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April 2017

is going mobile. Are you ready?



8 Websites & Mobile Devices: The New Frontier When you finish designing your website, your work has just begun.


Let Your Children’s Check-in Software Demonstrate Your Care


smartphones require smart protection now! Mobile viruses are increasing at exponential rates.


How Jason Fisher “Makes Tents”— And Disciples An entrepreneurial story 20 years in the making.

12 TECH CHECK 4.17............................................................................. 15 The Glory (and Risk) of Using Apps on Sunday Morning............16 ChMS Apps Are Changing Where (and How) We Work...............19 Icon Rubix Rebuilt ChMS From the Ground Up............................20 5 Tech Mistakes That Make First-Time Visitors Cringe................28

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MicroSoft’s O365: Enter At Your Own Risk A Microsoft Cloud Partner reviews this widespread product.


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

Here, There, Everywhere


he digital landscape is always changing, and you can expect it to keep changing! Mobile devices have now replaced desktops and laptops as the number one access points to the Internet. Just walk into any Starbucks (or McDonalds!) and you’ll see the reality: phones and tablets are the go-to devices in use today. From grade-schoolers to grandmas, everyone is mobile. This has huge implications for ministry today. From websites to apps to maps, the people we serve— and those we still need to reach—use mobile devices more than netbooks, laptops and desktops. People are more mobile than ever before in history, and technology-driven devices have caught up to this new lifestyle. The only question is whether the technology used by churches and ministries will catch up as well. Consider just a few of the implications: what does your church look like on a smartphone screen? Does your church have a community app—or how would you go about creating one? People routinely send and receive money via their portable

devices: are you in the game? Have you seen your online giving grow? Does your telephone network integrate landlines and mobile? Are your mobile networks safe? Our contributing writer Steve Sundermeier steps us through the checklist of online mobile security. I hope you’ll invest a few minutes with his useful article. Our communications pro Yvon Prehn steps us through the differences between mobile and laptop websites, and gives practical advice on what to look for—and what to require! Our longtime partners Seraphim Software and eChurchGiving share their market-driven experience in these areas: their contributions to this issue are well worth your time! Whether you operate in a staff capacity or are among the countless tech volunteers for churches worldwide, you serve the people of your congregation and those who have yet to settle into a community of faith. Indeed, the idea of “community” now includes how we encourage and support one another through our mobile devices. Let’s be sure we serve every area of need!

articles and reviews printed within are not necessarily the views of the editor, publisher, or employees of Ministry Tech® magazine, or Outreach, Inc. © Copyright 2017 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 April 2017 | 3



SMARTPHONES Require Smart Protection Now!

Mobile viruses are increasing at exponential rates. Online protection means guarding every gate, especially the mobile ones. What measures do you use? by Steven Sundermeier 4 |


veryone seems obsessed with smartphones. Everywhere you go people are zombies glued to their phones. Even my young boys are consistently (it feels like constantly) asking for permission to “please borrow” our phones. (Hey, at least they are polite in their ask! But most times I still say, “No.”) My oldest son has a passion for photography and he insists that my phone takes the best pictures and slow-motion videos. These videos are most often stunts performed by my middle child (if you are cringing or worried about possible injury—I am too!). And while I like them working together to create these masterpieces, I still remember a time when technology had nothing to do with kids playing together. Personally, I relish the role of disliking video, Snapchatting, texting, calling and basically all things smartphones. I am the uncle teasing his college-aged nieces and nephews about having a phone that has a permanent mark in their back pocket and interrupts our big family suppers with its beeps and dings coming in. And I am that husband that asks his wife to “return to us” during family car rides when she is happily texting the other soccer moms. However, in a strange yin-andyang type of way, on a daily basis, I also find myself oddly drawn to my Android device as well. If you get lost or want to find a quicker route home you just click on the GPS app. A few nights ago our county issued

The Thirtyseven4 Virus Research Team received over 8.5 million mobile malware samples in 2016. That was more than a 50 percent increase from the previous year. an early morning tornado warning. My weather app notified us a full 10 minutes prior to the citywide tornado sirens. And even last night as we hosted a birthday dinner for my mom, when the time came to turn down the lights and sing Happy Birthday, I had already paired my phone with our Bluetooth speakers for a Happy Birthday tune DanceRemix-style. It was epic! Like them or hate them, smartphone usage continues to be on the rise. Recent studies have actually shown that 50 percent of Americans utilize smartphones as their primary source to get their digital content. The use of smartphones has surpassed tablets, computers and other electronic devices. This statistic just further proves my point that “everyone is obsessed with smartphones.” In fact, the one place in my mind that I’ve always thought was safe from the distractions of phones was church. However, have you ever noticed (and maybe you are one of them, which is a-okay!) how many people reach for

their phone when the pastor is about to get into the heart of his sermon and asks the congregation to take out their Bibles? Access to any version of the Bible from the palm of your hand is amazing! Most churches nowadays even have online giving and check-in from their own customized mobile church app. After all, without being up-to-date with the latest mobile app technologies, churches risk losing Millennials and a whole future generation who are used to purchasing with a click of their phone. Since smartphones are (and I will be intentionally misquoting Dr. Seuss) “from there to here, and here to there, [smartphones] are everywhere,” let’s take a fresh look at mobile security risks, terminology and statistics that not only challenge church goers but all mobile users.

Terminology: CHARGEWARE—Chargeware are malicious programs targeting mobile devices that trick users into April 2017 | 5

accepting a scandalous end user agreement of an app, geared to apply charges to your cell phone service provider bill without your knowledge. Android.Smsreg.DA is a prime example of Chargeware: it was our TOP detected mobile threat in 2016. Once downloaded on a system, Android.Smsreg.DA makes payments through premium rate messages while completing their registration.

