637 – Atomic Habits

This week, WELSTech starts fresh for the 2020-21 podcast season with a revised show lineup, a great interview on 21st century catechism, a new book discussion, and a couple of hardware picks of the week. There’s also community discussions around Instagram for ministry, Google for Education application requirements, and document camera recommendations. We cap it off with a celebration of 100 years of Campus Ministry!

The discussion

Back to the books – Martin and Sallie kickoff a new book discussion of Atomic Habits by James Clear with a look at the mathematics of compounding tiny changes over time to reach the tipping point and benefit from the exponential “power of latent potential.”

The interview

Catechism instruction – Pastor Paul Waldschmidt from Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, WI recently taught a summer course at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary titled Educational Technology for the Catechism Classroom. He chats with Martin and Sallie about the methods and tools he implemented in order to foster the 4Cs identified as 21st century skills – create, communicate, collaborate, and critical thinking – in his classroom.

Picks of the week

Ministry resource

Atomic Habits free resources

Community feedback

WELS now

WELS Campus Ministries celebrates their 100 year anniversary

Next time

We talk edtech with a pair of guest hosts – Rachel Feld and Jason Schmidt!

Get involved

You Got This

630 – Productivity That Lasts

WELSTech Summer has arrived with an abbreviated show format and a break from pandemic discussions this week. We’re talking productivity, including tips to stay productive long term. A new Googly podcast, wired internet solutions, progressive web apps, online lesson planning tools, and an awesome song are all part of the conversation. Press play now!

The interview and discussion:

You Got ThisProductive summer ahead – Martin and Sallie kick off the WELSTech Summer with a discussion of a recent blog post titled 7 Rules for Staying Productive Long-Term. The conversation also includes ideas for cleaning up your digital footprint this summer.

Picks of the week:

Community feedback:

Featured videos/online course:

Is He Worthy? by the Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas

Next time:

We kick off our summer interview series on pandemic ministry

Get involved:

The State of Chromebooks in the Office

It is no secret that Chromebooks rule the one-to-one computing space in classrooms across WELS. I don’t have exact numbers but anecdotal observations suggest that those schools who are committed to putting computers on classroom desks have gone the route of Chromebooks or have plans to do so. And it isn’t too hard to see why. They are fairly inexpensive, easy to configure with central management tools, and fast to load and operate. Yes, you still see “traditional” Windows computers and also iPads, but by volume the numbers aren’t even close.

But what about the church or school office. At least in my visits, I rarely see faculty and staff with Chromebooks as their primary computing device. The reasons for that are also obvious, or at least they used to be. Chromebooks have very little storage, they don’t allow the installation of “traditional” office type applications like Microsoft Word and Outlook, and they don’t function well if “offline” mode, so an internet connection is a must.

Those “we can’t use a Chromebook in the office because…” reasons have pretty much evaporated! Microsoft has made their Office apps web accessible. So if you get a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet from someone you can now open it, even on a Chromebook. On top of that, modern Chromebooks now allow the installation of Android apps, so you essentially get “apps” that provide Office, or many other installable programs, which improve their usability and offline capabilities.

OK. What about the storage thing? No longer an issue either. Chromebooks come with more and more storage, or SD/USB drives to do it as well. However, with the popularity of cloud storage, local storage is less and less an issue. I have a traditional computer with 500 gigabytes of storage. I hardly use any of it since the benefits of keeping things online outweigh having things “offline.”

What about connectivity requirements of Chromebooks? What if you are on a plane or someplace where the internet isn’t. While those internet dark spots are fewer and farther between, Chromebooks and their apps now do a much better job of allowing offline access to applications and files you deem important.

One other objection to Chromebooks in the office is that most of the available hardware just isn’t as well built and easy to use as “real” computers.  I’m writing this on a Chromebook, a $299 Chromebook from Acer, the R11. I’m impressed. While an 11 inch screen wouldn’t be the first choice for this fifty-something eyes, it is actually pleasant to look at, a touch screen, flips over to use in tablet mode, and it’s resolution is more than sufficient for any tasks I’ve tried on it. In addition, it comes with a built in HDMI port for easy connection to an external monitor.

