Page 1 | January 2016




Steve Hewitt




Crystina Lindoerfer



Stress in IT

Yvon Prehn Nick Nicholaou Kevin A. Purcell Russ McGuire Jonathan Smith

Want to beat burnout in 2016? Try these 3 tips.


By Jonathan Smith

Rachael Mitchell OUTREACH INC.

5550 Tech Center Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80919 (800) 991-6011








While 2016 won’t feature any big new inventions, these technologies will gain more prevalence in our lives.

Burnout and turnover among IT professionals in churches, ministries, and non-profits is on the rise. Here’s how to avoid it this year.

How do you know which device is right for your Bible Study needs? Use this comparison to decide.

This former sailor used his naval computing skills to build a successful gaming company.

Are your church communications reactive or proactive? Here’s how to find out.


If church management software solutions are going to stay relevant, they’ll have to adapt to today’s unique family structures.



Apply these five keys to maximize your mobile ministry opportunities.

Ministry Tech® is a registered trademark of Outreach, Inc. Written materials submitted to Ministry Tech® Magazine become the property of Outreach, Inc. upon receipt and may not necessarily be returned. Ministry Tech® Magazine reserves the right to make any changes to materials submitted for publication that are deemed necessary for editorial purposes. The content of this publication may not be copied in any way, shape or form without the express permission of Outreach, Inc. Views expressed in the articles and reviews printed within are not necessarily the views of the editor, publisher, or employees of Ministry Tech® Magazine, or Outreach, Inc. © Copyright 2016 Outreach, Inc. All Rights Reserved | January 2016


EDITOR Looking back at 2015 and looking forward to 2016 Financial Times released a study that revealed that young people may know less than we think about how the Internet works. Granted, the Internet was created as a way of accessing information. However, things have changed, and it seems that most information posted online is designed to generate revenue. This revenue is not even about selling a product for a price, but in many cases it is about gathering any information about you that can be obtained, and then selling it to someone to help them to market even more things. They no longer want to know your name and address, but rather where you go every day, what you look at, what you eat, what you think, etc. Most young people today don’t realize the deceptive nature of things on the Internet. The study released shows that only 1/3 of those between the ages of 12-25 could show you which of the results from a Google search were adverts and not really legitimate results of their search. One in five stated that all information returned by search engines must be true. You would think that this should be true, but, again, the Internet is no longer about providing, retrieving, and finding information, it is about money, sales, spying and marketing. Almost half of young people surveyed in the study did not know that YouTube was now advertisement based, yet most young people said that YouTube is their number one source for information. Overall, young people between the ages of 12-15 now spend almost 3 hours a day online, which is more time than they spend watching TV. There is a lot of government oversight to patrol how television is allowed to market to our young people, but laws and regulations are very behind when it comes to the Internet. And, of course, most young people are not aware of how recurring billing works. To read the article on Financial Times, I had to pay $1, plus I had to give out a lot of personal information as well as a credit card. The fine print states that if I don’t log back in after I finish writing this editorial, after three days Financial Times will charge my account for a full subscription. Few things are sold on the Internet without a lot of fine print. I hope our young people figure all of this out soon! Together We Serve Him,

Steve Hewitt


4 | January 2016



By Jonathan Smith

s I travel around the country talking with IT professionals who work for churches, ministries and non-profits, I’ve noticed that many of us are struggling with similar challenges. While challenges are good and help us grow in our faith and in our profession, I’m concerned that good IT folks are burning out quickly and turnover rates among tech staffs in churches is going to rise. I think there are several issues at play here.

First, many of us are highly dedicated. In the church world, many IT folks grew up in the churches where they are currently serving on staff. Some may even be the second or third generation of their family to have been part of the ministry. Decades of involvement builds loyalty and a sense of pride and ownership. Because of the investment of time, talent, and treasure, you don’t want to see the ministry fail and you desire to see it grow and thrive. Second, we get the eternal impact. While church IT and technical folks may often be misunderstood, I find that many have the same goal as the pastors and other staff. They work hard to provide an eternal impact on the Kingdom. We understand that those 1’s and 0’s we are working with are much more than just 1’s and 0’s. Their impact is on a much higher calling and our passion is to see the Kingdom impacted every day we dive into our geeky craft. Third, we know our stuff. We stay up all night reading the latest articles online about the newest features and software releases. We monitor popular culture and trending media so we know how to advise people on what to use. We work hard to not be surprised by the latest | January 2016