ROOT ENABLER—Root Enablers are a form of malware designed to root (gain administrative access) Android devices. Root Enabler programs have grown tremendously over the last year. At my firm, within our Thirtyseven4 Virus Labs, detections for them have increased by nearly 700 percent over the last eight months. The intent of these programs is to root compromise a mobile device, thus allowing them full control over it. Many times these programs are language aware, and have been observed to target high profiled organizations like financial institutions. According to our statistics, the leading threat under this category is Android. Puxis.A. Another example is Android.Rooter.E (ranked #5 on our top detection chart). This one is more alarming because it was easily available through the Google Play Store temporarily.

ADWARE—Adware in the context of mobile devices are apps that automatically bombard your phone 6 |

with advertisements in order to generate revenue for the app creator. Sadly, many of us are already very familiar with Adware.

MASKWARE—Maskware is a term associated with malware that disguises itself to look like other popular legitimate apps. Android. Agent.TN displays itself as an adult app while performing malicious activities in the background. Another example would be Android. Downloader.D. This Androidbased malware masks itself as a gaming app. Unfortunately, it was also temporarily available via the Google Play Store. This widely circulated threat’s purpose was to send information about the infected device to a remote server. It was also created to automatically click on ads to download other Potentially Unwanted Programs.


ell, even if you are my 90-year-old GreatGrandmother (Happy Birthday, Gramma!), a glance around the streets, cities and homes of today will tell you that mobile phones are not a fad— they are here (and there and everywhere!) and they are here to stay. And if you and me and even G-Ma know that, cyber criminals have most certainly locked into that knowledge and they are very busy capitalizing on it. In 2016, The Thirtyseven4 Virus Research Team received over 8.5 million mobile malware samples.

That was more than a 50 percent increase from the previous year. We observed a nearly 1400 percent increase in mobile device malware that exploited security vulnerabilities associated with phone operating systems. We suspect that the biggest mobile threats for 2017 will include dangerous (and costly!) Mobile Ransomware and Banking Trojans. The threats are real. If you are wondering where to begin in securing your smartphone, or what steps would be helpful, here are a few ways to safeguard your device and your information: n  Secure our mobile devices with strong passwords or other screen lock features available. Take the time and effort to do this—it makes a difference! n  Avoid public Wi-Fi networks. Connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks allows anyone potential access to your personal information. It is suggested to disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use, as keeping it on can allow your location to be tracked. n  Just as you would install a security product on a computer, make sure you install a powerful

mobile security solution on your phone. For example, my firm has Thirtyseven4 Mobile Security. n  Keep your Android OS and

other required third party apps up-to-date. Vulnerabilities

are constantly being patched, so keeping everything current is a great defense against mobile threats. n  Avoid third party app stores, even when using trusted sources. When downloading from the Google Play Store or Apple Store. Read the posted reviews and check how many times the app was downloaded.

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.

n  Clean up after yourself. If you download an app to get a free doughnut that day and know you’re not going to use that app again, delete it. Deleting apps when no longer needed is simply good housekeeping. Shutting down your phone (relax—just for a few minutes!) on an occasion is also recommended. n  Be smart. Restrain from responding to unknown texts, calls and voicemails. Don’t click on links within texts.


ne thing we all share in common are the threats and vulnerabilities to which our smart phones are prone. Cyberhackers are pointedly focusing their efforts on the devices we tote everywhere, and we can safeguard ourselves by following the safety guidelines outlined above. Just my opinion, but it also wouldn’t hurt if we actually put the phones down once in a while and reconnected with our kids, our spouse, our dog. I’m going to check out my kids’ latest stunt video. MT April 2017 | 7

Websites & Mobile Devices:

The New Frontier Many users will probably only see the mobile version of your website. The challenge is how to make sure the website is accessible on mobile devices. by Yvon Prehn


ongratulations! You are finally happy with your website! But just when you thought you could relax, statistics like this appear:

■■ There are over 1.2 billion mobile web users worldwide ■■ In the U.S., 25 percent of mobile Web users are mobile-only (they rarely use a desktop to access the web) 8 |

■■ Mobile device sales are increasing across the board, with over 85 percent of new handsets able to access the mobile Web These statistics caused one blogger to remark, “Many users will likely only ever see the mobile version of your site. That’s an astounding revelation isn’t it?” It’s an “astounding revelation” to communicators in the church that care about reaching as many people as possible with

the gospel message as well as with updates and schedule details from the church. Depending upon the demographics of your church, the number of people only accessing the important information (that you put on your website) through their mobile device is most likely a large and probably growing part of your congregation. Our challenge is how to make certain our website is accessible on mobile devices.

Recognize your limitations Most of us do not code our websites from scratch: you’re probably using a template from one of the many fine companies that make them for churches. Perhaps someone at your church designed your website, and in the church office you are responsible to update it. We’ll talk about what you can do in a minute, but because you can’t control the underlying construction of the site, there are many aspects of mobile design you can’t do anything about. That’s a limitation you need to understand and live with. The primary thing about your website that you must make sure of (and this is something all the major companies do today) is to make certain the site is what is termed “responsive”: the site knows if it is being viewed on a desktop, tablet or phone and the content resizes to be read most effectively with that device in mind. The site responds to the device being used to view it. Not that long ago on mobile phones the website was exactly like it was on the desktop, tiny and hard to read or navigate. Now, sites are optimized for mobile phones and tablets and the material is much easier to read and the sections easier to find. If your site is built on a WordPress foundation or your designer used WordPress, this feature has been built into most sites today. If your site is not responsive, this is the first thing you must insist on

in order for your site to both have credibility and be useful to your audience. None of the suggestions below will matter if you have a tiny, shrunken version of your website on a mobile device.

