the Next Iteration of Ransomware


fter coaching all three of my kids’ soccer teams this Fall (along with the children of 40 other families!) I’m drained! Don’t get me wrong, I love investing in these young lives and helping each one realize his or her potential, teaching them that hard work pays off. I believe coaching is one of my ministries, but eight hours of practices and three hours of games each week for 10 weeks (not including driving time or additional tournaments) can become overwhelming. However, one of the things I enjoy most is experiencing each of the teams playing at different age, skill and energy levels. As a dedicated coach I explore and introduce fresh ideas, different skills, unique games and new formations to the team. Some of these new strategies work! When they do we incorporate them as core routines for the weekly practices. I’ve learned that much of coaching is about trial and error. Sometimes dealing with

cybercriminals (especially those associated with ransomware) feels a lot like coaching. These evildoers—let’s call them out for what they are—are continually trying to incorporate their own fresh strategies or modify existing ones in order to do harm and financially capitalize on users. In my experience, ransomware authors rely heavily on two vectors for infection. Let’s call them their “core” routines.

(1) Email Attachments: This is easily the most common vector for the proliferation of ransomware. It is a simple technique for cybercriminals to implement. Incorporating malicious attachments has proven successful for 15 years, dating back to the infamous “LoveLetter Worm.” Today, spam campaigns that are based from Botnets are widespread and very large, and it is probable that many of these ransomware families share similar databases of emails. We are all well aware of how this vector works: emails with attachments

usually come in zip or rar files having .exe, .scr, .js, .vbs, .doc or .xls files in them, and the contents of the Email are such that they fool the recipient into opening the attachment. Ransomware with names like CryptoWall, Locky, and Zepto rely on this method.

(2) Drive-By Download: This is the other commonly used vector for the spread of ransomware. It propagates ransomware using malvertising and exploits kits to infect PC’s and other devices just by visiting a compromised site. Most of the time, the sites visited by the unknowing user are legitimate websites that have been compromised by the attacker. Ransomware like CryptoMIC rely on this method. In recent months we have seen a significant increase in newer techniques being tested to infect users with ransomware. We have seen modifications within existing ransomware families to now November 2016 | 11

Security has its parallels with soccer. We can win if we prepare, if we’re proactive and if we have a plan in place. We will lose if we have not practiced drills and learned the plays by setting difficult passwords and having strong policies in place! incorporate Internet worm-like techniques to further propagate up a network. In other observed new samples, we see ransomware trying to gain access to offsite back-up locations. Remember: the more damage and havoc that can be caused to the user (the encryption of their files), the more willing those users are to pay big-dollar ransoms. However, the latest game-changer in the fight against ransomware is their new strategy of infecting network systems via Brute Force Attack.

Brute Force Attack: By definition, a brute force attack consists of an attacker utilizing a “trial and error” method trying a large number of passwords (commonly used credentials, dictionary words and other combinations) with the hope of eventually guessing correctly to gain access to a system. Let’s take the case of the Troldesh ransomware (also known as XTBL), a ransomware that mainly targets the Windows Operating System. 12 |

Like most brute force style attacks, the attack starts with scanning a large Internet Protocol (IP) range and TCP ports: in this particular case, the attacker is searching for vulnerable networks that have Remote Desktop (RDP) enabled and open for connection, and this is done by scanning port (3389). If an exposed network is found, the attacker will attempt to gain direct access to the network through Remote Desktop by systematically checking all possible passwords and passphrases until the correct one is found. Unfortunately, if the attacker is successful on their quest and server access is obtained, the cyber attacker can disable the installed antivirus/security solution (if it exists) and run the encryption payload directly. This new technique is trial and error at its finest—and most dangerous. Given this new strategy, which we feel will only expand and become common with future ransomware, here are a few things you can do to safeguard against such attacks.

1. Use long and complex passwords. Avoid commonly used phrases, incorporate CAPS, lowercase, and special characters into your passwords and make your passwords at least 12 characters.

2. Disable the Administrator account and create an alternate username for administrative activities. Most brute-force attempts are done on the Administrator account. So we recommend that any unused accounts should be deleted.

3. Change your default ports. In the case of Troldesh, changing the default port (3389) of Remote Desktop to an unused port could help prevent a port of specific attack.

4. Take advantage of the Account Lockout Policy that would automatically lock an account after a specific number of failed login attempts.

5. Install a strong multi-tier security solution (like Thirtyseven4). Regardless of what security vendor you install or already have, make sure you take advantage of and configure its password protection option so that security settings can’t be easily disabled.


yber-security and coaching three soccer teams are both draining, but my point is something more vital. In coaching I continually try new things: I am always changing my approach to find a physical fit, a mental fit and an age-appropriate fit with the each age-group and team. Unfortunately, cyber-thugs are also constantly changing their game, or bringing new game, if you will. Attacking with Brute Force by trying every combo until they crack the password? Yep, they are going that distance. Searching for loop holes like having remote-desktop enabled? Yes, they are turning over every stone, or should I say machine, and they keep looking until they find one that can be taken advantage of. These hackers are on their game—on their negative, malicious, notorious game. We have to outsmart them by trumping their efforts with proactive and intelligent security precautions. Complicated passwords! Yes, I have said this before, but I mean it with all seriousness each time. Believe me: you do not want your network compromised because your password was “123456” or is still stuck at “password.” We should be more intelligent than that, and believe me: the hackers are making their fortune by being more intelligent than that.

Security has its parallels with soccer. We can win if we prepare, if we’re proactive and if we have a plan in place. We can lose miserably if we are not suited up correctly (a strong antivirus protection)! We will be sorry if we have not practiced drills and learned the plays—set difficult passwords and have strong policies in place! 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 antivirus 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.

November 2016 | 13

What if You Throw a Great Party, HOLIDAYS but No One Comes AHEAD! Back Next Week? Part 2

How to Make Follow-up Part of Your Event Preparation by Yvon Prehn


ast month we started a series on communication for seasonal and special events with the goal of making certain that your church doesn’t just get a great turnout at the event, but that guests come back after it on a continuing basis. In the October issue we discussed Strategy #1—Involve the whole church in seasonal communication. This month we’ll talk about the next two: n  STRATEGY #2—Create communications for before, during and after the event n  STRATEGY #3—Maximize the power of multi-media integration in your seasonal communications

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First: an extreme (but not unusual) story: This is a true story. Though the specific event discussed is Easter, the lessons learned from it apply to Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other outreach event. In one of my seminars I spoke about the importance of communications before, during, and after seasonal and special events. At the break, a lady literally came running up the aisle to talk to me. “Oh, thank you, thank you,” she said. “Now I understand what went wrong.” She told me about a special Easter service at her church that involved a huge amount of work but brought very disappointing results. She was part of a newly planted church that wanted to reach out to

their community at Easter. They were meeting at a local elementary school, but they wanted to host a big event to reach their community for Jesus at Easter. On faith, they rented the high school gym so they would have room for a huge crowd. They prayed hard and worked hard to get lots of community involvement. And they got it—merchants put up posters; the church got lots of media exposure. The day came: over 1500 people came to the Easter service held at the local high school gym. They were so excited. They praised God for answering their prayers. The next week, back at the elementary school, they set up hundreds more chairs and printed

lots of extra bulletins. Additional ushers were recruited. They were poised to welcome all the new people they were sure would come, but almost none of the 1,500 people from the previous week showed up. Since that failure they had been beating themselves up emotionally for whatever had happened to give them so little lasting response. Maybe people didn’t like them. Maybe the preaching was a turnoff. Maybe the music was boring. Maybe it was a huge Satanic attack—they didn’t know what to think. But now she understood what happened: “We didn’t give them any follow-up material! We didn’t give them ANYTHING that told them where or when we met regularly!” she said. “Can you imagine how many people were probably wandering around the parking lot of the high school the next Sunday wondering what happened to the church? And we were miles away wondering where all the people were.” She realized that a simple flyer or a business card that said something like “We are so glad you joined us today! Come back next week to our usual location . . . ” and included church social media links, an address, a phone number, a map, or the times of service, it would have made all the difference. Worst of all, they hadn’t used connection cards during the service so they could follow up and

let people know where they were. Though her story was more dramatic than most, it illustrates the most common mistake churches make: I almost never see the necessary connection or follow-up publications given out at holiday celebrations or special events. Because of this lack of intentional follow-up, few seasonal or special event celebrations accomplish lasting results—not because people aren’t interested in a further relationship with the church, but because the visitors don’t know how to take the next steps or what else the church offers. One reason this often happens is the church staff is usually so time-stressed and exhausted just getting the holiday event put on that they don’t take time to plan and reproduce the connecting and follow up documents so essential to give the event a lasting impact.


