510 – Ministry Calculations

Calculators rule the day on this week’s WELSTech. From ministry resources to picks of the week, we have tools to help figure out compensation for called workers, and some calculators that are just plain fun.

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The discussion:

Online Tour – Following up with our Synod Convention interview of Prof. Earle Treptow, Martin demonstrates the new Called Worker Compensation Calculator available at wels.net/cwcompcalc.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

If you are in the market for a laptop for your high school or college student as their school year, this new entry on the WELSTech Product Demo YouTube playlist from MobileTechReview, Best Back to School Laptops 2017, may be just the ticket!

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 511 – The summer of ministry resources is nearing an end. Tune in to add new tools to your digital toolbelt. Release date: Wednesday, August 23.

Get involved:

WELS Called Worker Compensation Calculator

For years churches, schools and their called workers have struggled to make sense of the official WELS salary matrix. At this year’s synod convention that all changed. The delegates approved the use of a new tool called the Called Worker Compensation Calculator. It’s really rather simple…which is the whole point. Someone can visit the calculator site at

wels.net/cwcompcalc

and after entering information, see the recommended salary range for any given called worker. The calculator fields include: Name, Sex, Years of Service, Position, Year, COLA, Housing Allowance, Health Insurance, Sec 105 Employer Contribution, Long Term Disability, Accidental Death & Dismemberment, Education, Responsibilities, and Other (where you can add your own components in). Once the data has been entered it provides a nicely formatted print out of the total compensation for a called worker. This can be used as a guideline, or a worksheet from which to begin compensation discussions.

In an effort to make it even easier to use, most fields have an information icon that can clicked on to learn more about that compensation component. “Smart fields” are also built into the form to give warnings when numbers entered don’t seem to make sense…for instance entering a monthly housing allowance number rather than an annual one. The calculator does all the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division for you, but “shows it’s work” so you know how all the numbers were arrived at. Finally there is an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section that gives some of the rational for some of the recommendations and calculations. It should be a great tool for anybody responsible for or interested in the compensation process.

This mobile-friendly calculator will be improved upon over time based on feedback. Give it a try and tell us what you think! See a demo video below for a quick walk through.

 

See All Ministry Resources

509 – Calendars, Conventions, and Communications

Fresh off a great experience at the WELS Synod Convention, the WELSTech team returns to their summer series of Ministry Resources. If you use Google Calendar, you won’t want to miss this one. Also, listen for some interesting uses for Trello and an exciting announcement regarding an upcoming conference in Wisconsin Dells!

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The discussion:

Upping the Google Calendar ante – WELSTech followers will know that Google Calendar is a highly-recommended tool for collaborative management of church and school events. On today’s show, we share an online utility, Print My Cal, that enhances the printed version of Google Calendar for newsletters and bulletin boards.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Check all of the Synod Convention video updates including this one, featuring Pastor Michael Herbst from our sister synod in Germany.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 510 – Tune in to learn about the new Called Worker Compensation Calculator which debuted at Synod Convention. Release date: Wednesday, August 16.

Get involved:

Print My Cal

Many churches and schools have adopted Google Calendar to maintain schedules for worship, events, team practice and games, parent teacher conferences, and much more. The web-based, user friendly calendaring tool is powerful enough to take on your most challenging recurring events. Plus it handles shared permissioning and calendar collaboration with ease. And it can be embedded on your web site so that calendar updates automatically display to website visitors.

There’s just one small shortcoming of Google Calendar – its print capabilities. Because churches and schools often want to share printed copies of the calendar in newsletters and on bulletin boards, the quality of the printed calendar is important.

From this need to print well formatted Google Calendars, Print My Cal was born. Print My Cal connects to your Google Calendar, allows you to format and save your print layout, and creates a downloadable PDF and/or RTF version of the calendar for editing and sharing. It does all this through your browser on any device – desktop, laptop, Chromebook, tablet, or smartphone. There’s no software to install.

If you are looking for a printing solution that lives up to all of the other great features of Google Calendar, check out the Print My Cal utility. The overview video below walks through the basics of using the site.

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508 – Synod Convention 2017 Special

WELSTech is back, and Martin and Sallie are side-by-side in Watertown, WI to continue our biennial tradition of special coverage at WELS Synod Convention. We’ve got a great lineup of interesting interviews to give you an insider’s look at different topics related to convention.

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The interviews:

Prof. Earle Treptow is on the faculty at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and serves as the chairman of the WELS Compensation Review Committee. He presented to the convention delegates several recommendations from the committee as well as debuted the recently developed Called Worker Compensation Calculator (wels.net/cwcompcalc).

Dr. Jeff Wiechman is Vice President for Academics at Martin Luther College as well as chairman of the convention Elections Committee. He explains why that role makes him a frequent visitor to the speaker podium. Plus we get an update on the state of technology at MLC.

