Here’s a small preview of the graphics that are in this post, all available for download from my other site.
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.
After getting feedback about the Gift Card Ministry (formerly Scrip), we decided it would be beneficial to highlight this ministry for Christmas. Here’s what it looks like:
Some thoughts on the design:
- I went simple on the design, using the motif of a Christmas tree. The explanatory text continues the image of the tree, making it appear like a larger tree.
- The catch phrase “serve others in Jesus’ Name” is accented in red. This is consistent with the next flier we’ll release in February/March.
- I intentionally focused on gifts people might give, not every card available. It seemed breaking them out by price group was the way to go for listing those options.
- The order form looks very different from the front page, but matches our regular order form. My hope is that when people see the “usual” form, it will be familiar once they get this flier.
- You’ll notice an extra line at the bottom of the order form for gift card wrappers. We’re giving away wrappers with every card valued at $10 or more. We’d lose money on cards that are $5 or less. There are currently only about 5 cards that we sell that are below that threshold.
Thanks for all the feedback on the Scrip program over the past couple days! Here’s a summary of what I heard, both online and off, from this group of readers and research in other programs:
- Increased visibility of point-of-sale. It’s hard to find it and when you do, it’s really crowded. A sign would be helpful. Also signs to help navigate from the information center to the ministry support center.
- Increased awareness. People forget it exists, don’t know it exists, or just plain don’t know what it is. Fliers, skits, video commercials and more are options to help here. We also want ways to easily share the information with friends/family that might be interested in partnering with us. Quick access to what’s in stock and what needs to be ordered is helpful as well.
- Incentives. Gift card wrappers at Christmas (and possibly other times), key-chain Sharpie marker with purchases over X dollars, one entry into a drawing for a $25 gift card of your choice for every X dollars.
Today’s questions then:
- Check out these gift card wrappers. Most are 16 cents per wrapper when ordering 1000. At best, we can order two designs. Do we go with one more generic “A gift for you” type card, a Christmas themed one, or one of both?
- Here’s a flier about the Gift Card Ministry. It answers three basic questions about the program: Why, What and How. It’s intentionally emphasizing the “why” we do it and frames profits in terms of how many trips it paid for. It also draws the “why” into the “what” and the “how” using the recurring phrase “serve others in Jesus’ Name.” We do it to help students serve in Jesus’ Name and when you purchase gift cards, you serve in Jesus’ Name through us. The back side is not done yet. Any wording that’s confusing? If you can, show it to someone who’s never heard of Scrip and see what they think about it.
- Which incentives would get you buying cards? Most are self-explanatory. The marker idea was so that people could have it with them to track the balance. Also, what should X be for pens and drawing entries? Markers cost around $1.20, so we’d lose money on sales of $25/50. We’d make money at $100 on all cards except Wegmans/Tims/Target where we essentially break even.
Continuing our series, we’re doing Blame It by Jamie Foxx. Sort of.
The song actually crosses the line for what I’m comfortable playing at Sunday School, so we’re going to look at the key topics Jamie Foxx brings up through a different song: Maybe it’s Maybelline by Relient K. Here’s the song, courtesy of Grooveshark:
We’ll primarily be looking at this idea of “blaming” others or things for the sins that we commit. We’ll look at those things we “blame” for not drawing closer to God. You know, the “I’d read my Bible more, but …” type statements.
We’ll also touch on the dangers of Alcohol, the primary “blame” in Jamie Foxx’s song, and what the Scriptures say about drinking.
Here’s the study sheet and lyrics for this weekend.
We’re doing a series in High School Sunday School called Billboard Top Hits. Youth are able to vote one week for one of six songs, all at the top of a different Billboard Music Chart. In addition to looking at themes brought out by the music, we’re trying to teach our youth to be discerning when they listen to music or consume other forms of media.
The first week we did it, we looked at You Found Me by The Fray. We used this excellent Bible Study from St. Thomas the Apostle Life Teen. It’s amazing how much the story parallels Job’s experience with life.
