Founder & Editor-in-Chief Steve Hewitt - firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Editor Kevin Cross - email@example.com
Applying Tomorrow’s Technology to Today’s Ministry Volume 25
4 cover story Shoreline Point of Sale
Your ChMS Hardware Provider!
Contributing Editors Yvon Prehn Nick Nicholaou Kevin A. Purcell Russ McGuire Bradley Miller Michael L White
By Steve Hewitt Copy Editor Gina Hewitt Magen Cross
What is your favorite app? Steve Hewitt – firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Social Church: Allowing People to Care for Each Other from ACS Technologies
11 Logos CMS
Teaching Youth and Young Adults How to Manage Technology
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16 Engaging Your Parishioners Online
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Fun with 2013 Payroll Changes: Adventures in IRS Policy
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A New Year In A New Era
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28 The Power And The Danger
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31 Ministry Communication
The lessons of Lent - communication ideas for all churches Yvon Prehn - firstname.lastname@example.org Articles that are highlighed are provided by our partners
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2013 IT Task List
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Nick Nicholaou - email@example.com
editorial What is your favorite app? Steve Hewitt - firstname.lastname@example.org
There is an app for that! Really? Yes. Recently, I was on the Chris Fabry Live Show (Moody Broadcasting) and Chris was taking calls from the listening audience. Someone called, stating they had a regular cell phone that could make calls and receive text, and wanted to know what the big deal was about “smart phones”. It’s all about the apps, was my answer. After all, if you are across town and a relative drops by your home and needs to get in, if you have the right garage door from Sears, you can open it up from your iPhone and let them in, even if you are across the city, or the nation! There are many great “Christian” apps, and there are also many great apps that weren’t designed specifically for “us”, but yet are great apps because of what they do and how they can be used to enhance our ministry or daily lives. So, what is your favorite app? It’s not important if it runs on an iPhone, an iPad, or an Android phone or tablet, we need to share our favorites with one another so we all can benefit! So, here is one of mine. I love Find Friends for the iPhone. The app is free and is provided as a service by Apple. You simply send an email invitation to a loved one or friend inviting them to follow you. They can do the same back your direction if you both desire, and then you can simply click on the app, enter your Apple password and it will find those you are following, displaying a dot on the map including the distance they are from you. You can zoom in on the map to see their exact location and, frankly, it has proven to be very accurate. While my sons are all raised and out of the house, one of them has agreed to let me follow them, saving me the trouble of seeing if he is at work or home. I like to go by his place of work (he works at a restaurant) and have lunch with him Christian Computing® Magazine
when possible, but it can be annoying for him to have to have me text all of the time to see if he is at work or not. I can also track my wife and other friends and loved ones, which can provide some great security. Recently, I had to find where someone was out in the country, because they had a flat tire. With Find Friends, I was able to instantly know where they were, and I could drive directly to their location. What if anyone doesn’t want their location to be known? Why would they? No problem, they can simply open the app on their own iPhone and select “Hide from followers”. When we started using the app in our family, some were a bit apprehensive, and worried about privacy, but so far, everyone that has used it has found it to be beneficial. So, what is your favorite app? We have set up a new community for everyone to share. Go to www.ccmag.com (you must register if you haven’t already joined our online community) and look for the new community on sharing your apps. Join, and post the app, what it runs on (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.) and tell us a little about it. Also, if there is a cost, please include it as well. I hope you will take the time to share with me what you have found! Together We Serve Him,
Steve Hewitt Follow me on Twitter @stevehewitt Email me at email@example.com January 2013
Shoreline Point of Sale – Your ChMS hardware provider! By Steve Hewitt
ou may already have your Church Management Software (ChMS), but what about your hardware? Now that many ChMS product and services provide for check in, the cost of hardware has gone up for many churches. And, when your hardware doesn’t want to work with your ChMS, where can you turn? Many hardware providers don’t even understand what a church is seeking to accomplish with their ChMS or ministry needs. There IS a solution. Shoreline Point of Sale is a company that provides hardware for ChMS and other church IT needs and can provide significant cost savings by providing re-manufactured hardware. They are already partnering with some ChMS companies so they can provide the hardware technical support needed when there are problems. Check out this month’s interview with Todd Bogwill, owner and founder of Shoreline Point of Sale!
Who is Shoreline Point of Sale? Shoreline Point of Sale is a company dedicated to providing churches a cost effective alternative to new Check-In and IT-related hardware by offering high-quality, low-cost re-manufactured items. Can you explain what re-manufactured means? We acquire barcode scanners, touch screen monitors, label printers, PCs/laptops, etc. from retail companies that are either going out of business, upgrading their current hardware technology or closing down some underperforming locations. We then handpick the items that are in the best physical and operational condition and hand them over to our factory-certified technicians to basically dismantle Christian Computing® Magazine
and rebuild them to as close to new condition as possible. For scanners, this may require installing a new scanner engine. For label printers this may require replacing print heads and label feed rollers. For PCs, laptops or Macs, this may require replacing power supplies, mother boards, cooling fans and hard drives. Every single re-manufactured item is then subjected to a battery of quality assurance tests and diagnostics to ensure long-term reliability. Some folks may be a bit hesitant of buying used hardware. Is there any downside risk? Absolutely none! Here are a couple of reasons why: First, the hardware we re-sell is originally January 2013
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manufactured by the industry’s ‘800 lb. gorillas’: Symbol/Motorola and Honeywell for barcode scanners, elo touchscreens, Dell/HP/Lenovo/Apple for desktops and laptops and Zebra for label printers. All of these manufacturers are well regarded in their respective space and are pioneers in the technology in which they represent. Secondly, the items that we re-sell are designed to be ‘retail hardened.’ What does that mean? It means these items are designed to be ‘used and abused’ in the most demanding of retail environments, and do so for a long, long time. For instance, Symbol/Motorola and Honeywell design their barcode scanners to withstand multiple drops onto concrete floors from a height of 6 feet. Elo designs their touch-screen monitors so that the Mean Time Between Failure (an industry reliability measurement) is 50,000 hours. If you do the math, that’s 5.7 years! I liken retail hardened hardware this way: It’s designed and built to run multiple Iron Man Triathlons. By comparison, church check-in environment represents a 5K Turkey Trot. Third, there isn’t a national retail store or restaurant chain that doesn’t deploy re-manufactured IT or point of sale hardware in their stores. Major retailers understand that the hardware is extremely reliable and that significant cost savings can be achieved by purchasing it. Lastly, we at Shoreline Point of Sale recognize that there may be a natural inclination to not buy hardware that has been used before. It’s natural, as we all know about someone who bought a lemon of a used car. That’s why we offer a 2-Year Warranty (from date of install) on all items purchased, so that churches can be confident in their investment. For some items, our warranty exceeds that of manufacturers’ warranty for NEW hardware. Let’s say a church has the budget for new hardware and would prefer that vs. re-manufactured—can Shoreline Point of Sale accommodate these churches? By all means, yes. We have partnerships with the largest IT products distributors and can offer competitive pricing for new hardware. We also have access to what in the industry is called B-Stock, which is new hardware that has been purchased by an end user but had to be returned. This hardware cannot be sold as ‘new’ and is considered ‘new open box’ and consequently carries a discounted cost. These items are covered by the Christian Computing® Magazine
