Tools to Make Technology Easier for Churches

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APRIL 25, 2016

Emphasis on living Christ’s love, living the Gospel, building a community of faith, and serving people will always be priority over the material tools we use to reach those people. You don’t need the best or newest gadgets, but in the 21st century, being conscientious of how you reach people in our digital world and what that looks like is important. There is a lot of software, applications, and tech tools out there available to us. Some are free, some are affordable, and others are an investment. Some of them are very user-friendly and others require a more trained individual to utilize.

Since I began my work with the Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) as Communications Project Manger in September of last year, these are some tools that I have utilized and have proved to be essential. These are well-rounded programs, some of which I have used in my work as an artist prior to working for BCM. In future Spotlight posts, I’ll share about additional tools and even get into some video tutorials. This post focuses on desktop/laptop computer software and tech tools such as cameras. It should be noted that while I count these tools as essential for myself and BCM’s work, that may vary from congregation and person to person based upon needs and skill. Assess what you need and are comfortable with using first before you invest in any technology or software.

Adobe Creative Suite – software for the professional designer 

This isn’t really something the typical Moravian congregation would need. Adobe has primarily adopted a cloud-based subscription format (Adobe Creative Cloud), so you pay a monthly fee for the right to use their collection of professional design software, rather than a one-time fee. In exchange, your software is always up to date.

There are different plans, starting at $9 a month for just Photoshop (the full version, not Elements) and Lightroom. For about $20 a month per software, you can pick and choose which applications you want. For $50 a month, you get the entire suite of software, including InDesign, AfterEffects, Photoshop, Illustrator, and more. $80 a month gets you that and access to their stock photo library (Pexels and Unsplash are great Creative Commons alternatives for free photos. Also check out Lightstock for spiritual/church-themed stock photos.)

For church design, the only software I’d think you’d need outside of Elements or Photoshop, is InDesign. InDesign is great for designing multiple page documents such as newsletters. However, if necessary, that can be done in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Much of Adobe Creative Suite’s software is overkill and unnecessary for the beginner or casual church designer.

Photoshop Elements – software for the experienced designer and those learning  

Photoshop Elements is handy if you want to make good looking graphics, but want something a little less loaded than the full version of Adobe’s Photoshop. I use it for nearly all of my BCM work, particularly the Bulletin Inserts and Daily Text graphics. (I made the banner at the top of this blog post with Elements.) You can get the latest version on Amazon for about $70. Of course, eventually it will become somewhat outdated. I am still using version 11 and am happy with it. Elements is a watered down version of Photoshop. It has a lot of the same tools, but isn’t quite as powerful. If you’re serious about improving your church’s design and not haphazardly designing inserts/flyers in Microsoft Word, Elements is a good place to start. The three square graphics below and to the right were also designed by me using Photoshop Elements 11.

3.27.16.Sunday.WatchwordForTheWeek 3.1.16.Tuesday.559Unity 4.15.16.Friday.DailyTextFree design software alternatives

The great thing about the web is that there are always free alternatives, or free trials at the very least. GIMP is a free, downloadable Photoshop Elements look-a-like. Canva, an online design software, is all the rage for helping non-designers design better. There are more to be found if you do a little searching!

Hootsuite – social media scheduling software 

If your congregation is running multiple social media pages and posting a lot of content, a scheduling software like Hootsuite can save you a lot of time. Hootsuite is straightfoward and easy to use. A main competitor is CoSchedule.

Drawing tablets – increase the precision of your design work 

I don’t use mine all the time, but Wacom makes a range of quality digital drawing tablets. Tablets are handy for when you want something more precise than the clunkiness of a mouse or keypad (designing with a mouse all the time gets old fast.) The model I use is the Bamboo Create (CTH670.)

Cameras/Smartphones, a note on copyright and more

My Nikon camera has proved invaluable in my work for the BCM. I’ve used it to document events, take photos to use for graphics, and more! I own a D5300 model that I primarily use with a Nikon 15-140mm VR lens. However, I am not totally dependent on my Nikon and still use my iPhone 6s for some work. A DSLR is a serious investment, but worth it when put to good use. For most congregations, a smartphone comparable to an iPhone 5 or newer should suffice for most documentation of church activities and events.

Having a decent device to capture quality images, apart from documenting, is good for when you can’t find a stock or Creative Commons image that suits your needs. It should be noted that just pulling and using any image/content from Google or any source without permission is almost always copyright infringement, illegal, and could get your church into hot water.

Copyright can be very confusing, but you should be familiar with the basic ins and outs of copyright, knowing terms such as “fair use” and “attribution.” It is also good to be familiar with any software’s terms and conditions (license), as well as knowing what you can and can’t take or post a picture of (privacy and property rights.)

