HipChat for Ministry

March 18, 2014 — 1 Comment



In any organization, keeping everyone on the same page is a challenge. Some people like email, some like twitter, some like text messaging, and then some just like to talk on the phone. I’ve been checking out the HipChat service and thinking how it can be used for ministry. This seems like it would be a perfect fit for ministry teams that aren’t afraid of technology.

It’s free for up to 5 users, but after you add the 6th user, the service starts charging $2 per user per month. I especially like the possibility of using this for volunteer ministry teams. It’s tough getting everyone together at the same time, so private group chats are a great way to share information and still keep everyone informed. Each user can jump in at their convenience, and add comments and see a history of the group conversation.

HipChat is also available on multiple platforms. They have Mac, Windows, Linus, Android, iOS, and website apps. Here are just a few of the key features.

  • Your Own Chat Rooms with complete Chat History
  • Drag and Drop File and Image Sharing
  • Video and Screen Sharing (now in Beta)
  • Guest Access (invite others to share in specific chats)
  • Private and Secure Communication, with access limited to just your organization

Here’s a video showing how it works

Do you use HipChat for Ministry? How does it work? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.


For two more days, you can take advantage of a great deal on youth ministry resources.  Only144.com is a website that shares great deals for ministry resources for only 144 hours. The current deal is winding down, but it’s a great bargain.

Here are the deal details

-This deal ends at NOON (eastern) on Thursday, March 13, 2014 and only lasts 144 hours.

-This deal includes $1,246+ worth of Youth Ministry Curriculum, more than a year’s worth, from Wayfarer. We’ve listed each series that’s included below.  Each 4-week series’ is biblically based, relevant, creatively fresh, and designed to engage the heads, hearts, and hands of your students.  These are perfect for any youth-ministry setting.  Sweeeet!

-Instant download (no shipping required)

We love Wayfarer, which is part of the 3DM organization. Last year, we even took our youth group to the Wayfarer Camp at Myrtle Beach. They have a huge focus on missional discipleship, and I feel they do an incredible job of connecting with students. Their videos and graphics are a little quirky and have a steampunk feel, but they are a lot of fun.

This deal is for 14 different youth series that are each four weeks long! That’s over a year’s worth of curriculum. Each series includes

  • Teaching Guides
  • Leader Guides
  • Series Intro Video
  • Countdown Video
  • Poster Art
  • Screen Slides
  • Page Headers
  • T-Shirt Art

Check out Only144.com for this great deal, but do it before March 13 at noon.


What they didn't teach you coverI finished this book a few weeks ago and wanted to share my thoughts. This is the type of book I really enjoy. I love learning from other experienced pastors, and this book is full of practical wisdom and advice.   I was especially interested in this book since I recently finished up my seminary degree. The author, James Emery White, is both a successful pastor and a former seminary president, so he knows what he is talking about. I fully agree with his reasoning behind the book.

We need seminary. But in fairness to a seminary education, there are certain things it will never be able to impart, even if it tries. God bless professors, but most of them have never been the pastor of a church. They may have been interim pastors or had a short-term pastorate while in seminary, but they are, in truth, academics. They are not practitioners.

I saw this first hand in several of my classes. There was a disconnect between the academic world and real-life ministry. Seminary really doesn’t prepare you at an emotional level to lead a church. It is not always easy helping people in crisis situations or resolving conflict within teams and ministries of your church. This book shares principles that will help any pastor lead their church. The author shares about church structure, leadership, boundaries in ministry, parenting, conflict resolution, preaching, team-building, vision-casting, and much more. Again, I really enjoyed this book. It’s the perfect blend of practical instruction and Biblical wisdom.

