December 26, 2007

Office Live demo

I mentioned Office Live Workspace last week.  Robert Scoble posted a video interview/demo that shows the possibilities.  I signed up on the wait list tonight.  I'm eager to check it out.

Open ID

I've posted previously about social networking and the church, focusing particularly on the issue of identity because I believe it's among the first technical issues to be addressed to make these efforts successful.  Every social networking site in the world (and many other sites) require you to create an account to use the site.  As Internet users create more and more online accounts, at some point fatigue sets in.  I believe some users have already hit their limit.  Clearly, this model isn't scalable.  In the previous post I referred to Dave Winer's idea that Twitter might become a de facto identity system.

Now I call your attention to OpenID, an open source identity system which aims to become the standard.  You can watch a brief demo of OpenID here.  (Thanks to Matt for directing me to the demo.)

I made the mistake of going to OpenID.com and creating an ID there.  When I tried to use that ID to log in to Plaxo, it errored out.  I have no idea what OpenID.com is, but don't use it to create an ID.  Next I tried MyOpenID.comSee my ID here.  It works, but I can't say it's ready for prime time.  The Personna feature seems like a great idea, but at this point isn't simple and intuitive enough for a noob like me.

Of course, one of the selling points of OpenID is that you don't need to go to a provider like MyOpenID at all.  People with a tiny bit of HTML ability can make their own.  Also, I understand everyone on LiveJournal.com already has an OpenID automatically as part of that service.  Google's Blogger service is also now accepting OpenID authentication. 

Bottom line: this technology is very early in the maturity/adoption curve, but it has definite possibilities.  Keep an eye on it.

He preached all six services

On Monday I blogged about our Christmas Eve services and mentioned that Adam had the flu. Today, Adam posted the full story. He explained that he was up all night and only napped a couple of hours Monday morning. With help from the medical team, he was able to preach all six services, finishing up around 12:45 am Tuesday. God intervened in a big way. Total attendance at both campuses for all services was 22,000+.

My own Christmas Eve was, thankfully, quite uneventful by comparison. Did some work in the morning, bought one last gift, ran sound and graphics for Living Water's service, went out for some uvula-burning India food, went back to Living Water to set up graphics for this coming Sunday service when I'll be out of town, returned home, cleaned house a bit, wrapped some presents, and went to bed at 1:00 am, before the annual replay of the papal Christmas mass was even over. I hope your Christmas Eve was equally calm.

December 24, 2007

That's a lotta services!

Every year Resurrection has to adjust its Christmas Eve service plans as the day of the week changes.  Several years ago we started having services the night before Christmas Eve ("Christmas Eve Eve").  Our senior pastor encouraged church members to attend Eve Eve to leave more seats available at prime times on Eve.

This year, since Eve Eve landed on a Sunday night when we normally have a regular weekend service at 5:00, plans were adjusted accordingly.  We decided to add a Sunday night service and make our regular Saturday night service a Christmas Eve service too.  Plus we added a service on Eve.  So this year we have one service on Saturday night (Eve Eve Eve), two on Sunday night (Eve Eve), and six today (Eve).  Our service times today are 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, 9:00, and 11:00.  And yes, Adam Hamilton is preaching all nine services!  Of course, we also have two services at Rez West, but those are by video so Adam doesn't have any extra work for them.  ;-) 

UPDATE:  I just heard Adam has a flu bug and received IV fluids this morning.  If that's the case, he's in no condition to preach six times today.  Things are getting interesting.  I wonder if Adam has an understudy ...

As for me, things are very quiet in IT. We tend to use this time to catch up on e-mail, blogging, inventorying our desktops and laptops - lots of stuff that tends to slide toward the bottom of our priority list.  I'll be leaving soon to go be the A/V tech for Living Water at our one and only Christmas Eve service at 5:00. Life is much simpler when you're averaging 40 in worship!

To all of you who have church responsibilities tonight, be sure you don't miss Christmas yourself.  Merry Christmas!

Colossians 3:15-17 (New International Version)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Will I see penguins?

Yes.  On our upcoming trip to South Africa I'm told we will see the famous colony of "Jackass" penguins in the Cape Town area at Boulder's Beach.  Maybe I'll take some pictures.

December 22, 2007

Office Live Workspace

We've used Google Docs to collaborate on our Internet Campus project.  The ease of creating a document and having multiple, simultaneous users editing is quite impressive.  However, maybe it's just me, but I have found it difficult to precisely control the formatting (this isn't unique to Google Docs, it's true of every HTML editor I've used including Outlook).

So now Microsoft has announced Office Live Workspace.  If it has the same ease of use as Google Docs but allows precise formatting using Word, it could be the best of both worlds.

December 07, 2007

The Golden Compass - Last Statement

Thanks to those for their comments on my previous and related post.

Well, I posted on the topic for two reasons. 1. There is much disagreement about it, and 2. I hope readers will do their own research and reach their own decision. :)

I read Kim's post that Bob referred to, and I'll say that Kim is very well written.

In my heart, I still believe that paying money to see the movie is making a donation to the cause of an atheist who targets children in attempt to sway them away from God. If you pay your money to see the movie, keep in mind this may be exactly what your doing.

I think this world would be better served, if rather than seeing this movie, people donated $10 and one and three quarter hours to a local mission. Spend quality time with someone who desperately needs it.

I also think using an inherently atheist tool to teach anyone about who God is or is not seems a dangerous method. Go battle the materialistic idolatry of the world, not an image of God that represents those things. Let G-o-d be as he always is.

Lastly, I'll say that my position on this was formed from the references I mentioned, and other additional resources. I hope you read the posts and their comments, do your own research, and feel better informed to make your own decision. ;)

December 06, 2007

Hannah Montana

Last month Blaine Barry, an intern on our Student Ministry staff, died of brain cancer.  His small group includes Chuck Russell and Traci Bazzelle of our staff.  They helped organize a group of volunteers to work at Kansas City's new downtown arena, selling merchandise at the Hannah Montana concert on Monday night, to benefit Blaine's family, which is left with a lot of medical and funeral expenses. 

After waffling a week or two, I finally stepped up and volunteered, not having any idea what sort of adventure awaited.  My kids are too old for Hannah Montana to be on my radar.  (Before Monday night the only thing I knew about her stemmed from the national news media's coverage of the the controversy surrounding ticket sales for her concerts.)  I knew nothing of the TV show, her music, or anything.  For example, did you know that Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus are the same person?  I could go on and on telling you the things I learned Monday night, but I'll spare you that!

I was assigned to selling programs and other little stuff at a cash only station.  I personally grossed approximately $2,300 for the night.  At one point I had $2,000 in cash on me, which kind of freaked me out because it's the most cash I've ever had in my possession at one time.  The retail manager of the arena said he expected to gross $400,000 on merchandise.  From the experience of our group, we'd guess he beat that number.  Add in ticket sales and concessions and you're up to something in the neighborhood of $1.4 million gross for the entire event.  Does that seem a bit out of control to you? 

The people I interacted with were well behaved, excited to be there, and seemed to be having a great time.  In a small way, I was part of the Hannah phenomenon while serving the community and benefiting Blaine's family.  Not bad for a night's work.

Hannah Montana concert

Good idea, Nick

After seeing my post about dinner at Rendezvous last night, Nick Nicholaou said we should go to The Commissary.  Alfred saw Nick's comment and took us there for lunch!  We thought we were coming to Memphis for a very important meeting with Shelby, but really it was for a barbeque tour.  The meeting has been almost incidental.  ;-)

IMAGE_101

l to r: Mark White, Brian, me, Travis, Alfred, Jeff Maddox of Shelby, and Steve Pruitt of Shelby

David Drinnon also commented that we should go to Corky's.  That's a good idea too, but since I've been there several times before, I'm glad we did something different this time.

