Facilities http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities Wed, 29 Mar 2017 20:43:07 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 8 Helpful Questions to Ask Before You Start Your Own Podcast http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/media/23647-8-helpful-questions-to-ask-before-you-start-your-own-podcast http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/media/23647-8-helpful-questions-to-ask-before-you-start-your-own-podcast

The popularity of podcasts has exploded over the past few years. In 2016 alone, 57 million Americans listened to a podcast each month. I've seen this explosive growth with both podcasts I host—Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week.

As a result, pastors and ministry leaders frequently ask me if they should start a podcast. The problem is there is not a cut-and-dried answer. Every pastor and ministry leader should have an online presence with social media and possibly a blog, but whether or not someone should have a podcast is a bit more complicated.

So instead of a simple "yes" or "no," here are eight diagnostic questions to ask yourself if you're considering starting a podcast.

  1. Do you have a unique take on a subject? Like any form of expression, you need a voice that is all your own. If you're simply going to parrot the opinions of others, podcasting might not be for you.
  2. Can you handle the schedule? Podcasting is a bit more demanding with schedules than blogging. Yes, you can do seasons of podcasts, but even then, the expectation from your listeners is that there will be a new episode delivered on the schedule you've promised them. If you fail to keep up with the demands of your audience, they will disappear.
  3. Do you have the technical ability? Although there are full-service solutions that help get your podcast online, you still have to record episodes—often all on your own. The technical needs are not great, but some technical ability is needed. If you don't have the ability, you'll wind up spending money you won't want to spend and likely end up frustrated.
  4. Are you knowledgeable enough about the subject to be considered an expert? Listeners want to be either informed or entertained—and most of the time, they want both simultaneously. Successful podcasts provide valuable information in an entertaining way.
  5. Will the podcast be an extension of a current social platform? It's always easier to launch a podcast if you already have a following on another platform. For content providers, platform migration is much easier than platform creation. If you don't have a current online platform your podcast can be tied to, it can be more difficult to build a listenership.
  6. Will your podcast have a unique selling point or be a copy of an existing one? This question is related to the first one. Every podcast needs something that differentiates it in the market. Listeners have a limited amount of time; your podcast will need something that sets it apart from the rest of the market.
  7. Are you patient enough for slow growth? Podcasts grow slowly—if they grow at all. Patience is required for any online platform growth, but with the limited ability to market podcasts, they tend to grow more slowly that other forms of online media.
  8. How will your podcast benefit your ministry? I've saved the biggest question for the end. This really is the key. Your podcast needs to benefit more than just your popularity. Consider how it will position your church or ministry to make a greater Kingdom impact. If it's growing just your kingdom, and not the Kingdom, maybe starting a podcast is not the best idea at this time.

Do you have a podcast? Are you considering starting one? What questions would you add to this list? {eoa}

Jonathan Howe serves as director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at thomrainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

jennyrose.curtis@charismamedia.com (Jonathan Howe) Media Fri, 10 Mar 2017 17:00:00 -0500
5 Strategic Ways to Harness Social Media's Power to Grow Your Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/media/23639-5-strategic-ways-to-harness-social-media-s-power-to-grow-your-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/media/23639-5-strategic-ways-to-harness-social-media-s-power-to-grow-your-ministry

For most of the past 14 months, I've encouraged churches to engage members and prospective guests online. Whether through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, your church can reach, inform and inspire more people when you use social media wisely and effectively.

But that's not where the social media influence should stop. Truly effective social media campaigns don't end with the originator of the message. They motivate those who see the posts to share with their friends and beyond.

So how can your church encourage your members to share your content with their friends? Here are five practices we've seen work for churches who get their members to share and engage more often.

1. Encourage it from the platform. Whether in a specific announcement or as a blanket statement, churches that talk from the platform about sharing on social media have members who share more than those who don't.

2. Include social media icons and usernames on printed items. Bulletins, invite cards, letterhead and any other major printed items distributed by the church should at least have social media icons on them. It is even better if you can include the church's specific username or handle with the icon.