Do what you can do to make your mobile site more effective ■■ Be sure you are using a template that looks good on a mobile phone. This is #1 and the most basic, but it’s especially true when you are picking out a template from a national company. Be sure you check it out on your mobile devices before you commit to it. Some templates are simply easier to read and navigate on phones and tablets than others. Some template designs look great on the desktop but are totally confusing on a mobile device. Take the time to check them out before you invest the work in personalizing one for your church. If the template you picked out doesn’t look good on mobile devices, you can usually switch templates within a company without losing any data. Start here: optimize your template choice before you do anything else.

■■ Check out the template navigation on mobile devices before you finalize template choice. Some templates are intuitive and work well, for others it is very difficult to find various ministries, or the location of the main menu can be in an odd place or very hard to find. (This is something we take

for granted when we work on our desktop computers.)

■■ Check out what your header or nameplate looks like on the mobile phone. Some seriously odd things can happen here if you try to use an old graphic of such a size that doesn’t resize well to mobile devices. If the image is cropped oddly or the name of your church isn’t clear, people will click away without trying to figure out what’s going on. If you like the rest of the template, this isn’t a major concern: you can simply redo your logo or nameplate in Canva.

■■ Understand the navigation system on mobile devices. This may be very different than the layout of your website on your desktop computer. If you display information in sidebars (that you expect people to be able to see when they first come to your site) this may not work for your mobile layout. Different templates and programs put sidebar material in different places, or in different orders! The important thing is: you need to figure out what appears on your mobile site and keep that in mind as to where you put material on the desktop version you work on. Sometimes instead of making things more difficult, the mobile template will do things more clearly than on the desktop version. For example, on my site I put small thumbnails by the articles and I always caption them. In desktop viewing they are a minor graphic element, but on the mobile version, April 2017 | 9

There are over


Design tips for effective mobile viewing

mobile web users worldwide.

the picture is centered directly below the title and the caption is below it. I had nothing to do with that design change, but I really like how it looks on mobile devices and now I can select images and captions with this in mind.

Check out all changes on the mobile version of the site after you make them on the desktop Again, you will not be directly modifying your mobile site. Whenever you make website changes on your desktop system those changes may look fine on your desktop, but what works well on your desktop may not look good (or work well) on the mobile 10 |

version, even if it is responsive. This means you must keep checking back and forth to make sure both sites look good, are readable and make sense in navigation. This can be a pain to do, but having your phone by your computer and checking out changes is essential. If you are building your site and using the Genesis framework, get the Design Palette Pro plugin. You can make changes in the look of your site (layout, type, colors, etc.) and on the side of the page are little icons that immediately let you see what it looks like on your phone or tablet. True, you can always simply resize your website, but a plugin like this will immediately give you an accurate preview.

Here are specific design suggestions, but keep in mind that your success will depend upon your specific system, and which features you can and can’t control. ■■ Think SIMPLE. This is particularly important for graphics. A gorgeous photo that looks great on your desktop monitor may turn into a muddy mess on the phone. Plus, the print overlay over the same photo may be unreadable. Graphics—and the words on them—must be super-simple in order to be useful on mobile devices. The message must be readable at small sizes. If you are designing web graphics with Canva (and I highly recommend it), shrink it down (using little slider on the bottom right of your canvas) periodically as you work to make sure your image is clear and readable at a small size. ■■ Think SMALL. For faster, more efficient sites both on your desktop and mobile versions, you want your images to be as small as possible. This can be a challenge especially for PNG images, which is the recommended graphic format for the higher resolution images on mobile devices. Though the resolution is great, PNGs are many times larger than JPEG images. The solution is to use a compression program that shrinks them down significantly. Tinypng

is a site everyone can use. It compresses both png and jpeg files. WordPress has a fantastic plugin that will do the compression for you automatically.

■■ Make links big enough for big fingers. One of the most frustrating things for mobile devices is that the links may be one tiny, underlined word and very difficult to hit exactly. If possible, use an icon or image. Even making a link in BOLD CAPS gives users a bigger target to hit quickly with their thumb. If you have a choice, stick with simple, sans serif typefaces. Don’t get fancy with your type choices, if you have a choice. Go for clean and clear. Get variation from using point size, bold and italic consistently. Arial, Avenir, Roboto or Helvetica are some recommended choices, with Open Sans and Lato being two newer ones. My website uses Lato and I love its clean, readable look.

Yvon Prehn is the founder and director of Effective Church Communications,, 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.

Church Communicator's Bookstore

Continue improving, tweaking the versions of your site Making certain that both the desktop and mobile versions of your site work well is a continuing challenge, but also a great way to be obedient to the biblical goal of “being all things to all people that we might win some” (1 Cor. 9:22). MT For more ideas on how to communicate effectively and completely no matter what tool is used to access your church information, please check out my site, Effective Church Communications.

from Yvon Prehn April 2017 | 11


How Jason Fisher “Makes Tents” —And Disciples Cornerstone Technologies: A Modern Missionary Model by Russ McGuire


arly in life Jason Fisher felt called to ministry. While in high school, his study of the Bible and church history, specifically the apostle Paul and the Moravians, inspired him to pursue tentmaking, the combination of business and missionary work. God had gifted Jason with the practical skills of an analytical mind and computer skills. While pursuing a double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Memphis, Jason found time to serve on staff with Youth for Christ and to take on software development projects to help pay for school. As demand for his software development services grew, Jason hired friends to keep up with demand. One of their projects for a local church became the EventU/ ServiceU event management platform used by churches and other organizations around the world. But in his heart, Jason wanted to be sharing the gospel overseas. He thought God was calling him to a