I only hope I'll still fit in an airline seat for the flight home tonight!

Arena implementation planning

Brian, Travis, and I are in Memphis to meet with the Arena team to begin planning our implementation.  We are going to begin the process of detailed gap analysis tomorrow.  We're also hoping to go home with the first draft of our implementation timeline, including a target "go live" date. 

Before getting down to serious business, we started with dinner tonight at Memphis' landmark rib joint, Rendezvous.  The ribs are prepared with a dry rub.  Sauce - regular or spicy - is added at the table.  It was a great way to kick off our work on Arena.  Thanks, Alfred!Resurrection and Arena at Rendezvous

l to r: Mark White of Shelby, Travis, Brian, and Alfred Johnson of Shelby

December 05, 2007

IE7 woes

Seems I'm not the only one who has abandoned IE7 after initially being a supporter. I switched to Firefox and Google Reader over the summer when my IE7 feeds stopped updating and I couldn't figure out why. Now that I've been using Firefox for several months, I can say I've become a total convert. It's faster, more stable, and easier to use. As for Google Reader, it's fine but I can think of a lot of ways it could be better. In any case, I think it says a lot that I tried Firefox several times but always stuck with IE until a few months ago. Now that I've switched, it will be a long time before I switch back.

November 27, 2007

The Golden Compass

I'm assuming most of you have heard of movie 'The Golden Compass' by now, since it has made the morning news, at least here in Kansas City. My thanks go to Phillip Pullman for giving me something to blog about. :)

I first heard about this movie through a chain e-mail referencing snopes.com. Earlier this week my wife saw the trailer on television and said, "Ooo. We have to go see that!" I messed up and in a knee jerk reaction said, "No, we're not." Doh! Yeah ... that doesn't work with my wife. So I get the look, we "discuss," and I try to explain how the writer is a devoted atheist who purportedly targets children in attempt to "kill God" in their minds. She argued that it was just a fantasy movie, and no worse than The Devinci Code, which we did watch. It's just a movie. Hmm. I still disagree on some levels, but she has a point in whether or not we go watch the movie.

So after this morning's newscast mentioning it, I was pushed to learn why an Archbishop would support the movie, which has been touted as "anti-Catholic." Williams even goes so far as to say the book should be taught in schools! I found this online article. Wow. What a world we live in where educators are trying to throw religion out of schools, and Archbishops are trying to get atheism in them.

Now, little of this seems to be hearsay, if you believe the sources and the source's sources. So why on earth would you condone and support a movie "watered down ... so as not to offend faithful moviegoers in the United Kingdom and United States" thats center is in an anti-religious theme written by a professed atheist whos purpose in life is to convince children that God is false?!?!? All for the sake of keeping an open mind? Wha ... bu ... huh?

Ultimately, no one is going to affect whether or not people go see the movie. For the first time though, I find myself with pretty strong convictions to boycott this movie. It is just a movie, but I can't rationalize away the guilt I'd feel by supporting it.

November 22, 2007

Why it's difficult for IT to love Apple

I've posted before regarding the difficulty we've faced when needing service, tech support, or parts for our Macs. With time and experience I think we're learning to cope better, but Apple's service still isn't remotely comparable to Dell's. We pay hundreds for AppleCare, yet it doesn't include on-site service like we get bundled at no extra charge with our Dells. This is definitely a reason it's hard for us to love Apple, but I think it's not the biggest reason.

Given that Apple is such a strong company in design, engineering, and innovation, why are my main emotions toward them disappointment, irritation, and frustration?

Earlier this week Robert Scoble gave a great answer to this question: Apple over-promises and under-delivers. In reality, I think Apple probably delivers as well or nearly as well as any top-tier computer company. The problem is that it promises so much more. The arrogance is what sticks in my craw. If they were to compete humbly, recognizing their shortcomings and working hard to overcome them, they would earn my respect and I'd be likely to cut them some slack. As it is, every time we have a Mac issue, I'm freshly irritated by Apple's consistent, brazen promise that their stuff never breaks. Thank you Scoble for articulating so well this nagging sense I've had for a long time. Now I know I'm not alone in that.

November 19, 2007

Why Church Tech Matters

Flash back to last Wednesday. I'm working on my workshop proposal for MinistryTECH and I think of a related blog conversation earlier this year. Jim Walton's blog, Church Tech Matters, was at the heart of that conversation (posts, comments, and links to other blogs). So I go to Church Tech Matters to refresh myself on the conversation and I find nothing but an error message where Jim's blog ought to be. No posts, no comments, no blog at all. Oh no! So I wait and keep hitting F5 on my browser hoping to see it all return so I can finish my little project. The error messages keep changing, which tells me that Jim must be aware of the issue and working to resolve it. Then I start seeing posts from Jim about what happened and what he and Mary are doing to restore everything. I feel bad for Jim, but mainly I just want the blog to be back! (How selfish is that?)

I couldn't finish my workshop proposal for Terrell because Jim's blog was down. Is this not a weird world in which we live? Thankfully, Jim and Mary have fully restored everything now so I can get back to my proposal and Terrell won't have to wait much longer. Thanks Jim for your tireless efforts to restore it because Church Tech Matters really does matter!

November 10, 2007

Why most conferences suck and why the CITRT doesn't

Dave Winer:  "... the problem with most conferences is that except for the people putting it on, we don't have enough to do."

Dave's job for the next conference he attends:  "My job is to help get a flow of interesting pictures from the community to appear on the big screen on stage ..."

This reminded me of our blog post aggregator we had running on the big screen at the RoundTable. Any blogger there could post and it would show up on the screen within 5 minutes or so.  We're ahead of everyone on this stuff, even Dave Winer.  Cool!

Personal retreat

I took a 24-hour personal retreat at Tall Oaks on Monday.  While there I read Ephesians and Colossians as part of a study I'm doing on ecclesiology in connection with preliminary work on Resurrection's Internet Campus

I planned the retreat for early November because it's typically near the peak of Fall color here in the Kansas City area.  Sure enough, the trees were spectacular and God provided an equally spectacular day for me to enjoy them.  The day was completely cloudless with temperature in the high 50s.  I shot nearly 90 pictures.  Here are a few of my favorites.

IMG_1293-webIMG_1300-web  IMG_1297-web IMG_1332-web

Andrew Conard also posted about a day he took at Tall Oaks a couple of days before me.  In his post he explains the origin of these one-day personal retreats for staff.

November 08, 2007

It's Arena

This afternoon our executive management unanimously approved my recommendation to go with Shelby Arena as our new church management system. Here are some of the high-level features and benefits that attracted us to Arena as compared to Shelby V5 that we're running now:
  • Web-based – access from anywhere with improved usability
  • Greatly improved management reporting
  • Improved congregant connection and re-connection process
  • Improved management of confidential notes about people
  • Improved management of prayer requests
  • Integrated event registration
  • Integrated small group management
  • Integrated mapping of households
  • On-line giving
At the end of the day, our decision was strongly influenced by Arena's .NET platform, the ability to get the source code and create our own extensions and modifications, and the Arena Community. Though it's still based on commercial, for-profit technology, the Arena Community represents a very promising first step toward the open ChMS marketplace I spoke about last year. Although there are many ways the Community can get off track and ultimately fail to reach its potential, the opportunity to get involved in this is just too compelling to ignore.

