Monday, November 02, 2009

New Logos 4 announced today!

Logos Bible Software has announced the launch of Logos 4 available today! This new version is a complete redesign of their excellent Bible software. Everything has been re-engineered from the ground up.

New Home Page
The new Home Page makes getting started easier. It looks much like an electronic newspaper with snippets of articles from books in your library. This helps you connect to information in your resources that you might not even know is available in your library.

New Passage and Exegetical Guides
The new Passage Guide is more robust and visually appealing. You can connect to information faster and more in depth with the click of the mouse. These guides provide your own electronic "librarian" to let you deeply study a passage like never before. In an instant, dozens of resources are open and ready for you to explore simply by typing in the passage you want to study.

The Exegetical Guide connects you to Greek and Hebrew resources and information without the need to be a Greek scholar. This guide breaks your passage down into its component words and then links you to resources that allow you to study each of those words in depth.

Greek and Hebrew for English Readers
Reverse interlinears are built directly into many English Bibles, allowing you to see the Greek or Hebrew behind your text. Highlight a portion of the text in one interlinear, and Logos 4 will highlight the corresponding text in your other open Bibles.

Better Maps and Graphics
Topographical, interactive maps make the biblical world come alive. Each map includes global coordinates linked to Google Maps. Thousands of other images from your library provide you with additional perspectives on the place you’re exploring.

Connect to more information about Bible people, places and things
One of my favorite features in Logos 3 was Biblical people. Type a name or a passage that contains a persons name, and you are presented with that person's interactive family tree. This is great when exploring the Old Testament to see the connections and relationships between people. Well Logos 4 has raised the bard by improving this feature and adding a similar function for Bible Places, and Biblical Things.

These tools help you visualize 3D maps and diagrams of your information and add depth to your studies like never before.

There are literally dozens of changes that have been made to this software. I have always been a fan of Logos, but Logos 4 certainly raises the bar. Check out this new version. Whether you are upgrading from version 3 or looking for a tool to help you go deeper in your Bible study faster - Logos 4 is a great tool for the job! Check out the intro video on their website for more information.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LaCie Iamakey flash drive is a great solution

Flash drives are a great solution for backing up or transferring files IF you can find one when you need it. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to keep one in my pocket all the time. They aren't particularly bulky or heavy, I just forget to put it in my pocket all the time. That is where LaCie's Iamakey flash drive wins hands down! The Iamakey is not much thicker than a regular key, fits on my keychain and its solid, metal case is durable enough to live in my pocket all the time with my keys. I love this solution. It is a bit more expensive that other drives, but the convenience is worth it to me. It comes in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB models that range from $22 to $55 respectively. Now, if I have my keys in my pocket, which I ALWAYS do, my flash drive is ready to go.

Check out the Iamakey - it will be the only flash drive I buy from now on.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Blessings of Christianity - Neal Pollard

The Blessings of Christianity - Neal Pollard

Sunday, October 11, 2009 AM. Neal brought an encouraging lesson reminding us of the "Blessings of Christianity."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thayer available on Pre-Pub for Logos

The very popular Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Thayer is available for pre-pub through the Logos website. This work has long been a favorite of many preachers and Bible students and Logos is going to make it available for their Libronix Library System. You can check it out here - Six Years Later, Thayer’s Lexicon Is Back on Pre-Pub - Logos Bible Software Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bible Passages and Twitter - to the rescue

The social networking tool Twitter ( allows users to post short messages to everyone who "follows" them. SInce each "tweet" (that's what twitter users call their posts) can be no longer than 140 characters long, citing Bible passages can be quite a challenge. Usually there is not enough room to type out the Bible passage and say anything about it. Enter by Logos Bible Software ( When you go to you are able to enter a Bible reference (James 1:2-3 for example) and then click the "transform" button at the bottom of the screen. The Bible reference is converted into a short web address perfectly suited for your "tweet." Here is the compact URL for James 1:2-3 ( ). This short web address can be copied and pasted into your tweet or simply click the Tweet button in and you will be redirected to where you can log in and the URL will be added to a post for you. When a users clicks the link in your Tweet, they are redirected to to view your specified verse in context.

Another great feature of is that the user can specify the version they want people to see by simply adding the abbreviation to the end of the compact URL provided. To get people to James 1:2-3 in the New King James version just add ";NKJV" to the end of the URL (;NKJV ). There are 20 translations you can link to overall.

I recently saw a case where a preacher tweets a link to the main passage for his Sunday morning sermon during the week so that members can read it and study it before his lesson. Sunday Bible class teachers could create links to passages they want their class to study during the week in preparation for Sunday mornings discussion. Children's Bible class teachers could post links to the sections they will be teaching so that parents can review the passages with their kids before Bible class. There are many ways this could be helpful in real ministry situations.

This tool provides us with great opportunities to share Bible passages within our circle of friends. Use it with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any place where a short link to the Bible text is helpful. Give it a try - it is fast, easy and convenient.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Doing Mission Work in the Sixth Most Populus Country in the World - Facebook!

That's right - If Facebook was a country, it would be the sixth largest country by population on earth! It seems that as time goes by, the Lord provides more and more ways for His people to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel." The question is: what are we doing with these opportunities? Are we using these opportunities to take quizzes like "what color Crayola crayon are you" or "what Harry Potter character are you most like"? Do we show that we are more concerned about politics than righteousness? Jesus said:

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man" (Matthew 15:18).