3. Create shareable content. When you start a new sermon series, create a shareable graphic and encourage members to share it on their profiles. When you have a major event coming up, provide members with promotional graphics to post online. If you provide the content to members directly via email or your social channels, they're more likely to share.

4. Feature shareable content in your email newsletter. I've previously written about the advantages of email newsletters for churches. One component you can include in the email is a shareable post. Make it as easy as possible to share by linking to content that's already online. In as little as two clicks, members can share about your church.

5. Make the ask. Don't hesitate to ask people to share your posts online within the content of the post. I wouldn't use this much, but if the post or content rises to a certain level of importance, then just make the ask for those who see it to share.

Have you found other effective ways for members to share your church's content on social media? Have you tried any of these? {eoa}

Jonathan Howe serves as director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at thomrainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

This article originally appeared at thomrainer.com.

jennyrose.curtis@charismamedia.com (Jonathan Howe) Media Tue, 07 Mar 2017 17:00:00 -0500
Hollywood Producer DeVon Franklin: This Is the No. 1 Trait Communicators Need to Have http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/communication/23628-hollywood-producer-says-this-is-the-no-1-trait-communicators-need-to-have http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/communication/23628-hollywood-producer-says-this-is-the-no-1-trait-communicators-need-to-have

My friend DeVon Franklin was the senior vice president of Columbia Tristar Pictures in Hollywood and then launched his own movie production company. If you haven't read his book Produced by Faith, then I highly recommend you do so. I recently asked him his opinion of the single most important skill it takes to reach the top in the entertainment and media industry. His answer?

"The ability to read a room." That's right—of all the executive and leadership skills he could have mentioned, he felt that the ability to walk into a meeting and immediately identify the players, their motivations and their goals, is incredibly critical.

We all have to deal with meetings every day, but if we walk into them blind, we're missing an enormous opportunity to get our message heard, advance our career or make a statement. So whatever your motivation—from pitching a project, asking for a raise, interviewing for a job, or running the average meeting—here's my suggestions when it comes to learning how to read a room:

1. Learn people skills. I've written many times that I don't care if you're an executive, writer, filmmaker or ministry leader, your ability to deal with people is far more important than your ability at what you actually do. You'll never get very far in any career if you don't know how to work and succeed with people.

2. Look at the relationships. When you walk in the door, notice who's deferring to whom. You may not know their titles yet, but you can tell a lot from who the pack leader is, and who follows.

3. Shut up and listen. Too many of us want to do all the talking, but you can find out far more by letting them do the talking. Avoid the temptation to impress and just listen.

4. Learn to read between the lines. I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan (especially the original books). Holmes was a master at looking beyond what people say and noticing their expressions, their tics, the way they dress and much more. What they say is often a very small part of the information they're sharing.

5. Finally—ask questions. What they share and what you need to know are often two different things. Ask pertinent questions. Put them on the spot. Force them to defend their plan, project, or idea. Don't be a jerk—just ask the questions that need to be asked.

DeVon is right—reading a room is critically important. Stop assuming what you see at face value is the truth, and go deeper. It will make a dramatic difference in the future of your career.

Have you had an experience that confirms DeVon's idea? {eoa}

An internationally known writer and speaker, Phil Cooke has produced media programming in nearly 50 countries around the world.

This article originally appeared at philcooke.com.

jennyrose.curtis@charismamedia.com (Phil Cooke) Communication Thu, 02 Mar 2017 08:00:00 -0500
What This Kingdom-Minded Business Is Doing to Reach Children for Christ http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/environment/23601-what-this-kingdom-minded-business-is-doing-to-reach-children-for-christ http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/environment/23601-what-this-kingdom-minded-business-is-doing-to-reach-children-for-christ

Worlds of Wow wants to get kids excited about going to church again. The innovative Denton, Texas-based company specializes in building Family Entertainment Centers (FECs), themed play zones for children.

Founded and led by Reagan Hillier, Worlds of Wow believes the key to reaching the next generation for Jesus is getting kids hooked on church while they're young. The company is devoted to building play areas for churches that will not only entertain kids while they're there but will also make them want to come back for more.