original manufacturer’s warranty. What are the cost savings of Re-manufactured Hardware Vs. New Hardware? I would ballpark cost savings of check-in hardware stations at 30%-40% compared to new hardware. That may not sound significant, but for those churches that require multiple check-in stations, the savings definitely add up. What made you decide to make re-manufactured check-in/IT hardware a part of your business model? That’s a great question! Over the past 6 or so years I worked primarily with providing national hospitality and retail chains re-manufactured point of sale hardware, maintenance and repairs. I had no idea that churches were using this type of hardware until I learned my home church was implementing ChMS and asked me if I could help them with hardware recommendations. What I found out was that with the cost savings Re-Manufactured hardware can provide, my home church ended up purchasing six check-in stations instead of the three initially put in their budget. And that’s when the idea to pursue this new idea of re-manufactured hardware for churches was implemented a bit more vigorously. You see, Steve, I firmly believe that all of our individual resources are gifts from God, and that He expects us to be stewards of those gifts. Jesus was HUGE into helping the poor, and one of the ways we can help those truly in need is with the outreach activities of churches nationally. If Shoreline Point of Sale can help a church save $50 or $5,000, those dollars can be re-directed in some way or fashion to help those in need. Maybe the saved funds can be used to fill up the gas tank of the furniture delivery truck, or add a few more people to mission trips, or repair a leaky church roof. We want to be able to provide that option. Besides lower cost check-in and IT hardware, what else does your company offer churches? We fully understand that for many churches the thought of purchasing barcode scanners, label printers, etc.., is a completely foreign concept. And as a result, it may be a bit confusing for church staff to research the available technology and select the best solution possible. Then after purchasing these items, how do they go about putting it all together to January 2013
maximize the power of ChMS/check-in? That’s why Shoreline Point of Sale offers many pre and post sales support options. We welcome anyone to contact us to discuss and decipher the technology, assist in selecting the best hardware for the dollars spent. Once those decisions have been made, we then offer check-in hardware pre-configuration services so that all items are delivered ready to go, right out of the box. Plug N’ Play, if you will. Should a church rather have onsite installation of check-in hardware, we have partnered up with nation wide IT service organizations and can have A+ Certified technicians dispatched within 4 hours notice if need be. Lastly, we offer for no charge 90 days of check-in hardware help desk support to assist churches with any technical issues or questions they may have. Our end goal is to make 100% positive that churches are comfortably using the technology they have purchased.
benefits of the technology to those who matter most, those who attend, volunteer and serve churches. Todd, thanks for your time and the great information. How can you be contacted to discuss your company’s offerings? Thank you, Steve, for the opportunity to spread our message. We can be reached via email, todd@ shorelinepos.com, via telephone at 773-412-3704, via website, www.shorelinepos.com or snail mail, 100 Marion Avenue, Lake Forest, IL 60045
With all that pre and post sales support, it sounds like you can be a value-added resource to not only churches but also ChMS software providers. What’s your take on that? Steve, you bring up an excellent point. One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that many ChMS providers’ help desks are fielding hardware related issues, and while they’re more than happy to help out, the reality of it is these help desks have limited bandwidth. Any time taken to address hardware issues is less time available for software technical support. That’s why I think Shoreline Point of Sale is well positioned to partner up with ChMS providers, if for no other reason than to serve as their hardware technical support help desk. Coupling that with reducing of the financial barriers to check-in hardware acquisition, I like to think of it as a triple win: Churches, ChMS providers and Shoreline Point of Sale working together to bring the Christian Computing® Magazine
The Social Church:
Allowing People to Care for Each Other from ACS Technologies
hat does real engagement mean for today’s churches? “It’s not one way (communication), that’s the key,” says Scott Allen, technology manager for The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, in the video Allowing People to Care for Each Other. “It’s not just the church communicating to the people, it’s not just the people communicating to the church, it’s every direction you can go.” That multi-faceted communications method is important at The Village Church, a church that strives to imbue its missions, worship, and discipleship with a gospel-center. One key answer to communications challenge at The Village Church has been The City. “Inside The City, if you say something, people pay attention. That’s been the biggest surprise for me, is to see people be empowered. How technology can connect us “While it’s true that technology, itself, isn’t the answer, churches around the world are leveraging the power of social technologies to better connect, engage, equip and mobilize their congregations for Christian Computing® Magazine
the work of the gospel,” say the writers of the ministry guide Building Disciples Through Engagement: Best Practices for Online Communication and Community. Regardless of the type of technology used in the church, the context of the church must be a part of the ultimate plan. “Within the Church, communication isn’t about control, it’s about partnership. But some methods and tools for communication can be very impersonal. Even with the right heart, ineffective communication can make people feel as though they’re unimportant, or even as if they’re just a means to an end,” Building Disciples Through Engagement continues. January 2013
Case Study: Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, SC “Creating stronger communications with a congregation of our size presents a great opportunity,” said Shawn Wood, former Experiences Pastor at Seacoast Church in South Carolina. In 2009, Seacoast was looking for a tool that was developed specifically for the church context. Something that would leverage what social media does well, but adaptive and innovating to create solutions for the local church. “Our goal was not to have a huge church, because smaller churches are more conducive to communication,” Wood said. They selected a churchspecific social network that allowed them to become a “great big, little church.” Now, as the founding and Lead Pastor of Freedom Church in Moncks Corner, SC, Wood again turned away from the commercially-drivel solution offered by the likes of Facebook, and went with a solution that increased engagement – The City. Churches that use The City have found that 76.4 of active City users engage monthly, and 48% of these users are active in a church small group. The network is used to turn congregants into active participants, rather than passive audience members. Digital Communication in the social church According to Building Disciples Through Engagement, “Good communication is good communication, so don’t be intimidated by that little word, digital. The things that make you an effective communicator elsewhere are still in play. There are, however, some unique challenges and opportunities in the digital world.” Here are 2 of Building Disciples Through Engagement’s 5 best pracChristian Computing® Magazine
Download the for Setting the Stage ip Good Stewardsh Ministry Guide for ideas and s! practical solution
ACS Technologies is the largest provider of church ministry solutions with more than 50,000 churches relying on our software and services everyday to assist them in reaching their ministry goals. We not only have the products to help you, we have the expertise to help you implement your plans and ideas to take your ministry further!
tices for digital communication: 1. Focus on the mission. Don’t put the focus on the methods, because methods are disposable. If you’re using one, be sure to explain why your church needs a private social network, and keep the focus on how it will help your church accomplish the mission. 2. Invite people to interact. Interaction is no longer an option, it’s an expectation. The digital tools available today give you an amazing opportunity to invite people to join a conversation. Inviting people to interact is, in fact, exactly what’s been done at The Village Church – and the staff has been amazed at the reaction. To hear a story about how the church body was able to reach out and care for a woman who was at the end of her rope, visit the ACS Technologies website. You’ll hear about how The Village Church helps its members care for each other, and get ideas for how you can help your own church engage and be the church.
