Category Archives: Business

Where We Work

I recently launched a new business venture at RedReynolds.com wherein I spend 25% of my time building websites for small-businesses and individuals, 25% of my time consulting with startup companies on Information Technology, Web, and Software strategy, and 50% of my time developing my own products and services to sell on the internet. What an adventure! One reflection I have had is on the fact that where we work becomes wrapped in with our identities really quickly.

Working for a ministry in your vocation, it is easy to start to feel pretty good about yourself because you get up every day and roll into a church to a cushy office where you are surrounded by people who support you (typically). You begin to feel more righteous and justified simply by the location where you work. This comfortable identification with the place where you work creeps up on you before you realize it and it impacts your thinking.

How I realized this was making the change to go out on my own and work remotely after 9 years working in ministry. Work remotely? Yep, that means every coffee shop and open wifi space within 5 square miles of my home has become my office at some point. Interestingly, this change has brought a lot of freedom and also a lot of reflections on where I find my worth, where my trust comes from, and what is required to feel comfortable.

What I am learning is that who we are needs to be more about who God has made us to be then the material & earthly artifacts we start to trust in if we are not careful.

What Unemployed Men Need

Recently a good friend of my wife and I came home to her husband (who is also my hunting buddy) laid off from his job. Others provided the typical responses of shock and disdain for the former employer I am sure. Having been laid off three times in my short technology career of 13 years, I provided some really straight talk to her about what her husband needed. I guess it was helpful or something because she shared it with others and they seemed to like it too. In case it is useful (and I hope it never has to be), here is what unemployed men need in my humble opinion:

Depression.

If he is unemployed more than three weeks, count on it. Pep-rally’s are nice, but the best way to help him is to demand sex and be willing to do all the work. Seriously, it does something with the endorphins in the brain and keeps the serotonin flowing. If it gets bad, and it is unlikely to, don’t wait to get on low dosage of anti-depressants… wish I had known to do it.

Identity.

he’s a hard worker, and being without work is like being without your name and your wallet. You feel naked and unsure of who you are. May not happen at first, but just a matter of time… especially if depression hits. Expect him to have to reexamine who he is and how others value him… and how God sees him too.

Truth.

He’ll struggle to find the anchor points of truth in his life. This could even lead to being short/snappy/closed off. It’s cause when you are laid off it feels like you are walking on one of those bridges that goes wobbly during an earthquake. It’ll feel to him like he can’t plant his feet or walk straight. He doesn’t need to talk about it over and over again… may just remind him of his failure. What he needs is for you to remind him of God’s word… and what God has done for you two in the past in providing. Cause him to reflect by talking about how happy you are in the marriage and with your home. Thank him even when his breath is bad, his face ain’t shaved, and he is drinking beer for breakfast (that won’t last long).

Dizziness.

Expect the first week to be a haze. He might be acting business as usual, but deep inside he is mourning. Not that any job is that special, but you mourn the loss of the security/certainty/provision. Allow him to go through all the grieving stages as though he has lost a family member. Listen, don’t talk… he just wants to know you are in love with him no matter what… reassurance won’t touch what is going on inside… but devotion will.

Fighting.

Don’t do it. Neither start fights nor finish them. This will be hard, but he is in no condition to fight productively, so you are just asking to get hurt and to leave him feeling inadequate.

Leads.

When he has job leads, be excited but not forecasting. Don’t start imagining life with this job or the other job. Sets you up for disappointment and him up for failure. Be optimistic and supportive, but not portraying it as the savior of your finances and life.

Friends and Family.

They are all shocked too. They will want to pray and be involved in the day to day. Guard him, he doesn’t need the pressure of having to find the right road and drive the stupid summer camp bus with all it’s passengers. Hold people at a distance on details about the job search, while at the same time letting them know what your needs are if you have them. This includes family. He doesn’t need you babbling to your friends and mother about his potential jobs and the ones that never materialized. He’ll feel like he disappointed you and them. Find kind ways of thanking them for their interest and pointing their fears for you back to trust in Christ.

Fishing and Hunting.