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A photo I took with my Nikon D5300 at Trinity’s 2016 Crosswalk

Another photograph I took with my Nikon D5300... this was then edited on my mobile device with the Faded photo editing application

Another photograph I took with my Nikon D5300… this was then edited on my mobile device with the Faded photo editing application

Google Drive – keep your files organized 

For me, Google Drive has been an invaluable tool. Using it, I can access my files from any desktop or mobile device anywhere, provided I save my files on the drive. Google Drive is better and easier than Dropbox in my opinion. I also carry a SanDisk 128gb USB 3.0 flashdrive.

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Self-portrait I shot with my Nikon D5300 using my iPhone and Nikon’s WMU application

That is all for now! Be sure to click on anything that is hyperlinked for additional reading/resources (anything bolded, underlined, and in blue.) Best wishes and blessings to your church communications efforts. We do this together!

Questions? Or need assistance with your church’s communications and social media efforts? Contact Andrew David Cox at acox(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Andrew David Cox is the Communications Project Manager for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

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Confirmation… An Ever Changing Process

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APRIL 18, 2016

Growing up in the Presbyterian Church and being confirmed as a teenager is not so vastly different from the process that Moravians take in their confirmation practices. Those memories of confirmation for me are everlasting. I developed relationships with adult mentors who cared enough about me to help me in this step in my faith. I truly felt like a worthy member of a congregation when given tasks during confirmation, such as baking communion bread with my family, and preparing the elements for a communion Sunday. Even the small task of making sure there was a glass of water in the pulpit each Sunday for the pastor… it may seem meaningless, but it is far from that. I learned the importance of even the smallest of tasks and made those next steps in my faith journey. It truly made me feel like a member of a congregation that could contribute something.

Book Cover

Click above image to see more about this book at our online Resource Center library!

As I was fortunate enough to spend some time this year reflecting on my faith journey and what each step meant to me, I ran across a new book, 100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation: A Guide for Parents and Youth Leaders. It was written by Rebeccca Kirkpatrick and published by Westminister John Knox Press in 2015. What a read it is! Not only for parents, but Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, as we strive to make confirmation be the most meaningful experience it can be. Drop by the Resource Center and borrow it for an excellent read about planting, feeding, watching growth, and understanding an experience such as confirmation.

In Bill Gramley’s piece for Moravian confirmation, Confirmation: A Graceful Step, he refers to confirmation as an opportunity for young people to make a public profession of their faith in Jesus Christ. It is a time when they confirm the steps that have already been taken for them by their parents or guardians, usually by virtue of infant baptism. It allows them to become more aware of the meaning of Christianity and be more deliberate in their response to God’s purpose for their lives. Confirmation is one of the milestones of faith that congregations can celebrate with a young person. It is truly an important step as it gives the opportunity to learn more about the Bible, theology, and what it means to be a member of a Moravian church.

Rev. Matthew Allen leading confirmation on Palm Sunday this year at Olivet Moravian.

Rev. Matthew Allen leading confirmation on Palm Sunday this year at Olivet Moravian.

Many of your churches may be at the end of this process with confirmation taking place during Holy Week or Pentecost. I challenge you not to stop here. We are offering a wonderful opportunity this summer for you to take this process one step further. At the August 14, 2016 Moravian Children’s Festival and Lovefeast, attendees will have the unique opportunity to visit many of the provincial agencies and learn about the work that they do for the church. This event is open to Moravians of all ages! The street will be closed and groups will be able to walk from the square, up Church Street to God’s Acre, stopping at the Board of Cooperative Ministries offices and Resource Center, Board of World Mission, and more. Make your plans now to bring your confirmation group even if you have ended the process. What a wonderful opportunity to continue those treasured relationships you have developed by showing the workings of the Moravian Church.Beth Hayes portrait

It is truly a graceful step, but just one of the first steps of following Jesus. It is not the end of one’s faith journey, but a gift that is received by our faith and proven through discoveries yet to be revealed. Help your young people continue this journey! Bring them to the Children’s Festival and use the opportunity to enrich their faith journey, as well as see the buildings and people that make up the Moravian Church today.

If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

 

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) 

Yams are a Lot More Than What You Eat!

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APRIL 11, 2016 

As our province’s Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries, part of my ministry is serving the young adults in our congregations.  It is both a great privilege and a great challenge to serve in this way.

One of the groups I enjoy doing things with is called YAMs which stands for “Young Adult Moravians.” Each month our young adult Moravians and their friends are invited to join us in fellowship. These events include going out to eat, hiking, cookouts, ball games, service projects, and whatever our young adults want to do. Besides enjoying some fun activities, these get-togethers also provide time to build relationships and share good conversations. All Moravian young adults are welcome to come to any of our events. If you’re interested, please let me know.