Mr. Lee Hitter serves as WELS Director of Communications, and his responsibilities not only include ongoing synod communication efforts but also the complete coverage of Synod Convention. He shares details on the many communication platforms in play as well as the effort that goes into sharing the convention experience with the entire WELS membership. You can learn more about the convention, and watch live streaming coverage and regular video updates at wels.net/2017synodconvention.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 509 – Ministry resources take center stage once again next week. Tune in! Release date: Wednesday, August 9.

Get involved:

507 – Three Steps to Safety

WELSTech’s summer ministry resource focus continues, this week with a discussion of tech safety practices which churches, schools, and individuals would be wise to adopt. Other chatter covers ideas for working with volunteers, coffee-table ready photo books, and a Pinterest posting suggestion which has Martin dumbfounded. All this with a side of mustard!

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The discussion:

Don’t sing the blues – Martin shares important tech safety practices which organizations and individuals should adopt in Let’s Be Safe Out There…In Three Easy Steps.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Get a behind-the-scenes Finalweb 2 Introduction, the newest addition to the WELSTech Product Demo playlist on YouTube.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 508 – Martin and Sallie are broadcasting from WELS’ 64th Biennial Synod Convention in at Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, WI. Release date: Wednesday, August 2.

Get involved:

Let’s Be Safe Out There…In Three Easy Steps

Back in the 80’s the crime drama Hill Street Blues popularized the phrase “Let’s Be Safe Out There.” As is common in most police departments, the officers of Hill Street attended a squad meeting prior to starting the next shift. The show regularly began at this briefing where their gruff, no-nonsense Sergeant, Phil Esterhaus, would give them their daily instruction. It ended with “Let’s be safe out there.” That’s a fitting title for this Ministry Resource post as each and every day in this internet age you embark on a “shift” that could see untold disasters — computer viruses, data corruption, ransomware, identity theft. You need to be ever vigilant. Fortunately it isn’t that hard to “stay safe out there.” I’ve condensed it down to three easy steps to protect yourself and your ministry activities.

Step One: Use a cloud backup service.

The absolute best way to protect yourself from many of the data disasters that can strike your computer is by having an up-to-the-minute backup of all your data. A couple of weeks ago I talked about cloud services like Google Drive and OneDrive that can sync your data between a local copy on your computer and one in the cloud. This is a great productivity approach, but it is not protection against data loss or corruption. You need a bonafide backup solution.

One of the hardest things about backups is remembering to do them. That is why I prefer cloud backup solutions that just work in the background and normally don’t need any intervention by you. They just hum along waiting for files to be changed or added, then they copy them up to the cloud server. They automatically will keep different versions of those files, so you can go back in time to grab an older copy, or even the contents of your entire disk.

The service I almost always recommend is Backblaze. It just works. It is relatively inexpensive, about $60/year. And it is one of the only ones that will backup everything on your hard drive AND all connected drives like external hard drives or even flash drives.

Step Two: Encrypt your data.

While step one will allow you to restore your data should it become corrupt, your hard drive fails, or someone is holding your data hostage for a ransom fee (it happens more than you think), what if somebody steals the data on your disk, or your entire computer for that matter? In that data could be passwords, social security numbers, tax returns, etc. All information that could be sold and used for identity theft or other illegal activities that would be hard to recover from.

The best way to keep that data safe wherever it may go is to encrypt it. While that sounds hard and techy, today’s operating systems like Windows 10 and Mac OS make it surprisingly easy. Encryption is the conversion of electronic data into another form which cannot be easily understood by anyone except authorized parties with the encryption password or key. Normally the process requires you to provide a master password, then the operating system takes that password and creates “encoded” content, that only a system with your key or password can decode. If you want to learn more read the article “What is Encryption, and Why Are People Afraid of It.”

The best way to encrypt the contents of your hard drive is to use the built in encryption tools. For Windows it is called “Bitlocker.” On the Mac it is “FileVault.” Once you start the process, it should busy itself in the background for a while. It may take a while depending on how many files you have. When done you will probably never notice it unless you need to do some kind of recovery process. Don’t forget the key/password you set.

Step Three: Use a password manager.

We’ve discussed how to secure the data that is on your physical device. By the way most phones and tablets these days are already encrypted, so no worries on that front. But what about all those cloud services you use — your banking website, credit cards, your church or school information systems? That is stuff you don’t want to have any unauthorized access to. But if your username and password are stolen, the door is wide open.

To truly protect your online activities you should have a different password for every cloud-based service you use. That becomes very impractical very fast as almost everything is now online. That still does not justify having the same password for any two sites. Fortunately there are tools to help. In my opinion LastPass stands at the top of the heap. It is easy to use, cross platform (PC, Mac, Android, iOS), and has some great features like strong password generation, password sharing, local copy availability, and two factor authentication. To get the mobile version, which you should, will cost $12/year. If you want to have everybody in your organization use it, you might want to investigate the enterprise version, which costs about $17/person/year for non-profits (at least the last time we renewed our licenses). A worthy investment.

