Archives For Kent Shaffer

Those Who Make It Possible

Kent Shaffer —  April 30, 2014

Special thanks to April’s sponsors:

Church Management Software:
Active Faith // Church Community Builder // Church Office Online // Elexio //
Shelby Systems

Church Websites:
Ekklesia 360 // FaithWebsites

Communication Tools:
Call-Em-All

Education:
Leaders Book Summaries

Media Resources:
Graceway Media // Open Church

If you would like to learn more about sponsoring Church Relevance, check out our sponsors page for the latest rates, options, and traffic stats.

6 Ways Technology Helps Make Disciples

Kent Shaffer —  April 14, 2014

Technology is a tool that when used well extends our natural reach and ability. In fact, these words are an example of how the internet and text can extend far beyond the reach of my voice. At the same time, when used poorly, technology can enslave its users. We’ve all seen people become obsessed with checking their phones or taking on more tech than they can handle. I’ve been that person.

So how do we use technology well for ministry?
How do we discover that sweet tension between doing just enough to reach our full potential but not so much it bogs us down?

Software like Church Community Builder is designed to extend your ministry’s reach. They aim to keep the cost and usability simple without compromising performance. But the real value is in how you choose to use it. So as you begin to think about how you use technology for ministry, consider the following 6 ways that tech can extend your reach and help make disciples.

(1) Identifying people’s gifts.

Church management software makes it much easier to easily identify people’s unique gifts and then equip them with opportunities to use them. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul calls us all to live according to our gifts. Don’t pursue someone else’s spiritual gift but rather pursue what God has called you to be. Ideally, church leadership should be educating their individual congregants about their spiritual gifts, empowering them use their gifts, and holding them accountable in using their gifts well.

At the same time, church management software can also be used to track your congregation’s weak areas. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul also explains how the church is like a body with many different yet equally important parts. What parts is your church body missing? It is easy to get comfortable in a sea of people wired just like you, but software can make it much easier to track and pinpoint needed roles and gifts.

(2) Creating a connection.

The gospel spreads best through relationship. Discipleship thrives under a mentorship role. While most would agree that one-on-one, face-to-face relationships are ideal, there are still many ways that technology can extend our reach to connect with people throughout each week. In fact, Nielsen reports that a surprising 91% of adults have their cell phone within arm’s reach 24/7. Keep in mind that while the technology exists to connect with church members throughout the week, its effectiveness is all in how you use it. Be prayerfully wise in what is the best way to digitally connect with the people you are called to reach.

(3) Following up with volunteers. & (4) Engaging newcomers.

Intending to do something doesn’t matter if it never gets done or gets done too late. I’ve seen too many visitors and too many potential volunteers slip through the cracks at churches because the leadership intended to follow up but became too busy. Personally, I need management software to keep track of newcomers and prospective volunteers. In both cases, quick follow up is a great way to make people very valued and wanted.

This is key particularly with newcomers. Hopefully, your church is healthy and friendly enough to engage newcomers with sincere hospitality during their first visit. Regardless, reaching out to newcomers a few days later is a great way to take the relationship to the next step.

(5) Measuring the ministry.

Only God can measure heart attitudes and real spiritual fruit. Yet man-made metrics can play a role in helping churches identify ministry needs, ministry engagement, and the probability of spiritual fruit.

Tracking good attendance, baptisms, and giving numbers do not guarantee of a healthy church, but it does hint at the probability of health. Tracking involvement hints at health and unmet needs, too. If attendance tracking identifies that single parents are struggling to bring their families to church, you are now aware of an opportunity to figure out how to serve them – be it making changes to church programs or even raising up leaders like Acts 6 to minister to them beyond the church walls.

Technology helps you define the key areas of engagement and measure that for individuals. Disciples are people engaged in ministry, so it’s important to remember that you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

(6) Informing decision-making.

