Ministry Bits Returns Aug. 4

That's right, Ministry Bits will be back August 7. We still have the same old feed so you can just search iTunes or your favorite podcatcher and listen or re-listen to some old episodes, some of which have aged incredibly well.

I heard from so many people about how the podcast helped them with technology, so I'm bringing it back. The reason why it left in the first place? Well, in a sense, time. I just didn't have the time to dedicate to it like I wanted. But I miss it, and I want to help as many people as I can make their ministries better with technology.

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As A Minister: Why You Should Care About What Apple Said This Week

Monday in San Francisco, Apple kicked off WWDC, their Worldwide Developers Conference. As a minister, why should you care about such things? I'll give you few reasons why. 

The iPad is Changing. There may be some new products on the horizon, i.e. the rumored 12-inch iPad Pro, but even without that announcement yesterday (Apple has since stopped making major product announcements at WWDC and stuck to developer stuff), the iPad is changing. 

There was some stuff demoed that we will see with iOS 9 in the Fall that is amazing - it's what the iPad should have been all along. If you're a minister and you use the iPad on a daily basis, you're going to be impressed with what Apple is doing. 

Two of the biggest things on the iPad - working with text and multitasking - have been completely redone. Now you can have two apps running side-by-side in tandem and resize the windows. This isn't a revolutionary thing - Samsung has been doing it with tablets and even phones for a while now - but it's wonderful to have on the iPad. Now you can have two Bible apps open at the same time, or an internet site open in Safari on the left and a writing app on the right. Pretty sweet stuff. 

The other is text selection. We preachers live in text. At least I do. And Apple has designed an intuitive form of text selection that nearly looks like a trackpad. You can depress two fingers on the keyboard and zip around to highlight text and move your cursor. Very cool. Much faster than dragging your finger in just the right spot and getting frustrated when it goes below the line you wanted it to. 

The Mac isn't changing. I say that because Yosemite was a complete redesign of OSX, and yes, it has more bugs than an abandoned hotel. But this release, named OSX El Capitan (named for a rock face in Yosemite National Park...Leopard > Snow Leopard, Lion > Mountain Lion, Yosemite > El Capitan). El Capitan is focusing on performance and stablity, so in effect, Apple is slowing down the on new features in order to make the current ones work much better. 

Search on iOS is getting better. Universal search on iOS is going to be much better thanks to deeper integration. What does this mean? It means you can find more stuff that you need quicker. Siri will be lots more useful, a la Google Now on Android devices. Siri is more intelligent too - you can say "Show me photos from Florida last October" and it can fetch those photos, provided you have them synced in the new Photos app. 

The new Notes app. 

The new Notes app. 

Notes I can now finally recommend. The built-in Notes is an app that lots of ministers I know use a lot just to jot down things they come across. Notes wasn't very functional or useful in my opinio. You couldn't style text or insert pictures. Now you can. Not only that, the app has been redesigned for all platforms - iPhone, iPad, and the Mac. And it syncs via iCloud so you don't have to worry about it. I still think there are better note-taking apps for your phone and tablet - Drafts, Editorial, and Simplenote to name a few - but Apple is really making strides with the app that 75% of their users use because it's just there

This was only a few things that Apple announced of many, but these things will continue to improve my experience on iOS and the Mac and I know as ministers it will benefit you as well. 

Ten Years with the Mac: My Most Valuable Tool in Ministry

My first Mac - a Mac mini desktop. 2005.

My first Mac - a Mac mini desktop. 2005.

People are always asking me: "why should I use a Mac?" I get calls from youth ministers, ministers, and church workers of all types about why they should go to a Mac. There's no really simple answer to this question.

10 years ago, I decided that I wanted to purchase a Mac. My first Mac computer of my own was a Mac Mini with a half a gig of RAM, which, in hindsight, wouldn't run anything today. I was able to get it used for about $450, got my own keyboard, mouse, and monitor and set out into the great undiscovered country. And I've never looked back.

There's no simple answer to why you should move to a Mac because there are many answers.

Apple's design is unmatched. Even hardcore Windows users will agree with that. The current aluminum designs have evolved over the last ten years to produce sleek and powerful computers. Yes, Apple may be obsessed with thinness, but can't argue that they have the best designed hardware in the biz.

It doesn't run Windows. When I left Windows a decade ago, XP was going on six years old. Microsoft was clearly riding the coattails and not innovating. I know some Windows users will scoff at my supposed shot over the bow, but the Microsoft ecosystem was seriously lacking in 2005. Office was confusing, XP was old. One of the biggest advantages for the Mac was that it didn't run Windows. When you control the hardware and the software on your machines, there's a lot you can do to maximize the experience. At this point 10 years ago, Apple was iterating and innovating on OSX, and I came in at OSX 10.3 Panther. That was seven versions ago. Safari was brand new. Wow.

