Top Ten Reasons to visit WhatAboutJesus.com

Perhaps one of the unsung heros of all the WELS internet properties is www.whataboutjesus.com. It’s primary purpose is to answer that very question that many people ask…what about Jesus? Who is he? Was he real? Why should I believe in him? How will he change my life? If you are not familiar with the site, I’ve put together a little “top ten” list of why you might want to tag this site as one of your “go to” digital evangelism tools.

#1: It addresses many of the common questions a person might have about Christianity in general, and Jesus in specific.

#2: It will provide even the seasoned Christian with a refresher on core theological topics and help them be even better prepared to “give the reason for the hope that they have.” (1 Peter 3:15)

#3: It provides daily devotions that can be read, emailed, or listened to via podcast. And then shared of course!

#4: It provides worship helps that will prepare new and old Christians for worship the following Sunday by listing the common readings and brief questions and answers on each.

#5: It provides “catechetical” aids that cover things like the Apostles Creed, Communion, the Lord’s Prayer, and other key topics that can sometimes be confusing.

#6: It provides an easy way to submit a prayer request. These requests are then passed along to people who have volunteered to pray for you and the requests you have. Everything is kept very confidential.

#7: It provides biblical answers to the relevant questions someone might have today concerning life, friends, and society. This site is not a stodgy set of “theological truths” that are hard to read, little lone understand. This is relevant content!

#8: It provides Bible studies that can be used in many contexts. They include studies on John, Colossians, Romans, Great Chapters of the Bible, and significant people of the Bible.

#9: It’s design is fresh and mobile friendly.

#10: It has a name that is easy to remember and share… What About Jesus? .com! (i.e. www.whataboutjesus.com)

As you can see it has a wealth of resources and many uses. Bookmark the site and remember to share it with your Christian friends as well as those who are just beginning to ask… “what about Jesus?”

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Avery Design & Print

Let’s face it – ministry isn’t always glamorous! At times it even requires us to roll up our sleeves and get dirty in the church and school office. Eeek!!

Even though that introduction is intended to make you smile, it is true that many ministry initiatives include a component which starts in the church or school office with design and printing of resources such as bulletin and newsletter inserts, and decorations for special services, events, or celebrations. Often it is the desire to print multiple copies of a design on the same page. The most common need which comes to mind is mailing labels. While labels are often creating in Word processing software, those mail merge features can be intimidating and time consuming.

That’s why I like to use the Avery Design & Print Online site for mailing labels and much more. The creation tools are very easy to master, and there are advanced features as well, such as the ability to …

  • control font selection, size and color
  • add curved text
  • import files for mail merge
  • add a generated QR code
  • upload your own graphics

Don’t feel you’ll be limited simply to “grandma’s” old mailing labels, however! Avery has label templates of all shapes and sizes. Design one item in the desired dimensions, and it is automatically replicated on the entire page. Want to customize each one? Switch from the “Edit all” mode to the “Edit one” mode, and customize to your heart’s desire.

Application/audience

This tool would be helpful to anyone tasked with creating print resources for a church or school. You may use it with or without the actual label sheets selected. Avery doesn’t know whether those labels are in your printer when you print your work at the end of the process. Printing on plain paper is just file. You may even download your final design in PDF format, and skip printing all together.

To get started, visit Avery Design & Print Online. When prompted create a free account and save your credentials for use each time you visit the site. An added benefit of setting up an account is you may save your creations to your Avery account for free.

Related resources

If browser-based software is not your pleasure, check out these additional software options for Avery Print & Design.

In addition, Avery offers to professionally print your designs for you with their WePrint service. To encourage you to try it out, they’ll give you $10 off your first order with coupon code Print10.

This overview video will get you up-to-speed with Avery Design & Print Online in under 3 minutes!

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WELS Video on Vimeo

No one would argue with the fact that video is becoming more prevalent in Internet communication. In fact, a recent study indicates that the average consumer watches 49 minutes of social video every day, and that number is expected to grow. Another study projects that by 2019, 80% of Internet traffic will be video. Perhaps now, more than ever, we might be inclined to agree with this 1964 statement by Marshall McLuhan –

“The medium is the message.”

in the sense that the medium of video is becoming an expectation of online communication if a message is to be heard.

Application/audience

But video creation takes time and strategic thinking. To support and supplement congregation and school needs in this area, WELS offers a collection of 1,100+ videos which can be shared via social media and embedded on church and school web sites. These videos are available on the Vimeo web site at vimeo.com/wels. Video topics include …

and more. The video below gives a brief overview of the site and includes a demonstration of how video can be easily shared and embedded.

Related resources

In addition to the Vimeo hosting platform, WELS videos are also available on YouTube at youtube.com/user/welsstreams.

