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Every now and then, you come across an app that really works and fills a need. This is one of those apps. If you ever need to email or send a document, forget the scanner and just use this app. It’s quick, it’s easy to use, and it does a great job capturing multi-page pdf files, receipts, and business cards.

It’s created by Evernote, so it’s integrated tightly with the Evernote platform. However, you can still use this even if you don’t have an evernote account.

This isn’t a new concept. For several years, I have had an app called Scanner Pro by Readdle. But Scannable is quicker and better. Watch the following video and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, the app is only available for iOS now. Hopefully, an android version will be coming soon. It’s free and it works. Trust me, this is an app that will simplify how you communicate.

Why Youth Stay in Church

January 10, 2015

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I had a conversation about youth ministry a few weeks ago with a friend. Jennifer and I started working in youth ministry almost 19 years ago, and we have been blessed to teach and mentor hundreds of youth over that time.

During my conversation, I started sharing success stories of the youth who have gone into ministry and mission work, and those who have succesful careers and are serving in their churches. But I was also quick to point out that we have former youth who have struggled. Some have struggled with drugs and alcohol, some are even in jail, some are already divorced, some have fallen away from church, and some are even now atheists. Here’s my point. In ministry, we do what we can, but ultimately, each person is responsible for living their life. I was reminded of what the Apostle Paul shared to the Corinthian church.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NLTAfter all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

If we take credit for the success, then we are also the ones to blame when bad things happen. In youth ministry, we really only have a small window of opportunity to make an impact on the lives of teens. I have seen God change lives in a dramatic fashion, and I have also seen youth repeatadly reject the Gospel. Again, our responsibility is to be faithful and obedient, and to not give up. I love what John Wesley once said.

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.

– John Wesley

At our January First Sunday at Cornerstone, Jennifer shared from this article three traits of youth who stay in church once they reach adulthood. Read this and really think about the importance of living out the Gospel in the context of family.

  1. They are converted.
  2. They have been equipped, not entertained.
  3. Their parents preached the Gospel to them.

I love how the article wraps up and sums up my thoughts.

Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children; our work depends on you.

I once heard the saying that truth taught in the context of relationships changes lives, and I couldn’t agree more. Our teens don’t need more pizza parties and concerts, they need relationships where the Gospel can be demonstrated and taught. They need opportunities to put their faith in action, and they need to realize that church is not something you attend, it’s belonging to the Body of Christ. If we pass that on, we are doing more than entertaining them, we are actually discipling them to live as followers of Christ.

For Christmas this year, I decided to consolidate all our photos and videos in one place. I considered buying a new computer just for managing all my media, but in the end I decided on using an online service called Picturelife.

It’s an online photo management storage system that really works. You start by uploading all your old photos and videos. Picturelife can also automatically load photos from your social media accounts. They also have apps for your computer and mobile devices to automatically pull in new photos.

The mobile apps are really where Picturelife shines. It’s easy to scroll through all your old photos and find what you are looking for. I have uploaded almost 200 Gigs of old memories, and the service is still extremely fast.

It’s not free, but having all my files together has been worth it. They do have a free 8gig introductory account, but you will really need to upgrade to a paid account to use. For me, this was also much cheaper than buying a new computer. I like having everything automatically uploaded, and looking at the memories feature each day has reminded us of so many great times we have together as a family. Here’s a video with more info.

WHM-Christmas-12DaysHeader

Each year, WorshipHouseMedia has a special giveaway leading up to Christmas. I forgot to remind everyone to check out their website this year. They have videos and mini-movies for churches, and this Christmas giveaway is a great way to stock up on some great videos for your church. You have one week left, so be sure to visit their website each day.

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kiosk

At a recent Ministry Leaders’ meeting at church, we mentioned the need for a better system for people to signup for events and classes at church. We have two touchscreen all-in-one computers that were not being fully utilized, so we decided to turn them into signup kiosks.  After just a little bit of work, we came up with a great solution for a touchscreen kiosk system using a website run by WordPress.