Wise counsel is key for ministry. For 2,000 years, church leaders have benefited from the guidance of scripture and prayer and the advice of elders and overseers. Now we live in an era where we can leverage technology to gain insights into opportunities for improvement and unmet needs. Done well, analyzing data from church management software can reveal what efforts are likely most fruitful and which are not.

For more information about how technology can help your church, visit ChurchCommunityBuilder.com.

Special thanks to Church Community Builder for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

9 New Focuses of Open Church

Kent Shaffer —  April 10, 2014

As I mentioned in Open Church’s 2013 Recap, the direction of Open Church took several dramatic turns this past fall. Originally, Open Church was intended to be a platform that aggregates and distributes free resources. Now after much prayer and traveling to listen to needs around the world, Open Church has identified 9 needs that would change how resources are created, distributed, and accessed.

Moving forward requires better relationships with each other. Open Church is not so much its own platform but rather 9 collaborative initiatives working behind-the-scenes to empower other causes and help Christians work together more easily.

It is just enough infrastructure to build momentum and remove historic inefficiencies while not having so much structure that it quenches the Holy Spirit or hinders scalability. So let us work together to help true disciples of Jesus collaborate, learn from each other, and share resources for the good of God’s Kingdom.

1 :: A Collaborative Ecosystem

A network for resource creators and distributors that (1) creates awareness for each other’s initiatives, (2) connects participants that might work well together, and (3) offers support in the collaboration process.

2 :: Standardized Licenses

A common approach to resource licensing that (1) eases legal understanding through standardization, (2) streamlines logistics by removing unnecessary legal restrictions, and (3) accommodates opposing theological convictions by offering multiple licenses.

3 :: Crowdsourced Sharing Platform

A low-overhead resource sharing platform that is crowd moderated and not hindered by censorship and curation limitations. With the right standardized licensing the best resources can be easily added to archival libraries for preservation and increased distribution.

4 :: Archival Libraries

Archives of curated resources preserved and standardized for future generations. Multiple libraries are needed to accommodate theological differences. These archives will seek to digitize public domain works, acquire copyrighted works, and support indigenous in creating resources for their culture by their culture.

5 :: Distribution Channels

Distribution engines that tap into archival libraries and distribute resources to end users or to other distributors. Many platforms already exist that can be retrofitted to become distribution channels, particularly with the right resource licensing.

6 :: Discipleship Platforms

Christian training ranging from Western culture’s academic approach to Eastern culture’s apprenticeship approach. Free resources are good, but discipleship platforms cultivate much deeper potential.

7 :: Open Field Research

Combined research efforts that report the spiritual, physical, emotional, economic, and educational needs of the globe. By combining data from thousands of ministries in the trenches, a better global pulse can be taken.

8 :: Open ID & User Data

Shared databases that excel digital platforms’ ability to provide convenience, tailor content experiences, and offer new features to users.

9 :: Development Standards

Standardizing the creation ministry technology allows for greater compatibility and digital collaboration.

These concepts aren’t new ideas. In fact, pockets of Christianity have been discussing them for about a decade, but the concepts often stall due to a lack of bandwidth, lack of trust, or preferential treatment. These concepts need an umbrella organization that is a safe, neutral, and unaffiliated guardian of the initiatives. It must accommodate a broad scope of unique needs from collaborators while simultaneously serving all contributing individuals, cultures, and groups equally.

This is Holy Spirit dependent. We plan deeply within the parameters set by Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but we will eagerly narrow the scope, tweak details, or even overhaul the core of this blueprint as He leads. Kingdom fruit is accomplished not by our own strength and wisdom but by obedience to God and a right heart attitude.

Christians have become fragmented and territorial. We’ve greatly departed from the Acts 4 lifestyle of sharing all things in common. If we have the means to share resources, then let’s share with the rest of the Body of Christ. In John 17, Christ prayed that we might be unified in one heart and mind by His words, God’s Word. This isn’t a haphazard acceptance of all things claiming to be Christian or all things branded with the labels of denominations, theologies, and ministry models. Rather Christ appealed that we individually be one with the Father as Christ modeled for us, and I believe that generosity with each other is a natural byproduct of uniting around the heart of His words, the heart of the Father.

Thus far, Open Church has acquired 501c3 status, trademarked branding, launched a beta testing website, scouted content creators, researched necessary global logistics and challenges, sought overlapping initiatives for learning and collaborative talks, begun initial stages on several of the 9 focuses, and most importantly, learned to humbled ourselves, pray, and seek God’s face.

Ideally, Open Church will be 100% funded by donations. Revenue-generating models can hinder collaboration by giving preferential treatment to specific groups or by limiting access to only those who can afford it.

In order to reach the next stages, partnership is needed. Infrastructure for the 9 initiatives needs developed, and manpower needs added for administration and volunteer training and management.

Revamped Top Church Blogs List

Kent Shaffer —  April 6, 2014

Top 300 Christian Blogs for MinistryThe 11th edition of the top church blogs list is out.

But it is no longer called the top church blogs. In fact, the name, the criteria, and the metrics have all been revamped for the better. The previous topical scope prevented too many great blogs from being included.

It is now 300 blogs, which includes 157 new additions to the list!

Visit the Top 300 Christian Blogs for Ministry.

Some Resources to Consider

Kent Shaffer —  March 31, 2014

Special thanks to March’s sponsors:

Church Management Software:
Active Faith // Church Community Builder // Church Office Online // Elexio //
Shelby Systems

Church Websites:
Ekklesia 360 // FaithWebsites

Communication Tools:
Call-Em-All

Education:
Leaders Book Summaries

Media Resources:
Graceway Media // Open Church

If you would like to learn more about sponsoring Church Relevance, check out our sponsors page for the latest rates, options, and traffic stats.

To Those Who Made February Possible

Kent Shaffer —  February 28, 2014

Church Relevance is made possible by a handful of sponsors. I am extremely appreciative of their support. Be sure to check out the list below and consider them the next time you need what they offer.

  • Active Faith (Fellowship One) Fellowship One has long been a powerhouse of church management software. Now as part of the Active Faith technology network, they have the team, resources, and momentum to continue pioneering church tech innovations.
  • Call-Em-All Automated calling and group texting to help you communicate prayer needs, events, charity drives, and more!
  • Church Community Builder CCB is a web-based church management system which unifies core management tools, critical people-driven data, and social networking tools into a single solution.
  • Church Office Online COO is an ultra affordable church management system offering text messaging, child check-in, online giving, mass email, directories, calendars, and more.
  • Ekklesia 360 Ekklesia 360 is a sophisticated church website content management system. If you want a custom look plus a user-friendly admin panel that has been tailored for churches’ needs, check out Ekklesia 360. When I used to run a web development shop, it is what we used.
  • Elexio Merge your church management and communications. Elexio’s Amp Fusion church management software gives you website, database, mobile, check-in, and creative design services all in one suite of tools.
  • FaithWebsites DIS offers Faithwebsites and DIS Websites, both are Content Management System with tools everyone can use. They offer scalable designs you can start with – from Do It Yourself to uniquely crafted custom designs.
  • Graceway Media For the cost of one custom design, you can get access for a year to Graceway Media’s library of over 10,000 graphic and motion designs. Want a free sample? You’ll get an assortment of free designs just for creating a free membership.
  • Leaders Book Summaries You can learn more in less time by subscribing to Leaders Book Summaries, which condenses notable leadership books down to 10 to 20 minute summaries. I use them.
  • Open Church Open Church offers free ministry resource library with a growing list of downloadable resources along with ministry idea articles from from all cultures.
  • Shelby Systems Shelby is one of the top choices among church management software. They offer multiple products to better suit your needs, and their 9,000 customers represent organizations of under 200 persons to well over 80,000.

