Founder & Editor-in-Chief Steve Hewitt - email@example.com VP of Operations Michael Hewitt - firstname.lastname@example.org
Applying Tomorrow’s Technology to Today’s Ministry Volume 22
5 cover story
2010 Is the Year of the Webinar
Contributing Editors Dr. J.D. “Doc” Watson Terry Wilhite Yvon Prehn Nick Nicholaou Kevin A. Purcell C. Brian Smith Russ McGuire Drew Goodmanson Bradley Miller Michael Curylo Copy Editor Gina Hewitt
by Steve Hewitt
Corporate Home Office
3 editorial 2010 Is Going to be a GREAT Year!
Steve Hewitt - email@example.com
4 Press Releases 9 ACS ideas to impact
© Copyright 2010 by Christian Computing®, Inc.
Effectively Integrating the Church Web Site and Church Management System
from ACS Technologies
11 tech talk Cool Utilities 9
Dr. J.D. (Doc) Watson - firstname.lastname@example.org
14 higher power with kevin WORDsearch 9
Kevin A. Purcell - email@example.com
20 nick at church Techno Tools for Ministry
22 big ministry - small resources
Nick Nicholaou - firstname.lastname@example.org
Big Ministry, Small Budget
25 the mobility revolution
Bradley Miller - email@example.com
Beyond the Phone
By Russ McGuire
28 church web strategy Church Website Search Engine Optimization, a Church SEO Primer
32 ministry communication
Mailing address: PO Box 319 Belton MO 64012 Delivery address: 311 Manor Dr. Belton, MO 64012 Phone: (816) 331-8142 FAX: 800-456-1868
Drew Goodmanson - firstname.lastname@example.org
Timeless Design and Communication Principles Reminders
All Rights Reserved
Christian Computing® is a registered trademark of Christian Computing, Inc. Written materials submitted to Christian Computing® Magazine become the property of Christian Computing®, Inc. upon receipt and may not necessarily be returned. Christian Computing® 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 Christian Computing®, Inc. Views expressed in the articles and reviews printed within are not necessarily the views of the editor, publisher, or employees of Christian Computing® Magazine, or Christian Computing, Inc.
Yvon Prehn - email@example.com
Articles that are highlighed are provided by our partners www.ccmag2.com/2007_03/2007_03editorial.pdf
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2010 Is Going to be a GREAT Year! Steve Hewitt - firstname.lastname@example.org
always like the start of a new year, and this one is looking great. We have some exciting things planned to expand our ministry here at Christian Computing, and while some things are scheduled for later this year, and are too far out for me to talk about them yet (sorry), in the very near future three cool things will be happening! First, the book I have been asked to write for Thomas Nelson should be in stores sometime soon. The title is Windows PC’s in Ministry. I will wait patiently for them to get it off of their presses and into stores, but hopefully by next month I will be able to tell you more about it! Second, we announced we were working on a new iPhone app. We are VERY close to it being ready to post up in the iTunes store. We have made some last minute changes which moved the release date back a bit, but might also be available by next month! Third, as you will see from the cover story, we are going to start offering some cool Webinars, starting with one on Windows 7. Some will cover popular subjects, such as an occasional one on “What’s Hot and What’s Coming”, while others will provide us all with a closer look at the people and purpose of some of the companies that provide us great Christian computer products and services. More is coming later in the year, so keep watching and reading CCMag each month. It is Christian Computing® Magazine
our goal to expand our ministry of helping you better use technology to enhance and expand YOUR ministry! May the year be a blessing to all of us that seek to follow Him and His will! Come Hear Me Speak If you have the chance and are in the area, come meet me and attend one of my upcoming sessions. I will be speaking at the 2010 Texas Ministry Conference, Feb 18, in Houston Texas. www.churchco-op.org/conference Or, I hope to see some of you when I provide the keynote and a session or two on Feb 25, at Villanova University for their Center for the Study of Church Management. Together We Serve Him,
Press Releases Shelby Systems announced that Mike Gold will join the company CORDOVA, TN – On January 15, 2010, Shelby Systems announced that Mike Gold will join the company as Director of Technology Development. Shelby Systems is pleased to announce that Mike Gold, the former Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois, will join the Shelby Systems team as the Director of Technology Development. Gold will report directly to CEO Frank Canady. The current Director of Technology Development, Steve Pruitt, will transition to Director of Customer Services, spearheading efforts of an increased focus on serving customers. These changes become effective on March 29, 2010. “We are very pleased to bring Mike on board,” Canady said. “His experience and extensive network within the church community will be invaluable as Shelby Systems looks to continue our long heritage of building innovative software. Mike will be a key player as we continue our mission of providing faithbased organizations with technology solutions to optimize their ministries.” Gold has served in technology roles at Willow Creek since 1996. In his most recent position of CIO, he led all aspects of computer and telecommunication technology. Under his leadership of 20 staff members and 70 volunteers, the technology department was responsible for creating long term strategy for technology innovation, technical support, infrastructure and software development. Gold earned his BA from Trinity International University. “I am extremely humbled by the opportunities that have been laid out before me at Shelby Systems”, Mike Gold said. “I believe that the tasks set before us are Christian Computing® Magazine
enormous, but very exciting. I will strive to bring a ‘can-do’ spirit and continuously and passionately look to drive innovation.” The addition of Mike Gold is a testament to Shelby Systems’ commitment to its customers and to continual improvement. In his new role, Gold will establish the company’s technical vision and lead all aspects of the company’s technological development. His department’s core responsibilities will include programming, quality assurance, customer conversions, and information technology. Gold will focus both on enhancements to existing products as well as the introduction of new product lines to meet the needs of churches and non-profit organizations. “I come ready to roll up my sleeves and serve, and I sincerely pray that our every effort will bring humble service to faith communities all over the world,” said Gold. The 2010 Church IT RoundTable will be hosted at Saddleback Church in LakeForest California on March 11-12th On March 11-12, 2010 Church/Ministry IT staff and volunteers from across the country will descend upon Saddleback Church in warm sunny Lake Forest California to partake in 2 days of invaluable peer learning, networking and inspiration. Regardless of your church/ org size, you’ll leave with new knowledge, new friendships and loads of inspiration. The cost will be below $100. More details can be found at http://citrt.org … hope to see you there! Questions? Leave a comment or email email@example.com
2010 Is the Year of the Webinar
by Steve Hewitt
ome of you have probably already seen the term Webinar, or have participated in one in 2009. However, if you have not thought about using Webinars for your own church or ministry, this is the year to give it some consideration. Webinars are the virtual way to have an online meeting, event or presentation. The term Webinar comes from “Web Seminar” and provides a presenter or multiple presenters the opportunity to share information with a larger audience who view and listen to the presentation via the Internet. The event can be live with the opportunity for the presenters to poll the audience, and can allow for Q&A time by allowing attendees to ask questions via a chat window. And, since the information presented in a Webinar is not normally dependant on being live, the Webinar can be recorded; giving participants who were not able to make the live event the opportunity to view it at a later date. My introduction to Webinars came last year. After watching several of them on the Internet, I was impressed with the online presentation abilities. However, it wasn’t until I was asked to participate in a “What’s Hot and What’s Not” Webinar, sponsored by CLA (Christian Leadership Alliance). I had presented at a live seminar along with Nick Nicholaou and Clarence White last year at the national CLA event. As a follow-up, CLA asked us to do the seminar as a one-hour Webinar, in Sept of 2009. One of the things I found interesting…I believe we had a greater number of people and ministry organizations that attended the Webinar version of the session in Sept, than those that attended the live event at CLA last April in Atlanta! Christian Computing® Magazine
Many different Webinar services entered the marketplace last year. However, for my purposes the one I decided to use is offered through www.gotomywebinar.com . You might recognize the name if you have ever used this company’s (Citrix) other services such as www.gotomypc.com or www.gotomymeeting. com . I gave them a try because I have grown to trust the reliability of the company from their other services, and because they allow you to use their service for one month, free of charge. This will give you the chance to set up a Webinar, give it a try, and see for yourself if holding a Webinar is something that works for you and your audience. If you like the results and want to continue their service holding Webinars with up to 1,000 attendees, the cost is just $100 a month. I also like this service best because it is designed to allow for multiple presenters to work together, live, over the telephone, to provide a session or presentation. We plan to offer many Webinars throughout this year, some with our writers, others with sponsors and a few with some special guests. So, as I describe the options, features and opportunities of holding a Webinar, I will be basing it on the services provided by Citrix through their www. gotomywebinar.com service. You can get set up in January 2010
