Category Archives: Technology
Parenting is hard. Much harder than you’ll ever imagine. Nobody can tell you how hard it is until you’ve experienced it. And each new generation has its challenges. One of my generations parenting challenges is definitely technology. We are learning more and more about the land minds that smart phones, social media, and gaming devices deposit before our kids every day. Parents must be vigilant to remain on top of this ever changing world. Some of the unexpected lessons we’ve learned over the last few years as parents and as a pastor:
- You can protect kids from internet searches and some harmful websites with filters, but filters have little affect on Social Media sites.
- Snap Chat is bad. Really bad. No child should have access to Snap Chat. Block it!!!
- From a local school principal: “Everything bad at this school – drugs, bullying, and sexting – can be traced back to Snap Chat or Instagram.”
- Instagram has grown more like Snap Chat, allowing anonymous sharing of pics. Monitor it or block it!
- Watch who your kids are following on Instagram. These people are discipling your children and shaping their worldview.
- Gaming devices are not just about playing games anymore. The unfiltered internet, Youtube, and many games offer views of the darkest parts of the fallen world to kids.
- Youtube is a great disciple making tool and mostly for bad. Figure out how to block access to it on gaming devices and smart phones.
- Kids and most adults are not capable of handling the emotional toll that constant connectivity offers us through smart phones and social media.
- Kids get up at night and reconnect with technology after their parents have gone to bed. They struggle to turn it off and stay disconnected. Turn off the internet! Place devices in a secure place. Model and teach the importance of rest from technology.
- Drug dealers are using Snap Chat and Instagram to entice your kids. Yes! Local drug dealers are on Snap Chat and Instagram advertising their services to your kids.
- Sexting is a huge problem for teens and many adults!!! Model and teach the importance of accountability with text messaging.
- Most parents are clueless of how their kids are being affected by technology.
I could probably go on, but we are learning more and more of the potential harmful effects of technology and how to shepherd our kids through these mind fields. I know, I know. There is good that can come from technology too. But parents, lets beware and be aware! And set limits and boundaries on technology use for your kids and for yourself.
Here are some good sources of info for parents that have been helpful to us along our journey of discovery:
- Book: The Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch. This book helped us devise our own Technology guidelines for our home. Great resource.
- Blog: CovenantEyes.com/blog. Covenant Eyes is a great filtering and accountability tool. The blog offers regular articles that are informative for parents and leaders in setting limits and boundaries. The stories also share reminders of the potential danger of the internet and hope for redemption after inevitable mistakes occur.
- The Axis Culture Translator. This is a weekly email that deposits some good tidbits of info for parents trying to keep up with language and trends impacting our homes.
What are other good resources for families regarding technology? What are lessons you’ve learned so far?
“Communication: Without It You Travel Alone” – John Maxwell.
Working with a few churches this week, including mine, to clean up communication. These three questions seem to have risen to the top as the most essential.
How do people hear about our church?
How do people know where to go when they get to our church?
How do people stay connected to our church throughout the week?
Let’s take these three one by one:
How do people hear about our church?
Remember, it’s not their job to find us, but our job to take our message to them. How will you intentionally take the gospel of Jesus Christ and good news happening at your church to the community? Ideas:
- Website. Lots of great sources for high quality websites today. Our church uses The Creative Place. Great partners. Ask around for local sources. Check out ChurchTechToday.com for reviews of church website template services.
- Social Media Pages. Everyone that uses Facebook Ads, etc. says they have people respond with attendance. Our Church uses SundaySocial.tv to help with high quality graphics for social media pages.
- Invite Cards at Outreach Events. Do you have outreach events? Hopefully. When you do, hand everyone an invite to the next thing.
- Direct Mail Plan. Check out the Mapping Center for Evangelism where you can get addresses with an annual subscription plus other good outreach strategy tools as low as $480 per year.
- Signage. In front of the building. Yard Signs around town. In some cities, billboards can be an effective tool as well.
- Radio Spots. Many stations offer a free community board for church events. If not free, they are usually very affordable, depending on the station.
- What else have you used to let people know about your church?
How do people know where to go when they get to our church?
The curse of knowledge plagues us as regular church members. The curse of knowledge is knowing where to go, we forget what it is like to not know and assume everyone must also know. Assume the opposite to become a more welcoming church. Ideas:
- Signs for visitor parking in the parking lot.
- Signs on outside of building giving directions.
- Signs inside of the building giving directions. Especially if you’re portable.
- Greeters at the entrances and if possible in the parking lot.
- Sign for Sign-up Opportunities.
- What else do you do to help people know where to go and what to do when they get to your church?
How do people stay connected to our church throughout the week?
Some people will naturally stay interested and know how to jump in and get involved in the life of the church, but that number is shrinking. We must be intentional to make relationships sticky in today’s culture. Ideas:
- Sunday Bulletin. I know it seems like it doesn’t get read, but it’s still worth doing. Can be done for very cheap with templates from Outreach.com and others.
- Social Media
- Letters / Snail Mail – people still love to get mail in the mailbox with their name on it.
- Email – FREE
- Montly or Weekly E-Newsletter – FREE
- Text Messaging – There are several great text messaging services for churches that range from FREE to around $35 per month. ChurchTechToday.com provides some helpful reviews.
- Personal contact through Small Groups
- What else do you do to help people stay connected to your church during the week?
What’s missing from this communication strategy list?
Download a FREE Strategic and Dynamic Communication Checklist to assess your churches communication strategy: Church Communication Checklist.
I get a lot of help and inspiration from these Church Communication Leaders:
- Rich Birch and Unseminary.com
I was able to teach a session on Trends in Church Technology at the 2017 Total Church Life Conference on August 19th in Baton Rouge. Here are notes from the session:
Why Technology Matters to churches?
- Systems Matter – technology provides us with great systems that run beneath the surface and save time, energy, and resources.
- Deliver the Gospel to more people, more regularly – technology can help us with our main mission of delivering the gospel to everyone in our communities and world.
- Relevance – The language of the next generation is found in technology and social media. When we allow them to engage their faith in that language, we serve them well.
“The technological revolution we’ve seen in churches over the past 30 years is staggering. What’s even more remarkable is the speed at which technology in the church continues to improve.” – Jonathan Howe (Read Jonathan’s great article on Church and Technology Trends HERE).
Technologies Every Church Can and Should Consider:
1. Digital Communication Options – Connecting your church through texting and social media is essential. Examples:
- Email services like Mailchimp allows your emails to have a wider reach.
- Facebook pages for publicity and closed groups for coordinating and inspiring leaders.
- Texting is the preferred way for many to receive communication these days. Check out Textinchurch.com or subscriber services like Remind.
2. Cloud Based Church Management Systems – The church directory is now in your hand. Cloud based means the management of the churches directory, giving, and even bookkeeping is no longer on one computer in the church office, but can be a collaborative tool throughout the leadership community. Check out this article from ChurchTechToday.com that compares the 20 Top Management Systems. Our church has used Church Office Online and now Planning Center for great functionality in volunteer management.
3. Digital Giving Options – Online giving and now text giving can increase your churches giving by 25%. Multiple ways to give are necessary to reach new generations of givers who don’t know what a checkbook is and carry little cash. Check out our churches letter 5 Ways to Give at Bridge Church that is sent out with Quarterly Contribution statement and imagine the possibilities. Most church management systems have digital giving connections or clients that they work with. I’ve also heard good things about Tithely. Here’s a good article sponsored by them about trends in giving today.
4. Computerized Child Check-In – Being on top of child safety makes you more relevant to today’s parents. It was once assumed that the church was a safe place for kids, but not anymore. Child safety is something every church must think about and plan for. Again, most church management systems have digital check in connections or clients that they work with. Here’s a good roundup of possibilities. I’ve also heard good things about Kid Check.