Alfred, it's going to be an adventure. Let's hope to have some fun along the way too, if that's not too much to ask. ;-)

ChMS selection coming to a close

This afternoon I meet with Resurrection's executive management team to present my recommendation for our next church management system (ChMS). I've already spoken with the vendors regarding my choice. As soon as it's official this afternoon, I'll post about the decision.

Until then, let me just say that ChMS suppliers truly are our partners in ministry. They care passionately about the local church and its role in the Kingdom of God. We couldn't do ministry without them. At the beginning of this I knew that I would be making one of them happy and disappointing everyone else. To their credit, all of those we didn't pick have been extraordinarily gracious.

The most surprising thing I've learned through this process is how other churches our size, churches that are thriving and making an impact in the community and world, churches that I respect with IT staffs I respect, can use very well planned and well executed selection processes and end up making different choices of ChMS. When we IT directors discuss this subject privately, it seems we all pretty much agree with each other's analysis, yet our conclusions are different. I believe that's partly because we have different selection criteria or place different priorities on the various criteria. For myself, I think this is good news for the ChMS marketplace and for the Kingdom. It's quite valuable for us to have multiple healthy competitors, each with its own strengths.

If you're in the process of selecting a ChMS, don't copy our selection. Rather, I would strongly encourage you to use a very rigorous selection process so that you can proceed confidently with your implementation. If you get the selection process right, then you will make the right decision. Simple as that. If it would help you, we're happy to share documents or any other aspects of our selection process with anyone who requests them.

November 07, 2007

PC shipments are down in Japan

According to MSNBC, PC sales are declining in Japan due to consumers preferring handheld devices and other electronics. If the trend continues and spreads beyond Japan, we will look back on this as a sea change. How well does your church website work on a smartphone/PDA?

Everyone is talking about OpenSocial

I hate being so busy that I don't have time to read everything being said about OpenSocial, much less comment on it. Check out:

Jim Walton - OpenSocial - A Facebook Killer?
Cynthia Ware - OpenSocial Challenges Facebook’s Platform
Joe Suh - More Interoperability in Social Networking
Dave Winer - Why Google launched OpenSocial

All of this relates to my prior comments about interoperability among social networking systems.

If OpenSocial is actually implemented by all of the sites that announced support, it will be a way for churches to reach people through multiple sites in a single application. That would be very significant.

October 30, 2007

25th anniversary

My 25th wedding anniversary is next summer, so Laura and I have been giving some thought to how we should celebrate. She loves tropical places and I love the mountains. The big island of Hawaii comes to mind as a place that would fit both of those. ;-)

Image my dismay when Laura came to me and said she thought we should celebrate our anniversary by going to Africa on a mission trip. Somehow, that seemed less romantic than ... well less romantic than almost anything. She said she had been feeling a pull to go to Africa for a couple of years. She is in regular e-mail correspondence with a couple of pastors of rural churches in Tanzania and Kenya. And of course we have Bill Hybels and Bono to thank for reminding us of Africa's AIDS crisis at least once a year! Before I knew it, Laura was putting down a deposit, gathering our passports, and making appointments to get immunizations.

Cape Town here we come

Yes, we're going to Cape Town, South Africa in January to learn about apartheid, visit AIDS clinics and orphanages, and meet people on the front lines of mission work there. We will be going with a group of professors, students, and alumni of Laura's seminary, Saint Paul School of Theology. Oh yeah, I have to enroll in the associated "immersion course" and pay the tuition too (but all I'll have to show for it is a couple of CEUs).

My arm is still sore from the Hep. A immunization I got last week. This is fun already!

October 29, 2007

Workplace profanity boosts morale

TechRepublic points us to a British study which concluded that workplace profanity can boost morale. Huh? For me, a completely profanity-free workplace is a huge benefit of working on a church staff, although we do allow the occasional minced oath for comic effect. ;-) We even sang a song in staff chapel with the word "freaking" in the lyrics (Words to Build a Life On from Jacob's Well here in Kansas City).

Foldera

Has anyone out there checked out Foldera? Does this technology address in any way Tony's series of posts about document management? For this to be useful, would it have to be integrated with Google Docs and Gmail?

October 27, 2007

Chuck Russell interview

Earlier this week Matt Carlisle of Big Heart Design did a phone interview with Chuck Russell, Resurrection's Director of Internet Communications, and edited it into a podcast. If you want to know more of the thinking behind our recent website redesign, you'll find this 41-minute podcast fascinating.

Viral stewardship campaign

Resurrection is in the middle of the annual campaign to get pledges for the next year's operating fund. I've personally been involved in a lot of data analysis and list generation for the different segments in our target. Since I have fund raising on the brain right now, Katya Andresen's post yesterday about convincing people to support your cause (church) caught my eye. She said:
Since nice is not enough, you’ve got to answer all of these for your supporters:

1. Why me? Why should people care about you, and how are you revelant [sic] to their lives, their values, their priorities?
2. What for? What do they personally get out of supporting you and what social good will result?
3. Why now? What’s so urgent about your appeal? Why should people act now?
4. Who says? How credible is the messenger? Who thinks this is worthwhile?
Her point #4 sparked a thought. I wonder if there is a way to get the lead donors of the congregation involved in encouraging others to give. Could we come up with some kind of viral campaign so that the message is coming from fellow congregants rather than the senior pastor and staff? Hmmm ...

October 26, 2007

Trip report

Monday through Wednesday this week the senior staff of Resurrection took a bus trip to visit Willow Creek and Granger. Andrew Conard, one of our pastors, blogged the trip well. He began with a post about the Willow Creek visit, then a post about the Granger visit, and finally a post explaining the purpose of the trip and some questions we considered after visiting Willow Creek and Granger. Adam Hamilton, our senior pastor, also talked about the trip in his weekly e-mail to the congregation.

It was great to see Jason Powell on Tuesday, even though we only had 90 minutes together. He seemed a bit stressed and was last seen mumbling to himself about budgets! At Resurrection our first draft budget for 2008 is due next Friday, November 2, so I can relate. Later we had a tour of Granger's facilities. Jason and Ed were no where to be found, but I did meet Kyle Sagarsee, their new desktop guy. He was prepping a bunch of Optiplex 745 boxes loaded with Vista. I think it's a bit brave to run Vista at this point, but Kyle seemed happy with it in spite of the fact that he has no way to image the drives so he has to build them one-by-one. Eeek!

The highlight of the whole trip for me was the Q&A with Bill Hybels. I'm always intrigued, challenged, and inspired by Bill's ideas. This time was no exception even though he had nothing prepared and just responded to our questions.

I appreciated the extensive time on the bus to talk with fellow senior staff people in groups of 2-3. Normally on our retreats we have a lot of agenda to cover. This time we had a total of 23 hours on the bus and only 3-4 hours of it were scheduled activities. That was nice.

I have had more extensive and in-depth tours of Willow Creek and Granger in the past, so I didn't learn much of anything new, but discussing a church site visit with all of the senior staff was a special experience that sparked a lot of strategic conversation. I hope we do it again and I would recommend it to other churches. It would be great to return the generous hospitality we received at Willow Creek and Granger to other churches on a similar trip.