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Teaching Youth and Young Adults How to Manage Technology from Logos Management Software
e have moved into uncharted territory in my home. My oldest daughter received her first smart phone. (Gasp!) The world just opened up to her in a whole new way. However, the environment in our home is going to have a huge impact on how that phone is used. Also, our local church, and more specifically her youth group leader and church friends, will have an effect. What will that effect be? If the church is prepared and works in partnership with families when possible, it may play a powerful role in helping cultivate good, positive habits—or disciplines—that promote the discipleship of tomorrow’s leaders. In an article from the Barna Group, “How Technology is Influencing Families,” I learned that “few families have experienced—or expect—churches that address technology.” According to their research, it appears there is opportunity for the church to move in as a thought leader on the proper use of technology in the digital age with tweens, teens, (and their parents – who would also love coaching) and young adults. In fact, a Google search where I typed in the partial sentence “teaching kids how to manage ________” generated the following results:
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Once I finished my own phrase with “technology,” the results were less than desirable. There is a gap here and a need to equip both parents and children that the church should not ignore, especially since the Internet is radically changing how we spend our time and process information. Accept the inevitable People in general have embraced the digital world. According to the Barna Group, parents are using technology at the same frequency as tweens and teens. Even my missionary friends, who are currently serving in a thirdworld country in East Africa, use texting to communicate with the locals. They just emailed me to share how a text conversation with a particular patient’s caregiver shifted to spiritual things and, ultimately, led to sharing the gospel – via text message! January 2013
Technology’s reach is far and deep. It touches everyone. As church leaders, it’s tempting to focus on and be verbal about the negatives: • Technology is too pervasive and too easily accessible in places where we should be putting our smart phones away. • It has a propensity to control you rather than be controlled by you. These are real problems. But like food, like money, the need for technology is not going to go away. With that in mind, DON’T spend your time talking negatively about the advances in technology – if you do, you risk losing credibility on the subject. DO teach people how to wade through these new gray areas and manage technology’s role in their lives. Here are some ideas to help your church serve as a teacher, role model, and thought leader on technology.
rate than preceding generations, in part because they don’t write checks, and they tend not to carry cash. It’s incredibly easy for your church to offer planned giving using technology as a convenient service to members of all ages. Are you using it, talking about it, and teaching how easy it is to use? And the opportunities extend beyond giving to participation, engagement, and how strongly people feel that they belong. If your church isn’t making effective use of technology (or, worse, shying away from it), our young people will be missing out on worship opportunities, participation in Kingdom work, and blessings from God. Using technology and promoting its use for the good can help your church stay on track with giving and keep people connected to your church.
Wield it for good Bill Hybels, founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church says, “The local church is the hope of the world.” Surely, the church’s compelling resources should be easily accessible online. There is plenty of bad content for young ones to get their hands on; we need to counteract that trend by publishing high-quality virtual content that speaks the truth in grace. Embrace your social media outlets and encourage your tweens, teens and young adults to point people to gospel truth by posting online banners, or links to bite-sized YouTube videos that speak to issues the intended audience faces today. Show how technology can help you manage life instead of managing you. Teens and young adults can benefit from learning how to manage other areas of their life, like money, making healthy choices, and using technology tools. For example, young adults today give at a lower Christian Computing® Magazine
Take a break from digital Yes, I clearly believe the local church should be strongly represented in social media. On the other hand are you, or the church, ever unplugging? It never hurts to remind people that a non-digital world is still functioning out there. Posting a Facebook status like, “We are unplugging from technology for a while” will help us teach our future adults about knowing God through these disciplines. Beyond the sporadic digital break, what about built in times during the day to say, “I will not be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or blogs during these specified hours so my time on my job or with homework stays productive and distraction free.” One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control. We can trust the Holy Spirit to be our guide. As adults we struggle with the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude. Modeling moderation in the area of digital technology will help us teach future adults about knowing God through these disciplines. Guard their hearts King Solomon tells us to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT) What is the practical application of this when it comes to tweens/teens/young adults and digital technology? For the younger audience, there is a balance needed between teaching them how to guard their hearts and protecting them until they are mature enough to make some of these decisions themselves. Show parents how they can be proactive on this front. AVG Family Safety, for example, offers applications both for desktop/ laptop computers and smartphones, and offer the simple advice, “Inspect what you expect.” If the parent gives time limits or sets expectations on what sites the tween may visit – check on it! See that it happened! For teens and young adults, there will be a couple of key messages. The first message will be for those who have been trapped by pornographic or other toxic sites. They should be made aware of the effects this type of content may have on their lives. Furthermore, they will need a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere to confess, receive prayer, and find the promised healing Christian Computing® Magazine
of James 5:16. The second message will be for those who are having a hard time managing their time because of too frequent digital distractions. They will need strategies, tools, and accountability to learn self-management. Be the difference in the schools Social media is the one place where offline social worlds are colliding: school, work, church, family, and community. It’s also the place where people who are being bullied receive it many times over. We need to protect our kids, church! Since the church is found in the same virtual space as other networks of friends, we need voices, we need campaigns, and we need our students on campus to say, “No, this is not ok.” We need a triple measure of boldness and goodness to overcome the evil. I don’t think “oppression” is too strong a word for what some of these kids are facing from cruel peers. Where’s the church’s voice when it comes to cyber bullying? Part of stewarding technology may very well include how to pinpoint when someone is being bullied and how to handle the situation in terms of who to call, how to be assertive in situations, and how to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. It’s our duty! There is a place for the church to move in and make some good, wise noise. The next generation of leaders needs your help.