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closed country like Russia or China. At 25 years old, he had no idea how to make that happen. One day, as Jason walked to his car after a business appointment, he found that his car had two flat tires. There, in the parking lot, another man helped him. The man who helped him was Warren Creighton, a very successful Christian businessman who was in Memphis for a board meeting. As they worked together to resolve the tire issue, the

two men got to know each other and Jason began to understand why God had arranged the encounter. In the midst of his business success, God had saved Warren. In some respects that radical turn led to several crises in his life. Warren used his influence to begin to take the gospel to the nations and found himself in Romania in the days following Communism’s fall. His business success in the country provided an open door to the most

Jason’s study of the Bible and church history inspired him to pursue tentmaking, the combination of business and missionary work.

Illustration: Freepik

powerful men in the country. In business meetings Warren would often share his testimony, and he always opened business meetings in prayer, sometimes praying the gospel for 10 minutes or more if he felt that there were unsaved people in the room that needed to hear it. He started the Romanian National Prayer Breakfast and initiated Bible studies in the Romanian Parliament. Warren was having an impact at every level of government. Warren invited Jason to join him in Romania for a month. Bucharest’s Politehnica University was turning out thousands of talented programmers who had few opportunities to use their skills. During Jason’s visit, Warren and Jason met the dean of Computer Science at the Politehnica, Dr. Trandafir Moisa. Over dinner, they sketched out the details for a new business, Cornerstone Technologies. According to their back-ofthe-napkin math, the business would break even if there were enough work for eight programmers, and would be profitable at nine. The only issue was that Jason was engaged to be married. He shared with Warren Deuteronomy 24:5, “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.” Warren saw his point, and Jason returned to Memphis and enjoyed the bliss of marriage. Almost exactly a year later,

Warren called with the news that he had two customers ready to sign a two-year contract with Cornerstone Technologies, one needing four programmers and the other needing five. Jason and his wife packed up and moved to Romania. Providentially, as Jason was arriving, Warren’s family situation required him to leave. Jason had to step into some very large shoes, but the Romanians looked at Jason as Warren’s right hand man, and by God’s grace (but not without some stumbles) Jason grew into the role. During the dot-com boom Cornerstone employed 120 developers working for large multinational companies. When the dotcom era came to an end, Cornerstone spun off several software companies. As Jason meets with companies anywhere in the world, even in the U.S., he doesn’t hesitate to use the methods that Warren taught him to share the gospel with customers, vendors and employees.

More Than Bits and Bytes Although Cornerstone has been Jason’s tech startup with the greatest impact, it’s not his only focus. Jason completed his Masters of Divinity while overseeing one of the spin-off software companies. After leaving that business he reconstituted Cornerstone and began helping others start kingdom businesses. His LinkedIn profile lists seven other startups that he’s currently involved

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.

in as founder, co-founder, board member, or chief technology officer. Jason co-founded Highland Harvesters, an apple orchard in Ethiopia that is an encouraging example of the tentmaker model. After acquiring 150 acres of land, God amazingly provided 28,000 seedlings at the perfect stage of development (in August 2016). The orchard expects its first harvest in 2017. Already the business employs 100 people, most from unreached people groups who have been very closed to the gospel. Local evangelists have consistently been turned away from these villages. Each workday begins with prayer and scripture reading. After a few months, the workers asked if there was some way that their families and friends could come and hear these “stories.” The orchard hosted a special event and brought in a local evangelist to tell the “stories,” sharing God’s Word with the lost. April 2017 | 13

Tentmakers can have a tremendous impact on the country where they serve. As successful businessmen, they have credibility with the locals and often have access to the true leaders in the country. God can use their business success to open many doors that are closed to other missionaries.” — Jason Fisher

Six hundred people came to the event. It went so well that they invited the evangelist to come and live in their village. God is good! Jason is a modern example of God’s sovereign calling: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (Genesis 12:1-3). 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 14 |

tech check

4.17 Redesign Your Sanctuary’s Acoustics Without New Construction It’s like photoshopping live sound: “active” acoustic systems can change the audio room response to match the room (or meeting) involved. In the last few years sound engineers have developed systems that give your sound team the ability to reconfigure the room without construction by using microphones and speakers that give you command of how the room responds. Check out YouTubes from Meyer Sound or Wenger allow users to digitally reconfigure the room. n

Editor’s Note: Who can possibly keep up with all the tech options available these days? This new feature highlights tech news and new gadgets that will save you time, energy, money—and will keep you from re-inventing the wheel.

Wearable Voice Recorder Rocks Kickstarter Last month a simple hardware device called Senstone reached 500 percent of its funding goal, which indicates it’s an idea whose time has come. Senstone is a new way to create notes— five times faster and much more convenient than any smartphone app. Check out their two-minute video, and imagine how your ministry could track guests, troubleshoot tech, or capture new ideas instantly. n

1-800-SCAMMERS... Are You Calling Tech Support Or A Scammer? is an indispensible resource for keeping up to speed on all things tech. This recent article warns of one of the newest scams: “independent” customer support lines whose aim is not to fix your problem, but rather steal your money. Listen to the actual audio from recorded scam calls. n

Did Abraham Lincoln Really Say That? You’ve seen the meme, the one where Abraham Lincoln warns us about the authenticity of Internet quotes. Quote Investigator is a valuable resource in sermon research—you can check the veracity of famous quotes that are often not true! Here’s one example: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Who really said it? Mark Twain? Charles Spurgeon? Or someone else? Check it out at Quote Investigator. n April 2017 | 15