security threat and are proactive to keep threats out of our networks and our data secure. Fourth, we struggle to communicate. Because of our knowledge, we can come across as arrogant and unwilling to compromise. We often don’t do a great job of explaining options and costs. As a result, we create a gap between the decision makers and ourselves. Remember, we both have the same goal, but we are coming at it from opposite, often misunderstood directions. As a result, frustration can mount. We all have the same spiritual goal but we can’t get the budget we need to accomplish the objective, or we are trying to ensure security but we are told to keep

opening things up to more and more folks. Friction builds when IT focuses on security while the ministry focuses on people. What happens when the Executive Pastor says everyone is going to switch to a Mac or that the ministry is going to use a ChMS that you know isn’t secure? Burnout tends to set in. We don’t believe we are being heard or that our opinion matters. We tend to kill good ideas because we can’t implement them the way we want to. IT and technology isn’t a respected asset but a dreaded necessary evil. So what can we do? First, we have to humble ourselves (Luke 14:11). As hard as it may be to admit IT and tech folks

don’t know everything, technology changes fast and we can’t realistically be experts at everything and we need to communicate that. Reading one article doesn’t make you an expert. We have to be willing to listen to those in authority and, even if we disagree, humble ourselves to do what we are asked (Philippians 2:3-4). Second, in addition to humility we need to have a healthy respect for authority (1 Peter 2:18). Often our passion is what gets in our way. We want the objective to succeed and we don’t want anything to be a hindrance. As a result, we struggle with what we believe are inferior options and often want things done our way. Maybe out

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of pride, but often out of zeal to see the Kingdom affected. It is important for us to remember who is in charge. Who is going to be held accountable (Hebrews 13:17)? What is my responsibility? When we stand before God, who is going to be accountable for the decision? We may not be accountable for the decision but we are accountable for how we respond to it, whether we like it or not. Third, we have to learn to communicate (James 1:19, Ephesians 4:29). It is okay to disagree and it is okay to provide options, but we have to learn to do that in a way that is respectful and not prideful. We have to understand that it is not our objective to get our way. It is our goal to communicate what we think is best and then to submit and do what we’re told. When we don’t get our way we have to work hard at not saying, “I told you so” or constantly pointing out that this isn’t the way we wanted to do it. When we stand before God, we want to hear that we did our job well, even if we didn’t agree with what we were doing. I have found that submission makes life easier. Often, the ax is no longer over my neck and I’m good with that. This is difficult when we are doing something we think will fail, but unless we sit at the top of our organizations leadership chart then we need to get happy with doing something with which we disagree. My burden is that IT and tech folks latch on to this. The Kingdom isn’t helped through turnover, but through IT and tech folks

who work hard at humbly communicating and then obeying authority with excellence. Jonathan Smith is the Director of Technology at Faith Ministries in Lafayette, IN. You can reach Jonathan at and also follow him on Twitter @JonathanESmith.

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7/14/11 10:23 AM | January 2016


Deeper Impact By Steve Caton



hen my son was in preschool, the school had one of those ubiquitous phone toys. You know the ones—thick and round and painted in bright primary colors. This particular one was modeled after a cell phone. It had a little flap covering the numbers and a display at the top that resembled a calculator’s, and of course an extendable antenna. It was the height of modern technology in plastic effigy. I recently passed a toy aisle and spotted the kind of phone toy a preschooler might play with today: a thin rectangle with one side covered in square icons. Right there in the middle of the store, I had an old man moment. Two decades changed cell phone technology arguably more than they changed my son. Mobile technology today is light years from what it was…and I’ve seen a lot of ministries struggle to keep up. The mobile strategies I see many churches deploying today remind me of what I saw happening with websites in the early 2000s. Everyone knew you needed a website, but little thought was given to what that looked like, how it was done, or why. Important questions were pushed aside in a rush to get something, anything, online.. Few churches were pausing to ask how their website could help them achieve more important goals, like engaging people and bringing them into deeper connection and community. Today, we know better than to toss a haphazard church website together and push it out there with our fingers crossed. We know what the web can do for us and for them. All those things we learned about websites are just as true of mobile. Too many churches, in their rush to get something out there, are missing the chance to build and launch their app with intentional design that helps them engage people and make disciples. Yes, mobile is important, but just throwing things out there with little to no thought is wasting a big opportunity.

