technology

4 thoughts in regards to technology and your personal ministry

This post was a request from my good buddy Rich Ward who serves in the National Training Department for Young Life.  Thanks Rich for the opportunity! To my new friends attending New Staff Training for Young Life,

It’s a great privilege to write to you about technology and ministry, as a matter of fact it is a privilege to write to you at all. Not one of us who has gone before you is perfect or more talented than you are. Most of us are bruised and humbled from life and ministry experiences but we would also tell you these “pains” were worth it in order to share hope with kids in our communities. Your call is to speak about Jesus in the way Jim wanted us to, as though he is the most whimsical person anyone can know. The challenge to the YL job is will you create daily space in order to believe that as well? So far, from what I have seen on Twitter and Instagram it looks like this has been a prevailing message during your time at NST and I hope it becomes the foundation to your time on staff.

Now, in regards to technology and ministry you are probably one of the most tech savvy generations to come aboard the Young Life Staff. In 2000, my first year as a staff associate, I spent a large part of my time transitioning our office from dial up internet to wiring high speed internet via ethernet cables to six office computers.

You’re like, “Wires? You had to use wires?”

Not only did I have to use cables (wires) to get internet to each computer, I had to make sure every PC had an assigned IP address so our email would work properly. This means little to you but what it created in me was the desire to lean forward with technology instead of lean back. Which means I went from pager…to Nokia phone (raise your hand snake fans)…to Palm Pilot….to Blackberry….to iPhone. And you know what I did with each of these devices?

Ministry with high school kids.

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As these technologies have grown they have shifted the way we use them. At first they were merely tools to communicate what we were doing but now they are tools to see what’s happening in the lives of kids. Our current technology should not be a billboard for who we are and what we do. Instead, our current technology should be a window, maybe even a microscope, into the lives of the kids we care so much about. Social media is not our high school, middle school, or college friends “fake life,” it is actually the life they hope to be seen for.

But you and I know where hope is actually found. And until their life becomes an imitation of His life than they will always project their chase to find it. Do you want to help them find hope? (and in case you’ve missed it I’m referring to Jesus as our hope)

Here are some ways to lead well in ministry and use technology:

  1. Use it to spiritually grow - The amount of resources online and through technology to spiritually grow are unlimited. Podcasts, Bible apps, sermons on YouTube, etc… Technology becomes a negative in our life when we use it to avoid spiritual growth. We need to model this to the next generation of kids we reach.
  2. Use it as a diving board - We are, and always should be an incarnational ministry. This means we enter into the lives of local kids, spending time in the places they spend time, and earning the right to be heard about Jesus. Technology provides us opportunities like knowing a kid’s name quicker so we can say, “hi (kid’s name)” at a basketball game or we can start praying for that kid sooner by name. Technology doesn’t threaten our ability to be relational, technology threatens a kid getting to see Jesus work through you. If you don’t jump into their world they only see the online you, the projection of who you hope to be as well. Life on life ministry is what we do. The most impressive thing about my Young Life leader was his spiritual life and how he showed up to the things in my world I thought were important. Don’t stop showing up. Use technology as a diving board to accelerate your jump into their world (I dare you to do a gainer).
  3. Lead through it - You know what is maybe one of the most powerful phrases in our life? “I saw you.” This should be how we use social media as Young Life staff. With your volunteers - “I saw you and what you did was awesome!” With our committees - “I saw the pictures of your daughter’s wedding on Facebook! Way to go!” With our staff - “I saw the way you handled that and I’m really impressed.” With our donors - “I saw your recent trip to Bermuda, was that awesome!?” But most of all with the kids we reach - “I saw you and I think you’re amazing.” We have never had such a leadership tool to say “I saw you” like we have in social media. Use it as a blessing and leave the negative crap up to someone else.
  4. Use it wisely - You are by far the biggest threat to Young Life in your local community. I’m speaking directly to your use of social media. The things you post represent not just you but Young Life in your community. Be wise to how you use these incredible new social mediums. Give thoughts to the accounts you follow or retweet on Twitter. Think about the images in your Instagram account and are they clear or is there room for interpretation or fabrication.