The Glory (and Risk) of Using Apps on Sunday Morning Have We Thought Through the Limits of Apps? by Jonathan Smith


t’s hard to believe it was only 10 years ago that Apple’s App Store first appeared. It seems like apps for everything have been around forever. Haven’t we been saying, “There’s an app for that” for much longer than only 10 years? Apps are what turned our cell phones into smartphones, allowing us to do so much more than just calling. While it’s cool to be able to use your phone to do everything from leveling a picture on the wall to putting a dog nose on your face, let’s not forget how productive we can be with our smartphone or tablet. It’s now a ubiquitous technology. Churches can thrive using apps for worship tech. In fact, technology has always been a critical part of worship. In the early days of church history, that “technology” may have only been limited to a pipe organ, but it was a technological marvel for its time. Churches have always been on the driving edge of sound amplification technologies. They were quick to move from overhead projectors to LCD projectors. Churches are unique because we do what we do every week (often more than once a week). We have a gig every Sunday and we depend on volunteers for operations, so we are quick to embrace technology that helps us communicate more

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effectively and utilize volunteers more efficiently. One widely used app is Planning Center Online (PCO). PCO has grown from a worship scheduling tool into a full-fledged church management system. The PCO app makes it easy for volunteers and staff alike to view orders of service, review and rehearse music, check out call and rehearsal times, keep track of service timing, and communicate with each other—all through the app. PCO is a great example of a powerful tool that can be quickly deployed to everyone who needs it. Everyone already has the hardware necessary to run it, right in his or her pocket. No need for an expensive laptop or specific desktop anymore. What a cool application of technology for the Kingdom, and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. Apps have also made it easier to manage sound, video and lighting. Most sound and lighting consoles today offer an app that allows the operator mobility in location and flexibility in operation. Now the front of house operator can roam around the room and stage with an app on a tablet making adjustments to in-ear mixes, front of house mixes, EQ, stage monitors, you name it. Many video systems also have apps for switches and matrixes. Staff and volunteers can control equipment via their phones. Now, when someone asks (usually at the last minute) if a TV input can be changed, instead of having to go back to a control room, a tech can use a phone to control the matrix

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 Saves You Time


April 2017 | 17

or change an output. Apps also provide switcher control, which in some cases can reduce costs when a second control surface is necessary. Instead of spending thousands of dollars, you can accomplish the same objective with a tablet and an app. Lighting consoles also come with apps allowing lighting techs to troubleshoot and change cues without having to shout back to the lighting console operator or use radios or other communication to get a fixture turned off or on. Now a single person can change lights and cues using an app making a level tech or focus time much more productive and requiring fewer people.

There are even apps to control graphics and lyrics. Whether you use a PC or Mac, you can remotely change slides and advance words on the screen via an app, allowing for tremendous flexibility in volunteer placement and control room layouts.

Of course, there are some important considerations when using any of these apps. First, security is important. You want to make sure your network and security protocols are set up correctly so you don’t have someone in the audience taking over your switcher or changing your lighting cues. I’ve been to many churches

where I can easily find their A/V equipment exposed on public networks. That’s a big no-no. Second, apps may not always be the solution. Apps can fail—and most church A/V and tech ministries can’t afford to fail, especially not on Sunday morning! While some apps may be great tools, it is always wise to consider if doing it the old fashioned way is going to be more reliable. Just because you can control your lyrics from an app on your phone doesn’t mean you should. What happens when the app or network connection fail? Finally, our dependence on apps means we must have a backup plan

I N T H E AT E R S A P R I L 7

D O W N L O A D E X C L U S I V E C H U R C H K I T: Including sermon series, movie clips and more!

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for when the app or service the app provides goes down. What is your backup plan if PCO is offline? What happens if your wireless network goes down and your worship team can’t access their music? Is your wireless network built with the requirements of these apps in mind (not to mention the upstream routers and firewalls)? Technology is great, but this side of heaven it is guaranteed that technology will fail: are you prepared?

There is no doubt that apps have changed the church world. Apps allow us to do so much from our phones and tablets. Apps for audio/visual applications are a just a small sampling of what’s out there. While it is cool that I can test DB levels with an app and view the EQ of a room with an app, it is always important to remember that apps don’t replace people in ministry. Apps allow us to do more with less, but it takes people to invest time in training others on how to use these apps effectively for greater ministry effectiveness. MT

Jonathan Smith is the Director of Technology at Faith Ministries in Lafayette, Indiana. You can reach Jonathan at and also follow him on Twitter @JonathanESmith.

ChMS Apps Are Changing Where (and How) We Work The Virtual Office Is Perfect for Church Staffs


here did everyone go? Thanks to mobile devices it’s no longer necessary for church staff to be tied to their office or to have to run back to the office in order to finish a task. Apps and cloud-based services make it possible for us to access anything and everything through a very common piece of technology, the smartphone. When the first ChMS systems came out they worked only on desktops or at best a laptop connected to a network in the church office. The same could be said for the first accounting systems and email systems. Does anyone even remember when email required a phone line and a modem on a desktop computer? Since the birth of the app store all of these services are now available online from anywhere. This has huge ramifications when it comes to the construction of church buildings. Is it necessary to build expensive offices for church staff to sit in daily or can that money spent on other ministry spaces now that it’s possible for church staff to be productive and effective from anywhere they choose? Our ChMS, our accounting software, our emails, even our church phone and voicemail can all be accessed via apps or websites on our phones, tablets and laptops. The coffee shop, hospital waiting room, doctor’s office, community

center, library, school, co-working studio and even the car (so long as someone else is driving!) have all become effective offices. This connectivity allows us to be more effective and serve those in our care better. Instead of working hard to connect to be productive, we have to work just as hard to disconnect to keep our priorities balanced in our lives. While it is great that we can do so much via apps on our phones, it’s also the biggest challenge. Remote workforces also create a challenge in terms of accountability. The traditional model of going into the office and punching a time clock is no longer relevant, but without it how do we ensure that God’s resources are being used wisely? How do you hold staff accountable if you rarely see them? Apps are great, smartphones are great: I love the fact that I can look up anything I need to know to help advance the mission of the church. This hyper-connectivity also requires some balance in terms of discerning when to use it and when not to use it. Remember, we will all give an account, and that includes for how we use our apps and phones. What changes have you experienced? We’d love to hear your first-hand stories (contact us here), and stay tuned to Ministry Tech’s special July issue for more on the mobile workforce. — JS April 2017 | 19

Icon Rubix Rebuilt ChMS From the Ground Up Beyond Managing Members and Money | Icon Systems’ new Icon Rubix church software lets your team work in real time. I’ve been reviewing Church Management Software (ChMS) for three decades, and I can tell you one of the most important attributes of a good ChMS is the ability to evolve and grow with the needs of their user base. Recently I interviewed Bill

great ChMS companies, Icon Systems was born because Robert (Bob) Gifford, Bill’s father, started Icon after speaking with the pastor and staff at his church and then stepped up to create a church management software program—back in 1992. From their first ChMS offerings, created to run on Windows and Macintosh, they have moved to a

By using the latest technology, Icon Systems makes it easier to manage your church so you have more time to spend on what really matters—your mission. Gifford at Icon Systems and learned a lot about their history and previous versions, but when I asked Bill to share the biggest challenge he has seen over the years, Bill’s response was, “Trying to accommodate the variety of requests we get from users. The specific needs of pastors, staff and volunteers vary from church to church. We do our best to cater to a wide range of needs.” Bill Gifford, CEO at Icon Systems, knows how to respond to the marketplace, as they have been producing ChMS for 25 years. Like most of the 20 |

fully cloud-based product, excelled in their fund accounting module, handled communication tools, and connection features (such as their online pictorial directory). When I asked Bill about Icon System’s mission and goal he stated, “We make it easier to manage your church so you have more time to spend on what really matters—your mission. We do this by using the latest technology to make high quality church management software and offering it at an affordable price. Efficiently

by Steve Hewitt

managing thousands of databases and racks of servers round the clock is critical to providing a stable product that churches can afford.” Now, Icon Systems has announced their latest achievement. They have announced Icon Rubix. Why did they call their new service Icon Rubix? This new product resembles a multidimensional puzzle. They wanted a product that was built from the ground up, not merely adding to old code. They wanted a product that was designed for mobile computing, first with complete desktop compatibility. Here’s what I found compelling in their new offering:

Real-Time Collaboration The real power of Icon Rubix is its ability to provide real-time collaboration. Real-time collaborative editing (like Google Docs) comes standard in Icon Rubix, so many staff members and volunteers can collect valuable data simultaneously. Real-time collaboration also enables an unparalleled user experience: everything is automatically saved, all information is immediately up-to-date, and you can easily switch between devices without missing a beat.

Keeping Track of Children Nearly every church requires a child check-in feature. Staff and members can use their smart phones or tablets, and Icon Rubix will work with any device that has an Internet connection. Icon Rubix check-in does not need printers or other hardware: it uses pictures of guardians to ensure children’s safety. This way volunteers can quickly verify the appropriate adult for each child when it is time for the child to be picked up.

Small Group Management Since small groups have become vital to growing churches, Icon Rubix is designed to help groups stay connected and provide communication tools to the group’s members. Group leaders can send emails to each group or individuals. (In addition, the pastor can initiate phone calls while viewing any individual’s records.) Icon Systems has big plans for Icon Rubix. They’ve also shared with me several new features that are in the works. Probably the next feature will be a pastoral connection module that will provide triggers to the product. When something occurs the pastor will be instantly notified on their smartphone and a workflow will be created based on those triggers. It’s obvious that ChMS needs to do more than just provide data on members’ information. It has become vital for ChMS to provide communication and connection tools for both staff and members. It seems apparent that

as our society has moved to mobile computing, ChMS needs to access this same platform. Icon Rubix is a great achievement and should be an important consideration for churches looking for a new ChMS.

Additionally, here are some other important things to know about Icon Systems. All customer training is done online via webinars. And when I asked Bill to tell me what makes Icon Systems unique, it wasn’t a specific feature. His response was, “Ironically, the thing our customers love most isn’t a feature in our software: it’s

our customer support. They really appreciate being able to send an email and get a reply back the same day or pick up the phone and talk to another human being who can answer their question.” In preparing for this review, I spent some time talking with the staff of several churches that use Icon Systems. Users have given great ratings when it came to customer service: an important thing to know if you are considering switching ChMS systems. MT For more information about Icon Systems and Icon Rubix, visit

April 2017 | 21

The Good, The Bad and The Caution by Nick Nicholaou


icrosoft’s O365 has many features that interest churches and ministries— especially because of the generous charity license Microsoft provides. Some aspects of O365 are good, but we found enough problems with their hosted email service that it’s worth posting an “Enter at Your Own Risk” sign.