13 questions

Some time ago I stumbled across TechRepublic's 13 questions to help you evaluate how you're doing as an IT manager. It's challenging and helpful for me to review every month or two. Here they are:
  1. Technology changes everyday. Can you list three examples of things you’re doing to keep your technical knowledge current?
  2. Your boss has a family emergency that’s going to keep him or her out of the office for a week. Your boss can call only one person to keep things running until he or she returns. Are you the one who gets that phone call? If so, why? If not, why not?
  3. What specific steps have you taken over the past six months to either increase the performance of the bottom 20 percent of your staff or to move them to positions where they can be successful?
  4. When was the last time you talked with the account reps for your three largest vendors?
  5. What specific steps have you taken over the past six months to keep your star performers on board and motivated?
  6. If your group services internal clients, what do they think of the work your department is doing? Are you guessing or have you actually asked them in the last 30 days?
  7. If you suddenly get sick, do you have a subordinate you could trust to keep things moving until you get back?
  8. When was the last time you checked on the financial stability of the outsourcing firms you use?
  9. Do you know which of your department’s projects is furthest behind schedule? Do you know why?
  10. Consider your direct reports. Does each of them know what your top three priorities are for them?
  11. Consider your boss. When was the last time he or she asked you to take over a special project? If it’s been more than six months, why do you think that is?
  12. Can you list three things you’re doing to help HR with recruitment or retention?
  13. Personal networking is important for you and your organization. What professional associations do you belong to, and how active are you in them?

Final two RoundTable posts

I waited a few weeks to see if anyone else would post more about the RoundTable. Just two more have appeared. I'm linking them here so I have all of them in one place. (I still have a huge smile on my face from the event. Thanks everyone, it was really, really cool!)

Tony Dye:
http://tonydye.typepad.com/main/2007/10/fall-citrt-pers.html
http://tonydye.typepad.com/main/2007/10/roundtable-phot.html

October 23, 2007

Rolling hotspot

I'm with the senior staff of Resurrection on a bus trip to visit Willow Creek and Granger. My phone has EVDO and will work as a modem. But being the geek that I am, I just had to give my fellow staff way for them to also have Internet access during the 9-hour bus rides there and back. Fortunately, I have an EVDO-WiFi router I bought for my wife's church a few months ago.


The only thing I needed was a source of AC power. I called the bus company to inquire. No, they didn't have any outlets on the bus. Fortunately again, a few years ago I bought a 600 watt inverter that would do the trick. But then I worried about whether the driver would want to use the cigarette lighter outlet for his cell phone, GPS, or whatnot. Just to be safe, I bought a cigarette lighter Y adapter providing one socket for me and one for him!


Guess what? It worked! Here's my laptop browsing your favorite blog!


Here's my boss, Brent (right) being goofy while Andrew Conard blogs using his Mac.


Molly enjoying the WiFi:


I should also mention that Ian helped troubleshoot a problem this morning by connecting to Dave's RDP session. It was Ian's first help desk call to a moving bus!


One problem, though. I found out that a WiFi router uses quite a bit of power. When I added one laptop to the 600 watt inverter it was okay. When I plugged in a second laptop, the inverter screamed at me and shut down the router. So we have enough power for the router and one laptop. Everyone else needs to run off of battery!

October 20, 2007

Digital Ethnography

Tonight I'm thinking a lot about Kansas State University's "Digital Ethnography" program and the light it sheds on our Internet Campus strategy. If you haven't see them, check out these videos:

October 18, 2007

Church Community Builder responds

Chris Fowler, president of Church Community Builder, responded to my concerns this evening as follows:
I wanted to let you know that after speaking with multiple people yesterday and today about this issue, I heard lots of differing opinions - some saying we were doing smart optimizations, other saying some of what we intended to be optimization for search engines could be considered "borderline". After praying about it and getting that counsel, what I decided to do was to be "above reproach". I appreciate the fact that you were willing to communicate with me through these channels one on one. Thank you for being "iron sharpening iron". Changes have already been made at this point for the home page, but we will also be making changes to the footer over the next 24 hours or so on the non-home pages.

SEO gone awry

My wife's church is in the market for a web-based ChMS, so I thought I'd check out Church Community Builder. Imagine my surprise to discover questionable search engine optimization (SEO) on their home page.

First, notice the obvious keyword stuffing on the right side of the page. Then, look in the barely-readable footer and notice more keyword stuffing.

Second, turn off CSS and notice that the keywords are enclosed in h1 tags. Those aren't titles at all and they're being obscured by clever use of CSS. In my view, it's a form of cloaking to put h1 tags around things that aren't titles, making them appear huge and important to search engine crawlers, while using CSS to make those things appear small and unimportant to humans. This is the most concerning thing I see on the page.

Finally, while it's not a bad SEO technique per se, I have a negative impression of any company or organization that tries to optimize for competitors' company names and product names. This is certainly something we wouldn't engage in ourselves. That is, we wouldn't try to optimize our site to capture people searching for another church down the street by name. Similarly, we wouldn't buy search engine advertising related to another church or its programs. Instead, we'd focus on trying to help people find us who are looking for us. If they're looking for another church by name, we'd want them to find that church, not us.

Two days ago I sent an e-mail to Chris Fowler, the president of the company about this. He vigorously defended his company and their SEO practices while saying that he would be open to my point of view. I explained my concern and how to fix it. So far he hasn't responded further or changed the home page.

What do you think? Does it give you a negative impression of the company? How would you advise Chris in this situation?

October 16, 2007

ChMS finalists

We have completed the first stage of our evaluation of the companies and products on our ChMS short list using the high-level criteria I posted a couple of days ago. Based on that evaluation, we have narrowed our choices to Fellowship One and Shelby Arena. Fellowship Technologies will be here Wednesday and Shelby Systems will be here Thursday to demo their products to our Evaluation Team.

Blackbaud took themselves out by not responding to our requests for information in a timely way. We're on a tight schedule and they simply didn't respond fast enough for us to evaluate them.

My visit to ACS was spectacular. They are a great company top to bottom, but their products aren't able to meet our needs right now. Based on a brief conversation with them, I'm pretty sure they would agree with that. If you're looking for a ChMS, you should definitely check them out. You won't find a more capable yet humble and gracious company. I'm grateful to have met Hal, Ben, Pattie, and others at ACS and to be able to call them friends, not to mention uber RoundTable buddy, Dean (you rock!).

I love Microsoft CRM as a platform. As with all Microsoft products, there's always a new version (4.0 in this case) just around the corner which always promises to be even better than what they have now. In all seriousness, it does appear that this is going to become a better and better option for churches in the coming years. The question for us is: what kind of solution can we actually buy and implement now?

The MSCRM platform has two competing church-specific solutions: Proclaim CRM from Ministry Management Solutions and ProVision CRM from The ACTS Group. We didn't have time to look closely at both products, so we started with ProVision. After a refreshingly candid conversation about our requirements and our time line, The ACTS Group withdrew from consideration. Some of the functionality we need is still in development, so they can't yet demonstrate a complete working solution for us. A year from now it would be a completely different situation, but we need to make our decision now based on functionality they can actually deliver now. Keep an eye on this because with Tony involved, you know it's going to be good.

As I said, we haven't taken a close look at Proclaim mainly because there are only so many hours in the day and you have to draw the line somewhere. If perchance we don't fall in love with Arena or Fellowship One, Bill Walker is just a phone call away.

And then there were two.

October 13, 2007

ChMS evaluation criteria

We are evaluating candidate ChMS systems on the following criteria:

1. The company. We expect to run the selected system for the next 5-10 years. Accordingly, we are looking for a great ChMS supplier that will meet Resurrection’s needs now and in the future. Has the company attracted and can it retain a great management team? Does it have a great reputation for product quality, timely delivery, and responsive customer support? Is it financially strong? Does it have a compelling product vision? Does it have healthy relationships with other companies and organizations in the ChMS market?

