David Cassady is available for workshops, training events and committee consultations. He brings an awareness of the appropriate use of media and technology for ministry and educational settings. Contact David.
My father-in-law passed away on December 4. While he had been ill for some time, we did not expect him to pass so soon. Under the care of remarkable hospice and hospital staff, he died shortly after 7:00 am. The next few hours were filled with tears, hugs, phone calls, the kindness of our ministers and a bag of Egg McMuffins. With our iPhone batteries failing, we returned home from the hospital early that afternoon.
Sitting on our front porch was a large, wrapped basket.
The basket is part of the ministry of our church. A group of women who call themselves “Partners in Missions” (we just say “PIM”) assemble the grief baskets. I’m told that they keep around six on hand. My wife, Rejeana, is part of PIM. She stared at the porch and commented that she never considered we might one day be the recipient of one of the grief baskets she helped prepare.
I didn’t pay any attention to the basket and had no clue what it contained. There were many things to do — it is amazing the things that have to be done ahead of a funeral.
The next day, we were still reeling from the shock of the loss, and realized we were going to have guests dropping by. People from church were bringing cakes, soups, sandwiches and other goodies, and relatives were traveling in ahead of the funeral. Our house was selected as the family hub. So naturally I started a grocery list… “honey, we’re nearly out of toilet paper. I’ll go to the store and get some.”
Rejeana was across the house and yelled, “no need – it’s in the grief basket.”
Sure enough, there were several rolls of toilet paper (and they were good quality, not that thin stuff found in hotel bathrooms). A couple of hours later I went to make a pot of coffee and noticed we were were low on coffee and creamer. “I’m still gonna have to make a store run — we need coffee and creamer,” I told Rejeana. She just grinned and said, “nope, it’s in the grief basket.” Sure enough, a bag of Starbucks Sumatra dark roast (yummy) and Coffee Mate creamer were in the basket, along with various sweetners, paper plates, cups, plastic utensils and much more.
Over the next few days we received many guests, welcomed relatives, and shared tasty meals gifted to us by members of Highland Hills Baptist Church and Rejeana’s coworkers at Wesleyan College. If we found ourselves needing anything, a chorus of voices would proclaim, “it’s in the grief basket!”
We all experience loss and grief at some point in our lives. There’s little that can be said to help the pain. But with time, the comfort of family, church and friends — and a grief basket, we experience God’s grace and care, and it is enough.
Faithlab is excited to be chosen as a launch partner with TypeEngine, a new service that enables publishers to easily create and share elegant and fast-loading digital magazines through Apple’s Newsstand. Faithlab will be publishing a new magazine titled, Spare Change. We will be revealing more about the publication in the coming weeks.
Read the full press release below:
TypeEngine chooses 12 publishers to create iPad/iPhone-optimized magazines
Apple Newsstand platform opens beta to US, international digital publishers
SEATTLE, Wa 18 Feb 2013 – TypeEngine, an Apple Newsstand publishing platform, released the names of its launch partners prior to its roll-out in Q2 2013.
TypeEngine is part of the growing movement toward micropublishing and subcompact publishing, where magazines are specifically designed for digital platforms and their unique requirements.
Previously, digital magazines were designed with print aesthetics in mind, sacrificing functionality and user experience.
The first set of magazines to be launched span a wide range of topics and interests. Technology, music, market research, green living and crafting are among the themes represented.
Publishers are located in the US, Thailand and Australia. Where applicable, publication names were also shared. Titles may change closer to launch.
- The King’s Tribune
- 30 Day Books – The Write Life
- Frank Frank Frank – Frankly
- I Am The Lab – The LAB Journal
- The Faith Lab – Spare Change
- Logic Product Group
- Maritz Research – Research Forum
- Matthew Guay – Techinch
- Patrick Rhone
- Riccardo Mori
- The Mac Instructor – The Newsletter
- I Care If You Listen
TypeEngine creates magazine apps that are designed from the ground up for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Publishers own their apps, release magazines under their own names and get subscription fees paid directly to them from Apple.
TypeEngine will also submit apps for Apple’s approval on behalf of publishers, removing an important barrier to entry for independent publishers.
Images, video and audio are supported. TypeEngine’s web console allows writing and editing using MultiMarkdown and a multi-user editing workflow.
“Magazines are categorically not dead,” said Jamie Smyth, founder of the Smyth Group which is developing TypeEngine. “But regurgitating PDFs onto iPads is dead.”
“We are enabling both indie and business publishers to publish magazines optimized for reading on iPhones and iPads. Readers have suffered through slow-to-download, cruft-ridden PDF magazines long enough. We are helping writers and publishers create high quality reading experiences.”
The Smyth Group is based out of Seattle, Washington.
If you or a loved one received an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch this Christmas, you may be looking for app suggestions. Here’s my list of favorite apps.
Most are available for both the iPhone and iPad. I’ve organized these by type. To find one of these apps, just open the App Store on your device and search for the name of the app. You’ll be able to read about the app, see some screenshots from it, and read reviews before you choose to get it or not. Most are free, but not all.
1. Remember Everything
2. Personal “Magazine”
These apps allow you to choose your interests and then deliver a sort of magazine with just the sort of things you like most:
3. News & Weather
NY Times (paid sub required)
NextDraft (witty, curated news collection for each weekday)
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (webapp – not in app store – click here using your iPad or iPhone)
MyRadar Weather Radar
4. Watch (Movies & TV shows)
Netflix (subscription required)
Amazon Instant Video (if you have an Amazon Prime account)
Flixster (get info on current & upcoming movies, get showtimes)
IMDB (International Movie Database)
Paper by FiftyThree
iBooks (Apple’s ereader)
Kindle (Amazon’s ereader)
Nook (Barnes & Noble’s ereader)
9. Open Files
SiriusXM (subscription required)
Pages (word processor)
IA Writer (text editor)
13. Be Social
14. Photos & Video
iPhoto (edit photos)
iMovie (edit videos)
Flickr (take, edit & share photos)
Camera+ (take, edit & share photos)
15. Social Games
Words with Friends
Food Network in the Kitchen
Yelp (find restaurants, stores, etc near you)
17. ToDo & Projects, etc.
Things (not free)
Basecamp (must have a Basecamp account)
Keynote (presentation slides software)
And, of course, Faithlab’s blog is mobile-optimized, so you can view it anytime!
The next time you are tempted to post a PDF to your church website, pause for a moment to consider if that’s the best way to share the information it contains.
The trick is to think like someone using the website, rather than someone posting to it. If your PDF contains a newsletter, for example, you may think of posting it as a PDF because you originally created it to be printed and mailed. Creating a PDF is a quick and easy way to share the same information on the website, right? (Wrong). It is easy for you – the person posting the info – but it is not easy or convenient for the people using the website.
Remember that the purpose of the newsletter is to share information and promote involvement. There is significant planning and preparation being invested in providing the events and ministries promoted through the newsletter… So it makes sense to make it as easy as possible for people to learn about these things.
If you post the newsletter as a PDF, then the website visitor has to 1) find the newsletter link, 2) without knowing what it contains, choose to download it, then 3) open the PDF either in their browser or in a PDF reader. Only then can they begin to learn about the events, ministries and prayer needs. If they happen to be using a smartphone or iPad, the PDF may also be harder to read and navigate.
What’s the alternative? If our goal is to make getting to the info fast and easy… The best approach is to repost the info contained in the newsletter as web page content. In other words, each newsletter article is placed on your website as a new web article.
With this approach, a visitor to your website, regardless of the device, can quickly see the full list of announcements without extra steps or having to download and open anything… The content is right there.
There are additional advantages to this approach:
1. If your site has a built-in search engine, web page info is searchable.
2. If your site has a mobile view, the articles will also be formatted for easy viewing.
3. Because the articles are listed (much like a set of blog articles) on your site, people can quickly scan articles and announcements – some who would not take the time and effort to deal with a PDF. This is especially true for visitors who may just be checking out your site to see if they have interest in your church.
When are PDFs appropriate to use on a website? They can be good ways to share forms that need to be printed and signed, or for sharing more complex data such as full budget reports.
But for most information, it is a much better practice to post that content as a web article.
Shameless plug: Faithlab can provide your church or organization with a website that makes this approach fast and easy. Let us know if we can help.
Let’s face it, if you want to know how to solve a computer problem, learn how to use a feature on a smartphone, or how to approach using your church’s Facebook page, you’ll often get the best answers from teenagers. And why not? They were born into a world where these digital goodies already existed, while adults have had to learn and adapt to them.
I often encourage churches to use digital tools to do more storytelling. Our faith is often best shared through stories, and our websites and church events benefit from using photos, music and video to tell these stories.
Yet, many ministers and adults just don’t feel comfortable shooting or assembling a video, or gathering photos into a meaningful presentation, or using a smartphone to capture audio or video. And too often, that’s why we stick to just “telling” people stories. And while that’s better than nothing, visual storytelling is so much more powerful. Would you rather hear a lecture about the culture of Ireland, or see a video of it? Or, when returning from a mission trip, is it more powerful to have people stand at a microphone at talk about it, or to record their stories and place them on images and videos of the trip? One is easier, one is more powerful.
You have a competent production crew sitting in your church, and most of them are under 18.
Teens today make videos for school projects, videos to place on YouTube or Facebook, videos just for fun. They know how to use the tools at their disposal, whether they are video cameras, still cameras, or the recording features on their smartphones. They have the skills, and they have the time.
At our church here in Macon, we have built a tradition of using images and videos to tell stories. For the first several years, various adults (including me) did the heavy lifting. We had videos to kick off and offer updates on building programs, videos celebrating mission trips, videos that celebrate VBS week, videos that supported retreat content, and, of course, the annaul Family Christmas Party video.
Over the last three years, the bulk of the production work has shifted to our teenagers. Adults and youth often shoot photos and video together, but in the end, the teens do the production work of putting it all together. There’s always an adult or two that help offer guidance and suggestions, but the truth is that this oversight is needed less and less. And the videos keep getting better.
Maybe our youth are unique in having these skills (they are certainly gifted!), but I don’t think so. I’ll bet that there are budding photographers and videographers in your youth group too. With a little encouragement and guidance, they can show real gifts and leadership by helping tell the stories of your congregation.
Think about it… your church is much more than a collection of ministry announcements, committee meetings and special events. A lot more. In fact, if you polled your membership to discover what makes their experience together so valuable, they would start telling stories.
They would tell stories about how the community welcomes them and has made them “family.” There would be stories about when they were sick or in the hospital, and the church provided food, prayer and support. And there would be the stories from being part of ministries: of helping build homes for the poor, of providing food to the hungry, of caring for the elderly and the lonely. More stories would come from missions experiences, of traveling to help in the wake of a disaster, of helping persons in another culture, of making a difference through doing good things.
And then there are the everyday stories. Stories about attending a movie with friends that developed into a discussion about faith, belief, fear, doubt or hope. Stories about accidentally seeing God’s presence in someone else. Stories that highlight need or challenges.
Here’s a more concrete example. In my church, one of our unique ministries is to families with special needs children. We have developed approaches to training helpers who partner with these children to help them connect and engage with children’s activities. Special programs happen, and there are supporting efforts to provide some rest and “away time” for parents of special needs children… allowing the parents to enjoy participating in music, learning and missions programs, or to just have an evening out together. There are dozens of concrete stories that emerge from this ministry each year.
What does this have to do with your church website? Most church websites focus on the “structure and events” of a church… what/where/when things are happening. And while this information is very helpful, consider how rich your website would be if it began telling stories.
Your church can tell stories on your website in a couple of ways. First, just add a blog to your site and keep it updated. It is best if the blog is integrated into your site (not based on an external service). To keep the blog active, ministers or selected laypersons can regularly invite members to tell stories. If youth just went on a mission trip, ask one or more youth to write up (or do an audio recording) of a meaningful story from the experience. If a retreat is held for an adult group, enlist someone to write about the experience. The more specific the story, the better.
Over time, your church blog will begin to show a much deeper face of your church, and will build up a library of faith stories that remind the congregation, community and guests of the power of faith.
Second, redesign your church homepage so the most recent 2-3 articles are highlighted on the the front page. When members or guests visit your site, they will benefit from the shared stories, while also having access to the schedule and other info about church life.
When telling stories, feel free to also use photos, video clips and audio recordings…. anything that helps better tell the story. Check out the many ways we tell stories here on FaithLab, and imagine doing similar posts for your church website.
After all, the Bible is a collection of faith stories gathered and retold over thousands of years. Adding our faith stories to the mix is a wonderful way to share our faith and make a difference in lives.
The FaithLab can help your church with your website development and design. Have questions about this series? Leave a comment or contact us.
Most church websites are mostly brochures. They give visitors the basic info needed to learn about the church (generally), as well as how to find the church, who is on staff, the ministries offered, and when services are held. All those things are terrific, and needed. But if your church only offers these things, it is missing out on a lot.
Think of the audiences your church needs to reach. There are members and guests. Members want to know different sorts of things. They want to download the latest youth permission form (because Sallie lost the one passed out on Wednesday night). They want to know what’s on the menu for midweek service. They need to know if it’s their week to usher, or teach or visit. Members also want to know who is ill, or celebrating an anniversary, or just had a baby.
