Don't Get Burnt By a Bad Tech Experience

Technologies are great tools that, in their best form, help us amplify an already powerful message (the Gospel stands on its own, I'm certainly not suggesting otherwise) and reach a broader audience.

Unlike the Gospel, however, technology will occasionally fail us. In the tech training I do in my day job, particularly with reluctant users, I try to regularly emphasize the importance of having a Plan B to fall back on. There are few moments more awkward that standing in from of a crowd wondering if the ailing tool will recover.

With a few exceptions (e.g., software training, video-based messages, etc.), most messages stand on their own with tech tools. Where the breakdown occurs is in the panicked, awkward, deer-in-the-headlights moments that cause discomfort and distraction for everyone in attendance.

You can help minimize such situations by thinking through tech-failure scenarios ahead of time (especially with something new) and asking yourself how you could gracefully recover. Sometimes the solution is to make a substitution, sometimes it's best to eliminate it altogether.

Of course, the most graceful recovery is the one that doesn't have to happen. Surround yourself with people who can help, after all, you have enough responsibility with teaching/preaching without troubling yourself with the tech details. Do a dry run with new tech pieces. Try to recreate the situation as closely as possible beforehand.

Unfortunately, there's not a spiffy web 2.0 failsafe tech for me to tell you about here. Just some well-intended advice.

How do you handle technical hiccups? Add your best strategy to the comments.


Image Citation:
Reynolds, Leo. “B” Leo Reynold’s Photostream. 8 Feb 2007. 28 June 2007. http://flickr.com/photos/lwr/.

Commoncraft, the folks who brought us "RSS In Plain English," have now produced "Social Networking in Plain English." It stops of little short of explaining what all the hype of social networking is about, but gives a solid overview of the processes behind the tools.



Relationships drive social networking. Given the importance of relationships in ministry, you can't afford to completely overlook the possibilities.

Summer projects are smacking around the Church 2.0 team - for a glimpse of how Kez is occupying his summer, just look at his blog! For me, it's just family stuff and my day job. So, the outcome has been a bit of a slow down on the blog here. Also, in case you missed it, the RSS feed for the last post was a little flaky, so you'll want to make sure you check out Remember the Milk.

Getting on to the point...

Planning Center Online is this really cool tool for planning worship services. Every now and again I use a tool and find myself thinking that the person/team behind this really knows the situation for which is was built. This is one such tool.

I'm not sure how to succinctly summarize this tool's features except to say that it does everything you'd hope that it would (sequence songs, and other elements of the service) as well as store mp3's, lyrics and other relevant attachments (paid version), schedule and email personnel according to their roles, track and report song usage, import song data from CCLI, and transpose chord charts (also on the paid version) - all on an online interface you can share with everyone involved in the planning and implementation of your church's worship services.

The basic version is free and very functional (this is what I'm presently using). Paid versions add some features and the ability to expand with more personnel and multiple ministries.

The Planning Center Team has done an above-average job with tutorials and walk-throughs of the app's features. Their "11-Minute Overview" explains it all pretty well in about, well, 11 minutes.

I've been trying to figure out a good ToDo list tool for keeping my tasks for work, family, church, and even Church 2.0 all together in one place. I tried Google Calendars for a while for this purpose and it worked OK, but didn't find it ideal for this purpose. But that's the best part of the "everything 2.0" phase: If the tool you need isn't developed yet, wait a few minutes and it will be.

I'm test driving Remember the Milk and finding it pretty likable. What makes this good tool GREAT is that it does so much more than just list tasks. Useful stuff.

Add your tasks through:

  • Email
  • iGoogle module
  • Remember the Milk website
Get reminders via:
"Receive reminders via email, SMS, and instant messenger (AIM, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Skype and Yahoo! are all supported)."
Beyond that, you can share tasks with your ministry team, export tasks to your Apple iCal or Google Calendar, and tag and search items.

One other cool element is the ability to attach a location to a task. I could see this geographic view as being really handy when organizing home visits and other out-of-the-office appointments.


On a related note: Looking for a few very practical tips on more doable ToDo lists? See this great resource by way of LifeHacker.

Review: RSS & Readers

Posted by Kevin Rush | 3:41 AM | , | 1 comments »

If you are not using a RSS you should be! Here is a great video explaining what RSS feeds allow you to do and how to use them.

Video is provided by John Piper's son, Abraham Piper, over at DesiringGod.org

Only thing better than one Web 2.0 tech, is two 2.0 techs working together, thus:

Since Jott can transcribe to an email address...

and, since most blogs accommodate posting via email message...

and, since your notetaking blog is private, so exact transcription isn't critical...

you could use Jott to post a thought directly to your blog.

You ever start to prepare a sermon or teaching on a specific topic (say 'love'), but you really don't have any material on it? Finding yourself flipping to the concordance looking up the scriptures on 'love' and praying to G-d that he gives you a divine revelation or at least some sort of intervention!

This isn't the best way to preach. It's like trying to cook something w/o any of ingredients.

Get Your Ingredients First!


I have found that the discipline of collecting information, scripture, theology, practical application and personal experience makes all the difference when preparing to teach/preach. The hardest part is developing a system of collecting theses thoughts and making it a discipline.

In the last post I explained how to create a discipline of sermon preparation on your desktop. Rarely am I on the same computer, so I appreciate web applications and tools that I can access from any PC via the Internet. Know this is what I came up with. My system is similar to “Buckets, Chunks & Marinade” but instead of using my desktop applications I use a blog.

First, I created a private blog using Wordpress (any blogging system would do). Then when an idea, thought, quote, scripture, etc. comes my way, I make a new post on it. While making a post I tag it with as many keywords as possible that would make sense. (Example – Gospel, justice, love, marriage, church, family, death, kingdom, peace, possibly book of the bible the scripture comes from, etc.)