church windows Software
CHURCH WINDOWS SOFTWARE
Fun with 2013 Payroll Changes: Adventures in IRS Policy
uring the latter part of 2012, the various branches of the US Government were working hard (or hardly working, depending on your opinion…but we won’t enter this political tempest) to determine various tax law rates and changes. Well, the changes were decided and are now in place. While the entire volume of changes couldn’t possibly be reviewed here, let’s look at a couple of the changes that are relevant to churches and church employees. The first change employees will likely notice on checks is the increase in withheld Social Security tax. The previously-enacted 2% reduction expired at the end of 2012. The idea here is that the extra money withheld will help the existing decrease in Social Security trust fund tax revenue. So unless the church is giving raises to offset the taxed increase (which isn’t likely at all), net pay amounts may be observably lower. For Pastors and other earners who contribute as
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self-employed individuals, they should increase Self-Employed Contributions Act (SECA) tax payment estimates to prevent owing a significant amount when filing 2013 taxes. Should the church have any individuals who are part of higher-income earning households, they should be aware of the 0.9% Medicare surtax being charged. Originally a part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, this surtax now effective in 2013 applies once Single & Heads of HouseJanuary 2013
holds earn more than $200,000, Couples earn more than $250,000, or Married Filing Separately folks’ incomes exceed $125,000. To recap, the 0.9% surtax kicks in once the levels above are reached. Prior to that, the standard 2.9% rate applies, with 1.45% of that being employee withheld and 1.45% being employer matching. Ministers are always particularly tricky in terms of payment arrangements. For Ministers or members of a religious organization who have not taken a vow of poverty, ministerial earnings are exempt from Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) withholding. Earnings are covered under SECA in both cases unless there is an approved IRS exemption. Also, according to IRS Publication 517, church employees are not exempt from FICA taxing unless the church has filed the election to opt out of Social Security. For churches who contribute to employees’ 403(b) retirement plans, the maximum amount that you and the church (employer) may jointly contribute is now – follow this carefully: the lesser amount of $51,000 or the amount of an employee’s taxably-included compensation for the most recent working year. So in a nutshell, if the church employee makes less than $51,000, then that amount earned is the maximum amount that can be contributed. If the employee makes greater than $51,000, then the maximum contribution rests at $51,000. There are certain conditions for which contributions may be increased, but the above will work for the majority. Moving on to something a little easier to ingest, there are changes in 2013 for Health Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs.) These are also Cafeteria Plans or Medical Reimbursement Accounts and are outlined by IRS Code Section 125. For Cafeteria Plan years beginning after 12/31/2012, the amounts allowable paid in are now set at a $2,500 maximum. DeducChristian Computing® Magazine
tions for long-term care premiums have been raised, particularly for those who are – let’s say – “chronologically gifted.” Up to $4,550 may be written off by those ages 71 or older. The maximum is $3,640 for ages 61 to 70, $1,360 for ages 51 to 60, $680 for ages 41 to 50, and $360 for those 40 and under. But due to the increased cost of care, the amount that may be withdrawn tax-free per day has now risen to $320. With the IRS Tax Code now said to be thicker than the Bible, these topics can’t possibly cover every facet of tax changes affecting churches and church employees. This can, hopefully, help bring some tax code jargon into everyday English. It must be added that only your tax professional should be completely relied upon to navigate the seas of the IRS. But here, we’ve covered -- in common language -- items impacting the majority of church employees.
engaging your parishioners online
ENGAGING YOUR PARISHIONERS ONLINE
Your Annual Appeal Campaign Internet Style from Liturgical Publications
aybe it’s just a Catholic thing, but I’m amazed at how little the annual appeal process has changed in the churches and dioceses I’m familiar with. Here’s how the typical process works…
About this time of year parishioners (sometimes just past donors to save on mailing costs), receive a letter from their church and later a separate letter from their diocese. The letter from the church is looking for an annual pledge or commitment whereas the diocese is asking parishioners to participate in their annual appeal to support diocesan-wide ministries. A pledge card typically accompanies this letter. Too few churches may reference last year’s donation, while most, even though they have the data, are silent on this. They will then follow-up with usually 2-3 additional mailings, but probably not often enough a thank you note when a pledge or donation is actually made. This year I encountered a church in my neighborhood, that in order to save money opted Christian Computing® Magazine
not to send out pledge cards this year. Instead, a letter was distributed after a December mass instructing the parishioners to call the church if they wanted to adjust their pledge from last year. Now, I’m sure that this church saved a few hundred dollars on mailing costs, but at what price? Did the only occasional mass attendee get the message? And what about the content of the message? If they want to adjust their pledge? Should an employee contact their employer if they want an annual raise/increase? Should a retiree contact the Social Security Administration if they want this year’s cost of living adjustment? Taking a look at any secular charity organization and you’d immediately realize that they just don’t do it that way. They send out multiple mailings, they know exactly how much you gave January 2013
Elevate Your Ministries With New Technologies These are just some of the features that come at no additional cost with the RDS Advantage Church Management System: • Credit/Debit Card and Kiosk processing (no initial, monthly or annual fees. Integrated with RDS accounting) • Leader Management (leaders can manage their groups remotely) • Event/Facility Scheduling (integrated with website calendars) • Physical Inventory Tracking (take inventory with scanners)
BEST OF ALL These features are included at NO additional cost.
• Payroll Check-In (no time clock needed - check in at your workstation) • Child Check-In (user control of features for each activity) • Library with Patron Lookup (bar code library item check-in and out) • Contact Management (care ministries - Pastor calls - follow up - mobile) • Check Imaging with E-Check Deposit (One step data entry with remote check deposit) • VOIP Voice Messaging (no hardware required - does not use your phones) • Cloud and On-Site hosted Systems (Tier III SaSS Cloud-hosted or install on your site)
These modules and more are part of a totally integrated system that includes ministry and outreach functions combined with comprehensive fund accounting.
YOUR RDS ADVANTAGE TEAM 17
Christian Computing® Magazine • www.rdsadvantage.com • 800.337.6328 January 2013 firstname.lastname@example.org • 405.840.5177
last year, and they always, I repeat always, ask for more.
The other stark difference is sometime last decade, they began to leverage the Internet and then later Social Media. It can cost close to a dollar to mail a letter, but sending an email is free or nearly free in comparison. Putting your pledge form on your church’s website is also free, and communicating your progress toward your goal and sending out reminders are, you guessed it, free as well. If you’re church has an entirely paper commitment process, here’s a few things you can do to integrate a little electronic communication into that process.
