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 27
Contributing Editors Yvon Prehn Nick Nicholaou Kevin A. Purcell Russ McGuire Michael L White
5 cover story Learning More about By The Book Church Management Software
Copy Editors Gina Hewitt Magen Cross
Is it the right fit for your church? By Steve Hewitt
Corporate Home Office
Are You Happy With Your Church Management Software (ChMS)? By Steve Hewitt
Increasing Generosity in Your Church: 3 Precepts
Setting the Stage for Good Stewardship
Protected with Purpose
Ransomware on the Rise
17 Church Windows Software
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Phone: (816) 550-8082
By Nancy Lawson
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By Michael Jordan
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Are You Happy With Your Church Management Software (ChMS)? I want to thank all of those that took the time to answer our CCMag question this month. I personally learned much from the responses! Over half of our readers are happy with the ChMS their church is presently using (57%). Many left some great comments. It was great for me to see so many of our sponsors named specifically, with glowing reviews. But 43% of our readers serve at churches that are not happy with their ChMS. In the survey, I listed a few reasons a church might not be satisfied with their ChMS, and encouraged people to provide other reasons as well. Of those churches not happy with their ChMS, the number one reason (41%) was that they felt their ChMS was complicated or outdated. Some comments included; “The fact that we are tied to a server based system rather than cloud based seems outdated today. Reporting is also somewhat difficult for the inexperienced user. We also have some interesting attendance reporting issues that can’t seem to be resolved with classes that may not meet every week in the organization.” Christian Computing® Magazine
“Not a user-friendly application. The program hasn’t evolved in 15 years. We are currently looking for a new software package that better fits our needs and is more up with the times.” “We have used ____ for many years and not happy with it anymore. We have been periodically looking for something more inclusive and simplified. However, it is time consuming to research and a big decision to buy new software.” “It is very difficult to use. The data input is cumbersome or difficult to access and input. The default giving statement was not designed to fit in any window envelope. When we call for support we are made to feel as though we should have known.” “Definitely designed by programmers and not by users.” The second major reason some churches aren’t happy with their present ChMS was it didn’t have February 2015
features they now needed or wanted. In the comments, it seemed that most wanted better communication tools, easier reporting, etc. I know this has always been a frustrating area for ChMS, as many customers leave their product to go to another because of a new feature yet they actually had that feature in their current ChMS, but simply didn’t know it. I spoke at a church administration meeting last year and afterwards an administrator asked for my recommendation for a new ChMS. I asked him why he was thinking of changing and he stated it was because they wanted to be able to send group text messages. When I asked him what ChMS he presently had, he stated a ChMS that I KNEW had a great text messaging service! I met with his church and helped him discover how to use the feature in his current ChMS and saved them the time and expense of changing. The third leading cause for churches to be discouraged by their present ChMS (15%) was the cost. In the comments, some stated that they liked moving to the cloud, but that costs per month had gone up. I am not sure if they had considered their savings per month in maintaining their own servers, backups, and such, but it could be that they haven’t
downsized their own IT costs now that much of their work was cloud based. The other reason for costs concerns listed in the comments was due to churches that were declining in membership and felt strapped by continuing contracts established when they were larger. What did I learn? I learned a lot from the positive comments about almost all of the ChMS companies that sponsor here in CCMag. It was great to hear how their ChMS services were blessing churches and helping them with administration and ministry. I learned that some of the frustration churches feel using ChMS can’t be resolved by the ChMS companies alone. Many comments expressed frustration over differences between the expectations of the pastor, the administrator and even the church on what they think ChMS should provide. Until a church staff can unite under specific needs, it is difficult for any ChMS to meet everyone’s needs. This is why I think we are seeing more and more churches use two different ChMS products to meet different needs of a church. They might be using one for the best fund accounting, while using another to accomplish communication and connect needs. This can certainly lead to a lot of data entry and duplicate work. I also learned that there are a lot of churches that would like to change to a new ChMS, but the time and process of learning which product/service would best fit their church is intimidating. I haven’t published an article on how best to make a ChMS purchase, but will work on one for an upcoming issue soon! Thanks to everyone that took the time to answer our survey, and especially to all of those that took the time to share their comments. They were very helpful and I will use the input in future articles on ChMS in the future this year! Together We Serve Him,
Steve Hewitt firstname.lastname@example.org Christian Computing® Magazine
Learning More about By The Book Church Management Software Is it the right fit for your church?
By Steve Hewitt
t seems like every week I receive emails from readers asking about specific ChMS services. This week I received three such emails, and I realized we need to provide more ChMS overviews and reviews in CCMag so our readers can better understand what ChMS companies provide. So, this month, I have interviewed the folks at By the Book. I love knowing a bit of the history about a company, as well as what they are doing and where they are going. I think you will learn a lot about By the Book. They make some great points about their services including why they are the perfect fit for many! Give them a read and learn if they are the solution for your church!
For our readers who aren’t familiar with By the Book, tell us about your story? By the Book was founded in 1992 by Gene McGlasson. He developed software for his church to keep track of membership and donations. He quickly realized that there was a huge need for this type of software, especially for the Mac, so he began marketing his product Roll Call. With input from many churches Roll Call was enhanced to include group management, attendance, directories and pledge tracking. In 2004 my husband and I felt the Lord calling us to use our database development skills for the church. We had absolutely no idea how we would do Christian Computing® Magazine
that. Then I met Gene at a ministry trade show and a wonderful partnership was born. In 2006 Gene and Laura retired from By the Book and my husband and I bought the company. We’ve continued to develop Roll Call, updating the user interface, adding child check in functionality, and mobile access. Our mission at By the Book is to provide the best software solutions for churches to help them accomplish their mission. We encourage feedback from our customers. They are on the front lines and know what will make their lives easier. We strive to provide the best customer service experience. We believe you should be able to pick up the phone and talk to a real person. February 2015
CHURCH WEBSITES FROM
Now your church can have a beautiful and welcoming website that is simple to maintain with Easy Church Websites from American Church.
X ENGAGE current members X EDUCATE everyone about the faith X ATTRACT visitors to your church X WELCOME newcomers and returning members
CALL FOR A FREE DEMO: 800-446-3035 Ext. 6880 How can Roll Call help the church accomplish its mission? Like it or not, there is tons of administration that is required for most churches. There is membership information that must be tracked, contributions that must be recorded, denominational statistics that must be compiled and background checks that must be run. Roll Call is extremely easy to use and will allow you to keep up with all these administrative tasks in an efficient manner. However, Roll Call is more than just a database. Roll Call is a tool to help the church shepherd their congregation and encourage discipleship. Roll Call makes it easy to connect with your congregation through email or text from within the program. We also make is simple to find your 1st, 2nd and 3rd time visitors so you can follow up with them. Use the system to track how folks are moving through your assimilation process … as they move from visitor to fully connected member. You can also find Christian Computing® Magazine
people who have not attended in a while or people who may be approaching burn out so you can reach out to them. Roll Call can also help increase the security in your children’s ministry area. With Roll Call’s check in system, you can check children into their classes and print name tags and parent tags. To make sure the child is leaving with the proper adult, you can compare tags or actually record who is checking the child out. With our system the check in process is extremely fast. In most cases, it’s only one click to check a family in. We also feel it’s important for the church to be able to use the type of devices they are comfortable with and prefer. Roll Call can be run on a Mac, Windows or on a network with both platforms. With our Mobile CheckIn and Roll Call Connect add-ons you can use any iOS or Android device. Mobile CheckIn allows the church to use their mobile devices as check in kiosks. Teachers can also use their smart phones to see who is checked into their class and even perform check in/out. With Roll Call Connect pastors, staff and group leaders can access the database on their mobile devices to look up contact information, record group attendance, record visitation notes and view reports. Connect can also be used by the congregation to log in and update their profile information, give online, view their giving history, print receipts and even get group rosters.
