iPads for Ministry

 There are many computing tools at our disposal these days. There are many types of desktop and laptop computers that most of us use. They come in all shapes, sizes and price points. Some are large and powerful. Some are lightweight and minimal. Chromebooks, MacBooks, Surfaces, and the list goes on. Then there are, of course, smartphones, that more and more people are using as their primary computing devices. This is especially true in parts of the world outside of the United States. But it is the last category of computing devices, and one brand in particular this ministry resource focuses on, iPads!

Why dedicate an entire blog post to such a narrow topic? Because I believe this particular product is both transformative, and a valuable resource in the hands of pastors, teachers and other ministry workers. I haven’t always held that belief. In fact, I had pretty much limited my iPad usage in the recent past to watching YouTube videos, brief web surfing, and checking email. Beyond that I felt that a regular laptop was much more efficient. That’s not the case today. I’m writing this blog post on what I feel could be a laptop replacement for many–an 10.5 inch iPad Pro. That is the latest in Apple’s iPad lineup, but perhaps the best device they have ever released! Here are a few of the reasons why:

  1. Form factor – At a 10.5 inch diagonal the iPad provides enough real estate for comfortable single application usage. With the upcoming iOS 11 release split screen and drag and drop will also support some light multitasking. I think that is suitable for the work of most ministry workers. While a larger screen could be helpful at times, that would infringe on one of it’s best selling points, portability. With the appropriate cover and battery life, this little device can go wherever you go. That takes productivity to an even higher level.
  2. Screen quality – This latest iPad has what Apple calls “ProMotion.” That is just Apple’s marketing term for a higher screen refresh rate. Previous iPads refreshed the screen at 60 MHz, while the new Pro doubles that. What that means is that the screen animations and movement are much more fluid and responsive. That along with a processor that in many cases is just as capable as most laptops,  you have something that most would call a laptop replacement. In fact the on screen experience is probably even better.
  3. File Management – Another thing coming with iOS 11 is a Files app…finally. Since the original iPad was launched I had been frustrated by the fact that you couldn’t get at the native file system, like you could on a regular computer. Soon you will be able to, which is a must for most knowledge workers. You’ll be able to easily access files from iCloud, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive, and others through a single place. This helps you to organize the files the way you want, and find them quickly. Very helpful.
  4. Accessories – Really there is one key accesssory that makes an iPad more usable as a laptop replacement — a keyboard. While Apple’s is fairly expensive (no surprise there), it is excellent. It acts as a cover and a keyboard. The typing is accurate and smooth, and only slightly smaller than most ultra book size keyboards. It makes text entry and editing a pleasant experience. You do have to get used to no trackpad, as the screen itself is your touch interface. It was an easy transition for me, as I was used to that with my phone already. If you plan on getting an iPad Pro be sure to budget for it.
  5. Apps – Since the iPad Pro was launched a few years ago, one obvious absence has been “pro” apps. Yes, you had all the usual iPad apps, but not much for full on productivity or even media creation/editing. That is beginning to change. Microsoft has recently launched very capable Office apps like Outlook, Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, etc. In my experience they do almost everything I need from them. They are stable and work well with the touch interface of the iPad. With an Office 365 subscription you are all set for any document creation, editing or sharing you want to do.

At about $650 for the base model, plus the keyboard, you are approaching decent laptops, but essentially that is what you are buying, but in a smaller, more flexible package. Battery life is excellent. Portability is unbeatable. And the app ecosystem should meet your needs for some time to come.

Application/Audience

So having sung the praises of the hardware and software of Apple’s tablet, why would this be a fit for a ministry worker. Beyond the simple laptop replace arguement, here are a few use cases where I think it makes sense for you:

  1. For pastors I think sermon prep and delivery are naturals. Depending on how you prep, word processing and mind mapping have excellent options on the iPad. For delivery having an iPad in front of you has numerous advantages, especially if you use visuals, which can be routed right from the iPad to your projectors or screens. I watched my pastor a few weeks ago work from a laptop with the screen up in front of him. There were times that most of his face was hidden from the congregation. If nothing else it creates a distracting visual barrier. Having an iPad laying flat on the Ambo/Lecturn would virtual remove that issue.
  2. Another benefit for pastors would be usage in Bible class. Yes, you can project content on a screen with it…even wirelessly with the right hardware. But it becomes even more valuable as you have the Bible available to you, which can be searched for that one verse you know applies to the congregation, but can’t remember the exact reference or phrasing. Recently I led a Bible class using a Keynote presentation, but worked with maps and virtual fly throughs in the GloBible of Solomon’s Temple, plus other online resources that I could easily explore during the class.
  3. Teachers would I think find many use cases for a portable tablet like the iPad. Again, hooked up to an appropriate wireless setup (perhaps a topic for another blog post), the ability to walk around the classroom bring up appropriate/relevant resources would enhance most education environments.
  4. There are so many educational iOS apps, the ecosystem is rich for almost every teaching discipline. It’s not just a great tool for those teaching art, or other “visual” type subjects. Just do a bit of a search in app stores for relevant tools for your area. Better yet, reach out to the WELSTech Google Group and ask what iPad apps others have been using.
  5. Notetaking is a great application for a tablet this size, whether you use the Apple Pencil, or just use a keyboard (virtual or real). I personally use OneNote, but Apple Notes app is getting better, Evernote is still good, or even Google Keep. They all work pretty well with most forms of media at this point. To have them searchable and portable I find to be invaluable. You have notes on previous meetings, visits (member or parent visits), resources, pictures, etc. To have one place for all your inputted materials is a big win. To have it with you most of the time, even better.

There are many more scenarios where an ever present data tablet that gives as much as it gets will pay for itself. I’ve said this before, don’t scrimp on your knowledge worker/management tools. They can’t stand in the way of your ministry. They need to help you be more productive and also be a delight to use. Both those boxes are checked for the iPad Pro in my opinion.

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Teaching Digital Citizenship

Google recently announced a free online resource geared toward middle- to upper-elementary aged children called Be Internet Awesome. The online game, Interland, as well as supporting curriculum resources, are intended to teach kids to be smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave online.

To make the most of the Internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Be Internet Awesome teaches kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.

Application/audience

The resources available on the Be Internet Awesome are suitable for use in both the elementary classroom as well as at home. Teachers may want to spend some of their summer prep time reviewing the Be Internet Awesome Curriculum which has been given the ISTE Seal of Alignment. The materials center around five fundamental topics:

  • Share with Care (Be Internet Smart)
  • Don’t Fall for Fake (Be Internet Alert)
  • Secure Your Secrets (Be Internet Strong)
  • It’s Cool to Be Kind (Be Internet Kind)
  • When in Doubt, Talk It Out (Be Internet Brave)

Additional resources for schools allow easy integration of Interland on school Chromebooks as well as in Google Classroom. There are posters and certificates and badges available as well.

Parents may want to download the Be Internet Awesome Pledge and make a family commitment to practicing safe digital citizenship.

Related resources

Check out these short video introductions to Be Internet Awesome and Interlands.

Overview

Interland Tour

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Project Management with Trello

This past week I was honored to lead a workshop at the Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School Support Staff Conference. I spoke on the topic of Volunteers, basing my talk on chapter 6 of the WELSTech book called “With All Your Heart: Project Management for Churches, Christian Schools and Faith-Based Organizations.” In preparing for the talk I reviewed and revised all the chapters in the book to keep them current…and of course fix a few typos along the way. You can find out more about the book at withallyourheart.tech.

As part of the book there is a segment or two in each chapter called “Tool Time.” Some of the tools were replaced since they are no longer available. That is the way technology goes sometimes. But thanks to digital publishing and print-on-demand, it’s easy to update the content. One tool not replaced, and the subject of this ministry resource, was Trello. The Technology team in the synod has been using Trello for a few years now, and it seems like an old friend. Church and school offices, called workers and anybody who needs to manage any kind of project, would do well to give Trello a look.

Trello, in both it’s free and paid versions, provides an easy to understand but very flexible project management paradigm that will help it’s users stay organized. This digital tool allows the user to create “cards” and group them into “lists” — very much like sticky notes. The cards have a front with basic information like the card name, who can see it, and other high level information. Click the card to “flip” it and you will be able to add all kinds of task related elements — checklists, images, document attachments, custom fields, etc. The cards also support comments, which is a powerful feature used to capture ongoing dialog about the task. You can even be notified via email of card changes. Well, that’s the nickel tour on it’s functionality. Be sure to watch the video below for a visual tour.