If you are thinking about a project like this, here is information to help get you started. First, the web browser Google Chrome can run in a full screen kiosk mode that is not easily closed.  If you create a shortcut on your desktop for Chrome, you can edit the shortcut and add the -kiosk command and then add the website link. When you click the shortcut, the website will be opened full screen with no address bar and no menu. (see here for more detailed instructions)

I created a new website as a subdomain of our church website. The website is a single page, and is built using the Divi theme by Elegant Themes. It consists of several “call to action” modules in the Divi theme.  For each module, you enter the link, the button text, and the title for the block. I also added the Easy Fancybox plugin. By adding a CSS class to the Call to Action module, I forced each button to open up in a pop-up window instead of a separate page. This keeps everything on the same page and allows the kiosk to reset after each use. The links are to events in our church database so that we can track signups. The style is very similar to our main website so the branding is consistent.

It’s a very simple setup, and it has worked great the last few weeks. Our hope is that it will eliminate clipboards and signup sheets from our resource table.  You can view our current kiosk at kiosk.mycornerstone.org

Let me know if you have any questions.

divi-modules

apple-watchI was excited when Apple finally announced the long-awaited Apple Watch. I watched the video demonstration, and was already thinking about one, until the price was announced.  The cheapest version will start at $349.  For me, that was the deal breaker. It’s simply not in my budget. After thinking about it, I see several challenges that Apple will have to overcome. These are the reasons I chose a Pebble smart watch for $99 over the much anticipated Apple Watch.

1) I don’t need to text or call from my watch. 

The iPhone has gotten bigger with each generation due to the fact that bigger devices are better for user input. Now, Apple is trying to fit all the controls and user interface into the watch face using a combination of touch and a rotary dial. For me, I think I can still pull my phone out of my pocket when I want to message or text. The Pebble is more of a display device instead of an input device. I can see who is calling, see text messages, and even use apps on my phone, but I don’t have to worry about typing on a 1 inch screen.

2) I want long battery life

I don’t want another device that has to be charged each night. The Pebble will last a week (or around 4 days with activity tracking enabled in the background).  And it charges quickly.  From early reports, the Apple Watch will struggle to make it through the day.

3) I want a display that I can see outside

If I can’t view my watch in direct sunlight, is it really functional? Have you ever tried to use your iPhone or android in direct sunlight. The experience is painful. The Pebble watch has an e-ink display that works perfectly outside. I’ve been using it with Runkeeper and it works great while displaying your distance and speed while running.

4) I want a watch that I don’t have to worry about breaking

I can buy 3 or 4 pebble watches for the price of one Apple Watch. Enough said.

5) I want my watch to track my activity

I’ve been wanting a fitbit or jawbone fitness tracker for a long time. Now with the latest Pebble update, my watch functions as an activity tracker.  It tracks how far I’ve walked and how many steps I’ve taken, and even how much I sleep. Now I know the Apple Watch will do all this, but is it worth the price difference?

Final Thoughts

pebble

After using the Pebble for a couple of months, I really like it and don’t have any regrets. After watching it explode on Kickstarter, I really wanted one when it launched, but I wanted to wait to see what Apple had planned. Pebble has released several feature updates since I bought the watch. I do wish it had more memory so you could install more watch apps and watch faces, but at least you can use your phone to load up the apps quickly when you need them.

One of the interesting uses of my watch has been as an alarm. I use it for my morning alarm. It will wake me up by vibrating my wrist instead of waking the whole house with a ringtone.  And speaking of ringtones, I have kept my phone silenced the last several weeks. My wrist vibrates anytime I have a phone call. I can see who is calling without fumbling for my phone.

The Pebble comes in two versions, the original plastic style in multiple colors for $99 and the newer Pebble Steel for $149. Both are great deals. Check out the video below to see how it works.

anydo

I have always struggled with keeping track of everything I need to do on a weekly basis. Between church, family, and life, I always have more to do and somewhere else I need to be.  So, for me, technology has helped me become more organized. I have tried several task management systems in the past, but I have settled on using a service and app called Any.Do.  It just fits the way I think and work, and it has already been a big help to me in scheduling my week.

Any.Do works by organizing your tasks into either folders or categories. The categories are Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, or Someday. The app works on my phone and my computer, and it stays synchronized.  It allows you to set recurring tasks, reminders, create sub-tasks, and even share tasks and attach files and folders using their premium service. They do offer a free version, but the cost of the premium version is affordable.  The app also has a cool feature that helps you plan each day. You can set reminders and choose what you want to accomplish each morning.  The best part is the app is simple, clean, and has a great user interface. It just works like it should. Here is a screenshot and a video to learn more about the app.

