Ministry for the long haul

Ministry for the long haul

To minister to someone literally means to “attend to the needs of [a person]”. It’s not an office held by the few, but rather a call for Christian’s everywhere to serve and love as Jesus has loved us.

Sometimes we get a glorified version of what being a “minister of the Gospel” really is. We can imagine it as having great status or power. Or we can imagine getting a great response from people: that they’ll change tomorrow, turn over a new leaf, follow God with all their heart and never turn back.

But this is often not how it works.

Instead, it’s a process. There’s a timetable of events in God’s plan and allowance, that doesn’t match up with ours. We desire to see outward change TODAY, while God desires change in people from the INSIDE out – which usually takes time. God’s time table works as those we minister to continue to grow, oftentimes slowly, and with set-backs along the way. But eventually we look back and see a great distance of change.

We are called to “ministry” not to a “change factory”. We are called to love people like Jesus did and to offer them the life giving power of His Gospel and Spirit, but it’s up to them to accept it. That acceptance is usually built up over time.

We can get discouraged when we haven’t seen someone for 6 months and wonder where they are. We can sometimes get even more discouraged when we see them again, because we wonder if they’ll actually stay this time. We can get discouraged as we wonder if God will ever truly change their heart and bring them into a steady relationship with Himself. But this isn’t our position of authority or responsibility. We are called to love, not to save. Only Jesus is Savior, and it’s best for us to remember this.

People will come and go in our lives, for good and bad reasons, but know that your job, as a Christian, is simple: “attend to the needs of… whoever.”

Whoever is around.
Whoever God brings.
Whoever crosses your path.

We have a holy calling as Christians to love everyone we can with the love God has given us: regardless of how they respond, and regardless of where they end up.

So let us not forget, lest we give up:
We are in this for the long haul.

How to lead the church wisely

How to lead the church wisely

I’ve written before about five ways we can walk in wisdom, but there’s a larger and more general approach leading wisely that we should act on.

Whether you’re a pastor, or lay-ministry leader, or in a different leading situation entirely, the book of Proverbs would tell us:

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.”
Proverbs 12:15

How often we miss out on opportunities to lead better and more wisely because we simply don’t take advice. Sometimes this can be advice offered from within our organization and those we lead, but it can also come from without. For church leaders and pastors specifically, I’d encourage you to learn from those outside the church.

This may seem backwards, but Jesus said that “…the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

Although we should not adopt the values, goals, or ethics of the world, their methods tend to be generally better. There is so much we can learn from them, but so often we miss out because we are “right in our own eyes.”

I’ve seen many productivity, leadership, marketing, and many more methods of the church follow years behind what I’ve seen on secular blogs and books, and this is not the way it should be. Honestly, if you want to know the most recent marketing tactics or how to organize your church volunteers, the first place you should go is to secular industries and learn from their innovation.

I can’t stress enough that this means we learn from their methods and not their ethics, that we can learn how to act wisely in this world, but this cannot replace our call to be as innocent as doves as I’ve written about before as well. May this encourage you to learn more today and to grow in wisdom, regardless of its source.

Why your church needs a mobile friendly website

Why your church needs a mobile friendly website

One of the most prevalent online offenses of churches today is not having mobile friendly websites.

But before getting into 4 major benefits of having a mobile friendly website, here are…

5 defining factors of a mobile friendly website:

  1. Mobile friendly websites have larger text/buttons. Because of the nature of using your fingers to navigate, one of the many signs of a mobile friendly website is being able to cleanly select links on a page. This is easily accomplished by having buttons or pictures represent links rather than text. When text is used you have to make sure you’re giving ample space for a person’s thumb or finger to click on your link, otherwise, it’s not very friendly to the mobile user.
  2. Mobile friendly websites have large navigation panes. It’s common in responsive websites to have their navigation bar shrunk down to an incredibly small size in order to show on a phone or tablet. A true mobile friendly website will include an icon of some sort clearly offering the navigation menu to appear when clicked. When in use, the navigation menu will take up the entire screen in order to be large enough to press with ease on a phone or tablet.
  3. Mobile friendly websites do not have “pinch to zoom” sections on their website. We’ve all had to zoom in on our phones before when text is too small to read, or the fill in form is too small to click. Mobile friendly websites remove this problem by having each item on the website enlarged and moved around as the screen size shrinks in order to have every item easily accessible.
  4. Mobile friendly websites will not require software uncommon to mobile devices. This is the most complicated of problems (and thankfully the least seen). The most crucial example is having flash on a website. Most mobile devices will not play flash video and the last thing you want a mobile visitor to find is that they will have to save your webpage to watch it later on their computer, which they will most likely not do.
  5. Mobile friendly websites have short loading times. Although all websites need to load quickly, it is especially true for mobile websites. The problem has come about because as our computer displays have become larger and more fine and our internet connections have gotten faster, it’s naturally slower for a mobile device trying to load the same website. Not only that, but people browsing the web on their mobile device tend to be more impatient. Because of this, it’s crucial to have a website with fast loading times in order to not lose your mobile visitors.

