Archives For Resources

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.

7 Critical Areas for Church Security (free ebook)

Kent Shaffer —  May 22, 2013

We hear stories of shootings, child abusers, and natural disasters, but what should we do when they come to church? ACTIVE Faith has a free ebook exploring some practical steps.

We need to approach this with biblical wisdom. We cannot and should not ever underestimate the power of prayer. We must pray against opposition from both spiritual warfare and mankind’s sinfulness. I believe prayer thwarts harm more often than we realize.

We agree on prayer for safety, but what is our responsibility to prepare for safety?

The story of Nehemiah is one of prayer, pragmatism, and faith. In Nehemiah 4:7-20, foreign nations despised the Israelites and planned to harm them, but the Israelites sought God in prayer, posted guards, and rebuilt the city walls while trusting God to fight for them if trouble came.

Nehemiah 4:7-20
(8) And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. (9) And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

(15) When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, (17) who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. (18) And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. (19) And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. (20) In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

I love that Nehemiah and the Israelites sandwiched their responsibility between prayer and faith. They asked God, did what they could, and trusted God to do they rest. They weren’t lazy. They didn’t invite trouble. And they certainly did not have a false sense of security. Instead, they realized that God was the key to safety.

Pastors need to spiritually and physically protect the congregation just like a shepherd protects his flock.

This doesn’t mean that we go to an extreme by shutting ourselves off from the world in order to be safer. We are called to be in the world but not of it, and that comes with risks and sometimes violent persecution. At that same time, we shouldn’t wrecklessly go out looking for trouble. We must be Spirit-led in our outreach and in protecting the flock.

7 Critical Areas for Church Security

ACTIVE Faith’s free ebook covers 7 critical areas for modern church security.

  • Background Checks
  • Check-in System
  • Disarming Friendliness
  • Emergency Action Plan
  • Triage Teams
  • Emergency Response Team Kits
  • Emergency Communications

The larger a church body becomes, the more important is to have systems in place to discourage wrong doing, prevent evil, and respond well to crisis. But in whatever you do, be sure you do it with much prayer and faith in God.

Download 7 Critical Areas for Church Security (PDF)

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

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

Hendrickson Publishers has merged the King James Bible with my favorite commentary to create The Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible.

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

Completed in 1611, the King James Version has been the translation of choice among many Christians over the past 400 years. However, today’s KJV Bibles are almost exclusively the edited text of the 1769 edition of the KJV.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

James 1:27
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Overall, the Matthew Henry Study Bible has good readability. While the type isn’t large, the kerning and full justification makes each word and letter stand out crisp and clearly. At the same time, it almost spaces things out too much, which slows down quick skimming. The words of Christ are in red.

The layout features cross references in the interior margins, and the study notes’ sans serif typeface is a bold, crisp, user friendly choice that drives home the points.

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

The black flexisoft leather cover is soft yet firm to the touch. It is a good balance between cost and quality.

The Smyth-sewn binding is complemented by a gold ribbon marker, and the gold-gilded page edges are dotted with helpful thumb index tabs.

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

Book introductions, footnotes, and in-text quotations from Matthew Henry’s writings are woven throughout the Bible. It is a well-thought-out balance between study tools and portability.

Other special features include 8 pages of full-color maps and a concordance.

Matthew Henry KJV Study Bible by Hendrickson Publishers

Translations: King James Version (KJV)
Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers (2010)
ISBN: 9781598565461
Language: English
Cost: $79.95

Cover: Flexisoft Leather (black)
Pages: 2,336
Type: black type with words of Christ in red
Dimensions: 6.5″ x 9.25″ x 2″
Special Features: Matthew Henry commentary, concordance, 8 pages of full-color maps

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


An Easier Way to Choose the Right Theological Seminary

Kent Shaffer —  May 1, 2013

It isn’t easy choosing a theological seminary.

With almost 200 seminaries to choose from in the United States, the luxury of choice can actually be problematic. There are no standardized quick facts sheets that let you easily compare one seminary to another, so it usually takes a lot of digging to properly vet out if a school is right for you.

To make it easier to choose the right theological seminary, we’ve created a list of prominent U.S. seminaries that can be compared by denomination, location, and cost.

Chronological Study Bible (NKJV) by Thomas Nelson

Kent Shaffer —  April 22, 2013

nkjv chronological study bible 1

Thomas Nelson offers a delightful NKJV Chronological Study Bible. The way it weaves Scripture and study aids together chronologically offers one of the best resources I’ve seen for better understanding the Bible from a historical perspective.

It is fascinating to read the Bible chronologically – to segue from Saul’s attempt to capture David at his own house in 1 Samuel 19:15-17 to David’s plea in Psalm 59 for God to “deliver me from my enemies.”

Chronological Study Bible

Chronological Study Bible

The NKJV translation is a modern adaption by Thomas Nelson Publishers of the 1611 KJV Bible that seeks to ease vocabulary and grammar while upholding the original core of the 1611 KJV Bible.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

James 1:27
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I love the design layout. Unfortunately, most Bibles struggle in this area. Yet the Chronological Study Bible has solid aesthetics, balance, efficiency, and pragmatism in the way it weaves transition notes and study aids throughout the actual Scripture text. The 10 point type is kind to the eyes and the full-color pages are another nice yet seldom seen touch.

Chronological Study Bible

Chronological Study Bible

I am not to fond of hardback Bibles with glued binding because the craftmanship is known to fail. However, as with any Bible, it is best to store them horizontally vs vertical so that the weight on the pages do not pull on the binding.

The dust jacket is a bit overzealous with Photoshopping and marketing pitches, but underneath, the cover itself is actually quite nice. The hardcover is a rich, faux-leather burgundy with gold foil embossed type.

Chronological Study Bible

Chronological Study Bible

Obviously, the biggest feature of this Bible is its arranging of Scripture by the order in which the events actually occurred. But the Bible is also rich in many other features including full-color illustrations, maps, time panels, and charts as well as in-text cultural articles, translators’ notes, and historic insights.

Translations: New King James Version (NKJV)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2008)
ISBN: 9780718020682
Language: English
Cost: $44.99

Cover: hardcover (burgundy) with dust jacket
Pages: 1,728 full-color pages
Type: 10 point black type
Dimensions: 9.8″ x 1.8″ x 5.9″
Special Features: chronological order of Scripture, full-color illustrations, maps, time panels, and charts, and in-text cultural articles, translators’ notes, and historic insights

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