In my humble opinion, OSX is far superior to Windows, even the new(ish) Windows 8. Although, I must admit that Windows is coming up again, not in market share, but in public opinion. Why is OSX superior in my mind? The sleekness. The speed. The stability. The only time OSX has crashed on me was when I did something I wasn't supposed to do on the machine.

The premium price tag is an illusion. You buy $9 shoes at Target and your feet are going to hurt. You get what you pay for. Same for computers. You may buy one Apple laptop for $1200, but how long will you keep that machine in the same time frame that you would have have two Windows machines? Or three?

Macs aren't as likely to get viruses. This isn't a myth, and this isn't something touted by Apple either. At the time of this writing, Windows holds a firm 85% market share in personal computers. That means that only 13-15% of the rest of the computers on the planet are Macs. So if you were writing a virus, which platform would you write for? The one who's odds are 8 out of 10 or 2 out of 10? Simple math will tell you that's why more viruses are on Windows.

High-quality software and apps. I haven't been on the Windows side of computing since I graduated from college, so I can't speak to the quality of Windows apps. But I can for Mac and iOS apps. The Mac App Store may not get the press that the iOS App Store does, but it has had as a huge an impact on how I work just as iOS has. Apps like TextExpander and 1Password, apps that I couldn't imagine working without, aren't available on Windows. Plus, where else are you going to find a Word Processor (Pages), a phenomenal PowerPoint replacement (Keynote), and a powerful spreadsheet app (Numbers) - all for FREE? These apps, along with GarageBand (audio editing) and iMovie (video editing that borders on professional-grade) are also made available for free.

Those are my answers for why I use a Mac. I'm not an Apple elitist, I just want to use the best tools for the job that I'm doing - and ministry is the most important job there is. Other than the Word of God itself and the people in the church, my Mac is the most important tool I use in my ministry to communicate, design, and move.

You Will Be Missed

Then Jonathan said to David: ‘Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty.’ - 1 Samuel 20:18

Growing up, I was made to go to worship. Every time the church doors were open, I was there. My mother would (almost) let me miss school before she’d let me miss church. It was engrained into my mind that I would be there.

This carried over to later in my life when I found a purpose in worship. I found that it wasn’t just about me getting what I could get out of it, it was about participating in the worship of our Lord and giving what I could to Him.

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I think that maybe a lot of us fail to understand that these days.

As a youth minister, I see it a lot. If there is something better to do, then that certain kid won’t be at worship services, whether it’s sports, a concert, or homework. So what are we raising our kids to think their priorities are?

Without getting too much into the actual importance of being at worship, I just want to say one thing: that when you’re not there, believe it or not, you are missed.

In 1 Samuel 20 Jonathan says this to David, talking about the New Moon festival. Without reading the context of this verse, we may think, “Aw that’s sweet. Jonathan was concerned for his friend.” But if you read into it, you’ll understand that David was staying away from the festival because he was sure that Saul would try to kill him.

Every true worshiper needs to understand this verse – You will be missed, because you seat will be empty. If they do not understand this, perhaps the rest of us need to remind them.

As Christians, we have a lot of things in our job description. Be an example of Christ. Care for those less fortunate than you. Preach the Gospel to everyone. But another part of our job that we sometimes overlook is something I like to call Retention.

During my time spent in the Marine Corps, I learned that every base of large unit has something called a Retention Officer. This officer’s only job was to make sure that Marines were staying in the Corps past their allotted time of duty. He would call us from time to time to see if we were thinking about reenlisting and what those reenlistment options were. Sometimes, big incentives were given to high-value occupations.

As Christians, in our local churches, in our local communities, what are we doing to keep people there? Do people know you care? Do people know that they are missed when they’re not there?

I encourage you - members, youth ministers, ministers, what have you - to start making an effort to see where the empty seats are located. Christians need to be with other Christians. Christians need to worship.

It may sound like just one more thing we have to do, but the rewards of finding that one lost sheep among the ninety-nine will be incredible.

 

Why Your Church Should Use Wordpress Multisite

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Every church has lots of different ministries to keep up with, and every ministry wants to update their site with news and notes quickly and easily. If you're familiar at all with the Wordpress engine for running websites, its an awesome free platform for all your content. Wordpress Multisite looks like a winner for churches.  

Check out ChurchMag's article on WPMS here.