2. The technical platform. We are looking to minimize long-term platform risk by selecting a platform in the mainstream of technology that will adapt over the life of the system to as yet unknown future requirements. Further, we expect to integrate other applications and systems with the ChMS in configurations that may be unique to Resurrection. Accordingly, we are concerned about the technical aspects of integration like APIs and data exchange formats that will allow us to develop our own innovations. We prefer a product at the center of a vigorous marketplace of 3rd-party products, professional services, and so on.

3. Product functionality. We are looking for a rich, full-featured church management system that at minimum has an equivalent way to do everything we do now in Shelby V5 Church. Second, we need to achieve executive management’s project goals – to greatly improve our ability to track interactions with congregants particularly in adult discipleship and congregational care (CRM-type functionality) and to provide better reporting/graphing for decision support and tracking progress on annual church-wide objectives (management dashboard). And finally we’re looking as much as possible to address user desires uncovered during requirements gathering.

4. Product usability. We are looking for a system that is intuitive, elegant, consistent, discoverable, and requires minimum training for web-savvy users. Page layout and choice of controls should follow Microsoft user interface guidelines and other best practices in web user interface usability.

5. Project risk. We are looking to minimize the short-term risks associated with executing the project. Being averse to cost and schedule risks, we need to stay within the available budget and have a successful cutover by June 30, 2008 at the absolute latest. Additionally, we need to convert existing data to the new system with a high degree of confidence in data preservation. Finally, we need to feel very comfortable about the training and cutover plan to minimize user disruption and ensure widespread user adoption.

6. Cost. Our estimate of total cost of ownership over the first 3 years is the final consideration. We will not automatically select the least costly option. Rather, cost is one of the six factors affecting our decision. Naturally, if the cost is beyond our budgetary ability, then it would be decisive.

I'll post again soon about our finalists.

More on social networking and the church

Two more things caught my eye in the last few days regarding social networking and the church.

First, Joe Suh of Digital Leadnet offered some thoughtful comments about how APIs for social networking sites will allow people to use many of them simultaneously. I've spoken about his previously, citing the thinking of Dave Winer that Twitter could become the de facto standard for sharing personal identity. (Remember when Microsoft tried to do this with Passport?)

Second, Robert Scoble did a video demo of Zude. The way the demo unfolds requires you to have a lot of patience. If you hang in there, after 10-15 minutes the power of Zude will start to become apparent. Zude is a social network like Facebook, etc. but it has a very powerful way for non-programmers to create, layout, and dress up their pages. More importantly, the demo shows how it allows for an extreme level of interoperability with other social networking systems. Also interesting is the fact that Zude is built on a web application framework and stack called Open5G that seems vaguely competitive with the much-heralded Ruby on Rails.

October 11, 2007

Church Metrics

One church measurement I thought of while listening in on Brent's session at Leadership Institute was how much square footage of the church building is used by staff and storage, vs. outreach events, members, small groups, food storage, etc. All of Resurrection's building's compromise about 300,000 sq. ft. and we store a lot of operation materials off-site because we "don't have enough space."

I thought through how much "space" we have, and how little of it is used to run the church. I don't know the ratio, but I know it's heavily offset toward ministry, and against staff and storage. I think this is a good thing. ;)

A great blog on non-profit marketing

In the marketing section of my feed reader, along with Church Marketing Sucks, Kem Meyer, Seth Godin, and others, I have recently added Katya Andresen's blog, "Getting to the Point". Great stuff. For example, check out her recent post on Millennials and their social conscience. More food for thought about the Internet Campus.

Eric Busby's presentation

As promised, here is Eric Busby's presentation from last Thursday morning at the RoundTable. It includes links to all of the sites he mentioned.

We didn't have much time to process or discuss Eric's ideas last week. Perhaps we could do that here in the comments. What is your reaction to Eric's talk? How has it influenced your thinking?

Digital Leadnet

digital.leadnet.org is a valuable new resource. I find myself bookmarking several things a week. Check out:
Saving a Generation through MySpace
Technology Shaping Culture - the "Thumb Generation"
Reaching the Post-Congregational Christian
Teens Search Faith Online

I have been drawn to each of these posts as food for our thinking about a new Internet Campus at Resurrection.

October 09, 2007

The Ministry of Information Technology?

One of the topics that permeated both the Spring and Fall CITRT (Church IT RoundTable) events was whether Information Technology in the church is a ministry. For some, the answer to that was simply yes, while many seemed unsure, and a few others said no.

As I typed this post, I was sitting in a Q&A session with my boss, Clif Guy, and his boss, Brent Messick. Brent is the executive director over operations, one of two executive directors at Resurrection. We were there with a group of interested guests, who were visiting in connection with Leadership Institute, a leadership event Resurrection holds annually. Without my prompting, this topic came up! Brent mentioned that some people have asked if he considers operations a ministry. Brent restated his answer to us, "It is a ministry. Absolutely. I say that unabashedly!" He marked some obvious points of contact such as guest services or finance.

Here's how I've thought about it. If work roles that support ministry are inherently ministry, such as information technology roles, then where does ministry stop? Are the vendors who sell us equipment and supplies performing ministry? Without vendors we couldn't perform ministries the same way right? Banks. Are banks performing ministry when they assist finance to get invoices and salaries paid? Is supporting ministry inherently ministry too? Or is work a ministry only when it directly impacts the lives of people, such as discipleship and service? It seems to come down to the interpretation of ministry and where you draw the line.


October 06, 2007

RoundTable evaluation - please comment

Rather than having a paper evaluation form at the end of the RoundTable, we decided to take a cue from Tony and solicit your feedback right here on the blog for everyone to see.

Some of you have already given feedback on your own blogs. That's cool. It would be good to comment here too so Terrell (and Terry?) can read everything in one place.

If you were here in any capacity or for any portion of the event, please share your thoughts: good, bad, or indifferent. I have a thick skin, so don't spare my feelings. Better yet, make a specific, actionable suggestion to our next hosts.

If you don't feel comfortable posting here for everyone to see, e-mail me at clif.guy at cor.org.

I definitely benefited from all of the comments after the Sugar Creek RoundTable. Amy and I did everything possible in our planning to take that feedback into account. Let's give the same benefit to our next hosts.

What's next for CITRT?


Tony did a very nice job moderating our closing discussion on "CITRT: Where do we go from here?" Some conclusions:

1. When we get together in future, vendors will be invited and allowed to speak during the roundtable sessions. However, we strongly encourage vendors to send IT, engineering, product development, or consulting people - not sales people. We want to relate as peers with the upper managers who run the data centers, lead the software development, and manage the engineers. Regardless of title, we will start throwing things at vendors if they start getting "sales-y" and they won't be invited back. We know when we're being pitched, and it will make us very cranky! Also, when we're talking about a vendor or competitor, that's the time for them to just shut up, listen, and take a ton of notes. That seems fair enough. We absolutely require the ability to speak openly in our sessions without worrying if we're saying the wrong thing or hurting someone's feelings. As far as I'm concerned, people like Dean Lisenby, Curtis Simmons, and Nick Nicholaou (and others) have demonstrated that they understand our community and know how to be a vital and healthy part of it. Any vendor who patterns their behavior after those guys will be on very safe ground.

2. Our next CITRT will be in connection with MinistryTECH in April 2008. Can't wait!

3. We will plan on two national CITRT events per year - spring and fall. Budget accordingly. Plan to come to at least one of these events each year. If you have multiple staff, you can send some to one and some to the other in order to keep things running back at your home church while others are away at the RoundTable.

4. The CITRT events might be hooked on to other conferences (such as MinistryTECH), but they will be in churches, not convention centers or hotels. A big part of the experience for us is seeing and being in the host church. Let's not lose that.