Choose a strategy that gives you all the communications you need: Prepare your connecting and followup communications and the materials that you will give out to people at the event before you start to advertise the event. Remember: the purpose of an outreach event is not to get people to

the event only. The purpose of all your events is to get them involved in the church and introduced to Jesus. Here’s an overview of what you need to create:

ON YOUR WEBSITE: Write, but do not publish, follow-up or seasonal information thanking people for coming, posts specifically written for newcomers, posts that link guests to more information about the specific holiday, such as questions about why Jesus is the “reason for the season” or why he needed to come to die for the sins of the world. Schedule these so they will post automatically: you’ll feel a huge sigh of relief as they come out automatically.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Though much of your social media content needs to be published during the time of the event, you can also schedule ahead material for core information and reminders about your church and follow-up links. If you use one of the social media scheduling programs, load it up. If you aren’t familiar with how to do this or the programs you can use to do it, this LifeHack article will help you get started.

PRINT MEDIA: The most essential piece of print you need for successful seasonal November 2016 | 15

outreach is a Connection Card. This is an essential tool if you want to connect with visitors. For a FREE e-book on Connection Cards and how to use them effectively, try this valuable resource. Here are some useful additional print materials: n A flyer or booklet that tells people about some of the ongoing ministries in your church. Unchurched people often have no idea that churches have free activities for children or youth, groups for mom or recovery programs. n An explanation of the holiday itself: a brief history of Christmas, an overview of why Jesus came, links to apologetic resources and an invitation to find out more. n An invitation to take the next step at your church. It is essential that you share when and where you do your regular weekly events, but also invite them to a seeker study, information about the church or my favorite all-time idea on followup: enclose two coupons for free lattes at the local coffee shop and invited people to “Latte with the Pastor” where they can come any Wednesday afternoon from 2-4 and “ask any question they want about the Christian faith. Two words sum up how you maximize the power of these communication channels: 1. Consistency 2. Repetition

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CONSISTENCY: You must be consistent in your message and how you present it through all the channels. This means you use the same slogans, graphics and colors in ALL channels. You do this so your message doesn’t get muddied in the mind of your audience.

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.

REPETITION: It takes numerical repetition (at least seven times) for a message to click with your audience and for them to take action, but you need to repeat the message through all channels of communication—print, verbal, multi-media, social media— for all your audience to get it the required times. Remember, though you will get sick to death of repeating the message, not everyone accesses the same channels, or they get busy, or they ignore some. Constantly remind yourself that NO ONE will see the message as many times as you do. All this advice is a tremendous amount of work! But the communications discussed are also essential if you want to make the most of seasonal celebrations to make a lasting difference not only in the growth in numbers in your church, but in lives changed for eternity. MT Look for Part 3 of this article in next month’s issue. For advice on specific holidays, go to and hit the “SEASONAL” tab for a listing of holidays and seasonal communications topics.

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.


e-book format at  print format at November 2016 | 17

IT Security 101 Class Is In Session: Here Are The Basics

C  lass Is in Session. Here Are the Basics... by Nick Nicholaou

o st churches and ministries intend to do things well. IT security is no different, but most people in church and ministry leadership are not familiar with the security risks   and the solutions available to them. Let’s work through some important, easy to accomplish and affordable IT security needs. 18 |

Why Does IT Security Matter So Much? All data—church data included—is vulnerable. That’s a given, and data vulnerability cannot be completely eliminated. But as leaders we are charged to do our due diligence to reasonably secure our most sensitive data and protect those who could otherwise be harmed. There are Internet programs (called bots), disgruntled former employees, disgruntled former members and a bunch of other rascals who would love to find a crack in your security and make things challenging for your church or ministry. Church data is usually more exposed than other data for two reasons: 1.  M  ost churches and ministries try to economize on IT, seeing it as


of data breach victims surveyed reported they had neither a system nor a managed security service in place to ensure they could detect data breaches.