Let him do as much of it as you can afford. If it feels like a vacation, he’ll do more interviewing, more resume sending, and be more relaxed during phone call screens. Make him play even if he feels he needs to be job searching. Finding a job is now his full time job, but he needs the encouragement to take breaks to deal with exhaustion, depression, and the above. Killing things helps.

Prayer and Submission.

Do a lot of it for him, but also encourage him to fully trust in Jesus and pray aloud his dependence on him. You guys do this together. It doesn’t have to be a long, tearful spiritual moment. Just needs to be a daily confession of the two of you standing together waiting on Jesus to make the way. Repeat together what God has given you that is good and praise him for that. Use prayer to remind him of God’s promises. Keep it brief cause he may fall asleep (I know I used to).

What Ministry Technology, Church IT, and Web Ministry People Have in Common

The Answer: Technology

This blog entry won’t be interesting to the majority of my regular readers. But, I wanted to respond to a great conversation on the formation of a Church IT “group” going on over on the blogs of Jason Powell and Tony Dye. I am posting this on my personal blog because A) it is longer than a comment should ever be, and B) it offers a different view than what seems to be the consensus on those two sites that a national, professional organization should be formed. Feel free to hack/mod/refute my points here and keep the other threads focused (unless their authors introduce some of my ideas there).

Who Are You Anyway?

In many respects, I am on the fringe of Technology Ministry conversations. Most of you will not have heard of me, because I lurk a lot. A LOT. I run the Web Ministry for a biggie-sized church in North Texas. Have been doing Ministry Technology work for about 7 years in everything from desktop support to data center build-outs. I am a technology generalist/strategist who sees the big picture and am the worst sys admin ever (seriously, I’m embarrassed). I blog about Web Ministry sometimes too. I have spoken about scalable Content Management at MinistryCom and NRB. I help small businesses with formation and technology planning. Blah blah.

My Assertions

1) “Church IT” overlaps with Web Ministry. This week found me helping some IT geeks from our staff (we have 7 total including ChMS staff) get up to speed on WordPress. We continually work together on the email newsletter, group calendaring, the intranet, rich media storage, etc. Church IT professionals, Web Ministry professionals (and some would argue Communications professionals) have in mind the same broad goals of a) Connect the staff and lay volunteers with the people we serve (and vice versa), and b) Help our staff connect with each other to better do the former. You might add that Web Ministry folks have c) Connect the people we serve with one another.

Regardless of which department your position is budgeted in, or where you as a volunteer report to, the high-level goals are the same. We have that much in common.

2) While the above is true, it does not have to follow that the two should be combined when time to huddle together. After all, there are heaps of Ministry Technology denominations/factions who are doing similar things with a slightly different focus. Some in churches, some in para-church, some in missions, and some as vendors.

(BTW, I am compiling a long list and could use your help. Post others you know of in the list here. Password: passthetest )

Sure, the ministry web designers over at GodBit have different interests than someone dealing with a LAN and software support in a large church. Also, most of these currently “disparate” communities have formed to support one another within their niche focus. Sometimes this is “help me …” and sometimes this is “did ya know …” and sometimes this is “what if ya…”. None the less, the infrastructure and users have overlap; the operations of a web based tool will always depend on IT and whoever “does the web stuff”, regardless of if the tool is a CMS, ChMS, prayer system, etc.

3) We should not ignore convergence. More and more, the devices on the fringe of the network cloud are how people access the data, the communications channels, and ultimately the people. “The Network is the Computer” still holds true, and for now the glue is http. Beyond technology convergence, there is a melding of ministry types as well going on. Media ministries (para-church) are being birthed out of churches as sister ministries to the church ministry. When they become big enough to operate on their own, they usually split off. What happens to those IT people when they are no longer within “XYZ Church”? Are they no longer the best resource for single sign-on?

4) There are heaps of edge components to the “Ministry Technology” cloud/conversation like this one that are just begging for a tipping point. These dialogs likely follow a long-tail distribution, wherein only a small portion of the whole conversation is truly being discovered and utilized by us. It has occurred to each of us at some point that “hey, I am not the only person who gets this Church IT stuff”. This happens when the loosely coupled network nodes finally find a bridge/path to one another. IT Roundtable types of events have long been a great bridge.

