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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


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


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 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 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 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


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.