Category Archives: Ministry

Are We Generous?

Today at the church where I work we brought in some folks from the National Christian Foundation to discuss the topic of Generosity. Not just talking about giving here, but about our hearts condition toward being benevolent, poured out, and surrendering our rights. Was really cool to spend the day watching videos and processing what it meant to us individually with-in small groups. At the end, all the staff broke up into 8 groups and listed out what could be possible if our whole church caught an infection of generosity. My group alone came up with 19 world-changing outcomes of a large group of people becoming ridiculously generous.

How Generous are You? If you are like me, then not enough! Well here is the video that kicked off our morning together and really set the tone.

Lastly, you can find more videos on Generosity at Generositybook.com

Hurricane Fay Advice

Non-Floridians like myself are generally unprepared for hurricanes the first time. Have no clue what to expect or what to get ready. Well-meaning people try to describe what it is like to live through a hurricane and what preparations need to be made. Short of two emails, these conversations leave me in a fog.

One person managed to be incredibly helpful and insightful. I will leave out the name of my coworker and friend for now, and if she wants to fess up to being my source of knowledge, then she can do so in a comment. Read the bottom most email first to track my learning progress.
From: MY FRIEND
Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 2:21 PM
To: JASON

ah, my technologically dependent friend – post hurricane you must revert to the old school methods.  you walk outside with an arm full of what used to be frozen meat that is now defrosting from the lack of electricity.  you will soon find neighbors that have all that you list below, minus the gun range. 

you will find folks with large grills but no meat, people with canned veggies but without a heat source to warm them, bachelors with lots of condiments and chips but no water, people with water and enough canned goods to last a year but who long for fresh food. 

you add yourself to this mix of people and you have not only dinner but the beginning of a life group, good blog material and fond hurricane memories.  however, if this lasts more than 3 days you will be over it since none of you have had a hot shower or air conditioning and the bugs have started to hatch in the standing water.

On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 2:12 PM, JASON wrote:
Ewwww… smart. I need a ministry finder tool that can schedule my visits and match me up with people who have the resources we Texans need. Gun range, chickens, tators, bbq, and a prayer closet.

On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 1:36 PM, MY FRIEND wrote:
however, if you have people over to your house it is ministry.

On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 1:35 PM, JASON wrote:
I was going to call it “House Party”, but you are right… 

On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 1:26 PM, MY FRIEND wrote:
mooching

On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 1:03 PM, JASON wrote:
Perfect. So what does “Visiting Neighbors with Facilities & Food” equate to?

On Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 12:39 PM, MY FRIEND wrote:
I like Faye better b/c i have a relative with that spelling.  Glad you asked about terminology, we wouldn’t want you to embarass yourself.  “Hunkering” happens at home, anything pre-storm outside of your home is a “preparation”, post-storm you are “venturing out”.

Getting Robbed in a Foreign Country

I have a former employee at my current church who quit working for us to go on a one-year round the world missions excursion on a bare bones budget. Read his commentary on this trip blog.

The crazy news is that he was robbed at gunpoint in Johannesburg last night and all his possessions were taken. If you can send a few extra dollars his way, instructions are below on how to do it. Here is his story on the robbery:

Hello Friends,

James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

I am writing to tell about my experience last night. We have been working in Malawi with Harvest international ministries (HIM) for the past two weeks. Him is a ministry that plants churches in southern Africa and we were working with them in northern Malawi. God has been teaching and growing us there, and we have learned a lot about the history of Slavery, Islam, and Christianity in the region. Our teams have been able to share the gospel and help the Malawians in showing the Jesus film in the local Chichewa language. After they show the movie many people accept Christ and then a church is planted in that village. This month of ministry has been the best yet and I know the devil is trying (but failed) to steal our joy.

We arrived here in Johannesburg last night and were getting ready to leave for India on Friday and Saturday.

Then the unimaginable happened – we were robbed.

