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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

The traditional song "Auld Lang Syne" poses the question: "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?" The weird thing is that usually that's all we know from the song - then we just sing "Auld Lang Syne" ad nauseum.

Guess what? The answer to the question is: No. No, you should not forget your old acquaintances. The rest of the song is all about reminiscing and remembering the old days while sharing a drink with friends. Forgetting is not the goal, but remembering and celebrating the memories made together.

Perhaps it would be good to have a service where you spend time remembering the previous year. Reflecting on the memories you made together and the connection you share. One cool thing that I've seen is a year in review slide show where all the events of the year are set to music and shown to the church. This is a great way to share and celebrate everything that's happened over the year.

A few notes:
  • Be aware of the time this can take - if you have a 15 minute slideshow you'll need to cut something out of the service.
  • The larger your church the earlier you will have to start on this - it takes a long time to get photos from everyone.
  • Make sure to include photos from as many groups as you possibly can.
  • This doesn't have to happen in December - if you do this at the end of January it's still ok.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Resolve to Dissolve

Sometimes our resolutions are so fancy and productive that they become a distraction. I know I've spent past New Year's Days compiling lists of all the things that I want to change. Then I get to the end of the day and feel overwhelmed by the list and decide to just give up. No matter how SMART or DUMB the goals are, if you are buried in them you'll lose.

Maybe you need to dissolve this New Year. Let your sense of self take a back seat to your family, your church, your staff. Instead of resolving to change a bunch of things about yourself, maybe it's time to look out for the interests of others.

I know this blog is devoted to using media in sermons, but what if pushing for media is hurting your church? Maybe you don't need to do it this year. Maybe you need to love people and put your desires off for a while. I'm not saying you should cave to pressure, that's not helpful. Rather consider the needs of others first.

Maybe it's time to dissolve this New Year

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SMART goals or DUMB goals?


When I did the Google search for SMART goals, I found this post about replacing SMART goals with DUMB goals.
DUMB stands for Dreamy, Unrealistic, Motivating and Bold. If you stop and think about traditional and realistic goals, they aren’t that inspiring or exciting.
I stand by what I said yesterday about SMART goals, but Roger Bauer brings up the good point that SMART goals are rarely inspirational. If you have something specific that you want to get done, do it SMART. But, if you want to get a group fired up, you might need to be DUMB.

What DUMB goals can you set for your church? Your staff? Your family? How can you be a DUMB presenter? What videos, pictures, skits, or artwork will help to inspire and motivate your church?

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year, New Start

The beginning of the year is the traditional time to make resolutions and promises about change for the future. But one of the problems is that we usually wait until we're sleepy and watching football on the 1st of January to decide what we want to do. Most resolutions are platitudes, not purposeful.

But if you really want to do it. If you want to look back at the end of 2010 and see what you accomplished, you need to set some SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for
Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant and
Timely

Your goal needs to be specific (I want to start running instead of I want to be more healthy), measurable (I want to run a marathon), attainable (I want to complete a marathon), relevant (I want to complete a marathon so I get in better shape), and timely (I want to complete a marathon by the end of the year).

If you set vague, unachievable, nebulous goals you won't achieve them. But if you set SMART goals you are setting yourself up to win.

Maybe you could try to read 2 books about preaching by the end of the year. Or you could take one class in using PowerPoint by the end of the year. Or you could go to one conference on media in church. You get the idea.

How will you set SMART goals?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Song Tournament of Champions - Final Game

Here is the moment that you've all been waiting for. The crowning of the champion of the tournament of Christmas songs. It's been a long road, and many worthy songs have fallen along the way. The final match pits two greats against each other at the top of their games.

Jingle Bells came in with a lot of confidence. They were the overall number one seed and looked to wrap up the title officially against the Gents. The Gentlemen had their own reasons to be confident and they stepped in to play for keeps.

As the game got started the Gents and the Bells showed that they were serious about winning. There was no quarter asked and none given. They shoved and fought for every minute. The Bells fell behind early due to the Gents maturity and experience, but it wasn't too long before the plucky Bells dashed into the lead.

In the second half the Bells continued to play well, laughing all the way to a huge lead. It really looked as if the Gents were done, but they called up the reserves and Bare Naked Ladies strolled in with Sarah McLoughlin by their side. Their rendition brought the Gents from behind to win at the buzzer!

It's all over folks, the champion has been crowned. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is the winner of the tournament.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Song Tournament - Elite Eight/Final Four

Who knew that Christmas songs could be so brutal? What we've seen so far in this tournament is nearly enough to swear one off of Christmas music altogether. But let's not get hasty.

Thus far Jingle Bells had had an easy time of it. Silent Night stepped in to change all that. The lead changed dozens of times and these two titans never let up on their intensity. Silent had the game winning shot in their grasp, but it fell short as time expired. I guess the shot was just too tender and mild.

Ave Maria looked to take out their frustration on the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. They dialed up Andrea Bocelli for the power and the sympathy, but in the end the wave of good sentiment fell to the Wonderful Time side. Bocelli went home crushed and vowing to return next year and steal Christmas (or something like that).

I don't care if you're one or 92 - this was a good, old fashioned beat down. Nat and Natalie Cole both came out for this one (they had to use computers to make it happen). Too bad, the Gentlemen were anything but. They destroyed the Christmas Song - apparently it's been said one too many times.

Fresh off destroying his arch-nemesis, Rudolph looked hungry and savage. So when the Carol of the Bells stepped in, it wasn't pretty. Probably the only thing that Rudolph hates more than Santa are bells. Hooves were flying everywhere and at the end of it there were only crushed bells left. Sad. Rudolph used to be so nice.

In the first Final Four game Jingle Bells took on the Most Wonderful Time. This was an epic showdown. The hap-happiest season versus the bright spirits. The outcome was only clear once the clock hit zeros. At first Jingle Bells jumped out to a lead, but slow and steady Most Wonderful made up ground. By the second half it was all tied up. At the end of it the only thing that saved it was the hordes of children singing the only Christmas song they know - Jingle Bells finally prevailed and won their way to the championship game.

The Merry Gentlemen then had to face an infuriated, blood-thirsty Rudolph. After the carnage of the previous contests, the Gents were a bit nervous (but not dismayed). Rudolph was near frothing at the mouth when they began, but the Gents just kept things moving at a steady pace. Rudolph frantically tried to force things and to get them to play his games (like Monopoly), but to no avail. The tidings for Rudolph are losing and shame, losing and shame.

Who will win the title game between Jingle Bells and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, tune in tomorrow to find out.



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Song Tournament - Sweet Sixteen

There were some crushing defeats yesterday and some stunning upsets. Let's get the round of sixteen under way.

Jingle Bells is the heavy favorite over the Hanukkah song, but Sandler pulls out not one, but two more renditions before it's over. Despite every Jewish celebrity reference possible, the strength and popularity of Jingle Bells carries them through.

Frosty the Snowman put on his game face (get rid of that pipe and replace it with vampire teeth left over from Halloween) and did what he could to silence the Night, but that round-virgin wouldn't be stopped. Ultimately Frosty folded under the pressure.

Zee Germans bring a ton of Christmas spirit, but The Most Wonderful Time of the Year pulled a George Washington and launched a sneak attack that took out O Tannenbaum.

Ave Maria swaggered in to face the 12 Days of Christmas and was severely beaten by the relentless attack. Those 12 days never seem to end, but somehow Ave was able to outlast and move on.

The other side of the bracket shows God Rest coming out strong against the powerful Hallelujah Chorus. Ultimately the victory went to the Gentlemen because Hallelujah's plays were just too difficult for most people. Maybe trying to get some professionals to play would have made the difference, but Hallelujah from amateurs was just painful.

The Little Drummer Boy didn't know what hit him. He was focused on keeping time and the Christmas Song just came up and roasted him. Next time Drummer, next time.

Rudolph and Santa in the grudge match that everyone has been wanting to see. Sure the jolly old elf gave Rudolph his big break, but since then, it has been virtual slave labor. Rudolph harnesses all of his pent up rage and demolishes Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It was ugly, folks.

Carol of the Bells and Ode to Joy tried to keep it classy, but in the end it came down to the fact that Ode had sold out. Every commercial, movie, and video game has a piece of Ode, not enough was left to stand up to Carol.

Tomorrow, see who moves on to the Final Four and the Championship Game.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Song Tournament of Champions

The competition is heated and stakes are high. Who will emerge from the field of 32 to claim the prize and become the GREATEST CHRISTMAS SONG EVER!?

Top seeded Jingle Bells and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen look to have easy matches agains their lowly opponents. Feliz Navidad and Jingle Bells - Barking Dogs could never claim more than passing interest. They fall easily to their powerhouse rivals.

In a stunning upset, White Christmas is dethroned by the Hannukkah Song - the crooner is complaining about the unfair advantage of competing against the only Jewish song in the tournament.

Poor Greensleeves is just too old and worn out to put up much of a fight, even against Frosty the Snowman.

Silent night wins a squeaker against the master Tchaikovsky, the ability to sing along swayed the crowd and gave the win to the Night.

Baby it's Cold Outside couldn't hold up against the blitz of the German machine O Tannenbaum.

Holly Jolly Christmas and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus show that they have never been more than pretenders in this competition, their opponents waltz on through to the sweet sixteen. You'll be seeing more of Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Ave Maria.

In another upset, the 12 Days of Christmas just outlasted O Holy Night. No matter what happened 12 Days just kept going. It was brutal.

The Hallelujah Chorus did the running over when Grandma Got Run Over tried to stand in its path.

No one knows how Weird Al's song Christmas at Ground Zero even qualified for the tournament - the comedy songs just don't match up well against classics like The Christmas Song.

Do You Hear What I Hear and the Little Drummer Boy battled to the very end. Ultimately these two similar songs were separated by the simple fact that kids like to say "ass" at Christmas time. Drummer Boy advances.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing versus Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer may seem like a competition of opposites, but they are surprisingly similar on field. Too bad for Hark they didn't put in space for the kids - Rudolph moves on.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas came out strong and pummeled Santa Clause is Coming to Town. But with a nod and a wink, Santa slid through to the next round.

In the "I don't know what these have to do with Christmas" category: Carol of the Bells and Joy to the World duked it out for a long time. What finally decided the match was when Carol pulled out the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rendition and rocked Joy out of the game.

We Three Kings seems to be the forgotten song, and they forgot to show up at the tournament. Too bad for them, but good for Ode to Joy, they needed an easy first round win.

Come back tomorrow for the results of the Sweet Sixteen.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blogging holiday or Holiday blogging?

I keep coming up with these great blog ideas, but then I think to myself: "Why should I waste a great blog when no one is going to read it because of Christmas?" I don't want to be a blogging grinch, but I don't want you to miss out on great content either.

So, I think I'm going to keep up the blogging through the season, but it's going to be a bit lighter and more fun for the next week or so. Since the BCS is too lame to give the nation what it really wants - a playoff system. I have decided to provide my own playoff (for entertainment purposes only).

This is also a chance to show off what the Prezi presentation software can do.


Below is the bracket - go ahead and fill yours out and see if you are the big winner (or use it for some fun at your Christmas parties).

Over the next few days I'll be revealing the winners and losers of this epic contest. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 18, 2009

To Santa, or Not To Santa

I might be getting myself in trouble here, bringing up the guy in red. I know this can by a touchy subject and it has as much to do with the way we were raised as it does with what the bible says about things. Should we use Santa Claus in church?

On the plus side - it connects with what people are already doing, it connects with kids, it helps to get people enthused for Christmas.

On the negative side - it perpetuates an images of Christmas that is focused on consumerism, it has pagan roots, we are telling our kids a lie (how do they know that we aren't lying about Jesus if we lie about Santa?).

What do you think? What do you do?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Watch your Language


Over at the great blog, Biblical Preaching they recently discussed how we can improve our presentations by using better speaking habits when we're not preaching. The idea is to practice using correct grammar and dynamic speech all the time so that when we get into the pulpit it comes naturally.

I think this is a great idea, but we need to be careful. We don't need to sound like preachers. Seriously. What I mean is that we shouldn't sound like preachers when we're having a conversation over coffee - I would be turned off by that. We also shouldn't sound like preachers when we're in the pulpit (we should also probably not use pulpits, but that's another post).

Think about it this way. The bible was written in Koine Greek - the common language. The only other people who wrote in Koine were the business people drafting contracts and things, and the poorly educated. But the bible is written to the lowest common denominator, really. They didn't choose to write in one of the high, literary styles of Greek, but in the common language.

Preaching should be to the lowest common denominator. Not like reality TV where it appeals to the basest side of humanity, but so people can walk into your church and feel like you are talking to them, not over them or about them, but to them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

White Spaces


Garr Reynolds said: "With clutter ubiquitous, emptiness gets attention."

I wonder how we can use emptiness in creative ways. Christmas is an incredibly cluttered time, and not just visually. Maybe it's time to start providing some "white space" in our churches. Instead of piling more and more demands on people - what if we do some things to relieve their stress and calm their spirits?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's the same thing only different

Sometimes showing something that is different from what is expected can produce an impacting emotional response. When you are preaching about Christmas you might show a picture of a Christmas tree with presents piled high. Then you could talk about some of the best presents you ever received. Then you could talk about where those presents are now - in the trash, lost, sent to goodwill. Then you could move into a text from Amos and talk about how God is against those who spend while ignoring the poor and needy.


I would be careful with this, it could seem really cruel to move people from being happy about Christmas and moving to feeling guilty. I would probably step between the hearers and the text by admitting how much I am consumed by the greed of the holiday and confessing to the church.

How do you deal with the consumerism of Christmas?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent Conspiracy

If you don't know the Advent Conspiracy is a program designed to help people to be a bit more generous at Christmas. The idea is that you give one less gift and take that money and give it to charity. They recommend that you give it to a charity that will help provide clean water in the third world, but they put no limits on it.

I think this is a great program. The video below is also a great use of media to make a point.

What do you think? How can the church be more true to the idea of Christmas?

Friday, December 11, 2009

I want to be where the people are . . .

My wife's favorite movie is the "Little Mermaid" so I know some of the songs in there. One of them is "I want to be where the people are." I thought of that when I was considering this post.

