September 30, 2005

Leadership Institue 2005

We've had an exciting couple of days here at Church of the Resurrection.

Yesterday, I had the chance to present on Web Empowered Church with Mark Stephenson of Ginghamsburg Church and The Appian Way's own Chuck Russell. We had a great time with the people who attended this 4-hour intensive workshop. I know many of them felt like their heads (and other body parts) exploded part way through because of the workshop's length and intensity, but everyone stayed to the end, for which I was greatful.

In the morning plenary session today, we heard from Rev. Adam Hamilton, our senior pastor. The band was great. The worship technology/media people hit a grand slam. And Adam was as awesome as ever. This afternoon, Chuck and Mark reprised their presentations from yesterday, with many positive responses. All of it reminded me of why it's so great to be part of Resurrection.

Tonight, Adam had me in tears when he talked about having a Magnificent Obsession with Jesus and then related it to the love he has for his daughter who just last month went off to Kansas State as a freshman. The time is coming for me next year - my daughter is a senior in high school now, so it was very close to home.

And when I got back to the computer, Technorati led me to this blogger's account of his time at Leadership Institute yesterday. Will he post again?

September 28, 2005

Godcasting to Postmoderns

Bringing it all together here. Frank Johnson references my blog post regarding Godcasting on Strategic Digital Outreach, providing his view on how to use this technology. Through his references we also find Mark Batterson who writes about taking your preaching off-road, and just recently Blogging Church posted a new podcast interview where Terry Storch interviewed Mark on his success with podcasting.

Whether you may be ready or not, Godcasting has started some in depth conversations on a new way to bring people to Christ.

Clif and I have occasional conversations on reaching postmoderns, and we, like Mark, see Godcasting as another conduit to bringing people to Christ. As I read and listened to the blog posts I referenced above, I have the strong feeling that this is not only a way to reach everyone, but can be the primary way to reach postmoderns.

Postmoderns church shop with Google, not the local phone book. They want to experience the church before having to walk into the doors, and those church websites that do it most effectively will be the ones winning that walk in. (See my post
Personal Thoughts Of A Confessed Postmodern). They want to have theological conversations without feeling the closterphobic pressure of being preached to. They want you to tap the core conflicts they have in their life right now. Best of all, I'd wager they're willing to listen. Perhaps while they're working out, or driving to work, or doing whatever A.D.H.D. activities they tend toward. ;) I think if you can converse with them, they will not be opposed to steping through the doors on Sunday.

Are church websites important?

Here are a couple of recent posts by Sam of "remixable" that help us understand and articulate the importance of church websites in reaching people today and having credibility.

First, he asks whether a church is invisible if it doesn't have a website. He then goes on to talk about local search, which is a subject that's very much on my mind.

Second, he speculates about how the web could be used to enhance Sunday morning sermons. We're thinking about that a lot and are in the early stages of building a TYPO3 extension that would make the sermon simply be a milestone in the middle of a longer theological conversation that starts the week before and continues indefinitely afterward.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Steve Heyduck of banditsnomore points us to an insightful take on the prevailing theology of teenagers. Christian Smith and Melinda Lunddquist Denton are calling it, "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism". That's a mouthful, but it says a lot.

Teenagers are among the prime populations we're seeking to serve through the web, so we better know what they think.

September 27, 2005

David Gillaspey likes us, cool!

David Gillaspey of Great Church Websites likes the picture and testimonial on the home page of our Resurrection website, as well as Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton’s weekly e-note to the congregation.

In the same article he also mentioned the Transformation Journal at Ginghamsburg church. Open source software developed at Ginghamsburg for this is now available from Web-Empowered Church.

Good one, Tony

Tony Morgan posts today about leadership. I'm printing this one and putting it up in my cubicle.

More on writing great copy

Rob Williams of Effective Web Ministry Notes points us to Ann Wylie’s tipsheets on writing great copy. Good stuff.

September 26, 2005

Seeker-focused copy

Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users posts here about making the culture of a large company more customer-focused. I thought a lot of her comments were helpful in thinking about how to write web page copy for seekers. Here are a few ideas I found particularly interesting ...

Language matters. Frame everything in terms of the user's experience.

In meetings, phrase everything in terms of the user's personal experience rather than the product. Keep asking, no matter what, "So, how does this help the user kick ass?" and "How does this help the user do what he really wants to do?" Don't focus on what the user will think about the product, focus everyone around you on what the user will think about himself as a result of interacting with it. Study
George Lakoff for tips on using language to shift perceptions.

Capture user stories.

Keep a notebook or
hipster PDA with you always and whenever another employee, blogger, (or user) tells you something good or bad about a real user's experience, write it down. Build up a collection, and make sure these stories are spread. Be the user's advocate in your group and keep putting real users in front of employees (especially managers). Imagine that you are the designated representative (like the public defender) of specific users, and represent them. Speak for them.

Look for first-person language from users about their own experience. Challenge others to solicit first-person, user-as-subject language.

Do everything you can to get user feedback phrased in first-person terms. Rather than feedback that talks about what the user thinks should be in the product, try to solicit feedback that gets the user talking about himself. Users tend to want to tell you what you should add/subtract from the product, but what you need is feedback where the user tells you about himself in relation to the product, even if it's negative.