As a rule of thumb:
If you think anything is more difficult to do on your website while using a phone rather than a computer, your website probably needs to be updated to be mobile friendly.

Now that we have defined what makes a website mobile friendly, let’s look more at why it is important.

Having a Mobile Friendly Website Will Mean:

You Are Accommodating a Growing Group of Online Visitors

Current estimations show that 40% of your web traffic will come from mobile devices (as of July 2015) and this number will only keep growing. I can testify to this as our church has had 41% of all its traffic within the last couple months coming from people on mobile devices. As websites in general continue to become more mobile friendly, people’s expectations will continue to rise, and it’s only a matter of time before non-mobile friendly websites will be ignored completely.

Higher Search Rankings on Google

Earlier this year (2015), Google made an official change in their ranking methods for websites to include greater considerations for a website being mobile friendly. You can read a more in-depth article about it on my blog at this link.
The big idea, however, is that if someone is looking for a church or to know more about Jesus or the Bible, Google will rate your website lower and it will be much harder to get your website to show up in Google searches if your website is not mobile friendly. Alternatively, by having a mobile friendly site, your site will be ranked higher and will be more likely to show up in searches that are relevant to your church.

A General Boost in Design Quality

Although having a mobile friendly website will not fix all of your problems, it will fix many of the visual complications found on most websites. The most overlooked benefit of mobile friendly websites is not that they shrink down appropriately to the size of a phone or tablet screen, but that they adjust to any size screen or window. This means that if someone is looking at your website on a 40 inch screen, your website will enlarge to use every bit of that screen space. Conversely, if you have an 11 inch computer monitor with the web browser only taking up half the screen, your website won’t require scrolling left to right in order for the viewer to see all of your content. This is a great benefit for any person using your website in any context.

A Unified Experience Across Devices

Have you ever experienced a website that was easy to navigate on a computer, but then felt clunky or even completely unusable on a mobile device? Some websites even have a designated mobile version of their site, but the mobile version usually does not include all of the same pages or features, which can be extremely frustrating. Even more, by having a designated mobile version of your website, you now have to update in two places, while also taking care of two different sets of backend management, maintenance, and SEO. Having a single website that is mobile friendly, in order to bring a unified experience across devices, will save you time, money, and plenty of headaches.

Having a Mobile Friendly Website Will Mean:

  1. You Are Accommodating a Growing Group of Online Visitors
  2. Higher Search Rankings on Google
  3. A General Boost in Design Quality
  4. A Unified Experience Across Devices

Resources for your church

Click here if you’re looking to build a new church website in order to more effectively reach and disciple your community.

Click here to discover the amazing opportunity to get your church $120,000 of Google Ad Credit for only $2,000.

Using templates in ministry

Using templates in ministry

Out of the many ways you can save time, templates is one of the best. They can be huge timesavers in almost any situation, so here are four ideas for you.

Forms

The most classic of templates are forms. These can be anything from your background check forms for childcare to the forms you use for new volunteers. As I’ve written about before, we use Google Forms as some of our template forms and they are great. However, make sure you don’t use them for sensitive information though, as warned by Google.

Email Blasts

Mailchimp has been awesome for our weekly ebulletin that we send out and I love the system we have for them, ever since setting up our basic template we’ve simple plugged in the relevant information and scheduled it to go out.

General text

As I’ve written about before, I love using Text Expander as my choice app for text expansion which is a way to make a template out of any text you write frequently. I use templates for general text such as addresses, phone numbers, emails, web addresses, and more that I type frequently.

Anything repeated

One rule of thumb I have with templates is if it’ll be quicker to use a template, then you should make one for anything you do more than once. This could include things like sign up sheets, bulletins, or even for the weekly Instagram pic you send out for the songs you sang at church. There are many ways you could use a template, and so I encourage you to think about anything you’ve done more than once and ask if you should make a template for it.

Do you have any examples of things you’ve made templates for? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Six reasons to hire out your church website

Six reasons to hire out your church website

I believe that there’s a time and a place for doing things “in house.” Sometimes is a money reason, while other times it’s a quality control issue and wanting to make sure that it’s done specifically the way you want it done. However, there’s also plenty of times when outsourcing can be the best route. Usually outsourcing is best for one of two reasons: it’s highly specialized or simply busywork.