Application/audience

In “With All Your Heart” we try to give some examples of possible projects so the principles are a bit easier to apply to real life ministry. The prototypic project is a Vacation Bible School, but many other project possibilities are discussed. What we’ve found however is that Trello can be an asset for a complex building project, a modestly complex event like VBS or a wedding, or even singular “projects” like preparing a sermon or lesson plan. This sample VBS Trello board will give you an idea of how a project might be set up. Click on a few cards to explore sample resources. With the functionality available on a Trello board, it can serve as the only project repository and documentation you need.

Related resources

There are any number of helpful resources if you want to dive a little deeper into Trello. Here are a few:

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Notepad++

My uncle was an upholsterer by trade. With his experience and the proper tools, he could transform furniture from shabby to sheik. In many respects, building or supporting a ministry in the digital age is no different. You must first start with the best tools and gain experience around their optimal and varied usage so you know which tool to use and when, to use it to get the job done. One foundational tool which I make use of daily is Notepad++.

Application/audience

At its core, Notepad++ is a basic text editor, void of the multitude of formatting options in typical word processing software. It is popular with programmers because it has features which detect and highlight coding syntax, making it more obvious to debug. But it has many layers of usefulness for non-programmers as well. One thing that I find most helpful is the ability to have multiple tabs open at the same time. Coupled with auto-save, I can open Notepad++ any time and easily resume work on one or more of the tabs I have open.

A few ideas for use in church and school settings include …

  • Use it as a “quiet” place to draft sermons or newsletter articles.
  • Create templates of text used often, such as a response to inquiries about church or school, and copy it whenever needed.
  • Copy and paste formatted content into Notepad++ and from Notepad++ into a web editor to avoid difficult text format issues.

Related resources

Microsoft Notepad comes baked into Windows. It can serve the same purposes but lacks the auto save and multi-tab functionality. For those in the Mac OS ecosystem, Notepad++ isn’t an option, but TextEdit is available in the Accessories folder.

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Visitor Follow Up With Mailchimp Email Automation

Technology has provided many opportunities to improve visitor follow up in churches everywhere. From prospect/visitor databases to easy-to-download new resident lists to wonderful tools like Mailchimp, the Evangelism team at your church has a lot of options and tools available to them. Today I wanted to highlight one pastor’s approach to using one of the most useful features of Mailchimp — Automation.

Please be sure to watch the video below for all the details, but here are some of the reasons I think this “Rookie Preacher” has put together a great approach to visitor follow up through email.

  1. This method uses Mailchimp to send out five strategic emails to visitors over a one month period. The timing is important. Getting an email out the next day, then a few more during the week, and finally some a couple of weeks from the first visit seems like enough to keep your church in front of them, but not overwhelm them or make you appear too “pushy.”
  2. I like the use of a pastor’s welcome message as the main subject of the first email. It makes the contact a little more personal. If they view the video they hear a real person with a real message specifically for the visitor.
  3. The second email makes use of another technology from Survey Monkey. I think a great next contact after a warm welcome is a chance for them to react or respond to a short, non-threatening survey. You get good feedback and leave a positive message that you value what they have to say. You are making a rather sterile encounter more interactive.
  4. In later emails you have a chance to introduce some more personal opportunities for the visitor to connect with your members through invitations to Bible studies, small group studies, etc. Chances are the visitor didn’t make any strong personal connections after a worship service. But if your church has places where this is possible, that might be exactly what some are looking for. In this communication you can list some of those, perhaps with some personal testimonials that again make it more “friendly.”
  5. The fact that this is all automated will make this more feasible for some churches, especially if you have a lot of visitors. This of course may not take the place of personal follow up. But I can see this strategy as something to augment that. People are hard to reach these days. This may be the only contact you have with them.
  6. Mailchimp is such a great tool to consider. It is fairly inexpensive. It has great analytics, so you can tell if your efforts are paying off. And using a subscription service allows anyone to easily “unsubscribe” from any future communication, thus respecting their privacy if they wish to not hear from you again.

Again, be sure to watch the video. It is rather short, but informative and perhaps inspirational if you are looking to improve your visitor follow up.

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Worship Helps

During weekly worship, Christians join with other believers in prayer and praise to God. More importantly, they join with other believers to hear the Word of God. One way the Word is proclaimed during worship is through the assigned readings from the Bible for the particular day in the church year.

Using WELS Worship Helps, Christians can prepare their hearts for worship by studying the assigned readings in advance. Worship Helps are released weekly, on the Monday prior to worship. They are available on the WELS.net web site as well as via e-mail subscription.

Each week, the Worship Helps introduction identifies a theme that runs through the various Bible readings for the week. Each reading is followed by questions and answers related to the reading, and both traditional and supplemental readings are included in Worship Helps.

Application/audience

Personal and group Bible study can be designed around Worship Helps. Time spent studying the worship passages is later reinforced and magnified in the Christian’s worship experience. Share links to the resource in e-newsletters and via social media channels to encourage others to use it to prepare for worship. Consider using Worship Helps for church and school faculty/staff devotion or family devotion.

We actually use Worship Helps in the WELS Technology office for team devotion to start our weekly staff meetings. Different team members volunteer to read the passages ,and we discuss the questions (before looking at the answers) as a group. When the reading comes up in church the next Sunday, I’m always excited to hear it and learn more about it through the songs and sermon for the week.

Related resources

Additional Bible study and devotional resources from WELS include ..

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New WELS Locator joins Yearbook

Recently the WELS Locator application was rewritten and enveloped into the existing WELS Online Yearbook. The yearbook has slowly been updated with functions and data to make it a viable replacement for it’s paper sibling. You can search for a called workers name or city and receive a listing of those that match. Clicking on a called worker will reveal a profile that shows contact information, year graduated and what organization they work for.

Where things get even more interesting is on the organization tab. For some time you could search for a church or school by name and/or city. With the inclusion of locator functionality, you can now find a church or school by proximity to criteria you enter. You can enter an address, city, state or zip code and find all organizations within a radius of miles you determine. You may also select the option to find your current location as the search criteria…great if you are traveling and want to find nearby churches.

Also available within the locator functionality is to filter your search results by special criteria including Church, Pre-School, Elementary School, High School, Counseling Center and Care Facility. You can get even more filters related specifically to worship with filters like Signed Services, Hearing Loop, Personal Sound Equipment, Livestreaming, and Languages Offered.

There are a number of ways to find the Yearbook/Locator. You can simply visit the synod’s website at www.wels.net and click on the “Find a Church/School” at the top of the screen. This will take the visitor directly to the Organization tab of the yearbook app. You may also visit the Yearbook site directly at https://yearbook.wels.net, or the Locator portion at https://locator.wels.net. Finally, if you use the WELS Mobile app you can find a link to the Locator in the side menu or the Yearbook itself under the Synod Reports area.

Application/audience

The Yearbook with locator functionality is a useful tool to get in touch with any called worker. Perhaps you have a friend or neighbor moving out of town and you want to contact the local pastor to perhaps get in touch. Simply search for a city in either the People or Organization tab and then reach out to that church or pastor directly to let them know that their might be a family to be in touch with. Studies have shown that if a new resident doesn’t get “connected” with a church in the first 90 days, it is far less likely they will find a church home at all. With the locator functionality you could also pinpoint the nearest church or school to a specific address if you know it. Obviously if you are moving, this would be a great way to determine the proximity of the closest church or school.

If you or someone you know needs to take advantage of special services offered like signed services, or hearing equipment, those filters are available. You can even find the closest services offered in Spanish or whatever other language is needed. And of course with vacation season just around the corner the Yearbook’s locator function will be a great way to find a service close to wherever you are, plus directions with the click of a single button.

It is important to stay connected with a church family. The WELS Yearbook with Locator helps you, or those you know, do that.

Related resources

One related resource that was mentioned above is the WELS Mobile app. It has links to the Yearbook, but also great devotional content you can access wherever your phone or tablet is like Daily Devotions, Bible Readings, Worship Helps, WELSTech and much more. Just search for WELS Mobile in your favorite app store.