5) While IT Roundtable meetings, SXSW get-togethers, and technology tracks in larger ministry conferences are bridging events between the nodes in the Ministry Technology “network”, the infrequent occurrence and physical proximity to all the players prevent mass participation in the Digg/Slashdot sense of the word. Meetup, Upcoming, and many other Web 2.0ish communities prove another model… which is, The Participation Age has arrived.

6) Something more than a “Church IT Association”, with forthcoming annual conference, is needed to address the situation above. Two main reasons (you may think of more):

i) In an association or yet-another-group, there is no aggregation of content or built-in findability of knowledge. As knowledge communities attempt to scale, the best practices, tips, and how-tos get trapped in organizational structures that get outdated, in technologies that get end-of-lifed, and in pay-to-play memberships. Sometimes, the participants in the conversation ultimately board up the entrances to protect what they have. This is all the walled garden problem, friends. We have enough of that in the church.

ii) NACBA and other fine professional organizations like them do become healthy and functional. However, non-profits have overhead, need funding, require management/baby-sitting, and many times fail to grab the attention of their target audience due to their centralized, ivory tower nature (amoung other things). Do you want to have the same problems in this new organization of recruiting, assimilating, and tracking volunteers that you have in your own ministries?

What I Am NOT Saying

1) That this is the emergent church problem all over again. That as M. Scott Peck (don’t have a clue who he was, sorry) said, we should “Share our similarities, celebrate our differences” all the time. None the less, the emergent church folks have done a better job at gaining critical mass, being agents of change, and getting people focused on their loosely coupled likenesses than has the Church IT crowd. They did it without a master plan or a top-heavy governing body, too.

2) That CITA or any other acronym laden professional group CAN’T work. It can and some do. I just question its scalability/viability for us post-moderns and for those coming along behind us. We have the chance to form something that can last longer than a company with a name. Membership groups are last century, but still work today. Will they tomorrow?

3) That “Official” groups are inherently bad. I am not anti-institution. I do believe that belonging to a “group” has a higher barrier of entry than just commenting, blogging, or volunteering to bring a video projector or the pizza. Associations require committees, while assemblies require participation/presence. Audience qualifications/boundaries for an association would be “works for a Church doing IT?”, while qualifications I prefer are “Does IT related stuff for a ministry?” (hint: includes volunteers and part-timers).

4) That all the Church/Missions IT and Web Ministry groups that exist today should merge and form one of the largest technology groups to ever have their interests removed from them. If you think I am promoting a one-world government, you aren’t listening. I am saying that we can have more than one sub-division, but that this formation question we are entertaining is a neighborhood question and not a sub-division question.

What I AM Saying

1) Exodus 35 and Nehemiah 3 and The Cluetrain Manifesto (link to Wikipedia, where else?) provide a better model for getting big things done. A model, in fact, that resists the temptation to take the focus off the participants and put it on the process/structure. A model which admits the creative commons and the priesthood of the believer work. We can trust the self-selecting members who come together in a meritocracy to help the rest of us in our callings. Those not wanting in, will stay out.

2) An unconference-styled gathering model in the vein of Refresh and Barcamp is similar to an IT Roundtable and will get you where you want to go. You’ll still get plenty of vendor-sponsors to provide the lunches and swag. You also get regionally-based meetups (at a frequency the local participants desire) all over the world with no significant, centralized overhead. No formation costs. No risk assessments. No insurance.

What you need: You need a) a group of Ministry Technology leaders to conceptualize the whole thing, b) a people finder (google maps?), c) some well-written recommendations for people organizing an event, d) a wiki or CMS with subdomains to host the self-forming node clusters planning and discussions, and e) a method for determining who is coming (upcoming.com or meetup.com?). Refresh Seattle is one example sub-site and O’reilly Foocamp ’05 is another.

3) Opening up, syndicating, and aggregating the ministry technology discussions in one place will make things more findable and more searchable. The Web20Workgroup is one example that has a bit of a privelaged upper-class bent, but still works. The 9rules Network is a classic example of how to aggregate differing views within a common interest. Blogrolling, a webring/blogring, and a Pligg site (Digg Clone) are also viable technology options. Pligg and blog users could reference forum discussions and web-based listserv messages archived via something like mhonarc. The most simple approach for this might be to create a unique, obscure Technorati tag that someone could build a search on top of using their API. Or, someone could build a Technorati type site on top of pingomatic.com

What you need: You need a) a conversation to decide the scope of the aggregation site/search, b) some competent people to make some hard technology decisions, c) some volunteers who can setup the technologies (hey, we know how to do this!), d) a quality web host with plenty of bandwidth and idle processor (either VPS or Dedicated box I would think), and e) a trustworthy person to hold the domain name in trust and manage the DNS.

