Archives For Resources

Texting Your Way to Healthier Church Communication

Kent Shaffer —  July 11, 2014

What’s the best way for your church to communicate to your congregation?

Well, it depends on the church.

The world is increasingly a complex melting pot of subcultures. Some churches thrive using social media while other churches need more traditional communication channels. There are hundreds of options.

And text messaging may actually be one of the best tools you can use.

Why texting?

Text messaging (SMS) is as popular as email was a decade ago. According to Pew Internet Project, 90% of American adults have a cell phone, and 79% of them use text messaging in 2014.

In other words, 7 in 10 church goers use text messaging. And this number is growing.

In most cases, the nature of texting is more effective at communicating than email, service announcements, and voice messages. It is 160 characters delivered within 7 seconds.

Tools for Texting

Of course, you don’t want to send out 200 individual messages from your phone. There is software for that.

Some solutions, like Church Office Online, even integrate mass text messaging into church management software (ChMS). In fact, Church Office Online actually includes text messaging in every subscription package at no extra cost. Users can easily send text messages to specific individuals, ministry groups, or their entire congregation.

Texting Your Way to a Healthy Church

Churches can use text messaging in a variety of ways. There are clear benefits to its ability to communicate the urgent – weather cancellations, emergency notifications, and calls to action for community service. It is administratively versatile with its convenience of volunteer communication, event reminders, announcements, and schedule changes.

But text messaging’s real value is in how churches can explore using it to spiritually strengthen the health of their community. The fuel that drives a church’s health is each individual’s personal relationship with Jesus. Abiding in Christ prunes and refines us to be more like Christ. And it is out of the overflow of this relationship with God that the most powerful ministry is done.

So how can text massaging be used for spiritual growth?

  • Prayer
    Your church can use texting to communicate urgent prayer needs or even just every day prayer requests. However, the real potential lies in developing weekly or even daily prayer guides to help church members practice and cultivate the habit of prayer.
  • Scripture
    Scripture illiteracy is still a problem. As we’ve seen with the emergence of Bible apps and audio Bibles, technology is providing new avenues of engagement that can be the first format that suits certain types of learners. Perhaps text messaging is the channel that some need to finally jumpstart a habit of Bible reading. This could be a weekly or daily devotional with one text being Scripture and a 2nd text being a thought-provoking question. One of my favorite examples is using text messaging to share the Scripture text for the sermon the day before. What a wonderful way to extend the sermon beyond the service and prepare hearts to receive more.

Think about how your church can turn text messaging into weekly devotionals of prayer and Scripture. Tools like Church Office Online are perfectly suited to help you get started, explore the potential, and manage the full spectrum of church texting.

Special thanks to Church Office Online for supporting Church relevance by sponsoring this post.

The Geneva Bible: 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

Kent Shaffer —  May 26, 2014

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

Touted as the Bible of the Protestant Reformation, Hendrickson Bible Publishers offers a facsimile of the University of Wisconsin’s edition of the 1560 Geneva Bible.

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

The Geneva Bible was the first English Bible to fully be translated from the original languages. It includes the Apocrapha and also includes extensive commentary and annotations in the margins from the scholars who translated it. Such benefits made it the preferred Bible among the English settlers who voyaged to the New World in the early 1600s.

S. Iohn 3:16
For God fo loued the worlde, that he hathe giuen his onely begotten Sone, that whofoeuer beleuveth in him, fhulde not perifh, but have euerlafting life.

Iames 1:27
Pure religion & vndefiled before God, euen the Father, is this, to vifite the fatheries, and widdowes in their aduerfitie, and to kepe him felf vnfpotted of the worlde.

What is gained in novelty and academic value by having an exact copy of the 1560 Geneva Bible comes at the cost of it being more difficult to read. While the all black type is an average 7 pt size, the age and crude printing of this original edition lacks crispness. Add in the challenge of over 440 years of linguistic evolution, and most readers will be forced to slow their reading pace considerably.

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

As with many Hendrickson Bible, this Bible is beautifully crafted with a rugged blach genuine leather cover, Smyth-sewn binding, gold-gilded page edges, and a black ribbon marker. This is a very thick Bible at 2.5 inches, but its Smyth-sewn binding allows it to still lay flat.

The paper is much thicker and waxier than typical Bible paper.

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

The Geneva Bible 1560 Edition by Hendrickson Publishers

Because this is a facsimile, you get to enjoy the original artisanship of maps, woodcut illustrations, and drop cap letters from 1560. This original edition also includes study resources such as a concordance of proper names, a concordance of principal things, a genealogical timeline from Adam to Christ, and a timeline of God. Added to the facsimile is a lengthy introduction to the Bible’s history written by Lloyd E. Berry.

Translation: The Geneva Bible
Publisher: Hendrickson Bible Publishers
ISBN: 9781598562132
Language: English
Cost: $119.95

Cover: genuine leather (black)
Binding: Smyth-sewn with 1 black ribbon marker
Pages: 1,280 pages with gold gilded edges
Type: 7 point black text
Dimensions: 2.5″ x 7.8″ x 10″
Special Features: original facsimile copy of the Geneva Bible’s text, art, and resources

This post features a complimentary review copy and Amazon affiliate links.

96% off 500 Books from Logos

Kent Shaffer —  December 20, 2013

Logos Bible Software is having a Christmas sale. There are a lot of good deals, but what caught my eye is the 500 Book Mega Pack.

Only available until the end of 2013, Logos is offering 500 popular titles bundled at over 96% off the regular price! That is 189,158 pages from 500 books by 212 authors available at only 79 cents per book.

Authors from the 500 Book Mega Pack include H. A. Ironside, William Wilberforce, Charles G. Finney, George Whitefield, John Wycliffe, Alfred Edersheim, John Flavel, Robert Murray McCheyne, Frederic William Farrar, J. C. Ryle, John Calvin, Justin Martyr, and Ulrich Zwingli. I had the opportunity to peruse a review copy of this bundle, and it is a treasure trove of spiritual insights.

Yes, 96% off of $10,606 is still a hefty sum, but the investment is well worth considering since discounts this deep rarely come.

The Bible App for Kids

Kent Shaffer —  November 28, 2013

YouVersion has partnered with OneHope to release a free kids Bible app for iOS and Android devices.

The Bible App for Kids

Oven Bits developed the app and has a great behind the scenes look at the creation process.

Download the Bible App for Kids

Special Thanks to our October Sponsors

Kent Shaffer —  October 27, 2013

Church Relevance is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors. Each of them offers something valuable for ministry leaders, so be sure to check them out.

Big Sponsors

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • FaithVillage FaithVillage is a new social network and resource hub for faith experiences. Set-up your loft and meet some new friends. Watch an inspiring video or join a cause. Share a ministry idea or post a blog.
  • 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.
  • Lightstock A Faith-Focused, Royalty-Free Images Starting as low as $5. Use in your next web design, blog post, sermon slide or video.
  • Sharefaith Sharefaith provides affordable church websites along with one of the largest databases of graphics (50,000+) available, plus numerous document templates, videos, and more.
  • 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.

Sponsors

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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

How to Blog 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Blogging Tutorial

Kent Shaffer —  October 15, 2013
Updated version of an earlier article.

I regularly get asked questions about how to start and maintain a successful blog. Here is my beginner’s blogging tutorial – How to Blog 101.

#1 :: CHOOSE A BLOGGING PLATFORM

I recommend self-hosting your blog and using WordPress. It the most popular platform among Technorati’s top 100 blogs and among Church Relevance’s top church blogs. Tumblr is on a major growth trajectory and is especially popular with teens and 20-somethings.

Self-Hosted Blogging Software:

Blogging Services (hosting provided):

Other options include LiveJournal, Blog.com, Weebly, and Wix (these last two are really websites with blog options).

#2 :: FIND A DOMAIN (if allowed)

As long as it is relevant, the shorter the domain is the better. A short domain is quick and easy to type, which will save you time in the long run and reduce the probability of you and your visitors mistyping it. Some of the tools

#3 :: DESIGN YOUR BLOG

Being a web designer or hiring one is no longer necessity. WordPress has thousands of template designs for sale and for free that are not too complicated to implement. If you are just starting out with blogging, we typically recommend finding an inexpensive theme/template (under $50). If you are just starting out, but do have a design budget, we typically recommend spending it on branding (logo and brand usage guidelines) rather than development.