operational vs programming, and don’t typically explore whether everything is being addressed that needs to be in this increasingly vital area. 2.  C  hurches and ministries are managed by those who, more often than not, don’t have IT expertise in their training or education, and are thus not aware of some of the high risks that exist in IT and have affordable resolutions. So all data being vulnerable, the next question is, Do we have sensitive data that we need to protect? The answer is almost definitely Yes! Here’s a short list of examples: n Databases that include

contribution information and contact information for adults and children. n Accounting and bookkeeping

systems that include payroll


information—like salaries and social security numbers. n Board minutes that likely include

sensitive details like personnel decisions, spiritual discipline communication details, and liability information.

What Are the Essentials? There are many things that need to be addressed, but this IT security primer is a good starting place: n Maximize protection from the

Internet and from those off-site who would like to cause harm: —Firewall. The firewall is a small piece of equipment that goes between your network and the Internet. It is different than a router or switch, though it can replace the router. The firewall we


Only of global organizations claim they are prepared to handle a sophisticated cyberattack On average, it takes

200+ days before a company discovers it’s been hacked.

EACH individual record hacked costs a company between

154 $ 363



depending on the industry.

November 2016 | 19

recommend is Dell SonicWALL. It has a great combination of features at an affordable price. In addition to keeping the ‘bad guys’ out, it can also filter Internet content. —SPAM Filtering. One of the most common ways for malware to get into a system is via email SPAM. Churches are wise to have their email filtered by a good SPAM filter, and the best is from Barracuda. Buying a Barracuda SPAM Firewall is expensive, but there are some vendors who ‘host’ SPAM filtering with Barracuda SPAM Firewalls for churches for as little as $50/ month with no limit on the

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number of email addresses. My firm is such a vendor (there are others), and in the millions of emails received weekly through our Barracuda SPAM Firewall, about 85 percent are SPAM. —Passwords. It is essential to have a good password strategy. We recommend a minimum of seven characters (at least one of each: uppercase alpha, lowercase alpha, number, and common punctuation). Also, don’t make users change their passwords periodically unless there’s been a security breach…changing passwords actually lowers security.

n Computers and servers should

be running a good anti-malware solution—even Macs! The one we recommend is n Control of mobile devices is

very important to ingrain into team members. Here’s a recommendation for your staff meetings: on a monthly basis tell a story of a church or ministry that was harmed by poor IT data security practices (like the one in the next section) to help your team understand the need to be careful. This need especially extends to those who have mobile devices with church data on them (like notebook computers) to protect the custody of their devices.

How Much of a Priority Should These Be? A church in Missouri ran their guest WiFi unsecured 24/7, and someone in their community discovered it. That person pulled into the church’s parking lot in the evenings, connected to the Internet via the church’s WiFi, and distributed child pornography. When the FBI investigated, two things happened: 1.  T  he FBI confiscated all of the church’s computers and servers so they could do a forensic analysis to determine if any were involved in distributing child porn. The church was without their computers for

some time. How would that impact your church or ministry? 2.  The story hit the news in a big way—television and newspapers. A headline in one local paper was “Child Porn Investigation Focused on [church name]”. A TV news report was titled “Child Porn Linked to Church IP Address.” How long would it take your church or ministry to rebuild trust in your community following that kind of press?

The answer to those types of questions should drive the prioritization of improving your church or ministry’s IT security. In addition to the lives that would be hurt by a breach, the Lord’s work through your organization would also be diminished. The solutions we addressed are easy and quick to implement, and not cost prohibitive. Why wait? MT

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, and may want to check out his firm’s website ( and his blog at

November 2016 | 21

homepage, or just big aerial shots of a worship band. People want to get a sense of your church. Is it casual? Traditional? Does it have people from many demographics? Ultimately, they want to know if it’s a place where they’ll fit in. Think through what your imagery is communicating.