Roll Call is installed software. Don’t you find that churches want online access to their information? We do. However there are still many churches that are uncomfortable with having their information on the cloud, need a mobile solution for check in that does not require internet or that do not want the monthly or annual fees. We’re a great solution for those churches. For those churches that need remote or online access to their data, we have several options available as well. We offer a cloud hosting service. We put their database on our servers then they can access Roll Call from any computer that is connected to the internet. If they don’t want us to host their data, they can create their own VPN network to accomplish the same thing. We offer browser based access through Roll Call Connect. This add-on allows staff to log in through any standard browser and look up contact information, send emails or texts, view giving and attendance reports, record attendance and enter visitation notes. Connect can also be used as a portal for members to log in and update their own contact information, give online, view their giving history and print their own contribution statements. Tell us a bit about your new release (version 13)? We are super excited about version 13. The biggest change in version 13 is to our check in system. The user interface has changed dramatically. You can now set the background image for the check in screen. Some churches use a beautiful nature scene, while other’s use it to announce upcoming events. Not only has the look improved, but it’s even faster to check folks in. In most cases a family only needs to tap/click on the CheckIn All button to check all their children in. We’ve also implemented the use of recommended age ranges or grade ranges for the classes. This will also speed up the check in process for your visitors. Based on the information entered about the visitor, the system can recommend the class they should be checked into. We’ve also made quite a few improvements to other areas of Roll Call as well. We now allow you to set your own color schemes for the screens to fit with your churches theme. We’ve added a quick Christian Computing® Magazine
add form for contribution data entry in a grid format. You can choose to pre-populate the form with all the adults in your congregation so all you need to do is go down the list and enter how much they gave. Another new feature is the quick add for capturing family information. It is a simplified form for capturing the basic information about a family … their address, phone, email and family members. What are your future plans? We’ve got several development projects in the works. First, we are developing our own accounting package. Even though it seems like re-inventing the wheel, we’d like to develop an accounting system specifically for the church that is super easy to understand yet incorporates the fund accounting requirements for non-profits. This will give the church the ability to have one integrated solution for all their church management and fund accounting needs in Roll Call. We also are working on a completely new product that will be strictly web-based. This will give the church complete mobile access to their information. They won’t have to worry about setting up networks… they’ll just need to log in from any browser. We continue to develop and enhance Roll Call. We will be adding event registration and scheduling as well. How can folks learn more? You can learn more about Roll Call at www. bythebook.com. Churches can download a free trial of the software at http://www.bythebook.com/download-roll-call-trial/ or call us at 800.554.9116.
Increasing Generosity in Your Church: 3 Precepts
By: Nancy Lawson
ecently, NCS Services surveyed more than 8,000 churches regarding their current stewardship needs. There was an overwhelming response that increasing the generosity of the individuals in their congregation was by far the most important. You won’t believe how simple it can be to accomplish!
If you have ever attended workshops for personal or professional improvement, you have probably left with at least one key idea to execute. You have also undoubtedly been able to nod your head during the presentation in affirmation of concepts with which you were already familiar, but had forgotten. This article will be no different. Sometimes, we just need someone with a different perspective to remind us of valuable precepts. Precept 1: Simplicity I have always been a huge fan of the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Simplicity can never be overdone! How do you keep giving simple, you ask? First, make sure that your simplicity accommodates the needs of your entire congregation, not just a particular group. And, yes, that means that you will have to define multiple avenues for receiving donations, at least enough to address your membership Christian Computing® Magazine
group; although, you may want to address simplicity for those outside your membership as well. The giving process must be simple enough that when a person is ready to give, they have the vehicle to do so immediately and easily. That simplicity could come in the form of pew envelopes while sitting in a worship service, text giving from a pew, kiosk giving in the vestibule, QR codes on pew envelopes or bulletins while at church, or online giving while at home on the computer, etc. By all means, do not rely on just one of these methods—remember, keep it simple for everyone. One of the best ways to ensure people will do what you ask them to do is to make it easy enough to do. It’s acceptable, even biblical, that church leaders ask members to provide funding for their various ministries and operations. But, if you want to create the greatest likelihood that the request is converted into action, make it so simple that not only will they do it once, they will do it repeatedly. Pretty simple, right? February 2015
Precept 2: Promotion Ask. Request. Petition. Pray. Church giving is, and may always be, a sensitive subject in most churches. When you consider that churches rely entirely on donations to exist, it should absolutely be a sensitive subject. Hopefully, members will already feel a sense of obligation to support their church. For those that have not yet realized their obligation, the promotion of church giving is paramount to success. Statistically, most people are followers. By definition, they are following a leader of some organization. Church members look to their leader, the pastor, and any other governing groups within the church. With that information in hand, it only makes sense that the first promotion of church giving come from the pulpit. According to marketing principles, we know that it takes multiple communications on one topic to successfully plant the seed. And, because people respond better to different messaging formats, consider that one method is simply not enough. A sample plan of this proposed communication process would be the following: • Pastor speaks on gift giving at least four times annually. • Church leaders personally promote the value of the various donation methods. • Mention it in worship bulletins or include a QR code for enhanced pew giving. • Email blast to the membership with contribution choices included. • Text blast to the membership with text giving directions. • Place message boards throughout the church. • Use direct mailings such as monthly offering envelope packages with a letter from the pastor.
significant for your membership. Regardless of which methods you use, your promotion plan should include multiple styles of communication to increase the effectiveness. Recently, NCS Services released the newest Promote® feature to their customers which involved launching an email blast on behalf of the church promoting giving. The churches that took advantage of this service realized a 37% gain in giving over those that did not participate, which reflects only one of the steps listed above. Imagine how successful it could be if you utilized multiple communication venues and processes! Precept 3: Appreciation Webster defines appreciation as “thankful recognition”. Expressing appreciation is more difficult for some than others but historically has demonstrated the greatest return on investment of any other gesture. And, who doesn’t love to be appreciated? Contemplate the following perspective. If you have two individuals in front of you making a request of your time, but only one of them ever expresses appreciation for the way you help them, which are you most likely to accommodate? Church members are certainly no different. In fact, that gift of appreciation typically “keeps on giving”, no pun
Keep in mind, that this is just a sample. You should design a collection of communications and promotion efforts that will be most Christian Computing® Magazine
intended. When an organization relies entirely on donations to exist, no gift is too small; and no gift is too small for the church to demonstrate gratitude. However, in order for it to be truly compelling, it can’t just be about thankfulness. Take the time to inform the contributor exactly how they helped the church with their gift. Make them aware of other ministry efforts that could benefit from their generosity, while at the same time, providing the most effortless method to donate again—right at this moment they are feeling proud for helping. Maybe even create a “good steward” award program in the church and once a month recognize the givers during a service. It’s not important to announce the amount of the gift, just that those people met the “good steward” criteria you developed for the program. You already knew all of these precepts, didn’t you? But, how many of them are you actually utilizing in your church to increase generosity? It’s a new year, so make a resolution to incorporate all of these precepts in your stewardship promotion efforts and start benefitting from increased generosity! Nancy Lawson is the Manager of Strategic Partner Sales at NCS Services, Inc. NCS Services’ suite of technology products and services provides cutting edge tools to increase financial resources, enhance member communications and reduce administrative activities. Contact Nancy at nlawson@ ncsservices.org for additional information.