minutes on their site, and, while the program is pretty easy to figure out without going through their tutorials, they provide great instructions, demos, etc. To hold your own Webinar, there are three basic steps. First, schedule your Webinar. The service will walk you through all of the aspects of setting up your first Webinar, including how many presenters will be a part of the session, who they are, etc. You simply fill in your title, graphics, logos, pictures of presenters (if you have them available), etc., and follow their screen-by-screen instructions. When you have your Webinar set up, the second step is to send out your invitations. And, the service walks you through this process. They provide you with a cut-and-paste text with hyperlinks for you to include in a broadcast email. The information could just as easily be posted to a Web site if you are wishing to open it up to the general public. Since, in step one, you included your presenters contact information, the service automatically sends them an email with instructions on how to log in and join you in the presentation for your Webinar. For those receiving an invitation, they are required to pre-register. You get to determine what information you wish to retain. Name and email address are basic and required. However, if you want additional information about attendees, such as the church or ministry they represent, you would receive this information from their registration. After they register, attendees will receive a confirmation, and if you wish, a reminder email minutes before the Webinar will actually start. During step one, when you were scheduling your Webinar and entering the title, graphics, logo, etc., you were given several options for the opening splash Christian Computing速 Magazine
screen. This is what attendees and offsite presenters see before the Webinar starts and everyone has the ability to see your presentation. Step three is to actually hold your Webinar. If you are familiar with programs such as GoToMyMeeting or GoToMyPC, you will easily understand this part of the service. Basically, you click GO when you are ready for people to see the contents of your computer. In most cases, attendees will be watching a PowerPoint January 2010
presentation while listening to the Webinar. However, there is little limit to what you can actually offer, since any program you wish to run from your computer is what your attendees will be watching, so this can include video, pictures, documents, etc. Before you actually launch your Webinar, you will be able to call into the service and confirm that your other presenters are also online and ready to go. The service gives you several options for control over the content of the Webinar. If you are doing the talking, you can assign someone else to manage the actual Webinar, moving the slides forward while the presentation is going on, etc. Or, you can even allow your other presenters to have control of your computer, allowing them to advance slides themselves from their offsite computer. When you start, you turn on the sound so your attendees, either listening by phone, or via VOIP, can hear the discussion between you and your other presenters. You can also start the process of recording the Webinar, allowing you to post it at a later date for people to enjoy. There are several different chat options that are available during your Webinar. You and your fellow Christian Computing® Magazine
presenters will discover you have a chat window for your private communications that can take place during the Webinar. In addition, attendees will have the ability to post chat questions. These are not seen by other attendees, but by the person hosting the Webinar. You can let your attendees know that they can use this feature to ask questions. I find it best if those presenting are not distracted by questions during the main portion of the presentation, but the host can moderate the chat questions and present the best for the other presenters to answer at the end portion of the Webinar. I’ve mentioned just some of the basics of what the service has to offer. I plan to use some of the other features in future Webinars. For example, you can prepare a poll in advance, present it during the Webinar and allow attendees to respond. You also have the ability to turn on the “raise your hand” feature during the Webinar. For example, if you wanted to know how many first time visitors are attending your Webinar, you could allow them the option to click on the “raise your hand” option and you would see an immediate number and the percentage of your attendees responding. When your Webinar is over, GoToMyWebinar. com is not finished. It sends out an email to all of those January 2010
You might want to prepare a Webinar on the attending, giving them the opportunity to rate the Weimportance of getting involved in a small group, and binar and send you any comments. It can also present include information on how to get connected. While the you with a report on who attended, how long attendees live Webinar will be helpful to many the first time you stayed, etc. hold it, unless the content changes, you can then post The potential for ministry should be obvious! it, and know it will be useful for many months in the fuChurches are always seeking opportunities to proture. Even when vide training, people view a instruction and Webinar that presentations. UPCOMING Webinar - Watch your email or check our has already been However, it is Web site (www.ccmag.com) for upcoming Webinars. A recorded, you getting harder Webinar on â€œWindows 7 - Get It, or Forget Itâ€? is coming can still retain and harder for on Feb 9th with Nick Nicholaou (Ministry Business Sermany churches their registration vices) and Jason Powell (IT Director at Granger Commuinformation, and to entice people nity Church) and Steve Hewitt (Editor-in-Chief Christian if they have questo drive up to a Computing Magazine). tions, they can church building still ask and their for the training question directly opportunities. emailed to the appropriate person assigned to answering Set up a Webinar and people can gain the information, questions for that specific Webinar. training or instructions right from the comfort of their I hope you will give Webinars a chance in your own homes. This could be especially helpful for presen- tations that are repeated over and over again. Now, you church and ministry this year. And, if you do, I would love to hear what you did, and have the opportunity to can hold the Webinar once, and then, until the content view some of them personally! needs to be changed, it can be ready for new attendees to watch anytime, any day.
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ACS ideas to impact
Effectively Integrating The Church Web Site and Church Management System
from ACS Technologies
ne of the newer movements among churches is to combine the data in the church management system (ChMS) with information on the church Web site to provide a more personal experience to site visitors.
Effectively Integrating The Church Web Site and Church Management System One of the newer movements among churches is to combine the data in the church management system (ChMS) with information on the church Web site to provide a more personal experience to site visitors. By creating login areas on the site that tie in to the ChMS database, churches can begin to cater specific information to individual people without additional setup. This article, excerpted from the ACS Technologies ministry guide Developing An Effective Web Strategy, offers suggestions for creative ways to effectively integrate the church Web site and ChMS. Content Management Systems & Church Management Systems Ideally, the same software company will build the ChMS and content-management system (CMS), with one user interface spanning both systems. The two systems should be indistinguishable behind the scenes. Thus, the church’s Web site should be able to search available member records and then display unique content based on who is logged in. For example, the singles small group is not interested in senior joy club events, so the content can be flagged to display only to the joy club members. With a CMS that works closely with the ChMS, the Web site can search all member records within the database to identify who is in the joy group and display information only to them. This type of setup is good to consider because it not only improves Web site functionality and appeal, Christian Computing® Magazine
but it reduces time and labor by allowing staff to update information stored in multiple places with a single data entry. These systems are easy to use, and the cost and hassle of switching to an integrated CMS/ChMS when the church is ready to do so is greatly reduced. Ministry Integration From small groups and events to volunteers, outreach, and online giving, the possibilities are virtually endless for ChMS and Web site integration. • Small Groups If small group membership is recorded in the ChMS, staff members know who is involved with each small group in the church. This information can then be used to set up a secure Web page for each group. Under this setup, each page searches the ChMS records to identify members of that particular group and then assigns access privileges exclusively to them. • Event Registration When Vacation Bible School or other activities take place, the church can set up information about the events in the database, and place a link on the Web site that allows users to log in and sign up. Because the ChMS already has their name, address, and phone records, members avoid filling out personal information forms. • Volunteer Management By posting serving opportunities on the Web site January 2010
after setting them up inside the database, members can bypass filling out unnecessary forms and the need to rewrite the church’s volunteer needs on the Web site is eliminated. • Outreach Part of the beauty of having a Web presence is that people can be reached that would not have known the church existed otherwise. Therefore, on login pages, visitors can fill out specific forms to show they are interested in participating in a certain ministry area. Once they hit Submit, their personal information is automatically added to the ChMS database, and follow-up can begin. • Online Giving A great step for the church is to allow members to contribute or tithe online. The convenient thing about having the ChMS tied to the Web site is that, in addition to allowing users to pay gifts online, the contributions page recognizes the person’s identity, how much they have given in the past, and what their remaining pledge balance is for their records. It is like online banking for the church. Put it All Together The Web offers infinite ways to benefit organizations in fulfilling their ministry goals. For more insights into planning and prioritizing online needs, download the ACS Technologies ministry guide Developing An Effective Web Strategy. About ACS Technologies ACS Technologies (acstechnologies.com) is the leading provider of information management solutions to nearly 50,000 faith-based organizations with focused development and service efforts in six key areas: megachurches, medium/large churches, small churches, denominational organizations, schools, and the Catholic market. With leading brands, ACS, PDS, Membership Plus, and Headmaster, ACS Technologies enables churches to manage every vital area of their ministry including finances, relationships, events, small groups, giving, and serving. Whether online or offline, the passion that drives ACS Technologies is maximizing technology’s value for ministry.