I would suggest that the things that proceed out of our fingertips do the same thing. We often times reveal where are hearts are by the things we talk about, text about and post online. We have a great opportunity online to share our faith, encourage our brothers and sisters and reach out show what is really important to us. I would like to suggest a few things we can do as individuals to use these online opportunities to their fullest.

  • Practice the presence of the Lord - Whether we are in a physical situation or a 'cyber" situation, we need to remember that the Lord is there with us. Would he approve of the quizzes we take, the comments we make and the language we use in Facebook?
  • Become an encourager - The apostles called a man named Joseph, Barnabas, his name meant "Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36). We need to have a heart like Barnabas must have. Facebook gives us all a chance to encourage others when things aren't going so well for them. Start a prayer group to encourage someone struggling with health issues or just send some electronic smiles and hugs to someone who needs them. You could really make someone's day and demonstrate the love of Christ in your life.
  • Share a Scripture - We all have favorite Scriptures that lift us up, make us think, or just touch us in one way or another. Why not pass them along. Type your favorite verse as your status early in the day and meditate on it as the day goes on. You can help others think spiritually by sharing and remind yourself of them blessings of God at the same time.
  • Post about what you are studying - As you do your personal Bible study, share what you are reading. We often see things in our studies that are new and fresh to us - share those things - maybe they will be new ad fresh to others as well.

If you work at it, I imagine you can add to this list easily. The trick is to think about it - pray about it - practice it! We have an opportunity through tools like Facebook and Twitter to teach people about Jesus, to share our faith in a new and exciting way. Let's use the opportunity well.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Evernote...where have you been all my life?

I have to admit right from the jump here that I am not a particularly well organized kind of guy. My desk is usually messy (as is the rest of my office). I have tried to get organized - I have read Getting Things Done three times now - but have only had marginal success. But that all changed last week when I found Evernote. I heard about Evernote about 6 months ago, but didn’t give it much attention. I am paying attention now. This product is simply incredible and each day it is reducing the clutter in my office and getting me more and more organized all the time.

What is Evernote?
If you watch some of the videos on the Evernote website or YouTube, the head of the company describes Evernote as an “external brain.” It is a place to store all of the bits and pieces of information you collect throughout the day, knowing that you will always be able to find it again easily. There website say it this way:

Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere.

Whether the information is in text format, PDF or even an image, Evernote can keep track of it for you. The “killer app” functionality of it to me however is how it deals with images. Images added to Evernote are automatically run through a character recognition online and any text that appears in the image becomes searchable! Now I have to admit I was a bit unimpressed by this feature when I first heard about it, but I get it now! Here is an example - someone hands you a business card, you immediately snap a photo of it with Evernote on your phone. It is synchronized online in a couple of minutes and not if you search for any of the information (say the person’s name) that appears on the card, Evernote will find it for you! The system looks at the image and any text it finds becomes searchable information - EVEN HAND WRITTEN TEXT! Now as I said, I didn’t get how great this feature was until I started using it.

Here is a real ministry example from my system. I have a small newspaper article that listed religious struggles that people say they deal with. I thought the list would make good topics for Bible class someday so I wanted to keep track of it. Rather than put it in a file in my desk (that I will never be able to find again or would only have access to when I was in my office) - I hand wrote “Bible Class Idea - Topical” next to the article and took a picture of it with my iPhone in Evernote (I could have scanned it too). Once it was uploaded and processed (a couple of minutes total) when I search my notes for the word “topical”, Evernote shows me the image of this article! That to me is amazing. The best part is that I can get to this note - from my laptop, online, or on my phone - literally anytime, anywhere! Now when I am talking to a Bible class teacher about a possible class I can pull this exact article up on my phone and share the idea with them. I can even email then a copy of the article right from my phone while we are talking!!

How do you get information into Evernote?
One of the great features of the product for me is how easy it is to get information into it. You can enter information into Evernote through a desktop client (MAC or PC). Simply create a new “note” and type or drag and drop text into the note. You can also drag and drop PDF files into the system with ease. Scan a printed document into the system and once it has been uploaded it becomes completely searchable. There are components you can add to your web browser for making capturing information from websites a breeze too. Just click the icon in the menu bar of your favorite broswer and the text is added to Evernote. You can shift-click the icon and Evernote will create a PDF of the webpage as a note too. In addition to text or document based information, you can also add create audio notes from your phone and even video notes from your built-in iSight camera if you own a MAC. Another interesting feature is that you can email information into Evernote. When you sign up for your free online account, Evernote assigns you a unique email address. Use this email address to send PDFs, text, or images into your note library.

Once the note is in your system you can add "tags" which work like keywords to keep track of the note. In addition to your tags, any text in the note or image is searchable. PDF files need to be created as "searchable" PDFs before they are added to Evernote if you want to be able to search the body of the document. You can even create separate and distinct "notebooks" to help you sort your notes if you like.

Perfect for preachers and/or students
The uses for ministry and students are unlimited. Her are a few suggested uses, but I am finding more and more everyday!


  • 1. Never lose you class notes again! At the end of the day, copy all of your class notes into your note library to create a permanent, searchable back-up that becomes accessible from your laptop, phone or any online computer.
  • 2. Take a photo of assignments and notes the instructor writes on the whiteboard and they will become searchable and indexed in your note library for later review.
  • 3. Clip information from a website for research for a paper you are writing. Tag the new note with the subject of your paper and you will be able to find all your notes on that subject in seconds - from anywhere!
  • 4. Type (or take a photo) of the assignment page in your course syllabus so you always have access to your assignments specs and due dates.


