Archives For Resources

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.

 

Logos Bible Software – 5000x Less Space Than Print

Kent Shaffer —  August 19, 2013

Kent Shaffer's Library

Once upon a time I had a library of 2,500 printed books. It was a beautiful collection, but it was also a burden. After moving 9 times over the past decade, it is exhausting to think about maintaining a library of that size. And now that my family will live in an RV full-time, it is impractical to keep a surplus of printed books.

So what am I to do?

Kent Shaffer's Library

I decided to get Logos Bible Software 5. Their Portfolio package comes with 2,585 books with thousands of optional books to add. In other words, that’s almost 50 years of reading at a rate of 1 book per week. And it all fits on an ultrabook, which I figure is at least 5,000 times less space than a printed library.

I chose their Platinum package (1,370 resources), acquired some ebooks (752), and downsized my print library by 70%. Now I can live in an RV with over 2,100 books on my ultrabook. That’s 105 cubic feet of printed books!

Kent Shaffer's Library in an Ultrabook

Of course, I’ll still keep some books in storage. Hopefully, one day I can get my rare public domain theology works digitized as free downloads at Open Church.

I’ve been thrilled with Logos Bible Software. Obviously, it makes sense if you travel often or live in a small home like me, but the study features are the real reason to purchase the software. Read my other post to learn about these features.

Special thanks to Logos Bible Software for providing a review copy of their software.

Free Church Graphics and Resources Toolbox

Kent Shaffer —  July 30, 2013

This article is brought to you by Open Church:

Open Church - Free Church Resources

Great custom graphic design is ideal. But sometimes time, money, or skill limitations make it necessary to use pre-made graphics. And even when you have the time, money, and skills, there are still occasions when it is more efficient to not reinvent the wheel and to instead use and build upon a pre-made resource.

In either case, here are over 30 of the best sites offering free church graphics and resources. And if you want to spend some cash, I have also included 8 sites that cost money but are worth considering for pre-made resources. Some of these may also have a handful of free resources as well.

Free Church Graphics and Resources

  • CCV Resources
    Sermon series graphics and resources from Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) in Peoria, AZ.
  • Church Media Design (Freebies)
    Sermon series and announcement graphics
  • Church Planting Solutions
    Free church resources ranging from checklists to launch plan strategy documents to a church planter assessment tool.
  • Church Visuals
    Church Visuals is a division of Church Flair that provides free graphics & resources to use in your church experience.
  • CreationSwap
    Offers free church graphics including logos, photos, vector art, projector slides, bulletins, sermon graphics, projector slides, templates, and more. The site also includes a social network for Christian artists.
  • Elevation Church
    Around 70 high-quality sermon series graphics (PSD and JPEG) and series invites (JPEG) created by Elevation Church (Charlotte, NC).
  • LifeChurch.tv Open
    Offers free sermon series resources that include message outlines, sermon graphics, videos, and more creative materials created by LifeChurch.tv (Edmond, OK).
  • Ministry To Children
    Free Bible lessons, craft ideas, coloring page, and  for Children
  • Muddy River Media
    Offers free illustrative videos, motion backgrounds, countdown timers, stock photographs, illustrations, small group resources, and more.
  • NewSpring Ministries
    Offers free sermon series resources (e.g., sermon graphics, audio, message outline, & service outline) as well as administrative forms and manuals created by NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC).
  • NLC Creative
    Free motion backgrounds and sermon series graphics. Is the creative arm of New Life Church (Arkansas).
  • Nside Admin
    Offers free administrative documents from North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA) on church government, human resources, accounting, facilities, IT, and Web.
  • Open Church
    A global Church library of free downloadable resources including graphics, video, training materials, ebooks, and more.
  • Open Resources
    Sermon audio, countdowns, promotional design graphics and opening videos from a wide variety of message series and churches.
  • Resource Well
    Offers free resources for children, youth, and adults such as lessons, teachers guides, workbooks, audio and video. Created by Northland Church (Longwood, FL).
  • Seeds
    Sermon series resources, artwork, video, and drama from Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK)
  • Stuff I Can Use (formerly Vine Resources)
    Offers free sermon series graphics, postcards, countdown videos, and message bumpers created by the college ministry of Southeast Christian Church (Louisville, KY).
  • Stuff You Can Use
    Free downloadable youth ministry resources as well as interviews, how-to’s, and case studies from the creators of the resources.
  • Vintage Church
    Free graphic resources for churches (sermon series graphics, announcement slides, graphic design artwork, and message outlines)

Other Free Graphics and Resources

  • Adobe Exchange
    Offers free downloads to use with Adobe software including brushes, styles, gradients, custom shapes, and patterns for Photoshop.
  • BittBox
    A blog that regularly highlights free Photoshop brushes, Flash components, vector graphics, and more.
  • Brusheezy
    Offers free Photoshop brushes.
  • Flasheezy
    Offers free Flash elements.
  • PS Brushes
    Offers free Photoshop brushes.
  • Smashing Magazine
    A blog that regularly highlights free graphics, fonts, and more.
  • Vecteezy
    A place for vector artists to create and exchange a variety of free vector graphics like icons, patters, flourishes, etc.
  • Stock.xchng
    The leading free stock photo websites. Over 400K stock photos from 30,000 photographers.

Sites with Both Paid & Free Church Resources

  • Graceway Media 
    Sells sermon stills, motion graphics, and worship loops for churches. They also offer a free membership option that gives access to a variety of free media.
  • Lightstock
    Royalty-free images starting as low as $5 as well as a featured download each week.
  • Ministry Matters
    Though they also offer limited free content, their paid content is far more vast. Their monthly subscription model provides preaching, teaching, and worship tools as well as other resources like Bible commentaries, dictionaries, and e-books.
  • SundaySchool.com
    Sells children’s curriculum, resources, books, and music. Currently it appears as though most all of the content is from the nonprofit publisher, David C. Cook.

Church Resources that Cost Money

  • Church Looks
    Paid sermon series graphics and presentation slides.
  • Creative Pastors
    Sells sermon series resources that include sermon graphics, video, mind maps, outlines, audio, and more created by Fellowship Church (Grapevine, TX).
  • North Point Resources
    Sells logos, DVDs, sermon messages, conference messages, and more created by North Point Community Church (Alpharetta, GA).
  • Outreach
    Sells church graphics that include postcards, banners, bulletins, door hangers, invitations, brochures, logos, signage, and more.
  • ShareFaith
    ShareFaith provides one of the largest databases of church geared graphics available (50,000+).
  • WiredChurches.com
    Sells sermon series resources (e.g., outlines, graphics, videos, audio, & scripts) and administrative resources (e.g., forms, documents, & manuals) created by Granger Community Church (Granger, IN).
  • WorshipHouse Media
    Sells mini-movies, motions, stills, software, and editable resources for churches.

For Discussion:
- What are you favorite websites for church resources and why? Be sure to mention whether they are free or cost money.

This post was originally published in 2008. We’ve updated it for 2013.