5. Rather than starting yet more groups, associations, websites, etc., let's look for technical ways to aggregate and leverage existing structures (tagging, blogrolling, feed aggregating, etc.). Eric Busby's talk on Thursday morning spoke directly to that idea. I couldn't agree more. See also the thoughtful post from Jason Reynolds on this topic.

To those of you who honored us by coming to Church of the Resurrection, thank you. It meant more than you can know. God is in this my friends. Let's keep it going.

October 05, 2007

Truly a Blessing

Much like my friends at Resurrection, Clif, Ian, I was filled to overflowing by the opportunity and honor of serving, shepherding, and worshiping with our CITRT ministry partners. It was a blessing to me! There was no one thing during our time together that made the event; it was the event in whole. Being able to host all who attended brought me back to my core of being the servant, being the shepherd, doing everything I could to bless everyone's time and let God work through me. I think everyone on our team experienced scripture lived out. Isaiah 40:31 ;)

I just wanted to say a heartfelt thanks to all, and I'm eager to build new relationships, and continue to renew the existing.

RoundTable posts

Here are all the Fall 2007 RoundTable-related posts I've found so far.

Tony Dye:
http://tonydye.typepad.com/main/2007/10/cor-citrt-pre-e.html

Andrew Mitry:
http://www.anchorite.org/blog/2007/10/03/pre-roundtable-at-cor/
http://www.anchorite.org/blog/2007/10/03/unity-in-the-body-of-christ/
http://www.anchorite.org/blog/2007/10/05/roundtable-roundup/

Jason Powell:
http://www.jasonpowell.net/jason_powell_church_it/2007/10/cor-senior-past.html
http://www.jasonpowell.net/jason_powell_church_it/2007/10/eric-busby-via-.html
http://www.jasonpowell.net/jason_powell_church_it/2007/10/cor-roundtable-.html
http://www.jasonpowell.net/jason_powell_church_it/2007/10/is-tony-live-or.html

Bryson Medlock:
http://www.bamed.org/2007/10/03/packing/
http://www.bamed.org/2007/10/03/not-your-usual-helpdesk-call/
http://www.bamed.org/2007/10/05/im-home/

Ian Beyer:
http://netplumber.blogspot.com/2007/10/recovering-from-citrt.html

Nick Nicholaou:
http://ministry-it.blogspot.com/2007/10/fall-church-it-roundtable.html

Jim Walton:
http://churchtechmatters.com/2007/10/02/church-it-roundtable-starts-today/
http://churchtechmatters.com/2007/10/02/citrt-day-1-pre-event/
http://churchtechmatters.com/2007/10/03/opening-morning-session-citrt/
http://churchtechmatters.com/2007/10/03/goodbye-citrt-hello-kci-and-beyond/

Justin Moore:
http://www.wantmoore.com/blog/archives/2007/09/28/church-it-roundtable-kansas-city/
http://www.wantmoore.com/blog/archives/2007/10/03/pre-cit-rt/
http://www.wantmoore.com/blog/archives/2007/10/03/church-it-round-table-day-1/
http://www.wantmoore.com/blog/archives/2007/10/03/day-one-round-table-wrap-up/
http://www.wantmoore.com/blog/archives/2007/10/04/church-it-roundtable-id-system/
http://www.wantmoore.com/blog/archives/2007/10/05/roundtable-asterisk/

Jim Edwards:
http://itchurch.com/?p=112

Jason Reynolds:
http://churchcio.com/hello-to-everyone-at-the-church-it-roundtable
http://churchcio.com/two-church-it-roundtable-goodies

David Szpunar:
http://infotech.lakeviewchurch.org/2007/10/03/whew-im-not-jason/
http://infotech.lakeviewchurch.org/2007/10/03/room-b-morning-discussion-notes/
http://infotech.lakeviewchurch.org/2007/10/04/church-it-roundtable-pre-dinner-wednesday-recap-and-more/
http://infotech.lakeviewchurch.org/2007/10/04/planet-citrt-aggregated-roundtable-feeds/
http://infotech.lakeviewchurch.org/2007/10/05/on-my-way-back-and-thanks/

John Ventry:
http://johnventry.blogspot.com/2007/10/church-it-roundtable.html
http://johnventry.blogspot.com/2007/10/great-round-table.html

Andrew Conard:
http://thoughtsofresurrection.wordpress.com/2007/10/03/that-must-be-an-it-guy/

Mobile Ministry Magazine:
http://mobileministrymagazine.com/2007/10/church-it-roundtable-currently-underway.html

Me:
http://appianway.blogspot.com/2007/10/day-one-whew.html
http://appianway.blogspot.com/2007/10/thursday-opening-session.html
http://appianway.blogspot.com/2007/10/all-i-can-say-is-wow.html

October 04, 2007

All I can say is, "wow!"

An open letter to all Fall 2007 Church IT RoundTable attendees:

When people started responding to my RoundTable invitation, it wasn't long before I realized it was going to be "off the hook!" Little did I know.

My friends, the last three days go down as the #1 highlight of my ministry at Resurrection so far. And YOU did it. All it took was for you to gather at our place. That's it. I honestly believe the planning doesn't matter much because the Holy Spirit shows up, is evident in your lives and on your faces, and gets everyone else fired up. It's a positive feedback loop. The more pumped you are, the more pumped everyone else is. Wow!

Remember when I said one of our three main purposes for this RoundTable was inspiration? In the planning for this event, I was very conscious that we needed to create opportunities for inspiration to happen. I hoped, planned, and prayed that YOU would be inspired, but oddly, I didn't expect ME to be the one inspired. Our great God had other ideas in mind. I ended up being inspired - not by any particular content, session, or moment - just by being with all of you.

Only upon reflection this evening did I fully confront the fact that I've been considering quitting. I don't know how long God will continue to call me to serve in my current capacity, but I'll tell you right now that I'm not quitting. Tonight I have rededicated myself to the work God has set before me. Why? Because the Holy Spirit, working through you in some kind of mysterious way that none of us can understand or articulate, has reignited my passion for this work. Thank you. You have been an immeasurable blessing to me.

MinistryTECH won't come soon enough ...

Thursday opening session

Did I hear correctly that this man might be presenting to the opening session Thursday morning? Cool!

October 03, 2007

Day One - Whew!

OK, so the Adobe Connect webcam thing at the RoundTable didn't work, but at least not because we weren't prepared. In this case, the cause was something we couldn't have known in advance. Turns out that 60 users simultaneously in Adobe Connect sessions by themselves chew approx. 1.5 Mb/s. When you try to add 4 webcams to that over a pair of T1s, it's all over, baby. (See Justin Moore's good-natured ribbing about our bandwidth quality!) So now we know. By the way, it totally slammed Internet access for our staff as well, and they were a bit cranky about it. ;-)

Second issue, even if the technology had worked, my "touch point" idea might very well not have worked anyway. Turns out getting everyone to stop at the same time and interact with the other rooms is a cat-herding exercise.

On the plus-side, the rooms are small enough to have really great conversation. My group in Room A has been outstanding. I'm thinking this breaking-up-into-groups idea is generally on the right track. Also, I think it was good to collect topics in advance and have all rooms generally discussing the same themes and topics at the same time. Even though we can't see/hear the specifics in the other room, there is something cool about knowing they're all having similar discussions. That simple fact has created a shared experience in an unexpected way.

Tomorrow we're going to try to get everyone in one big Connect meeting, spanning across all the rooms. Not sure if UMCOM has a room big enough to hold all of us simultaneously, but we'll see. Thanks for your flexibility.