If you would like to learn more about sponsoring Church Relevance, check out our sponsors page for the latest rates, options, and traffic stats.

Join Water Sunday & Rally to Save Those Lacking Clean Water

Kent Shaffer —  February 24, 2014

Water Sunday

On March 23, 2014, let’s have churches rally on Water Sunday to give clean water to those in need.

The Need

By now most of us how serious of a problem this is. Every day 5,500 people die because they do not have safe drinking water. In fact, diarrheal illness, caused primarily by contaminated drinking water, is the second leading cause of death worldwide.

Water systems radically change communities. A 2009 health impact study by Water Missions International discovered an astounding 52% reduction of waterborne illness related clinical visits after the community water treatment system became fully operational.

The Opportunity

Three years ago Water Missions International began the annual Water Sunday initiative – a program that challenges churches throughout the country to dedicate the Sunday after World Water Day to educating their congregations about the global need for safe water and taking a special offering to respond. Since it began, churches have raised over $200,000 dollars for Water Sunday and provided safe water worldwide.

This year, the goal is to raise over $150,000!

The premise is simple: take one Sunday out of your normal worship schedule to educate your congregation about the global water crisis and take up a
collection for the mission. Some churches get creative with raising money and do things like drinking only water for a full month and donating the money they saved by skipping other drinks. Time and time again, people’s lives are transformed as they see how simple things can tangibly make big impacts.

When you register for Water Sunday, you will receive a free Church Starter Pack which includes a Water Sunday T-Shirt, two 11’‘x17’‘ posters, and Water Sunday DVD. To make your Water Sunday easier, resources like sermon notes, small group guides, videos, and children’s activities are also available.

Why Water Missions International?

There are quite a few groups working on the water crisis today, so what makes Water Missions International different?

Water Missions International is a Christian engineering nonprofit working intentionally alongside communities in Africa, Latin America, and Asia to end the global water crisis. Through relationship they work to fully understand the problems a community faces and design custom, sustainable, and safe water solutions. They also equip and empower local churches to share the Living Water message. As people come to collect water, they are able to meet local pastors and believers who build relationships to share the love of Christ.

Since 2001, Water Missions International has provided water solutions to more than 2.4 million people in 50 countries on 5 different continents and currently working extensively with 10 permanent country programs. Water Missions International has also received Charity Navigator’s top rating seven years in a row, a distinction shared by only 2% of the charities rated by the organization.

One billion people still do not have access to safe water. Many of them do not know Jesus. Let’s join together this year to make a difference.

Register Online at: watermissions.org/watersunday

Special thanks to Water Missions International for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

How Christians Can Help Syria

Kent Shaffer —  February 17, 2014

Syria is hurting. The national military and multiple rebel groups are warring against each other. It is hard to tell what truth is because, in times like these, each side tends to spin reality into a favorable story for themselves.

But while the full story is unclear, we do know that some things are true. Christians are dying. Muslims are dying. Women, children, and elderly are dying. Sometimes these casualties are accidental, but far too often, it is intentional.

The drum beats of war are a convenient cloak to hide religious persecution and cultural genocide. After all, when a country is in anarchy and the world is watching the main stage, who will notice what goes on in the back rooms.

This is nothing new, and Syrian Christians aren’t the only ones being persecuted. In fact, Patriarch Gregory III Laham estimates only 1,000 of the 120,000 Syrians killed are Christians. We cannot forget to care for the entire nation. The Syrian civil war is 3 years in the making and has caused over 8 million Syrians to flee their homes.

So what is a Christian to do?

Pray. Pray for a nation that is self-imploding. Pray for the persecuted Christians. May their hearts be strong, and the gospel be proclaimed. May God be their all. May His joy be their strength.

Give. World Vision is assisting Syrian refugee families with interventions like food vouchers, clean water, hygiene kits, clothing, child-friendly spaces, fuel, stoves, and shelter materials.

For more thoughts about why Christians should care about Syria, visit World Vision’s blog.