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On My Heart – A Lutheran Memory Work Program

Now that we are in the season of Lent, it isn’t too long before we will see our young “catechumens” stand up in front of us and share the knowledge they have acquired over the past two years. Memorization is a big part of the confirmation process, and such a special thing as we grow older to be able to recall “just the right verse” because it became “a part” of us during catechism class. Those of us who committment much of it to memory hold those explanations and verses as treasures.

Almost exactly a year ago, Sallie and I interviewed Amanda Molstad, who with her husband and a few church friends, created “On My Heart: A Lutheran Memory Work Program.” According to their website, On My Heart is:

“a memory work program designed to bring the material presented in Sunday school into the home. It is a tool to help parents add memory work into their daily family devotion time. The On My Heart program is a four-semester cycle that covers the books of the Bible, Luther’s Small Catechism, 60 Bible verses, and the main events of the Old and New Testament timelines.”

At it’s material core it is a set of printable, double-sided flashcards offered in both ELS and WELS versions in four different Bible translations, including the newest Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV). You simply download the version you want, print it out on cardstock, laminate them if you like, and then keep them together with a binder ring. Simple, but effective.

With the four sets that are offered kids, and adults, can commit to memory the Books of the Bible, the Catechism with Explanations, Key Bible Verses, and Timelines of Biblical Historical Events. I can imagine parents using these with kids, catechetical students, or perhaps even those in 5th or 6th grade getting ready to enter Confirmation Class. The website is nicely laid out and offers great suggestions for usage as well as easy to follow instructions. And everything is free!

The on-my-heart.com home page puts it well:

Related resources

If you are looking for other catechetical resources, be sure to check out Northwestern Publishing House’s collection at: www.nph.net/s-407-560-catechism-and-accessories.aspx. You can also find a free mobile friendly catechism published by Concordia Publishing House at: catechism.cph.org.

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Lenten Inspiration

Lent is a season filled with imagery. The cross, the upper room, palms, thorns, etc. All of them are helpful in deepening our connection to our suffering Savior as we walk with him on our own Lenten journeys. Those images are certainly something that we can use to enhance our personal or ministry related messaging on websites, blogs and social networks too. Perhaps you need an image that introduces a lenten sermon series or Bible class. Maybe for a weekly or even daily Facebook post/devotion/inspirational thought.

I’ve been getting into Instagram a lot more lately and have found it to be a great inspiration for Lenten imagery, as well as an outlet for my own creativity. For example, just go to the Instagram website in your browser or open the app up on your phone or tablet and search for hashtags. I searched for #lent2017 and found over 10,000 examples of lenten themed photos and in many cases Bible references. Lots of ideas there. Check every few days for new ones added.

If you’d like to create your own, there are also easy ways to do that. I’ve been using a wonderful little app from Adobe called Spark Post. It allows you to pick your own image or search for others, add text, and then easily post to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. It’s free and easy to use. I’ve found it to be just perfect for these little Lenten images/messages. I am jumping into my photo archives, finding an appropriate image and then applying a relevant lenten Bible passage. It’s been fun and hopefully inspiring to those who see the images.

See my screencast below where I cover searching Instagram and a quick walkthrough of Adobe Spark Post.

Application/audience

Pictures are a powerful medium, and with the proper inspiration and tools, you can take advantage of them in your online endeavours. I’d suggest considering using seasonal images in almost any digital postings you make:

  1. Sermon or Bible Study series promotion
  2. Short devotional thoughts on social media sites
  3. As a lead image in a long form blog post, similar to this one
  4. Just sharing on image sharing sites like Instagram or Pinterest where people can “like” or even better, share with their friends
  5. Change your profile picture to a seasonal image that sends a spiritual message

Related resources

Besides Adobe Spark, there are any number of image creation tools that allow you to upload your own image or find an existing one, then overlay text in creative ways. Two that come to mind are Canva and PicMonkey. Another place to find inspiration are through sites like Outreach, where you can purchase entire campaigns or program…or just search through their resources that might spark other ideas for your ministry.

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Common Sense Media

In today’s digital age, guiding children’s use of the many flavors of media available to them can be a daunting task. Not only are there challenges knowing enough about the many apps, websites, movies, and books, but it can sometimes be a pretty large hurdle to simply find appropriate media to consider.

CommonSenseMedia.org can help. The first few sentences of the mission of Common Sense Media give site visitors an idea of what to expect on the site.

Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

Application/audience

As the mission statement suggests, Common Sense Media is great for parents and teachers. In church and school settings, it would certainly be appropriate to share the site with anyone who has responsibilities involving children up to age 18. This includes Lutheran school teachers, but also may be helpful for those who lead after school care and Sunday school. The digital citizenship curriculum available from the site can be adopted by schools and has units for use in grades K-12.