Christian Computing® Magazine
Cool Utilities 9 Dr. J.D. (Doc) Watson - firstname.lastname@example.org
n this installment of our on-going series, I share with you three little programs that I think will be helpful: the best little duplicate file finder I’ve ever seen, a slick little file splitter for those huge files you need to chop up for e-mailing, and another excellent and easy to use backup program. Best of all, everything is free!
Auslogics Duplicate File Finder Our first little gem was brought to my attention by reader Alex Volkman and, as I said, is the best duplicate file locator I’ve seen. My first hard drive was 20 megs (that’s right, megs, not gigs). I learned early that good file management was essential with such limited space. With today’s unbelievable storage space, we don’t think much about duplicate files, but they are still a problem not only because of the space they waste but also because they can slow down your system. As I have written in this column before, there is a hard disk corollary to Murphy’s Law: However large your hard disk, you’ll always fill it. And duplicates are one reason for this. It’s truly amazing how many files are actually duplicated on our hard disks. Pictures are often downloaded more than once, songs or sermon files are copied to different folders, and so forth. Most users will be amazed at what they discover when they run this utility. I knew I’d find some duplicates,
but I wasn’t prepared for the total. This utility could not be easier to use. When it starts, just select the drive(s) and/or folder(s) you want to
Fig. 1 –Auslogics Duplicate File Finder’s search criteria.
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scan and click “Next.” The next window displays the real heart of this utility (Fig. 1). Here you specify your Search Criteria. You can search for files with identical name, size, time, and date they were modified. It also has an MD5 search engine. In cryptography, MD5 (Message-Digest algorithm #5) is an algorithm (hash function) used for file signature schemes. This utility’s engine, therefore, enables you to find duplicates by content of the files. This is helpful, for example, when two identical MP3 tracks or video files have different names. You can also use a filter to search for duplicates only among specific file types, such as images, video files, archives, audio files, and applications. Once you select your criteria, click “Scan.” Figure 2 displays the result of a scan Fig. 3 – HJ-Split enables you to on one of my machines. I did not expect a 156 split large files into user defined size duplicate files consuming of 515 megs of space! chunks. (BTW, the shading is just a separator.) To be sure of their content before you delete files, you can wanted and send each separately to the publisher, who could double-click on them to open them in their appropriate appli- have then joined them back together. The program consists cation (right-click on a file for other options). Finally, select of a single executable (.EXE), so it’s portable and fast. Figure any files you want to ax and then click “Delete.” Download 3 displays the “Split” option, where you specify the “Input” this great free utility at: www.auslogics.com/en/software/ folder and file and the “Output” folder. Each chunk of the duplicate-file-finder/. You’ll be glad you did. resulting split file has a suffix of .001, .002, etc. The “Join” option is then used to put humpty-dumpty back together HJ-Split again. A very cool feature is its cross-platform capability. Here’s a handy little program I wish I would’ve All versions (Windows, Linux, Mac, Amiga) are compathad recently when I sent a book manuscript to my publisher. ible with each other and enable you to exchange files beBecause of its size, I couldn’t e-mail it. This utility would tween these different platforms. There is also a Java version have enabled me to split the file into whatever size chunks I that runs on any computer that has a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) installed, so you can run Java versions on Windows, Mac, Unix (Linux, FreeBSD, etc.), AS/400, Palm OS, Psion, etc. You can download this program from www.freebyte.com/hjsplit/.
Fig. 2 – Sample result of using Duplicate File Finder.
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Freebyte Backup While you’re on the above website, you might want to just take a look at another one of their utilities. I did and was glad. Some time back I shared a couple of free backup utilities, but I found another one here that I liked even better. If you’re not totally sanguine with the one you’re using, take at look at Freebyte Backup (www. freebyte.com/fbbackup/). It’s one of the easiest to use that I’ve seen. Figure 4 displays the result of clicking the “Add” button, which then enables you to easily select directories for backup. Using the “Filter” tab, you can filter files to backup according to January 2010
file-extensions, such as backing-up all .doc, .rtf, .jpg, and .bmp files, but no .exe, .dll or .txt files. The “Only back up files changed after” copies only files changed after the specified date/time. This option can be used in conjunction with the “Incremental backup” tab options, which you can access on the “Profile Settings” tab. The “Incremental backup” option here copies only files that have changed or been created since the last backup. The “Action” tab enables you to see what’s going on during the backup, displaying each file name as it’s being copied, totals for the number of files found and copied, and so forth. The “Reports” tab enables you to generate a listing of all files that were found and specifies whether the file was copied, skipped, or failed to copy because of outside reasons, as well as each file’s size, date, source, and location. Optionally, to save time, you can specify that this report be generated while the backup is going on by selecting the “Show report during backup” on the “Profile Settings” tab. Also note the “Profile” option on the menu, which you can use to save this layout for reuse. By using Freebyte’s Task Scheduler, which you can download separately (http://www.freebyte. com/fbtaskscheduler/), you can schedule backups to run automatically using command-line parameters. This is also easy to use. Using the following command in the Scheduler, for example, the backup program will start, perform a backup based on the specified profile, and then close: fbbackup.exe -s <profile filename>. Even though the backup program is very easy to figure out, you might want the Help file. Here’s the direct link to the manual: www.freebytesoftware.com/ download/fbbackup_manual.exe. After the download, just copy this .exe into the same directory as the program (probably c:\Program Files\FBBackup3), and then access it with the “Help > Manual” command. Finally, one of the things I always look for in a backup program is whether or not it will copy files that are currently open. From the tests that I did, Freebyte Backup does so. Talk to you next month.
Fig. 4 – Easy to use Freebyte Backup enables you to visually select directories for backup.
REMEMBER: If you come across a “killer utility” that you would like to share with your fellow readers, please let me know. You’ll receive honorable mention as the submitter.
Christian Computing® Magazine
higher power with kevin
WORDsearch 9 Kevin A. Purcell - email@example.com
ORDsearch 9 is out and ready for Digital Bible students. But does it deserve space on your hard drive? In a word, “Yes!”