I was talking with a friend on another team here in the lobby area of the hostel when 4 gunmen busted in to the hostel saying that this is an armed robbery. At first I didn’t think this was serious, but it soon came to be. One man pointed a gun at my face and cocked it. We were all escorted into the billiard room / bar area and forced to lay face down on the ground. The gunmen said to give them all of our phones and other valuables. They also searched a lot of peoples pockets while we lay on the ground. They said that if we moved they would shoot us and it was a very intense situation. There is a dog that is here and it was barking and the gunmen would yell at it to shut up.

I was getting ready for the dog to get shot but it never was. The girls on our team were even more terrified because when the gunmen went into their room they asked for phones and money. When they said they didn’t have any phones the gunmen were like, “We will have to shoot someone then.” They then cocked their gun to prove the point. No one was shot though.

After about 15 minutes of laying on the ground the robbers left and everyone got up. A lot of the girls were obviously disturbed and we all pulled together. When it was happening we were on the floor praying. And I know God was with us. He always is. Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from your Spirit?” It’s true God is with us always. This robbery was not a surprise to Him and knew it would strengthen us in Him.

I had a lot stolen. My Bible, journal, laptop, camera, iPod, external hard drive, U.S. passport, foreign cash and a lot of other stuff that was in my backpack. They just took my backpack with everything in it. I am sad to lose the stuff, especially my hard drive because I have all the digital pictures I have ever taken since 2000 and all the ones from this year. Luckily they did not take my wallet, just all the cash in it. It was on my bed and they just grabbed the cash out of it. If anyone would like to help me out I would greatly appreciate it and your prayers would be great too for my entire squad. There are others on my team who lost this much and some even more. At least I still have some clothes, albeit a little dirty, but they had theirs taken.

I was able to get my passport replaced today praise God and I will be able to get my India visa tomorrow.

If you would like to send any money, please send checks made out to my father David who will deposit the money for me. If you are going to send any please e-mail me too. Please though, only send money if God leads you to.

David Crouch
4793 Suzette Ave NW
Massillon, OH 44647

Thank you for keeping up with me and supporting me this year. I appreciate you all and can’t wait to see you again. Stuff in life doesn’t matter much so I just want to say that I love you all. Stuff is replaceable but people aren’t. I could have been killed last night, but I have been blessed with life and am going to run after the prize even harder.

Love,
Kelton

Fireproof Movie Details

A long while ago, I blogged about the Fireproof Movie. I got this today in a newsletter about Fireproof the Movie:

Churches Focusing on Fireproofing Marriages
As with every movie that is released theatrically this year, FIREPROOF aims to entertain audiences. Unlike any other movie this year, FIREPROOF will provide ministry opportunities for churches to help strengthen marriages in their community. You can find great church resources at FireproofmyMarriage.com.

In addition, churches will be able to host a “Fireproof My Marriage” seminar on November 1. This Church Communication Network simulcast features Sherwood Senior Pastor Michael Catt, FIREPROOF co-writers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, and marriage experts Gary Smalley and Dr. Les Parrott, among others.

http://www.fireproofthemovie.com/takeaction/ has some information about what you can do to promote the movie. We are 72 days out from the launch of the movie. I really believe it will do well!

John Piper on Prosperity Gospel

Was doing a little catching up on my friends blogs and ran across a two month old post from my old college roomie Dave, which who imbedded the following GodTube presentation with audio of John Piper. Be warned it is pretty moving.

I was introduced to Piper at the first Passion Conference back in the 90’s and have been hooked ever since. Sure he gets a little extreme in the death example in this snippet, but it challenges me to realize I have so much more room to grow in my faith. Thanks Dave for the heads up.
 

Fallen But Not Forgotten

In the decision to move to Florida to work for Christ Fellowship, I had to deal with some feelings of unworthiness that I had not faced in a long time. When God tees up a sweet shot for you, it is sometimes tough to think you are the right person to take the swing. In my case, I felt unworthy because of my falleness. I am very familiar these days with my weakness because it rears its head daily in my life in the little things. You know, parenting, finances, relationships, and work. So in the midst of working out if the move to Florida was right for us, I just felt this overwhelming fear that God could not possibly use me for a work as significant as what seems to await me in West Palm Beach.

