Categories: blogging, blogs
First, I want to echo the thoughts of Adam Faughn (@faughn4) from his blog, The Faughn Family of Four, today. I love blogs too. I love the information I can get. I love the idea that you can reach large audiences with your message (as long as you have something helpful to say). Adam has a great post today on 10 Things in the Blog World I’d Like to See and I agree with every one of them. We need more Christians using blogs and reading blogs. But, my experience has been that many Christians don’t know how easy it is to subscribe to and read blogs.
Blogs are actually very simple websites that list posted articles in a sequential list (usually by date). The reason they are so powerful is that they contain a special little bit of code (no, don’t run screaming from your screen – I am not going to talk about coding) that turns them into what is called an RSS feed. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You can tell if the website you are looking at has an RSS feed by looking at the web address line of your browser. At the end of that line, after the URL, it will have a symbol that says RSS.
OK, so what? Well, the best part of all this is that you can set up blog readers like Google Reader to keep track of these sites for you and show you when something new is posted on them automatically! I currently subscribe to over 80 blogs. Some are ministry related, some are about photography (something I really like), some are about technology, Bible software, leadership and even a few are about blogging. Each day, and sometimes many times a day, I open Google Reader and it shows me all the blogs I am subscribed to, indicates which ones have new posts and gives me the choice of reading them then or leaving them for later.
It would take a long time for me to go and check each one of those sites one at a time to see if they had something new for me to read. As a matter of fact, it would take so long that I would never do it! That is the beauty of this, Google Reader does all of that for me. It is like having your own custom morning newspaper delivered to your screen whenever you want it.
There are a number of good blog readers out there, but I think Google Reader is the easiest to set up and use. Here is a short 3 minute video on how to get started using Google Reader.
Learn to find these sources online, then subscribe to them, and then – READ THEM. You never know what you might find. I am encouraged, uplifted and edified everyday by reading blogs. You can be too. Give Google Reader a try.
Categories: PowerPoint, Presentation, Presenting
Want to get your presentation off on the right foot? Don’t start with a blank white slide. This may seem obvious, but I am amazed at how often I see it. While the preacher (or presenter) is giving some opening remarks, a large white rectangle is presented on the screen or wall next to him. There isn’t anything in it. It is just this large white space screaming at the audience for attention – but it has nothing to say. Is there something wrong? Was there supposed to be something there that didn’t work? Why does he want us to look at nothing? All of these are legitimate questions your audience is probably asking while you are talking. And believe me, if they are asking these questions they are not fully listening to what you have to say – you have lost their attention and you haven’t even started yet.
The solution is simple – make one solid black background slide at the beginning of your presentation. A black background slide won’t shine a big black square on the wall – it won’t show up at all. Now, I know some of you are saying that you can just hit the “B” key on the keyboard to “blank” or “black” the slide. While that is true there are two main problems with this approach. First, you may not be right near the keyboard to start the presentation when you want to or your remote may not have this function (although that is rare). Second, and in my mind most important, is that the “b” key doesn’t allow you to start your presentation with a slide transition. Placing a black background slide at the beginning allows you to use a nice fade, wipe or rotate transition to bring your title slide into view. This creates interest and will help focus attention on your first slide.
Rather than distract your audience before you even begin – kill the white slide and start with a black one. Fade in your first slide when you are ready to start and rivet your audience’s attention when and where you want it.
Categories: Apps, blogs, Internet, iPhone
Instapaper has been around for awhile now. I must admit that I just discovered it recently, but it has already helped me tremendously. If you are at all like me, you often find articles online that you really want to read, but you don’t have time at that moment to read them. In the past, I would bookmark it to come back too later, but alas the link would get lost in my maze of bookmarks. I played with Delicious and even Google Bookmarks a bit, but it didn’t really seem to help me. Enter Instapaper. First, you sign up (easy process) for a free Instapaper account. Instapaper provides a “Read Later” bookmarklet (a small link that goes in your bookmark bar at the top of your browser) to let you store articles for reading later. When you find an article online that you want to read, but you don’t have time at the moment simply click the “Read Later” bookmarklet and the article is added to your account. If you use Google Reader as your blog reader, you can add a “Send To Instapaper” link in your Reader so you can send the article directly into your Instapaper account.
Once the articles are in your account, Instapaper’s power really kicks in. You can read these articles online later, read them on your iPhone, download them as PDF files, or even download them to your Kindle if you have one. As an iPhone user, now I can read these articles whenever I have free time. The iPhone app (free or Pro version $4.99) presents the text of the article in a very readable style even on a small screen. The Pro version offers some great features including Dark Mode for low light situations (the screen presents the text as white of black), tilt scrolling (simply tilt your iPhone and the text scrolls as you read), folders, star articles you’d recommend and it even saves your position in the document so you can pick up right where you left off later. Now, I can catch up on my reading while standing in line at the bank, while eating my lunch (without getting food all over my laptop keyboard) or any other time I have a few free minutes.
Check out the Instapaper video below and start reading those articles you want to read, when you have time to read them.
Categories: Evangelism, Outreach
You will have to excuse the Monty Pyton reference in the headline, but I couldn’t resist. If you know what I am referring to then keep the spam song in the back of your mind while you read this post. Not that it will help you, but it is stuck in my head so I thought I would help you get it stuck in yours.
Spam is the bane of the email world. We have all had to deal with it and nobody likes it. According to Wikipedia SPAM is defined as “the abuse of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.” Recently, the self-proclaimed “Godfather of Spam,” Alan Ralsky was sentenced to 51 months in prison (a pitiful sentence IMHO) for his role is sending fraudulent emails around the globe. It is reported that Ralsky was involved in sending some 70 million email a day from fake names. It is estimated that 80-85% of all emails sent today are spam.
