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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.

Andrew portrait

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)

One thought on “Tools to Make Technology Easier for Churches

  1. Thanks for this Andrew! New Philly utilizes Adobe products – especially with our newsletter and some of our publications. Canva gets used here too – and we’re active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, SoundCloud, MailChimp, and Issuu. If I cannot find a picture or clipart I’d like to use I just break out my iphone and start taking pictures. Google Drive has been instituted for our board members. I’ll be looking into Hootsuite. 😉 Thanks!

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