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O365’S CHARITY LICENSE Microsoft is willing to give to nearly any nonprofit a license to use their hosted O365 solutions and services for free. The only exception we’ve experienced is for pregnancy centers and clinics;

Microsoft has been unwilling to extend the charity to license their way. Microsoft, in its desire to be as inclusive as possible, recently modified some language in their application process to give comfort to religious organizations that legally discriminate in their hiring and employment practices. That is worthy of our appreciation!

more than learn Microsoft was

O365 HOSTED EMAIL SERVICE My firm is a Microsoft Cloud Partner. We have many clients using various aspects of O365, and we think some of those aspects make great sense. Because many churches and ministries turn to us for recommendations, we test solutions as carefully and as thoroughly as possible. So, we moved our Exchange server into Microsoft’s hosted email server solution to see how it performed; we expected it to do at least as well as Microsoft Exchange. What we experienced, however, was very disappointing. Here are the details:


Email often stopped moving. We saw times during

which no email would move; the longest of which was about three hours. The stoppage was not always to our entire domain ( but was sometimes just one person in the domain. As a Microsoft Cloud Partner, we can look at what’s happening when there’s a support need and try to resolve it, but the most we could ever determine was that Microsoft was aware of email flow stoppage and was working to resolve it. We could never learn anything more specific than that, nor were we allowed to resolve it. I’ve spoken with other Microsoft Cloud Partners and they have seen this, too. Like us, they also found they could do nothing

aware of it. 


We started getting a lot of SPAM. Microsoft has SPAM

protocols protecting its hosted email servers, but a much higher amount got through than we were used to when using our Barracuda SPAM Filter with our Exchange Server. Our first conclusion after talking with Microsoft about this issue was to start using our Barracuda SPAM Filter again with their hosted email server. Doing so prevented a lot of the SPAM that had been getting


Data started disappearing. I use Outlook for more

than just email. I rely heavily on Outlook’s calendar and task management functions; in fact, the calendar is a part of my income tax documentation for mileage logs and business-related expenses. I was shocked when about six months of my recent calendar data disappeared! Then I noticed my tasks were randomly disappearing, causing me to miss fulfilling promises I had made to clients and publishers. We contacted Microsoft, and that led to the fourth issue. 

Microsoft’s O365 has many good features, but their hosted email service is not ready for enterprise users. though, but we continued to get a lot of obvious and potentially dangerous SPAM. Further analysis determined that it was being generated by other users of O365 hosted email servers. After talking with Microsoft about this, we concluded they didn’t have a way to stop SPAM that was generated from within their email ecosystem, perhaps because it was sourced behind their SPAM protection solution. 


Microsoft does not back up its hosted email servers. There was

no way to recover data that has disappeared. If I had deleted the data, it could be undeleted within a reasonable period, but because it just disappeared, there was no way to undelete or recover it. Apparently, they decided their email ecosystem had so much redundancy that it didn’t need backups! 
 In fairness to Microsoft, it’s appropriate to say the experience we had is not typical. I was talking April 2017 | 23

with an IT engineering colleague about that, and told him sometimes the Lord uses us in this way to help protect The Church. As a small firm, we are often amazed at how He uses us to uncover hardware and software system weaknesses and then gives us the opportunity to help the solution provider resolve those weaknesses. We’ve done that with Microsoft many times over the years, but on this issue Microsoft told us they had no interest in working with us to identify the cause of the O365 email server issues and fix them.

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OUR CONCLUSION & RECOMMENDATION Microsoft’s O365 has many good features, but their hosted email service is not ready for enterprise users. I told our engineering team that if any of the Exchange servers we set up for our clients were as unreliable as the O365 email server, our clients would fire us! And appropriately so! So, we moved our data back into an Exchange Server, where we once again enjoy stability without an onslaught of SPAM. 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

Let Your Children’s Check-in Software Demonstrate Your Care High Tech and High Touch

In a survey by Children’s Ministry magazine, children’s programs ranked one-third in families’ decisions to attend a church, only marginally behind “the church’s emphases” and the pastor’s preaching, and two-thirds ranked the children’s ministry as “very important” in their search for a church home. So how do you make a strong first impression on parents? It starts outside the Sunday School room, with an electronic children’s check-in system. The combination of friendly registrar and fail-safe

technology lets parents know that you’re as serious as they are about both nurturing and protecting their children. Choosing from all the check-in tools that are available can be April 2017 | 25

With the right features, the safe check-in process to your children’s ministry becomes a ministry all its own, demonstrating the kind of welcome that Christ himself gave to children. overwhelming, but there are a few features that are especially helpful in setting parents at ease. Here’s what to look for in your child check-in system:

Support for multiple check-in stations No parent wants to miss the first few minutes of the service because of bottlenecked lines, or worse, stand in a sea of impatient kids like a playground climbing pole. Multiple stations allow for a more orderly and calm check-in, as well as personalized attention from an unhurried greeter.

Barcode or RFID scanners It’s true. For decades, we made do with handwritten sign-in sheets, or smiled and waved as teachers released our kids while we were still yards away. But no first-time parent is going to be reassured to see kids zooming out from the room in all directions. Even a system where 26 |

kids and parents have labels with matching numbers requires a visual check to ensure safety—a check dependent on a teacher who’s likely just starting to relax after a busy, noisy hour. You can skip the human error altogether with a simple swipe of a badge. This checkout makes a record of which guardian picked up the child and (for the church’s protection) logs the precise time the child left the church’s care.

Recognition of each child’s needs The best check-in systems make it easy for registrars to see any special needs a child has, from food allergies to care instructions to custody concerns. (Bonus points when this information gets reproduced on a class list that’s available to teachers as soon as the lesson starts.) For example, this video from Seraphim Software gives you an idea of a clear display that puts the important facts front and center. Show parents how

visible this is to the adults they’re entrusting with their child, and it will provide added reassurance that their child’s needs will be met.

