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technology

Great apps for Pastors

Great Tools and Apps for Pastors

Evernote is more than just a powerful note-taking application that allows you to organize notebooks or notebook stacks around topics that are important to you. If you want to dig deeper into this tool check out this Evernote blog. Evernote has a Web Clipper that is a great tool to take things off the web and put them straight into your Evernote. I use this constantly. I love the web clipper!!

iWork ’09 Pages is my go-to for creating all documents etc. I have a MacBook Pro and Pages came with it. I love this word processor for all of my writing. I love Pages just because. You can share a Word doc and Pages can convert it quickly and easily.

Logos is my go-to Bible study. There are studies, bibles of all kinds of translations, Greek and Hebrew word studies and so much more.

Team Management
Skype Video Conferencing is what I personally use and recommend if you work in an environment where your fellow staff members have the privilege of not all being in one place, this is a great tool to host meetings. You could also use this to host meetings between you and other ministry leaders or really anyone.

Dropbox is a powerful file sharing solution for your team. Dropbox is a cloud solution for personal and shared folders and files.

Productivity
Trello Task Manager – I use Trello for its simplicity, but there are many other apps out there for task management. Many people recommend Todoist or Asana.

Pomodora Challenge Timer takes the Pomodoro technique and gives you a challenge based app that will help you get more done. Don’t know what the Pomodoro technique is? Read this. For the quick explanation, you’ll focus on one thing for 25 minutes without doing ANYTHING else. I just installed this app and am excited to see what it does for my productivity.

IFTTT is a very powerful automation tool. If This Then That has a lot of pre-made recipes of actions or you can make your own. I haven’t tapped into the depth that many people have, but I use this primarily for automation of my Twitter account. I have identified a number of bloggers who always produce great content. So I automated a recipe that says if they post something it is added to my buffer account that schedules a tweet. More on Buffer below. I also have a recipe that whenever someone uses the #sermonprep on Twitter, they are added to a Twitter list called Preachers. You can subscribe to that list to connect with other preachers.

Social Media
HootSuite is a powerful social media management tool. I use this to manage all of the social media accounts for my church, all of the individual minsitries and my own social media. If you have multiple social media accounts to keep track of, give Hootsuite a try.

Buffer is my favorite social media management tool. Buffer will maximize your scheduling of posts in light of when your followers are most active. A new upgrade they just did now allows their Chrome browser extension to identify pictures within blog posts when you go to share them so you can add the picture to your Tweet which increases engagement.

Personal Growth
Kindle App is available on every device you have and allows you to read great books wherever you are. There’s a great way also to utilize your highlights and add them to Evernote for later use. See this article on how to do so.

Podcast Republic is my podcasting app of choice. I have a Samsung Galaxy S5 so, in other words, I don’t have an iPhone. If you are an iPhone user, you should have the Podcast app on your device already. Podcast Republic gives you access to the entire iTunes library and allows you to subscribe to podcasts, see the show notes, and much more.

Feedly is the way I keep up with all the blogs I follow. It is an RSS reader where you can upload as many blog feeds as your heart desires. You can read and share blog posts without ever having to leave feedly. I also use IFTTT recipe’s with this.

YouVersion is my Bible reading app of choice along with millions of others. It offers a great number of reading plans. You can connect with friends on the app and see what they are reading as well.

Tools Are Only Tools
What you do with them is what counts.

What tools do you use that weren’t included in my list above? I’d love to hear from you and update this post with your add-ons. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

4 tools we use for better team communication.

We value communication with our teams. Ever since moving into more of an Executive Pastor role at my church, one thing I have noticed is how well all of my 25+ years as a children’s pastor, youth pastor, and even family pastor have really equipped me for success in this ministry role. Through all of these roles mentioned and now in my newer role communicating with a diverse group of people who want different types of info at different times is still one thing in common.

Here are 4 tools I have come to love because they aid in great communication.