Wrapping It Up (I promise)

If you have made it this far, thank you. I know for most of you I am a johnny-come-lately. I respect that perspective. In reality though, there are heaps more of me out here. What we don’t need is another set of membership dues or conference fees to cost-justify, travel time out of our project plans, levels of approval in the way of new ideas, or multiple websites to hit to get what we need now. We want freedom of information (without any overhead) and a place to share valued opinions. Sure, membership has its privelages, but we are already in the big country club upstairs (will it have golf?) and are all hoping to get there when our jobs are finished.

Tony Dye astutely asked “Are We a Group?”. I believe “we” are. Now, who are we? In light of mistakes the protestant church has made in way of divisions, how should we really congeal/form?

[UPDATES]
04.25 – Jim Walton is in on the discussion. Eric Busby commented to Jim, “Have you considered asking ICTA…”. Nathan Smith pointed me to the ChurchBit Google Group, which describes itself as “A place where churches and those who serve the church can learn about web technologies in order to fulfill the great commission. An emphasis on Web 2.0, Web Standards and Application development.”. Still no takers on helping me identify all the ministry technology sub-divisions in the list here (password: passthetest), and no response or trackback from Tony Dye or Jason Powell.
04.30 – Delinquent in getting updates on this post. Sorry. Have moved this post and others to my new blog.

From Bubble Graphs to Mind Maps

Bubble Graphs

I can honestly say there are almost no learning techniques from Jr. High that I have carried forward through my short academic life into business. However, there is one gift that a now nameless, faceless teacher once gave me. That gift was the ability to put my thoughts on paper first, and then dork with them and refine them. She (I think it was a “she”) called them “Bubble Graphs”, but the point was to brainstorm about a topic for a speech, a paper, or an argument and document things. Then go back and do the organization and structuring of those thoughts, with a final output being an outline.

Those of you who have conversed with me for more than a few moments know that my brain multi-threads pretty well when thinking, speaking, and typing. It doesn’t do so well with multi-tasking actual work, but it is highly optimized for thinking. This becomes problematic when my environment puts certain constraints on me, like for instance time, energy, and sleep. So, in time I developed a method of getting my rapid, fluid thoughts out of my brain and onto one of these “Bubble Graphs”.

I started using them in Junior High in Extemporaneous Speaking contests, and then used them at Baylor on almost every paper I wrote and every speech I gave as a Speech Communications major. This approach even helped when I entered the business world as I created Powerpoints, training documentation, technology proposals, project plans, and conducted audits of companies. For me, it was simply the best way to get the unstructured data that flowed rampantly in my brain onto paper, and then decide how the concepts were related, what was worth keeping, and how the final deliverable would be structured. I now know this method to be the same as a concept map.

Mind Maps

About four years ago I stumbled on some software that would allow me to do “mind mapping”. The differences between a mind map and a concept map are subtle. Basically a mind map tends to be more structured in format and there is typically no direct grouping of concepts other than by what the structure and hierarchy of the mind map document provides. That said, the process for creating a mind map and a concept are essentially the same.

Mind mapping software enables a person or persons to quickly document ideas on a screen with almost no technical difficulties that would hamper the creative process. And yet, these ideas can be restructured very speedily by simply dragging and dropping an idea underneath another idea. This creates a very agile approach to document individual or group ideation, whether it be mission statements, business plan outlines, venture capital pitches, or things as abstract as meal recipe organization. It can even help with brainstorming about lengthy blog posts (see my mind map for this post below).

FreeMind Mind Mapping Software

After trying many different mind mapping software products over the last four years, I have finally settled on one that I can’t get enough of. FreeMind is the tool I have recommended recently to a number of other internet professionals. Regardless of the varying ways they think, they almost always come back and say “the more I use this, the more I use this”. Once you really “get” this process and this kind of tool, you begin to find heaps of other ways in which it will help you.