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Use Your Email Addresses I’m always amazed that we’ve managed to put an email address box on our pledge cards, but yet we never use them. Too often, I hear churches lament that they don’t have email addresses for their parishioners or can’t keep them updated. They key here is you actually need to use them. Marketers know that a full 25% of all emails change every year. It takes constant communication with your membership to keep these updated. What information are you distributing via email? How much do you communicate with your parishioners via email? The more you use email to communicate, the greater and faster your list will grow. I recommend using an email marketing service like MailChimp or Constant Contact. MailChimp is free for mailing lists under 2500 in size and then begins to have a nominal cost like Constant Contact. Using an email marketing service, provides you an easy, simple way to manage an email list, allows for opt-ins on your website, as well as to let people opt-out if they no longer wish to receive your emails. Plus with these tools, you can create a very nice looking HTML email branded to your church’s style. They even do mail merges simply and easily. No more “Dear Parishioner(s)” email. Now, you can personalize the message right to each parishioner. Emails as part of an Annual Appeal Campaign allow for two very important things: You can increase your communication touch points. Marketers say you need to reach out to people 6-7 times to get a message through. With a combination of email and print, you can get up to that volume. It also allows you send out more customized and timely communication. Working with a mailing house can often require a few weeks of coordination. As events or deadlines get close or as milestones are reached you can send timely communication for how the appeal is going right now, not where you thought it January 2013
was going to be 2-4 weeks ago. Plus, you can reach everyone who you have an email address for. You don’t need to limit it just to last year’s donors to save money on postage and mailing costs. Social Media Many churches struggle with enough content to put on their church Facebook page. How about updates on your Annual Appeal and progress toward your goal? Knowing that we’re 50% toward the annual goal or 25% of my fellow parishioners have already turned in their pledge card, may just prompt the slowto-commit parishioner to make their pledge. With a little work, Facebook can also serve as a reference point for encouraging email list signups or better yet, making their commitments right then and there. Liturgical Publication’s online donation tool, WeShare, integrates directly into Facebook allowing parishioners to commit and donate right from their church’s Facebook page. And Lastly, Your Website Stewardship is not just about money, but it is indeed a critical component that makes a stewardship driven church run. Almost all church websites have pages that describe their ministries, but not all have content on their annual appeal. Your website should be a repository for your pledge commitment cards, have the same calls to action as in the letters, and have frequent updates as your appeal progresses towards its goal. This time a year, there should be a call to action right on the home page of your website for every parishioner to make their annual commitment. Christian Computing® Magazine
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Connect With Your Community In Print and Online The next generation of parishioners is growing up online. They’re more comfortable texting than writing in cursive. They don’t write letters and they don’t write checks either. They communicate via email and text and they do almost all their banking online. You need to reach all your parishioners where they’re spending more and more of their time, on the Internet. Your next annual appeal campaign should have both a print and a communication component to it. Email and Social Media can help get your message out, help repeat that message so it gets through, and do so at a very effective cost. Joe Luedtke is the President of the E-giving Division for Liturgical Publications Inc (LPi), www.4LPi.com, an organization that provides print publications, communication solutions, and Internet and online donation services to churches and dioceses. Joe and his wife along with their two children live in Wisconsin. Joe can be found online on his blog CatholicTechTalk.com. If you’re interested in learning how LPi can help you bring your Annual Appeal campaign to the web, Joe can be reached at JLuedtke@4LPi.com.
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higher power with kevin
Accordance for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
Kevin A. Purcell - email@example.com
hen Accordance first showed up on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, I dismissed it because it didn’t sync things like notes and bookmarks automatically. It also didn’t seem as intuitive as the other iOS Bible study apps. Around New Year’s, Accordance released version 1.6 of their mobile app and it brings with it enough improvements that users of Accordance for the Mac should really consider ditching their current Bible app and start using Accordance 1.6 for iOS. To view a video about the new app, go to Accordance’s YouTube channel where you can watch Christian Computing® Magazine
this video that highlights the new features of this update: http://youtube/hVzM8pf51fk.Also read their blog post about it at http://bit.ly/RGayCl. What’s New in Accordance 1.6 First, notice the attractive new interface. The app looks better. Users can chance the theme, but I like the new default theme. January 2013
word or phrase easier. Some of the other search improvements include the following: • Searches open a new search instead of replacing the previous • When launching the app previous searches are remembered and displayed Accordance improved their bookmarking feature. Users can now see them in the library view and they will be synced to other iOS devices via iCloud. Speaking of sync, the app now uses iCloud to sync more than just bookmarks. It remembers your place so that if you’re reading in Mark 1 in ESV on the iPhone and then open the iPad app it takes you to Mark 1 in the ESV where you were reading on the phone. To use bookmark and place syncing, turn it on from the iOS settings app, not from within the app.
They also added a night mode. Night mode turns the background to black and uses white letters to display text. The screen looks less annoying if you’re reading in bed at night or in a dark setting, like some churches have today. People around you wont’ be annoyed or distracted by the bright iPad or iPhone screen. Users can display their user notes and the app’s Instant Details in a customized way. From the library screen, tap the settings icon, which sits second from the right at the bottom of the library screen. From the settings the user can change all of the interface elements like text, tool and user notes display. Also turn on or off the Flex search tool. Accordance describes this feature as follows: Specifically, Flex Search will find all inflected forms of verbs and all singular and plural forms of nouns. This mode also allows words to occur out of order or to have other words in between them. For example, a flex search for the phrase “build houses” will yield results for “build houses,” “building a house,” and “the house that King Solomon built.” (From Accordance Feature Descriptions) I recommend turning Flex Search on. It makes searching when I don’t know specific wording of a Christian Computing® Magazine
The new DropBox backup tool is also a nice addition. A user with a DropBox account (free at http://www. dropbox.com) can connect Accordance 1.6 to their account and back up user data like notes and bookmarks to name a few. Do this from the settings page within Accordance found by tapping the icon at the bottom of the Library screen. January 2013
Be sure to follow my blog at http://www.KevinPurcell.org and on Twitter @kapurcell or on Google Plus at http://gplus.to/kapurcell.