This past week we looked at Dead and Gone by T. I. Lots of great stuff to examine in that song also, even though the lyrics have lots of ****’s in them. You can hear the song on Grooveshark if you’d like, then follow along with the study we did.
Up next: Know Your Enemy by Green Day.
I’ve enjoyed Dave Ramsey ever since we saw him at the Catalyst conference. After taking the Good Sense budgeting course with Susan Whited, I’ve taken a much more proactive approach to finances, and Dave has been a great companion for that.
If you’re like the typical person, this economy may be freaking you out. First Trinity is going to be hosting a live streaming event with Dave Ramsey in partnership with churches all across the country. Here’s what they say about it:
Tired of hearing the fear, doom and gloom that’s filling the airwaves? Join Dave Ramsey for a nationwide town hall meeting and discover what’s happening with the economy, how we got here, and where we’re going.
I’d encourage you to come be a part of the event. If you’d like to promote it, here are a couple of resources for you:
If you’d like to get either print pieces to hang in a local business, we’d be happy to print one up for you. Just let me know which you want and when you’d like to come get it and we’ll have it ready for you.
Here’s the promotional video for the event:
Mainstream Technologies (Used by more than 50% of all computer users)
- Boomers and Elders
- Busters (25-41, I think)
- Text Messaging
- Hosting a personal website
- Mosaics (18-24)
- Text Messaging
- Instant Messaging
- Posting comments on other blogs
- Watching videos online
- Downloading music online
Emerging Technologies (Used by 20%-49% of all computer users)
- Purchasing Online (22% Mosaics, 26% Busters, 29% Boomers, 24% Elders)
- Spiritual Content Online (Mosaics/Busters/Boomers accessing church podcasts and websites, Elders not so much)
Check out the full article for some conclusions about the results and a nice colorful chart showing who uses the technologies surveyed.
One conclusion of my own: Posting comments can make you seem young like those crazy Mosaics.
I’m involved in an interesting discussion on a DCE email discussion group I participate in. The discussion started around the question, “How do we measure effectiveness in ministry if not by numbers of people coming?” Numbers are easy to measure: they are either up or down.
It’s not a perfect measurement, however. There could be lots of people not coming, but growing spiritually through other means. Or people could be coming for the wrong reasons. We could probably up attendance 200% by offering $20/week for everyone who comes to church, but is that really spiritual growth?
We like to think of spiritual growth at First Trinity as steps on a journey. What’s the next step in your spiritual life? Where do I go from here?
If spiritual growth is a journey, how do we measure it?
What if there were a personal spiritual assessment tool? A PSAT if you will. The tool would have questions that you answer in numerical form (scale of 1-6 style), but also include room for comments. You would take the test now, and again in a year, theoretically measuring your progress in journey.
Let’s say we’re developing the tool. Here are some questions I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
- What areas should the assessment cover? (Example: Prayer life, Worship, Serving others)
- What specific questions would you include?
Sound off in the comments!
The size of the text in the “My Feeds” section of Feedburner drives me nuts. Why would anyone want it that large? I figured someone else would have had this problem and written a Greasemonkey script to fix it. (For my regular readers, who probably don’t know what in the world I’m talking about, Greasemonkey is an extension for Firefox that allows people to write scripts that change the way a website looks. I love the extension, a must-have in the fox.) I can’t find it if it exists, so I wrote my own. It was my very first foray into the scripting world. Many thanks go out to Dive Into Grease Monkey for the tutorials that made the script possible.
The problem with the font size was that my feed titles would wrap onto a 2nd line. Here’s the before and after pictures:
Microsoft released a new version of Live Writer. It’s a tool to make blogging easier. it comes with a host of great new features (check out Digital Inspiration’s take on it), but there are a few that are missing that I’d like to see:
- Sync drafts to the “cloud” for editing on another computer with Live Writer. I found a workaround for this temporarily, but it should be standard.