I love it when young adults come to our events, yet one of the main things I share with them is to be involved in your own church family. Young adults have so much to offer our churches. I am very thankful for the many young adults active in their congregations who use their gifts and talents for the Lord and for their church homes. Sadly, a lot of our young adults are not involved in their churches, for a variety of reasons (feeling disconnected, having other priorities, not seeing the church as a loving and accepting place, etc).

Young Adult Moravians at Foothills brewery

Young Adult Moravians at Foothills Brewery in Winston-Salem 

One of BCM’s goals this year is to focus even more on young adult ministry in our province. Monthly events for our young adult Moravians will continue.  I will be meeting with pastors and church leaders to talk about their young adult ministry. We have formed a new working group in our province that will focus on young adult ministry in our province. If anyone is interested, or you know of people who would like to serve with such a group, please let me know.

Today when I think of yams, I think of more than a vegetable that tastes like a sweet potato. I think of young adults who have so much life, so much opportunity, so much potential, and have so much to offer God and God’s Church. For me, yams are a lot more than what you eat!

If you have questions or need additional information, email (drightsATmcsp.org) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

The Rev. Doug Rights is the Director of Youth, College, and Young Adult Ministries at the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

2016 VBS Preview

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APRIL 4, 2016 

“The most important part of a quality VBS program is not the T-shirts or the crafts or catchy skits that open the day. It is the relationships that are formed with the leaders, peers, and with God. Putting our time in the training and nurture of the staff of VBS is more critical than finding inflatable palm trees or the right banner to hang out front.” -Kathy Dawson, Hope4CE

 As we approach the summer and see all the publicity about Vacation Bible School programs, we are reminded how important this experience can be for children. It is one of the few concentrated blocks of time that the church has to do faith formation with a child. Many of you remember the experiences and people who were part of your VBS events long ago. Relationships are the key to a successful Vacation Bible School as youth and adults lend a hand in leading children closer to Christ.

At the end of this post you’ll find the VBS program options set up in our Resource Center earlier this year. We do this each year and then lend kits to committees as they make their choice. My recommendations for the top VBS programs this year are:

  • Water All Around The World published by Living Waters PCUSA Synod,
  • Cokesbury’s Surf Shack, and
  • Group’s Egypt: Joseph’s Journey from Prison to Palace.

I am not a fan of expensive glitz and glamor, or making VBS themes biblical but with gimmicky, cutesy things, which is why I chose the three listed as recommendations. The Water All Around The World program provides an economical VBS all in one notebook. The crafts are simple and do not require lots of time gathering things. There are Moravians in all of the highlighted countries, so it is an excellent opportunity to use our supplemental Moravian Mission VBS. Everyone is familiar with the Cokesbury model, a traditional, very teacher friendly program which has been out for several years. They do one a nice job using themes and tying them into biblical stories. Group’s Egypt is a marketplace model that takes you back to marketplaces and journeys of biblical times. This program allows you to easily mix ages or can be done with specific ages.

Here at the Resource Center, we keep a list of which churches are doing what school and when. Churches are often able to share VBS resources and decorations with each other. Come check Vacation Bible School out in the BCM soon! In the meantime, enjoy the photos and overviews of various programs below.

FYI, here are some of the programs being used in 2016:

  • Surf Shack: Highland Presbyterian, Central Moravian, Olivet
  • Cave Quest: Fulp, First Presbyterian Winston Salem, Fairview, Guilford Park Presbyterian, First Presbyterian Greensboro, Great Kills Moravian, and New Dorp Moravian.
  • Water Around the World: Salem Creek RCC
  • Standard Deep Sea Discovery: Grace Moravian
  • Egypt: New Philadelphia, Jamestown Presbyterian, and Unity/Shallowford Presbyterian.
  • Surprised by Love from Mennomedia: Hope Moravian

Cave Quest VBS

VBS Name: CAVE QUEST

Publisher: Group

Theme: Following Jesus The Light of the World

Bible Stories: Prophets fortell light of the world (John 1:1-34), Jesus and Peter walk on water (Matthew 14:22-36), Jesus sheds light on how to live (Matthew 5-7), Jesus dies and comes back to life (Luke 23:1-24:12), Jesus ascends and empowers his followers (Acts 1:1-11)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Sing and Play Music CD