Integration with church-wide systems When your child check-in is working with your audiovisual display, it can be a powerful way to minister to parents. A ticker tape crawl at the bottom of your slide presentation can alert parents to a fussy baby or child who needs their attention—and minimize peeks into the classroom by anxious parents. A strong child check-in system can also be used as an outreach tool. With whatever contact info a parent provided, you can open a parent record in your church management software (ChMS) and follow up with the family after the service, asking for feedback and inviting them to learn more about the church. Keep in mind that, for the sake of time and families’ privacy concerns, it’s important not to require too much personal information at the child check-in station. Parents understand that a cell phone number will be important to reach them in an emergency, but may be less interested in providing a home address. Collect just enough data to be supportive, not invasive.

Portability Sunday services aren’t the only time you need a child check-in system. Invest in one that you can load on a laptop or tablet to record attendance at youth outings, field trips and other special events.

Volunteer qualifications Your software can even assist with the human element of your children’s ministry. With an integrated child check-in and ChMS, you can build volunteer profiles that capture any qualifications you need. These can include background checks, ministry experience, CPR certification, personality assessments, completion of in-house training, even personal hobbies and interests. (Your next youth expedition might need an experienced hiker and climber, and someone who loves to bake may be willing to help with a fundraiser!) Ministry leaders can filter from a qualified and enthusiastic volunteer pool to help fill roles in teaching, assisting and registering children.

For safe child check-in, my church uses Seraphim

Fills in the blanks

Safe Check-in

Member Management Ministry Planner

With the right features, the safe check-in process to your children’s ministry becomes a ministry all its own, demonstrating the kind of welcome that Christ himself gave to children. When we see children as the unique, precious creations they are and treat their parents’ protective instincts with respect, not only will your congregation grow and thrive, but so will the church at large. According to Children’s Ministry Online nearly 85 percent of American conversions to Christ happen between the ages of 4 and 14. In true kingdom logic, the least shall be greatest, and our smallest interactions—taking just a few moments to greet a parent and usher their child into a classroom—hold eternal significance. MT

Giving Tools Reporting & Analytics The Church App

April 2017 | 27


Tech Mistakes

That Make First-Time Visitors Cringe


f you want your church to grow, it’s important to make a good first impression. This means that you need to become vigilant about some of the little distracting idiosyncrasies that we tend to write off when we think, “It’s not a big deal. It’s only us here.” Here’s a list of some tech issues that can become barriers for firsttime visitors:



The 21st-century version of the dreaded missionary slide-projector show is the PowerPoint slideshow. Because someone took a whole bunch of pictures, there’s often a felt need to create a slideshow out of them and show them at church. Too often this takes something that could be a great blessing and makes it a curse. It’s bad enough if there isn’t any thought to what kind of images are used—no one needs to see random pictures of grass or concrete. But when you make it the length of an entire song (or include a bunch of strange PowerPoint animation), it becomes something to be endured.

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Think about first-time visitors: they don’t have any background or know anyone in the pictures. If you can’t create a slideshow that is meaningful to someone who’s never been there before, it’s best to put it on Facebook.



There’s no way around it; typos are going to make their way into your presentation. We’ll probably never reach a point where they are completely eradicated. But that’s no reason to excuse laziness! We need to be ever watchful in weeding them out. If they occur too often, they’ll definitely give your presentation a black eye. Pastors often spend so much time putting the sermon together, and then put together the presentation at the end. Because of that, it’s easy not to give the presentation the kind of scrutiny it deserves. Make sure you leave time to read through your presentation aloud before you send it off to the tech person.


Bad Presentation Syncing Your presentation is created

to accompany and accent the service elements. It’s pretty important that everything is planned well and communicated among all the players. I have been in too many churches where the person running the presentation isn’t really paying attention and song lyrics are coming in late or the pastor is mentioning slides that never show up. For the pastor, it’s important that you make it clear where the presentation should be advancing (or better yet: just manage it yourself). It’s also hard on visitors when you’re communicating to someone in the booth when they should be advancing to the next slide. Another related problem is missing slides. It can be a real jolt when you forget to include a slide that’s supposed to be there. Of course, this is a mistake that can happen to anyone, but check and re-check your sermon against the presentation to make sure it doesn’t!


Telling people to turn their phones off

Believe it or not, a lot of people are using their mobile devices to stay

attentive to your messages. They’re using a Bible app or, like me, they’re taking notes or tweeting thoughts from the message. You want this. Sure, there are people who are idly scrolling through Facebook while you’re talking, but they’re generally people who wouldn’t be paying attention anyway. Yes: ask people to turn their phones down, but don’t tell them to turn them off. Also, encourage this use of mobile computing by making it easy for visitors to get on the Wi-Fi. Don’t lock it down behind a password that no one can find.


No digital giving solution

Is Growing Your Church Too Fast Unhealthy? Free Ebook:

People without context don’t understand the passing the plate thing, but they do understand giving generously. You want to make it as easy as possible to do so. Make sure they have a quick, secure and simple method like eChurchGiving’s Pushpay to give. If you have your own church app, that’s even better. Because after they give, they can stay connected to your church after they’ve left by watching your sermons, reading your blogs or listening to your podcasts—this can help encourage their return. eChurch’s Total Engagement Package is an example of a customizable church app that comes bundled with Pushpay’s giving software.

Get ready for your visitors Making visitors feel welcome is about learning to see things through their eyes. It can be a hard discipline to learn, but once you do it can revolutionize your ministry. If you want to become an expert at laying out the red carpet to your first-timers, download a free copy of the First-Time Visitor Checklist. MT


April 2017 | 29


You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. ~ Psalm 32:7 (NIV) Photo: Ashim D’Silva,

Ministry Tech Magazine - April 2017  
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