5 Keys to Maximize the Mobile Ministry Opportunity Just like the slapdash church websites of the 2000s, mobile isn’t a silver bullet. If you want to leverage it fully, you have to be intentional. From initial conception to final deployment, you need strategy and process. Here are five key principles to consider: 1. Mobile is your church’s new digital welcome center. Some people are uncomfortable approaching the guest connections center at a new church. Many visitors take a long time to get comfortable enough to engage in person. Mobile apps give these people a safe place to connect with your church on their terms, without the awkwardness. 2. Know your most critical ‘wins.’ Nothing turns away a web visitor like a site that was obviously made with no strategy., An app made this way is just as off-putting. It’s vital that you define a small set (no more than three to five) of outcomes or ‘wins’ you want from your mobile strategy, and design around those. What do you hope will be different with your app, and how will you know it’s happening? 3. Account for the different needs of congregants and leaders. A big part of that mobile strategy is knowing your audience. In your church’s case, that audience is twofold. Your visitors and members have

8 | January 2016

Deeper Impact very different needs. Visitors why you need it and what you need it to do, that’s some great want to learn more about the groundwork. But all of that church and connect in a safe and won’t matter if you can’t get gradual way; leaders need tools people on board. It starts with to help them steward the people the ones who lead the vision, they lead. How do you design direction, and strategy of your for such different audiences? church. They must become your That’s the trick—one mobile app mobile strategy’s evangelists, can’t do both effectively. That’s making it clear that everyone why full integration between a on staff needs to adopt your church management software new tools. It’s not okay to let and church app creator is so your staff and leaders fragment powerful. The combination of the strategy by going in a dozen two core competencies, internal different directions. and external, provides two interconnected but focused and 5. Keep up communication. intentional sets of tools for these Most churches are great at two very different types of users. communicating at the launch of a new strategy. Fewer keep 4. Secure staff buy-in. When that communication up six you know you need an app,

months later. It’s important to remember that strategy leaks. It’s easy to start going off target if we’re not reminding ourselves, our staff members, leaders, members, and visitors about the presence and purpose of your mobile strategy. We live in a mobile world. The advent of the smartphone is giving us a chance to connect with our leaders, members, and visitors like never before. With a good strategy, we can avoid the mistakes and struggles so many of us experienced entering the world of the web as we enter the world of the app. It’s too important not to be intentional about it. | January 2016

Higher Power With Kevin

iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4:

Best Bible Study Tool


By Kevin Purcell

icrosoft and Apple both launched new 12.x sized tablets this fall aimed at taking each other down in the business realm, but which one works best for studying the Bible and general use for people who would use it in ministry or church work?

iPad Pro Basic Features I got my hands on both devices and want to explain what you get. The Apple iPad Pro is a large iPad. Anyone who’s ever used an iPad Air will recognize the device, since it looks exactly like the smaller versions. The 12.9-inch screen comes in with a resolution of 2732 x 2048. That’s 264 pixels per inch. Text looks great and images in Bible software or on presentation slides also show up well. People with poor eyesight may struggle with the default display size of words, but most Bible apps allow users to boost the font size in the apps.

Apple offers a nice Apple Smart Keyboard

cover which adds a keyboard, great for typing on a desk and, surprisingly, also works well on a lap. You’d think stability would suffer resting on a lap, but it’s not bad. They also sell a great stylus. The Apple Pencil handles handwriting, drawing and precision interaction with on-screen content. In other words, use it to tap those really small links or buttons in some of the Bible apps whose designers forgot that their apps were running on a touchscreen device. Both of Apple’s accessories will add to the cost of the device. The base price for an iPad Pro comes in at $799 for only 32GB of storage. That’s not nearly enough for most people. Check your iOS Bible app size to see if it will let you install all of your offline books. Open Settings, General, Storage & iCloud Usage, and then Manage Storage. Let it calculate the usage and find your Bible app in the list. As an example, my installation of Logos takes up 1.2GB of space without all of my books installed locally. Most people will want the 128GB iPad Pro with Wi-Fi only or wth LTE, also with 128GB of storage. They cost $949 or $1079 respectively. Add the keyboard for $179 and the Pencil for $99 which takes the total cost of the 128GB iPad Pro with only WiFi to $1227.