I really want this blog to be effective and powerful in changing the way that preachers preach. There is so much that I would like to do to help, but I can't help unless there are people. I'm thinking about ways to drive traffic to this site.

I was looking around at the top Google results for preaching and I found Preaching.com, Preaching Today.com, and Biblical Preaching.net. I'm thinking about submitting some stuff to them. Do you think it would be useful?

How else could I spread the word and make this site a better tool for more people?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Master your Toast

A while ago I mentioned a group called Toastmasters as a way to improve public speaking skills.

Wait, I'm talking to preachers, they already know how to speak in public. Right? Preachers know how to preach, but public speaking on a topic other than the bible with a time limit of 3 to 5 minutes is a different game. Being required to speak extemporaneously for 30 seconds to a minute with no warning is different.

As preachers we are called by God to speak the eternal truth of Scripture into the lives of people. But we are also professional speakers. Sometimes we need to strip away the bible stuff and just work on our craft of speaking.

I strongly recommend that you go to Toastmasters - it's a great way to hone your craft (and you can emphasize a new skill like telling stories or jokes), it's a great way to meet people, and it's a great way to get out into the community.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

K.I.S.S.

An oldie but a goodie via Garr Reynolds:
"Worried you're not using the right words? Use simpler words. Worried that your sentence isn't clear? Make a simpler sentence. Worried that people won't see your point? Make your point simpler. Nearly every writing problem you have can be solved by making things simpler.

This should be obvious, but people don't like hearing it because there's the assumption that simple = stupid. But it's not true; indeed, I find from personal experience that the stupidest writers are the ones whose writing is positively baroque in form. All that compensating, you know. Besides, I'm not telling you to boil everything down to "see spot run" simplicity. I am telling you to make it so people can get what you're trying to say."

— John Scalzi
This could probably be rule #1 for using visuals in your presentation. Keep it simple. Don't over think. Don't over produce. Just make your point as clearly and simply as you can.

Don't insult your audience by condescending to them. But don't try to impress them either.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tweet out the News

Ideo Labs points out that Twitter is a huge part of many presentations, but usually the presenter is left out of the loop.
Increasingly presentations to large audiences are happening in the context of a ‘backchannel’, where attendees are responding in real time to what is being said at the podium. That’s a pretty interesting development, but one that’s a bit off-balance: while the audience can converse with one another and respond to what they’re hearing in the room, the content of the presentation doesn’t make it into the stream unless someone (re)tweets it.
One solution is to build tweeting into your presentation software: KeynoteTweet. This only works for Keynote on the Mac right now, but it's a cool idea. You can use that notes section below your slide and drop in a tweet that will be sent out when the slide comes up in the presentation. That way you can be a part of the conversation even while you are presenting.

What do you think about using this in church? How do you stay connected with the Tweet-crowd?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tell a Compelling Story

Garr Reynolds over at Presentation Zen posted about how to tell a compelling story with statistics. I recommend that you watch the TED video to which he refers - it's great.

I know that most sermons don't have a ton of statistics for you to get through, but if you're presenting for a mission trip or missionary, this could be huge. If you're showing budget numbers or the average income in your neighborhood, this could make a big difference. See, most people avoid statistics because it tends to be dry, but it doesn't have to be. Using statistics well can create a powerful call for change.

How do you tell a compelling story?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Blog Like Jazz

Aside from the blatant rip off of the title Blue Like Jazz this post doesn't really have anything to do with the book (it's a good book though, you should read it).

I'm actually thinking about my music theory teacher in college Ike Graul. He told our class that we were allowed to break the rules of music theory if we wanted to, but we had to know the rules and we had to have a good reason for breaking them.

Jazz musicians tend to be some of the best music theorists in the industry. They know all the rules, and then the proceed to break most of them - with a purpose.

In presenting, there are a bunch of rules, and it's good to know what they are. But sometimes you need to break the rules to make some really good music. Don't break the rules because you don't know them or because you just want to. But it's good to jazz it up a little from time to time.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Stupid Rupert


Seth Godin says:
Rupert Murdoch has it backwards

You don't charge the search engines to send people to articles on your site, you pay them.

If you can't make money from attention, you should do something else for a living. Charging money for attention gets you neither money nor attention.


How does this apply to preaching? It tells us that we need to look at the whole picture. Murdoch just sees news and money - it cost money to report the news, therefore people should pay money to get the news. Godin sees a bigger picture of the internet economy - money gravitates toward attention.

Look at the whole picture - don't just use images because you think you're supposed to. Think about the "economy" of your church - do you have a lot of artists, bankers, college kids, retired people? What will connect with them?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Be Careful Little Slides What you Show

Just like with everything else, it's important to check your slides before you project them (or show them on TV). You may not use everything that you learned in math class, but basic adding is kind of important.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Text Boxen

Over at Slides that Stick they posted about the difficulty of reading text over different backgrounds. This picture is very cool and compelling. The image tells a story and draws the viewer in.

The text looks like it was added by a 5 year old. The effect is ruined by the way the text seems to be superimposed on the image rather than part of the image.

It is important to get great images to communicate with your audience, but it is just as important for your text to fit. Avoid putting text over multiple backgrounds/colors - it's hard to read and distracting. Sometimes it can be nice to put a shaded box around the text to set it off from the rest of the image.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Google Image Swirl


Google just launched a new experimental feature called Image Swirl. It allows you to search for an image and then get a visual representation of the related images. This is pretty cool if you want to do a general search and get a specific picture. It's a lot easier than clicking through pages and pages of pictures to find the right one for your presentation.

I think this may find a regular spot in my image-search rotation. What tools do you find helpful for image searches?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Motion Background Overload

Easyworship is a popular piece of software for projecting the words of songs and sermon presentations. A lot of churches use it, and a lot of churches over use it. It has the ability to project moving backgrounds behind the text. This is one of those cool ideas that tends to be over used and distracting.

We were attending a church and one Sunday they had a different moving background behind just about every slide. I asked the computer guy after the service if they had gotten a new background pack. He said that they had. And they used every single one that Sunday.

Don't do this. Please. If you absolutely need to use a moving background, then only use one. I'm not a fan of using any moving background myself. But that's just my opinion.

The important principle here is to make sure that whatever you project will get your point across and not distract from it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! In spite of some problems that I see with a whole hearted acceptance of everything that is involved in Thanksgiving, I still think celebrating it is a great idea.

By the way, Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird. He thought that the bald eagle was a disgusting, stupid bird.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving

We talked about the place of Halloween in church, and it's my opinion that holidays should be recognized and celebrated in the church. Sometimes I think we approach Thanksgiving with the opposite perspective from Halloween. With Halloween the church often rejects the holiday completely. With Thanksgiving the church often wholly accepts the holiday.

What is some of the things that we celebrate on the third Thursday in November aren't in line with the teachings of Jesus? This wouldn't be a popular message to preach would it? Descrying the evils of gluttony might be offensive to people's tradition of gorging until they pass into a turkey coma. How would it go over if you spoke about being Christians first and US citizens second? Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrating the history of our nation after the pilgrims. But that history is filled with mistakes and evils as well as things for which we should be thankful.

How do you deal with unpopular topics?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DVD Knife

Lifehacker delivers a review of a little piece of software that could be incredibly useful for adding movie clips to your sermon. It's called DVD Knife and it allows you to stick in a DVD and pull out exactly the scene that you need.

If you've ever tried to work with inserting DVD clips into your sermon, you will know that this could be a huge time saver.

Monday, November 23, 2009

7 Pathways to God


John Ortberg's "God is Closer Than You Think, has a section in which he describes the 7 spiritual pathways in Christian history.

1. Intellectual Pathway - "... draw closer to God as they learn more about Him."
2. Relational Pathway - "... have a deep sense of God's presence when they're involved in significant relationships."
3. Serving Pathway - "... God's presence seems most tangible when they're involved in helping others."
4. Worship Pathway - "... have a natural gift for expression and celebration."
5. Activist Pathway - "You have a passion to act."
6. Contemplative Pathway - "God is most present to you when distractions and noises are removed."
7. Creation Pathway - "... have a passionate ability to connect with God when they are experiencing the world He made."



These pathways describe different preferences and connection points for us. None is better than any other one, but too often we emphasize just a couple to the exclusion of others. The intellectual and worshipful pathways are given prime position on Sunday morning, but the activist who cries out for social change is often ignored. We need to allow our people to explore all the different pathways. Have a time of quiet contemplation right there in church on Sunday morning. Spend time looking at art and discussing it. Go outside and experience creation first hand.

How can you help people explore the 7 spiritual pathways?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Reader Survey

I'm curious about who is reading this blog. Would you let me know what's going on in your life so that I can write a blog that will be more helpful to you?

Where are you working?

How often do you preach?

What (if any) presentation software do you use?

What questions do you have about preaching?

What books are you reading?

What websites do you follow?

What's your favorite song?

If you have some time to let me know what's going on with you I would really appreciate it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Facebook

You need to get on Facebook. You are probably already on the most popular social networking site in the history of the internet, but if you aren't you need to change that. Facebook is where people are going to communicate and connect with new and old friends. Sure, that's nice.

But Facebook is where your sermon can gain the power to really connect to people where they are. It's way too easy to prepare a sermon while sitting in an office behind a desk with no connection to people. But sermons are all about people. One way that I found to connect the two is to pose questions on Facebook as they come up in my sermon prep.

Don't try to clean it up or explain the background or exegete the text. Just ask the kind of honest, gut wrenching questions that real people ask.

If God is good then why do bad things happen?

Do I have to be perfect?