  • Place a PDF or your sermon outline in your note library, add the date and location you last preached it as a text note with it and keep track of where and when each sermon has been preached.
  • Collect illustration ideas as text, audio or photo images into you library - tag the note with subject ideas and you have a fully searchable illustrations database.
  • Forward important emails into your library to create a permanent, searchable copy.
  • Take a quick photo of the list of elders at a church you are visiting to keep a record of who works where.
  • Copy Bible study notes into your library to make them searchable from your phone.
  • Scan or photo receipts for expenses
  • Forward you final travel itinerary email received from your travel agent or airline to have it accessible on your phone or any online computer to check dates, times and flight numbers.
  • Type memorable quotes in as text notes for easy retrieval when you need them.
  • Keep lists of possible Bible class topics
  • Collect bulletin articles with the subject, date, and Scriptures verses to create a searchable index
The list goes on and on and on and on....I have to say that I am just beginning to scratch the surface of how this product can be used. It is certainly flexible enough for you to customize it to your way of doing things.

What does Evernote cost?
The best part of Evernote is the price - it is FREE! You can upload 40MB per month for no charge at all. You can get a Premium membership for $45 per year that allows you up to 500MB per month. This really does make this product a no-brainer from the start. Try it - you will love it I am sure!

I may always be somewhat organizationally challenged, but Evernote has helped me come a very long way in a very short time. The amount of information that was previous locked in my office drawers, or worse hidden in a stack of papers I hadn't process yet, is now all indexed and searchable anywhere I need it - even on my phone! I will be blogging more and more about how I am using Evernote and I ask you to let me know how you are using it too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If you haven't seen need to

OK - This isn't about ministry, but it is about technology. The video below demonstrates a new projection technology. The images are being projected live onto the side of these buildings! This is not done post-production. You can check out the website here - Amazing!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Using images in presentations - 11 ways to use them poorly

The way you use images in your presentations can either make it, by reinforcing those things you want people to remember, or break it by being such a distraction that few people hear what you are saying. Garr Reynolds over at Presentation Zen has an excellent blog post about how NOT to use images in your presentations. I have blogged about Garr's blog before and his book Presentation Zen which I STRONGLY recommend! If you regularly use PowerPoint of Keynote for sermons or Bible class presentations - you need to check this out - PLEASE, if not for yourself, then for your audience =)

Presentation Zen: 11 ways to use images poorly in slides

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Check out Audio Boo for short podcasted audio from your iPhone

I just got back from meeting with Mike Green, an evangelist living outside Tachoma, WA. He and a few other families are involved in planting a new congregation in DuPont, WA ( My family and I actually had the pleasure of attending the very first worship service of this newly formed congregation and it was exciting to be there knowing that the Lord's church is active for maybe the first time in that city. Please pray for this new congregation as they reach out to the community with the Gospel.

The next morning Mike and a fellow worker of his met with me to discuss how they might use technology to reach out into the area. We talked about a number of things, but at one point Mike said he liked the idea of recording very short (2 or 3 minute) audio files that he could then use for evangelism issues. Providentially, as I went about looking at new tools and techniques during the week I discovered Audio Boo. Audio Boo does exactly what Mike was asking me about - you can record very short (3 minute maximum) audio clips and post them to the web. The service is very much like Twitter (a little like Facebook) in that you can "follow" certain peoples "boos" and they can follow yours. The downside of this service is that it is for the iPhone only at this point. (I realize that leaves a great many people out of the loop, but it isn't my product.) You simply download the app to your iPhone and set up your free account online and you are ready to Boo! One of the great feature of this service is that you can have AudioBoo automatically "tweet" your posts on your Twitter account and/or post it to your Facebook profile status for others to hear. You will also be able to subscribe to the podcasted Boos through iTunes on any computer. This is certainly a niche product that may not appeal to everyone, but it seems like the potential is there to deliver your message in a new a interesting form.

We'll have to see if this service really takes off or not, but it certainly fits the need that Mike was talking about. I have recorded my first Boo and you can listen to it here. It should also appear in my Twitter posts (@jmhite) and in my Facebook profile. As you can see you can also embed the player into your website or blog.

NON-IPHONE USERS - AudioBoo does provide a service for those without an iPhone (it is called PhoneBoo), but the catch is you have to call a phone number in the UK to make your recording. Obviously not very practical for those of us in the U.S. You can use Skype to call the number and save some coin, but that does cause another link in the chain to keep up with. One of the advantages of the iPhone app is being able to create your audio anywhere, anytime.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Five Ideas for Using Twitter for Church Communication

I ran across this article online today and thought I would pass it along. I agree with the comment regarding the details we should provide regarding prayer requests, but overall I like the content that he suggests we drive with Twitter.

Here are five great Twitter ideas you can use for your church communication efforts:

  • Celebrations: Every time a person dedicates their life to Jesus, gets married in the church, or does something awesome you can tell the world and you church members about it!
  • Prayer: While you may want to be careful on what details you provide, you can ask your Twitter followers to pray for a specific need or person — or just offer a short daily prayer people can read and feel energized by.
  • Events: You can easily keep your congregation or church members informed of planned gatherings (or even spontaneous get together’s) by sending Twitter updates — or why not use it to invite people to church in a non-threatening way?
  • Sermons or Message: Why not drop a link into your conversation and let people know you have a new sermon or message uploaded so they can listen or watch if they missed it?
  • Community Dialogue: People in your community will probably be on Twitter and you can begin conversations on pressing needs in your town, schools, or other churches. You can discuss social issues to religion to sports…all great things for building trust and building your church “brand”.

link: 5 Great Twitter Ideas for Church Communications :: Church Communications Pro | Church Marketing | Church Web Design

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Better presentations using index cards

Here is a quick idea to help you create better PowerPoint presentation to support your sermons or Bible classes - start with index cards. Too often people start straight into a blank PowerPoint file without a plan. They go point by point through their sermon outline and type in the bullet points and stop occasionally to search Google images for a small rectangular image they can place on the slide. This approach just doesn't work well. The result is often a static "sermon outline" on screen rather than an attempt to communicate their message visually.