10 | January 2016

Higher Power Other key features on the iPad fortunately, few Bible app developers support the Windows app store. Pro include: The only decent Bible program in • Four speakers for great sound the Windows Store is Laridian’s compared to older iPads Pocket Bible. It supports all the pri• Thin and light – same weight mary features that come in the comas original iPad pany’s other mobile apps and it runs • iOS has a great collection of well. Logos removed their main apps for Bible study, produc- Windows Store app. Olive Tree oftivity and most anything else fers a simplistic version of their app people will want to use and few others even show up. The • Apple popularity will likely re- ones that do show up are not very sult in a large collection of ac- good. Since the Surface Pro 4 lets cessories available users install full Windows comput• Siri accessible by pressing the er apps, this isn’t a big problem. home button for a few seconds Logos runs really well on the Surface Pro 4 with the Intel Core i5 Surface Pro 4 Basic Features processor. I single it out because the The iPad is a tablet that us- program struggles to run well on ers can use as a computer. The most Windows tablets. Other WinSurface Pro 4 is a computer that dows Bible programs run great on one could use as a tablet. It’s got low-end and high-end computers a smaller 12.3-inch screen with a so they will also run quickly on the resolution of 2736 x 1824, which Surface Pro 4, even the version with means its pixel density is almost the Intel Core M processor, which exactly the same as the iPad Pro isn’t nearly as powerful as the Intel at 267 PPI. The tablet runs Win- Core i3, i5 or i7 processors. dows 10. You can install the lightweight and fast Windows Store apps and full Windows software, just like your traditional PC. More powerful systems will even handle some high-end programs for creative design work or gaming.

Windows Store apps run on Windows tablets and phones universally. They take up a lot less space than most typical Windows computer software that runs on any PC. Un-

The Surface Pro 4 comes with a chiseled design around the edges. It also includes a great kickstand that holds it up while working on a table or desk, however, it’s not very stable on someone’s lap. The Surface Pen comes in the box, unlike Apple’s Pencil, which costs extra. The Pen works as well as the Pencil and Microsoft built handwriting input into Windows 10. The handwriting recognition works accurately and quickly.

Microsoft also offers a keyboard cover that magnetically snaps to the device. It comes with a terrible integrated touchpad, but the Pen alleviates the need for one. The company offers two versions of the keyboard, one without a fingerprint reader for $130 and one with for an extra $40. The Surface Pro 4 costs $899 to start with an Intel Core M processor and 4GB of RAM. That gives users 128GB of storage. That’s not a bad hardware setup. People who plan to run more | January 2016


Higher Power powerful software or need more storage can get up to 16GB of RAM, 1TB of storage and an Intel Core i7 processor for $2699. That’s overkill for most Bible students and preachers. I’d recommend the 8GB, 256GB model with the Intel Core i5 processor for $1299. That’s what I bought. Add the $130 for a 150 keyboard. Here’s a list of the other key Surface Pro 4 features: • Runs full Windows Bible study programs • Runs full version of Office software • Great Pen input • Thin and light compared to other laptops • Kickstand makes it easy to set up on a desktop or table • Powerful system in Intel Core ix version • Fanless version with Intel Core M processor resulting in good battery life • USB ports for connecting accessories • Micro-USB expansion port • Mini-DVI output port for connecting to a display or to Thunderbolt accessories like an Ethernet adapter • Cortana for voice searching and commands like Siri Which One Should You Buy? Most people can’t buy both an iPad Pro and a Surface Pro 4. So, which one should you get. If you need to run a full version of Windows software, then you don’t have a choice. Go with the Surface Pro 4. If you don’t like one of the two operating systems (Windows 10 or iOS 9), then go with the

other. However, if you don’t care about OS and don’t mind running mobile apps, then you have a bigger problem. Otherwise, consider the following in making a choice. Total cost to use the tablets can be a factor. Since we’re eliminating the 32GB iPad Pro since that’s not nearly enough local storage for 90 percent of users, we’ll start with the $949 iPad Pro with 128GB of storage. Add the keyboard and pencil and you pay at least $1227 for all three. You could save money by keeping the Pencil, but using a cheap $30-$50 Bluetooth keyboard, bringing the total cost in at under $1000, but you will need a stand or a case with a stand built-in to hold the iPad since the keyboard cover Apple sells doubles as a stand. Apple’s cover without the keyboard costs $79 and doesn’t protect the back. The Intel Core M version of the Surface Pro 4 is very capable and 128GB is usable for a lot of people, so you can start with the $899 Surface Pro 4. It comes with the Surface Pen for that price. Add a $129 keyboard and the total cost of ownership at the minimum is $1028. That saves you nearly $200 compared to the iPad Pro.

VALUE: Surface Pro 4 Next, lets look at the quality and power of the software and OS. Do you want a tablet that you can occasionally use as laptop or a laptop you can occasionally use as a tablet? The iPad Pro’s a better tablet while the Surface Pro 4’s a better laptop. iOS 9 is the better mobile operating system, but Windows 10 is better than older Microsoft operating systems and more versatile than iOS 9. It still struggles in touch, which is why you should get the iPad Pro if you plan to hold it more. If you plan to set it on a table or desk and type on it more, get the Surface Pro 4. Since the Surface Pro 4 runs full Windows 10 programs, it’s a clear winner. In spite of how good the mobile Bible and productivity apps are now, they’re never going to be as good or powerful as full computer software. If you don’t want to fill up the drive with full Windows 10 software, then iOS Bible apps and other apps are exceedingly better than Windows Store apps. I doubt many people will limit themselves to the Windows Store apps so this one’s easy. Unless you’re a Windows hater, go with the Surface Pro 4.

12 | January 2016


however the Surface Pro 4 adds support for expandable storage with a micro-USB port and USB ports for flash drives. The screens are comparable. The design and build quality are about the same. The weight is similar. The iPad’s thinner, but not enough to matter. Each device has strengths and weaknesses, but neither stands out in terms of hardware quality and design. Some prefer the look of the iPad Pro, but that’s a preference rather than a measurable difference. The official accessories designed for the iPad Now let’s look at the hardware and design. The and Surface are a tie with one exception. The keyiPad looks nicer and has better speakers. They both boards from both companies feature comfortable include beautiful touch displays. The Surface Pro 4 typing with responsive keys. If you’ve ever used the bezel around the screen is smaller on the sides in older Surface Type Covers, you’ll love the improvelandscape mode, but thicker along the top and bot- ment of the new Type Cover for the Surface Pro 4. It tom. It’s wider and longer but has a smaller screen has better keys and typing’s more comfortable. The too. The kickstand is a huge advantage over the iPad trackpad’s bigger, but still lacking. It uses the same Pro, but it adds thickness. material on the outside. You can’t plug any accessories into the iPad Pro The iPad Smart Keyboard doesn’t include a trackwithout dongles. The Surface has a USB port and a pad and the material feels textured. Some don’t like DVI output. They both support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it, but I do. It’s a great typist’s keyboard. The lack of

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trackpad is made up for by the superior touch features in iOS 9. The Apple Smart Cover doubles as a stand, but it only holds the iPad Pro in landscape at one angle, unlike the Surface Pro 4’s kickstand which offers variable stand positions. The Surface Pen snaps the edge of the Surface Pro 4 using powerful magnets that will stay in place quite well. The Apple Pencil has no way to attach to the iPad Pro and that’s a big mistake. It also comes with a cap and a little adapter used to charge with a Lightning cable. The Surface Pen includes a long lasting battery that you won’t need to charge for more than a year. It’s a AAAA battery, which is non-standard. Microsoft offers replacement tips that give users slightly different inking. However, the Apple Pencil has one kind of tip with a single replacement in the box. Third party accessories will likely show up in greater quantities for the iPad Pro, but thanks to the Surface Pro 4’s mini-DVD/ Thunderbolt port and the USB 3.0 port, any standard accessory supporting those protocols will work with the Surface Pro 4. Since Apple charges more and doesn’t include the Pencil and lack of support for USB/ mini-DVI/Thunderbolt, the Surface Pro 4 ekes out a win the accessory category. ACCESSORIES: Surface Pro 4 Those keeping score will see that I picked the Surface Pro 4 three times and the iPad Pro didn’t get a single nod. Yet, it’s not that simple. Here’s my recommendation for those looking for a de-

vice for Bible study primarily. If you need one device to rule them all, get the Surface Pro 4. It’s more versatile. You can use it as a tablet but also use it as a laptop. It runs full Windows software and with the 256GB version that I bought, it holds your software and with


the expansion capability you can actually enjoy even more space for documents and media. However, people who already own a quality desktop or laptop computer should take a serious look at the iPad Pro if they want a large tablet.