Anatomy of a Great 4

Church Website Homepage

First Impressions Are Digital These Days


he homepage of your church website is likely someone’s first impression of your church. And if your homepage frustrates them, they’ll never visit. It’s important that you nail this first impression. Look at your homepage and ask yourself: “If this is the first time someone visits my website, what do they need to know about me? What do they need to do next? What do they need to immediately understand about our church and its culture?” Your homepage should include the following criteria:


Church name, location and phone number: This seems like a no brainer, right? I’ve been to many church websites where the address and phone number were not on the homepage. You had to go to a contact or location page to find out where the church was located. You want this information prominently displayed on the front page. There’s a high probability that this is the

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only reason someone is coming to your site.


Service times: The second bit of information that’s so important is service times. People will be checking out your site to see what time they need to show up at church. This is a high-profile bit of information. I’d strongly suggest getting it into: n  The first banner in your slider. n Your website footer (so it’s accessible from every page) n Your website header Bottom line: when someone gets to your homepage, the service time should always be visible. Do NOT risk hiding this information in a slide that is only visible for a few seconds.


Photos of your people, pastor and environment: This is one area I feel like the best church websites struggle with. I’ve seen websites from prominent churches where, instead of images of the church, they feature local landmarks on the

Information about the current sermon series: People might not be coming to your website to see what you’re preaching on, but it’s a fantastic way to bait the hook. If you can communicate why they’d benefit from hearing this series, it’s going to be a strong incentive for getting them to visit.


Email signup form: Even if they don’t visit your church after coming to your website, you can make it possible to keep communicating with them. Give them an opportunity to sign up for your email list. You can incentivize it by offering things like special sermon series, ebooks or devotionals. You can use your email list to promote upcoming events, outreach events and sermon series.


Link to download your church app: A church app is another powerful way to communicate what makes your church special. If you have a church app (and you really should), make sure that you’re encouraging them to download it from the home page. Giving them the ability to watch your sermons on the go, read church blogs and listen to podcasts can help draw them in. The icing on the cake is that you’re also giving the opportunity to make donations to your church without having to visit.

Plus, this gives your mobile website visitors an opportunity to get a much, much better experience. Instead of keeping them in their phone’s browser, give them a way to quickly download your app and engage with you there.


Link to your online giving form: They don’t need to be able to give from your homepage, but if they can give online, make sure the link is prominent. You want it to be as easy as possible for people to give!


Links to your social media profiles: Next to your church app and website, your social media profiles are the best way for people to get to know your church. It’s also another way to ensure that you can interact with them more. They might not come back to your website after your initial visit, but if they like your Facebook page you have more opportunities to communicate with them. For example, you can invite them to Facebook events, boost blog posts and videos to them, etc.

Social media can be another opportunity to drive people toward downloading your church app. If you can’t get them into your church, you want them in your app. Not only does this extend your ministry to them, but it also gives you the best chance of getting non-attenders personally invested in your church. Are you ready to optimize your website? This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating a church website that attracts visitors. If you’re ready to learn more about create the best church website possible, download a free copy of The Ultimate Church Website Blueprint. MT November 2016 | 23

4 C

hurch leaders have to balance necessary finance logistics with their other responsibilities. The process, which includes approving large expenses, meeting budget targets, gathering receipts, and reimbursing staff, clergy and volunteers, can be tedious and time-consuming—and a church leader’s time is at a premium. Expense management platforms are a convenient way to track transactions, allocate funds and control spending. You can focus less on managing day-to-day expenses and more on charting your church’s long-term future. Here are four tech-based tips to make it easy to manage church expenses.


Get anytime, anywhere access with a mobile app—

Church expenses can be unpredictable. Any expense management platform has to be able to keep up with on-the-fly purchases, especially while church staff and volunteers are traveling for mission work. Platforms that connect to mobile apps allow you to access funds and approve requests from any smartphone or computer, whether you’re doing outreach work in the next 24 |

Tech-Based Tips for Managing Church Expenses town or the next state. Users can request funds transfers via text message and church leaders can then approve them remotely, ending delays and inefficiencies. With mobile apps, church employees and volunteers can also review their transactions in real time as they travel or pick up supplies, empowering them to better self-regulate their purchases. The increased visibility can make spending more efficient and save money for your church.


Replace reimbursement with a prepaid card solution—The reimbursement process can be complicated and inefficient. Asking church staff and volunteers to use their own money upfront puts an unnecessary strain on their finances, especially when the reimbursement process can take several weeks. While credit cards may seem like an efficient solution, they introduce the possibility of overdraft fees or missed payments— and you may not want volunteers to have access to your line of credit. Prepaid cards with set limits offer a safe and convenient way to transfer funds. You can easily get funds to church volunteers and employees when they need them, without having to handle lots of cash or stress about your credit limit. Church volunteers can serve the community

without stretching their personal finances, and you won’t have to deal with the hassle of reimbursement forms and lost receipts.


Restrict spending categories with a smart expense management tool­— It’s important to ensure church funds are being spent responsibly and appropriately—but that doesn’t mean approving each individual purchase before it’s made. You would probably want to know if a church employee is about to purchase $500 of Sunday school supplies when you just stocked up, but you don’t need to approve every small, routine purchase. With a smart expense management platform, you can control where church employees can use your funds—the process is as simple as checking “yes” on gas and “no” on retail. You can also predetermine how much they can spend, setting different limits for church staff who make regular operational purchases and church volunteers who help with one-day events. Restricted spending amounts and categories allow you to oversee expenses without micromanaging every purchase. The extra layer of accountability for church staff and volunteers prevents spending abuse without preventing

them from doing their jobs.


Integrate platforms for streamlined processing­— Relying on reimbursement puts a burden on church staff and volunteers, who may not want to use their own funds, and on church administrators, who then have to process expense reports and issue reimbursement checks. It can prevent you from getting an accurate picture of current expenses—you won’t know how much is being spent until you receive a reimbursement request. Cloud-based tools that integrate with your existing accounting or financial software make it convenient to plan your budget and get a better sense of the needs of your church. Up-to-the-minute transaction records give you more insight into spending patterns. At the end of the month, church administrators, employees and volunteers can approve expenses easily and save hours of time that was previously spent processing.

PEX is an expense management tool that combines all these capabilities. The company integrates debit cards with accounting software so churches and other organizations can enable employee and volunteer spending while controlling it in ways never before possible. The PEX platform connects to a mobile app, giving you 24/7, on-the-go access to funds and transaction information. With a next-generation tech solution like PEX, church leaders can avoid the headache of convoluted expense management and devote more time to the church community. MT

Bring innovation and technology to managing

your church expenses

Learn More

November 2016 | 25

How to Turn

Online Minefields Into Mission Fields Three Vital Aspects of Your Digital Footprint


ike it or not, online communication has become part of the church’s witness: Status notifications. Friend requests. Hashtags. Instagrams. When we fail to follow the etiquette of social media, we risk feeding

into the stereotype of backward Christians, so ignorant or scornful of our neighbors that we can’t even speak to them in their language. All you have to do is look at the success of programs like #shereadstruth (“She Reads Truth”) to see that people are hungry for expressions of faith that fit into their media-rich lives. When the church leads by example, these online platforms become exciting outlets for creating Christian communities and training believers to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Here are three powerful ways to make your church more responsive and engaging to both current and prospective members.

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1. Dynamic web content The blessing of instant information access is you can share content with your congregation that keeps them connected with the church all week long—without the pressure of adding more programs, services or volunteers. Your church’s website should be the first place to benefit from a steady stream of uplifting information. People seek out your site before they ever set foot in your sanctuary, so make sure your content reflects who you are as a congregation. Consider a mixture of the following that’s continually updated to keep your website fresh:

Due to inclement weather, you’ve canceled the 11:00 am service. DOES YOUR CONGREGATION KNOW?

n  Articles and reflections. A blog space on your site makes it easy for congregants and staff to write about Christian life in a relatable way. Don’t worry that these posts are a replacement for face-to-face contact—knowing a little about the authors will actually encourage members to talk more candidly about the issues we all face every day. Enlist an editor to help shape these stories, and they’ll soon create a compelling mosaic of your church community. n  Sermon recordings. Give your message legs throughout the week, for use in group discussions and personal study. n Photo galleries. Showcase your special events and friendly members. While posed portraits are fine here, the best photos are candid: capture people of all ages enjoying each other’s fellowship. n  Scripture made immediate. It’s tempting to limit your post to an