But there is hope. Those 3x5 index cards you can buy at any office supply store are roughly the same shape as the slides you project for your presentation. Armed with your sermon outline and a stack of index cards begin to plan how best to visually present your material BEFORE you ever even open PowerPoint on your computer. As you pour through your outline look for elements you want to emphasize visually and go through the process here:

  • Take a blank card and draw (yes, you can!) what words and images you want on the slide. You don't have to be a Van Gogh here, even simple stick figures can say a great deal about what you are trying to visualize for your audience. (The book The Back of a Napkin by Dan Roam is a great example of what can be communicated with simple stick figures and diagrams.) You just want to get a sense of what kind of image you need to search for later - two people shaking hands, a image of the cross, an empty tomb, etc...
  • Be specific. Write the exact words or phrases you want to put on the slide on the index card. If you have to write too small for the words to fit easily they will probably be too small and crowded on your final slide to be effective. If you aren't sure about readability, set the card 8 to 10 feet away and see if you can read it easily. If not, your audience will struggle when it is projected on the walls. Reduce the number of words to as few as possible.
  • Lay the cards out in order and look at the flow from slide to slide. Does it make sense? Is it connected? Are the major sections well defined? At this point you can rearrange and reorder the cards any way you want. Create a stack and flip through them one card at a time to see how the ideas will play out on screen. Note that any changes in order may need to be reflected in your sermon outline as well.
  • Once you are satisfied with the flow, open PowerPoint and lay out your slides one at a time based on what you put on each card. Google search (or visit a stock photo site like iStockphoto) for the images you ALREADY determined you wanted to make your point visually. You know what you are looking for - the problem will be finding it. THIS IS THE KEY! Often times people start looking for images before they really know what they want. They have an abstract idea and begin the search and far too quickly settle for what they find. Determine before you ever go to Google exactly what you want. You may not find it exactly, but you will be much closer to your mark.
This approach will help you be more intentional about the flow of your presentation and the images you choose to put on the screen. It will help keep you focused. Try it - you may be surprised at how much it helps.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What about Twitter???

I have to admit when I first heard about Twitter I didn't get it. Twitter is a micro-blogging, social networking environment where people post short bits of information. These short posts must be no more than 140 keystrokes long and are called Tweets. Tweets are very much like your status message on Facebook (if you don't know what Facebook is check it out), but without the other frills. You can "follow" a particular person or group and stay up to date on their tweets as they are posted. One feature that attracts people is that you can follow and post tweets from your phone.

When I first checked it out a number of months ago I was quickly bored by the posts I read. It was mostly what people were doing at the moment (what TV show they were watching, what store they were shopping in, what they just ate for dinner and so on). It didn't take long for me to move on to other tools and write Twitter off as relatively useless. But I have to say I am changing my mind. No, I have not gained a new interest in what people had for dinner this evening, but I have found some folks to follow that are doing much, much more with this tool.

I fancy myself a shutterbug and so I started "following" the "tweets" from some professional photographers, whose work I admire. I noticed that for the most part their tweets contained links to blog posts, articles and images they had posted on the web. In essence, they were using their tweets to drive traffic to their main websites or blogs. I started learning by their posts. I was more aware of what was going on in the field of photography and I was starting to pay attention. I found out about seminars and events through tweets before they were even posted on the web! I was able to sign up for a seminar here in Denver before it was available to the general public because the photographer posted a link in his tweet. That is when the lightbulb went off for me. You see Twitter is about connecting people with information. Oh sure, there are thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of people that are going to tweet that they just brushed their teeth, but that is the background noise we must get past. We can drive people to information and if we connect them to information they want (or need) they will keep "following."

So what does this mean for ministry?
One ministry example to look to is House to House, Heart to Heart. You may know HTH from the direct mail work they do for the church, but they are doing more than that. Their website hosts video lessons, sermon audio, articles, tracts and more. They are also using Twitter very well. Two or three times a day they "tweet" with links to content on their site. Sometimes they link to articles, other times it is a link to a sermon audio, but the point is they are driving traffic. They are "pushing" information out rather than simply posting the content and hoping people find out that it is there. Often times we build it (a building, a website, etc...) and hope people will come. But Jesus told us to GO and teach. The folks at House to House obviously understand that. They are going, and as they go they are teaching. Certainly I suggest that you check out their website, but I also suggest that you follow them on Twitter at @HousetoHouseHTH.

Imagine driving people to your podcast or sermon audio on your website. Think about letting people know that you just posted a great article to your blog on having stronger marriages. Maybe you simply tweet a verse of the day with a link back to your website for more. Tweet about a seminar you are doing with a link to your website with the details. Can you see the possibilities? Check out Twitter, but don't tell people what you had for dinner - give them food for their souls instead. These tools can help us reach thousands, what message are we sending them?