Egypt VBS

VBS Name: EGYPT

Publisher: Group

Theme: Joseph’s Journey from prison to palace

Bible Stories: Joseph interprets dreams (Genesis 40:1-23), Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge (Genesis 41:1-40), Joseph leads Egypt through famine (Genesis 41:41-42), Joseph forgives his brothers (Genesis 42:6-45:15), Joseph settles his family in Egypt (Genesis 45:16-47:27)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Celebration Music CD

Barnyard Roundup

VBS Name: BARNYARD ROUNDUP

Publisher: Concordia Publishing

Theme: Jesus gathers us together

Bible Stories: Jesus the good shepherd (John 10:1-18), Jesus feeds 5000 (Mark 6:30-44), Jesus tells about a sower (Matt 13:1-23), Jesus and the lost son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus appears to Mary in the garden (John 20:1-10)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Moovin and Groovin Passalong CD

Deep Sea VBS

VBS Name: DEEP SEA DISCOVERY

Publisher: Standard Publishing

Theme: Not only is God with me everywhere I go, but he wants me to go out and share his love with others.

Bible Stories: Noah survives the flood (Genesis 6-9), Jonah prays inside the fish (Jonah 1-3), Peter walks on water (Matthew 14), Jesus appears by the sea (John 21), Paul sets sail to tell God’s story (Acts 13-14)

Music: Music non reproducible, Passalong Music CD

Surf Shack VBS

VBS Name: SURF SHACK

Publisher: Cokesbury

Theme: Catch the wave of God’s amazing love

Bible Stories: Creation (Genesis 1), Miriam cares for Moses (Exodus 2:1-10), baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17), Jesus calms the storm (Luke 8:22-25), breakfast on the beach (John 21:1-17)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Student Take-home CD

Water All Over The World VBS

VBS Name: WATER ALL AROUND THE WORLD

Publisher: Living waters for the world

Theme: Learn how Jesus is Living Water for our bodies and souls

Bible Stories: God sends water to Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 21), water from the rock (Exodus 17), Noah and the flood (Genesis 8), baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3), woman at the well (John 4)

Music: Music reproducible

Joy In Jesus VBS

VBS Name: JOY IN JESUS 

Publisher: Abingdon 

Theme: Everywhere All the time

Bible Stories: A room for praise (Psalm 100), a room on a roof (II Kings 4:8-17), a room without a roof (Mark 2:1-12), an upstairs room (Acts 20:7-12) under a roof (Matthew 8:5-11,1)

Music: Music non-reproducible, Student Take-home CD

If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) 

 

A Trip to Truth

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APRIL 4, 2016 

Being a Christian in the world is complicated. Especially in the polarized society of today, we often find ourselves wandering in the wilderness. How can we live a moral life of substance when we are pulled in so many directions? When we hear so many competing messages and voices? What is God calling us to do and be, as individuals, and as the church?

Last summer, we remembered the ultimate sacrifice of John Hus, early Christian reformer and “grandfather” of what is now the Moravian Church. Over 500 of us sat in the pews of Home Moravian Church and listened as Senior High campers, fresh from their week at Laurel Ridge, sang new words to an old campfire standard, I Search for You, Lord. Entitled Truth Prevails, these words remind us of the struggle of Hus in his complicated world, when breaking with the status quo was much more dangerous. And God is still calling us to the truth . . . the truth of God’s love and grace.

Through the centuries, Moravians have preached Hus’s message that faith must be completed in love and they have established congregations dedicated to the simple proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s unlimited love for all people.

Six hundred years after his death, Moravians proclaim Hus as a martyr to the truth, a faithful witness of the gospel, and a shining example that truth cannot be destroyed by violence.

– Craig Atwood, John Hus & the Moravian Church.

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Truth Prevails

I searched for the truth from all of the people who passed me by.
I looked through the Scriptures to follow your footsteps until I die.
I served as a pastor at Bethlehem Chapel to spread your light.
I challenged corruption and spoke up for what was right.

Though they take my life away
I will speak the truth each day.
Jesus is truth;
Truth is the way.

I stand in the Council and listen to all that they have to say –
The harsh accusations and fierce allegations that come my way.
But I must be faithful and keep my convictions, I cannot fail,
For though they stop me I know God’s truth will prevail.

Though they take my life away
I will speak the truth each day.
Jesus is truth;
Truth is the way.

Lord I wonder in all that is and all of time,
Will faith and love and hope be known to humankind?
Will the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers ever know –
Under the violence and greed the truth will still grow?

Though they take my life away
I will speak the truth each day.
Jesus is truth;
Truth is the way.
Jesus is truth:

The way.

My way.

Our way.


Written by Senior High Campers during Senior High Camp – July 11-18, 2015
In tribute to John Hus
Music by Rick Sides and Jim Newsome, Jr.
Picture by: Mike Reiss

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Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)