This is my 555th post here. It’s also my last.
I’m moving on to my new digs at JasonTheDCE.com. Go check it out. If you’re reading this via email or an RSS reader, it means you need to go to the new site and update your subscription.
We continue with our Giving Up series this weekend, focusing on expectations. Some expectations are good, but when we expect God to conform to our expectations of Him, we are walking a dangerous path. Read on for this week’s cover article for the announcements page.
What do you expect of God? Who do you expect Him to be? I’d really like God to conform to my expectations of who He should be. It’s much easier for me to understand God when I decide who and what He is. It’s much more comfortable for me when I define God, rather than allowing God to define me.
I’d like God to conform to my expectations because then there are no hard truths to face. Things like John 14:6:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
It’s a hard teaching that only Jesus brings eternal life. I’d love to be able to tell people that if they just believe in something, they’d get to experience eternal life.
But fortunately for me, I don’t get to define God. Because every day I serve the false gods that I create. Every day, I worship the “expected” god instead of the true God. And my “expected” god is not a good god. Because only the God revealed in the scriptures is a good God.
God wants to shatter our false expectations and replace them with truth. He wants to replace them with The Truth, his Son Jesus. And when we give up our expectations, we might just find that the God we serve is indeed good, even if it’s not always comfortable walking with Him.
I’m not really big on giving things up for Lent. I understand the practice, and can even see value in it, it’s just never really been for me. This week we start, as we start our journey to Easter, we start a new series about giving up. Read on for the front page of this week’s announcements as you prepare for the sermon this weekend.
There are times when wars end in a stalemate, where both sides just decide to stop fighting, but more often they end when one side surrenders. Generally speaking, you don’t want to be on the side that surrenders, because surrendering means defeat. It means the victor gets to impose their will on yours. But in God’s upside-down view of things, surrendering is actually the path to victory.
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Romans 7:22-23
There is a war waging inside us. It’s a war between our own sinful nature and the Spirit of God. The Spirit is calling for our complete surrender. No terms. No demands. But total surrender. And in return, the Spirit offers freedom. It is only through surrendering to God that we can win the war raging in our body. Paradoxically, surrender leads to victory.
This week we start a new series about surrendering, about Giving Up those things in our lives that keep us from God. Check inside for a complete list of what we’re called to give up. This Lent, we walk with Jesus towards Golgotha, the hill on which He would surrender His very life to win our freedom. This Lent, we give up more than chocolate, TV or some other bad habit. This Lent, we heed the Spirit’s call to wave the white flag. This Lent, we surrender and experience true freedom in the process.
Here’s a small preview of the graphics that are in this post, all available for download from my other site.
We wrap up our Pain Killer series this weekend talking about the Pain of Rejection. As I reflect on this pain, I’m reminded of the pain God experiences when we reject Him, and how he continually takes us back. Read on for the front page of this week’s announcements as you prepare for the sermon this weekend.
Nobody likes to be rejected. Whether it’s applying for a job and not getting it or asking a girl or guy out on a date, only to get the cold shoulder. Rejection hurts. After several rejections, it’s easy to just give up and not try anymore. How many times can I hear the word “no” and still keep going? Eventually, it’s just easier to give up and not risk rejection.
Have you ever considered how God feels about rejection? He calls us to Himself, to trust Him more than anything else, yet we continually reject Him. Jesus lamented this on His way into Jerusalem:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Matthew 23:37
God is continually inviting us into His loving arms and we are continually turning our backs on Him. But He is a loving God. Unlike us, He doesn’t get tired of inviting. He doesn’t give up on us because we continually reject Him. He keeps inviting us, drawing us back to Him. And when we do return, He’s waiting with open arms. In the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15, we see a picture of the Father’s love for us. When the son finally decides to return to the father, we hear of the father’s great love:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
As you struggle with the pain of rejection, maybe it’s time to return to your loving Father. He’s waiting for you, with open arms, ready to forgive all the times you’ve rejected Him.
