OK...been trying to get this one up and online for several days now. It may be my longest post ever and it is pretty much just for preachers (and maybe a few other hyper geeks who want to see what they might be able to do). I had considered making this two or three separate posts but I'll try it as one again.
Monday (1/6/08) we hosted the 21st Century Christian Ministry luncheon. Our theme for this month was "Wired For Ministry". There were three presentations. Mark Adams did some super stuff on helpful websites for ministry and some informative info on "social networking". Jonathan Seamon, "the tech preach" brought 10 of his favorite gadgets. And I presented "10+ Tech Tools That Can Tweak Your Ministry Today" I must say I enjoyed it and hope you do to and maybe you'll find some stuff that will be of value to you. If you use electricity, an air conditioner or microphone don't say you don't use tech - you already do...so why not consider some upgrades? I hope you enjoy and feel free to add (I'm always looking for new toys) and ask via comments below.
Useful Web Resources for ministers
Compiled by Mark Adams with help from Matthew Dabbs & James Wood
NOTE: I do not concur with all that is on these web pages or their links, but I have found some of what they offer to be of value, and hope you will also.
Bible Gateway http://www.biblegateway.com A website with dozens of translations of the Bible in several languages available for searching and reading. It’s especially helpful because the search can be limited to individual translations and sections of the Bible. This website can quickly eliminate your need for an additional concordance.
Sermon Illustrations http://www.sermonillustrations.com While there are numerous websites available that have free sermon illustrations and quotes, this one is nicely indexed alphabetically by subject.
Open Office http://www.openoffice.org
o There are many congregations who do not have the financial resources to purchase the latest versions of Microsoft Office for their computers, but who also realize that it is unethical to use pirated copies of Microsoft products for church applications. Open Office is a suite of software including a word processor, presentation program, spreadsheet program, graphics program, and database program. The best part is that because it is open source software, it is completely FREE. This is a great way for a church to be able to use high-powered software comparable to—and compatible with—Microsoft Office without having to spend a dime, or to do anything unethical. If you are used to MS Office, there may be a bit of a learning curve, but there is basically nothing that Office can do which Open Office cannot.
o This is a helpful array of resources for conflict resolution. Though it is not a website one might use all the time, when it’s needed, it can be extremely helpful.
David Allen Company (Time Management and Productivity) http://www.davidco.com
o This is not specifically geared toward ministers, but it has information helpful to ministers striving to keep their lives organized and productive.
The Barna Group http://www.barna.org
o This is the main website for George Barna, who has done extensive surveys and research on the beliefs and practices of people on dozens of issues ranging from doctrinal beliefs to small groups to volunteerism. His research is objective and can provide helpful insights to understanding our congregations and our culture.
Presentation Help Websites
o There are numerous websites, both Christian and secular, that contain information and products which can aid in giving sharp, impacting presentations. The following websites are primarily useful to people using Powerpoint, or who have some way of displaying computer images and videos.
o Videos and Image Loops http://www.sermonspice.com - There are hundreds of video clips that can be purchased and incorporated into classes or sermons. Also, there are animated background images that can be used to bring your slides to life.
o Pictures for Powerpoint and/or Publications http://www.google.com/imghp - Google image search is one of the quickest way to find pictures, but the caveat is that the majority of these may be under copyright protection, and should be used with caution and integrity.
§ http://www.istockphoto.com - $1 for low-rez images and $2-3 for higher-rez images. These are professional quality for a reasonable price, and this also alleviates the concerns for using images illegally.
§ http://www.gettyimages.com - Similar to istockphoto; a solid database of high quality images.
§ http://www.morguefile.com - This one is free!
§ http://www.reverendfun.com - This website has archives of hundreds of original humorous cartoons, based on either biblical passages or church situations. There is a helpful search function to find cartoons fitting to what you are teaching.
For a good compilation of similar websites, see the post on Presentationzen.com called “Where can you find good images?”