I recently used FreeMind on a consulting engagement where I was asked to make recommendations about how to turn their business around. I took notes of each stakeholder conversation in individual text documents, but then used the mind map to tie all the concepts, problem spaces, and solutions together. This aided me in understanding a large, complex problem at a single glance. It came in handy when it was time to draft the deliverable document of my recommendations.

Also, recently, I used FreeMind on a 150+ page web project to develop the navigation scheme (Information Architecture) that will easily expand in the future to more than 500 pages. The two freelance designers I was working with were able to collaborate on my work by simply opening my file and changing things up. On this same large project, 15 of us used FreeMind during a series of meetings to create a massive mind map that profiles our eight core audience member types. We included each of those profiles characteristics, needs, and the many ways we felt we could meet their needs based on what resources we have available to our organization. This was an invaluable tool in not only understanding our audience, but in helping us as a team to decide which of the 8 types of people coming to our website would be our core focus, which would be of secondary focus, and who we would try to serve as we could.

Why I Love FreeMind

  • Free to use(yep, it’s open source)
  • Cross platform
  • Scalable for very large maps
  • Easily installed and updated
  • Has numerous export options (images, PDFs, outlines in various file types)
  • Built with Java and XML

There seems to exist a little online community around the FreeMind software, which is maybe best illustrated in this online list of mind maps that you can explore for ideas on how to do your own. I am especially fond of this start on Calvinist “Sects”.

Mind Map for This Blog Post

FreeMind Mind Map

What Highrise from 37signals Means for Ministry

Truth be told, that is just another one of my catchy subject lines to make you read the post (sorry to those seeking a trustful person, ’cause I am as depraved as any blogger). I have subscribed to 37signals news alerts by email and I just got one that summarizes something I have been looking forward to considering. You can read about their description of the product in the quote and at the links below, but let me just add that I am very excited to see how this tool could be used by church plants, smaller ministries, and those of us helping out ministries with technology. Looks to be a great way of keeping track of people in a low-footprint, agile kind of way.

We’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on our latest
product, Highrise (previously known as Sunrise). Highrise is a
shared contact manager that helps you keep track of who you talk
to, what was said, and what to do next. Like Basecamp helps you
collaborate on projects, Highrise helps you collaborate on
people. You can use it alone or with your co-workers. You can
think of it as a company-wide, web-based, shared address book
with a few twists.

Here are a few Signal vs. Noise posts previewing Highrise:

Preview 1: An introduction to Highrise
URL: http://tinyurl.com/2pyusz

Preview 2: Highrise permissions and groups
URL: http://tinyurl.com/39vqq9

Preview 3: Highrise welcome and workspace tabs
URL: http://tinyurl.com/2fbrpo

Preview 4: Adding people to Highrise and dealing with duplicates
URL: http://tinyurl.com/2pblnm

The Return of the Tent Maker – The Unconference Scheduled for May 4th

Rex Miller, who I am meeting for lunch tomorrow for a little chat, has announced the Return of the Tent Maker – The Unconference. Details are forthcoming, but what we do know is A) he is calling this an unconference, B) it is being hosted at Irving Bible Church, and C) it is scheduled for May 4th.

An “Unconference” is a loosely-coupled, attendee-led grouping of talks that are highly interactive. Typically, everyone arrives at the conference and posts up a talk topic on a white board (which has time slots for various discussions) that they are interested in giving or moderating. Others who are interested in the same discussion may ask to help lead the gathering, or may just show up ready to dialog on the topic. Others may lurk in the back of the room waiting to see if something develops which is interesting to them. One of the common rules of these discussions is that if you are bored, get out and find something that interests you. This leads to some roaming between talks which is kind of interesting.

The whole unconference (pdf) idea is not new, being birthed in the late 70’s/early 80’s, but it has only recently been applied to technology conferences. “Return of the Tent Maker” *may* be the first ministry focused unconference, though I can’t say for sure. Does anyone else know?

Perhaps the most blogged unconference was foocamp ’04. The barcamps are pretty popular too though.