You can follow me on Twitter at @jmhite.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Don't let the technology drive the need...

Technology today is in some senses more affordable than ever. As prices come down we are often driven to implement technologies just because we can afford them now. So you can record your Sunday morning sermon on a video and post it to your website. That's great! But why do it? Most often the answer is simply, "because we can." We must think through these situations more thoroughly. What does the audience need to hear? Does your web audience need to hear a sermon designed to edify and motivate people who are already Christians? Or would they be better off hearing a lesson designed for them? We must think about the people we may reach...what do they need to hear? Are we giving them what they need or simply what we want to give them because we can? Too often we find a need to use technology rather than identify a need and then use technology to fill it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Update: 1100 views on Slideshare in 5 months

About 5 months ago I wrote about Slideshare. This website allows you to post PowerPoint files to be viewed over the internet. As a test I posted the file below from a sermon I did using images from the Hubble Telescope interspersed with Bible verses. Well, without doing much promoting to drive traffic to it, it has been viewed 1100 times. In internet terms 1100 isn't reaching the millions of views that some viral YouTube videos get, but I got a Bible based message on creation to about 220 people each month for the last 5 months(avg). I'll take it. Think of what we could do if we tried to get the word out and promote these presentations. In addition to the online views, it has also been downloaded almost 500 times. Who knows where it has gone from there.

We need to look at new tools like Slideshare as opportunities to reach people. Each day, there are people seeking through these electronic tools. Will they find the Lord's church spreading the message of God?The Beauty of the Universe

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Make it big enough to be read easily!

Often times I am asked, “What is the best size font to use for my PowerPoint?” The answer is simple - one that is readable! That may seem a bit flippant, but it is the correct answer. You presentation should not be a eye test!! Bottom line is no matter how profound your lesson may be if they can’t read it from where they are sitting, it will detract from your message. Different auditoriums are different. What works in a small building may not work in a larger one. The size of the building, the size of the projected image, the colors being used on the slide, the font chosen, and even the brightness of the projectors all factor into how big your font should be. In other words, there is no universal answer to the question. TEST IT! Get into your auditorium, project your presentation, GO TO THE BACK OF THE ROOM and cycle through your slides. Are they readable? If they are - you found the right size font. If they are not, make them bigger. It is not really rocket science, it just takes some extra time.

Follow the “10-20-50” rule (actually it is more like a set of guidelines…)
There are some that suggest the “10-20-30” formula for your presentations. TEN slides, TWENTY minutes, THIRTY point font. While this may work is a small boardroom type presentation I can assure you that it won’t work in many larger auditorium settings. Thirty point font is too small in many situations and so I suggest a change to “10-20-50”. While again this concept should not be seen as a universal antidote to unreadable presentations, it can provide a starting guide from which to work.

10 SLIDES - Your presentation should not have more than a total of TEN slides to present your message. The idea here is that too many screen changes and transitions can become a distraction. Also, limiting yourself to ten total slides forces you to focus and simplify your message to its core elements. There certainly isn’t much room for rabbit chasing here.

20 MINUTES - Keep you presentation to twenty minutes when possible. Some suggest that after twenty minutes most people’s attention spans start to wane and they start tuning out. I have to say however that I have sat through presentation where I was tuning out far sooner than twenty minutes because the speaker didn’t seem interested or excited about his material. I have also sat in presentation that lasted well over and hour where I was riveted to the speaker because he was passionate and enthusiastic. Again, this should be seen as a guide, not a hard and fast rule.

50 POINT FONT - Keep your font size about 50 points at all times. This is where I personally think the “10-20-30” rule falls apart. Thirty point lettering seen from a distance is very hard to read. It also encourages the presenter to put too much text on each slide. Strive to limit the number of words you use on the slide (don’t just read full sentences off your slides) and make them as big as you functionally can. Now I know, I can hear you already - “there is no way I can fit everything I need to say on the slide using 50 point font.” My response is direct and to the point - you probably have too much text on your slide - but that is a topic for another post. In the mean time, simplify, simplify, simplify.

The 66% rule
There is another technique that I think can be very helpful in helping you select a more readable font size without leaving the comfort of your computer screen. (I actually like this better than to “10-20-50” rule.) After you have created your slides (or at least a few of them), switch to Slide Sorter View (in Keynote it is called Light Table). This view defaults to 66%. Scan through the slide in this mode and this size. If anything is difficult to read - it is too small!

Try these tips in your next presentation. Readability is a common problem and one the is curable with a little extra time and though. Remember, just because it looks good on your computer screen doesn’t mean much. You are sitting 24 inches away!! Test your presentation when you can in the environment where it is going to be viewed and make it readable. Remember, if they cannot read it it only serves as a distraction to your message.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Improve your presentations by eliminating rectangles

One of the most common mistakes I see in creating PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentations deals with how images are presented in the slide. Sadly, the templates and wizards that come with these presentation programs often reinforce bad layouts. Many of these templates ask for a line to text for a title which sits above a rectangular image that has been inserted (see image 1). You’ve seen it before. Probably more times than you can count. So what’s wrong with it? The answer lies in how our eyes move through an image.

The slide area itself presents a rectangle on the screen or wall. The edges of this rectangle “contain” the images and text you use to communicate your message. When you place another image inside this “container” its edges create barriers that our eyes run into. Rather than allowing the eye to move smoothly through the slide area, these hard edged rectangular images actually block eye movement. Hard vertical edges form lines that our eyes just don’t want to cross. We will certainly cross them, but not smoothly and easily.

The second problem this layout creates is that often times images are presented too small to really help communicate. Because they are relegated to a small rectangle in the bottom portion of the slide they often lack punch and emotion. They seem more like afterthoughts than deliberate choices to communicate your message. In addition, in a larger auditorium this smaller image can be much harder to see clearly from the back of the room.

Remove rectangles to allow smoother eye movement
So what do we do about it? The best approach to take in laying out your slides is to remove as many rectangles and hard vertical edges as possible. Often this can be done simply by making your image fill the entire slide. This allows the eye to move through the image itself, not just bump up against its edges. Your eye moves unobstructed through the image to the text you want them to focus on. This allows the image to help reinforce your message. Large images not only aide eye movement, they can convey more emotion and impact. As you can see from these two examples, the slides with the images full screen create more impact and tend to communicate a stronger message.

You cannot always avoid adding rectangular images and boxes into your slides, but the fewer the better. Look for ways to eliminate these barriers and your slides will be more effective and easier on the eyes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nobody cares about your website....

I know this title sounds strange coming from a guy that advocates websites especially for ministry, but the truth is the phrase is not mine. This title was lifted from an interesting article on Media Salt. The article talks about how the movement of information is changing and new tools offer new possibilities. Sometimes I think we still have the "if we build it they will come attitude to reaching out with our message.

Your website should be the best one-stop shop for all of your content, but not the only shop in town. Visitors should be able to easily find the information they’re looking for on your site, but they should also be able to get your information in a way that’s convenient to them.

New tools like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and others joined with powerful mobile devices like iPhones, iPods and laptop computers can and should change the way we approach getting our message out. The guys at Media Salt have written about new approaches to things like Facebook in the past. Evangelism in the church today is often a "if they visit us we will teach them" proposition. If we can see these new technologies as a way to push information out to people and make ourselves accessible - we can teach them even if they don't come to our buildings.

Monday, May 25, 2009

DropBox lets you share and sync files online

I have just discovered a great little gem called Dropbox. I work with a number of guys that have a machine at their office and a different machine at their home. It never fails that one of them will complain that a file they need is on their machine at home when they are in the office. Dropbox allows you to sync files on two different machines, share files with other users, or even access those files from a web browser when you are away from your machines. It is compatible with MAC, Windows and Linux machines, and the best part is the price - you can have 2GB of online storage FREE. There are paid versions that allow for greater disk space, but 2 GB should be enough for most casual users.

How it works...
Basically once you start an account with Dropbox a folder is placed on your harddrive. As you drag and drop files or folders into the Dropbox folder they are automatically and immediately synced to your account online. If you have a second computer linked to your online account, the Dropbox folder of the second machine is also updated automatically. That is cool!

Say you are working at home on a sermon, Bible class outline, lectureship manuscript or even some photos from a recent mission trip. You save the files into your Dropbox folder on your computer and your done. When you get to your office you realize that you forgot to put the files you needed on a jumpdrive, but never fear - simply open the Dropbox folder on your office machine and your files are there. Make whatever changes you need to the files and your home machine is updated automatically as well. This can really be a lifesaver!

Another feature that is worth noting is that you can share files and folders with other people as well. Collaborate on a project. Share your presentation files with a colleague. Or place files that need to be accessed by a group of people in your Dropbox. When one person makes a change - all files on all the machines sharing that file are updated!!!

Get to your files from a web browser...
Your are also able to access your files from any web browser. Simply sign on to your online account (this is part of the FREE account when you first sign up) and access your files. The online tools allow for full file versioning (you can go back two or three versions) and recovery. If you delete a file from your computer, you can recover it from your online account. Accessing these files from basically anywhere in the world would be a great benefit for traveling missionaries and lectureship speakers. Update your PowerPoint presentation while you are on the road and know that those changes appear on your home computer as well.

There are a number of great uses for this tool. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More and more people turning to MACS

I recently discovered Media Salt, this website is focused on using technology in ministry. They have some interesting articles about using technologies like Facebook and even Twitter in ministry environments. One article that caught my I was titled, 10 Things to Love About OS X. The writer talks about his switch to the MAC and lists 10 things he loves about the MAC experience. If you are new to the MAC or even considering making the switch this short article is a good read.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ministry technology in Africa?

I teach a course at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver on Ministry Technologies. During this course I teach preacher students how to use technologies like PowerPoint® to improve the presentation of their sermons and Bible class lessons. We talk about website development for churches and how to use the Internet and other technologies for evangelism. But we focus the majority of our time in this class teaching them to use the Logos Bible Software. This amazing tool can transform their approach to studying the Scriptures and it excites me every time we get into the classroom with it. The power and advantages of this tool was clearly demonstrated on a recent mission trip to Tanzania, East Africa.

One of the reasons for my trip was to teach the missionaries that work at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching in Arusha, how to use the Logos Bible Software. Logos is such a perfect solution for this environment. One of the struggles missionaries have entering a foreign mission field is taking their research libraries with them. The cost of transporting several hundred volumes into the field is enormous. The weight involved and space needed to store and use these resources can pose insurmountable problems. Another problem these workers face surfaces after they get their paper based books into the field. Bugs, reptiles, dust and dirt quickly begin to erode their precious investments. Hundreds and even thousands of dollars worth of paper based resources can be ruined in this harsh third world environment in a very short period of time. As a result of these challenges, many mission works suffer from a lack of study library materials.

This is really where Logos shines. I boarded the plane in the United States armed with my personal 1700 volume research library all tucked neatly into my laptop carry-on bag that fits neatly "into the overhead bin or under the seat in front of me." Can you tell I have been on a few planes lately? During the flights I was able to do extensive research in the biblical languages, exegetical work on the book of James (which I was also going to be teaching in Arusha), work on a manuscript (even citing my sources with the proper page numbers from their paper-based counterparts) and any other studies I required. All I had to do was power up my laptop, launch Logos and start working. I had access to every book in my library, searchable, hyperlinked and ready to assist me in my studies at 30,000 feet! Try that with paper based resources.

Once on the ground I was able to help teach these men how to use this impressive tool. With the help of the Scholar's Library: Gold edition, these missionaries now have the power of a research library a mouse click away. Each of these missionaries is involved in teaching courses in Bible, hermeneutics, homiletics, exegesis and much more. Now they have access to tools and information that can make them more effective teachers and better Bible students. The in-depth work that Logos allows you to do is really incredible. Two of the men I was teaching are working on advanced academic degrees with Universities here in the U.S. and now they can do the kind of research they need to while they are in the mission field. Best of all, none of their electronic books will erode over time! No reptiles, bugs or other creatures will destroy their investment.

One of the major struggles mission schools have is building good libraries for their students. Again the cost and maintenance for paper-based libraries often pose barriers that cannot be overcome. Once again, Logos can provide a solution to these problems. It is our prayer that we will be able to purchase computers and the Logos Software to equip the school in Arusha, and other such schools around the world, with the tools they need to study God's word more effectively. We currently help with schools like this in Tanzania, Ukraine, Cambodia, India, Uganda, Honduras and Guatemala. Imagine the impact these electronic libraries can have in providing tools for students to prepare themselves to teach God's word throughout the world.

I enjoyed teaching these men how Logos can help them and was reminded once again why Logos has become an indispensable part of my teaching arsenal. This is one technology that can be used anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Back home....

I have just returned home from Speaking on a lectureship at the West Visalia church of Christ in California. The lectureship topic was evangelism and I was asked to speak about technology tools for doing evangelism today. You can visit their website to find out how to download the audio (and possibly the video) of these talks. I really appreciated the opportunity to speak about the options and opportunities we have using technology to spread the word. It did however, remind me that have fallen behind in using this tool, my blog, to get this message out as well. I know I have said it before...but I will do better.

This trip to California came just 5 days after I returned from a two week trip to Arusha, Tanzania. I was there to teach in the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. This is a work of the Kensington Woods church of Christ in Hattisburg, MS. We have been associated with this work for a number of years and it was my pleasure to go back again to teach. I taught the book of James to the preacher students and even found some time to share some technology with the local missionaries who live there. I was able to conduct a class on how to use the Logos Bible Software for the missionaries. I enjoyed the trip very much and will write soon about my experiences there.

For now though, after thousands of miles and what seemed like endless rides on airplanes, I am back home with my family and back to work. I will write again very soon.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Blogo and Skitch for adding material to your blog from the desktop

Ok, I has been awhile between posts again. The main reason for this has been my schedule. I am teaching much ore now and also trying to get ready for another trip to Tanzania! I am very excited about that and look forward to sharing information (and photos) from the trip when I get back.

A second reason that my posts have not been flowing freely lately is that I find the Blogger editor lacking. It does everything fine, but it just isn't convenient (can you say spoiled user here). For this post I am using a new desktop blog editor, Blogo. I am just using this tool for the first time, but I must say it is very easy to get up and running. I have been using MarsEdit, which I like overall, but I have a very hard time with graphics uploading to my posts with it. There seems to be a problem with Blogger and MarsEdit concerning graphics that I cannot seem to fix. Blogo seems to have no such issues. One feature that I really like about Blogo is the preview of my post. When you select preview it shows you how the post will look within your blog. It grabs a template from your blog and shows you EXACTLY how your post will look once posted. Other packages may do that, but MarEdit didn't.

The graphic of the Blogo logo was captured with Skitch. I have to say that I love this tool. Skitch is a screen grab tool, but I must say it is the easiest one I have used. One of the features in Skitch that I am really drawn to is the ability to scale you screen grab before you save it. After you capture the section of the screen that you want to capture you simple drag the size of the window to get the graphic to the desired size. The dimensions of the graphic are listed in the bottom corner of the window and are updated dynamically while you drag the window size. This makes it very easy to get the graphic the size you want right from the get go. Skitch also comes with a web account to store your captures online for easy retrieval. I LOVE THIS APP! It is in beta right now and so the price is right....FREE! I must say however, I have tried to use a number of screen grab programs and Skitch beats them all for ease of use and working the way I need it to.

Sadly, both Blogo and Skitch are for MAC only, so PC users are out of luck. Both of these programs are excellent additions for anyone blogging from a MAC. I am a much happier blogger using them!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Create better slides using "The Rule of Thirds"

One of the biggest issues I see with PowerPoint presentations is that many of the slides are crowded and out of balance. Often times images are even distorted to try to make enough room for the title and the five, full sentence bullet points that need to be squeezed onto the screen. The first improvement to be made is to reduce the amount of material on each slide. The second improvement to make is to learn to use "The Rule of Thirds" to balance the visuals (text and graphics) an the slide.