The banquet and worship tonight were, for me, exactly what I needed at that moment. I hope most of the attendees had the same reaction.

Our own Matt Bradshaw built a cool web application that generates a web page from a list of feeds and auto-refreshes. We have dropped in feeds from people at the conference we know are blogging. Check it out at http://bitshepherd.com/planet/citrt/.

Overall, I've had a great day and I'm thankful to all of you who have come to be a part of it. Day 2 is tomorrow. Geeks for Jesus!

Andrew is the Asterisk man!

If you want to know about the Asterisk open-source phone system, ask Andrew Mitry. Amazing stuff.

October 02, 2007

Jason's survey is still down

If you've been trying to comply with my request to fill out Jason's survey but have been unable, it's because Zoho is down. This is outside of Jason's control. (He's sorry.) Please keep trying. Maybe they'll be back up soon???

Who is coming to the RoundTable?

Churches:
Asbury United Methodist Church, Tulsa, OK
Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN
Christ Fellowship Church, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS
Churches in Covenant, Carrollton, TX
College Heights Christian Church, Joplin, MO
Crestview Baptist Church
First Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
First Baptist Raytown, Raytown, MO
First Presbyterian Church, Bellevue, WA
First United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS
Grace Covenant Church, Cornelius, NC
Granger Community Church, Granger, IN
Indian Creek Community Church, Olathe, KS
Kansas City Baptist Temple, Raytown, MO
Lakeview Church, Indianapolis, IN
Lincoln Berean Church, Lincoln, NE
Living Word Lutheran Church, Grapevine, TX
Northwoods Community Church, Peoria, IL
Perimeter Church, Duluth, GA
Pinelake Church, Brandon, MS
Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Liberty, MO
Rhema Bible Church, Tulsa, OK
Seacoast Church, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Sheffield Family Life Center, Kansas City, MO
St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, Fairfax, VA
St. Michael the Archangel, Leawood, KS
West Side Christian Church, Springfield, IL
Westbrooke Church, Shawnee Mission, KS

Other:
Christian Computing Magazine, Belton, MO
The IT Roundtable, Dallas, TX
MinistryTECH.org, Edmond, OK
Trinity Technology for Ministry, Kansas City, MO

Vendors:
ACS Technologies, Florence, SC
C&M Support Services & Consulting, Elkhart, IN
Circle Builder, Santa Monica, CA
Fellowship Technologies, Irving, TX
iBiz Initiatives, Lenexa, KS
MBS, Inc., Huntington Beach, CA
Ministry Management Solutions, Orange Park, FL
Shelby Systems, Cordova, TN
The ACTS Group, Houston, TX
United Methodist Communications, Nashville, TN

October 01, 2007

Instructions for using Connect at the RoundTable

If you don't want the background, jump to the bullet points below. If you do want the background, here goes ...

You may recall that after the last RoundTable in Houston there was general agreement that our growing group needs to include more people, but at the same time keep it small so that we can continue to enjoy full participation of every attendee around a table. This presents a paradox. Perhaps even a conundrum!

How we’re going to include more people and keep it small

For this RoundTable we’re going to beta test my idea to address the aforementioned conundrum. We’re going to break the 60+ attendees into four separate rooms of approximately 15 people each. In order to allow interaction between the rooms, we will have “touch points” during the sessions where we will be able to pose questions to attendees in other rooms and see/hear them responding.

The technology we’re using for this is Adobe Connect, generously provided by UMCOM Tech Shop. This will be a brave experiment that could fail spectacularly, or possibly be cool. If it works, Woo Hoo! If it proves to be cumbersome or we have technical or facilitation problems, we can always punt. With everyone's input, we hope to devise a way for future meetings to keep it small for the best possible info exchange, to continue to include more people, and to allow at least the possibility of having a national meeting by linking multiple regional sites (an idea inspired by the Willow Creek Leadership Summit).

Since we’re using Connect to provide the A/V link among the four rooms, we figured it would be cool to use it to enhance the experience within each room too. Each participant will join an Adobe Connect meeting that includes the other people in the same room. That Connect session will be displayed on the projector in that room. Any participant can become a presenter in Connect, allowing them to demo, explain, or illustrate something by showing web sites, applications, etc. on the projector. Is that clear as mud? Even if you don't understand the explanation, hopefully it will make sense once you see it.

Adobe Connect is an online meeting tool that will help us:
* more effectively exchange information in each room
* simulate a distributed RoundTable with meeting rooms in different cities

Connect requirements:
* Mac (any OS; Safari 2.x)
* Windows (XP/SP2 or Vista; IE6 or later, or Netscape/Firefox)
* Adobe Flash Player
* a broadband connection
* cookies enabled

To use Connect:
1. Set your screen resolution to 1024x768 (so if you present, your screen will match the projector's resolution).

2. Download and install the presenter client:
* Windows: https://admin.acrobat.com/common/addin/setup.exe
* Mac: https://admin.acrobat.com/common/addin/AcrobatConnectAddin.z
* Alternate: http://www.cor.org/Information_Technology.41.0.html

3. Test Connect by going to the Chat Lobby at this URL:
* http://umc.acrobat.com/chatlobby
* Login convention: (1stname).(Lastname) - (church initials) (for example: Clif.Guy-COR)

4. After a successful test, you’re ready to go to your assigned room and join the meeting for that room:
* Room A - http://umc.acrobat.com/itroundtablea
* Room B - http://umc.acrobat.com/itroundtableb
* Room C - http://umc.acrobat.com/itroundtablec
* Room D - http://umc.acrobat.com/itroundtabled

5. Once you log in, Connect will set a cookie. It's a good idea to add a bookmark so you can quickly re-enter your meeting room the next day.

September 30, 2007

Planter in residence

Speaking of renewal strategies, I think Mark Batterson's idea about a "church planter in residence" program is right on the money. We need a good way to use our resources to support church planters and make them more effective.

Mainline renewal

One of Church of the Resurrection's three primary visions is renewing the mainline church. For those of you who have never heard the term "mainline" it generally refers to long-established denominations with moderate theology. It includes the following seven denominations and others like them: Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and American Baptist.

These denominations, including Methodist, have been declining since the 1960s. When you take a hard look at the numbers, it's depressing. Of the mainline denominations, the largest is Methodist. And Resurrection is among the largest Methodist congregations. So we have a special heart for these denominations and their congregations. We long to see them remember their calling, reverse their decline, and return to missional effectiveness.

My wife is a Disciples of Christ (DOC) church planter. Because of that, I'm privileged to see the DOC's 6 year-old church planting initiative from the inside. This initiative has been very effective, to the point that it's starting to have a real, positive impact denomination-wide. A few years ago I was personally involved in efforts to revitalize a 60 year-old DOC church. Let me tell you, that was difficult work and it produced only minimal fruit. While church planting is very, very challenging, the DOC experience suggests it is a better strategy for denominational renewal than any program I've seen for revitalizing existing congregations.

Up to now, Resurrection's primary mainline renewal effort has been our conferencing ministry. We hold one main conference each year, Leadership Institute, and host a number of other conferences for the Methodist denomination and other mainline groups such as the Beeson Institute of Asbury Seminary. This is a great ministry and I'm certain it has produced some excellent fruit, yet it seems to me that church planting will be even more important in fulfilling our mainline renewal vision.

Last year, we began by starting our first satellite campus, Resurrection West. Just a few weeks ago, our senior pastor, Adam Hamilton, asked me to start working on plans for an Internet Campus for Resurrection, as one of several other satellite campus locations we are planning. I'm very excited about this, but I also recognize a number of huge challenges. I'll continue to post and, no doubt, ask questions as we work through the issues. Any of you with experience doing an Internet campus, let me know. I'm very interested to hear your strategy and how it's going.