While this isn’t an article about the R11, I do have to say it is a very nice piece of computing hardware. It has two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), an SD card slot, and audio jack. But perhaps the best parts of the R11 are the input tools, the keyboard and trackpad. Awesome…especially for a device that is $299. The keyboard keys have nice “travel”, is full size, and have a nice texture to them. If I have one complaint, it’s that they aren’t backlit. The trackpad is a nice size, smooth and very responsive. There are a number of configurations available including Intel versions. I’m using the slower Celeron version, but find it perfectly usable.

I’m sold. I think in most office situations, Chromebooks are viable, and in some cases preferable. They are more secure, great battery life and of course, cheaper. There are of course certain use cases that might be more challenges. I can think of serious video editing, perhaps even page layout, although there are online options for both, plus the option for Android apps. Your mileage may vary, but I think it’s worth a try. The upsides are worth the look.


Related resources

See All Ministry Resources

My Favorite Productivity Tip!

Rarely do productivity tips have such an impact on my life as one I picked up years ago from reading David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done.” And rarely do tips I implement stick with me this long. But the tip I call “waiting for” is one I think so highly of, that today I elevate to a ministry resource. It is one of the handiest time stewardship tools I have, and I have found it invaluable in getting projects unstuck, helping co-workers/volunteers and me stay “on task”, and in general one of the only tips I’ve ever found that improves my mental health. It’s easy. Here is how it works…

Every time you ask somebody to do something (answer a question, complete a task, provide feedback, you name it), note in some kind of capture system (electronic or analog):

  1. what you asked/expect,
  2. of whom you asked it, and
  3. when you made the request.

So for instance, I ask one of my staff to email me their budget request for next year. I note the who, the what and the when of that encounter. Then at the end of each week, or more often as I have time, I review this “waiting for” list to clean up those “delegations” that have been completed, or take the opportunity to remind somebody of something I’m still waiting for.

My brain doesn’t have to try and remember the who, what and when. It just has to know I’ve captured it and will be able to review those things to circle back if necessary. One of my biggest sources of stress was always trying to remember not only when I made such a request, but even IF I had. I can’t tell you how many projects have become “unstuck” because I simply was able to return to a key moment that a request was made and others are in a holding pattern until something gets done. That “something” is now concrete, not just a fading memory that my brain churns and worries over unnecessarily.

The question I bet your asking, and perhaps the most enjoyable part of the tip, at least for me anyway is, where do you capture this stuff? Where is this magical “waiting for” list? Well that depends. For me, I’d say 90% of all the items on my list are captured within email. I like to use email because it is “in writing.” Perhaps more for my own sanity than anything else. I have to be clear, can use bulleted text, and can ultimately search it if necessary. What I’m “waiting for” isn’t always a return email, but that’s OK. I do have a record of the request at the very least, which, guess what…has the recipient, the time sent and the request itself in the body of the email. Perfect.

The mechanics of doing this in email is the point of my quick screencast below. But to whet your appetite, it’s super easy. By simply cc’ing yourself you can automate the tucking away of said email for future reference without you having to do anything more than hit send. See the video below for how to set this up in either Outlook or Gmail. It can easily be done in other email clients as well.

If it’s not an email, perhaps a verbal conversation (of all things!), a voicemail left, a post it note left on a desk, an instant message or text message, there are a myriad of options. If it’s digital at all, I use OneNote. I simply have a Notebook with a tab called “Waiting For”. I can take pictures with my phone, copy and paste text, even drag a voice mail. I can also jot down the relevant info with my finger on the phone app version. Sometimes I just leave a voice memo for myself right in OneNote. It is a super tool for this kind of stuff. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of OneNote, but any tool like this would serve you well (Apple Notes, Evernote, Google Keep, etc.). The key is to have as few “inboxes” as possible. For me I have my “waiting for” list in one email folder and one OneNote section. Anything beyond that would get a little complicated.