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Center for THE STUDY OF CHURCH MANAGEMENT
Enriching Parishes...Enhancing Community
A New Year In A New Era Michael L White - firstname.lastname@example.org
ince you’re reading this, it proves that we all survived the predicted end of the world on December 21, 2012. Of course, those of us who were familiar with the Bible weren’t the least bit frightened by all of those forecasts anyway, because we knew that the Bible foretells that the world will never end (Ecclesiastes 1:4), although the heavens and the earth will be completely renovated after Jesus’ initial millennial reign following the Seven Year Tribulation (Revelation 20:121:1 & Isaiah 65:17). In fact, I think Revelation 20:11 actually describes the “stripping down to the studs” of the current heavens and earth to make ready for the new heavens and earth in Revelation 21:1 when it says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (NASB; emphasis added). That will be quite a day, but it isn’t scheduled to take place for at least another 1,007 years from now! Perhaps some of you read my blog article about this “TEOTWAWKI” (“the end of the world as we know it”) event, which I posted on the day before this widely anticipated date. If you missed it, you can still read it at www.parsonplace.com/blog (where I’ve recently relocated it to my personal site), if you’re interested. I wish I had made time to write more about this Christian Computing® Magazine
topic during the months prior to this date, since it provided an excellent opportunity for digital evangelism. I did write at least two other blog articles similar to this topic, which I titled Is the End Near? and The Age of Deception, but I didn’t deal directly with the impending doom expected by so many on December 21, 2012. Unfortunately, I simply had too many other preoccupations going on at the same January 2013
time. Nevertheless, it isn’t too late now to try to engage folks who may have been taken in by some of that hype and now find themselves disillusioned with or hardened by anyone announcing an impending judgment day. As only a few sane voices were reporting prior to December 21, 2012 (the date the historic Mayan “long count” calendar was due to end), this date was actually only the conclusion of one era (or time period) and the initiation of another new era. In other words, December 21, 2012, was to the stellar and planetary revolutions tracked so closely by the Mayans much like December 31st is on any given calendar year for us today. It’s just like taking the 2012 calendar off the wall or desk or wherever you had it stationed and replacing it with the 2013 calendar, which I’m pretty sure most of you have done by now. For all of you more laid-back folks, there’s plenty of time to change it, so what’s the rush? We might also liken this time change to a clock with a second hand. It takes 60 ticks of the second hand to move the minute hand just one minute, and it takes the minute hand 60 ticks to move the hour hand by just one hour. Of course, while the second hand takes one full revolution to equal one minute, and the minute hand takes one full revolution to equal one hour, it takes two full revolutions of the hour hand to equal one day. Next, of course, it takes a cycle of seven days to equal one week and 52 weeks to equal one year. By this point, the earth will have revolved around the sun one full course, at which point it completes its revolution and begins the cycle all over again. This annual process takes so long to accomplish that we all get together to mark the occasion with fireworks and various other displays of celebration as we Christian Computing® Magazine
count down the final seconds and shout in unison, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Are you starting to see a pattern here? Time is cyclical, and that’s what the Mayans were tracking on their “long count” calendar – the cycle of one long era that lasts about 4,000 years. The fact that they didn’t start a new calendar with December 22, 2012, doesn’t mean that they thought the world was going to end on that date. It simply means that they were either interrupted before they could begin working on the next calendar or else they felt they had another 1,000+ years before the present calen-
dar ran out. Perhaps only God knows the truth about what really happened. It’s interesting to me that this long count calendar last changed eras around the time of Noah’s Flood. Now, here we are, having just passed another of its time changes, preparing to usher in the Millennial Messianic Age. Coincidentally, a newly discovered comet named Hale-Bopp passed through our astronomical neighborhood just over 16 years ago, and after scientists calculated its circuit, they ascertained that the last time it had passed by this way was about 4,200 years ago (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/ planetary/halebopp.html). That would be around the time Noah was building his ark. So, what are we to make of this? I think God told us about this in Genesis 1:14, where Moses … reach out recorded, “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of … minister to people the heavens to separate the day … create fellowship from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and … contribute to for days and years…’” (NASB; your community emphasis added). Therefore, these celestial bodies not only mark PowerChurch Plus was time and seasons for us, but they created for just that! also show us signs that announce things to come, much like the warming weather, budding trees, and blossoming flowers announce Membership We provide you with the tools to to us that spring is about to arrive. increase administrative efficiency With regard to doing digital and streamline accounting tasks, evangelism, we can join in with Accounting freeing you up to perform the work these signs in the heavens and on the earth by pointing people to the that matters. Contributions inerrant, infallible Word of God to accept His offer of salvation and Install on your PC or network, or access online. prepare for His return to keep His Events promises, because ready or not, Choose which fits your needs. Calendar here He comes! We have at our disposal a means of communicaCheck In tion that no human being in history has ever had. It’s called the World Wide Web, and we have a Completely wide variety of digital technology We provide software tools, Integrated tools for accessing and using the freeing you up to fulfill your mission. World Wide Web to spread whatever message we choose. We can www.PowerChurch.com • 800.486.1800 text, email, blog and communicate
You want the freedom to
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in any number of other ways (not to mention good old fashioned face-to-face conversation!) to share this glorious hope with those in relationships with us. I, for one, intend to use both email and blogging to do my part in evangelizing both those I know and those I don’t know, and in my blog post dated December 31, 2012, I’ve set a goal of working my way up to blogging at least weekly by the end of 2013. Maybe you’re already doing this, but if not, I challenge you to do the same. Along with marketing our businesses and our church ministries (which is a different kind of evangelism), we ought to be proclaiming the joyous hope of salvation made available by Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead (which is the kind of evangelism Jesus has commanded us all to do). Although we just finished celebrating Christmas (the birth of Christ) it will be only a couple of months from now (March 31st) until we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. Did I just say celebrate the commemoration of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection? Yes, as strange as that may sound, we actually celebrate Jesus’ death on the cross, because without that act of atonement, there would have been no need for a resurrection, and our eternal salvation would not have been possible (Matthew 26:39). Spring is actually my favorite season of the year, and Resurrection Sunday is most certainly my favorite holy day of the year. With the start of every New Year, I always begin eagerly looking forward to the coming of spring and the celebration of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and resurrection from the dead. This year is no different. It is most definitely the highlight of my year. Since I’ve been looking (and sometimes longing) for Jesus’ return for most of my life, I’m going to make it one of my top priorities in 2013 to urge everyone around me to prepare for this coming Millennial Messianic Age. I hope you’ll join me, and I pray you all Christian Computing® Magazine
will enjoy a very blessed and prosperous New Year in 2013. Happy New Year! Michael L. White is the founder and Managing Editor of Parson Place Press, an independent Christian publishing house in Mobile, Alabama. His book Digital Evangelism: You Can Do It, Too! (Parson Place Press, April 2011) is available wherever books are sold. For a list of his other books and articles, visit his Web site at books.parsonplace.com.
the power and the danger
By Russ McGuire - email@example.com
he new year often brings renewed commitments, such as “This year, I’m finally going to update our website.” If it’s been a few years since you refreshed your site, you might just now be realizing how many church websites are built using WordPress. Is it the answer for you? What do you need to be concerned about?