Is it ok to kill people?

Why are kosher laws not in effect any more?

Ask these kinds of questions and then stand back. The results are great and the connection with real people is amazing. I found so much fodder for my sermons using this method, that I don't think I'll ever go back.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Black Screen

Sometimes the Black Screen of Death can spell doom for your re-booting computer. But if you don't have the flashy cursor and you are giving a PowerPoint presentation, the Black Screen can be your friend.

You don't have to have something on the screen all the time. I will say it again, you don't have to always project something. The power of your images comes when they integrate with your message to amplify the total content. If you leave up a picture after the point has passed you weaken the impact of the point you just made and the point that you will be making.

You can either insert a blank, black backgrounded slide, or if you have the computer within easy reach while you are presenting, you can press the 'B' key to send it to a black screen. Some fancy remotes even have a built in button for this purpose.

Don't neglect the power of not projecting anything.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Learning Styles

We are currently in training to become certified English teachers. We're working temp jobs during the week and going to class on the weekend, so I hope I can keep putting out good stuff on this blog.

One thing that struck me is in our class discussion of learning styles. There are a lot of theories and many discussions about learning style, but one thing most people agree on is that people absorb information differently. One theory that I've seen the most is the visual, auditory and tactile learning styles.

If we are only preaching using the spoken word, we are doing a huge disservice to all of the members of the congregation who connect through the visual medium. It's almost like we are refusing to speak their language. It's important to bring the visual element in so that we are honoring the way that God has made people to understand their world.

Then I thought about the tactile (or kinesthetic) learning style. Where does our preaching give people a chance to touch, to taste, to smell, to move? We need to be aware of the fact that there are people in our church that just don't get it from sitting still and being quiet while someone talks to them. They need to be doing things, experiencing things.

Maybe we could bring in some clay for a sermon on the potter and the clay. Or how about hiding bread makers in the room set to start baking at the beginning of the service so that at the sermon on the bread of life, the smell of fresh baked bread is wafting through the crowd. What ways can you think of to engage people in the way they learn?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Windows 7: continuing review

One cool new feature in Windows 7 that I think will be especially helpful for everyone and their Mom is the new file dialogue system. At first blush it looks like what you've used forever, but up in the right corner it has that nifty little "search documents" field. It instantly searches the titles and the content of your documents.

I'll say that again, in case you missed it. It instantly (as in right now, no waiting, or clicking, as you type) searches the titles and the content (if you can't remember what you called it, but you can only remember what you said) of your documents. This is huge. This is amazing. I love it!

If you're like me, you have files all over the place and sometimes it can be difficult to remember where it is. No worries anymore. I know that Mac has had their searchlight going for a while and the search feature from the Windows start menu is just as cool, but having that search feature there when you click "Open Document" is a perfect little touch that makes using Windows 7 a joy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Collaboration

Collaboration is such a huge value to most people. Having the chance to work together to make a meaningful contribution excites passions and connection. Too bad the sermon is often devoid of collaboration. Very often the sermon is a time where one person is speaking their own thoughts (or reflecting on the thoughts of authors) about the bible. Where is the collaboration?

I will admit that it is very difficult to prepare a sermon collaboratively. It takes a lot of work to get to a place where the sermon can invite other voices. I learned a lot from Ron Clark at the Agape Church of Christ about how to preach so that others are involved. There we would look at a piece of art and discuss it as a church. We would have questions in the middle of the sermon and spend time discussing how the text could apply to our lives.

I know you may be skeptical about how this could work in a large church. I will admit that with 1,000 people the atmosphere is going to be different than with 50, but you can still pose questions. A lot of churches have their greeting time (which is usually pretty lame and boring where visitors feel even more alienated because the members are just firming up lunch plans). What if the greeting time was a time to discuss a work of art shown on the screen? People could walk around and talk with a purpose and it would get them thinking about the sermon.

What could you do to collaborate on the sermon?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kuler for color themes

Garr Reynolds over at Presentation Zen kicked out a cool review of a web tool called Kuler which you can use to create a color theme for your presentation. If you have a photo at the core of your presentation, you can extract colors from it to create a palate for the other elements in your slide. As you can see in the picture, it makes for a nice effect.

I can think of a few times when I had to fiddle with the colors of a slideshow and this would have been nice. I think this would be more useful if you are doing a series that has one, central image, or if you have some branded artwork that you want to integrate into your presentations.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PowerPoint on Purpose


Over at Biblical Preaching.net Peter Mead has some good things to say about using PowerPoint on Purpose.
For some people, whether or not to use powerpoint is not even a question. It is assumed. I don’t assume I should use it. My default is no powerpoint, then if I use it, I use it on purpose. . . I don’t think it is worth using in order to show your outline (that’s for you, not them), or to show your preaching text (they need the practice reading their own Bibles). I don’t think it’s worth using if it means sacrificing preparation time for formatting time. I certainly don’t think it’s worth using just because you have a projector and a laptop. I don’t think we should use it just because it is used in the business world (please note many in the business world are lousy speakers, and many of the good ones left compulsive powerpoint use behind years ago!) I’d rather have listeners engaged with me and with the Bible in their laps than with a screen.

Haddon Robinson has said that, “A picture is not worth a thousand words (the people who make pictures came out with that!) Some words will never be captured in a picture.”


Yes! I agree. I tend to prefer using PowerPoint more often than not, but all of Peter's points are good and well thought out. Don't just throw something together just because it's expected. Let the content and Scripture drive the visuals, not the other way around. You will dramatically improve the quality of your PowerPoint if you use less quantity and more quality.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PowerPoint Wiki of Awesomeness

The cool cats over at Wired.com are throwing out wiki's all over the place. The PowerPoint wiki should give you a constantly evolving directory of tips and tricks to make your presentations awesome. Check it out.

Monday, November 09, 2009

TED will rock your world

The TED presentations are phenomenal. If you haven't seen one yet, you are missing out. Below you will see a conductor explaining how the art of conducting applies to leadership. A good conductor can lead without telling everyone what to do at every moment - often the leadership is better when there is less control exerted. A conductor invites the musicians to share their own story and together to make a better story.

Maybe in your presentations you don't need to spell everything out. Maybe your sermon doesn't have to tell people what to think, but rather invite them to explore on their own. Encourage the church to engage the story of Scripture and together you can have a better story.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dunbar's Number

Seth Godin is good. He recently blogged about the Dunbar number which is 150. You can maintain 150 relationships. Except I have 500+ friends on Facebook. How do you reconcile that?

Seth argues that you can't really be friends with all those people, not matter how hard you try. I think he's on to something, my Facebook friends aren't super close, and my closest friends aren't really participating on Facebook.

However, I do think that my number of acquaintances has skyrocketed with the advent of Facebook. I never would have reconnected with some high school friends if they weren't online. There is power in that participation.

I think churches need to connect on Facebook. It may not lead to deep and meaningful relationships, but it is an access point for people to get connected. You can set up a church group on Facebook and encourage people to become fans.

What does this have to do with presentations? Well, your presentations are better if you are presenting to friends - if they can connect and interact with you on Facebook, that will give more power to your sermon on Sunday.

How do you connect with people?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dilbert


The PowerPoint Ninja has shared some Dilbert comics that refer to the software in question. Two things: 1) this is funny stuff with which most people can identify; 2) this is a barrier that you have to overcome with your congregants that have to suffer through this type of work environment. Many times people are bludgeoned by PowerPoint and don't want to experience the same thing at church.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Simlar Search in Google Images

Google has added a new feature to their image search that allows you to find similar images. So if you see something you like, you can click on the link below the image to find more like that. Very cool. This is a good way to find images that will work well for you.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cool images that communicate

From Slides that Stick comes this image where a pie chart has the data represented with images instead of colors. This is an eye-catching and thought-provoking way to represent the data.

What if in the next budget meeting, there was a pie chart that had pictures of benevolence, missionaries, church buildings, and salaried staff? Would that affect how you budget? Would that help people to realize where their money is going?

How else can we creatively visualize things so as to make a point?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Learn from the Pros

Two of the biggest names in presentations are Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds and they got together to answer some of the most common questions about presentations. Below is the first of three parts to this video. While what they say is not all directly applicable to the art of preaching, they do have a lot to teach us. I especially like the presentation matrix that Nancy shows. Where do your sermons fall on this matrix? What effect should that have on your work?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Windows 7 - first thoughts

I've been using Windows 7 for about a week now. I plunked down some green for the upgrade from Vista. Overall, I'm happy with the upgrade. 7 does some cool things that make me happier to use my computer. There are a few bugs and quirks that I am figuring out (like hibernation killing my fingerprint reader), but general operation is just as smooth as before, if not more so.

Some people have claimed performance increases over Vista. I haven't seen anything overtly noticeable on my machine in just normal use. I did do an in-place upgrade so I wouldn't have to reinstall all my software. Any OS will be faster after a clean install, so take that with the requisite portion of NaCl.

As for presentation stuff, I think Win7 might just have a few killer apps that will make you happy to get a new laptop with it installed. Pressing the Windows Key and 'P' will trigger an easy to understand selection of the display options (computer only, duplicate the display, extend the display, projector only). No more hunting and dinking and pressing Fn+f8 repeatedly while the audience is waiting for you to get started.

I also love, LOVE, the new taskbar. If the Mac and PC characters from the commercials had a baby. The cute kid would be the Win7 taskbar. It does the dock stuff that has been so cool on OSX, but it adds a Windows productivity twist. Jump-lists. If you right click on a program on the taskbar you will see a list of files recently opened by that program (just PowerPoint or Word, not all your recent documents). And you can pin certain files to the list, so say you are working on a PowerPoint presentation and you get to where you are going to present - just access the jumplist and find your file (or pin it there the night before the presentation to make it even easier). One step gets your presentation open and ready! So cool.