Each time that I do a seminar or class on Technology in Ministry I talk about the benefits of using email to communicate. Systems like Constant Contact and others, allow interested people to sign up to get your information through their email. These systems keep track of these “permissions,” report bad address, bounces and other data to help you create, send, and track your bulk email communication. These systems are easy to use and quite affordable, even for smaller churches on a tight budget. In my seminar I talk about gathering “permission” from people to send them information. That is an important piece of the puzzle here. You must ask for and get PERMISSION before you send people email.
At just about every seminar I have done I am asked why it wouldn’t just be faster to buy a list of say 1000 email addresses from someplace and start with that? (Insert the sound of the Monty Python group singing spam, spam, spam, spam here!) If you buy a list of email addresses and start sending them emails YOU ARE SPAMMING! Even if you purchase a bulk email list from a reputable source, their list has not asked to get your information specifically. I assure you that once you start bombarding them with your email information they will look at you just like they do all of the other junk emailers that flood their inbox with garbage – and guess what? You are fried! Not really the impression you want the church to make on people is it?
It may take you longer to build a solid email list by gathering permission, but it will give you a better list. Learn to build a culture within you congregation to gather “permissions” from people. Then, use that permission carefully and wisely to communicate with them over time. Communicating with people who want your information will be more effective and profitable in the long run.
Don’t be a spammer – don’t get fried!
Categories: blogging, blogs
Writing well and writing to persuade people to action are skills that are developed and learned. Good writing often appears very simple and easy to do, but it is not. It takes work and a commitment to learn and improve. I just stumbled across an article that can help you with your writing – Copywriting 101 – on Copyblogger.com. This blog by Brian Clark has tens of thousands of followers and he offers practical skills to make you better.
Copywriting is traditionally a form of writing for marketing, but its very purpose is often to be persuasive. Writing for ministry is often persuasive as well, trying to encourage people to study their Bibles, or get more active in the Christian walk, or even if you are just trying to persuade them to read your blog – you are often trying to convince them to do something. Check out the article – it will help you become a better writer. Your readers will be glad you did. :)
Another blog that I have recently discovered that offers advice in this area is On Blogging Well. This blog offers advice and tips to improve your blog, make it more functional and increase readership. Check it out.
Categories: blogging, blogs, Evangelism, Facebook, Internet, Logos, Outreach, Twitter
I am surprised at how often I am reminded that people still don’t understand that computers are so much more than electric typewriters. Yes, we can type out letters, reports, sermons and research papers and then conveniently store them for editing later, but there is so much more. We are missing the power that these machines put literally at our fingertips.
The Power of Computing
For ministry the power of computing means that we can approach the text of the Bible with tools never before available. Bible software like Logos (my favorite), Bibleworks, PC Study Bible, ESword (free) and more allow us to examine the text of Scripture in more and more detail. We can search, analyze and study faster and more accurately. We can find the Greek words associated with our English translations, discover their meanings and locate them elsewhere in the text almost instantly. These tools can transform our Bible study and help us understand God’s word because of the power of computing. Try that with an electric typewriter.
The Power of Connecting
Listening to the radio recently on my drive to work I was reminded by the DJ of how far we have come in terms of “connection.” He commented that when his grandparents were children there was no television, no radio, no phone, no form of mass communication whatsoever! He quipped, “I realized that the only way anyone could talk to anyone else back then was when they were in the same room together.” I had never really thought about that before. There was no way to communicate to anyone who wasn’t standing right in front of you. How different that is from where we are now! Right now this blog post can be read by anyone on the planet with a simple Internet connection. I can stand in the middle of my living room with a device in my had the size of a deck of playing cards (my iPhone) and can make a phone calls to a person thousands of miles away, access information on the internet, send a text messages to a friend, and all while watching television. We really are connected to the entire world.
But how are we using it? Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools connect us, but do we really need to know what you had for breakfast this morning? Facebook membership just surpassed the population of the United States and if it were a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world! and As Christians, we have been entrusted with the most powerful message man has ever been given – the Gospel. Yet often we only think to “post” the results of a quiz like What Color Crayon are You? or What Should Your Name Really Be? Really? Is that the best we can do?
So the question is what are we, as the Lord’s church doing about it? How are we as Christians using this “information connection” to reach people with the gospel? It is not up to the elders, or the preacher – how can I reach out? here are a few suggestions:
- Use Facebook or Twitter to encourage people with the words of Scripture – I know a woman that has started posting a Bible verse that she is reading everyday. Her friends started noticing and commenting and the best part is, now, if she doesn’t post one, people ask her where her Bible verse is for the day! She is using the power of connection to share God’s word with others and she is having an impact.
- Start a blog – For preachers and ministry workers this is a no-brainer. Preachers can post about information about their upcoming lessons and sermons or provide follow-up information afterward so member can dig deeper. Ministry leaders can post about the affect their ministry is having, what needs they have and what they are doing. Members can write about their spiritual walk and encourage others as we all strive to reach greater heights.
- Read blog posts and share them with friends – Connect with others who are writing to find encouragement and strength. There are a number of good blogs out there that can lift you up and challenge your thinking. Here are a couple to get you started; Preacherpollard, Thoughts from the Mound, Weylen Words, That Fire Within. Blog readers like Google Reader, Bloglines and others allow you to “subscribe” to these sites (don’t worry it’s free). It’s like having your own custom newspaper delivered to your computer all day long. When you find a post that you like or helps you or touches you – share it with someone! Spread the encouragement!
Tap into the power at your fingertips. We have been provided with tools here that can change lives (including your own) and can change the world. Let us always as God’s people be looking at how to use these tools for the Lord.