Sales and Marketing Director Darrin Rutledge explained why children have been the company's main focus.

"When you look at why people pick a church to stick with a church, they do it because their kids love it," Rutledge says. "There are a lot of great churches out there for everybody—there's one for everyone—but a lot of parents will make their decision based on their kids wanting to be there. Our mission is to make kids want to be at a church. Make it fun. Make it cool. Make it a place kids can come and learn about Jesus."

Leading Kids to Jesus

Hillier had a background working in the play equipment industry. Worlds of Wow "basically started in [Hillier's] kitchen," Rutledge says. "He knew there was a need to bring better play, better theming to churches throughout the nation, just to spur kids on to want to come and, well, to be frank, to get them to meet Jesus."

Launched in 2004, Worlds of Wow has made a name for itself in the Family Entertainment Center market. The company works primarily with churches but also with secular businesses, including the pediatric dental/medical market, YMCAs and military recreation centers.

"The reality is there are a lot more commercial businesses looking into theming their facilities for children," Rutledge says. "In almost every mall, you'll find some place people can take their kids to play. ... It's becoming more and more prevalent as time goes on."

Just as Worlds of Wow serves both Christian and secular businesses, the company employs people from all types of backgrounds. Yet ultimately, everything the company does is driven by kingdom principles and values, and that's reflected every day in Worlds of Wow projects.

"We don't only hire Christians," Rutledge says. "We don't make a habit of preaching to everybody we hire. We're an equal-opportunity employer, and we hire men and women of all races and genders. But people just know when they're coming to work here that our key market is churches, and because of that, the Bible and faith touch every one of our lives every day."

That focus on faith is wrapped up in everything from the company's overarching philosophy to operational minutiae. The art department designs biblically themed areas. The artists design and create drawings, characters and 3-D themes based on the churches' programs. These biblical characters and designs are produced, painted and installed, eventually touching almost everyone on the team.

"It's just nice to be able to work at a place where you get to not only create biblical atmospheres and themes for churches, but you get to share your own faith with people individually throughout your business," Rutledge says. "It's so much a part of what we do, it just happens."

Competing for Kids' Attention

Though the team enjoys creating fanciful characters and creative designs, that's not what motivates them. The creatives of Worlds of Wow are driven to help churches and businesses build lasting relationships with children—relationships that will hopefully cultivate a relationship with God.

"When you hear a children's pastor say, 'I wouldn't even be here if it weren't for that one time I came in to a children's ministry area and heard about Jesus, and it changed my life,' those are the types of moments that happen every day," Rutledge says. "You just don't know how those children are going to turn out. You don't know how God's going to work in their lives. But getting them connected at an early age and locked in to this way of thinking, that Jesus is with me wherever I go and feeling secure about that, it's very important."

Many of Worlds of Wow's employees used to work in the church and understand the needs of ministries.

"Reaching families is a foundational part of why we work so hard," says Mackenzie Hastings, Worlds of Wow's marketing director. "We know creative environments and attractive spaces enhance the efforts of ministry staff, they help reach the hearts and minds of children, they create an identity for your church, and they lead to transformational experiences. Over the years, we've seen and worked with many of today's fastest-growing churches, and in every case, they have two main characteristics in common: They're passionate about their unique mission, and they're reaching families by focusing on children."

Again and again, the team reiterated the importance of getting children plugged into church at an early age. Children's ministries have to find new ways to stand out in an age of distraction.

"Let's look at the competition," Rutledge says. "It's video games. It's play areas that are just phenomenal when you go to some FECs. And for a church, it's important you grab those children's attention. You give them a place where not only do they learn what the basics and fundamentals are for what it means to walk out a Christian life, but you give them a place with just as much wonder as anything else the world is trying to give them."

More than anything, in a world that feels increasingly dark and cynical, sometimes an exuberant play zone is just what children need to feel God's love. Rutledge is a big believer that even colors, designs and aesthetics can shape a child's view of God for the better.

"I just think it's important that they know that God is full of color, God is full of wonder, God is full of life, and when they walk into that space, they need to see that," Rutledge says. "We serve a God of 'Wow,' and we're trying to help children see that. We know churches know that because it's one of the key factors they consider when expanding their current facility."

Attracting Families to Church

Though every church is unique, Worlds of Wow has a fairly standard process for each of its clients. Once the company contacts the client, it sends someone to do a site visit, take measurements and fill out a creative brief.

"Once that creative brief is filled out, they meet with the concept department," Rutledge says. "They're a great group, very imaginative, and they'll bring the wow. They take the thoughts and designs for each room, and they really bring it to life."

That process can take as long as two months, depending how much back and forth is necessary to get a concept that both Worlds of Wow and the client like. After a contract is written and both sides sign the production agreement, the real fun begins. The design team takes the agreed-upon concepts and fleshes them out further. Elevation drawings, finished artwork, prints, characters and play attractions are created during this phase. Finally, everything is shipped to the church, where installation begins.

"At that point, the install crew can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks," Rutledge says. "They'll install all the items, get the customer's final approval, and the job is finished. Generally, depending on the project, it takes anywhere from eight to 12 weeks, but it can take longer if a job is very large."

By the end of the process, the client is left with a polished FEC that often goes above and beyond what they hoped for at the start of the process. With more than 13 years of work, the Worlds of Wow team has accumulated some incredible success stories.

Dawn Brand, a preschool minister at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana, was elated with the final product.

"TK's Place is a unique facility that will simply make your jaw drop and say, 'Wow,'" Brand says. "Worlds of Wow created this amazing environment that will help our children's ministry attract families throughout the lake area. There is nothing like this in Southwest Louisiana."

At Spring Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, the new kids' area revitalized morale in the children's ministry.

"It is not an uncommon sight to see families taking pictures of their children by the scenes," Mark Harrison says. "This has helped change the attitude of the workers and parents alike in a positive way."

Ruth Charlson from Second Baptist Baytown in Baytown, Texas, had specific numbers to quantify the "Wow" effect. After creating a new FEC with Worlds of Wow, Charlson says the children's ministry "experienced a 35 percent increase in overall attendance—nursery, preschool and elementary age. The increase is attributed to the new facility environment, which includes new spaces, great d├ęcor, state-of-the-art security/check-in system and a super location."

One of the company's biggest projects was at Answers in Genesis' new Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky. A full-scale recreation of Noah's ark, The Ark Encounter has become one of the biggest Christian tourist attractions in the year since its opening. The attraction drew 400,000 visitors in its first four months and is expected to draw 1.2 million in the first year. And when all these visitors enter the park, one of the first attractions they see is the Fairy Tale Ark—which the Worlds of Wow team created.

"We got to do several pairs of animals in the ark, and they're looking down into this open shop," Rutledge says. "We did a 3-D Bible where the ark is literally coming out of the Bible, and of course, the whole area looks like an ark when you come in. That was a really good project for us. We got to create some unique characters and be a part of something very big."

The company has also handled projects for megachurches such as Gateway Church in Dallas/Fort Worth. But Rutledge says it's not the size of the church that matters. Whether they build for a megachurch or a small rural church, success comes from seeing kids excited to learn about God.

"When we take and do a smaller project for a smaller church, and we hear them talking about the kids' reaction when they first came in, to me, that's a success story every time we finish one out," Rutledge says. "Kids love having a place where they can come in, and it's a wonderland." {eoa}

Taylor Berglund is the content development editor for Charisma Media. He hosts the "Charisma News," "Charisma Connection" and "C-Pop" podcasts.

taylor.berglund@charismamedia.com (Taylor Berglund) Environment Wed, 01 Mar 2017 17:00:00 -0500
These Work Values Will Help Tech Teams Avoid Burnout http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23252-these-work-values-will-help-tech-teams-avoid-burnout http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23252-these-work-values-will-help-tech-teams-avoid-burnout

Many of us in ministry have been there or are there right now—on the edge of burnout—and we put the blame on our church or ministry. But I have a radically different view. I believe that, for the most part, burnout is a condition of our own personal doing. Yes, there are times when burnout is not our fault, but even then, we have choices.

To avoid burnout, consider these alternatives to overwork and perfectionism:

1. Hard work vs. overwork. Most things done out of balance typically become an unhealthy vice or addiction. I was raised to work hard, so almost every year, I check myself in this area. Overwork is more than hard work; overwork is addiction. Some signs of work addiction are obvious—always checking your phone for missed calls, voicemails, texts or emails. Put your devices down for five or six hours and see if you can stand it.

If you take on extra hours because you prefer to be at work or you're afraid you'll miss something, your work life is likely out of balance. Personally, I have struggled with feeling like I have to be at work in order for tasks to get accomplished. If you feel you are the one who has to do everything in order for the work to get done, that's a red flag. Obviously sometimes you are the one responsible to get things done, but the problem arises when you are always thinking about your phone, email and work and that it's on you to finish things.

2. Excellence vs. perfection. Many people addicted to work think everything needs to be perfect. They aim for excellence but think they must keep striving until their work is perfect. Instead, know that excellence is reflected in your attitude and your ability to do your best, but perfection sees mistakes as problems that ruin everything. Excellence, on the other hand, sees mistakes as ways the team can get better. If you remain frustrated, however, instead of proceeding to problem solving, you may be a perfectionist. Remember, there's a fine line between coaching your team and pushing too hard.

When you start to beat yourself up, you're on your way to burnout. To avoid this, I developed a benchmark, what I call the "audience-noticed mistake," a term I coined because I worked in the live production field. Take a step back, look at the problem from a high level and determine if it derails your program. Ask yourself, "Was this something that derailed the team and was noticed by the audience, or was it a mistake only I noticed that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things?" If, for example, we accidentally make the stage lights red instead of blue for an event and the audience didn't notice it, we can simply correct the error for the next event. It's not something that should derail the team during the event.

So how do you work hard and with excellence while avoiding burnout? Put boundaries in place that, if crossed, will alert you and help you achieve balance again. And before the situation worsens, implement these three don'ts:

1. Don't always go to the rescue. Every problem isn't an emergency and doesn't require you to go to work. Understand what a true "emergency" is and how to approach it.

2. Don't forget about margin. During your busy season, you will be very occupied, but in slower seasons, take down time in stride. Set aside one day off a week, maybe more. If you miss that particular day, take a makeup day. Just as with a financial budget, build margin into your schedule. Plan your day and budget your time.

3. Don't stress about overwork. I often hear people say, "My boss asks me to do so much more than I have time to do; therefore, my planning will not work." The solution to this problem is simple. Track your hours, requests and the time it takes to complete your tasks. Show your boss a log of all of your tasks and their completion times. When your log is presented with a positive, solutions-oriented attitude, a good boss will want to help correct the overwork issue.

There will be extreme situations where a job change is necessary, but burnout is often the result of self-reliance. Avoid burnout by creating a good life balance, setting boundaries and planning well and, most importantly, trusting in Jesus, who promised that in Him, we would find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28-30). 

David Leuschner is associate senior director of technology and technical arts at Gateway Church in Dallas-Fort Worth. He directs more than 500 volunteers and staff to facilitate several hundred events a month for Gateway's seven venues. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@davidleuschner).

webmaster@strang.com ( David Leuschner) Technology Thu, 09 Feb 2017 17:00:00 -0500
4 Simple Steps to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Online Sermons http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23512-4-simple-steps-to-improve-the-effectiveness-of-your-online-sermons http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23512-4-simple-steps-to-improve-the-effectiveness-of-your-online-sermons

Online sermons have become ubiquitous with churches. What used to be an added bonus for members of large churches has now become standard in churches of any size.

Thanks to technology improvements and the rise of the iPod and smartphones, sermon podcasts are now a commonplace.

However, there is one small issue with online sermons—there is typically nothing to accompany them online. Most churches simply upload sermon audio to their site, feed it to iTunes, and move on.

While not everyone may want or need anything more than the audio, here are four tips to get more out of your online sermons:

1. Create a new post on your site for each sermon post. With WordPress and other blog-based sites, you can easily create a new post for each sermon. You can then organize sermon series into categories to help group them together. Creating a new post for each sermon instead of listing them all on one page helps for a variety of reasons. First, you can share the sermon individually on social media sites. Second, you can attach a featured image of your sermon artwork to help it get noticed when shared on Facebook or Twitter. Finally, you have room for sermon notes to go with each sermon, which brings us to the next point.

2. Upload sermon notes for each sermon. Almost every pastor has some kind of notes for each sermon. Maybe it's a manuscript; maybe it's just a bare-bones outline. Either way, consider posting the pastor's notes with each sermon. Simply upload a PDF of the notes and provide a link to download them. This allows listeners the opportunity to have something to reference if a sermon is particularly meaningful or insightful to them.

3. Include the text reference in the title. For example, a Christmas sermon title might look like "The Birth of a King—Luke 2:1-20." This is important not only because it provides a reference for listeners in their podcast app or online, but it also helps with search engine optimization. Now, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) might not be a major concern for you, but every little bit helps. Having a high SEO score could make the difference to someone choosing your church in a list of search results. Higher scores are listed closer to the top of the page. So a high SEO score means people could potentially see your church before others.

4. Identify the speaker in the post. Churches who have multiple teaching pastors or campuses should clearly identify whose sermon audio is online. Even churches with one pastor should list this information. There might be a guest preacher instead of the pastor. Providing the speaker's name just helps clear up any confusion that may arise because preachers rarely introduce themselves at the beginning of a sermon. The average listener may not know who's speaking if they aren't identified in the post.

These may seem like simple points for online sermon audio, but check your church's online sermon feed. Does it have all four of these? Would you add anything to this list? {eoa}

Jonathan Howe serves as director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jonathan Howe ) Technology Fri, 03 Feb 2017 17:00:00 -0500
Learn to Discern God's Direction in Your Tech Decisions http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23404-learn-to-discern-god-s-direction-in-your-tech-decisions http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23404-learn-to-discern-god-s-direction-in-your-tech-decisions

The new year is a time for reflection. What's working in our tech ministry? What's not?

I started doing church production when I was 11 years old. At that age, I wasn't sure what I would be when I grew up. As I progressed through different production environments, I found myself changing roles. I started out in audio, moving to audio and lighting, and eventually, I gained video knowledge. Then I utilized all these skills to become a production manager. Depending on the situation, I would morph into the role that was required. At first, everything seemed random, but then I realized I was following a model my parents had taught me. It was clear because it was a part of me. I was listening to the Holy Spirit.

Once I realized this, I decided to be intentional about it. I came up with a pattern to follow. I knew when I got older and started to settle into life, the challenges that naturally spurred me to seek guidance would start to dissolve. I would gravitate toward the easy and comfortable. I needed to guard against that for myself and teach my team how to utilize the amazing guidance God gives us.

How does this apply to being on a tech team and operating gear? You can apply this to every tech-related decision. Hear what the Holy Spirit is saying in everything you do: how you mix, what tech decisions you make, how to converse with your manager and what technical standards and protocols you set. Most importantly, listen to the Spirit for ideas and unique approaches to problems.

Every year, I ask God, "Is this where You want me to be?" Inside this question is a pattern. First, I pause, disconnect and listen. When pondering such major questions, it's best to find a quiet place, disconnect from all devices and tune in to God. It doesn't have to be a weeklong process, but the more time you put into it, the better. Daily is best, but life happens.

Make every effort to do this at least once a week. Set aside at least one or two days annually to put more energy and effort into the process. Enter into this time listening with your heart, your ears and your eyes. Sometimes what I see happening around me speaks to me just as much as what I feel. Reading the Bible is a part of listening to God.

Remember, everything happens for a reason. Take interruptions, for example. I used to get frustrated by interruptions to my quiet time. Then I realized they could be the exact answer I was seeking. Once I was looking to God for direction about our Christmas production. I was frustrated because things weren't going as planned. My stress level was building. In the middle of my quiet time, my son burst into the room and announced he wanted to go get a Christmas tree. I was frustrated by the interruption, and I started thinking about all the work involved with a tree, the decorations and, oh yes, the dreaded lights.

My son sensed this. He said it was not about the hard work of putting on the decorations but about being with me, his daddy. He didn't even care what the tree looked like when we finished. He just wanted to spend time with me. That interruption was exactly the perspective I needed for the Christmas production. God spoke through my little boy and changed my perspective.

Next, use your quiet time to establish a vision. This is a high-level, God-given guiding light for now and the coming year. Look for words that allow you to lock onto a mission to accomplish. You should have many missions throughout the year. All of them should facilitate the grand vision the Lord has given you. This doesn't only apply to your spiritual walk but also to everyday needs, work issues and church challenges. Many times, I have run this process and come up with helpful new ideas.

Finally, in running this process, there have been times I've come up with two missions and didn't know which was best. But I learned that almost every time, the most trying mission was the one I need to take. When I choose the hard route, I'm tested more and I learn more. This actually makes the next choice easier to discern.

God gave us a guide. He allows us to have a personal relationship with this guide, the Holy Spirit. He knows our every step now and in the future. Put the Holy Spirit on your schedule. You won't regret it. {eoa}

David Leuschner is associate senior director of technology and technical arts at Gateway Church in Dallas-Fort Worth. He directs more than 500 volunteers and staff to facilitate several hundred events a month for Gateway's seven venues. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (both @davidleuschner).

webmaster@strang.com (David Leuschner) Technology Thu, 12 Jan 2017 17:00:00 -0500
This New App Will Help Encourage You in Your Walk With God http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23427-this-new-app-will-help-encourage-you-in-your-walk-with-god http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23427-this-new-app-will-help-encourage-you-in-your-walk-with-god

One of the most important lessons I've learned in 36 years of marriage, 30 years in banking (reaching executive management) and eight years as a CEO of a major non-profit is how critical it is to live out your day from a time with God each morning.

We're created for a relationship with God and, through faith in Jesus Christ, we have the amazing privilege of spending one-on-one time with the creator of the universe. There are so many benefits from spending time with God—renewed love in your heart, an eternal perspective from which to make wise decisions, a sense of joy and peace, to name but a few.

And yet, it's so easy to allow the pressures and distractions of life to crowd out the most important relationship we have—the one from which everything else flows.

I've learned the greatest courage I need in my life is the courage to seek God's face—whatever I'm up against. Whether it's a broken heart, a struggling marriage, business pressure, financial pressure, health problems or whatever, in God's presence, I have found the love, strength and wisdom to keep going. The Bible calls this "God's grace." It really is sufficient for whatever we're facing in life (2 Cor. 12:9).

Wanting to pass on this most important lesson is one of the reasons we developed our App, "Awakening to God Today." It's one of the simplest apps you'll ever come across, and yet it could help to change your life.

Our app will guide you in how to enjoy eight minutes with God before starting your day. It will help you to give thanks, hear God's voice, memorize Scripture and journal. You will quickly discover this is the most important eight minutes of your day and will look forward to it each morning.

The other reason for this app is that, as a nonprofit organization, funds raised will help us provide clean water, food, mosquito nets and medical aid to the poorest of the poor in India and other countries.

The app launches on December 31. Please watch this YouTube video to get an idea of how the app works.

Also, please will you support the launch of our app by pledging a post on Facebook or Twitter or both. It takes 10 seconds to pledge a message—click this link and then click "Support with Facebook, add my support."

I pray God will strengthen you in your inner being that you may be able to live a life of faith and love so as to bring glory to God and fulfill His plan for you.

Learn more, including sign-up details, at About Awakening to God Ministries (ATG).

Gerard and Jeannie Long founded ATG to share the love and comfort God is giving them in their brokenness, with people who are suffering in the U.S. and all around the world. Isaiah 61:1, NIV is their founding scripture—"to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners."Learn more about the Longs' story at awakeningtogod.org.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Gerard Long) Technology Thu, 29 Dec 2016 14:00:00 -0500
The Pioneer Woman: Maximizing Media to Become a Household Name http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/media/23418-the-pioneer-woman-maximizing-media-to-become-a-household-name http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/media/23418-the-pioneer-woman-maximizing-media-to-become-a-household-name

The other morning, my wife was as excited as I have ever seen her. She loaded sister Traci and daughter Emily in the car and set out from Tulsa to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to visit the new bakery, deli and general store "The Mercantile," recently opened by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.

They returned exhausted but had the time of their lives.

All of this is the result of a masterful use of the media tools available to you today.

Content tilt, tipping point, exponential curve, branding, merchandising, rolling out the brand—as well as combining digital, social and traditional media—the Pioneer Woman has done it all.

Ree Smith was a country girl gone to L.A. (to attend the University of Southern California). She was planning on going to law school in Chicago when she unexpectedly met and married her "Marlboro Man," Ladd Drummond, and moved to his ranch in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to became a rancher's wife and raise kids. 

In 2006, she registered her own domain, thepioneerwoman.com and began to blog about her life in Oklahoma. Before the phrase "content tilt" was coined, she found hers, writing about and showing great pictures about life on the ranch—work, food, family, fun.

Early in 2009, Drummond's blog received 13 million page views per month (Tipping Point). By May 9, 2011, the blog's popularity had risen to approximately 23.3 million page views per month and 4.4 million unique visitors (exponential curve).

In April 2008, Drummond held a giveaway in which she asked readers to share one of their favorite recipes. She received more than 5,000 recipes in less than 24 hours. She realized her loyal readers were a community of food lovers as well.

Drummond then launched tastykitchen.com, a simple and free online community with the tagline, "Favorite Recipes from Real Kitchens Everywhere!"

This led to a series of New York Times best-selling The Pioneer Woman cookbooks (rolling out the brand merchandising). {eoa}

Ben Ferrell is a minister with the heart of an evangelist. Ben has led people into the Presence of the Lord through song, six albums, television programs and journeys around the world speaking and singing for years before joining BMC Advertising in 1989. He has a passion to win souls and see lives changed. You can reach Ben at bmcferrell.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ben Ferrell) Media Thu, 22 Dec 2016 08:00:00 -0500
Why Your Church's Services Should Be Live Streamed http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23375-why-your-church-s-services-should-be-live-streamed http://ministrytodaymag.com/facilities/technology/23375-why-your-church-s-services-should-be-live-streamed

There's a persistent myth about church live streaming that needs to be put to rest: The idea that once you go live online, your members will stop coming to the services. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don't have statistics; I can only give you my experience with the hundreds of churches we've worked with around the world.

Over and over, as we help churches live stream their services, the actual Sunday attendance in the building goes up. In other words, putting your services out there online for others to see actually draws more to the Sunday service.

There are plenty of amazing live stream stories. I was speaking at a pastor's conference in Oklahoma this year and met one pastor who preaches to 700 people in his congregation. But his live stream is viewed by an average of 10,000 people each week.

We worked with a large church in the Southeast who actually gets as much as one-third of its total income from the live stream audience. In fact, one Sunday, the pastor called me, excited to share that the previous Sunday, the church received more donations online than the congregation gave in the offering plate. That's unusual, but it does happen.

Think for a minute about former members of your church who have moved but would like to stay in touch. Students who have left for college, business people in the congregation who travel. Missionaries you support. I can tell you that whenever my wife and I are on the road on a Sunday morning, she always opens up the laptop and watches the live-streamed service from our church.

The bottom line: There are millions of people outside the walls of your church who need to hear your message. Certainly you won't reach all of them with your online service, but the fact is, if you're holding back from doing a live stream, you won't reach anyone beyond those walls.

If you're a pastor or church leader interested in live streaming, ask any questions in the comment box, or contact our team. We want to see your message reach as many people as possible, and a live stream is a relatively inexpensive and effective way to make that happen. {eoa}

 Phil Cooke has actually produced media programming in nearly 50 countries around the world. In the process, has been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter and in Africa, been threatened with prison. And during that time—through his company, Cooke Pictures, in Burbank, California—he's helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations and leaders in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture.

For the original article, visit philcooke.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke ) Technology Wed, 14 Dec 2016 14:00:00 -0500