In the case of websites, I think most churches should hire out.

There are many reason why I think it’s in the best interest of churches to hire out their website but here are my top six (in no particular order):

Past Experience

Most people don’t realize how much time and work it takes to put together a website, especially for a church. I’ve tried to help demystify this process by providing you a basic outline in my post on how to plan your church website, but that is just the beginning. One of the things I’ve heard many churches tell me is that they didn’t realize how much goes on their website. An average website can get away with three or four pages, but many churches contain at least 10 pages, though many have more. Having past experience in organizing church websites is crucial to completing your website well.

Time

So many of us devalue our time, and pastors are no exception. As I’ve written before, one of the best concepts we can adopt into our mindset is the cost of time. The reality is that whether you hire out or do the work in house, someone, somewhere, is spending time creating your church website. And this brings us to the key of delegation because time will be spent, but who is spending that time is an important question. By outsourcing, you are not only saving your own time, but you are also getting things accomplished faster. My guess is that it would take the average pastor, staff member, or volunteer, much longer to complete the same quality website as it would an experienced designer/developer. Which leads me to the next point…

Cost

Although time is not money (time is far more important), it’s true that excess time will lead to excess cost. From using the point from above consider: if it would take you only four times as long to complete the website in the amount of time it would cost to outsource it, you save money even if you pay that person twice your hourly expenses! Whether you like it or not, your time has a cost to it (and sometimes even a price tag). Let’s look at your options:

  • Staff members
    • If it takes a staff member 40 hours to complete, then you are paying for not only a week’s wage, but also for employment costs such as social security, taxes, office space, equipment, etc.
  • Volunteers
    • Although this would seem “free”, you are costing your volunteer’s time that could be spent elsewhere. For some churches, they are blessed to have volunteers with these skills already, and you should use them, but if you don’t have them, then you are losing the benefit of them serving within their gifting. NOTE: I’ve had churches come to me because a volunteer set up their website but have since left and they don’t have anyone who can fix anything that’s broken or needs updating and you do run into this potential problem by using volunteers.

Outside perspective

One of the great blessings I’ve been able to give to churches is an outside perspective on their website. Sometimes we can get caught up in the way “things have always been” or with concepts we’ve had in our minds since day one, but getting some outside perspective on the best way to present your church can be invaluable.

Quality

If you don’t already have a background in web design, you can’t expect to make the kind of website a web designer would. All of the popular DIY website creators brag about being extremely easy and everything, but that doesn’t mean you can set it up as well as a professional. I consider Squarespace (the platform I build websites on) to be extremely easy to update and edit, but to setup is still fairly complicated, and I’m not even including the customized design preferences which are endless.

It actually gets done

I’ve seen, and heard of, endless churches and businesses that have their websites pending for years, because they tried to do it in house. Sometimes, by simply biting the bullet and paying someone else is what it takes to finally get that website off the ground.

Have you experienced one of these two be true? What other benefits, or even pitfalls, have you found from hiring out your website? I’d love to hear in the comments below!


Resources for your church

Click here if you’re looking to build a new church website in order to more effectively reach and disciple your community.

Click here to discover the amazing opportunity to get your church $120,000 of Google Ad Credit for only $2,000.

Google Drive for document collaboration

Google Drive for document collaboration

One of the many benefits of today’s technology is being able to a central location for the files you need to collaborate on. It’s no longer easy to just share files back and forth, but to have ongoing edits made on the same document without having to worry about which is the master file.

Although I’m a huge Apple fan and I enjoy their products, we do use Google Drive for many of our collaboration needs. It’s simple to use, it’s FREE and you can access the information from anywhere. In addition, as I’ve written before, one of my favorite programs for nonprofits is Google for Nonprofits which gives you free branded Google accounts and that includes Google Drive and their office suite.

I think it’s a pretty great option for collaboration. Here are five ways we use it:

  • Kid sign in sheets
  • Followup contact information
  • Volunteer information – We primarily use Planning Center, but we use this as an ongoing backup
  • Storage Sheet – Our church has to setup and teardown every week so this is an ongoing list of what is in which bin and as a checklist for when we need to buy more supplies
  • Volunteer Questionnaire – Google Forms is a very underused section of Google Drive. We use it as a way to learn where new volunteers would like to serve, learn more about their gifting and the type of serving they thrive in and enjoy.

Do you use Google Drive or another collaboration option? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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