One of the things we learned from our Spiritual Life Survey (results here) is the importance of embedding God’s Word everywhere we can. Sue approached me with a project a while back for posters that would have the books of the Bible on them to hang in the classrooms at First Trinity. We also wanted a matching bookmark to accompany them. Here’s what we came up with:
We went with white text on black to improve readability from a distance, but I also liked the contrast of mostly black/white with a splash of color on each. Both the plan and the water convey life, which connects nicely with God’s Word being our primary source of life. The green and blue colors are also reminiscent of our logo, which has a leaf-like shape with green on top and blue on the bottom.
We’re currently in the bidding process to get the posters and bookmarks made and hope to have them available by Spring, assuming the cost is right.
We continue our series titled Pain Killer this week, focusing on the pain of suffering. Read on for this week’s announcement front page.
Lent is fast approaching. In about 10 days, we will “celebrate” Ash Wednesday, a solemn time to remember that we are sinful people. Lent is traditionally a time to focus on the passion—or suffering—of Jesus. If only we could talk about suffering without actually living it.
I once thought that becoming a Christian meant that I wouldn’t suffer any more. No more emotional pain. No more physical suffering. No more hurt. I’ve learned, however, that this is simply not the case.
I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Suffering is a natural consequence of sin. It’s wrapped up in who we are as sinful people. Jesus warns us that we’ll be facing some tough times, even some suffering. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be hard. You won’t want to walk this path. But thankfully, you don’t walk it alone.
Jesus has overcome the world, and eventually, those who trust in Him will truly have all their pain and suffering wiped away, never to be experienced again. But in the journey, we experience the pain of suffering with one who walked it before us 2,000 years ago. He’s walking through it with us today. We are not alone. Take heart! He has overcome the world!
One of the things I love about Dona Trautwein, our administrative assistant, is that she’s always insisting I teach her to fish. You’ve probably heard the phrase before:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
One of my unwritten job duties is fixing computers. It’s one way I use the gifts God has given me for technology to help others. Dona will often have a question about something and rather than just getting it fixed (which, by the way, is way faster in the short-run than teaching, though much worse in the long-run), she insists I teach her what I’m doing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it just needs to be fixed and I do it, but if it’s anything she remotely has a chance of needing to know again in the next year or two, I try to accommodate her and teach instead of just giving. She’s actually learned quite a bit since she’s been here. It’s fun teaching her because she wants to learn.
One of the things that Dona and I both do regularly is put together the worship PowerPoint slides. Dona works on Traditional and I do the Contemporary. The other day, I was watching her work on the slides when she duplicated a slide without using the mouse. As it turns out, Control-D will duplicate a slide, and I never would have discovered it if Dona hadn’t taught me. You might know this quote too:
I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now *I* am the master.
That was Darth Vader to Obi-Wan. Hrmm… I hope she’s not Darth Vader in disguise…
We start a new sermon series this week title Pain Killer. It’s a series about bringing our pain to Jesus. This week we look at the pain of loss. The front cover of the announcements this week follows.
Death is ever-present. From the moment we’re born, we are moving closer and closer towards death. Babies who warm hearts with their giggles and smiles are moving towards death. Preschoolers, despite their wild play, laughter and energy, are moving towards death. Teens, adults, seniors—we’re all inching closer to death every day of our lives.
Death seems so final. On the one hand, we know that there is life in Jesus for those who trust completely in Him. We’ve heard Jesus’ words to Martha before:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
And yet, believing and dealing with the pain of loss are two completely different things. Death seems so final because it’s the end of our time with our loved one. There’s life to come, yes, but we’re still stuck with the stark reality that we will never see our beloved child, wife, husband, mother or father again here on earth. Jesus, the very Son of God, wept at the loss of His friend Lazarus—and Jesus even knew He would raise his friend from the dead!
So how do we cope with the pain of loss? The pain so deep and sharp that it threatens to overwhelm us and pull us under the waterline, drowning in it. We bring it to Jesus, the one who understands our pain. The one who understands and walks through the pain with us. The one who understands and brings life through death. The one who is life.
A while back, I wrote an article for thESource, an online publication for youth workers about technology in ministry. There was a recent call out for writers again, so I decided to write a series of devotions about Jesus. The original topic I had been given was about prophecies fulfilled. They gave me a list of 7-10 prophecies to choose from and were looking for four devotions.