After a while you will accumulate many tags that will organize your information/thoughts for you. Your tags become your topics and sermon ideas will start to emerge with little effort. Then when someone asks you to preach/speak you can go back to your private blog and select any given tag to prepare that sermon.

This way you already have some ingredients to start with and your not completely starting from scratch.

PS - I’ll often Jott or text my thoughts to my email address when I’m out on the road. The next time I check my email, I'll copy the thought to my blog with the appropriate tags. You never know when an idea/thought will hit you.

The problem with preaching every Sunday is that it comes once every 7 days. That doesn't give you much time to prepare. Most pastors preach Sundays message which they started to prepare the Monday before and didn't finish until late Saturday. Or worst early Sunday. This kind of rhythm will suck the life right out of you and finding yourself at all time high stress levels. Also the message of Jesus Christ usually suffers because of it.

When I was at the Isn't She Beautiful Conference at Mars Hill Bible Church, Rob Bell explained how he went about preparing his sermons. Instead of frantically preparing a sermon from week to week he believes in developing a discipline he called "Buckets, Chunks and Marinade." First he starts of by saving small doc files of individual thoughts, quotes, questions, scripture, life experience and interaction that he come across. He leaves these on his desktop until a theme emerges and when they do he moves all the files with a similar theme into a 'bucket' (folder/directory). These ‘buckets’ are where he starts to formulate blocks of major thoughts he calls ‘chunks’. These ‘chunks’ become a sermon and/or series. If there is three or more ‘chunks’ this will most likely becomes a sermon series instead of a single message. Once the chunks are formulated he begins the process 'marinade'. ‘Marinating’ is where much of the creative energy is added. He works on the flow and the overall sermon delivery. The longer this takes usually the better it is. Rob says, “they need to simmer a while before they are ready to go.” Once they've marinated long enough he puts them on his teaching schedule. At Mars Hill Bible Church they plan out their sermons topics a year in advance. This may seem a little excessive, but I've found almost every prolific preacher does this scheduling.

Next: Discipline of Sermon Prep (via Blog)

Zoho (Alternative to Google)

Posted by Kevin Rush | 8:49 AM | | 4 comments »

A while back we had Google Week. It featured some of the best Google applications offered, but what if you're anti-Google? Check out Zoho. What does Zoho provide? Many things as well as Google and even some going above and beyond.

[I'll compare each app to the Google's equivalent by giving it a +, | , or - scale. Key: + is better, | is the same , - is lacking]

Zoho Mail [-] - email (free, under 1GB of space)

Zoho Writer [|] - online word processor (free)

Zoho Sheet [|] - online spreadsheets (free)

Zoho Notebook [+] - online notebook to collect information, links, files, audio, video and more in one place. (free)

Zoho Show - you guessed it online PowerPoint! Nice. (free)

Zoho Planner - To do list, appointments, etc.

Zoho Meetings - Share your desktop screen to present a PowerPoint, program, training, etc. online. (free, presenter has to be using Windows)

Zoho Projects - set up team project (1 free, ulimited for $5/mo)

Zoho Creator - need to gather information, but don't know how to code. Creator is coding simplifed. Create online form in minutes. You'll be analyzing and gathering data before you know it.

Zoho Wiki - create your own wiki.

Zoho Polls - create a poll to embed them where-ever you want.

Zoho Challenge - create online tests, and track the scores online.


I'll highlight a few of these in the future with Ministry specific use.


Having posted on how great both Pinger and Jott are, the next logical question is "which one should I use?"
In a Pinger vs. Jott match-up, here's a run down pound for pound of each, as I see them. I'll weigh both, the pros & cons, and I'll suggest who I think the winner is depending on the scenario. Let's go to the score card.

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Pinger - wins hands down, if you are sending to cell phone users to leave a message for a large group.

Pros

  • Best service for sending voice messages to cell phones
  • Reply, Reply to All & Fwd feature is great for instant confirmation/discussion.
  • Clear and easy to use when receiving a Pinger via cell phone.
  • Ability to post to MySpace is slick.
Cons
  • Doesn't transcribe & it's not very easy to leave yourself a message
  • Not as good as Jott when leaving email messages.
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Jott - will take home the victory, if you are sending to email users and/or you wish to leave a message for yourself.

Pros
  • Best service for sending voice messages to email addresses.
  • Transcribing voice to txt is a great feature.
  • Clear and easy to use when receiving a Jott via email.
  • Ability to post to Blogs is slick. [some additional setup is required]
Cons
  • Doesn't have performance or features when receiving messages via cell phone.
  • Jott is mainly a system for leaving messages.
  • Confusing when you get a Jott message via cell phone, SMS txt msg.
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Similarities:
Both can leave messages for email address and cellphones,
have a great website to use to set up and manage accounts, allow you to set up small or large groups to message, both are free, and are easy to use.

Basic differences:

Pinger does messaging and allows for some interaction from the cellphone users, where as Jott is best used to leave messages (both transcribed and voice) for yourself and other users (better result w/ email addresses).

So ask yourself two questions:
  1. What kind of users am I going to message? (ex- cell phone users, email users or myself.)
  2. Why am I going to voice txt? (ex - quickly inform/discuss, make an announcement that isn't urgent, taking notes, etc.)
In my case it's a draw, I use both. Pinger to leave messages to Cells (messages/announcements that need to get out quickly and may need a response) and Jott to leave informative messages to myself and/or email addresses which aren't as time sensitive (a good example is family announcements, "it's a girl!")

Friday's for Feedback

Posted by Kevin Rush | 12:31 PM | | 0 comments »

In right column we recently added a voting feature [or you can click here to vote]. This month question is "What's your favorite post from Church 2.0 - the blog so far?" Please take a minute and vote.