(note: I have also tried Wunderlist, Remember the Milk, Google Calendar Tasks, Producteev, and Astrid, but my favorite by far is Any.Do)

 

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Recording the Message

I’ve helped several churches start recording the audio from their sermons to include on their website. The goal in each case is to get a quality recording that can easily be listened to online or downloaded through a podcast. Way back in 2007, I wrote a tutorial on how to setup a podcast. Although some of the info is a little dated, the basic procedure remains the same. I wanted to go back and share a few more details about how you get a quality recording that you can use for your website. This isn’t a detailed step-by-step tutorial, but it should get you pointed in the right direction. Here are a few options.

Option 1: Record audio on a CD

Our church has a rack-mounted CD burner (Click here for a comparable version of the Tascam recorder we have). We run one of our auxiliary sends from the soundboard to the CD-burner so we can mix it differently from the main speaker mix (we also record the music each week). Since we have a digital sound board (a Presonus StudioLive) we actually connect the soundboard to the recorder using a digital S/PDIF cable. This gives us great sound quality with no audio interference or hum.

Option 2: Record directly to a computer

Another option is to run a cable from your soundboard directly to a microphone or line-in jack on a desktop or laptop computer to record. Then using recording software such as the free program Audacity, you can record the message directly to a .wav file. After you finish recording, you can export the song as a mp3 file.

Option 3: Record using a handheld recorder

A final option is to use a handheld recorder like the Zoom H1 to record the message. You can record in several different ways. You can just start recording before the service and set it on the preacher’s podium and it will pick up great. The sound quality is amazing on this thing, and it is very small and inconspicuous. A second way is to hook a lapel mic to the handheld recorder and use the microphone to pick up the sound. The final way to record is directly from the sound board. It features a line-in jack so that you can run a cable straight from the sound board and record directly to the handheld recorder.

Importing/Exporting the Audio mp3 File

Once you have a recording, you will need to get it into a format for use on your website. I still recommend using mp3 files, so they are most compatible and work across the biggest range of devices.

Getting a mp3 file from a CD

I typically use iTunes to do this. I insert the CD into my computer and load up the iTunes program. If the CD contains multiple tracks, I use the Join Tracks command.

  • Select the CD in iTunes
  • Sort on Track #
  • Select the consecutive songs you want to join
  • From the CD menu, select Join CD tracks
  • Enter in the artist name and album name

You can also set your beginning and end points of each track to trim your sermon from the CD.  Once I do this, I click on the tracks I want to import and then I choose import CD. From the menu, I then choose custom settings for importing the file as a mp3.  Click on the mp3 encoder, then custom. I choose 64 kbps and mono (which means the resulting audio mp3 file will actually be a 32 kbps file)  After I import the file, you skip straight to uploading it to your website, or you can touch up the audio using the instructions below.

 

Importing a mp3 file from a handheld recorder or computer 

This is the easy part. You should already have a .wav file or a .mp3 file. So you will just need to export it into a format that can be uploaded to your website. I recommend using the free program Audacity which is available on both Windows and Mac. Import your audio file into Audacity, and then you can touch up the audio a little before you upload to your website.

  • trim the beginning and ending of the message
  • If you have a stereo recording, go ahead and convert it to mono. For speech, stereo is not needed and will just add to the file size. In Audacity, go to Tracks —-> “Stereo Track to Mono” to do this
  • Normalize the Volume – go to effects/Normalize to raise the sound where it needs to be. If you have a lot of hum in your recording this can make it worse. In that case, you can play around with the Noise Removal effect in Audacity
  • Compress the audio using the Effects/Compressor option. Compression makes the soft parts louder, and the loud parts softer so that the volume level is more constant. If you are not familiar with compression, then you may want to read up on it, because this can really make a sermon easier to listen to.
  • Export the audio as a mp3 file. Go to file/export and then choose mp3. You may have to do some setup work to get this to work, but Audacity will show you how to add the mp3 encoder.  I have experimented and I like exporting sermon audio at 32 kbps in mono. This gives a small file size, and it still sounds good. If you go higher, the audio will sound better, but it will be at the expense of a larger file size which will take longer to upload and download.

Again, this is definitely not a comprehensive tutorial, but I wanted to get you pointed in the right direction. If you have any suggestions to add, feel free to leave a comment.

 

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