What is WordPress? WordPress is open source software that makes it easy to publish content on the web. I’ve used WordPress for close to a decade for various blogs that I write. The first blog I ever set up was in 2000 when blogging tools were limited in options and capabilities (that first blog was, and still is, on BlogSpot). A few years later, when I went to create a new blog, I was delighted to find WordPress. The software was easy to use to create and manage new posts and categories, and already there were a number of themes available to make it all look attractive. Since WordPress is open source, smart folks recognized that the software could do so much Christian Computing® Magazine
more than just support blogs, so over time more and more capabilities have been added to make it a full-fledged content management system. Today, the WordPress.org website simply says “WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog.” The original developer of WordPress claims that 16% of websites use the software. One of the reasons why WordPress has been so successful is it’s extensibility. Like other open source software, the source code is available, so other developers can improve it. (And like other open source projects, the software is free to use.) But, more importantly, from the beginning WordPress has been designed to make January 2013
it easy to extend without touching the core software. What I noticed when I started were all the “themes” already available, which defined how a WordPress site looked. Themes include CSS files and templates which can make one site look radically different from another. In fact, because of themes, many sites you visit may be using WordPress and you’d never guess it. But WordPress also makes it easy to develop plugins that extend the capabilities available for WordPress users. As I write this, there are 1,656 themes available through WordPress.org, but there are 23,049 plugins available, and they have been downloaded nearly 400 million times. That’s more than if every man, woman, and child in the U.S. each downloaded one plugin. How can churches use WordPress? At its simplest, WordPress is a great tool for blogging. If your church wants to have a blog, then WordPress is worthy of consideration. However, as noted above, WordPress has become a full-fledged content management system that churches could use for their entire website. Once a site is established, it’s easy enough to use that any church administrator that knows how to use word processing software could keep the content up to date. In fact, developers have leveraged WordPress’ openness to develop themes and plugins specifically for churches. There are also web development and hosting firms that focus on helping churches establish and maintain a WordPress-based website. Jack Lamb identified over a dozen resources for church websites in his post at http://webdesignledger.com/resources/17resources-for-churches-using-wordpress . He included 5 sources for themes, 6 plugins (for managing sermons, calendars, address books, photo galleries, prayer requests, etc.), and a couple of resource lists. A quick Google search Christian Computing® Magazine
for “WordPress for churches” can identify many other resources. What about WordPress is powerful for churches? By now, it’s probably obvious that the main benefits of WordPress are that it’s fairly easy to establish and maintain an attractive web presence using the software. The fact that WordPress is free and extensible is great. And because it’s so popular, many people have invested their time to create extensions that are impressive and free. For those of us in ministry, impressive, easy, and free is a pretty compelling combination. The fact that it’s easy enough to use that even pastors could make updates is just icing on the cake! What is dangerous about WordPress for churches? All that sounds too good to be true. Aren’t there any downsides we need to consider? Of course there always are, although admittedly, they aren’t significant. January 2013
For starters, WordPress is open source and the plugins are open source. That brings with it many benefits that we’ve described above. However, it means that the software is freely available for hackers to examine. Also, with WordPress powering so many websites, hackers are attracted to the software. If they can find a way to exploit weaknesses in the software, then they could gain access to many sites. There have been a number of reports of widespread attacks on WordPress sites, although the WordPress community does a good job of responding quickly to mitigate the risks. The challenge leads to the second concern with WordPress – the software is updated frequently, often to address security vulnerabilities. That means that whoever is the site administrator has to stay on top of these updates. It’s not a huge time drain, but it is hard to know when updates will come, so you can’t plan it into your schedule. Constant updates to WordPress software leads to another challenge. Some updates make plugins or themes stop working. If the plugin developer is no longer actively supporting the plugin, you might need to figure out how to make it work with the WordPress core upgrade. Most plugins are relatively straightforward, so it’s not a huge task for a tech savvy individual, but again probably not something you’ve built into your time budget. Which leads us to the final area of concern – plugins themselves. It’s not hard for a plugin developer to include malicious code. Since we’re all attracted to cool, free functionality, we can easily be tricked into compromising our sites. One piece of advice that seems wise is to, whenever possible, download plugins and themes from WordPress.org (which does some limited testing) and only download those with lots of downloads and reviews and a high ranking. Bestpluginsforwp.com also points to three plugins that can help protect your site in this posting: http://bestpluginsforwp.com/3great-plugins-making-wordpress-theme-safe/#. T0xmY_Egc64. Bottom Line Although there’s no such thing as a “free lunch,” WordPress comes pretty close to providing a great platform for quickly and easChristian Computing® Magazine
ily developing impressive websites. As Jesus warned, we are to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16), but as He calls us to ministry on the web, I’m thankful that He has blessed us with tools like WordPress. It is my hope and prayer that these articles on the power and danger of technology will encourage you in your daily walk with Christ. Whether it is WordPress, the printing press, radio, television, personal computers, the Internet, the Cloud, mobility, or Wi-Fi, new technologies continue to advance our ability to know God and to serve Him, wherever we go. Russ McGuire is an executive for a Fortune 100 company and the founder/co-founder of three technology start-ups. His latest entrepreneurial venture is Hschooler.net (http://hschooler.net), a social network for Christian families (especially homeschoolers) which is being built and run by seven young men under Russ’ direction.
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onecallnow.com January 2013
The lessons of Lent communication ideas for all churches
Yvon Prehn - firstname.lastname@example.org
aster is early this year and Lent begins on Feb. 13. Creating communications for Lent isn’t about a denomination or whether your church is liturgical or not. Lent helps us to put the Christian life into biblical perspective. It’s a time to practice saying “no” to ourselves in little things so we can say a bigger “yes” to God in the bigger decisions of life. We know the value of discipline to achieve our goals in every other area of life and this time of year reminds us of its importance in the Christian life. Here are suggestions on how to make it practical for your congregations:
Challenge your congregation with a bulletin insert, newsletter or web article Following are two versions of a similar idea on how to make the disciples of Lent part of your life for 40 days. The idea with both is that we can translate the discipline into a variety of areas in our lives, in whatever way we feel the Lord is leading us. You have permission to use the texts below in any way you want. At the end of the examples is a link if you want to see how they have been used in bulletin insert.