14 | January 2016

Soma Games

I STARTUP By Russ McGuire

n this article series, we’ve defined a Christian entrepreneur as: a person, driven to glorify God in all he does, and ruled by the Word of God, who starts a new venture and is willing to risk a loss in order to achieve the success of the venture. Each month I’ve been introducing you to specific Christian startups and entrepreneurs, some of which may be helpful to your church, ministry, business, or family, but my main intent is to encourage and inspire you to be entrepreneurial in your ministry and career.

This month I’m pleased to introduce you to Chris Skaggs. In his own words, he has always been entrepreneurial - the kid with the lemonade stand, or the college student doing web development. With the launch of Soma Games, Chris and his team have been able to bring their Christian faith to the forefront.

about the controversy, he became aware for the first time that there was such a thing as a Christian video game industry, and that there was an industry conference the coming weekend just half an hour from his home. Chris felt what he referred to as “God’s nudge” to attend the conference, and as he began to pursue that, God’s call into the video game industry became clearer and stronger. You can read the whole amazing story on Soma’s website - how God providentially intervened time and again over several days to confirm that this was the next step in Chris’ journey. From the website: “To recap, in the course of five days God had: Convinced me to attend a conference on a topic I’d never heard of; Arranged for an in-depth education on a very detailed subject; Started a new ‘business’ in something I was a complete stranger to; Made it so I was primed to represent that same, unknown industry, to roughly six million people; And paid for every bit of it.”

Web Development is Good Money Chris learned computer skills in the Navy. Later, when he was a college student around the turn of the century, he found that developing web sites was a great way to earn extra spending money. As web technologies developed, Chris stayed on top of the new tools, tricks, and languages. Over time, that web development business became Code-Monkeys. Happy customers brought more happy customers and the business grew. Chris built a team of like minded people from his community. For Chris that community largely is the church so it turns out that Code-Monkeys is primarily made up of fellow The Long Hike to the Starting Line God may have moved quickly to call Chris and his believers. It was natural for them to pray together over major decisions and pivotal events, and to team to video games, but He forced them to be patient and to prepare for this new business. Not only praise the Lord for their success. were there new technologies to learn, but this would Then God Called be the first business they had intentionally launched, Not unlike many of us, Chris enjoys playing vid- and it required real business planning and discipline. eo games. But, in 2005 a major controversy emerged Most importantly, everyone on the team needed to around a popular violent video game that reached be prepared spiritually. One aspect of this spiritual all the way to Congress. As Chris was reading news preparation was a dependence on God and not on | January 2016


STARTUP the world or anyone in it. As the team read the Bible and prayed, they were constantly drawn to the reality that God was looking for them to be people “who could not be bought.” It was also during this time that Chris became involved with a men’s ministry called Boot Camp Northwest. The relationships that formed in this ministry were critical to Chris’ development as a Christian leader. Most importantly, God provided Chris a mentor, Rande Bruhn, who would become CEO of Soma Games. Chris says, “If I can impart two things to anybody interested in walking this path, let this be the second thing you commit to: find and commit

to a group of deep friends that you are honest with, loyal to, and different from. Let the first thing be this: find and submit to a mentor.” Finally, in late 2008, shortly after the launch of the iPhone App Store, Soma Games released its first title - “G - Into the Rain” on iOS. (On January 6 Soma will be launching G Prime - the Xbox One update of this “gravity gripping, Steampunk styled, moody-beautiful, slingshot simulating puzzle pleaser” that was inspired by the Genesis 6 account of Noah’s Ark.) G was very well received. It had a lot of downloads and won a number of awards. It also brought new business to Code-Monkeys - companies wanting mobile or

game development. In the years since, The Code-Monkeys/Soma Games team has developed over 300 apps and games on 4 different platforms, with over a million downloads. G, and its follow-ons also opened doors. Going Big One of those doors was the opportunity to be the exclusive licensee for video games based on the popular Redwall series of books. In 2013, Soma launched a Kickstarter to build a Minecraft version of the Redwall Abbey as their Minimal Viable Product, and it was overfunded in just a few days. Clearly this is a big, and high profile, opportunity. To prepare,

16 | January 2016

STARTUP Chris was accepted into the Praxis Business Accelerator Program. That year-long experience exposed him to many business experts that not only helped with critical elements of the business, but also challenged him to wrestle with key questions about what it means to build and operate a gospel-centered business. On their website, the company says “While Soma Games is a group of Christians making video games, we’re not what you might call a ‘Christian Video Game company’ and it’s important for us to be very clear about this to avoid inaccurate expectations. We’re making games that will be founded upon, and informed by Christian

thought and the Christian understanding of reality – however, we don’t plan on making games that teach Christian theology. There are no scripture references, no Biblical characters and no telling of the Jonah story – other companies have been there and done a fine job. We hope to try something a little different.” In their company motto, they acknowledge both their position relative to their Creator and their desire to honor God with their work: “terribliter magnificasti me mirabilia” - Latin for “fearfully and wonderfully made.” In other words, Chris and his team are Christian entrepreneurs, driven to glorify God in all they do, and ruled

by the Word of God. May each of us seek to do the same! 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. He currently serves as Entrepreneur in Residence at Oklahoma Christian University. | January 2016

For the New Year: Be proactive, not reactive in your church communications


Ministry Communication By Yvon Prehn


he start of each year is a good time to set goals to make your church communications more effective in growing your church, introducing people to Jesus, and helping them grow into mature disciples. One of the best ways to do that is through a proactive approach to communications. To understand what proactive communication is, first we’ll look at its opposite—a reactive approach to communications, which is how most churches do their communications. While there is little “wrong” with this approach, there is a more effective way. The characteristics of reactive communications There are two primary characteristics of reactive communications: 1. Communications aren’t viewed as a foundational ministry in the church If communications are viewed as a foundational ministry in the church, the staff understand that every step of ministry planning and formation involves communications. This means, for example, when your church plans its Easter outreach, from the start you communicate the themes, events, and motivation for the congregation to be involved. You make certain the website explains events, service, and invitation opportunities in detail and has ways for people to be involved. Communication is a vital link that keeps the congregation informed and involved in the ministries of the church. If this isn’t the case, the second characteristic of reactive communications happens.

2. Last-minute communication production is the norm for the church Last minute communication production is not, as we sometimes assume, a problem because of over-busy schedules of the church staff. Over busy schedules in the church office that don’t leave time for communication production are a result of church communications not being valued as a core ministry of the church. Last minute communication production results because the church communication creators don’t get the details necessary to even begin thinking about how to communicate it until after the event planning is done and the event is about to take place. A mad rush then ensues to get out something, anything, to tell people about the event or ministry. If your event is only a few weeks away and you rely on Sunday morning as your primary communication opportunity through verbal announcements, PowerPoint visuals, and bulletin notices, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is in church every week and many people won’t know about your event if they don’t attend on the one or two Sundays you talk about it. If you rely on the web or social media, the people in your congregation who don’t access these channels regularly, or who are flooded with social media interactions, may miss out on only one or two mentions. The result is that the attendance response to events or ministry opportunities is often a disappointment, not because people aren’t interested, but simply because they

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Ministry Communication didn’t know about it at all, or if they only heard about it once, don’t understand what is really going on or why they should care about attending.

tions that the importance of inviting their friends to the event isn’t simply to have a big number at the church, but that this is an opportunity for their friend to hear about Jesus. Yes, they will have a fun time—but their eternity The characteristics of proactive communication might also be changed. In contrast, proactive communication is more than a 9. Fills in the details (this is where church websites can be extremely effective) as the staff gets them figured out, but last-minute, quick invitation for the congregation to come to doesn’t wait to start communicating until everything is your event and to bring their friends, but a series of commuin place. nications where the church staff: 10. Prays without ceasing that God will touch hearts, bring 1. Values the place of communications as a foundational people to events, and enable the church staff to honestministry of the church that supports the success of the ly evaluate their work and effectiveness in determining ministry and outreach programs in the church. communication and ministry success. 2. Looks ahead for seasonal and special events and ministry growth opportunities and gets target dates for a series of Become proactive in your communication and you’ll see communications leading up to them on the calendar. more people attend church events, link up with the church, 3. Realizes that it takes repeated communications delivered come to know Jesus, and grow into mature disciples. through a variety of media channels (print, web, bulletin, For more specifics on how to create effective PowerPoint, email, social media and whatever else you church communications as you plan for events, go to: can think of) to involve people in the ministries and out- reach of the church. 4. Knows if there is a time and money trade-off, that complex, fancy, expensive one-time-only communication pieces aren’t nearly as effective as consistent, complete, clear communications used many times and in many channels. 5. Lets people know in advance of dates, costs, basics of programs for maturity and outreach. 6. Acknowledges that people’s lives today are full and don’t revolve around the church and that attendance at church events is not a priority for most people. 7. Remembers that with the above reality in mind, communications include the benefits and reasons why people should come to or be involved in church events. There are event-specific reasons why attending can be a benefit to families: healthy entertainment, a fun family time, no cost, etc. We definitely want to remind people of these things, but we need to also remind them of the incredible spiritual benefits we offer: peace with God, forgiveness of sins, purpose in living, opportunities to share and serve, hope in tragedy and death and an eternity with God. 8. It’s not that we need to put a lengthy gospel presentation on every invitation to the upcoming Easter Egg hunt, but we can put a link on it that says, “Want to find out more about why Jesus is the reason for the Easter Season?” and have a link. In addition, we need to remind our congrega- | January 2016


The Challenge of Today’s Family Structures in ChMSes By Nick Nicholaou



here’s no doubt that family structures have changed dramatically in the last forty years. ChMS databases are struggling to cope with those changes, and that makes ministry more challenging because most ChMSes impose traditional family structures on today’s family structures. A change must be made! Here are some thoughts that may help. Our Culture Has Changed Up through the 1960s and into the 1970s, most family structures were more traditional than they are today. Divorce was rare and even scandalous! Blended families tended to happen more because of widows and widowers getting married than for any other reason, and the percentage of those occurrences was low enough to not challenge the thinking of database structures. But that has definitely changed! The 2015 U.S. Census Bureau statistics show what we all see around us: intact traditional families are in significant decline, and children raised by a parent who has never been wed or is divorced is significantly increasing. This is true in The Church too, something we couldn’t imagine forty years ago! The result is that when ChMS databases insist on using traditional family structures, serving children and their parents in churches with large children’s ministries becomes operationally very challenging. Most ChMS Databases Don’t Cope Well Most ChMSes are built around the traditional family structure (two parents of differing genders who have their children in the home together) with methods to

connect people beyond those traditional immediate family roles (grandparents, etc). So a person’s database record wants to put them in one of those traditional roles and may look something like this:

Any relationships outside of that family structure are treated as somewhat unusual, and merely accommodated. But consider, for example, a child of divorced and remarried parents who each have custody. Maybe the shared custody is of the third child from the first family, and Dad’s new family also has two more kids with the child’s StepMom. It might look like this:

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NICK AT CHURCH Which family should you put the child in? What if both parents are involved in the same church, and the child might come to church with either one? And what if you use your ChMS’s security check-in solution? It all gets very complicated. A Thought on How They Can Change This is a situation I see many churches wrestle with when they’re looking for a new ChMS solution. It struck me in a recent consultation that the answer might be to change the database structure so that each record is of an individual with links to other records in the database, and each link ‘type’ would carry with it appropriate business rules and functionality. Maybe it would look a little like this:

I don’t pretend to be a a programmer, and I don’t know what the programming implications of this different type of structure are. But if ChMS databases are to be relevant in today’s complex family structures, a change of this magnitude seems necessary.

Nick Nicholaou is president of MBS, an IT consulting firm specializing in church and ministry computer networks, VoIP, and private cloud hosted services. You can reach Nick at, and may want to check out his firm’s website ( and his blog at

Ministry Tech Magazine - January 2016  
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