It would be cool to do some SpeedGeeking at this Return of the Tentmaker unconference. I love hearing what others are working on and toward. A wiki would be a pretty sweet addition too (the others all have it)! In fact, Rex, if you can get movement for this idea and it really is an “unconference”, I will pitch-in by having my freelance company contribute the Team version of Stikipad. Let me know if you like the idea.

Father of the TV Remote Control Dead at 93

I am a big fan of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Mainly because I get to hear quippy commentary from George Will during the round table portion of the show. But they also have a section of the show called “In Memoriam” which reviews the “important” people who died that week, and displays the total number and list of soldiers names who have passed away in Iraq and Afghanistan during the week.

This month they listed a little-known person named Robert Adler, who literally changed my life. Co-inventor of the TV remote control, Robert Adler was quoted at a later point in life as saying “This thing has so many buttons. I don’t know what most of them are for and frankly I could not care less.” Proof that the people who invent the technology are not always the first to value its use. Zenith has a great write-up on Rober Adler’s work for them.

Last night I adjusted my Select Comfort bed’s Sleep Number with a remote control. This morning I awakened my Mac Mini computer using the remote control which came with it. I used the TV remote to turn on the TV which the Mac uses for the display, before using my Apple wireless mouse and keyboard. As I walked to my car in the apartment parking lot, I opened and closed our garage with a remote control to get some things I needed. I unlocked my car security system using a remote control. Tonight when I go home, I will use a remote to open the security gate of the apartment complex in which I live. When I am at my buddies later in the night, we no doubt will use his TiVo remote a hundred times during Lost and last week’s The Office episodes.

The remote is an integral part of my life that I take for granted. I grew up with it, so I use it without much thought in the same way kids use cell phones today as an extension of their person. Sure, Robert Adler was just one of the ones who perfected the idea, and now it takes on many different forms using many different wireless technologies (Adler’s used ultrasonic waves). Still, the convenience the remote control brings to my life makes the original nickname Zenith used way back in 1950 of “Lazy Bones” a really great tag for its presence in my life. Thanks Robert Adler. You made things easier on all of us!

Why Netflix Gets It and Blockbuster Does Not

So I attempted to cancel my Blockbuster.com subscription a few moments ago because of a bad experience, and had to fill out a survey to get it done. There was a comment field where they asked “How Can We Improve? Would you mind taking a minute to explain why you’ve decided to cancel your account?” So, I was willing to help out and wrote the following in my very sick state (the flu or a cold maybe). Upon submission of the survey, a form error was returned on the comment field which reads: “Please type in 255 characters or less for your comments.”

Apparently, Blockbuster doesn’t want all of my comments or a true discussion with their would-be customers. So, I am posting this to my blog for the world to see and adding the link to the comment field in the Blockbuster.com subscription cancellation field (I doubt they will read it). The first amendment has never been so sweet, has it?

Basically, you guys don’t understand the value of a life-time customer. I went into the store as a Netflix customer who was having a lonely weekend, with not enough movies to entertain me. The wife and I had decided to rent three movies. I saw your TV ad earlier in the day, which communicated to me that I could sign-up for your service and pick up/drop off movies either in the store or online. So, I went to the store to sign up and get three movies.

The high-school aged kid that was there communicated that I would even get a third-movie free tonight with a special coupon they had there. So, I signed up while in the store with him by my side. Filled out the preferences, all my account info (which you already had because I have been a customer for over 10 years), and entered my credit card detals.

I then took my three movies to the counter, where the kid gave me a total of $9.94. I said, “What are you talking about…. I just put in my credit card information in for the monthly service, now I am ready for my movies”. He informed me that the service was only for movies that come through the mail… and that when I return movies at the store that I receive through the mail, then I can get coupons for movies through the store while I wait for more movies to arrive through the mail. I was shocked and confused. I simply said, “But *I am* waiting for my movies to come through the mail”. All he was empowered to do was blink I think, cause he didn’t even call over the manager.

Not being one to quit easily, I communicated that part of the reason I had signed up in store and was willing to move away from Netflix was because it seemed like I could get get the benefit today of Netflix plus in-store pickup. He could not clearly communicate to me the reason why picking up a movie in-store is different than getting it through the mail. From my perspective, I signed up for a Blockbuster service that allowed me to have X number of movies out at any given time, and return in store or via the mail. All I wanted was three movies so I could snuggle up with my wife.