Google Apps http://www.google.com/intl/en/options
o Google has dozens of free resources for searching, communication, and organization, and several free computer programs. (If you don’t have a good program for organizing digital photos, I haven’t found one that’s better than Picasa by Google) If you go to this website, you will see a list of some of the resources Google provides with helpful descriptions.
o There are at least two excellent compilations of Christian blogs that I know of with many of them coming from churches of Christ.
o If you desire to start your own blog, there are several sites you could use. It might be best to go to the above lists of blogs, and look at some links that are “blogspot.com” blogs and some that are “wordpress.com” blogs. It will help you get a feel for the differences between the two. The two best sites to use for starting and hosting your own blog are:
§ http://www.blogger.com - This is a reasonably simple format that is still sophisticated enough to allow some flexibility in blog design, organization, and function.
§ http://www.wordpress.com - This is the option that most serious bloggers go with. It is more complex, but has a lot more capabilities.
o If you become interested in regularly reading other people’s blogs, the best way to do this is by using a feed reader. Any website with regularly updating information such as blogs or news sites will have an RSS feed. When you use a feed reader, it will keep up with as many feeds as you tell it to. All you have to do is log on to your feed reader, and it will let you check new posts in a style similar to an e-mail inbox. It’s very simple, and if you tell the reader the website address you desire to add, it will usually be able to find the feed on its own. This saves you hours of hunting through your friends blogs, just hoping to find a new post. Two of the best feed readers are:
§ http://www.google.com/reader - Google Reader
§ http://www.bloglines.com - Bloglines
Restoration Movement Pages http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/index
o This is an extensive list of biographies, pictures, and works by hundreds of restoration movement leaders. This is a work in progress by Hans Rollman, and is an astoundingly good resource for members of churches of Christ who enjoy studying their own history in the last 200 years.
Bible Study Resources
o Matthew Dabbs has compiled a list of 31 online resources for Bible study including Biblical language tools, OT resources, NT resources, online commentaries, early Christian writings, full texts of religious books, and several other items at his blog. For the sake of conserving paper and ink, I encourage you to go to his blog and explore/bookmark some of the links he has compiled:
Social Networking Websites
o There are numerous websites people use to connect with one another, and the majority of users are probably younger people. Even so, you might be surprised at who all you find that you haven’t seen in years! The two you are most likely to find other people using are:
Sermon Central http://www.sermoncentral.com
o This website contains thousands of sermons (full text and outlines) from hundreds of contributors. It has a lot of different ways that sermons and illustrations can be searched and categorized. While it is not ethical to preach another person’s sermon—at least without giving them credit—it can be extremely helpful to get ideas for how to divide up and teach a passage by considering how others have preached the same passage. You can also become a contributor and upload your sermons.
21st Century Christian (Devotional & app ideas) http://21stcc.com/downloads.cfm/
o At the 21st Century Christian website, there is a lot of information about various publications from the company. In conjunction with their quarterly curriculum, 21st Century also has free weekly downloads that are designed to help students apply what they are studying that particular week to real life. Incidentally, the free downloads for teens called “The Beat” and “The Scene” are especially helpful for coming up with ideas on short notice. If you have to offer the Wednesday night invitation, but aren’t sure what to talk about, it’s worth taking a look at these, because they will draw from a current news headline and give a Biblical perspective on how Christians should respond to it. It makes a great way to find some fresh, relevant ideas in a hurry.
Daily Bible Reading Online http://www.esv.org/biblereadingplans
o The English Standard Version’s website has a variety of plans here you can follow if you want to read the Bible through every year online. You might consider doing your daily Bible reading every morning before checking your e-mail.
Randy Willingham’s Courageous Conversations http://www.randywillingham.com
o Randy Willingham is one of the leading experts in our brotherhood on handling church conflicts. He is very passionate about helping churches through problems, and also about encouraging ministers who have been fired or are feeling burned out. It is definitely worth going to his page and clicking on a few of the links to see what is available.