Christian Computing® Magazine
Setting the Stage for Good Stewardship By: Michael Jordan
ften, stewardship is viewed as the effective use of tithes that have been contributed to a church. While this is certainly true, there is so much more to being a good steward than just properly handling member donations. Churches can be considered lessees of the property, relationships, talents and even time of others. If those resources are squandered, members begin to lose faith in how their church manages its assets. If this happens, it can be difficult to get members to support your ministry efforts. Using staff wisely is also a struggle for many churches. There are many routine responsibilities causing staff to waste time that could be used to propel the ministry in other areas. Not to worry though, there are ways to optimize the use of resources used in the church. According to the authors of the ministry guide “Setting the Stage for Good Stewardship,” by making some changes, you can save money and time and effectively apply it to your ministry. “Knowing how to use money efficiently is one of the biggest challenges in the church. However, there are different ways to provide those who create your church budget with more information so Christian Computing® Magazine
they can reduce unnecessary spending, raise money within the congregation and make wiser budget decisions,” said the authors of “Setting the Stage of Good Stewardship.” “In addition, there are different ways that staff members can also effectively utilize online tools to meet the needs of members and continue being good stewards of the church.” The Difference Between Success and Failure is Change In most cases, the difference between success and failure in a church is one or two decisions, some which might, in the moment, seem pretty trivial. However, making decisions now about how February 2015
to best use your church’s resources is what sets congregations apart from those who neglect their assets. The easiest way to make those decisions is by having all the necessary information readily available. Contributing to the Church (Financial Growth) One of the base needs of a church is faithful tithing. Churches rely on members to give wholeheartedly, and being a faithful steward means making the most of every dollar contributed. However, the days of bringing cash or checks to church are days of a bygone era. With the use of technology increasing in everyday life, what are church administrators doing to keep donations coming into the church? “We’ve seen that they (church administrators) use experience and the latest technology to focus their efforts in the right places. Using online giving (and mobile giving) churches are able to drastically change their giving time frame, for the better,” said the authors of “Setting the Stage of Good Stewardship.” “Members’ giving opportunities used to only be on Sunday mornings during worship, but online giving has shifted those opportunities to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If a member misses a church service due to sickness or vacation, his or her automatic recurring giving will still be donated to the church.” Additional Contributions Options For many churches that use a ChMS software, remote deposit capture and check processing machines make for easier processing by church staff, guaranteeing accuracy and completing a full audit trail of processing gifts from tellers, to contribution posting, to bank, to general ledger. In reality, it provides a more fluid system that cuts down on chances of error, or worse, embezzlement. Churches that utilize certain ChMS solutions have the ability to quickly add a link to their website, which allows non-members (or members who do not yet have an account) to give on the church website. These gifts can then be automatically processed. But, giving doesn’t stop at just monetary gifts. Members can donate non-cash and in-kind gifts like jewelry, gift cards and electronics. “Nearly anything of value can be donated and funds go to the specific areas of your church where it is most needed. The best part is, there is no added work for staff,” said the authors of “Setting Christian Computing® Magazine
the Stage for Good Stewardship.” “For larger items like a car for example, the great thing is that church staff never have to get involved with disposing of the gift. They simply provide the link to the donator and once the items are processed, the funds are mailed directly to the church within a matter of days. It’s just one more way online giving through a ChMS can make your church an active steward of the ministry.” The Administrative Side of Giving We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. And if your ministry is like most organizations, it surely applies, with approximately 80 percent of the contributions coming from 20 percent of members. If this rule applies to your ministry, you could use the information provided by a ChMS to see who is giving generously and who is not. With some ChMS’s you have the ability to track giving information, allowing church leaders to answer questions such as: • Who is giving at what levels? • When are the peak months for giving and when do offerings decrease? • How can online giving be used to reach our overall stewardship goals? • What other participation trends can be identified to help increase online giving? But stewardship is not just about giving. The complementary component is people. Effectively Using Church Committees and Volunteers (Connecting People) According to the authors of “Setting the Stage for Good Stewardship,” within ChMS solutions, you might find a few ways to communicate with others. In some, church committees will be able to communicate privately among one another in their group, with other leaders, or to the congregation as a whole. When church staff actively communicate with members, especially at larger churches, this alleviates the rift between members and leadership, including committees. Communication is the tool that allows all members, staff and otherwise, to work together to facilitate the mission of your ministry. There are currently tools within the marketplace that allow leading ChMS solutions to interface with the top community networking platform to bring ministries the best of both worlds. February 2015
Committees Connecting It’s rare that church committees will work completely independent from each other. The stewardship committee may focus more efforts on the congregation’s need, it doesn’t mean that the finance committee is only concerned with cash on hand. “For example, one goal for the stewardship committee may be to develop and carry out plans to raise enough income to support a particular budget,” said the authors of “Setting the Stage for Good Stewardship.” “This can be accomplished by the stewardship and finance committees working together to achieve a common goal. However, this goal can only be met with the help of the congregation and community.” In short, when committees work together to achieve a common goal, the church can save time, energy and resources through each committee’s efforts. Let Us Help You Become Better Stewards As your church learns to operate more efficiently, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish when valuable resources are used at the church’s disposal. By applying these solutions, the church will be able to pursue better stewardship goals and create new growth opportunities. To learn more, download “Setting the Stage for Good Stewardship” today. You can also learn more by visiting www.acstechnologies.com.
Christian Computing® Magazine
protected with purpose
Ransomware on the Rise
By: Steven Sundermeier
iving in Northeast Ohio has many advantages, however, the arctic winter temperatures are not one of them (if you’re me). And missing from my resume are “mountain man” and “ice harvester” so, it is safe to say that I wouldn’t be first in line to apply for the job of helping Princess Anna (Disney Frozen) on her adventure to locate runaway sister Elsa. In fact, given the sub-zero temperatures we’ve been experiencing, I‘m positive you wouldn’t even see me on the sidelines cheering for her and Kristoff during their adventures. With everything seeming to freeze around me (Isn’t it frustrating when soda cans and water bottles freeze and explode in the garage fridge!), I’d like to speak on an area that is HEATING UP, and that unfortunately is ransomware infections. Ransomware is a form of malware developed to encrypt (prohibit access to) files on a computer with the sole intent of extorting money from its victims (paying a ransom to recover encrypted files). Generally speaking there are two main classifications for ransomware, Encryptor (encrypts all important files Christian Computing® Magazine
and demands a ransom to decrypt files) and Screen Locker (locks an infected system, preventing proper access until a ransom is paid). Most of the latest strains that our Thirtyseven4 Labs are observing fall under the Encryptor classification. The top ransomware threats include, Cryptorbit, Cryptolocker, CryptoWall, PornoBlocker, ZedoPoo. My hope is that none of these are familiar to you. Malware writing is big business for cybercriminals, and ransomware creators are fully aware that millions of dollars were extorted in 2014 from helpFebruary 2015
less victims through this style of malware. As noted above, the general premise of ransomware is to lock users out of their personal data, and then demand payment to recover the locked information. The payment is usually requested in the form of direct credit card payments or via Bitcoins (online payment currency). Ransomware targets file types that are most valuable to the user: documents, spreadsheets, graphics, pictures, etc. Think about it- what price tag would you place on recovering a decade worth of digital photos of your babies growing up, or recovering all of your businesses critical tax documents? Making matters worse, the frequency and sophistication of ransomware has increasingly grown, and such attacks have now been perfected to penetrate even the most advanced networks. Over the last 30 days (January 2015), my Thirtyseven4 Viruslab Team has updated for more than 300 variations of ransomware. Given the severity of ransomware and the alterations being made on each new variation (enough to evade signature-based detection), conventional virus scanning for such malware types no longer cuts it. Ransomware was the driving force behind our new cutting edge Behavior Detection System technology, which proactively scans for ransomware-style characteristics and behaviors in real-time. Given the noted advanced heuristic-based technology, we are very proud to claim a near 100% success rate against these threats. Here are some real world ransomware statistics, based on actual intercepted and prevented infections for Thirtyseven4 Endpoint Security users for January 2015.
“Ransomware Detections” reflects the total number of ransomware detections for January 2015. In other words, Thirtyseven4 proactively prevented 136,990 infections last month. “Cryptolocker.Susp Email attachments” is the number of malicious Christian Computing® Magazine
emails stopped by Thirtyseven4 Email Security though which ransomware infections propagate. Ransomware is spread using social engineering tricks via social networking sites and email attachments. It is very similar to the infamous FBI Moneypak virus. Spammed email messages are the major contributor in ransomware propagation. The remaining entries are the top four ransomware family detection counts. Another interesting gauge for us in determining the rise of ransomware activity that is souring the Internet is the popularity of Thirtyseven4’s free Cryptobit decryption tool. The Cryptobit decryption tool was made available to the public on the thirtyseven4.com website in late April of last year. Since that time the tool has been downloaded 232,337 times. Of those total downloads, 18.65% of them came in last month. The top five countries requesting downloads included: USA, Australia, India, Czech Republic and Italy. While I mentioned at the top of the column I’m not the type of guy you’ll ever see harvesting blocks of ice out of Lake Erie this winter, I’ll admit that I’ve sang every track on the Frozen CD a billion times with my daughter (inside next to a fireplace!),
Christian Computing® Magazine
and none more often than the hit song “Let it go”. Taken directly from the song: if you want “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see “ to be your motto for malware, especially ransomware, then I might suggest installing strong antivirus software like Thirtyseven4 Endpoint Security (which includes the noted Behavior Detection System, as well as Email Security and Browser Sandbox, all very important for keeping ransomware off a system). I’d also like to quickly suggest the following:  Change passwords frequently  Only open email attachments coming from a trusted source  Don’t follow links within emails without knowing what they link to. In other words, “Turn my back and slam the door!”  Apply the latest security updates whenever required /prompted by your installed applications - such as Windows and MAC OS updates, Java, Adobe updates, etc.  Limit access to removable drives and shared drives. And in doing so, “…the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all!” OK, Your turn to be honest: how many of you actually started singing the lyrics after just reading them?
church windows software
Top Compliance Challenges in Church Accounting
By Mary Lou Turnbull
his month, Church Windows Church Management Software has solicited the help of a true professional for our monthly subject. Mary Lou Turnbull has more than 10 years experience with Church Windows, but also more than 20 years experience helping churches who use any (or no) software package. Unique Nature of Fund Accounting Many treasurers and volunteer board members enter the church governance arena with little or no background in fund accounting. Some may have owned their own businesses or held senior management positions in the profit world. The balance sheet of their local church or synagogue may look very different than the typical business. The main difference between profit and nonprofit accounting can be identified in the “equity” section of the balance sheet. Instead of distinguishing retained earnings (the cumulative profit and loss over years in business), the church reports on fund balances. These designated funds are reported separately to assist with keeping directed donor gifts in the right place. The IRS requires that monies given for a specific purpose be spent for that purpose. There are so many regulations regarding charitable donations that we suggest that you check with an accounting or legal professional to substantiate your compliance in this area. (http://www.churchlawandtax.com) Christian Computing® Magazine
Remitting Correct Payroll Taxes This can be one of the most confusing areas of church accounting. Officers and directors of church boards may believe that the church doesn’t have to pay taxes of any kind. To clarify, there are certainly exemptions that religious institutions enjoy. In many states, a church is not required to pay sales tax, property tax or unemployment insurance. These exceptions do not apply to payroll taxes. Just like regular businesses, churches are required to withhold federal, FICA/Medicare, state and local taxes from their W-2 employees. The church must also calculate and remit the 7.65% employer share of FICA/Medicare. It gets a little trickier when calculating and remitting minister withholdings. Some clergy benefit from a housing allowance which may not be included in federal, state or local taxable income. Also, because ministers are considered self-employed for Social Security, churches are not required to take out FICA and Medicare from clergy paychecks. Check with your February 2015
specific taxing agency on the rules and regulations for your church. Internal Controls This challenge is probably the most crucial element in church accounting. Checks and balances are especially important in ensuring that the church’s funds are protected from fraud and misuse. You can have the right software and the best procedures and policies manual but without proper oversight and accountability, money can be misappropriated or directed to the wrong account. Churches, especially small ones, are often forced to stretch limited budgets to cover administrative functions. Volunteers may serve in positions where they have little or no experience. Sometimes one person is in a position of doing it all.
With this in mind, consider the three elements of the fraud triangle – opportunity, motivation and rationalization. Imagine a church volunteer, experiencing financial pressure at home and at the same time feeling unappreciated for the endless hours she works at the church. Given the right opportunity to “borrow” money, the perfect scenario for fraud has just been created. Fraud studies have shown that the best prevention is having ongoing oversight by impartial parties. If you lack the proper individuals to act as a “second pair of eyes”, consider hiring an outside firm to spot check your books and offer expertise in best practices and proper protocol. A few hundred dollars is money well spent when you consider the alternative of thousands of dollars in IRS fines or recovering from the effects of a fraud occurring at your church. Christian Computing® Magazine
Mary Lou Turnbull is a Certified Church Administrator (CCA) and Certified Fraud Examiner. She was employed by a church software company for over 12 years where she traveled across the country, training churches on accounting and payroll. After receiving her forensic accounting degree in 2011, she started her own accounting business working specifically with churches. Her practice centers on assisting churches get their financial records in order as well as fraud prevention. Contact her at email@example.com or 614-898-7139.
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Elexio A New Look and A New Experience
By: Steve Hewitt
ver the years I have watched Elexio grow. They have grown, not only as a company, and in the number of churches that use their services, but they have constantly grown in the many services they provide their customers. I first learned of them when they were providing websites, but they have continued to offer solutions, including ChMS, mobile, check-in, giving, their kiosk, and now “text-to-give” service. Because they have continued to add services and products over the years, it is time for a rebranding! So, I interviewed Elexio to help us all understand what they are doing! Enjoy! Why did Elexio choose to make a change to its branding? Since launching it in 2011, we’ve referred to our suite of integrated church software as Amp. Each individual product had an elusive name, too. Amp Fusion was the name of our ChMS database solution, for example. But as we continued to grow, all these new names grew more and more confusing for our partner churches—and for our Christian Computing® Magazine
own staff. One church even had to print cards for staff and volunteers that included a key to help them remember these names. But our software is designed to simplify ministry—not make it more challenging. That’s why we invested plenty of time and resources to make this transition. We listened to the feedback from churches. Many of them were thrilled with the software, but couldn’t remember whether Vibe February 2015
was our website CMS or check-in software. So we switched to simple, self-explanatory names. We also moved away from individual logos and colors for each of our solutions to one cohesive brand. After all, it is an integrated suite that’s intended to be used together. It’s easy to get focused on the next release or shiny new feature and neglect branding. So while our software is continuing to make great strides, we went back to the basics and rebuilt our brand from scratch. How far do these branding changes extend? While we’ve been gradually making some small changes for months, every aspect of our branding is now aligned with this new strategy. We’ve completely overhauled our website to not only incorporate the new branding, but also improve the experience of visiting our website. We’ve made it easier for people to find what they need when learning about church software and Elexio. Rather than listing hundreds of features, we focus on the various steps of the assimilation
Christian Computing® Magazine
and discipleship processes and how our software supports those goals—because we want to partner with churches who also value these functions of the local church and desire to grow. Places where our customers go for information like our online Help Center also got a facelift. We’ve even made changes within our solutions, but these updates to terminology and design won’t affect functionality.
Why did Elexio choose the new branding? The new branding is visually appealing and easy to understand—even for someone new to church software. Beyond making it easier on the eyes, we wanted every aspect of our new branding to reflect our
mission, vision, and culture here at Elexio. We’re kingdomminded and dedicated to the local church, but we’re also light-hearted and don’t take ourselves too seriously. We hope that everything from the colors we chose to the names we use represent this unique culture and Elexio’s commitment to the church. How will these changes help both your current customers and churches looking for software? All of these changes will improve the experience of churches dealing with Elexio and make our tools easier to understand and remember. Church staff and volunteers won’t have a list of confusing name to memorize—they’ll already know the selfexplanatory names. Customers can easily find the support they need. And the updates to our website will help those churches that are shopping around but don’t really know what they’re looking for just yet. How did Elexio tackle this major project? It was a combined effort. Several members of the Elexio team chipped in from designing pages to writing content to shooting photos. We’re blessed with a lot of people who are talented and motivated to help the local church.
Christian Computing® Magazine
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higher power with kevin
5 Power Tips for Bible Study Note Taking
Kevin A. Purcell - firstname.lastname@example.org
ecently I retweeted a link to an article about using the Notetaking feature in WORDsearch Bible Software (from WORDsearch Blog: http://bit.ly/1AZ7Edh). My Tweet stated, “Most important feature in any Bible study app”. I was describing the notetaking feature available in most Bible software. note-taking in Bible study software, but no other key feature gets less attention from Bible study software publishers than note-taking. Most offer some kind of notes, but they usually don’t include features like…
Some people might argue against that statement. Isn’t search more important? Maybe including commentaries ranks ahead of notes. What about original language study? Fundamentally, other features like search, language study or displaying eBooks ranks ahead of Christian Computing® Magazine
• • • • •
Spell-check Automatic Bible reference hyperlinking Searching notes Formatting of text or paragraphs Exporting or printing
Bible software makers need to give their notes feature some attention, because it can become one February 2015
of the most important features in the program. If a Digital Bible student uses Bible software with good note-taking tools, then the tips below will turn them into note-taking power users. Use Bible Software with Good Note-taking Don’t buy Bible software without a good notetaking experience. What should buyers look for? Here’s my list of the bare minimum notes features. • Tie a note to a single verse, a passage and a whole chapter – Some programs will tie the note to a single verse. Others to a chapter. A few can do both. The best programs give the user many options, including the ability to tie a note to a range of verses or even a single word/phrase. Programs that only tie notes to the whole chapter limit the usefulness. A chapter may include three different preaching texts. I don’t want the first passage’s notes to get in the way while I’m studying the first or second passage in that chapter. If your software only connects notes to a whole chapter, lobby the publisher to fix this or switch. Before buying a program find out if it does this and avoid those that do. • Automatic Bible reference hyperlinking – Most Bible software turns a Bible verse reference into a hyperlink. The user can click it to open to that Bible reference or hover their mouse over the link and a window or tooltip will pop up. If a program forces the user to select the text, click on a button on a toolbar or press a keystroke combination, and then type the reference into a dialog box, then the publisher just wasted that user’s time. The program should let me manually add links to other digital books in the program by selecting and typing in or pasting in a web address or Bible reference. For example, if I type “ch. 13” into a notes file and the paragraph context makes it obvious that I’m talking about chapter thirteen of book of the Bible other than the one that note Christian Computing® Magazine
file is attached to, then I should be able to manually add that reference if I want. If the notes feature doesn’t recognize that I typed John 3:16 and automatically add a hyperlink to John 3:16, then bug the publisher till they add it or don’t buy it in the first place. • Spell-check – The more a person uses the notes feature, the more this becomes necessary. Good programs check for spelling errors automatically and underline the mistakes so users can quickly see typos or spelling errors. The program won’t catch them all and may catch false positives, but that’s better than nothing. That’s why the programs should also include the ability to add words to the spell-check dictionary. A bonus would be the ability to easily correct it. I don’t know of a program that does autocorrect, but some do let the user right-click the mistake and it shows a list of optional corrections in a pop-up menu. • Text and Paragraph Formatting – Some programs only let a person enter simple text. They can’t make it bold or italicize it. They can’t indent a paragraph or change its color. They can’t use automatic number or bullet lists. Good notes editing boxes will include all of these features. Maybe a user can think of other features, but these are the most important. Of the programs I use regularly, only a couple of them include all of these like Bibleworks 9. It doesn’t provide a huge library of books like Logos or WORDsearch, but the Bibleworks Notes and document editor is the
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Use Hyperlinks if Possible As mentioned above, hyperlinks makes finding content in my notes easy. I can click on the link or sometimes hover over the link and a pop-up shows the related content or verse. All good programs including automatic hyperlinks added to verse references when the user types them into the notes editor. However, good ones also let me link to other content like websites or digital books in my Bible software library or elsewhere. Logos includes the ability to get a link to a book in it’s program and then attach that link to text on a website or in the notes feature of another program. I use this to tie my Logos library books to notes in Bibleworks or other programs.