1. Trello.
Here is a tool that I use to track projects of individuals to teams. We use it to keep their wish list ideas in, to tracking their top 2 projects they are working on for the week that keeps the ball moving down the field to accomplish the bigger mission and vision of our church. We will use it at budget times as well to go back and see exactly how we did spend money and look for patterns. One last way that I will mention here, even though we have an abundant amount more we could list would be, we use it for weekly review.

2. Slack.
Instead of texting, we have moved to using slack. This has a much more collaborate feel and function that fits our church. Easier to track documents being shared, I can monitor usage to see how we are using this tool, you can shut off notices when you don’t want to be disturbed, and again many other ways.

3. Dropbox.
All finished projects go here. Every year we do an Easter event of some type. So as planning comes up for Easter we will go into our shared Easter folder and there we will see all collected files, resources, budgets, vendors used along with their contact info, forms etc there for convenient use in guiding us toward creating the new Easter event.

4. Evernote.
The bottom line on this tool, as it can be used in so many ways but the bottom line way we use it as a team is for our electronic brains. A file cabinet that can snatch things from the web with a web clipper for your browser extension, to an email given to you from Evernote that you can send things to through email. With everyone using this tool sharing a folder is easy as well.

Being Productive NOT for Dummies

not-for-dummies

It never stops amazing me when I meet people and ask them how do they stay productive and then to hear for the next 10 minutes of their very complicated methods and systems that they use.

This was the very reason I was an apple user before it was ever cool to be one. I enjoyed their complete all-inclusive “simple” ecosystem. One of the main draws of using Apple products was how well they worked with each other and made it so I didn’t have to go around to a bazillion other places to get what I needed to do what I wanted to. It felt seamless because everything you needed was already built-in; there was no need to download or install anything. It saved time, was easy and uncomplicated. Now I do understand this may not be as true today, which is why I used all past tense in my statements above. I sadly now watch Apple try to become everyone else instead of who they are. I will stop here as this is a whole other blog post rant that I would go on.

Successful task management (the task is used because I strongly believe no one but God can manage time only the task that happens within the time given) is putting into place systems and strategies that enable you to work at your highest capacity without losing sight of your personal identity or your calling in Christ. Here are some ways that help me manage my task and maximize my impact.

Use Technology. I know some of you once you read that you groaned, and started to tune me out. Please wait and finish reading before you do this. Some of you who read this would also be those who are just like those I started this post off describing, the over complicated system type. Hold in there with me and let’s see if we can’t simplify your system a bit.

“Technology is our friend”, go ahead and say it again. It is about finding the right technology tool for you. Below I will list some of the tools I use that you may want to start with and then branch out to find your own. Remember, K.I.S.S. is important here. Keep It Simple Silly.

Trello for group short project management. This is a free tool.

Evernote for all things filling and serves as my electronic brain. This is also free but can cost.

DropBox for my group collaboration projects that will need to be stored long-term. This can be free but cost.

Kindle app. I first buy a book electronically because they are cheaper and I can read them, highlight them and print all of my highlighted stuff off quickly for free. If the book is good enough then I will buy a paper version.

1Password. This does cost but it is well worth it to me as it stores, fills in and secures all passwords everywhere for me.

Unroll.Me is a web service and app that helps me to mark all email as keep, Unsubscribe or add to roll up. This is a free service.

Hootsuite is for all things social for me. It keeps all my accounts in one place for easy posting and reading.

doodle is for all group calendar setting. It allows me to pick some dates and times and then sends to those I’m trying to pick a scheduled appointment with. They will mar all that work for them and then I pick the one that can be attended by most. It then sends an email out telling of the agreed upon date and time. No more back and forth.

Closing, take a look and see how I don’t use a variety of tools for the same function.Try and keep it all very short and sweet. Staying simple is not really simple after all. If we are left to our own ways we will over complicate everything time after time. Now you have taken long enough reading this post, go and be productive.

The Wired Soul book review

the wired soul book cover

Tricia McCary Rhodes, an adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary shares the same enjoyment and connection to technology as the rest of us. But she takes the time to investigate the cost we exchange for technology. What are our screens doing to our relationships, brains, and soul? This was a hard reality check for me.