Cyber Hymnal http://www.cyberhymnal.org/ This is a website with numerous hymns from various denominations. It can be a good resource if you’re looking for new songs, or want to know more about older ones. It has a great scripture index to find songs by scriptural text.
Jonathan's Top Ten Fabulous Tech Toys:
1. Cell phone: iPhone, Blackberry and Palm all allow emailing, GPS, and the ability to keep your calendar and addresses on one unit. iPhone also allows you to listen to podcasts. These also allow the use of Bluetooth Operation (hands free talking; Pod cast, etc)
2.Palm Pilot - this allows the use of various functions similar to the above without cell phone capabilities. It also has the ultra neat:Bible on Flash Card made by Handmark Multi Media Card
3.Flash Drives: These now come in much smaller cards with capacities of up to 4 Gigabytes. These are USB drives that allow the fast and simple transfer of files or carrying your significant files in your pocket anywhere. Really neat is the Credit Card size flask drive that you can keep in your wallet.
4. Small clip: My little device that holds flash cards…so they can be read in a USB port
5. Cell phone web connection for computer. USB connection (Verzion, Sprint, etc) With this neat small connector you can be on the web on your laptop ANYWHERE! You are not dependent on whether or not your location has wifi.
6. HP printer for the computer (Power and
7. Power converter for car---so you can plug computer (or any other plug in device) into your lighter.
8. Dictaphone for dictation of letters, memos, thoughts while riding. Tape and Digital format
9. GPS---talked about one in the phone…but any system…they are great for getting around town. A must have if you are out and about visiting.
10. Zoom MP3 recorder on flash cards
AND if all else fails - a good old fashion notepad and pen
And here's my stuff:
10. Use the force - of the web: Not everything on the web is good, nor is it bad. There are some helpful sites like igoogle, yahoo images, blogger, vistaprint, woot.com, biblegateway, eteacher, gty.org, sermoncentral.com, sermonspice.com, heartlight.org...they can help you be more productive with your time and more efficient in your study.
9. Projection Technologies – today’s stained glass. Churches in the middle ages used stained glass to elaborately display great truth; the church in the 50’s used sheet sermons to tell the gospel story in pictures. We’re using screens. The Church needs to communicate in images! It isn’t that expensive – you can get setup for under a couple of thousand dollars and project scripture, songs (with shaped notes if you desire – see paperlesshymnal.com) and sermon highlights. The mistake of most preachers is they use PowerPoint for words but it is about pictures. Don’t be redundant – find pictures that communicate in images what you are saying verbally – it’s a projected illustration!
8. Blogging - digital discipleship. Trust me it’s not that hard. If you are connected at all you can set up a blog-site in less than an hour. Secret: this is not a church bulletin. Don’t blog for an audience. The more you write about what’s on your head and heart, what moves you, the more people will respond. Blogging allows you to digitally teach just about anybody, anywhere, anytime.
7. Podcasting – horseback was faster than foot, carriages faster than horseback, car faster than carriages, jets faster than cars and podcasting is at the speed of light. In addition to your weekly lessons, how about a few special editions Podcast your sermons. Do interviews with members, community leaders, elders, parents, staff, etc. Any church of any size can increase its impact via MP3 technology. Again, it’s not that difficult. With a computer and under $500.00 you can get started.
6. E-Mail - word of mouse. Bulletins at the speed of the event! Cross communication, updates whenever you want. Churches should avoid spam at all costs, but a daily or weekly e-letter or note is an easy and affordable way to keep the church connected. Create several “distribution groups” – elders, deacons, men, youth, parents, members. LISTS, Lists, lists… And ask for responses, you’ll be surprised at how quickly people respond. Webblast can be your friend!
5. Web Site - your church portal. Guests can watch a Webcast, read your history, and get as much information on your church as they want. Nearly 50% of people under age 30 visit a church website before they visit the church service. They can do it from the comfortable and anonymity of their computer. Your Web site is your first impression. By the way: If you don’t update your webpage at least once a week, don’t put any time sensitive info on it. Keep it info full and simple.
4. Logo Central – Use the ease of modern printing to develop a logo that becomes recognizable in your community. Keep it clean, crisp and make sure it communicates your identity. You probably have at least one graphic designer or at least one graphically gifted person who would love to create 3 or 4 mock possibilities for you to choose from at no cost. The most important truths ought to be communicated in the most unforgettable ways. Branding isn’t dumbing-down or watering-down the message. It’s putting the creative energy into the message that it deserves.
3. Social Networking - church as a tag-team sport Create a Facebook account and build an online “congregation”.
2. Text Message - get instant feedback You will be amazed at how many responses you get to an instant message and how quickly – it’s not called instant messaging for nothing.
1. RSS - feeds that matter. (Rich Site Summary-is a format that delivers regularly changing webpage content to you. It notifies you when web content on the pages or blogs you like changes) Use RSS feeds to get your info fed fast (weekly bulletin, small group announcements, daily devotionals, blog entries, etc.) Again simple and allows you and others to keep up with webpage or blog updates fast and easy.
1b. Appearing at your service - Live Missionaries – You can link around the world with missionaries in Bible classes or the assemblies. Have a missionary your church supports with you any day. Put them on the big screen and have Q&A in real time.
1c. Flash Drives – I couldn’t resist at least one tech toy. Flash drives allow you to simply and quickly move files from computer to computer. Carry your whole “my docs” in your wallet or pocket.
And Mark's good materials on Social Networking:
Online Social Networking and Ministry
Presented by Mark Adams
Two main kinds of online social networking:
- Blogging (weblogs)
- Social Utility Sites (Facebook & Myspace)
Both kinds are useful for:
Maintaining contact and relationships
Sharing your personal thoughts
Sharing pictures or videos
Allowing your friends to comment about and respond to the things that you share.
These allow you more personal contact with your members (esp. important in larger congregations).
This is a primary way that young people are communicating these days.
These provide interactive forums for teaching, planning, and exploring ideas.
In learning what others are thinking, reading, and doing, it can be a source of personal growth and nourishment.
“A blog is a website where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, so your visitors can read what’s new. Then they can comment on it, or link to it, or e-mail you. Or not.” – Blogger.com
A blog can be whatever you want it to be! A personal diary, a daily pulpit, a collaborative space, a breaking-news outlet, a collection of links, your own private thoughts, or your memos to the world. (For some links related to blogging, please see the supplemental handout)
- They are PUBLIC and UNEDITED, though you have the option of publishing anonymously. If someone takes serious issue with some of your thoughts, it can come back to haunt you.
- They can be time consuming.
An example of a Wordpress Blog: http://mattdabbs.wordpress.com
Social Network Utilities (Facebook & Myspace)
On these you create your own profile where you can: “upload photos or publish notes, get the latest news from your friends, post videos on your profile, tag your friends, use privacy settings to control who sees your info, join a network to see people who live, study, or work around you”
- These websites are especially important for connecting with young people, but are used by people of all ages. (Many of them prefer a message on Facebook or Myspace over an e-mail)
- You will need to search for and add friends (you can search by e-mail address, name, school, location, etc.).
- There are some helpful group functions (esp. in Facebook) for connecting with people who share interests with you, or are part of your organization.
- You can upload pictures and videos, then “tag” your friends. They can also “tag” you!
- The more effort you put into using these sites, the more benefit you’ll gain. (If you add no information to your profile, no pictures, and never send any messages, this will be of little use to you.)
Social Utility Caveats
- It might be more of a reality dose than you want.
- Pay close attention to privacy options…you want to be careful who you share information with.
- Some smut peddlers and unsavory characters are on here, too. (This might make it especially important for you to pay attention to what “Friends” your children are making on these websites.)
- It can be time consuming.