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.