- Insert Picasa Web Album. I know it’s a Microsoft product, but I’d love to see a way to enter the URL for a PicasaWeb album and it goes to the site, logs in as me and downloads/inserts the code necessary to make the photo album appear in my blog.
- Better Draft Management. How hard would it be to add folders to the draft section? Let me sort my drafts!
- Firefox Integration. While we’re at it, why not an extension for Firefox that allows me to push a button while at a web page and have it copy the current page title/link into a new draft. Bonus points if I can title the draft and mark which folder it should go into.
- A working “Check for Updates” button. The last two versions have not been found by the existing check for updates feature. Make it work like Firefox, where it checks on load, then gives the option to install the new version on load.
In other news, the most useful change out of the gate is addition of the tags field on the same line as the categories and publish date fields. I hated expanding the bottom section to get to tags. Of course, it only appears to be available if you haven’t downloaded your blog template for the editor from WordPress. Irritating that I lost the look of my blog while editing, but worth it for the tags thing. Maybe that will be fixed in the next version.
Awesome thing happened this evening. I like to have an empty inbox when I go to bed. It helps me sleep better, knowing what’s there. I answer quick stuff and mark the rest for follow-up the next morning at work if needed.
I had an email from one of our youth with a number of questions. One pertained to what’s the best way to read through the Bible over a period of time. I figured you might be interested in the resource as well:
- I like to tell people to open the JAR: John, Acts, Romans. John tells the story of Jesus’ life. Acts tells the story of the early church. And Romans gives many of the key truths of the Christian faith.
- If your goal is to read every word in the BIble in 3 years, you’ll want to be systematic in your approach. Zondervan has put together a number of plans for reading the Bible, including a 3-Year plan, which might be perfect for you. This plan gives about 1 chapter a day for you to read and prints off an easy check-off sheet.
- Another option is to go more topical in your study and then fill in the gaps at the end. The same site from Zondervan lists a number of 30 day Bible reading plans that might be of interest to you. They also have some nice 2-Week plans. You could print the 3-Year plan and mark it off while reading the shorter plans. Then, look over the 3-Year plan after you’ve finished the shorter plans and fill in the gaps.
- Make it easier to read
- Highlight most purchased vendors
- List more vendors overall
- Prepare for a special Christmas sales push outside our church
I’m starting a new blog. This one isn’t going anywhere, but I’m targeting a very different audience (I think). The more time I spend in ministry, the more I realize the church needs to be better about resourcing itself. There are so many quality, free resources around that could save churches money and improve effectiveness, but if you don’t know where to look or what’s out there, you’ll never take advantage of them.
I’ll be trying to write the posts for people with less technical knowledge than me. The idea is to provide tools that anyone can use, not just the technological geniuses among us. We’ll see how that goes, as I tend to assume people know more than they do sometimes.
You may or may not be interested in the content, but figured I’d share. It’s bare bones right now, but will expand as I have time to improve the look of the site.
I’m preaching this week on “helping yourself”, which is a bit of a paradox. You have a chance to influence the sermon! I’m looking for interesting ways that people can stay connected to the Body of Christ. Could be ways to stay connected to the church as an entity (subscribe to FT News) or connecting with others (Let’s do lunch!).
So what ideas do you have for staying connected?
Tonight at Cornerstone we continue the Lord’s Prayer, looking at “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our game this evening is Long Live The KING. Let me know your score if you end up playing along!
Two guest small group leaders this evening. My Jaime will be filling in for Sue, who’s at the KINDLE training event in Mundelein, IL. Michelle will be filling in for Darcy. Excited to have them both with us this evening.
This evening we start on the Lord’s Prayer. An interesting discussion occurred here around the theme of “fathers” in the media. We like to start each night with a game themed around the lesson. This evening, we’re playing “Father and Kid Duos”. I needed fathers that Middle-School students would be able to recognize on sight.
