Archives For Resources

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).

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.

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).
  • Open
    Offers free sermon series resources that include message outlines, sermon graphics, videos, and more creative materials created by (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.
    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+).
    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.

70 Creative Church Set Designs

Craig Van Korlaar —  July 23, 2013

Creative Church Stage Designs List

We’ve updated our list of creative church set designs, which includes:

  • 9 new stages for 2013
  • 10 new stages for 2012
  • 1 new stage for 2011
  • 1 new stage for 2010
  • 1 new stage for 2009

Church set designs are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of creative sermons and multi-sensory worship experiences.

Environment can have a remarkable influence over how people feel, behave, and learn. So while nothing replaces the power of preaching the gospel and God’s Word, a creative church set design can help make a sermon more memorable and create an atmosphere that is more worshipful, reflective, and in awe of God.

View the list of creative church stage designs.

2013 Ministry Conference Recommendations

Kent Shaffer —  July 9, 2013

church conference calendar

Church Relevance’s church conference calendar has been updated to include current pricing as well as several new additions.

View conference calendar.

Most of us use Google every day, but few people know just how powerful Google’s search capabilities actually are. I spend a good deal of time doing online research for academic, work, and personal interest purposes. One of the best investments of time I’ve made in the past 3 years was taking several advanced Google search courses. I thought I would share some of the more common Google search operators I use while “power searching.”

[Non-Google] How to search within an open document, PDF or webpage

CTRL-F (Windows)  or Command-F (Mac) opens the find function. Type in a word and it searches the open document or page. I use this function at least 5 times a day for everything from email to research. If you remember to use just this simple tip, you’re better off than 90% of internet users who are unaware of it.

If you want to get even more fancy and become a search ninja, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the following Googling tips and operators.

filetype: Find documents of a specific file type

  • filetype:doc example volunteer signup forms returns volunteer signup forms that are in editable word document formats
  • social media posting guide filetype:pdf returns only pdf document versions of social media posting guides
  • sermon on the mount notes filetype:pdf is a great way to find notes and resources from other churches and seminaries to aid in the creation of yours (think inspiration not stealing)

site: Restrict your search to specific domains/directories

  • only shows results from .gov websites (e.g. hispanic faith )
  • only shows results from Fuller Seminary’s website. (e.g. tuition)
  • only searches the “Resources” folder on

“keyword(s)” Restrict your search to those containing an exact phrase

Adding quotations around a word or phrase is a great way to search for quotes, scripture, song lyrics, or when trying to narrow a search that had returned too many irrelevant results.

  • “go on up you baldhead” Try it to learn the fate of the child taunters of Elisha.
  • “The mind commands itself and meets resistance.” Remember part of a quote, but not the whole thing? Enter what you know in quotes and Google will help you track down the rest.

-keyword Exclude searches containing a specific key word

  • martin luther -king shows results for Martin Luther, but exclude any that contain the word “king”

Restrict your results published within a specified date range

Select “Search Tools” located under the search bar, then change “Any Time” to the option of your choice.

Google Time Sensitive Search Example

Find the source(s) of an image

1. Save the image to your desktop or other easy to access location.
2. While on, click on “Images”
3. Drag the image file into the google image search bar and it will change to drag and drop box
4. Links to similar images and source articles should appear

Unknown Image Google Search

link: Find Indexed Pages that Point to a URL

A great way to find other articles that link to a particular webpage/article. Note: you’ll often get a strong mix of pros, cons, and inbetweens. Also, this is rarely an exhaustive list as any links with a “nofollow” tag or found on unindexed pages will not be shown.


Other Advanced Search Options

  • Fill in the blank –> blessed are the meek * earth
  • Find a definition of a word directly from search results –>  define:kosher
  • Search within the title only intitle:Francis Chan
  • Find results with one of two key works by using OR between them–> writings of peter OR paul
  • Find articles that include a number within a range using two dots between –> Homosexuality and the church 1800..1900
  • Only search within news articles –> Under the google search bar select the “More” dropdown and choose “News”
  • Search for creative commons licensed content –> Scroll down towards the bottom of or any search result page and click “Advanced Options“. Near the bottom select your desired CC licenses from the section titled “Usage Rights”

There are many more advanced search options available, but I find these help me get to 98% of the answers/resources I need. Do you have a favorite which is not listed here?

Technology changes at a remarkably quick pace. Every year brings new technology and with it new ministry opportunities. But how do we decide which opportunities should be pursued?

We should ask ourselves good questions.

  • Is the Holy Spirit guiding me to pursue or avoid this opportunity?
  • What is gained and what is lost if pursued?
  • Does the Bible say anything about it?
  • Does this opportunity help me better minister to the cultures I am called to reach?
  • Does it bring value or is it just technology for technology’s sake?

Most ministries benefit from becoming more tech savvy, particularly since the world is becoming increasingly digital. However, these trends do not make it any easier to implement change or keep up with the times.

Change is difficult, and quite a few people are uneasy about tech. So while each congregation usually has some early adopters to enthusiastically welcome new technology, most congregants are cautious to change something that seems to already be working.

The Rock Church: a Case Study on How to Implement New Technology

ACTIVE Faith is offering a free case study download of how The Rock (San Diego, CA) overhauled their use of technology to be better stewards. The Rock has been using Fellowship One since 2001, but it took them almost a decade to realize its full potential.

We wanted to be better stewards of a system that could do so much but was being used so little.
- Lindsy Hines :: The Rock (San Diego, CA)

The Rock streamlined and consolidated their digital tools based on what they needed tomorrow. Technology changes. Churches change. This is why it is important to invest in a long-term solution that can scale with your growth. This is why it is ideal to choose a service provider that will constantly evolve their platforms, so that your tools do not become obsolete.

3 Steps to Staff Buy-in at The Rock

  1. Strategic Training
    First train key leaders and help them recognize the value  of the new technology. Leaders will more passionately lead their teams to use technology well and properly if they understand the full scope of benefits in doing so.
  2. Flexibility & Availability
    Make yourself available to train users at any time. This keeps frustrations at bay and expedites the learning process.
  3. Enthusiasm & Proactive Promotion
    Leaders tend to set the tone for the whole group. If you want others to be excited about the potential of new technology, then you need to lead the excitement.

To learn more about how The Rock implemented technology, be sure to get the full version of the case study.

Download The Rock technology case study.

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