That is not to say that you couldn’t do this with pen and paper either. The trick is that it needs to be easy and always with you. For years, before I transitioned to the smartphone/OneNote approach, I used a wallet from David Allen called the TriFold Notetaker. Unfortunately it isn’t made anymore. However, for guys, any wallet with a small pad of paper and pen will do. Ladies, same thing. Just find a small notebook as your “capture” device. Then once you have those notes (remember who, what, when), you need a place to store those and then go through the contents each week to review all the week’s “waiting for” items. A file folder would work, but make sure it’s in plain site.

If you’d like to learn more about this “waiting for” list concept, just do a quick Google search on “getting things done waiting for list” and you’ll get hundreds of approaches as examples. You’ll find what works best for you. The important part of this “ministry resource” is to start capturing those “waiting for” items, keep stuff moving forward and comfort your brain that you’ve got things “under control!”

See All Ministry Resources

Cloud Storage

Knowledge workers like our pastors, teachers, and staff ministers deal with “documents” pretty much everyday. They write sermons and Bible studies. They prepare reports and craft lesson plans. They write, collaborate and share. It’s just part of what they do. What they also do is try to keep all those documents organized, available and findable. Many would suggest that is no easy task.

Thankfully document management has come a long way these past few years due in no small part to cloud storage tools like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox and If you haven’t considered bringing one of these tools into your workflow, you may want to reconsider. They offer many benefits, but also a few gotchas you should be aware of.


  1. When using most cloud storage solutions you will have the ability to synchronize your files from device to device as well as online. Often we have workflows that include more than one device, perhaps a computer or tablet as well as a smartphone. There may even be occasions when you are away from your own devices and have to use a public one or someone else’s. No problem. Just log in to your cloud services and there are all your files.
  2. Most cloud services offer file “versioning.” With this feature collaboration on documents is safer because you can always revive a former version if something goes wrong. Even if you don’t collaborate with others, it is helpful to be able to go back through your own historical versions.
  3. Cloud services mean you may not have to spend the extra money on larger hard drives. Chances are you have many files you don’t need day to day, but may need “some day.” There is no reason to have those stored on a local hard drive. Just leave them on the cloud service, but don’t sync them. Cloud services have much better back up technologies than you do. Then when you need the file, simply sync or download it.
  4. As mentioned in number three backups are done for you. Companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple have server farms that are redundant and are designed to make sure you aren’t going to lose your files. That doesn’t mean you should have only the online copy of your files. It’s a good idea to occasionally make local copies of all the files you really can’t afford to lose. Invest in a cheap external hard drive and put a reminder on your calendar each month to update your copies.
  5. Finally, the cost of cloud storage is getting cheaper and cheaper. Competition is good and as the major cloud storage providers duke it out, the consumer enjoys very reasonable rates. Last year CNET wrote up a nice run down of the major providers and their prices.


Of course there are a few things you should be aware of when considering a cloud storage digital lifestyle.

  1. Be aware that someone else is holding your files so you need to trust your provider. While it’s unlikely that the major providers listed earlier will go under, there are other providers that have. Make sure you can fall back to your own copies of the files you know you will really need. Choose your service wisely.
  2. You need a stable and fairly fast internet connection. Clearly cloud based storage solutions assume you have pretty consistent access to the cloud. If you sync your files, you do have an advantage that allows offline access (another benefit not mentioned in the previous section), but if you have a need for a file that exists only in the cloud and you don’t have access to the cloud when you need it…well, that’s a problem.
  3. One thing that is often misunderstood about cloud storage solutions is that they are not replacements for backups. Most cloud syncing features only “synchronize” files. That means that if you change a file in a way you didn’t intend or accidently delete it, that will be synced too. There are cloud “backup” solutions out there like Backblaze and Carbonite. Keep in mind that they serve different purposes.