September 29, 2007

Tuesday plans

Many of you coming to the RoundTable from outside the Kansas City area will be arriving through the day on Tuesday. If you're making plans for what to do when you arrive, here are some things to consider ...

Check in time for both conference hotels is 3:00 pm. If your arriving early afternoon, you can go to your hotel, check-in and then come to the church. Our official welcome starts at 3:30, followed by a campus tour around 4:30.

If you are arriving earlier in the day, you're welcome to come hang out at the church. Be aware though that in addition to the RoundTable, we're hosting our biggest conference of the year next week. So if you come early, expect us to put you to work!

If you are arriving too late to make the tour, we're having dinner at a restaurant close to the church at 7:00 pm. You can go straight there and join us.

Sunset Grill
14577 Metcalf Ave
Overland Park, KS 66223
Google map is here
Call my cell at 913-642-1875 if you get lost!

Transportation needs

If any of you coming to the RoundTable could help with the following transportation needs, please post a comment and we'll hook you up. Thanks!

Andrew Lang needs a ride back to the airport. His flight leaves Thursday night at 7:40 pm (will need to leave the church around 5:45 pm to make it in time).

David Szpunar needs a ride to the church from the airport. His flight arrives Tuesday morning at 8:20 am.

David Szpunar needs a ride back to the airport. His flight leaves Friday morning at 9:00 am (will need to leave the hotel around 7:00 am to make it in time).

September 27, 2007

RoundTable sponsors

We would like to gratefully acknowledge our Fall 2007 RoundTable sponsors: ACS Technologies, The ACTS Group, Fellowship Technologies, and Shelby Systems. Their generous support has allowed us to cover all conference expenses including all meals while keeping the registration fee to only $34. When you see them, please express your appreciation. We couldn't do this event without them.

Help Jason with his presentation!

Can you hep a brotha out? Jason Powell will be presenting at the RoundTable on the survey data he has gathered from church IT departments around the country. This will be a very informative session that will allow you to benchmark your church's IT operation against those of many churches of different sizes, locations, ages, denominations, and budgets. But to do that, he needs all of you to fill out the survey (especially those of you coming to the RoundTable).

So please, right now, go to http://creator.zoho.com/gccjason/page/1/ and follow the directions from there. This data is going to be very helpful for all of us and will definitely help Jason with his presentation!

RoundTable schedule

Here is the schedule for the RoundTable next week.

Tuesday, Oct. 2 - Pre-RoundTable
3:30 PM Registration open - welcome and refreshments
4:15 PM Resurrection IT overview
4:30 PM Facility/IT tour
7:00 PM Sponsored restaurant dinner (optional)

Wednesday, Oct. 3 - RoundTable Day 1
8:30 AM Registration open - welcome and coffee
9:00 AM Large group opening session - explanation and instructions
9:45 AM Break
10:00 AM Roundtable session 1
12:15 PM Lunch (sponsored)
1:30 PM Roundtable session 2
3:45 PM Break
4:15 PM Large group session 2 - Q&A with Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor
5:00 PM Video - Leadership: An Art of Possibility
5:30 PM Break
6:00 PM Sponsored banquet
7:00 PM Worship
8:00 PM Hang out time until 11:00 pm

Thursday, Oct. 4 - RoundTable Day 2
8:30 AM Gathering and coffee
9:00 AM Large group session 3 - Jason Powell
9:45 AM Break
10:00 AM Roundtable session 3
11:45 AM Lunch (sponsored)
1:00 PM Topic Bazaar
3:30 PM Break
4:00 PM Large group closing session - Tony Dye
5:30 PM Sponsored restaurant dinner (optional)
7:00 PM Worship concert (optional)

Friday, Oct. 5 - Leadership Institute Day 1
Saturday, Oct. 6 - Leadership Institute Day 2

Wednesday night at the RoundTable

We have planned a very special experience for Wednesday evening at the RoundTable. It will be an oasis of quiet meditation and prayer in the middle of an otherwise brain-overloaded event. Personally, of everything we've planned, I'm looking forward to Wednesday evening the most.

We will begin with a candlelit banquet of the best barbecue in Kansas City. Then the band from my wife's church, Fusion 112, will lead us in a time of intense, unplugged worship. We have chosen songs that many of you will know and are easy to learn if you don't know them. My wife, Laura, will then bring a message based on 1 Sam 17:38-39 about David not being comfortable in Saul's armor. It will be powerful and inspiring. After that we will share communion and have an opportunity to pray with each other and linger as long as we like. Nothing will be hurried or rushed.

It will be a time to pause, to remember who we are and whose we are, to forge deeper bonds with our church IT brothers and sisters, and to make sure the main thing is the main thing. I can't wait!

September 22, 2007

ChMS selection goals

As we go through our NextGen ChMS project, I find myself torn by the competing demands of multiple important goals:
  1. Speak openly and candidly about my thoughts on ChMS (church management systems) in an effort to help my fellow church IT leaders and the ChMS suppliers.
  2. Build up the competing suppliers, treat all of them with respect, and ultimately bless them whether or not they sell us anything.
  3. Thoroughly examine and give careful consideration to each of the suppliers on our short list.
  4. Avoid wasting anyone’s time, insofar as that is possible.
  5. Ensure that our user community doesn’t lose any important functionality they now rely upon in Shelby V5 Church.
  6. Achieve executive management’s desired result – to greatly improve our ability to track interactions with congregants (CRM-type functionality) and to provide better reporting/graphing for decision support (management dashboard).
  7. Obtain as much “wish list” functionality as possible.
  8. Stay within my established budget and time line.
  9. Select a great company with great technology, products, and support that we can stick with for the next 5-10 years.
There! What’s so difficult about that???

September 21, 2007

Thanks Hal, Ben, Robin, Dean, Pattie, Steve, and ... everyone!

I'm back in the Charlotte airport on my way home after spending last night and today with the senior management team of ACS Technologies. I mentioned that I was having dinner with Robin and Ben last night. I didn't know that Hal Campbell, President of ACS would also be joining us. Hal is a humble man who has built an outstanding company. The restaurant was a bit loud but the food was good and the conversation was excellent. It was a fun way to begin a relationship with them.

Robin is VERY well organized. She took care of all of the details of our meeting today, which included the same people from last night as well as RoundTable buddy Dean Lisenby, Pattie White, Steve Cumbia, Cindy Street and several others.

I'm glad I corrected my previous error and put ACS on our short list. We talked for more than 7 hours and never once did a product demo - my kind of meeting! I was very favorably impressed by the company. Like my meetings with Shelby and Fellowship Technologies last year, I quite appreciated the openness of the exchange. They graciously allowed me to challenge them as though we had been friends for years. Better yet, they challenged me back with some clear-headed responses. That's cool!

Pattie did wonder aloud if I might be high maintenance. My wife might affirm that speculation, I fear. ;-) Patti's concern was whether I would allow my dissatisfaction with the structure of the ChMS marketplace to stand in the way of making progress on Resurrection's real needs right now. I assured her that Resurrection's here-and-now concerns were very much on my mind, otherwise I would not have made the trip. That said, when I have the attention of the top management of the top company in the market, I won't be shy to cast a vision of a future different from present reality. And I might choose to go another direction if I think it is more likely to get Resurrection to my preferred future more quickly. Did I mention this would be a tough decision?

I'm grateful to say I now have a bunch of smart friends in Florence, South Carolina, whether or not Resurrection becomes their customer. I have Florence on my mind ...