So, Blockbuster, If you really want me as a life-time customer, give me the benefit of what I have paid for NOW. Keep the details of your inventory system, your cost centers, your work-flow, your finances, etc. out of my way and out of sight. Customers don’t care about your pain and are apt to forget you if your pain in getting products to market gets in our way… which is why I am sitting home with the flu today, unwilling to drive down the street and rent from blockbuster.

Thankfully my single Netflix movie came last night… and guess what, they sent it to me when my list was empty, anticipating the type of movie I would enjoy. And it looks like they got it right. They understand that to keep a customer you have to lower the barriers that get in the way of the customer relationship. Blockbuster, you could learn a lesson there.

Now, to all you other companies out there, if you care for me as the customer and want me to evangelize your products, you will empower me to do so as early as you can… with no hassle or waiting, or uninformed high-school kids.

Netflix Gift Certificate I Can Send to Friends

Church Building Security

Recently in my area there have been a series of vandalisms of churches. For the most part the incidences seem to just be graffitti, but I am sure things could get worse. Also, over the years, there have been a number of shootings, child abduction and molestation cases, church burnings, and various assortment of other violent and non-violent crimes on church properties. Since 9/11, physical security has become a focus for most Americans, and churches are no exception.

Like the majority of our government buildings, churches have their doors wide-open. The difference is of course that churches typically do not have the onsite security to handle the types of tragedies that occur when sinful people decide to do Godless things. For the most part, churches are prepared for Sunday and Wednesdays, but lack the resources to safeguard the properties and persons in the church when the building is wide-open through the week and overnight.

With this recognition also comes a reality that much of our Christian heritage developed in a much safer period in history, wherein stealing and a sundry of petty crimes were primarily committed against the church by undiscerning boys looking for something other than boredom. One must also consider that our faith has developed a culture and attitude towards outsiders and those who may harm us that is best summarized in these three scriptures (NKJV):

Luke 6
Vs. 27 But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.

Mark 10
Vs. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Acts 12
Vs. 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

So it was with a bit of shock and disappointment recently that I received the following all-staff email request from our HR Director:

… Also, as a reminder, we encourage all visitors to come through the main front-doors of the church, as the back doors are only unlocked certain times during the week. We are working on signs for the door but please instruct anyone trying to enter in the back when the doors are locked to please go around and enter through the front doors. While it may seem like an inconvenience it may help to prevent someone from entering the church who did not have the right motives.

Now, I don’t know about you, but some Sundays I could be made to enter through the front door for lack of “right motives”. This whole deal concerns me because in it we seem to have lost some confidence that God in his sovereignty and his favor will protect us from our enemies, or Glorify himself if he chooses to remove that protection. I don’t mean to sound uncaring, but the reality is that God moves and works in us through difficulty and pain. If He were to allow (note I have not said “cause”) this church to be attacked by gunmen with assault rifles, would He be any less God? Are we lacking faith by deploying our own security measures to prevent such a thing from happening? I am not proposing that we are… but I am saying that like many things in life, it is the condition of our heart that God cares about.

In this case, is the collective heart of our church leadership depending on God for his protection and mercy while putting reasonable security measures in place to prevent the inevitable? Yes, inevitable. I suggest that if we are making a difference, we will be attacked… there will be attempts to sift us. Each attempt will makes us more determined, more faithful, and more dependent. Some would say my position is extreme and lacks wisdom, and it may. I am just saying, I would take an open door church over a “protected facility” any day. Let God sort it out, because there is not a single thing we can do to thwart His will, whether it be active or passive. If he desires to remove his protection so as to accomplish a purpose of His, not a single device of our own can prevent the tragedy.

The HR Director continued:

All visitors, excluding individuals for counseling, will now be signing in at the front-desk and issued a name badge to identify them when in the building. This was implemented to assist us in knowing who is in the building during normal office hours, as security and protection for children, volunteers, and staff is of utmost importance.

vidcam.jpg I think the next step will be metal detectors and x-ray machines, as we already have a security camera literally around every corner. I don’t think anyone monitors it though, mainly just for recording whatever ends up going wrong.