Here are a few passages I highlighted from the book

  • First, the bad news: there’s not a quick fix. Ministry is just flat-out tough and often emotionally draining. You won’t ever escape the hits and the hurts. They come with the territory. Now, the good news: you can develop a way of life that protects, strengthens, and replenishes you emotionally. You can cultivate a set of activities and choices that allow God to restore your soul.
  • There is a myth that churches are successful because they do certain things; in truth, churches are successful because they know why they do certain things. In other words, they have a clear missional target on the wall.
  • Leaders must look deeper than the latest model or program, conference or style, and realize that the process inherent within a thriving church has not changed in two thousand years: you must evangelize the lost, then assimilate those evangelized, then disciple those assimilated, and then unleash those discipled for ministry.
  • Do ministry not from memory or mimicry but from imagination. This means you are the originator, the creator, the one who is fashioning new solutions and opening new vistas.
  • What are the consequences of my decision in ten minutes, in ten months, and in ten years?
  • I made a vow: we will not die of old age! If the natural flow of the church is to skew older, then that means the leadership of the church has to invest a disproportionate amount of energy and intentionality in order to maintain a vibrant population of young adults.
  • Committee: The unwilling picked from the unfit to do the unnecessary.
  • Church structure may be the single most underrated dynamic of effective church ministry. I’ve even called it our biggest “secret” to success. Why? Because church structure either releases the gift of leadership or stymies it. And churches rise and fall on leadership.
  • For example, committees keep the people who are doing the ministry from making the decisions about the ministry. Authority and responsibility become separate from one another. An effective structure lets the individuals who are the most intimately involved in a particular ministry, and the best qualified, make the day-in, day-out decisions regarding that ministry.
  • Do only what only you can do. Delegate everything else.

Burruss Hall at Night

March 7, 2014

Burruss Hall at Night. It’s great being back on campus

FaithConnectorIn a previous post, I shared about ChurchThemes.com, a great company making church templates for WordPress. I’m a huge proponent of using WordPress for church websites if you have someone that has the skill level to maintain the site. WordPress is powerful, but it also requires someone with fairly strong web skills. For churches that want to focus on the content of the site, without worrying about hosting details, security, and updates, a better solution may be to use a company that handles the hard work for you.

FaithConnector is one of the newer sponsors of my site, and they have a great turnkey solution for church websites. They provide great working websites, with all the features you need for your church. You start with a design template, have it customized with your church logo and graphics, and then add content for your church.  They handle the hosting and support for you. I’m really impressed with the number of features they offer. Here are just a few.

Price aside, we built our system for churches and ministries, and that’s why you’ll find church and ministry-specific applications included such as the member directory, ice-breakers, ministries, small groups, prayer requests, eCards, classifieds, courses, and online giving and then many, many more that are more general in nature such as discussion boards, chat, calendar, announcements, blogs, business listings, media player, mobile site, podcast, rss feeds, streaming media, email blasting, photo galleries, surveys and online store.

Pricing starts at $45 per month and a $250 startup fee, but you are buying peace of mind when you go with a company like FaithConnector.  The video below shows a sample of what FaithConnector is doing. If you are looking for a quick and easy website solution, then this may be for you.

Disclaimer: FaithConnector is a current sponsor of this site and the links in this review are affiliate links. I have not personally used FaithConnector, but I am impressed with the demo videos and the sites they currently host. I am always looking for good technology solutions for churches, and I believe this is a good solution for many churches. You can see my full disclosure policy here.


This video has been making the rounds on Facebook in our hometown of Galax. I love how it highlights the community and shows our culture here in the mountains. One of the keys for any church is understanding and connecting to the culture in your city. God has currently placed Cornerstone right in the heart of downtown Galax, so this is our mission field. Watch and enjoy.


I’ve been a huge fan of using WordPress for church websites. WordPress doesn’t require a web expert, you only need to have someone that is familiar with web hosting and is willing to learn.  When you find a great church WordPress theme, you can have an incredible church website at a fraction of the cost of a larger web design company. I first became familiar with the work of Steven Gliebe when I purchased his Risen WordPress theme to use for our church website.  I found a theme that was top notch and easy to work with. It has been easy to customize and Steven really does a great job with documentation and support. So when he decided to start a new site dedicated to church WordPress themes, I was excited to see the results.

churchthemes.com is already off to a great start. Their first theme called Resurrect has an urban feel to it and I’ve been waiting for a church to ask me to use it for a new website. It really looks easy to work with and customize. They also have a new theme called Exodus coming out soon. It has a flat design style and will work great with wider displays.