Free WordPress Themes

Note: Most website themes also have a blog-as-home option.

Premium WordPress Themes

#4 :: USE TOOLS

WordPress is a great platform, but there are tools and plugins that can make it even better. I recommend at least using the following tools:

  • Google Analytics – free stats about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site
  • Akismet Plugin – tracks spammers and helps keep them off your blog
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.
  • WWW Redirect – Redirects variations of identical domain requests to a consistent uri (i.e. http://abc.com to http://www.abc.com )
  • Redirection – Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors
  • WordPress Database Backup Plugin – easily backup your core WordPress database

Other Tools:

  • ClickTale – provides movies and heatmaps of your visitors’ actual browsing sessions
  • Crazy Egg – supplement your analytics with stunning visuals and actionable data
  • Creative Commons – easily mark your work with copyright freedoms
  • Wufoo – Online form builder with cloud storage database.
  • PollDaddy – create free online surveys and polls for your blog

#5 :: HAVE QUALITY CONTENT

An aesthetically well-designed blog may entice visitors to linger for the first visit, but quality content is what will get those visitors to keep coming back. If you need topics, visit these resources:

  • Google Alerts – Emails from google containing the latest content on keywords of your choice
  • Reddit – users decide the top stories
  • Digg – discover and share content from anywhere on the web
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • StumbleUpon – discovers web sites based on your interests
  • Flipboard (iOS and Android)
  • Alltop – an “online magazine rack” of popular topics

#6 :: STUDY BLOGGING

If you want people to read your quality content, study the science of successful blogging and copywriting. Writing for a blog is different than writing for a book or magazine. My advice:

Unless you are blogging for personal reasons, focus on optimizing the reader experience. Offer only quality content. And make it scannable by using short paragraphs, bold text, and bullet points. Use as few words as possible without compromising quality (needless words waste readers’ time). And if possible, post consistently often.

Blogging Tips:

#7 :: MARKET YOURSELF

With blogging, two of your most powerful marketing opportunities are Search Engine Optimization and leveraging social media. Last year, 57% of ChurchRelevance.com’s traffic came from search engines. You should be using these resources:

  • Google Keyword Tool – discover which keywords and phrases are searched for the most. I use this often. In fact, three highly-searched keyphrases are in this post’s title.
  • Facebook – a popular social network likely used by many readers (follow me)
  • LinkedIn – a popular social network for professionals (follow me)
  • Twitter – stay hyperconnected to readers with this microblogging tool (follow me)
  • Google+ – the second largest social network which factors into Google’s search algorithms
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • Social Media Posting Guide - For regular people that do not have unlimited resources and time

WHAT ELSE?

Remember this is just the beginner’s blogging tutorial. But if you read all of these links, you will be on your way to becoming a blogging expert.

If you are already blogging, what would you add to this list?
What are your favorite tools?
What is your best advice?

The Role of Data in a Church (free PDF)

Kent Shaffer —  September 23, 2013

It is remarkable to see church technology surge over the past decade. Websites and church management systems were once the luxury of large churches, but now they’re treated as fundamental necessities by even church plants.

And the underlying byproduct of these tools is data – deep reservoirs of data offering new ministry insights and potential.

But is data good? With the right heart attitude and priorities, yes.

How Data Helps People and Churches

Data analytics is (1) collecting, (2) inputting, (3) protecting, and (4) mining information to gain a better understanding of cultural and spiritual needs as well as gain insight into how to run our spiritual races better. ACTIVE Faith, the creator of Fellowship One, offers one of the most robust data reporting tools available for churches. To help you better understand reporting, they are offering a free downloadable checklist of Questions You Should Ask Every Church Management Software Provider About Church Data Reporting.

Keep in mind that man’s metrics cannot measure heart attitude or spiritual fruit. Only God does that. Data analytics can, however, give us insights into the probability of such spiritual successes.

In other words, we still desperately need God and His guidance in our ministries. First, we listen to and obey the Holy Spirit. Then we can use data analytics within the boundaries of the calling we’ve been given. The real pitfall in data analytics is if we put our analysis of the data first and God last (or leave Him out of the equation).

FOR EXAMPLE:
Imagine God has given you a passion and burden to reach middle school students. You do not have any specific guidance other than this, so you experiment with 4 new events and programs. Attendance may be good at all of them and, thus, seemingly successful, but your data analytics report that one approach is far more successful at getting the attendance plugged in to long-term discipleship. All 4 events fit within the boundaries of God’s guidance, but because of your data reporting, you are able to focus your time, money, and resources on the approach that is more fruitful and better stewardship.

THE EXCEPTION:
Imagine the same situation where your data reporting shows that one approach is better, but then God guides you to instead focus one an approach that performed dismally at long-term discipleship commitment. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense in our eyes. Just obey the new, narrowed scope that God has given you.

Of course, there are plenty of other possibilities. In fact, the world of data analytics can offer fresh perspectives across a wide array of ministry applications.

Good data reporting helps churches respond proactively not just reactively, but the key is knowing how to do data reporting well.

Data Reporting The Way It Should Be

Reporting is the physical process of mining a database for its hidden insights. And in order to maximize the use of data, you’ll need a robust reporting tool. With such a tool, leaders can identify individual history of:

  • attendance
  • giving
  • serving
  • annual commitment renewal
  • spiritual growth steps (e.g., baptism)
  • leadership steps (e.g., small group leadership)

Such data reporting offers leaders touchpoints to assess challenges, understand successes, and remember history (particularly the history of individual volunteers or church members). And the larger a church grows, the more helpful data reporting is.

If a children’s ministry knows a child hasn’t visited within the past month, a teacher can call the family to see if everything is okay. It is a thoughtful gesture that not only helps teachers connect with parents but also can present opportunities for prayer in cases where a family illness or crisis caused the absence.

Don’t forget ACTIVE Faith is offering a free downloadable checklist of Questions You Should Ask Every Church Management Software Provider About Church Data Reporting.

Click to download your free checklist.

Special thanks to ACTIVE Faith for supporting Church Relevance by sponsoring this post.

 

FaithVillage Helps Churches Engage Online for Free

Kent Shaffer —  September 17, 2013

FaithVillage helps churches engage their congregations around online community and content. It’s free. It’s scalable. And congregations can access it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

FaithVillage launched in February 2012, but its roots go back much further. Baptist Standard Publishing, a leader in Christian journalism for over 125 years and creator of FaithVillage, started asking how they can reach emerging generations and leverage online media to resource churches and disciple believers in their individual growth.

How do we help churches meet people where they’re at and in a way that sustains engagement?

This is not a replacement for Facebook or church websites. It is a complement. It is not a church management or communications platform. Instead, the creators of FaithVillage realized that the key to jump starting sustainable online church community is content because content is what keeps bringing people back. Content makes it easier to interact. And it is this mixture of repeat visits and engagement that creates a nurturing environment ripe for community.

Bringing Them Back with Content

Few churches have the manpower to create loads of weekly content, so FaithVillage has lined up 700+ content providers to keep people coming back and lighten your load with content for inspiration, spiritual growth, and volunteer training. Now you can still create content for your congregation and even upload it into FaithVillage, but you are also much more free to shift your efforts to other needs and opportunities.

Connecting Them with Community

Community on FaithVillage is two parts – private and open. Your church is able to create a private space of online groups for Bible study, mission teams, specific ministries like youth, and small groups. You can also make these groups public for everyone to join. At the same time, FaithVillage is an open community where friends from different churches can interact and enjoy content together. This approach to community helps increase overall engagement.

Additional FaithVillage Features

  • Custom landing page for your church
  • Invite and message members of your church
  • Create and manage and unlimited number of groups
  • Collaborative file sharing with your church and its groups
  • Event scheduling
  • Create teen-only or adult-only groups
  • Photo galleries
  • Content flagging
  • and more

Plus, to accommodate its growing audience of 40,000 users, FaithVillage is currently working on a mobile site, Android app, and iPhone app. There are other great features in the pipeline, too, but you’ll just have to stay tuned for those.

Click to sign up your church for FaithVillage.

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