There are other benefits and gotchas, but those are more related to the actual service you choose. For instance, if you choose Apple iCloud, you can’t sync those files to a Windows machine or device. There are file size limits, and compatibility issues, etc. Just take time in picking a solution. Live with it for a few months to truly understand the goods and the bads. Then make a longer term commitment. Personally I use Google Drive and pay $2/month for 100 gigabytes for my personal files. That seems to be plenty for my usage, and Google seems to play pretty well on all systems and devices I use. Check out my brief screencast below for some of the features I find most valuable. Your mileage may vary.

In general I would recommend that knowledge workers and their organizations have more to gain than lose by using cloud services. They are mature and can greatly increase everybody’s productivity.

See All Ministry Resources

17 Tips for Staying Productive

Every so often I come across a blog post that is just worth a read and re-read on a regular basis. One of those for me is one called 17 Tips for Staying Productive in Ministry by Pastor Rick Warren. There is nothing genius about any of the tips. It’s not super in depth on any one point or provide neat step by steps on calendar management or anything like that. These tips are just that. Short, useful, common sense oriented, easy to remember tips that have helped me quite a bit, and I think they can help anybody who has a lot of things to do…especially related to ministry. I encourage you to read the whole article, but here are my top five:

  1. Put your plans on paper. Write out what you want to accomplish. Spell it out. Dawson Trotman said, ”Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” If I can say it and I can write it down, then it’s clear. If I haven’t written it down, then it’s vague. A lot of us go around with anxiety which is this free-floating, vague fear that I’m not getting it all accomplished. Just the very fact of putting it down, a lot of times, gives credence and relief to your mind and you’re able to focus on it.
  2. Remind yourself of the benefits of completing the job. Jesus did this. The Bible says in Hebrews, that Jesus endured the cross because He looked to the joy beyond it. He looked beyond the cross and saw the result of it.
  3. Do a small part of it right now. In other words, Get started. Do a small part of it right now. Don’t stall. Take it a bite at a time and give it five minutes.
  4. Know your energy patterns and take advantage of peak times. Some of you are morning people. Some of you are night people. Have you learned that at some points in the day, you are brighter than at other times? You’re more alert, you have more energy. There are times when you’re habitually at your best. The only people who are at their best all the time are mediocre people.
  5. Enlist a partner. If you’ve got a big task and it’s up to you, you’ll probably procrastinate. But if you’ve got somebody else and can say, “We’re going to meet and get this thing going”, you’re more likely to get it done.

As I said, these are just a few of my favorites. I’ve found all 17 to be useful at one time or another.

Related resources

Over the years we’ve talked a lot about productivity resources on the WELSTech Podcast. So I won’t relist them here, but recently we discussed the “Bullet Journal” which fits nicely with these tips, as well as a series of reviews of the excellent book by Matt Perman entitled “What’s Best Next: How The Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.” Check those out as a good place to start on your productivity journey.

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491 – Bullet Journals

You won’t want to miss this week’s WELTech discussion of an analog system (a.k.a., Martin’s favorite medium – paper!) for managing tasks and lots more. We turn back time to look at the first year of WELSTech podcasting, and we feature news from LastPass, Holy Week devotions from MLC, great content on and a special Easter video featuring the art of Jason Jaspersen.

The interview and discussion:

BuJo for the analog win – Pastor Stephen Daley from St. Paul in South Haven, MI shares his bullet journaling experience with Martin and Sallie. Billed as the analog system for the digital age, Pastor Daley encourages those interested to try it for a month, and he says the key to success is regular review.

Countdown to episode 500:

On June 6, 2017, we plan to broadcast our 500th WELSTech episode. Look back at year 1, 2008, and episodes 1 to 52.

News in tech:

WELS now:

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Top Reasons To Visit

Featured video:

The newest addition on the WELSTech Artists YouTube playlist is The Good News of Christ from Motion Worship with artwork by Jason Jaspersen.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 492 – The Social Media in Ministry series continues with tips on engaging online ambassadors.  Release date: Wednesday, April 12.