Late last year, WORDsearch released version 9. It was a busy
time as we saw upgrades from Logos and QuickVerse, too. But of the three, I think WORDsearch might have the best upgrade. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best overall program. I reviewed Logos in November (http://bit.ly/8XABbL) and QuickVerse in December (http://bit.ly/7IBYdQ). What makes WORDsearch 9 the best upgrade is its stability, some really great new features, and unlike Logos they did it without removing any of the best features of the previous version. To update my previous reviews, with the release of 4.0a SR2, Logos has improved version 4 and is much more stable and responsive than it was when I reviewed it. Also there is a beta version that will allow you to import your old version 3 notes and highlights. If you have Logos it will have already updated your installation to the latest non beta version by now. QuickVerse also has a maintenance release (v. 14.02) which fixes some of the bugs I found. You can get them by going to the web site at http://www. quickverse.com. What you will notice with WORDsearch 9 is that the interface is very similar to previous versions. The program has a Windows Christian Computing® Magazine
Explorer style interface with books organized into folders along the left side of the screen. The program has
a toolbar for basic functions and menus for all the rest. Books can be arranged into windows either horizontally or vertically. You can open all of one kind of resource into a single window with tabs for each resource. The setup is familiar to Windows users. What’s New in WORDsearch9 The biggest cosmetic difference is the icons. They are “clearer and easier to use, especially on high resolution monitors” as the “What’s New” section of WS9’s help file says. Pretty new icons are not all that you will find new in WS9. As the advertising says, “search” is their middle name. So they have greatly improved search functionality. What if you don’t know how to spell the word you are searching? When you open the Search box and select the resource to search there will be a little button at the right of the search entry box. It has “ABC” on it. Click it and a new box will open; you can begin typing the word as you think it is spelled. A list of suggestions will be displayed below. Find your word and click “Insert” to have it put into the search box and, after you tell it to search for your word or phrase, the program will return the results. One of the new features in WS9 is the “by hits” button in the search results box. Click it and it will sort your results grouping them by the book of the Bible with the most hits first and listing them in descending order. If you have added books to the Favorites folder, they will be listed in the search dialogue box for easy selection. That way you can tell WS9 to search just your favorite resources.
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One of the great things about Logos has always been the Parallel resources. When I opened a Bible in Logos, I could easily switch from Bible to Bible or Commentary to Commentary by pressing a keystroke (CTRL+Arrow). When I would study the Bible I could quickly read my text in all the translations I had installed. And as I was studying the commentaries I could quickly switch to a new one without going into the list of commentaries and opening them. It speeds up consulting more than one resource. Now in WS9 that is also possible with the new “Carousel” feature. At the bottom left of each window there is a pair of round, green arrows. Click that icon and the Carousel Editor opens. It has two panes. In the left are the Available books and in the right are the Books in this carousel. You can add books from the right to the left. So, for example, you could add all of your favorite Bibles to the Carousel. Then after you have them in the list, move them up or down in the list to determine the display order. Close the box. Now, you can switch between the list of Bibles by clicking on one of the blue arrows next to the green arrows at the bottom left of the pane. Alternatively, you can use the left or right arrow keys to switch. This makes it easy to switch between resources. Make a new carousel for each window. So you can have all your favorite Bibles or Commentaries accessible without having to open tabs for each of them. Set up a window for each kind of resource you want. Put a carousel in that window. And save the layout as a desktop. This is a great way to streamline your study using all your favorite resources. January 2010
Another new feature is the Target Window feature. When you have a number of Bibles open, you might want all clicked Bible reference links to open in just one translation. On the toolbar of the Bible, there is a bulls-eye icon. Click it and all future hyperlinked Bible references will open in that Bible window. So you could have a Bible window open to the passage you are studying and another one open where Bible references will appear following your clicks, keeping the first one at the passage you are studying. The Target Window is automatically not linked to other windows, so you don’t disturb your position. One of the reasons the target is useful is that you can setup all the other windows to sync with each other. This means that if you move from one part of the Bible to another, all the other books follow. So, for example, if you are studying through Hebrews, as you move from verse one to verse two the focus in the other Bibles and commentaries moves, too. However, you may only want one book to drive all the others. That way the only time they all move together is if that one book is moved. If you set up the ESV as the “driver” all the other Bibles and commentaries will move when you move within the ESV. But if you move in one of the commentaries it won’t move. Now WS9 can be set up either way. Highlighting is improved with the ability to add your own “custom legend” to each of the colors. So you could make blue stand for all highlighting of verses you want to memorize. Green could be passages you plan to preach. And Yellow could be for passages about grace. Your creativity is the only limit. As you study, you often find a lot of content that you want gather and collect in order to use for a sermon or Bible study you are doing in a month or next week. There are some great ways to do this with third party apps like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote. But WS9 has a great feature called Thought Organizer. While you are reading in different resources you simply copy links to that content by right clicking and choosing “create a link to this paragraph”. You then put that link in Christian Computing® Magazine
a Notes window or even better open a new document from the File menu and paste the links in the document. Save it with an appropriate name and find it later in the Documents section of the Resources list on the left. All the links can then be opened by simply clicking them. You have immediate access to all the content you saved for that purpose. If you later want to, you can delete that document or use it to actually write the sermon or Bible study and have it in your WORDsearch library for later use. Other Great Features There are some other great features that make it an excellent Digital Bible study tool. These are not new to version 9 but deserve mention, especially for those who have never used it. WORDsearch has an enormous library. You can buy it in many different packages, but you will also have the ability to add books for a fee. And if you are Twitter user, be sure to follow @wordsearchbible for daily deals on new content. Sometimes they offer a one day sale on some great resources for just a couple of dollars. For example, on the day I was writing this part of the review they were offering the Hebrew Bible, a January 2010
$39.99 value for just $9.99. As the name suggests, it is a one day deal, so by the time you read this it will no longer be available. A previous deal included James Stalker’s The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ for just 99 cents. With such a large library, you may need help organizing it for study. In WS9, if you are studying a passage, you can tell the program to go find all the resources about that passage. This is called the Instant Verse Study. Open it from the tools menu or the IVS button on the Toolbar. In the dialogue box, enter the verse or passage and then check all the Bible translations you want included, all the notes files you want, and all the commentaries you want. Then click the button to copy the content to the clipboard. You can then paste in anywhere you like – like a Word document, a new document within WS or elsewhere. Remember that some content will not work well outside the program. I included things from the HCSB Interlinear and it pasted into Word as a table for each word. The links in the Complete Word Study would not open anything. But you can read the content. If you paste it into a WS Document, the links work fine. I like that this feature remembers which Bibles and commentaries you want checked each time you open it. Also, you might want it to find your passage in everything. Just click on the All Books item in the drop down box in the top right corner. I’m not sure why, but that is the only thing in the menu. You would think that they would use a button instead of a drop down menu with only one choice. But that is a very minor thing. If you find yourself needing help, WS offers a lot of hand holding. First, the help system is very complete. Second, from the Easy Start Screen, which by default is what you first see when you open WS9, there is a link to Video Tutorials. The current selection of videos is sparse. But like previous versions I am confident that they will add more in the future. Right now you can find videos on opening books, navigating around the program, doing basic searches, the spelling helper feature and the target button mentioned above. These videos open in your web browser. Also, the WS site has several videos describing the new features (see: Christian Computing® Magazine