The devotions are now published on thESource. For quick reference, they are:
- Called out of Egypt (Based on Matthew 2:15)
- Called a Nazarene (Based on Matthew 2:23)
- Filled with the Spirit (Based on Luke 4:18-19)
- Signs and Miracles (Based on Matthew 8:16-17)
It was an interesting writing experience. Some of the options seemed almost impossible to write about—Called a Nazarene? What spiritual significance could that possibly have in my life?!—while others were fairly straight forward. The most difficult ones ended up being the most fun to write though, as I had to do some serious thinking about them before putting ink to paper… Or fingers to keyboard anyway.
You may recall I mentioned a few weeks ago about a new feature in our weekly announcement sheet at First Trinity. Sue suggested I cross-post the articles to my blog. If you want the full context, you can download our announcements sheet.
It’s late August in Buffalo. We’ve just had a beautiful, sunny day, and I’m just arriving at the baseball stadium to watch a game with some friends. There are familiar sounds of people cheering. Smells of popcorn, hot dogs and peanuts. Scorebook in hand, I’m engrossed in the game, soaking it all in.
Being a spectator is a lot of fun. It’s relaxing. It’s casual. It’s easy. But I never dreamt of being a spectator. As a kid, I always imagined myself as the star athlete, the one that others come to watch. The one that makes the big play and wins the game. The hero. But the spectator? Nope.
Being a spectator is fine, but how much more exciting it is to be the doer. To be the one on the field, playing. You know God designed us to be doers, not spectators.
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Genesis 2:15
God designed us to serve. Not to be spectators, but to get in the game. Not seated, but serving. Jesus showed us the example we were to follow:
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
God has a ministry in store for you, one that only you are able to accomplish. It’s the reason He saved us from our sin, “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Maybe He’s calling you to serve prisoners through Kairos, or reach out to young adults through Lutheran Campus Ministries. Maybe you want to become a Homebound Visitor, being a friend to those who can’t get out on their own. Maybe you’d like to be one of our Haiti Missionaries next year. Come hear what they did at the sharing event and seek God’s advice on whether He’s calling you to Haiti next year. Where is God moving you to serve?
I read an article today about projecting content (lyrics, readings, etc.) during worship. It had some tips to help projected content be more helpful for worshipers. I was pleased to see that our system passes the test for all of their tips, but the article got me thinking about what we’re doing with projection.
One of the first things I did when I switched into my current position was overhaul the projection system. At the time, we only projected lyrics to songs and each song was made up of an entirely different set of images, with little consistency from slide to slide. While I liked the additional art involved in the old style, I often felt that it was more distracting than helpful. Text would start at different positions on the screen, which makes it harder to track when flipping through multiple slides in the presentation. More problematic was that the design time it took to make each song was too high to sustain, especially once we started to project the entire service and move away from paper bulletins.
So I set to work designing a new system for projection. My guiding principles were:
- Readability is job 1. Moving to a paperless worship service meant the slides had to be readable above all else. After researching online, white text on darker backgrounds would result in the highest readability we could obtain. After our new projection system was installed, I invited some of our older members to do a readability test for font sizes to determine a minimum font size. Our standard is 32pt Calibri, 4 points above the minimum depth. Stand/Sit rubrics, Scripture references and service notes are 28pt.
- We can’t abandon the art. White text on black is the most readable combination, but I’m not sure it’s the best solution if we want to draw people into worship. Artwork and content are locked in a complex dance routine. After some trial designs, i decided to reserve the top 80% of the slide for content, and let the artwork reside in the bottom 20%.
- Design tells our story. Our three core story statements would influence the design so that the slides emphasize and reinforce who we believe God has called us to be at First Trinity. The primary story statement that I chose to focus on with the slide design was “Rooted and Relevant.” We have deep historical roots, but relevant expressions of faith. The primary font on the slides is Exocet Heavy, an “old” looking font based on ancient Greek and Roman design. Behind it sits the King & Queen, a more modern script, but with hints of old England calligraphy. The text show what part of the service we’re currently in, and matches the single page Order of Service that people receive in worship. The background has a rock texture applied to it, a nod to the solid foundation of God’s Word that our worship is based on.
- Icons and color amplify the mood. Behind the fonts sit black graphics with a soft light filter to allow the background to show through. The images are meant to help reinforce and teach what the various parts of the service are all about. They are subtle clues to the purpose of this section of the service. Times of song and celebration include people in celebratory poses. Prayer has a person on bowed down on their knees before God, illustrating our humble hearts in prayer. The Agnus Dei (Latin for “Lamb of God”) has a lamb in the background, a reminder of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Confession and Absolution have a hill with three crosses, a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us. When possible, I chose traditional, liturgical colors. Confession/Absolution are purple, the color for Lent, a season of repentance. Scripture, Creeds and Baptism are blue, the color of life-giving water. The Lord’s Supper is brown, the color of a rich loaf of bread, fresh from the oven. Sometimes there wasn’t an obvious color, so I just chose something that worked.
- Sustainability and Speed. The slides have to be easy to create once in PowerPoint. With the use of master slides and formatting in PowerPoint, I’m able to convert the contemporary service (4-5 pages of printed text) into PowerPoint in under 45 minutes (assuming I get that long without distractions). Because verbiage changes from week-to-week, very few slides are reused. The design had to accommodate this.
On an email list I participate in for DCEs, someone recently sent an email looking for ideas on themes to use in Worship for Lent. I thought it might be helpful to document our worship planning process as a resource for others working in this area. Here are some of the things we do as part of creating a meaningful worship experience each weekend at First Trinity:
We’re much smarter and creative together. Myself, Pastor Chuck (Senior Pastor), Sue Brese (Traditional Worship Director) and Jubal Myer (Contemporary Worship Director) meet twice a month usually to brainstorm ideas. I lead the meeting and we spend time:
- Picking Series Themes: We look at what other churches are doing online. Life Church and David Choate at Table Rock Fellowship have been big inspirations for us in particular. We brainstorm ideas as we browse through what they’ve done. Sometimes we use their concepts and create our own sermon titles/artwork, other times we use most of their concepts/titles. Life Church grants the rights to their artwork, so we end up using a lot of it. David’s material is more brainstorm fodder for us. We try to pay attention to the rhythm of the year and pick topics that apply. For example, our current series for the start of the new year is titled MOVE and focuses on becoming more spiritually fit at a time when people are making New Year’s resolutions.
- Refining Sermon Titles/Themes: Pastor usually has in his mind what he wants to talk about, but we refine it with him and settle on three readings for the service/sermon to be based around. We also come up with some main ideas to help plan the worship service without having a complete sermon outline to work from.
- Refine Artwork Concepts: I usually pitch multiple concepts to the group and we talk about them. Later I develop samples using images from iStockPhoto.com or other “Open Source” sources that we’re legally allowed to use. These are circulated among staff in the building and further refined before settling on a final graphic for the series. This gets used as a title slide, the background for the Bible verses in worship, on our sermon outlines if possible and on the website as a promotion on the front page and a banner on the series page, linked from our “Listen” section.
In addition to this group, we also bring together a larger group of staff before and after the Christmas and Lent/Easter seasons to talk about the theme and get all our ducks in a row. This process includes:
- Brainstorming: We review notes from the previous year and decide what elements we want to keep and what new things we want to try this year. This might include new altar decoration ideas, new traffic flow patterns (like adding a Communion station to the loft for Easter Sunday) and the scheduling/training of volunteers.
- Deadlines: During the busy seasons, we have a lot more going on and need to allow more time for bulletin production and distribution of music/scripts/etc. This means more deadlines to ensure everything gets done. We set deadlines for finding and training volunteers. Deadlines for getting content to Dona for print layout. Deadlines for sermon outlines. If it needs to get done, it gets a deadline date.
- Review: Afterwards, we meet to review the season that was. We debrief what went right and what could be improved next year. Our awesome office manager Kathy Figini records all this and starts the process again the following year. If we had any new ideas to try for the following year, or things we should do away with, we record them so we’ll remember later.
I was talking this week with Bekah and Kathy about how the sermon series and even individual titles stand out to me more now than they used to. I never could have told you what topics we covered a year ago in worship, but now I can probably rattle off at least half of the themes, if not 70 or 80%. I think the more cohesive theme packages we’ve been developing have helped with retention. Or maybe it’s just because I work so much more with these areas now. Or maybe it’s both.
To First Trinity readers: What would help you connect more with God in worship? What kinds of series would you like to see in the future?
For everyone: What worship planning processes have you used in your church? Or what topics have you seen that really struck you and meaningful? If you have a link to your church’s sermon archive, let me have it.
Share your thoughts in the comments.
When reflecting on my favorite part laptop cover from the Jesus Loves Nerds post I wrote yesterday, I decided that my runner-up for best tidbit on the laptop cover was a joke about Chuck Norris. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of or not. It’s a common internet meme and popular culture phenomenon. Here are a few to give you a taste:
- Fear of spiders is arachnophobia, fear of tight spaces is claustrophobia, fear of Chuck Norris is called Logic.
- When Alexander Bell invented the telephone, he had 3 missed calls from Chuck Norris.
- Chuck Norris has already been to Mars. That’s why there’s no signs of life.
- Chuck Norris can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves.
- Some people wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.
Some of the jokes are really funny. Nearly every Chuck Norris joke makes me chuckle. But there’s a problem with these jokes and Hollywood films like the Karate Kid (and so many others). We laugh about Chuck Norris’ super powers. We cheer for Daniel Russo when he wins the All Valley Karate Championship. But Chuck Norris doesn’t really have super powers (though he is super cool). And Daniel Russo never would have won that karate championship. You can’t train for a few weeks or even months and beat kids that have been training their whole life.
While writing that post, I came across a blog post about why Chuck Norris jokes are dangerous. The author writes:
Unfortunately, I think a lot of us believe that we should instantly be great at something when we first try it. Or if not instantly, we should, in a matter of weeks, begin mastering the skills. Instead, Malcolm Gladwell argues in his (excellent) book Outliers that true mastery takes about 10,000 hours. TEN. THOUSAND. HOURS.
10,000 hours. That’s a lot of time. It’s almost 14 months actually. Later in the article, she referenced an article by David Wong (How the Karate Kid Ruined the Modern World) that talks about “Effort Shock.” The relevant portion of the article:
We have a vague idea in our head of the “price” of certain accomplishments, how difficult it should be to get a degree, or succeed at a job, or stay in shape, or raise a kid, or build a house. And that vague idea is almost always catastrophically wrong.
Guess what? Mastering spiritual disciplines like Prayer, Giving, Serving and Reading the Bible are hard work. It’s going to take a while. And you’ll probably have “Effort Shock” once you get into it. In fact, you’ve probably already experienced it. Maybe you thought reading the Bible or praying would be easier than it is. But it’s not. It’s hard work. It’s a long, slow journey, not a quick fix.There are distractions, pitfalls, obstacles. The devil will do everything he can to stop us from mastering the spiritual disciplines.
Thankfully, we’re not working alone at it. God Himself is with us.
I’m not really a fan of Christian Schlock. T-shirts, posters, bumper stickers, etc. You know the ones, right? No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace. Or how about: In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned. Or maybe you prefer the cheesy replacement slogans like “Just Believe It!” (You know, like Nike? Just do it?) You also have great church sign content like: “C H _ _ C H. What’s missing? U R.”
The thing is, it cheapens our message I think. Some of them are useful witnessing tools, but too many just turn me off and I’m already Christian! What does it do to non-believers? I see some of the ones on car bumpers and feel like I was just the victim of a drive-by judgment.
Now, I like a good Christian T-Shirt from time to time. Half my T-Shirt/Relaxed wardrobe it seems is made up of just Cornerstone and Crossroads gear, our Middle School and High School Ministries at First Trinity. But some of the junk we’ve come up with as Christians isn’t even funny. It’s just plain dumb.
Of course, this is the exception that proves the rule. Every now and then, we come up with something great. Got this as a psuedo Birthday/Christmas gift from a friend. I’m not really one for laptop covers, but this one was perfect. You can buy it or see a clearer, more readable picture here. My favorite part? Tough, but I’d have to go with “Jesus has the newest iPhone before it’s even made.” Runner up? “Chuck Norris wishes he was as cool as Jesus.”
One of the tips from Erik Ticen, our awesome communications consultant at Vaughn Street that helped us analyze and improve our communication strategy, suggested we try to capitalize more on our weekend worship folder. Each weekend, 425 people get a copy, each week, plus some at some special services. We’ve always used the worship folder as an announcements sheet, primarily focusing on what’s coming up with the occasional story about what happened thrown in. In light of people not knowing what’s going on, what if we started treating the announcements as a form of story telling?