Get involved:

479 – Social Media in Ministry: YouTube

Your ministry likely has, or will have, video to share in 2017. Listen in on a WELSTech discussion of the whys, whats, whos, and hows of using YouTube to get your videos played, talked about, and shared. There’s also coverage of some of the “wow” of CES, a pulsing pick of the week, and an in-depth look at the Minneapolis Institute of Art Martin Luther exhibit.

The discussion:

All about YouTube – In this era of visual communication, the popularity of the video hosting platform YouTube has raised it to the status of the second most popular search engine. And while many may not realize YouTube has a social side to it’s personality, it can be a great place to connect and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

News in tech:

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Featured video:

The newest addition on the WELSTech Presentation/Teaching YouTube playlist is Always With You featuring MLC Professor David Scharf from Your Time of Grace.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 480 – Tim Plath, chairman of Area Lutheran High Schools Online, talks with Martin and Sallie about the online learning platform, plus we discuss tech backup strategy for the new year. Release date: Wednesday, January 18.

Get involved:

Productivity Tips from

Now that we’ve arrived at another new year, it’s appropriate to highlight an excellent blog that not only provides productivity focused articles, but from a ministry perspective. You can find it at

During my time in the ministry and now consulting with many other pastors and teachers about productivity, it is clear to me that one of a called worker’s primary administrative challenges is time and task management. Within minutes their day can be turned upside down with a simple phone call, email, or after church/school conversation. They need to juggle hundreds of tasks and projects, all with real deadlines, and then be able to put everything on hold to address the many urgencies that ministry presents. As a result, they need a good productivity discipline that makes sense for them and their work.

I’ve been following Tim Challies for some time and found many of his articles helpful, if not productivity game changers. I’d say that nothing he writes on productivity (he writes about many other things as well) is “new” in the productivity world. You can see themes from people like David Allen who wrote “Getting Things Done,” and other sources. But he packages these ideas in meaningful bites and weaves them together that somebody in ministry can chew on and digest.

Here are some relevant links from his site:

If you are looking for a good place to start thinking about, or rethinking your productivity habits in 2017, you might want to start with a series of articles he wrote back in 2014 entitled How To Get Things Done. They are excellent.

One of my favorite productivity entries in the series is Using Your Calendar Effectively. He goes into some detail talking about what should and shouldn’t go on your calendar – an appropriate topic as you look at your 2017. Tim also clarifies the difference between three vital productivity tools: 1) Information Management, 2) Task Management, and 3) Calendar/Schedule Management. He makes a great case for three distinct tools and then walks through relevant examples of what goes where. Very helpful.

Related resources

Disclaimer: Ministry Resources identified on WELSTech do not all come from Lutheran sources or always adhere to WELS confessional statements. They are presented as resources that may provide value for your ministry, but assume appropriate and discerning usage.

See All Ministry Resources

478 – 2017: Focus on Ministry Resources

WELSTech starts the new year with a resolution — more and better ministry resources! We kick of the new year with a Bible reading plan and morning routine resources. Join us for 2017 as we find intersections between technology and ministry.

The discussion:

WELSTechversary – Martin and Sallie discuss the milestone 9th anniversary of the weekly WELSTech podcast and share plans for in-depth Ministry Resource posts in 2017.

The interview:

Sphero, my hero – Mark Meyer, Technology Director at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School in Greenvile, WI, shares his experience introducing coding at the grade school level using and Sphero, a small robot which lets students have a ball!

WELS now:

New Interactive Faith webcasts start February 1 at 6 pm and 8 pm CST

  • Led by Rev. Randy Hunter from St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Madison, WI
  • A study on enriching marriages. Couples will have the opportunity to build their marriage on the gospel of Jesus through the study entitled “Mysterious Marriage.” This study will examine how the gospel gives you the power to be married and how marriage gives you a way to show the gospel.

Picks of the week:

Ministry resources:

Featured video:

Watch Immanuel is a Thankful Church!, shared by Mark Meyer and the newest addition to the WELSTech “Likes” list on Vimeo.

Coming up on WELSTech:

Episode 479 – Martin and Sallie take a deep dive into using YouTube for ministry. Release date: Wednesday, December 11.

Get involved: