In December, I had the privilege of speaking at the Mobile Ministry Forum on the topic of using SMS/Text Messaging in ministry. They did a video of the presentation and you can find it below. I hope it helps others think about how they can integrate this type of technology into their ministry.
I sometimes have a hard time saying good-bye to things. Today, we decommissioned an old time friend: my Dell Inspiron 3500. Purchase around 1998 by my sister who used it for her business before giving it to me to run my side web business and for me to use during my seminary classes – it was “Designed for Windows 98″ sporting a Pentium II processor. Today, we tried to load the latest Ubutnu (Linux) operating system on it and it failed which told us that maybe this was the end of it’s usefulness.
The ministry that this laptop has been a part of is huge: from running my sister’s Christian counseling practice, to helping me with my seminary classes to being the laptop that I developed some of my earlier websites on to being the “guinea pig” for new software we developed or processes we designed, to helping run “electronic survey” outreaches in France to being a kiosk station for conferences in multiple countries around Europe, to numerous other projects over the years. It’s had to have had at least 6 different operating systems (including different flavors of Linux) running on it. It’s had a full life.
So with that, I say to my Dell – You have lived a long and prosperous life (for a computer). You have served us well and now we will over-write your hard drive and take you to the recycling center so that your various components can be reused in newer technology and what can’t be reused, be disposed of properly in today’s era. RIP.
Most Information Technology based work is solving the question of “How”. How do we communicate with individuals quickly and efficiently? Email. How do we enable team collaboration through great distances? Intranets and collaboration software. You get the idea. Here’s some of the “How” questions we’ve been working on lately or are continuing to work on:
How do we get people from billboards to a website? Use mobile/cell phones via text messaging/SMS & QR codes as well as making sure the website looks good on mobile phones. This was the question our partnership in Turkey asked when they were running a billboard campaign asking the question “What if what we believe is wrong?” to the 99.9% muslim population of Istanbul. Our first run had over 1200 visitors in a 3 week period, many texting in requesting a phone call while others filled out the online form to request literature and so many more saw and began to think about the possibility.
How do we take some training that was originally for 10 hours a day for 10 days and use it for people who don’t have that kind of concentrated time? Video tape the training breaking down all the elements of the training into smaller chunks. Then break up the training by bringing the trainees together for a 4 day face-to-face session using the videos and live instructors and then create a “hangout and training area” website for them to exercise what they learned, share their experiences and receive more training through online coaching, peer interactions and videos. They can also review the materials from their 4 day face-to-face as all the videos and materials are provided through the website. This was our answer to our mission’s training group as they’re working to train church planters on a process called T4T (which we’re calling Discipleship Multiplication Training i.e. DMT – here’s our website still in progress).
How do we interconnect 31 short term mission teams that are serving throughout a large city during one of the largest events in the world? We go back to interactive websites and mobile phones. When people can’t be face to face, technology can fill the gap and that’s where we’re building a website that will allow members of these short term teams to post pictures, videos, stories and prayer requests and allow them to see all of these things from the other teams working during London Summer Olympics 2012. It will give them the ability to not only see the difference they are making in their area of London but to see how they are part of the larger picture. We’re “under the gun” on this one and are feverishly working to get it ready in time.
Have you ever been some place and just felt at home. It’s not the place but usually it’s the people that make you fell that way and it’s usually with people who share similar passions. That’s way I feel every time I get to go to ICCM Europe. This is a place where computer geeks from all over the world come together. While we all like talking about the latest gadgets, discussing whether Apple or Google is going to produce the next “it” thing that people are going to “just have to have” or challenging each other to program using a new programming language, however the true passion of everyone there is for everyone in the world to have an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
We just finished our fourth annual conference for ICCM Europe (International Conference on Computing & Mission) in the Netherlands. 62 technology enthusiasts came from many different mission agencies (and some are those who just want to be a part of it but are in the professional world volunteering their time & knowledge to further missions). Many walked away with new skills and new ideas but most importantly, they built relationships with others that have the same passions. Wow, what a rush to know you are not alone. Until next year!
5 Years ago today, we arrived in Germany to begin a new phase in our journey on God’s path. As you can see, we were bleary eyed from the all night flight but adrenaline was flowing through our veins in anticipation of what was ahead. We really didn’t know what was going to happen or what God was going to do – we just knew we where God wanted us to be. Some of the more prominent memories I have of the past 5 years are:
- Meeting & hanging out with Yoyot from Indonesia and so many other fascinating people from all over the world in our language school
- Krista & I doing “rock, paper, scissors” to take care of a bill which we didn’t understand what it was about (of course, it all had to be done in German)
- First day after language school – working in the office with the eDOT team and the excitement I felt in using my computer skills for developing frontline mission solutions to expand God’s Kingdom
- Alex’s first day of 1st Grade at Black Forest Academy where he was interviewed by the principal and had the whole school laughing hysterically and him innocently not knowing why
- Traveling to so many places, not to see the sights, but getting to meet the people where they are, where they live. Hearing their hearts, getting to speak words of encouragements and bringing them ideas & technology solutions that bring them closer to their Creator
- Sleeping in a church’s closet with Bob (construction supervisor) on a work project only to realize later he was always up so early because of my snoring – not his desire to get the day going
- Getting rushed into a Ukrainian church 3 minutes before the service was starting and being asked if I wanted the 1st, 2nd or 3rd sermon slot (it was assumed I would give at least one of them)
- Having the first time I worked with Windows Vista be in Russian as we configured a Mobile Outreach Center in Ukraine
- Getting to work on an Internet Cafe in Moldova in a town where there was only one paved (barely) street, horse drawn wagons, and out-houses and then hearing about the life-changing effects that Internet Cafe had on people’s lives
- The countless number of plates set before me where I couldn’t identify what was on it but ate it all (and usually wanted seconds)
- Surprising my son when my sister showed up “unexpectedly” for his birthday
- Getting to work with men & women who pour their lives into other people in grace filled ways so that they can know what life in Christ is like
- Hearing 1st hand stories of imprisonment & persecution because of their faith and realizing that we can help minimize that through technology security techniques
- Seeing the joy in my wife’s eyes as she came home after a couple weeks of teaching a women’s Bible Study and knowing that she had found her place
- Continuously getting to seek out how God wants technology to be used to expand His Kingdom in ever innovative ways
Those are just some of my highlights for the last 5 years. There’s so many more things I could share but I think I would go on forever. Thank you to everyone who partners with us in both prayer and finances to allow us to be in this place. We are truly blessed.
If you ever wonder why we spend time trying how to figure out how to leverage SMS/Text Messaging – this info graphic shows the impact texting is having on the world. Now let’s use this not only to improve people’s physical well-being but their spiritual as well.
Check it out:
Created by: MBA Online
There are a lot of articles and blog posts going around about Steve Jobs and rightfully so. He was a man who influenced the world in many different ways – good and bad depending on where you come from. Many of these articles come from people who didn’t know Steve Jobs but admired him from a far. I skipped most of those however I did read a good article by Guy Kawasaki – someone who really had a connection with Steve as Apple’s chief evangelist. His article “What I learned from Steve Jobs“, has 12 good points – each of which can relate to what it is we do in the non-profit, ministry sector just as well as the business world.
His points, my comments:
- Experts are clueless – This hit home for me. I’m considered an “expert” a lot of times and I do know a lot of stuff. But sometimes experts say things like “that can’t be done” or that because they’re “experts”, then they know where things are going. The reality is that predicting where technology is going is like forecasting the weather – you can kinda get the idea of what might happen but it’s rarely fully accurate. I think the key take-away is that Steve Jobs decided to drive where technology was going by developing technology changing devices and ideas instead of waiting for the experts to dictate what he should do. In the case of our ministry, it means that we don’t wait on church culture to say it’s something to be done but keep our eyes on the who we’re trying to reach & if they use the technology – then let’s use that technology to reach them.
- Customers can not tell you what they need – Most non-profits when they find out I work in a technology based ministry say, “I need help creating a website”. (yes, many non-profits are still without a basic, 1990′s static website) Most of the time my first question is “Why do you need a website?”. You see they think they need a website because everyone else has a website but the reality is they really need to look at what God has called them to do, be strategic in how they are going to accomplish that and then we can consult with them about different ways technology can help them do just that – sometimes its a website, sometimes its a Facebook page, sometimes it’s an interactive website with smartphone apps and an SMS Gateway.
- Jump to the next curve - Sometimes we get stuck in the “just make the existing things better & more efficient”. How many times have churches redone how they do Wednesday Night services only to finally figure out that they didn’t need to be doing Wednesday Night services but instead needed to develop a series of small groups that met throughout the week? There are times to work on existing things and improve them but there are other times when we just need to let something go and say, “What can we do in today’s culture and lifestyles that fulfills this particular need?” It usually looks very different than what was done before.
- The biggest challenges beget best work – I think we sometimes think small because we’re afraid. We, as non-profit ministries, are afraid because most of the time we’re underfunded and understaffed. This is a hard situation to be in. How do you take $60 and 2 people and create an interactive campaign to reach 1000′s? This is when creativity and “there is no box” thinking comes into play. Notice it’s not “outside the box” thinking as that still places restrictions on you. For us, we leverage a lot of open-source software that allows us to maximize older, donated equipment and get’s the job done well. Some of the projects I’m most proud of are ones where the challenge was great and the obstacles were huge – I may have grown more grey hair during those times but seeing what God does is awesome!!!
- Design Counts – Honestly, the stuff I put together is not pretty. I think sometimes in ministry we do things “good enough for missions work” (an old saying I used to hear that just makes me cringe as it says that missions work doesn’t have to be great, just working). This is like saying you brought a new person on your team because they’re breathing and still warm but have no clue as how to do anything. It really doesn’t help you. I am so thankful for our sister ministry, GEMStone Media, who has some great creative graphic designers that I can work with to make sure things have a great look and feel on many of our projects.
- You can’t go wrong with big graphics and big fonts – Ok, there’s not a lot here but the concept of simple and to the point is accurate. When we actually do work on a website for someone, many times I ask who the audience is for the site – i.e. people you’re trying to reach, supporters of the ministry, internal communications, etc. So many times I get the answer of “Yes – all of them”. When doing things these days, do one thing and do it well!!!! Same rule applies for almost all technology projects.
- Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence - My boss just reminded me of this one the other day. Why are we so set sometimes in ministry that “this is the way we’ve always done it so we must continue”? Or worse – “we said to people we’re going to do it so we’re going to do it even though it is pretty much going fail”. Be real here in your ministries. Note: Supporters of ministries – allow the ministries to have some failures because then it means they’re moving forward and not too scared to move.
- “Value” is different from “price” - While non-profits like us don’t have a “product” and we don’t compete by “lowering our prices”, this still pertains to us. I was talking with some Jehovah Witness missionaries one time and they kept asking me about my thoughts and fears of life after death and what the Earth was going to be like then. My response was that that wasn’t something I thought about as life was hard enough- my focus was on God and me in the here & now. Sometimes I think we miss the point in who we’re trying to help and/or reach.
- A players hire A+ players - This is so true. Right now I’m really trying to recruit more people to join us in eDOT. I don’t want just anybody. I want people better than me. I want people who, with God’s leading, will take it further and have way more knowledge than I do. If I report to them someday, fine by me. If I can pass on what I know to someone who is going to take it and surpass me – then my job was done correctly. Anyone? Anyone out there?
- Real CEOs demo - I have worked for so many people who didn’t have an idea of what it is I do and what it is I work with. They’ve been able to manage me and get me to do things but didn’t have a clue about the solutions I made to solve some problem within the organization. Leaders in a non-profit need to understand the different areas of the ministry. While they don’t have to be able to do everything, they should at least understand what is the function of each area and be able to explain each area to an outsider.
- Real CEOs ship - We can daydream and spend time preparing things and give out ideas, but if we as a ministry don’t actually produce anything – then what are we about? I think too many times our ministry are just about “raising awareness” but effective ministries do something and when they do, awareness is raised.
- Marketing boils down to providing unique value - Being a part of a Christian ministry, for me this one is – how are we different than any other religious or secular non-profit out there? Why are we unique and having value? Non-profits are about influencing and how are we influencing in a positive, unique way of great value? – that value being helping people see and understand what it means to have an intimate relationship to God through Jesus.
If you are a part of a ministry, non-profit group or a church – do these things challenge you? Agree or disagree with any of them?