Starting this weekend and going through the the MOVE sermon series, we’re trying something different on the front page of the announcements. I’ll be writing an article, almost as if it were a paper version of a blog, highlighting some of the goings on that you can find inside the announcements. It’s less informational (though there’s certainly some in there) and more relational (kind of like a friend sharing what’s happening in their life). It invites people to engage more with the content, while also acting as a summary page, highlighting what you’ll find inside.
Let me know what you think about it in the comments, our through the First Trinity Feedback page. If you just can’t wait to see what I wrote, you can always sneak a peak by downloading the upcoming announcements page. It kinda feels like traveling forward in time when you do. Sadly, you only get that feeling on Friday afternoon before it becomes the present again.
When I informally poll members at First Trinity about what drew them into this family of faith, I often hear some variation of: “I was driving by and saw the Contemporary Worship sign.” I’m struck by the comment, because it’s really a pretty simple sign, but it really speaks to people who are looking for something different than “traditional” church.
Side note about “Traditional” church: I struggle with this label because I believe what people really mean when speaking negatively about past church experiences and labeling them “traditional” is something akin to “empty rituals that have no meaning to me.” There’s lots of other baggage tied up in that word, but it’s often used negatively by those seeking a more “contemporary” worship style. We call our other services “Traditional”, but Sue Brese does such an excellent job of making them anything but “traditional” in the usual (read: bad) sense. They might use familiar liturgical elements and style, but it’s nothing like the “traditional (bad)” church where I grew up. I prefer “contemporary” worship myself, but I have yet to participate in a traditional service carefully planned and orchestrated by Sue and not felt like it was relevant and speaking to me. But this isn’t about worship styles, it’s about signage!
Here’s our new Contemporary Worship Sign:
Our communications team (Pat Canfield, Cathi Doebler, Carolyn Doster, Heide Edgington, Kathy Figini and Myself) has been working on it for a while. Carolyn did most of the design layout on the various options we looked at. After bringing in a few people for a sort of focus group, we narrowed it to two options, which we then sent to the EMT for a decision.
After much discussion, we felt it was important for this sign to remain as an emphasis for Contemporary worship as most people driving by would look at our building and assume we had Traditional worship available. The photo of the guitar players is certainly modern, but not over the top. I think it manages to convey both a contemporary sound, but also a warm, authentic atmosphere.
The primary content is sized to be between .5 – 1 inch larger than our existing sign, which was already quite readable from the corner. The web address is almost twice as large as the current sign. (Side note 2: Did you even know the existing sign had it? I might have known, but forgot until I went out to measure the letter heights.)
I have a dream to add lighting to the sign, but there’s some cost involved to making that happen and we couldn’t afford it right now. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to get that added. It would increase the effective hours the sign is visible, especially during the winter and the peak holiday shopping season.
We’ve managed to avoid winter for longer than usual here in Buffalo. While I love the people and area of Buffalo, I still don’t like winter. Despite growing up in similar condition in Cleveland and going to school in winter wind-happy Chicago, I just don’t like winter. I’m sure it has to do with doing my first years in ministry in the Houston, Texas area. I discovered this truth there: People don’t have to live like this! It’s true! There are places without this awful weather!
One of the joys of winter, however, is bringing out and using our favorite quilt. When we left Texas, one of my youth group kids (Sarah) took a bunch of our t-shirts and turned them into a quilt to keep us warm up north. I couldn’t get all of the shirts in the photo, but it includes shirts from several VBS’s, mission trips, our youth group shirts, staff shirts and some from Crosspoint, where Jaime worked.
Whenever we curl up under the quilt, we always think of our friends in Texas. It’s probably the best gift I’ve ever received in ministry because of all the time and love that went into making it. While I still can’t condone winter, the quilt at least makes it bearable.
You might know that I’m … less than full-haired. You might also know that one of my favorite wacky stories in the Bible is about Elisha getting mocked by some youth who were calling him a bald head. The whole story can be found in 2 Kings 2.
While reading Kem Meyer’s blog, I found a link to Jim LePage, who has been working on graphics for books of the Bible for the past year+. There are some really cool designs in there, but one in particular stood out:
After looking through Jim’s designs, I was led to his Tumblr account where he’s been collecting some other Biblical artwork he’s come across. That led to Todd Goehner’s Biblical Advice Posters. Lo and behold, what did I find?
Be sure to browse through the collections. There are some pretty cool graphics in there.
One thing I hear on a regular basis at church is that people don’t know what’s going on. Sometimes it boggles my mind because I feel like we’ve made big strides to get the word out about what’s happening around here. Our online calendar is always up to date with what’s happening here. We even print out the calendar and put it at the Information Center for people who can’t get online. We publicize every event, class or special function that’s coming up in the weekly announcement sheet. You can download the announcements online as well. We post links to upcoming events on our website.
But despite all this, people still say they don’t know what’s going on at their church. I think it’s because there’s a large gap in our promotion plan. Imagine having a conversation with someone about something their looking forward to. Maybe it’s a special celebration, a concert, a new movie coming out or something else. You hear about all the lead up, then it finally happens and they never talk about it again. Wouldn’t that be a little odd?
We do it all the time, though. We talk about the events and classes that are on the horizon, even getting farther and farther ahead of the timeline, but we rarely take time to talk about what happened. When people say they don’t know what’s happening at church, I think they really mean they don’t know what happened at church. It’s a fair criticism, because we rarely talk about what happened. You know, the rest of the story?
As I craft the verbal announcements, I’m going to work on incorporating more storytelling and less “informational” type stuff. The information can easily be found online or in the written announcements—why keep saying the same thing verbally? The Executive Ministry Team also recently decided to write something for the announcements after each of our meetings. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to share everything we talk about in a public way, but there’s lots of stuff that we can talk about, so why not?
I’m also working on a new section for the website titled simply “News”. It will be a new menu item where you can find stories and news from ministries that happen around First Trinity on a regular basis. Sadly, I hit a snag as my favorite plugin for making it work the way I want is broken on the new version of WordPress. I’m looking for an alternative, but there are surprisingly few options available. It’s kind of annoying after finally figuring out a system for telling the story to have it break before I could even install it.
Tim Hartnett recently circulated a flier for feedback regarding our Change-ing Our World ongoing fundraiser for missions at First Trinity. As I work on communications pieces here, I’ve tried to remember Kem Meyer‘s slogan: Less Clutter. Less Noise. Rather than a wall of text explaining the concept, I wanted to distill down the basics into an easily digestible chunk of information.
I quickly came up with the first two steps. Commit and Collect made sense, but I was struggling with the 3rd. Kathy Figini and Bekah Freed were the only ones in the office to bounce ideas off of, so we went to work. Kathy suggested “Clang!” as an option. We laughed a bit, generated a few more ideas, then I decided to give “Clang!” a go. In the end, I think it works perfectly.
Most of the text is in a light blue, except for a few key phrases in white. We decided to make “Change Our World” in white, but leave off the “-ing” part in the title. It gives the poster an active voice, despite the use of an -ing verb in a subtle way. “Serve others in Jesus’ Name” started on a Crossroads Workcamp flier from several years ago. Bekah kept the emphasis on a recent publicity piece so I decided to carry it over here as well.
This is the poster version of the artwork but there is an almost identically themed version for use as a flier that will be distributed after Christmas.
One of the things I get to do on a regular basis at First Trinity is create artwork for use in worship, PowerPoint, on the web and other projects. Here’s a recent one I did for Sue’s newest short course, titled “I Am.”
There wasn’t a clear visual associated with the series, so I went with a text treatment of the key phrase, “I Am.” After some searching online, I found this great tutorial for making a typographic poster. I liked the look, so I kept the color scheme, but I changed a single phrase to white instead of black to make it stand out a bit for people. The font is Myriad Pro, Bold Condensed, a standard font in Adobe’s line of products.
If you aren’t familiar with the Short Course concept at First Trinity, check out Sue’s post about this current class.
I don’t have much to say about this web site except:
If you’re in need of some tutoring (or maybe your child), I just found a great site for helping out: Khan Academy. Here’s a preview video of what to expect there:
I watched a couple of them for a few minutes each and they seem like a great resource for getting help on math and science based courses, plus a smattering of other topics.