The problem is, many of the things members need raise privacy issues. I may be in the hospital for a procedure, and want prayer, but I likely don’t want that information shared wide-open on the Internet. Members enjoy seeing photos of their children from camp or VBS, or a special event, but may be (wisely) cautious about them being publicly accessible on the Internet.
One solution to the different needs of guests and members is to have a private or members-only area on your church website. Using their login, members can access prayer lists, photos from recent events, and other information, without creating major privacy issues. For the guest, the information they needs is still easily accessible.
(Shameless plug: FaithLab can help your church create an up-to-date site that helps meet the needs of multiple audiences. Contact David at the FaithLab to get help with your church’s website.)
The church is a big family, with traditions, big events, milestones and accomplishments. Families take lots of photos across time — they want to capture memories and stories of their journey through life.
Photos tell stories. They say, “we were here,” “we did this,” “we did this together,” and “this is our family.” We need these visuals to both remember and celebrate who we are and how we came to this place.
Some photos are better than no photos. But quality really does matter. Getting well done photography allows your church to not only tell your story, but to tell it with high values. If something is worth doing… it’s worth doing well.
Over time, we’ll explore ways to strengthen your church’s photography ministry. For now, here are a few tips to get us started:
Gather Your Team
Your church likely has several members who already love photography and have good skills. You may even have a professional or two in the congregation. Others may want to learn photography (including teenagers). Whatever the case, gather your team and recognize them.
Keep an eye on the church calendar and make plans to have photographers present at fellowships, special services, service projects, etc. Being intentional about having people taking photos means you will always get shots to use and save.
Photographers like to grow their skills. Even persons new to photography are eager to learn how to do better. Plan some training opportunities that help grow and sharpen the skills of your photographers.
Use Good Equipment
Good news… cameras are better than ever, and prices drop all the time. Many compact cameras can take terrific photos, and are easy to have handy. DSLRs are also growing in power and ease of use. But remember, the photographer’s eye is much more important than the equipment. Click here to discover a great site for finding camera advice.
Share with Flair
Photos are meant to be shared. These days, there are lots of ways to share them. Post them on bulletin boards (and remember, you can get large prints inexpensively nowadays), post them on your church website, use them in your newsletters and promotional materials. Gather them together for slideshows. Here’s a photo site that reveals photos of a recent youth service project.
I still have my family’s photo album, handed down across two generations. It is filled with prints of weddings, graduations, fishing trips, growing children and holidays. It’s so easy to take digital photos that we may be tempted to not give adequate attention to saving them. However, they are well worth preserving. The smartest way to save them is to use multiple storage approaches. For example, on CDs, on an online service (such as Flickr or SmugMug), and on an external hard drive for easy access.
We will explore each of these areas more fully in future posts. Until then… happy shooting!
Files multiply like rabbits. We create them daily, whether they are word processing docs, PDFs, photos, videos or music files. We make notes to ourselves, store our logins to websites, wifi hotspots and more. Over time, these files just pile up, and they may even become hard to find — or worse, at risk of loss.
I’m writing this near the end of the year, a great time to do some annual clean-up of your file storage, to make sure your back-up strategy is working, and to do better file sharing. This article offers tips for each of these.
Storing and Finding
Disk drives are larger and less expensive than ever before, and truthfully, unless you are shooting a lot of videos, your files take up a very small amount of space. More important is the ability to find what you need.
One time-honored approach is to keep files neatly stored in their appropriate folders. And if you are the neat and organized sort of person, you’re likely already doing this.
However, it still can be hard to find a file (perhaps you look for a file that is over a year old), because you aren’t sure into which folder you placed it. What seemed like an obvious spot a year ago, is now a mystery.
Or, you may be the messy type. Moving fast, you drop files on your desktop with abandon, and then, when the clutter becomes overwhelming, you shove the pile of files into a folder and promise to go look through them later (which seldom comes).
The good news is that search tech has gotten really good, and really fast. Whether you are the organized or the messy sort, powerful file search tools are really handy.
If you are on Mac OS X or Windows 7, you have access to the built-in search tools. (In OS X It’s the little Spotlight magnifying glass in the upper right corner of your screen. In Windows 7, just use the search box in the Start menu). Whatever you type in the box is searched across all file types, and not just the file names, but what’s inside the files too. So if you can’t remember a file name or where you placed it, you can just search for a word (or set of words) that you know are in that file, and boom… it’s found. These work on connected external drives too.
Storing Other Data
All of us generate a ton of login data across time. Logins for websites, licenses for software, logins for wifi hotspots, and on and on. Keeping up with these can be a real chore. Rather than seeing each item of data as an opportunity for a new file, I recommend using a program that’s designed as a catch-all for these bits of info.
There are a lot of good programs out there to help with this task, and most allow you to not only store login and license data, but also webpage content, screenshots, URLs, graphics, recipes, how-to steps, model numbers and pretty much anything else you can think of.
My favorite tool for this is Evernote. Evernote has a free version that’s great for most people, and if you are a heavy user (or want enhanced data security), there’s a very affordable upgrade. Evernote will capture and hold files, text, images, photos, webpages, audio recordings, and more. When you name an entry, you can also tag it. Or, you can be lazy (like me) and just make sure the main words you’d use to later search for this info are somewhere in the note. When you search, Evernote searches the full contents of your notes, and not just the titles or tags. If you have multiple computers, Evernote will keep your notes synced across them. There are also mobile versions for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android and more. Check it out.
Backup. Backup. Backup.
Any hard drive can fail. Most eventually do. Even the new SSD drives can fail. The only way to prevent data loss when a drive fails, is to have a good backup handy.
Setting up an automatic backup routine is the best way to ensure your data will be protected. There are tons of programs for any OS that will allow you to schedule a regular backup to an external drive. And, external hard drives are really affordable these days.
Laptop users have a harder time with automatic backups than desktop users, since the laptop may or may not end up at the same location each day. In that case, get one of the smaller, more portable drives (some are smaller than a deck of cards) to keep in your laptop bag, and choose at least one day a week to do a backup.
When You Want to Share
In the good old days, sharing files with others usually involved a floppy disk of some sort. Then, flash drives became popular. Or, you could email files.
I’ve become a Dropbox fanatic. That’s because I share a lot of files. Sometimes I share files with others, and sometimes it’s between my desktop, my laptop and my iPad. Dropbox is the easiest and fastest way I’ve found to share files. There’s a free version that will do what most people need, and if you want more space, it’s available for a modest fee.
Here are some ways I use Dropbox:
- I keep all of my current working project folders in Dropbox. This way, it doesn’t matter what computer I’m working on, I can get to the same files. No moving files around or worrying which is the latest version.
- I share files with others. Last week my 16 year old daughter was working on a photo slideshow for church, and she needed some photos from me. Too many to email, and (since I’m lazy) I didn’t want to get off the sofa. So I just dropped the files in a folder called “Photos for Megan,” and shared that folder with her. In minutes, the photos were in her Dropbox folder, and she just dropped them in her slideshow.
- Peace of mind. Because Dropbox keeps a copy of the files both on my computer(s) and on their server, I don’t have to worry about losing those files. If my hard drive crashes, I just pop a new drive in, and login to Dropbox. In minutes, my files are available to me again as if nothing had happened.
Files, files, files. They’re everywhere. But they don’t have to create chaos. I hope some of these tips help you tame your files!
Got your own file tricks and tips or favorite programs? Please share your thoughts in the comments area.
This week a local radio station made its annual switch to all Christmas music, all the time. For me, it’s just too early. Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is traditionally the start of the Christmas shopping season, and the first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Isn’t that soon enough to start hanging lights, erecting trees and listening to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch?”
Thanksgiving is a perfectly good holiday. And while it’s not explicitly a religious holiday, it’s hard to find a religious tradition that doesn’t see thankfulness as a virtue. In fact, I’d argue that gratitude is underrated in American culture. We spend so much of our time wanting, getting, striving and working, that we easily forget that life, our talents, our relationships — these are all gifts. And to not recognize a gift is rather rude and unkind (at least that’s what my Mom always said). A thankful spirit would do us well throughout the year, and yet, it seems that the one holiday focused on gratitude looks fairly anemic beside the Christmas season.
Other holidays don’t have this sort of trouble defending their turf. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to worry about the greenery of St. Patrick’s Day overlapping the red flowers and boxes of candies. Independence Day isn’t in danger of being overwhelmed by Labor Day. But humble Thanksgiving is forced to listen to Christmas music for a full two weeks before its big day.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Advent. I enjoy hearing and singing Christmas music. The parties, the gift-giving, the pumpkin pie (especially the pumpkin pie) — it’s all wonderful.
All I’m asking is that we give Thanksgiving it’s space. Let it have it’s time in the spotlight. Recognize that we are better people when we are grateful.
If your year has been anything like mine, it’s been crazy. We’ve had serious illness, economic stress, job transition, and a chaotic world. And yet, I’m still here — enjoying what I do, surrounded by a wonderful family, great friends, and a terrific church.
And for that reason, my radio will avoid the Christmas station a few days more, so I can remember and give thanks.