http://www.WORDsearchbible.com/ws9/). If you want some training go to http://www. WORDsearchbible.com/training/ and register for some online training classes. Randy Beck, the President of WORDsearch says, “These free classes are taught several times each week over the web by live trainers who interact and answer your questions.” Finally, there are also the Discussion forums accessible from within the program. You will find them on the middle tab of the left hand panel where you see the list of books in the library. Click on Discussion and choose Log In. You can log in as a guest or apply for a screen name. You can register and get a screen name that allows you to login and participate in the forums. Once there you will find two folders – “Help and Feedback” and “Prayer”. The prayer folder is a place to offer praise reports and prayer requests. Also, you can read others’ reports and requests. But the help is in the other folder. Click it to reveal discussion forms for “Tips and Tricks” where you can learn from the other uses. You can also see the Tech Support forum where you can ask and answer questions. There are three other forums. One is for requesting new features in WS. One is for help with LESSONmaker, a program WS puts out deJanuary 2010
signed to help create simple and quick lessons. The last forum is for requesting books and telling the company about typos or errors in books. The forums for tech support and tips and tricks will be your best place to learn about WS and get help with questions or problems you have. The Complete Biblical Library New Testament One of the great new resources released along with WS9 is The Complete Biblical Library New Testament. I was fortunate to receive a review copy of this resource to help in this review. You can see a video about this resource at http://www.WORDsearchbible.com/videos/CBLNT/. The Library is a multivolume work produced over 20 years by over 500 scholars. At the center of the library is the 9 volume study bible called The Complete Biblical Library (CBL) Interlinear Bible. It looks like any other Interlinear with a link to The CBL Greek-English Dictionary at the top. In the dictionary you get, not only the word in Greek, transliterated and the part of speech, but also a definition, the cognate, synonym, how its used in the Septuagint, grammatical forms the word takes in scripture, a listing of the places you find the word in the Bible, word studies in classical Greek, usage in the Septuagint, and NT usage. Finally, you get a list of the sources for the content in the dictionary. Along with the interlinear and the dictionary, you also get The CBL Commentary. It is an in-depth, usable, but scholarly, verse-by-verse commentary. There is also an Introductory Greek Grammar that will help you learn Greek. And finally, there are two more resources included: a Textual Apparatus and a Harmony of the Gospels The CBL helps take WORDsearch to a new level in Bible study. Christian Computing速 Magazine
It is expensive, at $299, but I think it is a worthwhile investment and will make WS9 a really powerful tool for original language study in the Greek. Michael Cooper from WORDsearch says that they will begin work on the OT version very soon. For more information about the CBL see http://bit. ly/7aEYet. Recommendations When I am asked about Bible Software, I always recommend that users do one of three things. First, if you are already heavily invested in one program and are satisfied with its performance, then stick with it. It is rare that a piece of Bible software offers some compelling new feature that will make me recommend a switch. Second, if you are looking for a new program, then find the one that has what you need and see if you can try it out either for free or make sure there is a good return/refund policy. Third, if you don’t mind go with more than one piece of software. So, if you are a WORDsearch user then the $39.99 upgrade fee is well worth it to get the new features in version 9. As a writer for CCMag I get most of the software I review for free. I paid for the WS9 upgrade. It is a good upgrade. It is stable and responsive. It has some great new features. And with the CBL you can do some very in depth Greek language study. OT Hebrew study is not as advanced in WS as it is some other programs like Bibleworks or Logos. But it will be soon when they finally get the OT version of CBL. If you are in the market for a new program, WS9 would be a good choice. You can try it out for just $49.95 for the Thompson Bible Library. There is also the Teaching Library ($99.95) the Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible Library ($174.95) and the Preaching Library ($349.95). To see what each of these libraries includes go to http://www.WORDsearchbible. com/compare/. Also, WORDsearch has Bible Explorer 4.0 which is a free program that is very similar to WS and uses the same library format. Give it a try by going to http://www.bible-explorer.com. It is very similar to WS9. If you like it, you will like WS9. The harder question is, “Should someone switch to WORDsearch?” If you are satisfied with what you have, don’t. I really like WS9 and use it every week to study and prepare for my messages. But there is nothing in WS9 that is so earth shatteringly great that I would say you cannot study the Bible without it. But while I would not recommend anyone switch if they are happy with their current program, I would say supplement what you have with WS. If you are a Bibleworks 8 user, then WS make a very good companion. Bibleworks is for language study. They don’t have a lot of commentaries and other books to create a large digital library. That is actually foreign to their way of thinking. WS9 does have an extensive library and has some good features for creating documents from within the program. So, the two would go well together. Also, there might be some resources, like the CBL or the Holman Christian Standard Bible Reverse Interlinear, that are only available in WS. There are many other resources like this. So it would be a good companion.
Christian Computing® Magazine
nick at church
TechnoTools for Ministry Nick Nicholaou - firstname.lastname@example.org
any people make one of two mistakes about church technology needs. They either underestimate the need and look for the cheapest possible solution (which often costs more because they are the wrong solutions), or they overspend on technology and overcomplicate the system. Let’s see if we can help find the right balance. Some Perspective Right off, it’s important for you to know that my firm doesn’t sell or distribute any hardware or software. We don’t benefit from the purchase decisions our clients make, and so the recommendations I’m about to share with you are truly objective. Secondly, it’s helpful for you to know that my firm and I have been serving churches and ministries in the technology field for many years. We have wrestled through many hardware issues on our clients’ behalf. And we haven’t just worked on a bunch of church and ministry networks; we’ve impacted hundreds of ministry networks, so we’ve seen firsthand what helps and what hurts. We’ll look at the topic from a few perspectives: church size, desktops and notebooks, and mobile devices like NetBooks and SmartPhones. Size Matters! Church size does matter. But maybe not the way one might think! • Small, medium, and large churches all have in common the need to get a lot done in as little time as possible. Like all churches, the staff size is not humanly up to the task size, so selecting hardware is important if the Christian Computing® Magazine
decision can impact the ability of the team to be more efficient and productive. • Small, medium, and large churches rarely have the budget to have internal IT (Information Technology) staff. Though large churches begin adding part-time staff assigned the task of supporting other team members, it’s only the megachurch that can typically prioritize having a true IT Department. That means that most churches are best served by simple system and hardware strategies that increase reliability, which means less need for support. When hardware purchases are strategized, they can drastically reduce the need for support and improve team productivity. And that’s especially important given our mission— that of sharing The Gospel and the discipling of believers. Which is better: Locally Built or Name Brand? Locally built computers often seem more attractive than name brand computers because: • If you ever need support, someone nearby is able to work on the computer; and • The price looks attractive.
Both reasons, however, are not usually true. January 2010
Though locally built computers are often built with the best of intentions, few local builders have research and development (R&D) budgets that can ensure that each component— even if meticulously selected as best of its kind— works well together. Thus, they often have higher failure rates. The Right Name Brands But not all name brands are created equal! Some name brands haven’t any more R&D in them than locally built systems. Thus some name brands are little more than locally built systems with national distribution. How often should you upgrade? It is wise to budget to replace a percentage of your computers every year. Doing so is a lot easier to accomplish than having to replace all your systems at the same time because they’re all too old to run current software. Some issues to consider are: • At what point do your computers start slowing down your team? Personnel costs are typically the highest or second highest part of a church’s budget. If your team members lose even ten minutes/ day because of older technology, replacements are overdue. • Can your computers run current operating systems and software? • Are you spending too much time to support your older computers?
A note about Windows: Windows Vis-
ta has not been adopted by most corporations, and for good reason. We are testing the final beta of its successor, Windows 7, and it shows great promise. We hope it will be as solid in final release.
date operating systems (Windows version) and software, and don’t cause them to fatigue early in the workday (like from fuzzy displays). • Ministry Impact. Church team members want features that improve their ability to achieve their ministry goals. That may include the ability to connect to networked resources (like printers and scanners) and the Internet, store data reliably for future use, have email and other communication tools, and safety mechanisms to protect them from the time-sapping effects of malicious programs embedded in some websites, emails, and files. Desktop Computers These are non-portable computers used by team members who always work in the office. They often have faster processors than notebooks (portable computers) because of their superior ability to disperse heat from the processor chipset. They also usually cost a lot less than notebooks.
