Upgrade your tools

Upgrade your tools

If you’re like me, it’s really hard for you to spend money on non necessities. But if there’s one thing that I’d encourage you to do, is make sure the tools you use to get “the job done” are top notch.

I love Abraham Lincoln’s quote:

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

It’s totally true. If you want to get more done sometimes you have to work smarter, not harder. Sometimes we “spend dollars counting cents”, or more appropriately for this context, “spend hours saving cents.”

Sometimes this is by trying to make a computer last just one more year.
By choosing to make due without proper software.
Or by not taking the paid upgrade for your current software.

These are all mistakes I’ve made in the past, and I can tell you

It’s never worth it.

Of course, you have to count the cost of what you’re buying versus it’s payoff, but normally it’s a no-brainer – we just don’t want to.

So, if you haven’t upgraded, or checked out a new tool or program in a while, I encourage you to. It’s amazing how technology has advanced and I’ve never regretted a single tool or software I’ve purchased.

If you’re looking for some ideas, you can check out my posts on the “apps of a pastor“, or “the apps I use” for some ideas. I’d love to hear if you have any apps, or tools you’ve found useful in the comments below!

Focus on what works

Focus on what works

I was reminded by Travis Stephens’ titled “The Best & Worst Ways to Recruit Volunteers” that we often throw away valuable resources into systems, events, projects, etc that don’t return good results. The change needs to start with us.

I’ve seen people throw around the 80/20 rule in absurd numbers, but sometimes there’s no better way to describe the situation.

The 80/20 Rule

80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.
80% of the sales come from 20% of the SKUs.
80% of the value comes from 20% of the work.

And so on.

The same is true with churches:

80% of the work is done by 20% of the congregation.
80% of the tithes is given by 20% of the people.
80% of the new people come from 20% of the invite strategy.

These numbers are obviously not solid, concrete facts, but the general idea that the 80/20 rule is meant to communicate is that there many areas in our churches that need to be focused on, and other areas that need to be pruned back. I’m sure there are areas in your ministry where the 80/20 rule rings true. And that’s the area that needs to change.

Imagine that if 80% of your results in “x” is driven by only 20% of your efforts, what would happen if you doubled those efforts? What if you stopped one ministry in order to emphasize another? What if you stopped using your money in one place in order to invest it in another?

The answer is different for everyone, but the principle is this:

Find what works, and do more of that.

Let’s commit to doing less of what has proven fruitless, and focus on what works.

Some examples of things to look into could be:

  • What has brought in (and retained) the majority of your volunteers?
  • What has brought in the most amount of new people (recently)?
  • What has been the reason most people have stayed?
  • What has brought about the most change in the lives of your people?

The list goes on, but I’d love to hear from you, what has worked, what hasn’t, and how are you going to invest in the things that do?

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!

Six ways to send information to Evernote

Six ways to send information to Evernote

As I’ve written about before, Evernote can be easily overwhelming with how many things you can do with it. However, as I focused in that post primarily about how to use Evernote with the information you already have put inside of it, here’s the six ways I send information to Evernote (in order of most frequently used).


I almost forgot to add this to my list because it happens in the background. ifttt.com is a great online automator. Basically, it lets you make “rules” with different online services to follow a pattern of “if this, then that”. For example, IF you send out a tweet, THEN IFTTT can post that tweet to Facebook, or archive it into Evernote.

I primarily use IFTTT with Evernote in order to archive memories. I have a rule (or “channel” as they call them) for pictures from my and my wife’s Instagram accounts to be sent to Evernote and tagged with our memories tag. This allows me to keep all of the pictures we felt were the best to describe a moment or event to be stored longterm in Evernote.

Email forwarding

I use email forwarding countless times a day. It’s so much easier than copying the text and pasting it into an Evernote note (especially from my phone). Although I use it for other things as well, I primarily use email forwarding for my receipts. I’ve written about how I handle physical receipts before, but with emailed receipts (such as Amazon) it’s very easy to forward them to my Evernote email with the tags and notebooks already in the subject field so it’s immediately filed away properly in Evernote.


This app is only for iOS, but if you have an iPhone/iPad, it’s an amazing tool. It allows for you to quickly take written notes and then send them wherever you’d like with preset outputs. These actions can be as simply as composing an email, or sending a text to a predetermined group, or they can become complex with markdown compatibility, and even sending to Evernote with predetermined tags and notebooks. This has been very helpful for me for updating ongoing lists in Evernote or for common notes from meetings I take or blog posts ideas where I want to use the same tags or notebooks so I can simply send my notes to Evernote in one tap and have them filed aways properly with very little work on my end.

Web clipper/extensions

This is the beginning of my use drop off. A few times a week I’ll use the web clipper on the computer, or an extension on my phone. Thankfully, the extensions have gotten some major updates so they now allow for tagging and to choose a notebook which makes them much more useful.

Launch center pro

Although I only use this once a week for Evernote, I have an action in LCP (an iOS app) that will take a picture and then create an Evernote note with that picture with a performed title and tags so I can keep an ongoing record of our church services. I’m sure this type of service could be more useful for others (a daily picture challenge anyone?), but that’s how I use it with Evernote.


I figured I really should mention Evernote’s widget and app as it’s the classic way to input information. It’s definitely the most effective if you’re creating a note that doesn’t follow a normal tagging system or notebook filing, but for the most part, I rarely use this method anymore because of all the other automated options there are.

I hope this helps you get your important information into Evernote as they have me. I’d love to hear if you have any great ways you get information into Evernote or if you have questions on any of my specific methods. Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

Five guidelines for guest followup

Five guidelines for guest followup

Easter is almost here! It’s a wonderful celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s one of the most attended days of the year for churches.

But how do you plan on following up with all of the first time guests?

Here’s Five guidelines for planning your church’s guest followup procedure.

1. You can’t use information you don’t have

One of church’s greatest faults in followup is not getting information to begin with. If you plan on giving every visitor a phone call, or card in the mail, you first have to get this information from them.

2. Use every piece of information you ask for

The second greatest fault in followup is asking for information that you never use. If you ask people to give you their address, phone number, and email, and then only give them a phone call, you make people wonder what you ever did with their address or email. Did you sell the information? You obviously didn’t use it. You simply wasted their time by having them give you information you didn’t even use. So let’s make sure that this Easter, we only ask for information we plan on utilizing.

3. Thank them for coming

Nothing is more off-putting then an unloving, unthankful church. We are excited when people choose to take time to seek God, and we should make sure that we tell them we are. This helps lower their guard as most people think of churches as looking down on them for not coming every week, when we’re actually celebrating that they came at all.

4. Give them a next step

As I’ve written about before regarding your website’s call to action, it’s extremely important to ask for a specific response from people, and this includes your church’s followup procedure. This could be made easy by having them check a box if they’re interested in joining a midweek study, or serving, or another church group as they give their information so you have a specific thing to tell them about. Otherwise, you need to decide what your default is going to be. Will you be encouraging people to come back next Sunday, to join a group, or something else within your church? If you leave your followup open ended, most people will let the conversation drop off there and you’ll never hear from them again. However, this is your opportunity to help guide them to what their next step should be.

5. Reach out more than once

Whether they gave you one piece of information, or five, you should make sure you contact them multiple times (over a period of time, you don’t want to overwhelm people). Overtime, you’ll be able to see how they respond and focus on a specific communication channel (such as phone call, email, or text).

I hope many of you have great opportunities to reach out to new people this Easter! Do you have any ideas you’d like to add for followup procedure guidelines? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

My favorite stock photo resources

My favorite stock photo resources

The web has nearly unlimited resources at your disposal. Many are free, though with “free” normally comes the price tag of rummaging through a lot of poor quality content to get the best “free” stuff around. Pictures are no different, so here are my favorite FREE stock photo resources for churches.

Free stock photo websites tend to either be a subscription where you are emailed photos on a regular basis, or they also have a website where you can search photos they’ve previously highlighted. I’ve broken my favorite FREE stock photo resources into 3 categories showing whether they offer a subscription, a searchable archive, or both.

NOTE: Most of these websites offer a paid version to their services, but at the time of this writing, all of these offer a free level.

Searchable and can subscribe

Subscribe Only

Search Only

I hope these websites are useful to you for your use, finding good, free, and usable images can be difficult. If you have any great sources you’d like to add, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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