This may have been why the book started off so great for me but felt like it fizzled out through the rest of the book. I started in with some gut check reality stats and as the book progressed for me I ended up in more known type information.

I cracked the book open and within the first 2 chapters I was completely drawn in and excited, not to mention all the new info that I was taking in during these first couple of chapters. I was telling all of my coaching students about the info I was learning and the lessons that I was putting together to teach them as well.

Then it happened, just as I feared. The book should have stopped there. The remaining of the book really was just drawing out my excitement from the first couple of chapters. I still picked up a gem here or there, but it never felt like the same book that I started reading.

Some good stuff did come from my time in this book. I am walking away with the new knowledge from the first couple of chapters but also other lessons. The importance of journaling and how even that writing on paper will slow us down so that we can become aware of the little things that God may be trying to get our attention with. Some simple breathing exercises, and slow reading and the importance of it.

I won’t be giving up my smartphone or laptop anytime soon, but this book has made me reconsider reading more books in print including my Bible.

To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I need to let you know that Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing.

My ministry day with my iPhone


I still get amazed what we can accomplish today with just our phones. 

Today, I’m going to take us on a brief trip of my day in ministry with just using my iPhone. 

  • Started the day off with using my Bible (YouVersion). 
  • After that I went into my weather app to see what kind of weather I was going to get today. 
  • Easily.Do to check for birthdays and send out text or email cards to them. Also get to see the status of all my packages coming and going. Then get a quick overview of trending Instagram pictures from my friend and the Instagram community. One of the last nice things I enjoy about Easily.Do is it gives me an update of any emails I need to respond to. 
  • Next I move into Trello to check on all my group projects. This handles all my project management. 
  • Throughout the day I am in and out of Evernote. It serves as my electronic brain. 
  • Dropbox is the same with me going in and out all day long as it is my sharing tool with others. 

I am amazed at all that I can and do with my iPhone daily. The apps mentioned are just a couple that I use first thing in the morning. This post would turn into one very long list of I was to mention everything that I use. Even this post was made on my iPhone.

What apps do you find the most valuable to your day? 

Dangerous and Risky and will make you…

internet-safety-09-300x210

Dangerous and Risky and will make you AWARE!!

There was a show on a few back called, “The Masked Magician”. This show caused a lot of stir in the magician circles because the whole show was a “masked magician” would show the secrets to a lot of tricks. These were not some small pull a silk from what was once my empty hand, but more like cutting a person in half, disappearing from a chained up trunk and more. Tricks that were still being performed and providing the bread and butter for many magicians families.

Through this show, many people began to understand what was a mystery to them at one time. It put on the minds of many who never thought about this stuff before but were now pulled into a new knowledge. The purpose that the masked magician said he wanted to accomplish was only to try to raise the bar of what Magicians would do. He was tired of people doing the same illusions for all these years.

The motive was good, but I’m not sure it was accomplished in the best of ways. The same is true in my opinion when we post well-meaning articles like this one:http://educateempowerkids.org/dangerous-apps/

It is understood that we want parents to be aware of apps out there that may not be the best for kids of different ages. But, we may also have a “masked Magician” type effect taking place as well. Putting titles and info like this one out there in an area that people of all ages read and visit may be doing just the opposite of the intended purpose. Now it may be putting it in front of kids who had no idea of these apps but now are made aware. Then they will go and explore them, just like many did when the secrets were told of illusions being performed.

Is there a better way? Thoughts?

New Family Ministry App A Must See.

take two app screen shot

This may be one of my shortest post only because I can let this great app do all the talking for itself.

It has arrived!!

Take TWO Family Ministry, a ministry that is part of First Church of the Open Bible here in Des Moines, Iowa has had our app go live as of 3/25/15. It has everything from videos, stories, jokes and riddles for kids. For the adults, it has devotions, parenting blogs and more.

A few items that bring me special joy to have as a part of the app is:
1. Invite a friend. If someone clicks on this it generates an email that has a great message and all you need to do is add the email of who you are sending it to and hit send.