to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Cor.9:24-27 How easy it is to admire discipline in athletes, but how hard it is to practice it ourselves. Lent is traditionally the time when we commemorate our Lord’s 40 days in the desert as He began His earthly ministry. Throughout the ages, Christians have used this time for self-denial to train their bodies and spirits in godliness. Here are a few suggestions on how we might do that. We can give up our time. We can give up our free time and spend more time with Jesus, in His word, or serving Lenten meditation #1 (an illustration of an athlete can be others. We can spend additional time in prayer for others. used with this) We can give up control of our words. This is hard Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who when we love to give our opinion and advice. For Lent we competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to can discipline ourselves to listen carefully, to ask questions get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that before we speak. will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running We can give up feelings of resentment. It may be true aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat that no one appreciates us in the way they should, but no my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached matter how difficult our day, our burdens are nothing comChristian Computing® Magazine
pared to what Jesus bore for us. We can give up a habit. Sometimes anger, bad attitudes, gossip or a judgmental spirit keep us from being as effective as we could be in ministry. For Lent, ask the Lord to be your personal trainer, to show you what is keeping you from being the spiritual athlete he wants you to be. Age, abilities, doesn’t matter— obedience does. Listen to his voice; practice the spiritual training habits in the Bible, and use Lent as a time to become more effective in serving Jesus. Run in such a way as to get the prize. By Yvon Prehn, www.effectivechurchcom.com Lenten meditation, #2 (This one was originally created with an old-fashioned image of feet-washing) The less obvious and sometimes more costly forms of self-denial. Self-denial is a slippery discipline, especially at Lent, when Christians traditionally give up something they like to eat. Ages ago when believers gave up meat, eggs, and milk, they were suffering genuine hardship because they didn’t have many other options in their diet. Christian Computing® Magazine
Today, giving up a certain food is easy—there is always more to replace it. No meat, no problem. We’ve got fish and soy products, blender drinks and protein bars. In addition, there is always the thought lurking in the back of my mind that if I cut back on food a bit I might lose a few pounds. There are other options for self-denial as we commemorate our Lord’s 40 days in the desert as He began His earthly ministry. To add to your commemoration of Lent, or to begin now or anytime, consider these disciplines that may not be as obvious as food, but can be quite difficult: We can give up our time. We can give up our free time and spend more time with Jesus, in His word, or serving others. This can be a genuine sacrifice, because for those who work in ministry, there is little free time. We can give up control of our words. This is hard for me. I love to give my opinion. For Lent I can give up my words so I can listen carefully. We can give up feelings of resentment. Yes, the work we do is hard and few appreciate it, but no matter how difficult our day, our burdens are nothing compared to what Jesus bore for us. Spend time alone with Jesus, as He did with His Father in the desert. Ask Him what He wants you to give up. Obey Him faithfully, in secret, and your Easter reward won’t only be a few lost pounds, but a closer walk with your Savior. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” By Yvon Prehn, www.effectivechurchcom.com If you’d like to see these in ready-to-print PDF format, go to: http://www.effectivechurchcom.com/2012/02/ bulletin-inserts-on-why-its-important-to-remind-ourcongregations-about-lent/ Follow up with social media and encouragements After posting a challenge to observe Lent, follow up with an invitation for your congregation to share experiences or ideas on your church Facebook page, Twitter, feed or website. Send out encouragements, because traditional or modern in content, self-denial is never easy. Most of all, pray for your people, that they will use Lent as a time to grow closer to the Lord and more committed to a sacrificial life of service, not only for 40 days, but for every day. For more ideas for ideas for Lenten communications, as well as a large assortment of communication ideas and resources for Easter, go to: http://www.effectivechurchcom.com
nick at church
2013 IT Task List
Nick Nicholaou - email@example.com
ew year, new beginnings, and new task lists! Are there some things that should be on your IT task list for early 2013? Here are some suggestions.
Internet There are a few things worth looking into regarding your Internet connection and presence. • Connection. Broadband options continue to improve throughout the country. For that reason, we recommend: • Contrary to ‘old school’ thinking, T1s are usually not advantageous. The exception is when there is no better alternative. Cable and DSL options are usually better than T1 lines for speed and cost, and often equivalent in quality. • Because the options continue to improve, we recommend never signing a contractor for a term longer than two years. If your connection is older than two years, it’s time to put it out to bid again. You may even get a better connection from the same provider for less! • Domains. Check the expiration of your domains and make certain you’re on schedule to keep their ownership current. And if your organization doesn’t currently own your domains, it’s time to start the process of correcting that. • Firewall. Make certain your firewall solution is current in it’s subscription (that’s usually what is necessary to keep the current one recognizing security breech attempts). Christian Computing® Magazine
Infrastructure • Switches. Church and ministry offices are often improvised settings to quickly meet needs. What starts as short-term solutions often becomes standards, and an area we see a lot is the introduction of little consumer-grade switches to expand the network. The problem is that team members start bringing in old ‘switches’ from home that are set to function as DHCP servers and routers. A good task to undertake is to look at every device on the network to see how it connects. You may be surprised at what you find! Doing this task will provide the basis for a good switch upgrade strategy and improve network reliability— and often speed. • Cable. It’s not uncommon to find that patch cables have been damaged and, thus, become problematic. We found an excellent and inexpensive source for very inexpensive good patch cables: www.deepsurplus.com. Servers • Virtualization. Virtualizing servers is the way current networks are strategized— almost exclusively! The software needed is free for most churches and ministries (only those with SANs on their network need to consider the paid solutions). The benefits include January 2013
lower hardware cost, better network reliability, better disaster recovery, and better network administration. We recommend VMware ESXi 5.1 as the foundation. Though Microsoft’s HyperV (also free) has a lot of folks looking at it, there are solid IT reasons why VMware’s solution is in use in more than 90% of virtual environments. • Server OSes. Microsoft Windows is the best server OS (server OSes are referred to as NOSes— network operating system). • If your servers are running anything prior to Windows 2008r2, they are in need of updating (we’re about to begin testing Windows 2012, and will report on our findings soon.) Microsoft charity licensing makes buying Windows Server licenses very inexpensive. • The database that runs a Windows network is called Active Directory (AD). Microsoft has changed their recommended strategies for configuring AD a few times over the years as their NOS has grown up and come of age. When doing your next server platform upgrade, consider creating a new AD using current strategies to simplify and improve your network operations. • Structure. When configuring your new AD structure, consider simplifying your server naming convention. We see many who have decided to use biblical names for their servers. We haven’t seen an advantage in that strategy. We recommend using very short server
names to reduce typos when supporting them, and using names that help identify the server’s role on the network. Consider: • Domain Controllers: dc1, dc2, etc • Mail Server: mail • Print Server: ps • EndPoint Server: ep • Terminal Servers: ts1, ts2, etc • SQL Servers: db1, db2, etc • Backup Server: bu Workstations Network users are notorious for not applying software and OS updates in a timely manner. We recommend setting a plan in motion to sit at each workstation and run all updates needed— especially since so many are related to security flaws the provider has identified and resolved. This is a great way to let volunteers help if you are so inclined. I hope you have a GREAT 2013, and that these tasks help you as you serve and empower those on your team reach many for the Lord. Nick Nicholaou is president of MBS, a consulting firm specializing in church and ministry IT and CPA services. You can reach Nick via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and may want to check out his firm’s website (www.mbsinc. com) and his blog at http://ministry-it.blogspot.com.
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With Cloud technology, your servers can be located off-site. MBS has extensive church and ministry IT expertise – let us host your servers in our datacenter! Serving you and your team would be an honor! Call or email us today to learn more!
Nick Nicholaou, President
“. . . freeing those in ministry from business distractions.” Phone: 714. 840.5900 • www.mbsinc.com • email@example.com