You will help us as a mission get better when it comes to using technology in ministry. We want to get better, we have to get better but we also have to do what we’ve always done…bring the Gospel to local kids. This is my question to you - does your use of technology present the Gospel?

I want to end with this: Thank you for joining the Young Life staff. Kids in your community long for someone to come alongside them and care for them. Most of all, they long to see hope in someone’s life and local kids will see that in you as you seek to follow Jesus.

Free method to modernizing your notes for a speaking engagement

Is speaking in front of people a consistent part of your life?  You might be looking for a more modern way to have notes as you speak.  Over the past couple of weeks I have been experimenting with FREE methods for modernizing my notes.  I've experimented with two platforms, one felt like a home run and the other felt like I would have been better off writing my notes down and then eating them.

The first thing you want to think about is device.  My preferred choice is my iPad mini.  For many of my speaking engagements I am flying to the location.  I've found the mini to be the more convenient to travel with than my iPad 2.  Obviously, size is the biggest factor because my mini feels so much more convenient to travel with and I enjoy it more to read books off of on flights.  However, there will come a time where my eyes won't be as strong as they currently are and I'm sure I'll prefer a larger screen.  But for now, since I'm traveling with one why not use it to present off of as well.

The second thing is software.  I want to remind you, my goal was FREE but I also wanted something I could create my notes on my computer and then sync them with my iPad.  Luckily, I was already using two platforms that met this goal: Workflowy and Evernote. I first learned about Workflowy from Michael Hyatt's blog.  Workflowy is an online list maker, as their tagline says, "Make lists, not war."  It's this beautifully simplistic tool and it allows you to manage your daily work flow.  Plus, it puts everything within an outline form making it simple to speak from.  Here's a screen shot of the last presentation I gave using Workflowy on my iPad Mini:

 

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You can see everything is spaced well and it's very clear where there are indented items.  I could see all my notes when the iPad is standing upright in "portrait" mode instead of being on it's side in "landscape" mode.  For another presentation I thought I would give Evernote a try.  I LOVE Evernote and use it every day.  Evernote recently released a presentation feature to present a specific note. However, I couldn't find this feature on the iPad app.  But I pushed forward using Evernote because I wanted to tell you all how it worked.  It didn't.  Here is the screen shots of another presentation using Evernote:

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I simply couldn't read it well enough to follow my notes.  Luckily, I had prepared so it wasn't a total catastrophe but I certainly struggled to see my notes (and yes, I know it was on an iPad mini but that's what I like to travel with).  I set the iPad to landscape in an attempt to increase the font but with the lack of line spacing it didn't help.  You can see the spacing difference above on Workflowy in comparison to Evernote.

So if you've been wanting to modernize your notes for a speaking engagement I would recommend giving Workflowy a shot. You can work within a web browser for your prep and it will seamlessly sync to your device using the Workflowy app, which is FREE!

Now, if you want to run with the big dogs check out Michael Hyatt's tools page, which he uses OmniOutliner but it cost cha chang cha chang.

If you've found an awesome way to modernize your notes for FREE I'd love to hear about it!  Please leave your comment below!

An open letter to the control freak inside of us.

What's control costing us? It robs people of emotional energy. They get really excited about new ideas, but then we suck the wind out of their sails with our need for control. The mission becomes mine instead of ours. With control at the helm, they will have to wait until we retire or pass away before they make an impact.

A loss of emotional energy means less excitement to go do the work. Every detail becomes monotonous. People jump ship early because they want to work for someone that values connectedness and participation. Constant monitoring and boundaries might reduce risk, but it will also reduce your work force.

Worst of all, people are watching everything move forward around them except what they are most passionate about. They say, "We are all in and sold out to this cause, but it has to be your way or nothing." They want to move forward on technology but that, too, just becomes one more thing you need to control. 

In the words of Seth Godin, I say to control, "please stop stealing dreams."