Seraphim makes communicating with your members easy, with: SMS Texting Email Messages Audio Recordings

Coming November 2016 ChurchApp Push Notifications

While you can’t control the weather, you can minimize it’s impact. Are you ready for winter? Post. Push. Keep your members in the know. November 2016 | 27

Instead of serving up the greasy gossip of our typical online diet, the church should provide good news that brings nourishment. encouraging verse or passage. But to people fed a steady diet of quick quips and tweets, the words of the Bible can feel inscrutable and distant. They need context to absorb the meanings they’re tempted to gloss over. Add a personal note about what the verse has meant to you, attach a quote from a contemporary author, or illuminate it with a visual, like these tools offered by Seraphim church management software. These simple additions can help your audience— members and seekers alike—engage with the Bible in a new way.

2. Social media As you develop content on your site, share it on Facebook and other social media channels to alert your online community. Because most of us check our updates every day (or minute, if we’re honest), develop a plan to create more frequent and more time-sensitive content for this use, including: n Your original web content. Sharing these on social media allows people to immediately respond to new blog posts or features. This is also the content most likely to extend your reach beyond your body. Life applications, news from 28 |

your missionaries overseas, and book or movie recommendations are the content your members want to share with their other circles. n Curated content. Facebook is the place to share links to articles or videos from trustworthy sources. Focus on pieces that build up the body or prompt meaningful discussion. Your audience sees enough of polarizing politics and snarky opinions. Your church can be a breath of fresh air by circulating content that helps people reconnect with deep truths. n Event teasers and reminders. A Facebook invitation may not ensure an accurate head count for an upcoming event, but it will definitely generate more responses than a paper sign-up sheet. n  Paid advertising. For broadbased community events (like your family-friendly Halloween party or rummage sale), you might extend your reach beyond friends of friends with a paid promotion on Facebook. Think of it as a digital flyer advertising your activities. And don’t forget these how-to tips for managing your church social media: n  Set up a private Facebook page or other members-only forum for

“safe” communications. You can post to members only when the topic is sensitive, like an illness or a staffing change. n Select a single social media manager, whether paid staff or volunteer. This person can make multiple posts per day and approve suggested posts to the private page. n  Sketch out the social media calendar two to three months ahead, so you can start to get articles banked and ready to post quickly.

3. Direct messaging Text and email have specific, targeted uses: people don’t turn to their text threads or inboxes for entertainment or enlightenment. (The exception may be an email newsletter, but this probably isn’t necessary if your congregation is largely active on social media.) In direct emails and texts, your messages should be as timely and targeted as possible. Warning: irrelevant messages will get you labeled as a spammer. n Don’t waste words. Text messages especially assume some urgency, so get right to the point. Save the entertaining, thought-provoking content for your social stream, and limit direct messages to helpful reminders or urgent notifications, like a service that’s been canceled for weather. n Personalize where possible. Single moms don’t want to know about the next men’s group meeting, and high school youth certainly won’t welcome updates from the toddler room. Filtering your messages by ministry or

interest through your church management software keeps you from testing your parishioners’ patience with annoying notices. n Send precisely. If you ask, your congregation will tell you exactly how they prefer to receive messages, whether by phone, email, text or push notification alert. Then you can target the communication to exactly the right device.

Seraphim church management software helps you enhance your members’ daily walk with customized messages, ministry event planners and informative Bible study visuals. Because it’s designed specifically for churches, it also provides powerful tools for member demographics, small-group management, financial reporting, safe child check-in and more—all backed by Seraphim’s fanatical customer service. (To learn more about how Seraphim can strengthen all three of these areas, click here.) Today, we’ve made information our constant companion. But there’s no reason we can’t use that information to point to a more trustworthy Companion. Instead of serving up the greasy gossip of our typical online diet, the church should provide good news that brings nourishment. Armed with the right information, your church can share online messages in the same spirit as Christ’s: delivered to people where they are, in words they understand, and with a heart for their deliverance. MT November 2016 | 29


But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. Psalm 79:13

Ministry Tech Magazine - November 2016  
Ministry Tech Magazine - November 2016