5. Online Leadership Training – Years ago I heard that there were three reasons that people don’t volunteer at your church or why volunteers quit: 1) I don’t have time. 2) I didn’t feel appreciated. 3) I don’t know how. Today, instead of calling another meeting, leadership training is a few clicks away through services like MinistryGrid.com, Trainedup.org, and Rightnow Media. You can still direct and lead people’s training experience through selecting the right videos and clips for your church or making your own training videos and posting them on the above mentioned sites.
6. Live Streaming – Lights, Camera, Outreach! Live streaming can help people who travel out of town stay in touch with your church, as well as spread the message to more people in the community. No need for expensive equipment anymore. You can even live stream from an Ipad or Iphone. Using free streaming services like Facebook Live, Periscope, or pay for services like Live Stream or U-Stream. Here’s a good Beginner’s Guide to Streaming.
7. Video Announcements – Control announcement times and make them memorable and relevant to new generations, as well as make them longer lasting throughout the week as they are shared via social media, web, and email. All you need is a iphone or other camera, creative people, and editing software. Our church plant early on even created an Announcement character that helped capture attention. Check out one of E-Van, the announcement specialists videos. Imagine the possibilities. There is also whispers of services that will offer this to churches in the future.
See Jonathan Howe’s article for other future trends. Follow ChurchTechToday.com for other new technology developments helpful to the mission of the Church. Let me know if you’ve got something else up your sleeve in this regard.
Spent some time today roundtable-ing with ministry leaders in the Northshore Baptist Association around the topic of technology. Thanks to Louisiana Media Group for leading & providing rich content on a variety of topics, AND for providing lunch for our gathering. We also heard from Magnolia Development Group on Web & Social Media questions. These are two trustworthy companies working together to provide affordable, accessible solutions for church tech issues. Joe McCarty, Tech Associate with The Village Church in Dallas, and Brandon Cox, editor of Pastors.com & author of Rewired, spent some time with us as well. They both reiterated the importance of getting on top of mobile development.
A few resources & sites mentioned during the roundtable that you might want to check out:
- The Experience Conference
- Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
- Rewired: How Using Today’s Technology Can Bring You Back to Deeper Relationships, Real Conversations, and the Age-Old Methods of Sharing God’s Love by Brandon Cox
Technology is affecting ministry in many ways. Great discussions today about how to utilize technology without going broke or crazy.
How has technology helped or hurt your ability to reach people for Christ? What’s the big tech issue you’re facing right now?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is big news. It’s a message to be declared, proclaimed, announced, and distributed to as many people as we can as often as we can. God’s work among His people is also news and a story that needs to be told. The tools that churches have relied upon to announce their message and distribute their stories are the pulpit, newsletters, letters and post cards, phone trees, scrolling power point announcements, and email. As a Pastor, my church utilized each of these tools and still I heard regularly from people in my church – “I didn’t know anything about that.” Communication is definitely one of our biggest challenges. Also challenging is the fact that a generation is here that is abandoning paper and phone lines for wireless messaging and social networking. It’s time for the church to take communication to another level and engage the world in the fastest growing means of messaging that we have today and utilize the world of Social Media.
So you’re not a computer geek, you don’t enjoy video games, you hate hype and fads. These are some of the reasons given for not engaging in the popular social networking domains. Here are four reasons why you should put all excuses away and just do it:
1. It’s where the people are. In February, Facebook announced that it now has close to 1 billion users and with 669 million logging in every day! Twitter boasts 550 million users and growing at a rate of 135,000 per day. Currently there are 58 million tweets everyday, about 9,000 tweets per second. These interfaces are growing and people are using them more and more each day. If we’ve got a message that we want to get out to as many people as possible, it seems that we’d want to get it where the people are and social media seems to be that place.
2. Message saturation is possible. A few years ago I asked a group of Church Secretaries and Administrative Assistants if the teenagers in their church are reading the church’s publications. 100% expressed uncertainty. We recognize that a hard copy newsletter does not reach all of our audience. Utilizing social media will allow you to get the exact same information to them in a way that does attract their attention. It is possible to saturate your message throughout the different age-grades and audiences in your church today like never before.
3. It’s Free. The most compelling reason for utilizing the fastest growing communication tools today is the cost. It’s completely free! At every level of social networking, free is an option that gets you out to where millions of people are interacting every second of everyday.
4. You Might Have Fun. Why has Facebook grown so fast? It’s enjoyable. People like having info at their fingertips in real time. They like talking about themselves and connecting with people. They will enjoy connecting with your church and discovering what it’s all about as well. And it’s ok to have fun while we proclaim His message and tell our story.
This report was originally presented at the Total Church Life Conference in Baton Rouge on August 24th. Download the PDF version here: Utilizing Social Networking for Ministry – Aug 2013.
“If there’s a space where conversation is happening, then we should fill it with God’s glory” ~ John Piper on Social Media.
Great session with our Unlimited Partnerships Network at NOBTS yesterday. Brandon Cox, who manages content for Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox & the very helpful site Pastors.com, joined us for a session on Social Media & Technology. It was a great honor to have Brandon with us. Check out his blog & connect with him on Twitter & Facebook. Here’s a few of my big takeaway’s from his talk.
What’s the Value in Social Media in 2012?
- Value & forge CONNECTIONS. We’ve gotten skilled at presentation, but not connection.
- Insight & engage CONVERSATIONS. They’re going to happen with or without us. How do we get involved?
- Observe & influence CULTURE. How do we be FOR the culture?
- This generation talks differently and thinks differently & they won’t accept canned marketing approaches.
- God wants his message distributed through relationships.
- People are conversational.
- Sin has left people lonely.
- God wants every space to be filled with his glory.
- God wouldn’t want us to leave the most influential platforms in culture without His message. “if there’s a space where conversation is happening, we should fill it with God’s glory” ~ John Piper
- Social Media: Pieces of information around which there is a conversation.
- Social Networking: People connecting by technology.
- Branding: Framing THE STORY that you hope people will tell about you. A logo is not a brand.
- User Experience: How things get used by normal people.
- Open Source: A piece of software developed by a large volunteer community.
Principles to keep in mind when using Social Media as a Church:
- Be purposeful. Know the why. Why am I doing it?
- Be social. Relate well. Be about other people.
- Be transparent & real.
- Be generous. Use the Share & Like buttons a lot.
- Be personal. Be like people are.
- Create Bridges. Our goal is redemption.
- FACEBOOK – Still the largest & fastest growing among all age groups.
- TWITTER – More important for the leader than the church.
- YOUTUBE – One of the largest search engines on its own. Most influential among teens.
- PINTEREST – Most influential among women. Image driven.
- FOURSQUARE – Important b/c it’s used by other Apps & b/c of it’s Viral potential.
- INSTAGRAM – Image driven. Use pics to tell the story. Healing Place’s Instagram page on the website.
- LINKED IN – More about professional development. Most effective when using groups.
- VIMEO – Best for Video Production Quality.
- GOOGLE+ – Technically better than others but not as used.
- MEETUP.COM – Good for missional engagement in the community.
- Understand the Social Graph: Facebook is creating a map of the world based not on links but on personal relationships. They only show you what they deem important to you and others, seeking to capitalizing on what people are saying is important. The “Like” & “Share” buttons being utilized tell Facebook what’s important.
- Put on a “Like” button on everything. This says to Facebook & the world, “this is important.” Go to facebook.com/developers to get the code for a like button for every page you create on the web.
- Utilize Facebook Tools: Facebook Events to leverage relationships. Private Facebook Groups – to leverage volunteers. Pages for Group Information & connections.
- Know WHEN to post. People are looking at articles during the work day & looking at pictures in the evenings. Events should be promoted three-four days before for maximum effectiveness. Facebook Ads work for only about 3 days at a time then they need to be deleted or changed.
- Make sure you’ve got your location under your settings for Check-Ins.