The war between spirituality and technology needs to end

For far too long it has felt like the words spirituality and technology contradict one another.

I can only speak from my experience, but within the Christian worldview it feels like a tension exists. More so on an individual basis than in our corporate worship experience at church. We use technology in corporate worship because it allows for a better overall experience, which is what we want. However, the individual is often confronted by spiritual leaders to engage less technology. The main argument: technology is an obstacle in your relationships with one another and certainly with God.

But I'm going to argue that the latter is just not true. Serving in the ministry of Young Life has taught me that we don't look at a cultural change and dismiss it, instead we see a cultural change and we leverage it. I'm not trying to puff up Young Life but God does the same thing, he leverages culture. God is so far ahead of the curve, he's ahead of the cultural movement and I can promise you he's going to use it to bring glory to himself.

For example: Did God use Pharaoh to display his glory? Romans 9:17 says, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." We need the reminder that this is what God does! This is His business, taking the things that makes us slaves and using them to demonstrate that He is God. So can God take the largest distributer of porn and use it to free people...well of course! We want to act as if God didn't see the internet coming or as if He didn't knit Mark Zuckerberg together in his mother's womb. Come on now people! As The Church we need stop acting like humans fearing everything and start reflecting God and look around at what we can leverage. In other words, we can leverage technology as individuals to grow spiritually and to lead people towards Jesus.

Here are some ways we can do this:

1. BibleGateway.com - I probably use BibleGateway.com more than any other resource mentioned here. The website allows you to search scripture and easily change between different translations for studying. It also has great links to commentaries, devotionals, and reading plans! That's stellar!

2. Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling" App - Oswald Chambers would have wet his pants over this one! Sarah Young has written a fantastic daily devotional as if Jesus is speaking to you on a daily basis. You can purchase the app for $9 for the iPad or iPhone! I paid $15 for the bound copy!

3. Google Voice - Buckle up all of you people who are doing ministry with high school people (can't bring my self to say the word "youth". I feel like it classifies them as something different. I know, it's stupid but I can't let it go right now). Have you noticed how many kids are now texting during your bible study? Let's leverage that!!! Set up Gmail account for your ministry, something like "kcwestyl@gmail.com". Then set up a Google Voice account. You will receive a Google Voice phone number, take that and print it on a ton of business cards. Then, give it to kids and tell them to text God. This is the new written devotional. They don't have to put their name on it if they don't want to but have them text their thoughts, prayer requests, worries, etc...as if they are texting God. Tell them you will be praying for them and never sharing any of these things. Tell them that you will allow them to remain confidential if they don't have a name on the prayer request. Shoot, you don't even have to go and look at them, God will see them. But let's stop blaming kids for texting and start leveraging it. Last week instead of doing an "alter call" or asking kids to "look up" or "raise their hand," I asked them to immediately post on Twitter or Facebook #reallife (real life) and #ImIn (I'm in) if they prayed to start a relationship with Jesus. Check out the response on Twitter.

4. Twitter and Facebook - This is the place that people share their lives. Leaders can not afford to dismiss these places anymore. Plus, this is the new place for spiritual leaders to share things they have found that can help people grow.

5. YouVersion Bible App - Hands down (if your a Christian I guess I should say, "Hands Up". Get your praise on.) the best Bible app out there. YouVersion does practically every good thing I mentioned above about BibleGateway.

6. Logos Bible Software - I tell you what, if you want your mind blown and can afford it Logos Bible Software will dominate you. I can't even begin to tell you everything that Logos can do or the resources it provides so I am just going to leave it up to the link.

As you can see God is using "That there internets" to continue to demonstrate his power in our lives. Why wouldn't he? If you know your Old Testament you know that God placed his people geographically as the bridge connecting super power nations. God was the first one to make "The world flat" or you could say he made it more connected. It's time for the argument between spirituality and technology to come to an end. Neither spirituality or the internet are going anywhere, one will certainly not defeat the other.

How have you been using technology to spiritually grow or using it to help others grow spiritually?