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best available. Many others include some of these features. Notice the screenshot of the Bibleworks notes editor. It includes hyperlinks. I had to add this one to “v. 2” manually, but it does find clearly delineated references and automatically adds a link to a verse or passage (like John 3:16 or 1 Corinthians 11:17). The toolbar shows that there’s paragraph and text formatting. I can even add pictures. It includes lists with numbers or bullet points. The Bibleworks notes editor saves notes in a rich text format (RTF). Notice the directory above the editor box. I can open those notes and read them in Microsoft Word and sync them across multiple computers using a tool like Dropbox or Google Drive if I point one of these syncing programs to the notes directory. The Bibleworks notes editor will let the user change the directory of their saved notes files. Some other programs also do a good job with notes, like WORDsearch 10, e-Sword, Accordance and PC Study Bible. Logos includes some of the features above, but it’s not easy to export notes. However, it syncs notes better than any other program. Christian Computing® Magazine
To get the Logos book link use the following steps: 1. Open the book to the content where you want the link to take you and position it at the top of the book window. 2. Get the link from the book’s drop down box in the upper left corner of the book window (has a down arrow and picture of the book cover) 3. Click on the menu item that reads “copy location as URL” or use CONTROL+ALT+C (PC) or COMMAND+OPTION+C (Mac) to copy the URL 4. Highlight the text in the notes window that you want to use for the link by selecting it. 5. Use CONTROL+K (PC) or COMMAND+K (Mac) to open the link dialog box February 2015
6. Paste the text from the third step above using CONTROL+V (PC) or COMMAND+V (Mac) 7. Hit ENTER on the keyboard
commentaries and more. Use notes to make this personal commentary to save time and to organize information found in study.
Paste links to Logos book in other programs using the same link from steps 1-3 above. Instead of pasting the link into the Logos notes window, use the program’s notes link feature to paste it there. Consult the program’s help feature to learn how to do this. Click the link in the other program and it should open Logos to the book location. This lets users enjoy the superior note-taking features in a program like Bibleworks or WORDsearch and still use their Logos library.
Write Sermon or Study Outlines for Later Searching While I use Microsoft Word almost exclusively for writing and then later preaching or teaching, many people write their sermons or Bible studies within the notes feature. If you follow the above tip and gather your research in a note, it might be a good idea to create a new note for the actual
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Collect Study Findings When I’m studying a passage or subject, I copy and paste content to the Notes window or use the hyperlink methods mentioned above to link to content I’ve discovered about a passage. This helps me gather my ideas and the things I learn along the way so that I can quickly find it while I’m preparing my sermon or Bible study. It also gives me a shortcut when I come back to a passage later. Sometimes I preach or teach a passage again but don’t want to repreach the same sermon. At other times I’ve preached a text, but then later go through the book of the Bible where we find that text. When it’s time to return to the text in the series through the book, I’ve already got a customized commentary made up of my own thoughts, discoveries found in language/ word studies, and stuff I’ve learned by looking up key words and ideas in reference tools. I copy and past giving credit where due to content from dictionaries, lexicons, Christian Computing® Magazine
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sermon or study. If the program you’re using lets you, attach that note to the entire passage. For example, I add a verse note to each verse in my passage and write my thoughts and findings there. If I used notes for writing sermons and studies, I’d then create a new note attached to the verse range. So, I’d have notes on verse one, two and three and a fourth note attached to verses one through three. Here’s where note text and paragraph formatting helps. Since people often write their sermons or Bible study notes in the desktop software, they will need to move those notes to a mobile device. Don’t take a laptop into the pulpit. That’s distracting. To preach from the notes created in the computer software, the user needs to sync the notes to a tablet or smart phone. The other options include printing the notes file from within the software or copying and pasting the file into a Word processor and printing it. For those who like to preaching from a tablet or smart phone, use an app and computer program that syncs with one another. There are many programs that also come with companion mobile apps that sync notes between the computer and tablet/phone versions of the Bible software. For example, notes can sync between … • • • •
Logos Bible Software Olive Tree Bible Reader Laridian PocketBible Accordance Bible
… to name a four. There may be others. Of the above, the first two do the best job of syncing notes between the computer and the mobile device. With the notes on the mobile device, open the passage with the note file next to it and preach directly from the tablet or phone. Some apps will automatically synchronize the notes pane with the Bible pane. Make sure you turn this off so that your sermon notes will always stay on the screen and not suddenly disappear if you move to a different Bible reference. Give Attribution to Easily Find Sources Don’t forget to say where you found the information you put in your notes file. The best way is to link to it from within the notes feature using the above methods. However, if that’s not possible or you found your content in one of those dusty old fashioned books, then be sure to give Christian Computing® Magazine
attribution in a way that will let you find it again later. Sometimes I come back to a passage after years and open the notes files for that passage/verse. I see information that I didn’t properly attribute and I wish I could find it again. This isn’t seminary so don’t worry about footnote formatting. I usually write something like the following in a parenthetical citation. (Borchert, NAC, John 1:11) This stands for the last name of the author of the commentary. The NAC is an appreciation for New American Commentary. I also own the WBC (Word Biblical Commentary) and the NIVAC (New International Version Application Commentary). If you don’t think you’ll remember the abbreviation, be more explicit. Instead of giving a page number, I usually just type in the reference number. Sometimes, my note comes from a book that doesn’t have passage connections, like a book about the life of a missionary. Then I just use the author’s name, title of the book and the page number. Unless I publish my notes, this is enough citation to help me find the source later. Let me conclude with some shameless personal promotion. I’ve restarted my personal blog at http://www.kevinpurcell.org and will post more about Bible Software, apps, preaching and ministry and general topics related to ministry and Christian life. I’d love for you to check it out and add me to your favorite RSS reader so you can always get updates. Second, a couple of friends of mine and I produce a weekly podcast called Theotek. (http:// www.theotek.com) You can watch it live via Google Hangouts almost every Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. or watch it later on YouTube. We also make it available in audio format via iTunes and Stitcher radio or manually you can listen via the web at the above address. We talk about Bible software, worship technology, tools for helping ministers disciple people and the latest news in tech as it relates to the church. Subscribe to us on YouTube at http://bit.ly/17ggdJG. We hope to have Steve Hewitt join us as a guest very soon.
The Greatest of These
Michael L White - email@example.com
ebruary is typically the month the world associates with romantic love because of the observance of St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th. Nevertheless, perhaps we Christians could use it as an occasion to proclaim the love of God for humanity. That’s what I want to talk about in this month’s digital evangelism article.