With that in mind, we recommend replacing desktop and notebook computers at the rate of at least 25% each year. When new systems are purchased, we recommend distributing them as follows: 1. Power Users. Give the new computers to the users that need the most computing power (graphics, database maintenance, accounting). 2. Average Users. Give the power users’ old computers to those who have average computing power needs (word processing). 3. Nominal Users. Give the average users’ old computers to those who don’t use the computer as much (email, web browsing). What do users want? The twofold answer is: • Features. Church team members want systems that are reliable, can run up-toChristian Computing® Magazine
big ministry - small resources
Bradley Miller - email@example.com
ew Year’s resolutions . . . I guess I have gotten to the point that it doesn’t exactly mean much to have my big “to-do” list ready for January 1. Most people have that “I’m really gonna . . . “ list blown away by January 12th or so. For 2010 I’m am really diving in deep in what I want to accomplish personally, spiritually, and in volunteering in my local church. I have some goals I want to accomplish and in coming up with ideas for what this article should be about, I thought maybe sharing some insight on things that have been tried might help some fellow CCMag readers. Online Forums My first big idea that has been a continual point of contention is the forum area on our church web site. It was conceived as a way to communicate with members and share, but unfortunately it has never been a very big hit. I had experienced the power of online forum areas with two former projects, one for a specific car marque and another for a popular tourist destination. The results from that were very encouraging — the tourist site would regularly see over 500+ people daily all interacting and submitting posts on a variety of topics. This success didn’t exactly translate when it was applied to a church web site. I would imagine it’s a combination of not having a technology savvy group of people and most importantly — not having it integrated in their daily lives. I suspect that most people in your church visit the site once in a blue moon if they don’t have a reason to do so, and without knowing exactly what a forum area is, it will sit idle. Traffic and new posts drive forum growth and sustain it, and without that attention they quickly wither and die – and this isn’t just specific to church or religious sites, it happens to a variety of different Christian Computing® Magazine
sites that aren’t mainstream enough to support themselves. They quickly disappear off the radar for those that visited them. WYSIWYG Web Gurus It doesn’t matter who or what the organization is, somewhere at sometime there will be a sudden “Wow! Look what I can do.” and suddenly someone is now a “web designer” because they have a nifty new program. It’s amazing what a little software can do for someone’s confidence, but without a firm grasp of the concepts behind what make a page tick, suddenly you have all sorts of “Oh, my!” moments on your site. And then six months down the road when the novelty of the site and/or software has worn off the site sits stagnant . . . boldly advertising the upcoming Christmas program in the middle of July. The take away that I can share is two fold, the first is that software is great, but if it’s tied to one person and they don’t have a solid background in what it is and how it works, it simply won’t work. The other item is that if you keep trying to build something and put it out the door with every single January 2010
bell and whistle that everyone wants to see, you’ll never get it done. I experienced that frustration when I joined up and volunteered to help on a web site. A year later after multiple committee meetings, the web site still wasn’t close to being finished and the same philosophy was prevalent in building the replacement. It was a long battle, but moving from proprietary off-line software to an online content management system was one of the best moves we made. Today the CMS software selection has evolved and allowed integration with a number of new web technologies. Video Creation Sometimes simpler is just better. A lot of equipment was purchased for video creation and many enthusiastic volunteers burned a lof of time in wrestling with technology and post-production time issues. The Mac OSX systems that were purchased had software (iMovie) that could have been used, but instead much more complicated sofware (Apple Final Cut) with a steeper learning curve was tried. Ultimately backing off the full-length video production route of the sermon and going with just an audio podcast made much more sense. As skills were built up; the creation of little advertisments for various ministries or featured videos was easily accomplished with iMovie. People can have the right intentions, but getting from point A to point B is a journey, not a “poof we’re there” teleporting experience. Again the process of getting anything kicked out the door was much better than assembling the “ultimate video” and having it never get done. We can forget that time, talent, skills, and equipment all have to mesh in the right proportions to create something. Thousands of dollars of equipment are nothing Christian Computing® Magazine
without someone to use them, and talented people with no equipment works the same way. Photography It’s an amazing time for us all – I can remember 15 years ago having access to a very expensive digital camera that had less than a megapixel of resolution. Now you can get cameras with more than enough resolution and quality for next to nothing; and the results can be outstanding. The “old days” of 35mm photography meant snapping a lot of film, knowing the camera inside and out, and many times a lot of crossed fingers as to what that final shot actually turned out like. The capabilities of even the low-end digital cameras rivals what January 2010
things that is what we have to pray and ask God for direction high-end pro cameras were capable of 20 years or so ago. (Photog buffs can probably argue this point, but I will stand by each and every day. any statement in the creation of digital cameras with “brains” leveled the playing field significantly for amateurs wanting to Titus 3:3-8 (NIV) take great photos.) 3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived This new capability means those opportunities in and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We capturing events is no longer restrained to the guy or gal with lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one the big expensive looking camera setup. Suddenly, youth trip another. 4But when the kindness and love of God our photos with battle worn faces and exuberant cheesy grins for Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous the camera can inspire others to venture out. Those images of things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved helping hands at the soup line can touch someone’s heart to us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy volunteer or donate. The limit is the imagination on how the Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through photos can be used, but getting them captured is half the battle. Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified Equipping people with cameras or giving them classes on how by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of to use what they have can do wonders on documenting what is eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you happening for the Lord in your church. to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. Time These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Each day you get 86,400 seconds . . that’s assuming we don’t keel over and get to visit Heaven a little earlier . . This is a remarkable new year, and even if its January 12th . but all on God’s timing of course. I won’t say I always put and you've blown your resolutions out the door, each and my time to good use, but one of the things I did to maximize every day can be a new commitment for the Lord. Take it was to turn off the TV back in 2007. Not only no more whatever your first step is TODAY and proclaim God's word satellite or cable bills, but no more hours spent zoned out as He has gifted you. having my head filled with trash. Now my time flies by so quickly that I can’t figure out when I would have ever had time to watch anything in the past. While getting time and having projects to do is all good, it’s focusing on the great
Christian Computing® Magazine
the mobility revolution
Beyond the Phone By Russ McGuire
n previous columns, I’ve talked about the “normal” ways in which we experience mobility in our lives – using a cellphone, and using mobile broadband (3G or 4G). We can think of these uses as simple substitutes for the old way of doing things.
Wireless is Disruptive In the book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christenson introduced the concept of disruptive technologies. “Disruptive technologies bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Cellphones generally don’t provide as good of sound as their wire-line grandfathers. This is simply a matter of physics – the need to compress the audio signal to consume less available bandwidth, and then operating all of that in a dynamic, somewhat unpredictable environment. Wireless voice service also generally costs more than landline voice service. When initially introduced, the new value proposition of mobility only appealed to a very limited audience. However, as prices have fallen, call quality and reliability have improved, and as we have become a much more mobile and connected society, increasing numbers of us are cutting the cord and taking all of our voice traffic wireless. The same phenomenon holds absolutely true for mobile data. Wireless data provides less bandwidth at a higher price than the existing wired solutions, initially addressing the needs of a very limited market. But technology advances and increasing scale have improved performance and reduced costs, which, combined with our increasing mobility, results in very broad adoption of wireless for data. Today, the wired Ethernet market is suffering at the hands of various flavors of WiFi. Meanwhile, mobile broadband choices (especially the Christian Computing® Magazine
now emerging 4G offers) are making it viable to cut the cord on data as well. In Christensen’s terminology, the traditional telecom industry has been disrupted by new wireless technologies. Wireless Connectivity Built In However, I think there’s a larger (but hidden) revolution happening. I believe that, just as microprocessors have been built into virtually every type of product that has a power source, over the next several years; wireless connectivity will be built into virtually every type of product that has a microprocessor. For the past few years I’ve been tracking this trend with a monthly post at my blog called “Beyond the Phone.” I see this trend increasing, and becoming increasingly strategic to the definition of competition across industries. What does this look like? There are a couple of examples that are easy to understand. Personal Navigation The first example is GPS-based personal navigation devices (PND). You probably know these products by their manufacturers, with the industry leaders being Garmin and Tom Tom. This sector has come under tremendous pressure from cellphone-based navigation software in a typical Christensen-like disruptive play. Early cellphone GPS solutions cost just $10/month, putting price pressure on standalone GPS devices which typically cost (at the time) nearly $1000. To make matters worse, January 2010
Christian Computing速 Magazine
