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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
Relevant and

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, and Biblical 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


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.