One of the reasons I really like churchthemes is their commitment to promote best standards in WordPress coding and design. By moving many of the church specific functions into the Church Theme Content WordPress plugin, they have tried to future proof your WordPress site so that you will not lose your information when you switch to a newer theme. I’m really hoping that other church WordPress theme shops will start using this plugin.

Again, I highly recommend churchthemes.com based on my prior experience with them. Great support and the price is right at $79 upfront. Renewals for continued support and updates are 50% of the purchase price for each year. If the thought of setting up a hosting account, uploading themes, and customizing graphics and backgrounds scares you, then look for a post next week reviewing another great solution for church websites.

I also work with a limited number of churches designing and implementing new websites. If you like the look of churchthemes and would like me to help set it up and host the site, please check out my site FEDesign

Leading on Empty I finished reading through the book Leading on Empty last night. It’s been on my reading list for a while, and I’m glad I finally read through it. Wayne Cordeiro, Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii, wrote this book based on his personal journey through burnout and depression while leading a growing church. While I’m not to the point Cordeiro reached, I do see warning signs in my life that I need to address.

Our church has been blessed with growth, but that also brings leadership challenges. For our church size, we are understaffed, and that means there is always more to do than time to do it. The last year has been tough for me, both physically and emotionally. Quite simply, the work of a Pastor is never done, and you are never truly off. Cordeiro shares some statistics that are frightening.

In H. B. London Jr.’s great work Pastors at Greater Risk, we find these startling statistics:

  • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 33 percent say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75 percent report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 50 percent feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 90 percent feel they’re inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
  • 25 percent of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
  • Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members.
  • The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions.
  • 80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 56 percent of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
  • 45 percent of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 52 percent of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 45.5 percent of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.

This book has really reaffirmed my commitment to and my need to honor the Sabbath. I am also planning an extended time of rest later in the year for a sabbatical. I started at Cornerstone almost seven years ago, and it has been non-stop ever since. This book shares several practical principles to help you stay connected to God so that you can lead with a full tank. I plan on implementing a personal retreat day each month to help me stay focused on my calling. This is a book I highly recommend to other pastors and leaders.

Here are a few quotes from the book

  • Congregants expect pastors to preach the finest sermons in town, and when one weekend’s message is completed, it’s time to start work on the next one. One pastor told me it’s like giving birth on Sunday; then on Monday you find out you’re pregnant again!
  • Long-term stress depletes the normal fuel produced biochemically by hormones and secreted into the brain and nervous system. These endorphins and other peptides produce an analgesic effect. Once these serotonins are exhausted, adrenaline has to be produced to take their place. Soon an addiction to adrenaline puts a demand on your body for greater amounts. Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is secreted in increasing rates, and your body becomes dependent on this powerful chemical to meet deadlines, get reports ready, and rise to the expectations of others—or your own.
  • It may be a legitimate concern, but it is not our responsibility. Don’t rush past that last sentence. Learning the difference between a concern and a responsibility may save your ministry, your family, and your sanity.
  • What has God called you to do? What will He hold you accountable for at the end of your life?
  • Life is all about choices. When you cut away all of the junk, every situation is going to be a choice. You choose how to react to certain situations. You choose to be thankful, or you choose to be worried. You choose to gain God’s insight, or you choose to be blinded by anger. You choose the life that you will live.
  • The leader who is running on empty has just enough energy to sustain himself for the next step; the emotional reserves are thin. He must know how to keep his stride and not deplete his resources. To do so once is a lesson hard-learned. To repeat it again is just plain dumb.
  • of the greatest lessons I’m learning (and yes, I am still learning it) is that rest is not sin. Taking a break doesn’t mean you’re lazy or that you’re not as valuable. Catching your breath now and then doesn’t mean you’re not carrying your load, or that you are somehow less than committed to your church, your company, or your calling.


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