During the week I was thinking these things, Christ Fellowships #2 guy delivered a message (view the video) which put me at ease. The first ten minutes are especially worthy of your time, as he walks through the great men of Hebrews and recounts their fallen sides. It’s a brilliant reminder that just because we are fallen doesn’t mean the Lord has forgotten us. Jesus still has a plan for each of us that takes into account our screw-ups and disabilities. We still need to pray every morning for God to have His way with us, but we can have a confidence that Jesus does not forget us when he is ready to do a work. Just because we are fallen does not mean we are forgotten.

A New Job and Neighborhood

Word is starting to get out a bit that I have resigned my position with Stonebriar Community Church this week and accepted a position with the 30th largest church in the US. We wanted to let all of you know this as early in the process as possible, but also had some details to work out before I could make things official. I have been away from consistent blogging for awhile so that I could get this life decision made.

Where is this?

Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, Florida offered me a CIO type role that was just too awesome to not consider. After a rapid, yet extensive interview process, Ashley and I came to the same conclusion as Christ Fellowship that God had created an amazing fit between what they need in a technology leader and what God has made me to do. I will initially manage a department of 6-8 folks doing everything from programming to helpdesk to data warehousing. The team is pretty junior, but very talented none the less. Really a good group to be able to mentor.

What will you be doing, exactly?

For some of the more technology challenged readers, I will try to boil this down for you. I will manage a team of people who keep the email working, the files storing, the computers healthy, the data safe, the website updated, the member contact information reportable, the videos playing, the telephones working, etc.

In addition to these regular Church IT duties, I will be helping the church navigate the technology waters to a place of understanding how technology can be leveraged to improve the way they do the Christian life together. Whether this is through a better website that connects people with each other, systems that help improve the discipleship of church members, or an intranet for better communication within the staff, the goal of the position will be to partner with the other executives to champion technology projects that are sponsored internally. I am a change agent for technology within a church who already loves change and technology. What could be more fun?

Are You Moving?

Well yes we are. Believe it or not, God’s call on our life in this case was so strong it is making us give up our Texas residence. Leaving our friends, family, and this great State of Texas (Long live the Republic) were about the only downsides of this ministry move. We are seriously grieving moving to the beach. Some of our friends are just laughing in our pitiful faces and saying, “There are a lot worse places to serve the Lord. It could be Africa or a Peanut Farm!” Thank you Jesus it isn’t both! And they are right, West Palm Beach is about the most affluent place you can be a church worker. Living in constant good weather and around nice things shouldn’t be such a pain. We just love what we have here. We are comfortable. We are fully supported.
Some scripture came to mind in this that haunted us a bit:

Mathew 16: 24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

Mark 1: 16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17“Come, follow me,” Jesus said. 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

When is this happening?

My last day of work at Stonebriar is August 10th and my first day of work with Christ Fellowship is August 13th. I will work remotely for three weeks. We will move over Labor Day weekend, with my first day on site being September 3rd. “There is a lot left to do” is an understatement of understatements.

With this having happened this week, I have heaps more to say about this, but it will have to wait cause I am out of time for today. We’ll write more soon.

Through the Eyes of an Athiest

This girl Micki, has my ear. Sure, she has all the modern tools she needs to tell a great, reasonable story, but the simplicity of this video is what makes it compelling to folks who don’t know the difference. Check it out and let us know what you think. How should we respond to this kind of reasoning? How might we engage someone like this in a way that is friendly and isn’t considered hostile? Read some of the comments and you can see others who feel strongly about the topic as well.

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.

Where is Jason?

Everywhere and nowhere, that is where. In addition to some significant life changes I hope to blog about next month, I am in the midst of a big web ministry project at the church where I work. We changed our audience focus from insiders to outsiders, and are completely redoing our site visually and architecturally.

I did heaps of research on Church web sites, and was fortunate enough to partner with some of the greatest design and technology folks doing stuff for ministries. BUT, I missed one site that would have changed my entire perspective on this deal. Unfortunately, I am almost done… and it is too late to reverse course. I am just sick I didn’t see this before starting my project.
Bobby Chandler, one of two designers on our church staff, has the scoop.