Useful: "I tried to use the XYZ feature, and I couldn't figure out how to make it work."
Not useful: "The XYZ feature doesn't work properly."

Useful: "I was able to make a really cool image as a result of your app."
Not useful: "The app does a great job of image processing."

Set it up as a challenge for yourself and others you work with to figure out ways to generate first-person feedback where users talk about themselves. Make it a game or a contest to see who can get the user to use the "I" word the most often. What kind of questions could you ask that would lead to the user talking about himself rather than YOU or your PRODUCT?

September 24, 2005

First chance to hear more about Web-Empowered Church

I promised Mark Stephenson would make an exciting announcement about Web-Empowered Church at at Church of the Resurrection's annual Leadership Institute, which is Thursday through Sunday: Sept. 29 through Oct. 1. Well, I just previewed Mark's announcement in the post below!

It's not too late to plan to come to Kansas City for Leadership Institute. This is your first chance to hear directly from Mark and see the Web-Empowered Church technology demonstrated. I'll be presenting along with Chuck Russell from United Methodist Communications (UMCOM), another of our Appian Way bloggers, and Mark. This is a great learning opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new wave of innovation and cooperation to create more effective church web sites.

Web-Empowered Church Pre-release

Mark Stephenson, Director of Cyberministry at Ginghamsburg Church, and also the director of Web-Empowered Church, announced yesterday the availability of the "Pre-Release" of the Web-Empowered Church software and documentation, based on the TYPO3 open source content management system.

This release includes software and documentation for:
1. WEC Common Configuration
2. Six Templa Voila Templates (+ variations)
3. Devotional Journal Extension
4. Flash Player Extension
5. Flash Presentation Extension
6. Prayer Connector Extension

Also, the WEC User site is now the place to be with its greatly expanded user information and a CHC Forum with user topics.

How blogging can benefit your church

Seth Godin gives us a way to articulate the value of blogging. His key idea is that when people read a blog, they are giving the blogger their attention. And, when it comes to marketing and communications, attention is very valuable.

Thanks to BetaChurch for linking and commenting on this.

September 22, 2005

Church marketing sucks, even for the pros

Does it help to know that even professionals can struggle when trying to market the church? Church Marketing Sucks tells us the story of Angus Kinnaird, a marketing pro who worked on the "Jesus: All About Life" campaign in Austrailia.

Have you ever worked really hard on a church-related marketing campaign without the level of success you desired and expected? I definitely have and I'd think most people who have worked in church marketing have as well. Thanks to Church Marketing Sucks, I feel a little better ... I guess.

September 19, 2005

What Google Is Doing Part II

Ok so the google guys are brilliant we all know that. Here is something that definitely could impact the future of church video streaming. They seem to be offering free video stream hosting in return for allowing their ad words to run on your site im sure. The great thing is, however, that they are applying google’s search technology so that a person can search for a topic or even a word in a video for and get video results. Basically they are doing for video what their image search did for images. It would be cool to see some churches upload some video and see how it works. I typed in sermon in the search results and got a few results. The video search is still in the beta stage but will eventually even allow you to charge for viewing. Here is the URL check it out:

Editor's note: see also our previous post on this.

September 14, 2005

What Google is doing

What Google is doing with RSS

As happens frequently with me I stumbled into something that google was doing today. They have ramped up the use of RSS and now allow individuals to totally configure their own custom portal to the internet world. I love what they have done. It allows the easy addition of standard news feeds like and the New York Times, its also quite easy to add an rss feed such as the United Methodist News Service feed and the Appian way feed. You can drag and drop the interface to look exactly like you want it, etc. Its time to take a look and start thinking about how we can promote the use of this kind of portal along with a church blog.

Server or service?

Yesterday ZDNet quoted Bill Gates as saying, "As we bring AD and Passport together, Hotmail and Exchange together, and MSN Spaces and SharePoint together, we give you the richness but also the choice of having it as a server or a service."

This tidbit offers some intriguing insight into Microsoft’s product plans. The availability of functions like these as either servers or services will change the in-house vs. outsource calculation in significant ways.

September 13, 2005

Office 12

There has been a lot of trade press coverage today on the unveiling of the new look for Office 12 at Microsoft's Professional Developer's Conference. The best information I've seen is this blog on PC World by Harry McCracken. Office 12 is due out in the second half of 2006.

Those of us involved in church IT will need to start considering how the availability of Office 12 will affect next year's budget and technology planning.

To me, the biggest issue is the total cost of upgrading. This total cost is more than just the cost of the license fees and any necessary consulting to achieve a network-wide upgrade, but will also include the training costs. Given that the user interface will be completely new, there will be significant training costs as well as the intangible cost of loss of productivity while users learn the new interface.

On the other hand, the arguments in favor of upgrading are obvious. This will be the first major improvement in Office in more than eight years. It seems probable that most or all of the innovations we see in this new version will ultimately be embraced by users and become the "new normal". If I'm right on this, it isn't really a question of whether, but only a question of when. The only thing that could change this would be a universal rejection of the new user interface. In that case, will we all move to Open Office? Who knows?