Whether we address people from a pulpit or a lectern, from a digital device or in verbal conversation, sharing the love of God for humanity ought to be our chief goal in communicating with others the need for salvation and the desire of God’s heart. While Christian brothers and sisters may need to be reminded of God’s love for them periodically, non-Christians need to have this fact emphasized to them up front as part of the evangelistic outreach we make to them. Certainly, it’s important to help nonbelievers understand their condition as sinners before God so that they can confess and repent, but as quickly as feasible, we need to help them understand the loving length God went to in order to spare us all from the condemnation for our sins. When we read the words of Jesus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” (John 3:16 NKJV) we need to know that Jesus is speaking as both God the Father and God the Son simultaneously. Moreover, the Greek word that is translated as world is the word cosmos. God loved Christian Computing® Magazine
the cosmos, His entire creation, so much that He was willing to sacrifice Himself in the form of a human being – His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus went on to say later, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:13-14 NKJV). Aye, there’s the rub! We cannot be Jesus’ true friend if we do not accept and keep His word. Indeed, Judas Iscariot was counted among Jesus’ friends until he betrayed Him (see Psalm 41:9, John 13:18-26 and Matthew 26:50). As God said through the prophet Amos, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3 NKJV). Perhaps He meant that unless two people agree to go to the same destination they cannot follow the same path. He might also mean that unless they agree to walk at the same pace they cannot walk together, for one will surely outpace the other if they don’t. In the spiritual sense in which I’m sure He intended it, we cannot go along with God or keep pace with Him unless we agree with Him. February 2015
Before we can effectively evangelize anyone else, however, we must make certain of our own covenantal relationship with God through Christ. Then, once we are truly in covenant with God, we can help others enter into that same covenant. It all comes down to loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength so that not only can we love our neighbors as ourselves, but we can truly love them as Christ loves them (compare Matthew 22:35-40; John 13:34; John 14:15 & 23; and John 15:10 & 12). In fact, if we don’t possess the genuine love of Christ in our hearts, then we will find it impossible to love either God or neighbor as we are commanded to do. For if we do not
truly love God, we will not love our neighbors, and if we do not truly love our neighbors, then we will not really care whether they are saved from the wrath to come. The best description of love found anywhere is in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. As we read verses 4-10 of that chapter we realize how far from the mark we fall. However, when we consider the Apostle John’s assertion that “God is love” (1 John 4:8 & 16) we understand why we fall so short. Nevertheless, we are not excused from striving to meet this standard because John goes on to tell us that “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16b NKJV). It is only through abiding in God that He abides in us, and if He abides in us, so will His great love. Perhaps the greatest test of whether one is truly abiding in … reach out God is if he or she demonstrates genuine love for others. As Paul … minister to people concludes his infamous “Love … create fellowship Chapter” he states, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; … contribute to but the greatest of these is love” (1 your community Corinthians 13:13 NKJV). If loving as God loves is PowerChurch Plus was arguably God’s strongest desire created for just that! for us (as implied in John 13:34, 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 1 Corinthians 13:13), then we should seek to imitate Him in practicing We provide you with the tools to true love above all else. Naturally, increase administrative efficiency this is something we should do for and streamline accounting tasks, more than just St. Valentine’s Day freeing you up to perform the work or even for the month of February that matters. each year. May we evermore succeed in our quest for True Love! Install on your PC or network, or access online.
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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! is available wherever books are sold. For a list of his other books and articles, visit his Website at http://books.parsonplace.com.
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Christian Computing® Magazine
What is a Startup?
By Russ McGuire - firstname.lastname@example.org
ver the past several months I’ve introduced the Intelligence Revolution. This month, I’m moving on to a new series titled “Startup.” My plan is to spend this month defining what I mean by “a startup;” next month I’ll discuss why Christian Computing readers should really care about startups; then I’ll take a couple of months to discuss the latest thinking on how to successfully launch a startup; and then we’ll consider specific Christian startups (within the church and outside the church), hopefully with meaningful application to your work. What is a Startup? There are many definitions of what a startup is. Merriam-Webster.com has two definitions for the word “start-up” - “the act or an instance of setting in operation or motion” and “a fledgling business enterprise.” Investopedia.com’s entry for Startup begins with a very pragmatic definition: “A company that is in the first stage of its operations.” Personally, I like the definition that Warby Parker cofounder, Neil Blumenthal, provided to Forbes magazine “A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the soluChristian Computing® Magazine
tion is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” That definition is also similar to the one provided by Steve Blank, one of the architects of the Lean Startup methodology we’ll discuss in this series, when he said that a startup is a temporary organization in search of a repeatable and scalable business model. All of these definitions imply two things: 1. A startup is a for-profit business. 2. At some point in time, a startup stops being a startup. February 2015
For purposes of this series, I’d like to broaden the definition a bit. First, I’d like to think beyond for-profit businesses. Going back to Neil Blumenthal’s definition, I think there are many times when we find ourselves “working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” Often this isn’t in a business context. In fact, I would guess that many of us could use those words as a “job description” of sorts for the work we do with technology in ministry. That being said, I don’t think we can completely ignore the economics that drive business decisions. For most of us (if not all), we are always operating with limited budgets. When we solve problems for our ministry, it is expected that the solution creates value. That may or may not mean that more money comes into the ministry, but hopefully it means that the outcome of the solution is worth the resources we are investing in it. If those resources would have been better spent doing something else, then our startup has not achieved success. Second, I’d like to broaden the definition of startup to include new ventures by existing, wellestablished entities. Admittedly, “well-established” often implies tradition-bound, slow-moving, and risk-averse. I don’t intend to include all new ventures by existing organizations in the startup definition, but only those that are pursuing unknown solutions in an environment where uncertainty of success is embraced. When a church tries something they’ve never tried before, such as a cross-generational evangelistic outreach, we can Christian Computing® Magazine
approach it like a startup. We don’t know all the answers. We haven’t done this before so we don’t know exactly how to make it work. In fact, we may even be confused about what will define success. The definition of success is especially important to consider. Too often, I fear, even in our churches we define success the way that corporate America does - how many people, how much income, how many programs. As God told Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7 “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Pray for wisdom, to understand how God is defining success in your startup. Be strong to avoid the temptation to act like the world acts and to seek what the world seeks. Trust in the Lord and rejoice in the work He is doing in and through you. Why I Care About Startups I mentioned above that next month we’ll discuss why you should really care about startups. But before we get too far, I thought it made sense to explain why I’m even starting this new series. From what God has shown me in my own life, I believe that, whether the business succeeds or fails (in the world’s business terms), startup experiences can help shape young men and women to be leaders in their churches, their families, and their careers. Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program identifies the need for universities to produce what she calls “T-shaped people.” “This means people with a great depth of knowledge in at least one discipline, like chemical engineering or biology, and a breadth of knowledge across many skills. Across the top of the T are knowledge of leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s no longer good enough to be an individual contributor where you have a clearly defined role. You need to be able to work across disciplines.” Launching a startup stretches us beyond our comfort zone. It forces us to consider all aspects of the venture, not just the parts where we are the expert. Often, it forces us to recognize our complete reliChristian Computing® Magazine
ance on God for everything. When we combine the “T-shaped” model with a primary focus on glorifying God, maybe what we’re talking about are “crossshaped” people. Titus 3:14 tells us “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” It is my hope and prayer that these articles will help you be fruitful to the glory of God Russ McGuire is a trusted advisor with proven strategic insights. He has been blessed to serve as an executive in Fortune 500 companies, found technology startups, be awarded technology patents, author a book and contribute to others, write dozens of articles for various publications, and speak at many conferences. More importantly, he’s a husband and father who cares about people, and he’s a committed Christian who operates with integrity and believes in doing what is right. Learn more at http://sdgstrategy.com
Make It OK for Visitors to Reject Jesus at Easter
Yvon Prehn - email@example.com
efore you consign this article to the category of “everybody gets saved in the end, no matter who or what they believe in” —be assured nothing could be further from my intention. I take very seriously the truth that if people do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ (and only Jesus Christ, no other savior) they will spend eternity in endless suffering separated from God. That’s why I want to share 5 reasons why you need to make it OK for visitors to reject Jesus at Easter.