2. It has a salvation tract that all anyone needs to do is read it as they show whoever they are witnessing to. Takes the fear out of sharing your faith for some.

3. Puts you contact with all of our social media areas.

So much more. make sure you go now and download it. you get all of this and the more for FREE!

Remote office not required book review

remote_front-530x800

When this book Remote arrived in the mail I was excited to start to read it as I already had respect and enjoyed 37 signals as a company. Now after reading the book allow me to say this book did not add to my respect for a great company.

Let me say that I am one who already enjoys working remotely for my main job of being a Children/Family Life Pastor, where a ton of my volunteers live all over the city and hold several different work schedules so having the ability of working on the go comes in very handy. Also, I get the privilege of working for a completely online business called Kidology.org as a Ministry Coach, and as one of their Kidmin Pros. Seeing that such a large amount of my time is remote, getting the opportunity to read a book titled Remote I was excited. Then soon let down.

Remote is a book that had a ton of potential but unfortunately according to this reader feel short. Through the book I kept feeling like they would start a topic that I wanted them to go deeper on but we never seemed to go there. I know they wanted to make a book that anyone could pick up but that didn’t mean we had to stay at the extreme surface level that the book stayed at.

Basically, if you are looking for a book to show your boss who is very office bound in their thinking and working remotely is a foreign concept, this may be the book for you. If you are wanting anything more, then I would not think this book would be your best choice.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging For Books review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What I learned when I dropped and broke my iPhone

cracked iphone

The expression, “It’s starting to be one of those Mondays” took on a new reality for me this morning.

Walking out the door this morning when my backpack hit my hand which was loosely holding my iPhone 5s. When the two of them made contact it was my phone that lost as it left my hand and dropped to the bottom of our concrete front porch stairs. The whole front glass section of the phone was completely busted up. The silver lining of this could be that we had Apple care plus so the fixing of the phone cost $79.00 and some unscheduled time to get it fixed.

While it was getting fixed, the whole 3 hours, it truly became clear how much and often I truly do use my phone. Here are some ways that in just those 3 hours I went to use my phone.

1. email of course. I went to send email and check my email. I am even embarrassed to admit that while I was in the apple store handing my phone over, the guy helping me told me how they would send a receipt to my email. You guessed it, I went to try to check my email on my phone that I no longer had with me.

2. Evernote was the other tool I was going to use on my phone. I wanted to take a picture of a logo that I saw and at another time wanted to do a voice recording note.

3. Starbucks app. I wanted to go get some coffee and reached for my phone to check my balance on the app when I remembered my phone was broken.

4. Calendar. Was completely lost without my calendar. Glad today was a Monday and is a little more relaxed than if this happened on another day.

5. Amazon book reader. As my wife was driving I usually will work on my iPhone or will get caught up on my reading or book review list. Not this time.

6. Clock. This was attempted more times than I will admit to, because it is very embarrassing how many times I check for my phone to see the time.

7. Trello. Every time I wanted to add to my to-do list or assign a project for a team member I would reach for my phone and come up disappointed every time.

8. EasilyDo. Trying to stay connected with all of my friends and their birthdays etc I love using EasilyDo. In this time block of my phone being down, so was my connecting with friends and wishing them a happy birthday.

9. YNAB. YNAB has been one of those apps that has benefited my family so much because we keep track of our spending and know what we have budgeted while maintaining real time updates for my wife and I. This app has been the single most beneficial tool to help us stop living pay check to paycheck. Every time we would spend something I had to hold onto the receipt for that moment that my phone would be back or I was around a computer to log into YNAB and record them.

10. Bible. I wanted to look up a reference that someone was making that was in the Bible but as we know by now, I did not have my phone which meant I did not have my Bible on hand.

11. Lastly, I did try to make a couple calls, it is a phone still as well I guess.

Isn’t it amazing how much our phones are used in such a short amount of time?
I have read on Tech2 the average person checks their smart phone 150 times a day.

How would you have been found trying to use your phone over the past 3 hours?

Do you have 1 single tool that you use more than your smart phone? If so what is it?

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