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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Facebook Dos and Don'ts

Yes, I'm the popular social networking site: BookFace.

With all the talk recently about social media, I feel it's my duty to share some etiquette tips. If I've spurred you to join Facebook to become more connected to your congregation and to expand the impact of your ministry, please do so with some tact and respect.

Pace Yourself
Don't post more than five times a day, and don't post multiple times in a row. This ends up clogging up the news feeds of your friends and it gets annoying.

Keep the Apps to a Minimum
Facebook is chock full of apps and games and doodads that are mildly entertaining. They all give you the option of posting your activities to your news feed. Don't do it. Don't post your Farmville exploits or you Mafia Wars adventures, your friends who aren't playing those games will thank you.

Beware External Connection
Facebook now has a Facebook Connect feature so that when you like a video on Youtube or you read an article on a website it can post to your newsfeed. Don't do this very often. Reserve this for things that you really want to share with the world rather than every last little thing that piques your interest.

Post Real Status Updates
If you created a Facebook page to do a better job of connecting as a minister, that's great, but you can't just post status updates about ministry or the bible. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but you need to just be a real person. Post about your frustrations, your joys, and your favorite band. See what other people are posting and what gets comments. Think about what people want to know about you. If you only post ministry updates you will bore people and they will hide you or unfriend you (I know, trust me, I know).

What dos and don'ts do you have for Facebook?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Baby Boomers and Social Media

Art Rainer recently published the results of a study on how Baby Boomers use social media.

Two-thirds of boomers with internet access do not participate in social media at all and the highest participation is on Facebook, which claims 31% usage among this crowd. Over four-fifths of boomers have internet access, but they still have a preference to access information in a print format. And, the vast majority of boomers' time online is spent communicating with family.

Just a few thoughts:
You can still reach a significant chunk of boomers by being on Facebook. If millenials don't use Twitter and boomers don't use twitter, that basically leaves GenXers as the prime slice of Twitterers. When it comes to ministry, the personal touch still works best - print out the bulletin for your boomers.

Friday, August 27, 2010

iPad for Preaching - My Wish List

There has been a lot of interest in the iPad (affiliate link) as a tool for preaching and sermon preparation. The Logos 4 bible software is running on the iPad and doing a fine job of it. There are some controls for Keynote and a version of the Apple presentation software for the iPad, but right now they aren't quite ready for prime time.

According to Engadget, this Christmas will be full of tablet computers, not just the iPad, but Windows 7 tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, maybe even the HP Slate with WebOS which they acquired when the bought Palm.

Here's my wish list for a tablet that would be ideal for preaching (in no particular order):

  • Cross platform presentation support. I want to be able to control a Mac or a PC with my tablet.
  • Wireless connection to a computer that will run the presentation.
  • Slide preview, notes view, and a user-definable section for additional information (twitter feeds for people to respond to the sermon in real time for example).
  • Full file import and export control. I want to be able to save, copy, move, and edit files with my tablet.
  • Bible software integration. I don't need all of the commentaries from my full version of Logos, but I want the bible available on the tablet.
  • Full function sketch pad for drawing out storyboards of slides.
  • Docking and file sync that I don't have to think about. 
What would you add to the wish list?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

May the Force Be With You

Garr Reynolds over at Presentation Zen shared this view of presentations from (the greatest movie of all time) Star Wars. In 1977, eight years before PowerPoint was invented, George Lucas envisioned the communication of the future. Guess what, it wasn't clipart and bullet points. It was the essential data conveyed in images. The images filled out and completed the spoken message instead of competing with it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why No One is Reading Your Newsletter (Bulletin Article, Sermon Notes, etc.)

The Copy Blogger Blog (say that five times fast) shares some hard-hitting critique about why people aren't reading what you're writing. They're specifically talking about newsletters (which many ministers write), but this applies as well to blogs, bulletin articles, and sermon notes.

They share five points:
1. Your newsletter isn't helpful.
Don't just tell people what you want them to know, share what they need to hear.
2. Your voice isn't compelling.
Let your passion and your personality come through in the words you share.
3. You're not telling stories.
People connect with stories and they will feel connected to you if you share stories with them.
4. You have a half-hearted call to action.
I think we're afraid of offending people with a clear, passionate call to action.
5. You don't have a specific frequency.
Consistency builds trust.

Truth be told, I think the first four points could apply equally well to sermons that we preach. Whether it's a newsletter you're writing or a sermon you're preaching, there's a reason people are or are not paying attention.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PowerPoint Tips and Tricks continued

Over at the PowerPoint Ninja blog, they covered some tips on how to use the shadow effect in PowerPoint 2007 (and 2010) to make your slides pop.

You can find the shadow tools in the Image Format tab on the ribbon. For a simple drop shadow, you can click on the preset button (shown in the picture). If you want to tweak the specifics of the shadow you'll want to click on the Picture Effects menu just to the right of the presets. There you can adjust all the details of the shadow.

They bring up a good point about consistency with the shadows, if they are inconsistent then it will look funny and distract from your presentation.

PowerPoint ninjas ensure their shadows are consistent. Approach shadow effects as though the imaginary light source casting the shadow is always in the same position on the slide (e.g., top left corner). In other words, find a favorite style and use it consistently across your slides — same intensity, same angle.

What tips do you have for using shadows in your presentations?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The 2010 Social Networking Map

This is an absolutely fascinating image - it shows the number of users for different social media platforms as the size of countries on a map. Click the link above for the full size splendor. 

Facebook is smack in the middle with the largest population, that's no surprise. But I am surprised by Habbo, which I had never heard of before seeing this map. I love the way that the old social networks are fading away as the frontier moves on.

This is a fantastic example of how data can be conveyed using images for powerful effect. If I just put up the numbers you would see a few things, but you wouldn't notice the relationship between the blogging sites (around the Bay of Tags) or the vast expanse of wikis online. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Myth of the Internet Generation (part 5)

This week has been devoted to discussing an article found at Spiegel Online discussing the internet generation. Catch up with part 1, 2, 3, and 4.

For all the advantages the internet generation have with familiarity and ubiquity of the medium, they aren't all that good at using it.

And because teenagers are basically inexperienced, they are all the more likely to overestimate their own abilities. "They think they're the real experts," Scheppler says. "But when it comes down to it, they can't even google properly."

When they try to search for something they just start randomly typing keywords with no real logic or method. They often discard valid resources as they skim over the results. The overload of media have left the internet generation somewhat crippled in their ability to sort and categorize it.

When it comes to dealing with Scripture they are in, if anything, worse shape. They have very little facility with the books of the bible or the general layout of old and new testaments. When preaching to the internet generation it's essential to give them time and clues to find the passage on their own. This is one reason I oppose projecting scriptures. Though it's not always bad to show the verses on the screen, it serves to disembody the text of the sermon from the rest of the bible.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Myth of the Internet Generation (part 4)

This week I've been looking at a Spiegel Online article about the internet generation, get up to speed here, here and here.

So, how can we preach to a generation that is constantly media connected? How can we share the good news with people who don't really care what's going on outside their group of friends? Here are a few of my ideas (I'd love to hear yours).

Lose control. Don't be so attached to the idea that you get to create the meaning and teaching in your sermons. Provide opportunities for the meaning to be found by each person listening through conversation. If you can get young people talking about your sermon, you've made a huge impact.

Become one of their friends. Connect with people on their terms on their turf. Become friends with people on facebook or other social media. Have conversations (do not judge, do not condemn, just converse). Invite conversation through questions. Demonstrate that it's ok to have questions about God and faith through your own questioning. Be vulnerable and relatively open, that's an invitation for them to do the same.

Use conversational preaching to bring the discussion in from facebook to the sermon. I often start a conversation on facebook that is inspired by my sermon topic in order to get connected with what people are really thinking about it. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but commentary writers don't usually have their finger on the pulse of society.

How do you connect with the internet generation?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Myth of the Internet Generation (part 3)

This week I've been looking at an article found at Spiegel Online that discusses a study of the "internet generation." (catch up here and here)

One thing that is true of the internet generation is that they are connected most of the time. They are able to text, check facebook, and listen to music (and maybe watch TV) all at the same time. Though studies show they aren't actually multi-tasking, they are adept at switching between tasks very rapidly.

"I go online when I have nothing better to do," Jetlir says. "Unfortunately that's often when I should already be sleeping." Thanks to cell phones and MP3 players, young people can also fill gaps in their busy schedules even when they're away from static media sources like TVs, computers and music systems. Media use can therefore increase steadily while still leaving plenty of time for other activities.

Asking a young person to reduce their media consumption to one channel at a time for an extended period is going to be difficult. They are often forced to do so in school, but if we do the same thing in church, we're basically forcing them to go to school for another day.

How can sermons and preaching encourage and sanctify the constant connection of the internet generation?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Myth of the Internet Generation (part 2)

Yesterday I mentioned the article at Spiegel Online about the Internet Generation. There are certain aspects of the internet that just don't connect with younger people. Young people just don't go there and have no desire to do so.

Indeed, Jetlir does not actually expect very much from the Internet. Older generations may consider it a revolutionary medium, enthuse about the splendors of blogging and tweet obsessively on the short-messaging service Twitter. But Jetlir is content if his friends are within reach, and if people keep uploading videos to YouTube. He'd never dream of keeping a blog. Nor does he know anybody else his age who would want to. And he's certainly never tweeted before. "What's the point?" he asks.

The social media of Twitter and Blogging does almost nothing to reach people under the age of about 25. They just don't see it. We older folks (I'm 32) may love blogging and tweeting, but our messages there don't do much to reach the people who've grown up with the internet. They would rather text their friends than tweet to the world. They have almost no interest in producing content for general audiences.

How can we be sure to connect with this crowd? What preaching techniques will show them the good news?

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Myth of the Internet Generation (part 1)

German publication, Spiegel Online, reports about the a recent study of the internet generation, those who have lived their whole lives with the internet. The findings are somewhat shocking when compared to the expectations of some people.

Futurists predict based on trajectory; they see the current state of the world and project into the future what will be the result. It's similar to predicting profits for next year based on a company's performance this year. The problem is that we've never seen a generation like this. Predictions may be out the window.

"Young people have now reached this turning point. The Internet is no longer something they are willing to waste time thinking about. It seems that the excitement about cyberspace was a phenomenon peculiar to their predecessors, the technology-obsessed first generation of Web users."
It's similar to obsession with any technology that has come into one's life - seeing the dawn of television, or cell phones, makes the technology that much more amazing, but when they are part of the fabric of existence, they become as commonplace as the last greatest thing . . . sliced bread.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Conversational Preaching

Conversation is a powerful way to connect people. We don't normally sit and listen to one person lecture while everyone else is quite. Unless we're in church or school the normal mode of human operation is conversation. One person will share something and then a group will discuss it. Somehow we've gotten into this lecture/scholastic mode in churches where the sermon time is supposed to be the authoritative word to all the people in the church. What if it's not?

What if sermons are more conversational?

I first came across this idea when I read the book Preaching ReImagined by Doug Pagit. He suggested getting a group of people together to help plan a sermon. Basically the sermon would take shape in a small group setting and then get shared with the church. I've also read about churches that integrate Twitter and texting into the sermon process so the church can offer live feedback to the preacher during the sermon.

In my experience, though, the best way to have a conversation during a sermon is to just have a conversation during a sermon. I learned a lot about this from Ron Clark at the Agape Church of Christ. We would just have times of questions and sharing during the service and during the sermon. Some of the best conversation came over discussing the meaning of religious art.

Do you try to have conversational preaching? How do you do it?

(affiliate link, I earn a small commission on any purchases through this link)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Social Media and Ministry (part 2)

Ron Edmondson recently posted "7 Reasons You Need Social Media as a Christian Leader" which is a great read. One of the points he brings up is that using social media is more efficient than traditional methods of contacting people:
Wise use of time. People think the opposite is true, but the reality is that social media makes me more effective. I have a heart to influence people for good. As pastor of a large church I’m expected to minister to large groups of people. Social media allows me to make a difference more efficiently.
What do you think about that? Is updating Facebook a better use of time than calling the members of the church?

In other news, I've been thinking about adding Facebook Connect to this blog to cross promote my different social media voices. Have you done this? What do you think?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is Media Making Us Dumber or Smarter?

Steven Pinker wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times in which he defends mass media against its critics. He points out that every new form of media has met with fierce criticism, and that ultimately the critics have been wrong.
"Media critics write as if the brain takes on the qualities of whatever it consumes, the informational equivalent of “you are what you eat.” As with primitive peoples who believe that eating fierce animals will make them fierce, they assume that watching quick cuts in rock videos turns your mental life into quick cuts or that reading bullet points and Twitter postings turns your thoughts into bullet points and Twitter postings."
I think the same is true in the church. We don't like change, we don't like it when new things come along and force us to think in new ways, so we often descry them as bad or wrong. The truth is that the media isn't bad, the way in which we deliver information can't really be good or bad, but it's the content delivered that is the most important thing.

Have you had a conversation about whether using media in church is good or bad? What's your take on the issue?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sketch it First

I love creating images and presentations in PowerPoint, but it can be incredibly helpful to sketch it first. Get an idea of what you want your presentation to look like with a few simple pen-strokes rather than opening up the photo editing software right away. I use my Moleskine Ruled Notebook Large (affiliate link*) for most of my sermon planning and sketching. It's just about the same size as my bible and the elastic band allows me to tuck a pen in with it. I can take this with me anywhere and work on sermon preparation.

When I sit down with the computer I can get distracted pretty easily. I can jump from image to image without any real direction or purpose. When I have my bible and notebook open though, I can focus on the task at hand. Just so you know, my sketches aren't pretty, usually they are stick-figures, but it gives me an idea of what I'm wanting to do.

*If you purchase through this link I will earn a small commission from the purchase.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Juxtaposition: The Power of Position

Slashdot highlighted a great photographic experiment recently: "Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov has taken old World War II photos and photoshopped them over the locations in present day. The scenes from places like Prague, Vienna, and Moscow are incredibly well done and a neat way to appreciate history." I'm very impressed with the way that the images powerfully compare life now with life 65 years ago.

How would you show the changes in the life of your church?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Don't Just Clean, Organize

Sometimes simple, recognizable images can convey a message more powerfully than words. When Jesus talks about the evil spirit coming back to find the home clean and well swept, that's a good image. But seeing a mess that has been cleaned is powerful. Then, if we take what Jesus said to be advice we see that he's telling us to not just avoid evil, but to replace evil with good in our lives. Don't just clean up the mess, organize it and make it work for good.
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." Matthew 12:43-45

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Where We've Come From

Newsweek recently posted a graphic that shows some significant changes in the past ten years (and some not so significant changes). In 2000 there were 12,000 blogs but today there are 141 million. Google searches have jumped from 100 million to 2 billion per day. Time spent online has climbed from 2.7 to 18 hours a week. Number of text messages has gone from 400,000 to 4.5 billion. Daily newspapers and CD revenue have declined significantly, however.

The point is that change is upon us. The transformation in the way we use and interact with technology is progressing at a pace unseen in the course of human history. In order to preach well, we need to be masters of an ancient text written in dead languages in a foreign culture and be able to communicate to a generation that is comfortable texting, chatting, emailing, watching tv, and listening to music - at the same time. No one said this job would be easy.

The answer isn't just using technology. You can't just start a church web site or facebook page and be successful. You need to understand the new language of technology. It's very similar to learning Greek to translate the New Testament - in order to really get the sense of the meaning you need to understand the culture as well. Spend time learning about this new world, this new language of technology so you can speak the eternal message of the Good News.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Perfect Handshake and Other Dangers to Society

Chevrolet commissioned a team of scientists to discover the perfect handshake formula. It's: "PH = √ (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + π{(42)(4
2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(42 )(42)}2" And now you know. Go forth and do likewise.

The developed this formula for their car sales people to be able to build trust with potential customers. Now that they know what to do your wallet will never be safe. Or something like that.

The reality is that knowing about something is a far cry from knowing something. The elements of a perfect handshake are: eye contact, verbal greeting, smile, complete grip, dry hand, strength, position, temperature, texture, vigor, and control. All of those things are important elements to a perfect handshake, but just knowing that won't allow anyone to execute the handshake.

The reality is that knowing how to preach a perfect sermon is a far cry from preaching a perfect sermon. You can read all the books in the world and even develop a formula that describes what a perfect sermon looks like, but it takes the practice and confidence of doing it to make it a reality.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Audience Connection Leads to Brain Sync highlighted a recent brain science experiment that tracked the connection between listeners and speakers. "Brain scans of a speaker and listener showed their neural activity synchronizing during storytelling. The stronger their reported connection, the closer the coupling." They used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to track the blood flow in the brains of the speakers and listeners during The Princeton researchers found out that when the participants reported a strong feeling of connection during the conversation their brains would light up in the same regions. Rather than using different regions for speaking and listening, the neurons were more closely associated with the shared experience.

When you preach, if you develop a strong connection with your church, they will literally think like you think. This can be a fantastic benefit for conveying the complex themes found in Scripture. The difficulty is that we need to first connect with people. The spoken word is a powerful tool for affecting the brains and lives of people, but the connection is paramount.

How do you connect with your church?

Online Photo Editing:

Update: As of April 19, 2012, Google is closing down Picnik. It was fun while it lasted.

I recently heard about the online photo editing tool so I decided to give it a try. I played with a picture that should be familiar to regular blog readers. In picnik you are able to upload, edit, and save your picture back to your computer. You don't have to sign up for an account or use their online storage (this is a huge plus in my book). The process was fast and simple, yet with powerful tools. I was able to crop, adjust the exposure, color, and sharpness of the image. They also have a red-eye tool, but that didn't apply to this image.

I was impressed by how fast and simple picnik is to use, there was very little waiting between actions and when I clicked "Undo" it was instantaneous. If you need to edit some photos for your next presentation, but Photoshop isn't in the budget, then consider using picnik. It's a great, free tool.

Compare to the original, un-edited photo below.