"The Rule of Thirds" and how to use it.
Graphic designers and photographers use "the rule of thirds" to create balance and focus attention. Basically, you divide the space (in this case your slide) into equal thirds horizontally and vertically. It's really like drawing a tic-tac-toe board on your slide. Then place the main elements of your image along the lines of the grid. 
Obviously you don't leave the grid on your slide it is just a visual reference, but the viewer's eye will naturally go to the area of the image where the lines intersect. These "hotspots" become the perfect place to place text or focus attention. Note the example of the family walking on the beach. Placing the main elements (the family) along the line on the right give the image a 
natural balance and creates interest. 

You have to be careful not to clutter up the open space with text, but you can strategically place text at a "hotspot" to give it attention but maintain balance in the slide. Note the placement of the text in the lightbulb image and well as where the lit bulb falls. The slide is balanced, easy to read and tells a story. That's what we are after.

Balancing text and images
There are times when you need enough space for more text. By the never need enough space for five, full sentence bullets, but you may have a passage of Scripture that you want to include on the slide for clarity sake. You can still use the rule of thirds to help. Note the slide with the image of Christ and the quote from Romans 5. It stays balanced because the image and the text are placed evenly on the grid set up by the rule of thirds.

Final thoughts
Using the rule of thirds can make an immediate improvement on your slides. If you strive to create balance and remove clutter and your slides will have more impact and communicate more clearly. Give the rule of thirds a try...once you do there is no going back.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Power of Facebook in ministry

Facebook has been around for quite awhile now, but has recently surged in popularity. For those not aware of it, Facebook is a "social networking" website. Once you start an account (it's free by the way), you can connect with other "friends" on Facebook and stay in touch. I must say that I tried it just as an experiment at first. I knew that my teenage daughter would approach me at some point about it and I wanted to be aware of how it worked and what is was about. I figured that as an "old guy" I would not connect with many "friends" (20-03 or so was my guess, tops) but I thought it would be worth playing with. Well I just broke 200 friends and I am finding more people all the time.

So what does this have to do with ministry?

First, connecting with people is what ministry is really all about. Some of my Christian friends have posted very encouraging notes on my "wall." (NOTE - once you accept someone as your friend, they can write on your "wall" - this is a place in your profile to leave you notes and stay in touch). Others have written short articles to teach and encourage others about their Christian walk. All of this is ministry!

Secondly, you can connect people together and inform them about a specific need. We have a good friend, Hannah Duke, who is seriously ill. This young 14-year-old woman needs our prayers - that is where Facebook came in. Facebook allows users to create interest "groups" and then invite your friends to join the group. Once you join the group you can write on the group "wall" and the Administrators of the group can post updates and information as needed. One of Hannah's teen Facebook friends started a Facebook Group called "Prayers for Hannah" and invited all of her Facebook friends to join the group and offer prayers on Hannah's behalf. Hannah herself was invited, as was her family. To date, over 470 people have joined this group! Both Hannah and her family have been very encouraged by the notes left on the group wall and the number of people who are praying for them. That is ministry!

Thirdly, you can let people know about events and causes that need their attention. We have posted a group to help let people know about our annual lectureship. This year's theme is "More Than Conquerors: A Study in Joshua." To date more than 250 people have joined the group. Now I realize that doesn't mean that 250 are planning to attend the lectures, but a great many people now know about it! As more details about the lectureship are finalized we can update the group by simply posting this information on Facebook!

Here is another example - I have a good friend that is working on a church plant in the Tacoma, Washington area. He is looking for supporters and people interested in this work. He could create a Facebook group about the church plant. Show people pictures of the area, talk about why the church is so desperately needed in that part of the country. Give people a way to contact him or maybe even donate online using PayPal. Think of the connections that could be made. He may even be able to connect with people in the Tacoma area that want to be a part of this new congregation. That is ministry!

If we will just learn to look at some of these new technologies with spiritual eyes - we may see a world of new ways to teach, preach and edify. Brothers and sisters, THAT is ministry!

Michael Hite's Facebook profile

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ministry Tech class - midterm help

For those of you wise enough to be checking this blog on a regular basis, I have a holiday gift for you. The following are some tips, tricks and subjects that you will find on the mid-term exam to be given on Wednesday, Jan. 14 as a take home test. It will be due back to me by Monday, January 19. While I have not given you the answers here, I have given you a great head start in your studying for the test. I have provided links to training videos from Logos on some topics that might be helpful. Most of these training videos are only 2-5 minutes long and should provide excellent review. You might even learn something that I didn't cover.

  1. Review creating (or opening already created) Vocabulary lists and how to sort them by word frequency.
  2. Review how to create a Bible Reading Plan for a specific period of time (like a 13 week Bible class quarter for example).
  3. Understand the difference between Visual Filters and Visual Markup Styles (found in the View menu).
  4. Be sure to review how to run a Passage Guide and what is found in it.
  5. Be sure to review how to run an Exegetical Guide and what is found in it, especially in the word by word section. Remember that you can click on the small bar chart for each word to see more charts (you will need this).
  6. Be sure to review how to run a Bible Word Study for BOTH English words and Greek words. Pay special attention to the Translation section of the report for Greek words and what it tells you. Also, note that you can run a Greek Bible Word Study from an English Bible Word Study from within the Greek Root section of the report (hint: click and/or double click on Greek words that show up in this section of the report and see what they do.)
  7. Review the Basic Search (under the Search menu) and practice searching the Early Church Fathers collection we created for words or phrases.
  8. Review the Bible Search. Practice searching for individual words, multiple word phrases, and any combination of the two. Also be sure to limit your searches to specific sections, books or groups of books.
Check back...I will add more soon.