Church and school communication can be used to encourage parents to explore the resources available on the site. For example, consider newsletter or bulletin blurbs pointing to Common Sense Media when movies of interest are released, reminding parents to consider the age recommendations and areas of concern identified in the posted movie review.

Watch this brief video tour of CommonSenseMedia.org to learn more about the resources available on the site.

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Reftagger

Reftagger is a simple utility that allows webmasters or blog writers easily and automatically to link Bible references to the entire verse or verses. The way the utility works is the site visitor will see any Bible reference appear as a link, and when they hover their mouse over the link a small box will pop up over the link with the Bible verse displayed in the desired translation. The pop up box also allows the user to visit Biblia.com to see the verse or other version, in addition to click on icons that give them a chance to share the verse on social media networks like Twitter, Facebook or Google.

Adding the Reftagger functionality is as easy as copying and pasting a script tag, or installing a plugin to WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. It takes very little technical expertise. See the screencast below for a quick run through of how to set it up.

There will be times that you will want to physically include the entire Bible verse(s) in your web page or blog post, but if you are looking for an automated way to allow site visitors to easily see any reference you happen to include, this would be well worth the effort to include it.

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Footsteps To The Cross Illuminated – Koine

Most of us have walked the 40 days of Lent many times over the years. The symbols, songs and traditions of this seasonal observance remind us of the grace and sacrifice of Jesus, our savior. The repetition is a welcome reminder, but like all repetition and traditions, we might, at times, run the risk of becoming numb to the message because it is so familiar.

One way to renew our love for Lent and it’s timeless message is through the unique presentations of the message. I was lucky enough to experience one of those “presentations” a few years ago by Koine, a Lutheran worship band formed in 2003. Their “Footsteps To The Cross Illuminated” concert is not your typical set-based performance. Rather it is a mixture of song, video, animation, and the word sewn together to bring an emotive, if not inspiring look at Jesus’ journey made on our behalf.

Koine is offering this “musical journey from the Mount of Transfiguration to Mount Calvary” this Lenten season. If you live in the southeastern Wisconsin area there are many opportunities to experience the “illumination.” If you can’t attend in person, they have their 2014 presentation available on YouTube.

So if you think a Lenten reboot might be in order, check out Koine’s Footsteps To the Cross Illuminated!

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Christian Worship Lectionary for Google Calendar

Google Calendar is a popular platform for personal, family, group, and organization use. The Christian Worship Lectionary for Google Calendar has lectionary notes for Christian Worship as well as Christian Worship Supplement. For each Sunday and Major Festival of the church year the calendar entry includes

  • Lessons and Psalm, including the Supplemental Readings
  • Prayer of the Day
  • Verse of the Day
  • Hymn of the Day
  • Church year color

Application/audience

Worship planning is a big task centered around the prescribed readings for the day. Certainly pastors benefit from having the readings and hymn of the day easily accessible. In addition, the church musicians and choral directors will appreciate the ability to make music selections which are complementary to the readings for the day. Even the altar guild will appreciate knowing he seasonal colors so paraments can correspond correctly. Google Calendar is widely used and conveniently accessible from computers as well as mobile devices, making the Christian Worship Lectionary for Google Calendar a very useful tool.

Besides personal use, Google Calendars can be embedded on websites. Having the lectionary available for members on the church website gives members the opportunity to prepare for service by studying the readings they will hear.

Related resources

In addition to the Christian Worship Lectionary for Google Calendar, WELS also provides a weekly devotional series titled Worship Helps. New devotions are released each Monday and include the lectionary readings for the upcoming weekend as well as some questions and answers regarding each reading for consideration and discussion. You may subscribe to receive Worship Helps via e-mail.

Additional church year resources:

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Free Bible Images

Teachers of all flavors recognize the importance of having just the right image to support the lesson they are preparing. And the fact that cameras are a rather recent invention in relation to the full historic timeline limits the ability to do a quick Internet search and find the perfect photo for every lesson. This is especially true when it comes to images from Bible times, and it makes FreeBibleImages.org a highly recommended ministry resource.

Application/audience

The site name is self-explanatory. It exists to share all types of images of the Bible for my favorite price … FREE!! The image sets have a variety of copyrights associated with them, from public domain to creative commons by attribution and non-commercial to copyright retained and only accessible for education purposes, so read carefully and take steps to comply. It’s well worth the effort as most are provided in two aspect ratios – 4:3 and 16:9 – and in Powerpoint, Keynote, PDF and JPG formats. Something to fit all those flavors of teachers mentioned earlier!

I prepared a quick overview video to orient you to the site offerings. I’d welcome comments on how you use Free Bible Images in your ministry setting!

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