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Church Copyright

Copyright law exists to protect and ensure those behind creative works are appropriately compensated when the work is reproduced or performed. For churches, regular Sunday worship typically includes a host of creative works which are reproduced and performed. The Bible text, sermon, hymns, liturgy, and choral works often pop to mind, but in this digital age, many forget that copyright law also protects projected lyrics, images, and video, streaming worship (live), and podcasting worship (archived), among other things. The complexities and variations are many and finding clear answers to copyright questions can be challenging.

Application

An article from Christian Copyright Solutions details 6 Myths About Copyright That Puts Your Church At Risk. The key to following copyright law is designating someone in your church to become educated on copyright and obtain proper licensing of the creative works you use. Unfortunately, this isn’t a “one time and done” activity. It requires reviewing and reporting individual music selections which are included in worship each week. Christian Copyright Solutions offers excellent, free copyright education resources for churches including an eight-page toolkit, 57-page eBook, webinar videos and fact sheets. They, along with other companies, also offer performance and streaming licensing for churches.

WELSTech doesn’t endorse one licensing solution over another, but additional insight into licensing options is available on WELSTech 329, Are You Legal. Kristine Laufer, Rights and Permissions Coordinator for Northwestern Publishing House, talks with Martin and Sallie about copyright issues including various use of Christian Worship and Christian Worship Supplement.

Related resources

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WELSTech Google Group

As a person trying to figure out the best suited technology for a specific ministry application, wouldn’t it be great if you had an on-demand resource to help you? Great news! You do…the WELSTech Google Group. This group represents some of the smartest technologists our synod has to offer, and even better, they are very interested in engaging in tech-in-ministry conversations. What a blessing and a resource!

Some recent conversations have included topics like online giving solutions, electronic whiteboards, Hymnsoft running on Windows 10, getting Google Apps for Non-Profits up and running, and creating ADA compliant digital documents. Many years of these helpful conversations have been captured and made available for anybody willing to look.

Over the years many questions and answers have been shared. So if you are a seasoned technologist with experience and answers, or someone just getting started and feel overwhelmed, this resource deserves your attention. A true testament to what it means to “walk together” as a synod.

It’s very easy to join and use. You will need a Google account of some kind to request an invitation. Just visit https://groups.google.com/a/groups.wels.net/d/forum/welstech. Once in, you can email questions to the group at welstech@groups.wels.net. Simple. In settings, you can tell Google Groups to send you a daily summary, send combined messages 25 at a time, send them as they come in, or not to receive any emails at all. Very flexible and options to work the way you want them to.

If you’d like to search the archive, that’s easy too. Just visit the website https://groups.google.com/a/groups.wels.net/forum/#!forum/welstech and use Google’s excellent search tools. Years of previous conversations are available. See the quick video tutorial below for a walkthrough. Enjoy.

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Desktop Publishing in the Cloud

As more and more of our work moves to “the cloud” and away from locally installed software, desktop publishing is one area which lacked a suitable online replacement. The desktop publishing standard, Microsoft Publisher, has long provided flexibility when it comes to layout so you can place images and text wherever you desire. Contrast this to word processing software which imposes strict rules around positioning text and images on the page.

Now with a simple modification of online presentation software, Google Slides, users can experience a parallel free-form layout environment for creative endeavors. The key is to change the page setup dimension from the traditional 4:3 or 16:9 ratio to A4 dimensions – 8.5:11 (portrait) or 11:8.5 (landscape). Watch this 1 minute video to learn how:

Application/audience

The work of church and school is greatly enhanced by excellent communication. From bulletins to event flyers to study materials to newsletters, called workers, church office personnel and volunteers alike will appreciate having this flexible design/layout tool in their digital toolbox. And moving this work to the cloud “ups the ante” on ease of sharing and collaboration during the development stage.

This sample 8.5 x 11 newsletter was created in Google Slides. It includes several different layouts for text as well as images and mailing space. Once the design work was complete, the files was downloaded in PDF format for printing.

Related resources

Try out different Slides themes, including the built in themes (Help) and those available from SlidesCarnival.com, to enhance design work.

Visit the Learning in Hand blog for a step-by-step tutorial on using Google Slides to print custom Post-It notes.

Also, Canva.com offers an alternative cloud-based design option. They have tons of professionally-designed layouts which can easily be customized. Much of their content is free, but some of the most desirable images do come with a price tag. Still, the cost is low (typically $1 per image) for superb design.

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