in 2008 Sprint started bundling free “How to have more time for ministry!” navigation service in their Simply Everything price plans, further Do you want to save time, get more done and have fewer headaches? Then Donarius Church pressuring PND companies. More Management Software will make it easy for you recently, Google has started providto track your members, contributions, pledges Starting at $59.97 ing a free version of their Google and more. Imagine what you can do with the for the base version with Maps web-based service with turn25% off for small churches extra time! Donarius will also: by-turn directions. While these Download a free demo at: • Print your tax receipts cellphone-based solutions don’t www.donarius.com • Show the giving pattern of your members perform as well as standalone units • Print your church directories 1-888-479-4636 in terms of satellite acquisition, • Send personalized letters, emails and text Nuverb Systems Inc. messages to keep your members informed battery life, and in-car integration, “Software tailored for you” they do offer hard to beat prices plus real-time information includwhile others believe it will eliminate the need for publishers. ing construction detours and traffic delays. In any case, the entire industry will be changed. Garmin, Tom Tom, and others in the PND business have responded with reduced pricing, but have also had So What? to respond by integrating wireless connectivity into their Other than the fact that we readers of Christian Comdevices in order to match the real-time information provided puting love new gadgets, what impact does any of this have by cellphone-based solutions. (For example, see Garmin’s on our ministries? nuLink services.) On one hand, this phenomenon will have almost no direct impact on our ministries. It likely will have no funElectronic Book Readers damental impact on how pastors prepare and deliver their The second example is the electronic book reader sermons (although they may use an eReader with multiple market. eReaders have been available for years, with Sony Bible translations, commentaries, and reference materials all being the most aggressive of consumer electronics companies conveniently integrated into one highly portable device). It in pursuing the opportunity. However, the market has been likely will have no fundamental impact on how we worship very limited. (although display monitors and projectors likely will follow Just over two years ago, Amazon introduced the microphones into the wireless realm). It likely will have no Kindle, an eReader with one very powerful differentiator – fundamental impact on how we serve those around us who Amazon had worked with Sprint to integrate wireless connec- are in need (although we likely will have better, more relevant tivity into the device. This enabled Amazon to make it very information at our fingertips as we serve them). easy for consumers to search Amazon’s large (and rapidly On the other hand, wireless connectivity being growing) catalog of electronic titles, purchase, download, and built into all kinds of products will change everything about within about a minute, start reading a new title. The Kindle how we interact with our world, and that means that it will was an immediate phenomenon, and this most recent Christfundamentally alter every aspect of how we minister to those mas, Amazon (one of the world’s largest booksellers) sold around us. more eBooks than physical books! Let’s go figure out how to use these God-given ad The company went on to launch two more versions vances for His Kingdom and to His glory! of the Kindle with Sprint, including a version intended to replace your daily newspaper (in partnership with the New Russ McGuire is an executive for a large wireless provider. York Times and other publishers) and intended to lighten the He has over 20 years experience in technology industries. load of textbooks carried by college students (in partnership He also serves churches and ministries through Living Stones with Princeton and four other universities). In the past few Ministry (http://lstones.com) and has recently launched months, a number of competitors have launched eReader Hschooler.net (http://hschooler.net), an online social network products with features similar to the Kindle, and Amazon has for Christian homeschooling families. He is the author of launched a new version of the Kindle with AT&T connectivThe Power of Mobility (Wiley, 2007) and his observations on ity to expand globally. the mobile industry can be read at his personal blog at http:// More important than the actual devices, these eRead- mcguireslaw.com. er products are redefining the business model for publishers. Some believe eReaders can save the publishing industry, Christian Computing® Magazine
church web strategy
Church Website Search Engine Optimization, a Church SEO Primer
Drew Goodmanson - firstname.lastname@example.org
earch Engine Optimization. SEO is that high-tech sounding buzzword that gets bandied about the technologysavvy church water cooler. It’s one of those words your church website communication staff have probably been thinking about; but probably has not gotten around to doing too much about. SEO is sometimes heard alongside other cool-sounding but semi-sensical terms such as Web 2.0, social media, mobile web, cloud computing, viral marketing, analytics, usability, and even tweeting. Growing Church SEO Awareness Churches are beginning to be more aware of SEO and the many valuable benefits churches and church websites can enjoy from an investment in SEO. Believe it or not, even small investments can make a huge difference in where you rank in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s). When researching SEO services it is entirely possible to obtain high SERP rankings without spending a medium-sized fortune to just get started. The important thing to remember is to get started right away thinking about implementing SEO. In this day of lightning fast information where the average person wants immediate answers to any questions they have, or a solution for any need they have, these people always go online first to get the information they need. Getting Started Searching for an SEO firm can be a daunting challenge, especially if you are on a budget. There are many options, and finding pricing is not easy at times. However, one example of an effective yet affordable set of starter SEO services is Church Web Optimizer. Church Web Optimizer (http://www.churchweboptimizer.com ) is an affordable, get-started-quickly package, and it includes Google Analytics installation, Google Webmaster Tools installation and evaluChristian Computing® Magazine
ation, a Google spider-friendly sitemap submission, Church Website Analytics/pre-SEO evaluation, Google Local Search listing optimization, and featured directory submissions on Church Cloud and Sermon Cloud. Church Cloud (http://www.churchcloud.com ) is a nationwide church directory, and Sermon Cloud (http://www.sermoncloud.com ) is a sermon repository in use worldwide. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are great tools for any church website, submitting a spider-friendly sitemap, optimizing for Local Search, getting added to at least a couple of high traffic directories, all tied together through a preliminary analytics and pre-SEO evaluation goes a long way in providing your church the information it needs to understand your church website’s current state of affairs. Evaluation of your church website metrics through an analytics evaluation helps by not only potentially rooting out problem pages on your website, but also brings to light potential search engine optimization opportunities. Half of churches surveyed are actively pursuing an SEO strategy Preliminary results from our current winter 2009-2010 church analytics and church website content and media study indicate that about half of the churches interviewed have begun exploring at least the idea of an SEO strategy and are actively heading towards their next steps in SEO. This means that for half the churches surveyed, church technology or communications personnel are actively researching SEO topics online through Google, or choosing an SEO friendly Content Management System(CMS) such as Drupal (http://drupal.org ) or Ekklesia360 (http://www.ekklesia360.com ), implementing some exploratory SEO steps personally or through a church communications team member, beginning a discovery process with a search engine optimization firm, or hiring an SEO company on retainer to manage and monitor their church website’s search engine optimization efforts. The Importance of an SEO-Friend ly CMS for Church Websites An SEO-friendly content management system is critical for a church website that desires to be search engine optimized because inelegant content management systems prevent many on-page search engine optimization strategies involving optimized page titles, meta tags, alt-tags, anchor-link test, and search-friendly URL’s from being deployed properly, if at all. SEO to reach previously untargeted segments One church we spoke to, Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, Illinois (http://www. willowcreek.org) was thinking about how they could leverage SEO to their church’s benefit by thinking about optimizing their church website for the keyword phrase “addiction recovery program Chicago”. This is one way to think outside the box when trying Christian Computing® Magazine
to bring in more people into your church. Does your church have any programs of a community-building nature that may be effective at ministering to and drawing in people from the community? Targeting the un-churched Several surveyed churches have mentioned free community tutoring, pregnancy resources, and an affordable low-income food distribution network as great draws for the un-churched in their community. Ideally, these ministries would have their own pages and content on the main church website optimized for some of these community-building programs. More SEO In the future, we will be releasing more articles about SEO, but for now, for those who would like to understand more about the evolution of search engine optimization and also see how it got to be where it is today, we’ve compiled a brief history of SEO below. A Brief History of SEO Prior to 1996, directories edited by humans dominated. Moving into 1996-1998 or so, search engines used on-page criteria such as Meta Data, Keyword Analysis, and Search Engine Submissions. Between 1998 and 2006, pages started getting ranked using off-page criteria. Y2K was when you saw Keyword Density, Link Development, Reciprocal Links, and Directory Submissions really taking off. By 2004, Site Architecture, Sitemaps, Text Link Advertisements, and Optimized Press Releases started showing up. When 2006 rolled around, search was beginning to have more of a blended nature to it, with sitemaps evolving to XML Sitemaps, and the addition of new types of search, including Image Search, Local Search, Mobile Search, Video Search, and Updated Content (content that was not static.) The biggest challenges in SEO today are trying to optimize for and grasp Social Marketing, Website Usability, Blog Marketing, User Generated Content, Social Media Video (such as YouTube), Frequent Content Updates, and effective Audience Engagement across content. Stay on top of search algorithm changes One of the challenges churches need to be continually staying aware of are the algorithm changes that occur in Google and other search engines. People must follow these trends and be continuously involved in the space because as these algorithms are modified, these changes are not necessarily always broadcast to the Christian Computing® Magazine
general web public. What that means is that one day, certain inbound links or content styles could be helping a site but then on the next day ,these links or content styles could be penalizing a site. We witnessed this in several examples. Black Hat SEO Beware! Black Hat SEO involves what might be termed unethical optimization practices, some of which may include cloaking, buying links incorrectly, reciprocal link spam, doorway page spamming, automated content generation, and content theft, to just name a few. Looking up Black Hat SEO in a search engine will tell you what practices may be considered unethical. Do not try anything they recommend! Consequences of unethical website optimization Oftentimes, website administrators can get their website blacklisted by Google simply because they were too aggressive with their page titles, wrote a ton of meaningless content that spammed in unrealistic keyword density. Accidental unethical website optimization carries a deep penalty. Sometimes, trying to optimize your church website by trial and error can allow mistakes to creep into your website page source or links. This can lead to tremendous penalties, even if it was not the intent of the administrator to format their website unethically. When Google removes you from their index, you can ask to be reinstated into their index by submitting a reconsideration request through Google Webmaster Tools. Be honest, and explain why you thought you were blacklisted. Read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to ensure you are not setting your website up to be blacklisted January 2010
and ignored by Google! When in doubt, get counsel! It is highly risky to be modifying your website content without expertise, simply because the penalties from Google are so steep (a virtual invisibility to readers for 3-6 months or more) should there be a mistake. It is highly advisable to seek SEO counsel through reputable companies that are devoted to staying on top of the newest trends and are capable of coming up with a strategic plan for your church to tackle the often tricky task of optimizing for a search engine without incurring long term website penalties. Look for companies that already rank well for terms in their own field and in the terms that are important to you as a start. What you can do: Write naturally, and for the reader. Google spends millions of dollars creating robot algorithms to sniff out shady operators who are using suspicious content. Don’t be caught trying to manipulate Google! It’s more important to write for an audience by providing real value to users so that they will return than it is to create a website so incredibly optimized for Google that the content reads like machine speak, and no one will read your website or link to it. SEO topics to continue There are numerous SEO topics to discuss, and this column will revisit some of the other topics and implications of SEO in a future article.
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Timeless Design and Communication Principles Reminders No Matter What the Technological Innovations
Yvon Prehn - email@example.com
new year and a new decade will no doubt bring new technologies to the world of church communications. As we share the message of the gospel, there are certain timeless design and communication principles we do well to remember if we want to communicate effectively no matter what tools the Lord gives us to use. Read on for a brief review of some of them:
Why we need to focus on the timeless We serve a God of order and design. Built into all of us are certain ways of responding to communications, no matter what form they take. We are likely to be distracted by the technology, if we don’t remember and apply timeless design and communication principles when new technologies come along. We may then create communications that make great use of the technology, but don’t communicate a message very well. One obvious example of this is when a website uses a black background with white print. This is very easy to do on the web and might look great, edgy, and interesting when we first see the site, but it is very difficult to read for anything longer than a short blog. We’d never consider printing solid black ink on paper with white letters reversed out if we wanted people to read thoughtful articles, devotions, or Bible studies. Because the new technology allows us to do this, we sometimes adapt the new technique without thinking. In this case, if you want people to read what you are writing online, don’t reverse your words out of a black background. Christian Computing® Magazine
Following are some additional timeless design and communication considerations. Please go to my redone website, www.effectivechurchcom.com for in-depth review and training of what works and what doesn’t if we want our design to communicate. The importance of consistency and order There is a reason why USAToday has not significantly changed its design since it was first launched and why your local newspaper has a clearly defined sports section, news section, and on a certain day of the week features recipes. The reason is that a consistent design, structure, and schedule provide excellent foundation for communication because the reader does not have to decode the structure each time prior to reading the message. Many churches constantly change the layout and structure of communications in print and online with the idea that these changes make their communications “more interesting.” This does not work and is, in reality, counterproductive. Think for a minute what January 2010
it would be like if your local newspaper decided to make it more interesting for people to read the paper by scattering the scores of various professional teams throughout the newspaper instead of having all of them in a sports section. Sports fans would not be amused. It doesn’t make any more sense for a church to continuously change communications layout or organization either. Whether it is your website or the church bulletin, come up with a workable design that enables people to find the information they need and stick with that design for at least a year (or more if you can). Contrary to the opinions of some, readers do not get bored with a consistent layout, readers get confused with changes. The value of contrast used correctly Good contrast, with a light background and dark content enables good communication. This is why the opening example of white print reversed out of black was not a good idea. This is why Bibles, novels, newspapers, and most websites have a white or near white background with black type. In addition to the importance of having dark print on a light background, it does not make a website or PowerPoint slide “more interesting” to have a patterned background—it makes it harder to read. Recently someone asked me to look at a website with a rather strange brownish background. After an initial look, I asked the person to explain the rather confusing background of brownish scratches on each webpage. The reply was that the webmaster thought the background (since it was for a church) should look like parchment. Even if the background would have looked like parchment (which it didn’t), I’m not sure why that would have been beneficial. The church stopped printing on parchment a long time ago. There is no communication value to revive that look. Don’t forget the importance of contrast to color-blind people. To Christian Computing® Magazine
the color-blind, red and green appear as shades of grey. Most of the time this fact is not a problem when you use white as a background, but around the holidays, church communicators, in paper and on the web, seem driven to use red or green backgrounds. For the colorblind person, trying to read a message on dark red or green paper is like trying to read on dark grey paper and is very hard to do. Limit holiday colors to accent colors and don’t use them as background and you’ll provide the contrast needed for everyone. The importance of good typography The best typesetting should always be invisible. Type is the carrier of a message, not the message itself. If someone says to you, “That’s a really interesting
typeface you’re using in the bulletin” that comment is not a complement. Though you can have fun with wild and wonderful typefaces in flyers and short ads and similar straight PR pieces, stick with the most basic typefaces for text in print or on the web. Just because technology provides you with hundreds of interesting typefaces on your computer doesn’t mean you need to use all of them— especially not in the same issue of the church newsletter. Fortunately we are somewhat limited to the typefaces that we can use on the web. My personal preference is for sans serif typefaces (Arial, Helvetica, etc.) because the clarity of the letter forms is easiest to read no matter what the browser, resolution, or screen size. When you are creating PowerPoint slides, it’s so easy to be tempted to use unusual typefaces, when you are creating the slides on the smaller computer screen right in front of you and you are tied of the same old thing. But the same old boring Arial or other plain typeface might be the easiest one to read from half-way across the church and on a big screen. Always opt for the easiest to read typeface. You want people to remember your message, not how interesting, strange, or unusual the typeface used on the slide. The primacy of content over images This is the most important design principle of all to remember no matter what the technological tool used for communication—images should always be secondary to content. This is especially critical in Christian, church communications because though an image can communicate an emotion or feeling, on their own, images do not communicate concrete content. For example, you might have a series of images of nature or the cosmos, and these images might cause your heart to praise God, but they won’t tell you anything specific about the God your heart is praising. We have the ability to use images in ways unimaginable a few years ago. When designers had to pay significantly for photos or artwork, images were carefully chosen, cropped and used intentionally to support, clarify, or expand a message. Christian Computing® Magazine
Perhaps partly because images can cost nothing today, they are often used without purpose or meaning. An assortment of images on a website or flashing across a screen during a worship service might communicate intense emotion, but be sure the emotion is undergirded with clear content for it to be useful in a Christian setting. My website, www.effectivechurchcom.com, expands and illustrates these and more timeless communication principles. In the ones discussed above and many more principles, the most important thing to remember is that we have been entrusted with the words of eternal life and no matter what the distracting temptations of the tools we have to communicate that message, the most important thing is that we take care to communicate it clearly and faithfully.