These kind of tools are easy to operate. They usually just sit as an extension or add on to your browser, and when you are creating new online accounts that require passwords, they spring into action and ask if you’d like to auto-generate a strong password. Say yes! Also, when you then visit a site that you have previously stored in LastPass, for instance, it will pre populate your username and password, and you’re in! Like the encryption password, you MUST remember your LastPass password. However, it’s a lot easier to remember one password than hundreds.

So for less than $100 per year you can experience all the benefits of the tools mentioned and have a higher level of confidence that your data will be safe and available. After all, you have better things to think about and do than spend more time fighting to keep your information safe. Let technology work for you. You go ahead and work for the Lord. And, oh yeah, let’s be safe out there!

Related resources

I gave you recommendations above for each of the three steps, however there are other equally capable tools in each category. If you’d like to comparison shop:

Cloud Backup Solutions: Carbonite, MozyHome, Google Backup & Sync

Encryption: There really is no reason to stray from encryption built into your computer, however older PC hardware may not have a TPM chip in it. You can still use BitLocker however, it’s just not as foolproof as those systems that do have this hardware encryption chip. You will be notified if you do or don’t during the BitLocker installation process. There are alternatives however. Last year I would have recommended TrueCrypt, but that is no longer supported. Here is a good article on similar free products.

Password Managers: 1Password, Keeper, Sticky Password

Google Backup and Sync is a relatively new service that holds promise. I’ve included a YouTube video that was recorded by VerySlowPC.com that shows the differences between this new solution and the old Google Drive.

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506 – Robot Ministry

This week on WELSTech Sallie shares the details of a robotics camp she and Kevin ran last week. Chromebook tips and classroom screen sharing round out a show focused on education…and ministry.

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The discussion:

iBot, uBot, mBot – Sallie shares her recent Robot Camp experience and how the format can be replicated in church or school settings.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

This week we feature one of the most popular videos ever from Your Time of Grace – 4 Tips For Reading Your Bible – on the WELSTech Instructional playlist on YouTube.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 507 – Martin is up to bat in the summer ministry resources series. Tune in. It’s sure to be a tech home run for your ministry! Release date: Wednesday, July 26.

Get involved:

Robot Camp

Recently my husband and I hosted a Robot Camp – 5 nights and 8 young men entering 6-9 grade, each with an mBot robot building kit and a computer for programming the mBot. The kids who attended learned about the inner workings of robots – things like electromagnetism in motors and echolocation in distance sensors. They built their robots then spent the remainder of the week learning coding so their robots could do tricks. The concepts taught and methods used could be duplicated in school, after-school or camp settings throughout our synod.

The students arrived with varying degrees of programming knowledge and experience, so to get started, we used the free printable Coding a LEGO maze resource (without LEGOs) from the Research Parent site. It’s a great “unplugged” way to introduce coding concepts including if statements and loops.

After that warm-up, we moved on to coding in mBlock. mBlock is based on the popular graphical coding language Scratch. What differentiates mBlock from Scratch is the addition of Robot commands to control LED lights, sound, movement, distance sensing and line following. mBlock commands are transmitted to the robot via a USB cable included with the robot.

Visit the mBlock download page to install the free software. Besides using mBlock on PC, Mac and Linux computers, there is also a mobile app and a Chrome browser version of the software which is in beta. If you need help, check out the Getting Started with mBlock guide.

Coding concepts we covered during the week included ….

  • If-then-else statements
  • Loops
  • Variables
  • Random numbers
  • Custom blocks, a.k.a. subroutines

With those tools in their arsenal, the students were able to create all types of programs for their robots, including …

  • Sounds – police siren and ice cream truck
  • Songs – including Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and the Star Wars Imperial March
  • Lights
  • Speed
  • Turns
  • Line sensor
  • Multiple programs with press of a button
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • Mazes – required precise speed, distance and turns
  • BattleBot arena – avoid collisions and stay in the arena the longest

We shopped around a bit and found the mBots at Monoprice.com for $69.99. At that price point, they proved to be a great option for teaching robotics basics as well as introducing coding concepts.

mBot Robot Kit – One Robot Per Child

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505 – It’s All About The Docs

This week on WELSTech we take a deep dive into the topic of cloud storage, focusing on the reasons to consider migrating your church and school contents to the cloud as well as a few potential gotchas to be aware of if you do. Other mentions on this episode include Google Maps location sharing and a brand new ebook on social media ministry.

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The discussion:

Sing it with me – Martin shares insights into the benefits and gotchas of online document storage and management for churches and schools in his recent post on Cloud Storage.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured video:

Tech-for-the-win as an ostrich experiences virtual reality in Samsung Official TVC: Ostrich, a new add to the WELSTech Presentation/Teaching Videos playlist on YouTube.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 506 – Tune in for tips on teaching kids to code. Release date: Wednesday, July 19.

Get involved: