Category Archives: Technology

Trends in Church Technology

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: 

churchtechWhy 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.

15 Technology Recommends from 2015

Technology continues to dominate our time & attention for the good & bad. Here’s the good list for me in 2015, that will be making the jump with me to 2016 & that I’d recommend to my friends.

1. Turn off all Social Media Notifications. One of the best decisions I made in 2015 was to turn off notifications on my iPhone so that social media comes to me on my time & not in real time. Likes & shares, tweets & retweets are just not that important in the grand scheme of things. Social media can be a good servant or a terrible master. Start getting on top of things by turning off notifications.

2. Got an external hard drive & ran Omni Disk Sweeper on my Macbook Air. On my 3rd Macbook Air. Love it. But they do clog up. This year, I broke down & bought an expensive external hard drive & started saving everything there. Also started regularly running Omni Disk Sweeper, which kills off unneeded clutter. My Macbook now has another year or two in it & it even feels lighter. Ha!

3. Audible.com. I drive about 2k miles & walk/run about 25 miles each month. Audible.com has allowed me to redeem this time through listening to great books. Tripled my usual reading load for the year. Also allowed me to get in more biography & history, which is easier to listen to, & stick non-fiction leadership type books in my hands, which are better to read with a highlighter, which I love.

4. Youversion.com One Year Bible Plan. “Every Christian worth his salt reads the Bible cover-to-cover every year” – J.I. Packer. My first time all the way through the One Year Bible Plan & I loved it. Youversion.com is such a great tool, allowing ease of sharing on social media. And for days I’m off too early to read, I can listen to my Bible reading for that day in the app.

5. NFL.com Fantasy Football App. I managed to avoid Fantasy Football for 40 years of my life, but got drawn in this year by friends from my church. And I LOVED IT! Didn’t win much, but there’s always next year. Ha!

6. Fitbit.com & the Fitbit App. I took 3.5 million steps, covering 1,634 miles this year. How do I know? Fitbit! Loved having this quirky tool to track exercise & daily steps this year. And you don’t have to have a Fitbit. You can track your steps with your phone or other wearable.

7. 7-Minute Workout App. Cut the gym out of the budget to make room for some other things this year. Along with the Fitbit, the 7-Minute Workout has been a good tool to try to keep the Dad bod from completely taking over. Try it out! You’ll be surprised.

8. Feedly.com & Feedly App. My Feedly Newsfeed has replaced the morning paper for me. Keeps me up to date on news & my favorite writers around the globe. Also, allows me to save & tag articles for later reading & for preparing teaching & sermons.

9. PluggedIn.com & PluggedIn App. “Hey dad, can I go watch ____ movie with my friends?” “Can I download this game?” Plugged In App allows me to check out movies & games from a Christian perspective very quickly.

10. Waze App. Saw this on a billboard in Texas. Driving 2k miles per month this has been a great companion & community to be a apart of. Allows other drivers to alert me to faster routes, police nearby, debris in road, etc. Check it out on your next road trip.

11. Biblehub.com. When I got my last computer I opted to try to do without a Bible Software. I found that a lot of the tools that I’d used were available for free online. Biblehub.com has been the most frequent site I’ve used for sermon prep with language tools I was familiar with & a lot of other helps. Without the drain on hard drive space & costly prices.

12. BizExpense Tracker App. There are a lot of Expense tracker apps. I’ve found the BizExpense works best for me, because it allows me to track multiple accounts – My work with the LBC, my church miles & expenses, our medical travel (for those who itemize expenses), volunteer hours & miles.

13. Covenant Eyes & Covenant Eyes AppWouldn’t go without the Covenant Eyes Filter & Accountability software. Also use the Search Engine on all our kids devices. Block Safari or Internet Explorer, so that they can only search through the Covenant Eyes. CE does a great job helping our family keep covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1). Also, love following the Covenant Eyes blog for great stories of redemption, parenting tips, & current issues in the pursuit of purity.

14. YNAB (You Need A Budget). This was our third year using YNAB for personal finances. Love it! Its a cloud based solution. My wife can enter her grocery store receipts on her iPhone on the way to the car & it’s in the program on the computer when we get home. Reports are great. Budgeting tool is clear. Did Microsoft Money, Quicken, & Mint. YNAB beats all of those for us.

15. Allowance Manager. Like most couples today, we seldom deal with cash, so allowances meant extra trips to the bank. Allowance Manager allows our kids to get money basically credited to an account that they can check & manage from their iPad Mini’s. Next step for our 13 year old this year is his own bank account. Yikes!

What app or site would you recommend for your friends?

Church and Technology Roundtable

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:

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?

Utilizing Social Media for Ministry

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.

Why? 

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.

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Social Media and the Local Church

“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.
The Theology behind being engaged with Social Media:
  • 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
Important Definitions:
  • 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.
Top 10 Social Networks for Churches:
  1. FACEBOOK – Still the largest & fastest growing among all age groups.
  2. TWITTER – More important for the leader than the church.
  3. YOUTUBE – One of the largest search engines on its own. Most influential among teens.
  4. PINTEREST – Most influential among women. Image driven.
  5. FOURSQUARE – Important b/c it’s used by other Apps & b/c of it’s Viral potential.
  6. INSTAGRAM – Image driven. Use pics to tell the story. Healing Place’s Instagram page on the website.
  7. LINKED IN – More about professional development. Most effective when using groups.
  8. VIMEO – Best for Video Production Quality.
  9. GOOGLE+ – Technically better than others but not as used.
  10. MEETUP.COM – Good for missional engagement in the community.
A few tips for Using Facebook for Ministry: 
  • 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.
Some Good Resourcers to Follow regarding Social Media & Technology:
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