In the end, we had a hard time coming up with a lot of options, and those that we did find weren’t very good role models. What a sad statement on our world today. This is why we need Godly men to step up and be Godly fathers to their children or role models to other students!
If you’re interested, you can play along with us this evening (or whenever you happen to read this post). The first half of the file contains the instructions and the images of the fathers. The second half has all the acceptable answers. Enjoy!
- Admit defeat and start over: I know people are attached to their email address, but it can really help to just start over. Don’t delete your old account, but switch to a new web-based account as your primary email. I like Gmail for tons of reasons, which you’ll see below. Send one mass email to your contacts and let them know you’re switching. The ones who are serious about keeping in touch with you will follow along and change their address books. I switched in August, 2004 and have kept my Inbox at zero ever since. If a new account is not an option, then:
- Cut down on volume: Every 6 months or so, I revisit whether I should be subscribed to an email list. Do you really read that newsletter anymore? Do you really need that joke of the day email? Gmail is cool in that it ignores dots in your email account. That means “jasonthedce”, “jason.the.dce” and “jasonthedc.e” are all the same as far as Gmail is concerned. It does, however, keep the dots, so you can search for messages sent to “jason.the.dce” and return some results. By signing up for newsletters and the like as “jasonthedc.e”, I’m able to quickly find them in my inbox and decide whether they are worth getting still. You can also try the +tag trick, though not all websites let you subscribe with a + in your name since only Gmail recognizes the + character to my knowledge.
- Use Firefox and Get Help: It won’t work for everyone, but the GTD Inbox extension for Gmail has really improved my email management. I don’t use all the features, but I now have a system for making sure things don’t fall through the cracks.
- Process Email in Passes: My 1st pass is built around speed. Clear the inbox as fast as possible. If it can’t be dealt with in under 2 minutes, tag it for follow-up and deal with it in the 2nd pass. This includes long emails with lots of reading like newsletters or really large bodies of text in email. The 2nd pass is for more detailed emails that require some significant time to deal with. Start with the easiest remaining or most critical, then work towards the bigger ones. The idea is to knock out lots of smaller items and get those “wins” under your belt before tackling bigger messages/projects in your inbox.
- Learn to Love Hotkeys: Google loves keyboard shortcuts. You might need to enable them in your Gmail (or Reader or Calendar), but learning to use them can save tons of time. My favorite for email processing:
- k: Move “up” a conversation (up = newer)
- j: Move “down” a conversation (down = older)
- c: compose a message.
- m: Mute. (Ever been stuck in an email discussion with lots of people in the CC: tag, yet you aren’t sure how in the world you got stuck on the list? Mute sends the whole thing and all future replies to the archive unless they are sent directly to you. You might miss something, but sometimes it’s useful.)
- s: Star a conversation (I use this less since getting GTD Inbox, but still useful)
- r: Reply
- a: Reply all
- Respect Others: I’m not great at it, but I’ve been trying to get my email responses down to Five.Sentenc.es whenever possible. Don’t be part of the problem for someone else if you don’t have to be. Like I said, I’m still not great at it, but I’m working towards it.
You can also check out the original Inbox Zero from 43 Folders for lots of tips on dealing with email overload. I went from somewhere around 1,000+ unread emails to zero by switching to a single web-based account (Gmail) from Outlook checking my work account (900+ unread) and Yahoo (100+) holding my personal email. You can do it!
So we’re looking at David as part of the Amazing Chase. Now you can see (and experience) how it all started for King David, from his humble beginnings as a shepherd to his eventual rise to kingship. Thanks to The Plow.
I’ve ordered a case of Mark Batterson’s In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day for distribution at the church. I’ve got 22 of 24 copies available on a first-come, first-serve basis. They are $8 per book. They should be in in a few weeks. If you’d like one, let me know in the comments or stop me on Sunday morning. It’s well worth the read!