January Supporters

Kent Shaffer —  January 31, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lightstock A Faith-Focused, Royalty-Free Images Starting as low as $5. Use in your next web design, blog post, sermon slide or video.
  • 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.

Open Church Update: 2013 Year in Review

Kent Shaffer —  January 27, 2014

Last year was an extraordinary year for Open Church but almost all in unconventional ways.

January 2013 – Resources Launched & Financial Breakthrough

After two years of struggle, refinement, obstacles, and providence, we launched Open Church’s resource sharing in January 2013. It has been more of a beta test featuring only 16 resources, but those few resources have accounted for an astounding 5,081 downloads worth a combined $54,382!

Craig Van Korlaar worked pro bono in 2011 to lay the foundation for Open Church but transitioned to an advisory role in 2012 and became a board member in 2013. As for my journey, finances stabilized in 2012 as I worked several consulting jobs and sold ads on my blog, but it left very little time to work on Open Church. So in December 2012, I prayed asking God, “If you want me to work on Open Church full-time, you either need to bring in more donors or boost my blog’s ad revenue.” The next month the ad revenue grew tremendously! It has been enough to provide for my family’s monthly living expenses and basic Open Church expenses.

Spring & Summer 2013 – Beginning a New Season

By March, I sensed I should begin traveling later that year to develop key relationships. After much prayer, it was clear my family needed to make a lifestyle of it. So we bought a small RV in June.

As someone who loves to plan, I was going to schedule 4 months of meetings and then leave a few buffer days for the Holy Spirit to move in different cities. But the planning time was lost helping an extended family member through some unexpected challenges.

Then a wise friend gave me good counsel about how I was going about it all wrong. Rather than planning my meetings around who I think I should be meeting with, I should simply pray and go wherever I sense the Holy Spirit’s peace. So I did, and it was good.

Fall 2013 – 90 Days of RVing

As we left Oklahoma City for Dallas on the first day of our travels, I sensed that God was about to shift my plans, strategies, and blueprints for Open Church. And He did. Every few weeks has brought a new piece of the puzzle – one that radically reshapes what came before it. I would begin rewriting Open Church’s vision blueprint and then stop because a new piece would be revealed and throw a monkey wrench in the equation.

In these months, the more spiritual clarity I gained, the less logistical clarity I had and the more difficult it became to even describe what Open Church is.

What is Next?

I have much to share with you. In the coming months, I will write about where I think God is leading Open Church.

To see a map of where we’ve been, visit: bit.ly/shafferRV

Thank You December Sponsors

Kent Shaffer —  December 31, 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.
  • 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.
  • Envisionary Images If you need custom-made church welcome center solutions, check out Envisionary Images. They ship to anywhere in the contiguous United States.
  • 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.

108 Creative Church Logos

Kent Shaffer —  December 23, 2013

As a designer, updating the list of our favorite church logos is always a fun process. This year’s list has grown to 108 terrific logos.

Church Logos 2013

Check it out and enjoy the creativity of God’s Kingdom.

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.

12 Questions for Keeping Your Church Data Safe (free PDF)

Kent Shaffer —  December 19, 2013

These days few U.S. churches use only paper records for administration. But as church administration is turning increasingly digital, how do we keep our data safe from hard drive crashes, weather crises, and cyber theft?

To help you learn and navigate today’s data security issues, ACTIVE Faith has created a free, downloadable PDF – 12 Questions You Should Ask Every Church Management Software Provider About Data Security. As the creators of cloud-based church management software Fellowship One, they know what they’re talking about.

But before we get to those 12 questions, let’s acknowledge 3 realities.

Cloud-storage is safer.

Of course, nothing is 100% safe. Both offline and online data is vulnerable to theft or damage, but we can take measures to dramatically improve its safety.

Each year the United States faces a slew of wildfires, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes, and each year hundreds of self-hosted storage solutions are damaged and lost. Even cloud-based storage is vulnerable since it exists on land somewhere.

However, cloud-storage is much safer because the providers of these systems invest heavily in security by storing information in data centers that can withstand weather-related issues, fraud, and system outages far better than anything what churches could afford to provide for themselves.

Cloud storage costs more.

Churches often balk at the cost of good data protection. After all, do-it-yourself is much cheaper, but it is also inferior.

The comparison of cloud storage and DIY storage is not apples-to-apples because individual churches can’t match the security level of the cloud. Yes, at face value you may be able to store data cheaper than the cloud, but it comes at the cost of more potential loss of data and cost of upfront hardware, maintenance, and upgrades.

Do-It-Yourself has limits.

DIY storage has functionality and efficiency limits. It’s not available anytime, anywhere, like cloud-based data. And for many, it eventually becomes overburdened and slower and can crash under the weight of your desired usage. Inadequate security measures may not show up immediately, but when they do, they can be devastating to church operations.

What’s next?

This isn’t said out of fear-mongering. God is our refuge and confidence. Ministry can go on in the wake of devastated data, but I think it is good to be wise, good stewards of our data. Why endure an unnecessary hardship and setback that distracts from ministry in the trenches?

So as with everything, pray and seek God as to what are the best steps for your ministry. And I also highly encourage you the take the next step in learning about data security by downloading ACTIVE Faith’s free PDF.

Download: 12 Questions You Should Ask Every Church Management Software Provider About Data Security

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

Mobile Ministry Forum (Recap 2)

Kent Shaffer —  December 12, 2013

At the Mobile Ministry Forum, over 100 leaders gathered to discuss what is next in mobile ministry. Here are highlights from the 3rd day.

Panel: What should leaders be thinking about?

Keith W. // WEC

  1. Make sure your grand planning and strategies are biblical both in means and ends. Sift through what you hear others say as a Berean would. If your strategy requires locking the Bible behind a firewall in order to ensure your ministry is sustainable then you are seeking first all those other things and trusting the Kingdom will follow. Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to go out and make sure they had a sustainability plan. Jesus told His disciples to go out and preach the gospel in every town and, actually, make sure they weren’t sustained no extra purse or clothes. Depend on Him. I encourage you to consider if your ministry is in any way crimping the sharing of God’s Word in order to ensure the provision of all these other things that God promised to those who would seek first His Kingdom.
  2. Don’t focus on the technology. It is what it affords and what it enables. At the end of the day, mobile technology affords mobility. How do we maximize mobility that stays with us?
  3. Focus less on what you can produce on the mobile and more on what you can enable others to do with the mobile.

Antoine Wright // Mobile Ministry Magazine

  1. Information is not transformation.
  2. An application is not a strategy. A service layer is not a strategy. An API is not a strategy. These are roads. If you aren’t following the tenents of your mission and vision, then you will fail. Your mission and vision is where your strategy lies.
  3. There is nothing new to being mobile with your faith. In Exodus, God said build me a mobile tabernacle. All you are doing is changing it from being done with wood, metal, or radio signals and making it pixels. Find how to be led by God. There you will find success.

Stefan Dell // Cru

  1. Are we considering the vision? Is the vision the thing that is driving us?
  2. Keep the main thing the main thing.
  3. Think about the strategy. So the person reads the Bible and then what next? And what next? And what next?
  4. As leaders in the technology space, we need to engage this space.
  5. Do not be hesitant to make a decision because you want all the facts. As a leader make a decision now based on the best information you have because technology will not wait for you.

Troy Carl // Faith Comes By Hearing

  1. Be careful that you don’t believe your own rhetoric. Don’t assume. Understand. The database doesn’t lie, but we can have misconceptions. What was true 3 years ago isn’t necessarily true today.
  2. Look for people that don’t know what they are not supposed to do. These are the people you want on your team.
  3. Get a small win under your belt early on. This earns credibility particularly if you aren’t in a particular place of leadership.
  4. Bring other people into your success.

Rich Lackey // Arab World Media

  1. Consider how we craft our message. Our audience is the customer, and we need to serve the customer. Is what we offer speaking to the needs of our audience.Are we creating content that speaks to our audience or are we creating content for ourselves? Addressing people on an emotional level is much more engaging than cognitive.
  2. Think about user experience. Taking big screen content and making it fit on a mobile screen isn’t the right approach. mobile is a different experience.
  3. Think about marketing. Often people think of this a promoting, but actually marketing is about connecting with the audience and engaging with them. In church planting, these are the people of peace. Do not forget to get feedback so that you can refine your marketing.

Tomi Ahonen // Forbes #1 Influencer in Mobile

40% of United States phone users do not have a smartphone. Do not let your church start with a smartphone app. That is not very Christian. Why restrict access to those who can’t afford a smartphone? The Bible says how you treat the least of these is how you treat God.

Kraft Foods has a great mobile strategy. Leave no phone behind. That is why they start with SMS and mobile friendly sites.

Troy Carl // Faith Comes By Hearing

Why are internet statistics important? Because they help us make operational decisions.

You want to build for the future not the now. Go to where things are headed.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is backed by companies that benefit from it. They have one initiative – put a cell phone in every person’s hand by 2015. In certain regions, Samsung sells a $50 Android phone with a solar panel on back because groups subsidize phones to accelerate growth.

Very soon 50% of the world’s mobile users will be in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This also happens to be where many of the top fastest-growing Christian countries are.

Mobile Ministry Forum (Recap 1)

Kent Shaffer —  December 11, 2013

At the Mobile Ministry Forum, over 100 leaders gathered to discuss what is next in mobile ministry. Here are highlights from the first 2 days.

Ken Cochrum // Indigitous & Cru

Indigitous is an initiative of Cru that seeks to create digital tools, resources, and strategies tailored to local cultures and languages.

There is a credibility aspect in being able to speak someone’s cultural language. For some, they speak mobile technology. What have you done with your mobile phone over the last 12 hours?

Through a new medium, the stories of the Word of God can captivate us in new ways.

The whole notion that there is “virtual ministry” and then there is “real ministry” no longer exists. It is one and the same. Virtual ministry is very real ministry.

We don’t need to create something and then translate it. We just need to go indigenous from the beginning.

We start with God – His heart, His glory, His promises. We don’t have to build the roads of the internet. We just need to learn how to drive on the roads that others are creating.

One approach doesn’t fit all cultures. Missionaries go where the people are.

 Gary Nelson // Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN)

Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) is an alliance of ministries – the United Bible Societies, Biblica, and Wycliffe – that works together for a common goal.

What does it mean to eradicate Bible poverty?

  1. We must eradicate poverty of access. Many still do not have a Bible in their language.
  2. We must eradicate poverty of engagement. Many have Bibles but do not read them.

What is needed to accelerate Bible translation has always had barriers of people and finances, but today’s technology is enabling us to do new things.

The digital Bible library began as an expression to recognize a fundamental problem. Let’s get people a Bible in the language they know best to help them intimately know God. The digital Bible library digitizes the translations, standardizes their formats, centralizes access to the latest versions, and approves ministries to use these translations.

Heidi Campbell // Texas A&M University

People are using digital media to experiment with their religious identity.

4 Trends of Digital Religious Practice

  1. There is a strong move towards image-based media for devotional work and expression of religious identity. Anyone through Instagram can become a “professional” photographer and express their religious identity.
  2. Social media is an outlet for issue-oriented activism. Community happens when people find others online who share their beliefs and passions.
  3. There is a rise of remixing religion and mashing-up theology online. However, often problematic ideas rise to the top.
  4. An increasing number of ministries are using mobile technology for faith and liturgy.

To date there have only been several studies on ministry via apps. Insights include:

  • Religious texts are most engaging when wrapped in an audio-visual format. Also apps are most meaningful when they offer features allowing touch interaction with the content.
  • College students are motivated to use religious apps by the app’s spiritual impact, encouragement, and use as a “spiritual toolbox.”(Bellar 2012)
  • Use of varieties of religious apps may reflect a pluralism of religious identity. (Wagner 2012)