Am I gushing? I might be. I'll have more thoughts as I play with things, but my first impressions are favorable. I would say that if you bought your computer in the last year or so and don't plan to upgrade for a while, the Win7 upgrade might be a good move. If you are looking at getting a new machine in the next year or so, just wait and get Win7 preinstalled.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flame ON!

On the good ol' interwebs there's a thing called a "flame war". In discussion forums and on blog comments some people think it's fun to start a fight. They pick out some characteristic or something and attack. Relentlessly. It can be a frustrating experience to be on the receiving end of a flame attack. There's no reasoning with a troll (one who starts a flame war). They just enjoy getting a rise out of people and keeping the argument going.

This can happen in church too. Have you ever heard: "Some people have told me they don't like the use of PowerPoint"? The 'some people' tactic is usually just a way to make the critique anonymous. The criticizer is basically a troll. They are inciting an argument, complaining for the sake of complaining.

Sometimes, you just need to disengage. Ignore. You can never win a flame war. Ever. Some people just argue and complain. Sometimes you just need to ignore and move on. You can't keep everyone happy. Don't try.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween and other hollidays

There are a lot of different opinions about how Christians should interact with holidays. Halloween is one of the most contentious. Should we avoid dealing with evil things? Should we ignore? Should we descry? Should we embrace?

On the one hand, if we completely ignore what is going on in the world we risk becoming irrelevant. But if we completely embrace what the world is doing, we become just as irrelevant.

One thing I like is to interact with the holidays - how has Halloween shaped our culture? How has the church shaped Halloween? Within the conversation is our relevance. Our world is tired of authoritarian commands to think or feel a certain way. They are hungry for a chance to explore and discover for themselves how to think and feel.

Let's provide that opportunity.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Windows 7: should you or shouldn't you?


The new version of Windows came out last week. Windows 7 has received some of the best reviews of any Windows product . . . ever. Wired gives it 8 out of 10 filled in circle thingeys.

Microsoft's loyal customers are finally getting the operating system they deserve with Windows 7, and it was well worth the wait.

First, to provide full disclosure (as critics have requested in our previous Windows 7 write-ups) yes, I am indeed a Mac user. But until heading to college, I grew up on a steady diet of Windows. (I made the switch after a system crash that resulted in the loss of an enormous school project.) With that said, Windows 7 thoroughly wowed me, dissolving the grudge I've held against Microsoft for many years.

The latest OS from Microsoft delivers a truly next-generation interface that will transform the way we use our computers, while addressing a number of nagging issues that have turned off Windows users in the past. The Windows team deserves a round of applause.


I'm updating soon. I'll give you my thoughts once I've had some time behind the wheel. However, if the critics are to be believed, this is one upgrade you should make.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Wisdom from Seth

Seth Godin again shares some thoughts that are valuable for church leaders:
"Notice me"

If the new web has a mantra, that's it.

So much time and effort is now put into finding followers, accumulating comments and generating controversy... all so that people will notice you. People say and do things that don't benefit them, just because they're hooked on attention.

Attention is fine, as long as you have a goal that is reached in exchange for all this effort.

Far better than being noticed:

* Trusted
* Engaged with
* Purchased from
* Discussed
* Echoed
* Teaching us
* Leading



Sometimes our churches act like this. We preach, teach, worship, and serve just so people will notice us. What if, instead, churches become leaders in the community? What if churches facilitate discussion in the community?

Flashy, well produced images can get you noticed, but sometimes a simple picture of a family that is being helped can have greater impact.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Performance Affects Perception

I recently saw this article over on Wired and it is just fascinating to me.
In a study of 23 non-football athletes who each kicked 10 field goals, researchers found that players’ performance directly affected their perception of the size of the goal: After a series of missed kicks, athletes perceived the post to be taller and more narrow than before, while successful kicks made the post appear larger-than-life.


The article goes on to explain that after each kick the participants were asked to use a model to represent their view of the goal post.

Interestingly, the change in players’ perception didn’t just depend on how many goals they missed — it also mattered how they missed their goals. Folks who failed because they didn’t kick high enough perceived the crossbar to be taller, while those who kicked to the side viewed it as more narrow.


Things really do look different to us based on how we interact with them.

So what does this have to do with preaching? As we represent visuals we need to be aware that past experience affects the way people will perceive visual input. If you are wanting your church to reach out to the homeless, it will be difficult for them to overcome their past experience (mental disorders, rude, frightening) until they have a new experience. Take video of a homeless person in your town and interview them about their life. Share that with the church to begin to change their perceptions and start to change their actions.