2. They didn’t come to your church to hear about Jesus. Most visitors may come to your church at Easter for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with spiritual seeking. They may want to spend time with family or hear the music or take their kids to the special programs. The petting zoo, free brunch, or the Easter egg-hunt for kids is what they came for. Listening to the sermon, for many, 1. Many Easter visitors don’t know Easter is about Jesus. is the price of admission. Most do not come to be challenged in life-changing ways and aren’t ready for what Visit any store today that sells Easter goodies and from what is on display, what does it tell you that Easter is they might hear. about? Bunnies, baby chicks, baskets of goodies and lots 3. Multiple exposures are needed to every new idea of chocolate would be the obvious conclusion. For every new idea, whether it is a new way to use A several years ago Barna did a survey that showed technology or a new product, marketers tell us it often 46% of unchurched people do not know that Easter has takes seven or more (think multiple, at least) exposures anything to do with the resurrection of Jesus. I would for people to go through the process of rejection, tolimagine the current percentage is even higher. We eration, and finally acceptance. Because people in our shouldn’t be shocked at what people don’t know. Be assured, we won’t stop at their rejection, but I’ll give you suggestions on how to move that rejection into exploration and ultimately acceptance. While you are planning ways to invite people and your PR for Easter, keep these ideas in mind and realize that Easter is just the start of a relationship with unchurched people.
Christian Computing® Magazine
post-Christian world know so little about Jesus and the Christian faith that it often takes the same process before someone can make an informed decision to follow Jesus. On Easter Sunday people may hear that Jesus rose from the dead for the first time-and like any new message, they will most likely initially reject it. Make that OK. Acknowledge that people visiting the church may have questions about the message. Ask questions with them, assure them of the importance of the gospel and that it is OK to question, but challenge them of the eternal importance of looking for answers to their questions. 4. You have an opportunity to invite them to learn more about Jesus You can do this in several ways and one of the best is a simple bulletin insert that invites them to seeker studies, offers websites that answer questions, has an email link to people who will dialog with them. It might have a message like this on it: Still have questions? Many people do. You’ve just heard the story of Jesus rising from the dead, but after you leave the church, when brunch is over and you’ve had your fill of chocolate, you might wonder-is it just a story? Or did it really happen? If it did, what does it mean to me? If you’ve got those questions, we’ve got options for you. On the back of this sheet we hope you’ll check out the websites and events we’ve got to help you in your research. Take all the time you want. The issues are worth it. On the back of a handout like this you could then list some upcoming seeker Bible studies or discussions, a sermon or teaching series that answers questions about the faith, some websites to explore, some books they might want to read. Be sure also to include emails or phone numbers of folks who would be willing to interact with people who have questions about the Christian faith and who are able to lead a seeker to Jesus. Christian Computing® Magazine
5. You can personally affirm doubt and invite them to dialog It’s one thing to have it in print, but even better is a verbal reassurance that though they might want to respond to Jesus today and that is wonderful, that even if they don’t believe a word you said, that you and the church are open to exploration, discussion, and are able to dialog and answer questions. The hardest part of all of this of course is that you have to really want to do that and have time and/or people who will. Easter week is exhausting and our natural tendency after it is to want rest and not engagement with questioning people, but the most important part of the celebration can come after it if you allow visitors to doubt, question, dialog, search and ultimately meet Jesus, the real reason we celebrate Easter and can without question offer our visitors life eternal. For more ways and ready-to-print materials to answer questions and bring visitors back to church after Easter: http://www.effectivechurchcom. com/2009/03/communications-to-come-back-tochurch-after-easte/
nick at church
Keep It Personal!
Nick Nicholaou - firstname.lastname@example.org
rue confession: My greatest IT challenge is not keeping up with technology! It’s not budgeting the next upgrade! It is keeping my tone as warm and human as possible. And I think I may have a lot of company…. IT is Cool! In fact, cold might be more accurate! I often want to respond quickly to requests— get in and get out— and often to the detriment of the quality of the relationships I have with those around me. Now, this is a ‘faith’ statement, because I really don’t see it! Recently my church small group discussed the question, “Why is it sometimes hard to show love to those around us?” Honestly, I couldn’t think of anyone who I don’t show love to! Really! So I asked my wife, suggesting that I couldn’t think of anyone because it’s a blind spot. She laughed and was shocked at my conundrum! Thankfully, she was able to help me by listing some quick and easy examples of those I don’t show love to. Christian Computing® Magazine
Why It’s Such a Challenge So I guess it’s because this really is a blind spot to me! But I think many of us in IT may have the same blind spot— yours is probably just not as big a blind spot as mine. I learned recently that I’m an introvert; I had no idea! I thought I was an extrovert! But my daughter was able to help me see the flaw in my thinking, and she was correct! And IT people tend to be introverts. As an IT person, my tendency is to give someone the help they need as quickly and as efficiently as possible. I had always thought the reason was that I was trying to be efficient with their time; but now know that it’s because I’m trying to be efficient with my time. February 2015
In her 11/7/2014 post in The Huffington Post, Alena Hall lists ten ways introverts interact differently with the world. Here’s a quick summary: 1. They withdraw in crowds. 2. Small talk stresses them out, while deeper conversations keep them alive. 3. They succeed on stage— just not in the chit-chat afterwards. 4. They get distracted easily, but rarely feel bored. 5. They are naturally drawn to more creative, detail-oriented and solitary careers. 6. When surrounded by people, they locate themselves close to an exit. 7. They think before they speak. 8. They don’t take on the mood of their environment like extroverts do. 9. They physically can’t stand talking on the phone. 10. They literally shut down when it’s time to be alone. Okay, I own nine of those!
Christian Computing® Magazine
Why It Matters Zig Zigler once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In John 13:34-35 Jesus told us, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV) Putting those two together, we as IT people who tend to be introverts need to reach beyond our comfort zone and demonstrate how much we love and care. Resolving someone’s tech support issue is important, but it’s the way we say things and the warmth of our voice that lets them know we love them. I obviously need to work on this more. But here are a few things I try to do to warm things up: • Make the call. Email is helpful and efficient, but people need to hear my voice. So I try to call folks to help them or to follow up with them, even though it is less efficient. • Slow down. People know I’m busy, and can
probably tell I’m out of my comfort zone when talking through an issue. I try to slow the conversation down by asking them questions about details surrounding their issue and about how they’re doing while working with them (So, what’s the weather like there?). • Be available. When we’re done, I always try to remember to ask if there’s anything else I can help them with while we’re connected. Most of the time there isn’t, but sometimes there is and I’ll either take care of it or put a process in motion to get them the help they need. Well, I hope it was okay to be so vulnerable. Maybe you can identify with some of my struggle, and maybe this article will help you love better too. Keeping it personal is part of how we love one another. Nick Nicholaou is president of MBS, an IT consulting firm specializing in church and ministry computer networks, VoIP, and private cloud hosted services. You can reach Nick at email@example.com and may want to check out his firm’s website (www.mbsinc.com) and his blog at http://ministry-it. blogspot.com.
Christian Computing® Magazine