Will those of us who are decision-makers in church IT be early adopters, or will we wait to embrace this new version? At Resurrection we're still running Office 2000. We had tentative plans to move to Office 2003 this year, but that plan didn't survive the budgeting process. I can't imagine that we will adopt Office 12 next year since there's no way we can properly plan for it a year in advance of its release. Since we're still on Office 2000, however, we don't have the luxury of waiting indefinitely. With all of this in mind, I'd predict that 2007 will be the year for us.

Learning from Channel 9

Perhaps you saw Robert Scoble’s interview of Bill Gates on Microsoft's Channel 9. I found the interview interesting, which isn’t surprising as I suspect I’d be interested in practically any interview of Bill Gates. But what struck me the most is the way Scoble and the team at Channel 9 are innovating the use of inexpensive video technology and blogging to get their message out in an anti-slick, human way.

What they’re doing on Channel 9 shows that all you need is a consumer digital camcorder and a streaming video server. The interview isn’t edited at all, just trimmed at the beginning and the end. They’ve succeeded in making Microsoft human and Bill Gates human (look closely and you'll notice, he isn't wearing socks!). Making the big, bad Microsoft human is an impressive feat.

So I’ve been thinking about how to apply this innovation in the church. In order to attract people who otherwise wouldn’t come into the church, it seems to me that we should be working to export outside the four walls of the church something of the experience that happens inside the four walls. Many of our churches are doing that now with video streams and podcasts of sermons or other portions of weekend worship.

But what if we had a video “reporter” like Scoble who would go around and capture some of the experience of our other programming? For example, we could send a reporter into our children’s area on Sunday morning to capture a sense of the excitement, get testimonials from parents and kids, show the production quality of the large group time, etc. And then produce it for web streaming with minimal editing and no titles, effects, etc. That kind of anti-slick communication could go a long way to make huge churches like Resurrection seem small, accessible, and human. And it could make small churches seem innovative, high-tech, and exciting.

Is anyone out there doing this now? If so, I haven’t seen it.

We are in the right business

In an article released today the Barna research group tells us that over the last five years there has been a significant increase (Double Digit Growth) in the use of Websites among mainline protestant churches. The story includes information on the use of email newsletters, electronic funds transfer, and much more. Take some time and read this one....It tells us were in the right business.


September 08, 2005

Web Empowered Church at Leadership Institute

It's hard to believe that Church of the Resurrection's annual Leadership Institute is only three weeks away. This year we're blessed to have Mark Stephenson of Ginghamsburg Church and Chuck Russell of United Methodist Communications (UMCOM) presenting a 4-hour workshop on web ministry. Mark is the director of the Web Empowered Church, a new initiative of the Methodist Foundation for Evangelism. Both are well known seminar presenters on how churches can make effective use of the web in ministry.

Also, Mark will be making an exciting announcement about Web Empowered Church at the conference. More on this later.

If you could possibly make time in your schedule to come to Kansas City for this event, September 29 through October 1, I know you'll be blessed. If you're interested to hear more about how the Web Empowered Church can help you, not to mention the opportunity to spend time with some of the country's most knowledgeable practitioners of web ministry, Leadership Institute 2005 is for you. See Resurrection's web site for full details. See you there!

September 01, 2005

Personal Thoughts Of A Confessed Postmodern

I had heard of the term postmodern, but ignored it's meaning up until a couple weeks ago, the act of which I was informed to be categorically postmodern. :/

It seems that the majority of medium to large successful churches are starting the full swing into finding the answers to post-modern thinking. I find more and more people in the discussion of how to reach them, and how they communicate -- the wascally postmodewn.

I am now a confessed postmodern. I am indeed a postmodern, but not so much as my wife. :) She, being a couple years younger than I, exhibits more postmodern traits and I would consider her a tough case. This past Sunday, we attended a different church. After the service, we walked out of the church and she commented, "Scratch that one off the list. Adding it to my black book." (Yes, she knows instantly whether something meets approval.) I had to dig deeper. Over time I've learned that she goes to church to worship God, not be preached to. She worships by singing in the contemporary band, and by singing and praising the Lord every day.

As we walked to the car and drove away, I asked her what a sermon needed for her to enjoy it. I'll spare the details, but after many minutes of "extraction", it came down to being entertained. Humor, relating the scripture to occurrences in her life, the use of visuals over written text, etc. If you can find a way to entertain her and at the same time embed the message into "the show" - you've got her. I intend to take her to an emergent worship service and see what she thinks, but I am guessing she'll enjoy it. More on that after it happens.

I suggest that turning the sermon into entertainment isn't desecrating the service in the eyes of a postmodern. I can hear the modern statement now, "A sermon is not entertainment." But, if you entertain them, they will listen. If you preach to them, they will most likely squirm in their chairs and pews with ADHD tendencies. In the future, I imagine moderns reeling with what post-moderns will do to their sacred traditions. "You've totally ruined it! That is not worship!" you'll hear them say, if you haven't already. So I wonder if most moderns can even reach post-moderns, or will they be stopped short by their own worldview, powerless from making the changes necessary to reach postmoderns?