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Church and Technology :: Church and Technology.ca

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How To Get A Basic Church Sound System for $300

$300 Church Sound SystemDoing things on a budget is always about weighing needs versus wants. When it comes to a church sound system my want is always to get the best system I can. My need is to get something. Something is better then nothing, okay not always, but often. If all you’ve got is $300 than you need to find something in that price range, which you can. The Pyle-Pro Pwma1090ui 800-Watt Wireless Rechargeable Portable Pa Systemavailable from Amazon fits the bill. It also comes with a handheld and a lavalier microphone. I picked Amazon because they’ll ship anywhere ensuring you can get this, plus it’s an online shopping portal most people are familiar with. (Note: If you purchase using this link I will likely get a commission from Amazon, your price isn’t any higher though, don’t worry.)

Is this a great sound system? Not really. Is it totally acceptable for a church of around 50 people? Yep. You can even get a Speaker Standfor it for another $35 or so which will help the people at the back hear better, although it makes adjusting the sound a little trickier since it’s up high.

This is a simple to use All-In-One system with separate volume knobs for each input and no overall master volume. If you read the reviews on Amazon you’ll learn that the input for MP3 players or other devices with a $300 Church Sound System - Controles3.5mm (headphone size) jack is pretty quiet, but you can use other ones (audio or guitar) with a separate cable just fine. The wireless mics are nothing to write home about, but work. You need to hold the handheld one close to your mouth for it to pick up, but it does work.

You can also use this as an outdoor church sound system, or in a place without power as it has a build in battery. If you’re going to use it plugged in however, make sure it’s fully charged before your service starts as charging interferes with the sound quality.

Got More Than $300 for A Church Sound System?

By all means, if you have more to spend, and would like a better sounding church sound system feel free to do so. A quick Amazon Search finds lots of different basic options. I searched for powered speakers since that limits the search in a way that provides options with powered speakers which I would recommend for a basic system. It also includes lots of packages that are quite reasonably priced. Again, don’t expect to host the Rolling Stones with these setups, but for simple church audio use, they get the job done.

What are you looking for in a church sound system? Does an All-In-One speaker/mixer do the job?

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What to Look For in a Church Database or Church Management System

I got asked recently about what to look for in a church database, which led me to write the post Why Have A Church Database. I’d now like to expand on that post and more fully answer the question about what you should be looking for in a church database or Church Management System (ChMS).

Make A List of All the Features You Might Ever Want

Photo Credit: Zeusandhera via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Zeusandhera via Compfight cc

Look for something that can do all the database things you think you want now, or ever. I know there’s no real way to know what you’ll ever want, but try and think big. You might not want to have multiple church newsletters now, but maybe you will some day. Transferring data isn’t a huge deal, but it’s a pain in the butt. Many services have multiple add-ons or plugins you can buy so that you’re not paying for more then you need now, but can easily add on features later if you’d like.

Along those lines, I’d make sure you can also either send newsletters, or integrate into other newsletter programs. Integration is key to me, as I’d like to be able to use the best programs for what I’m doing in each area and have them work well together. Some people though prefer to have everything in one place, which I understand as well. Either way, you want to be able to easily communicate with everyone in your database.

It’s also great to be able to give everyone multiple “tags” so that you can target them differently, or find them easily. For example someone might have “regular worship, kids at Uni, Turkey Supper, not members, love music events”. Once that’s set up, if you want to email everyone with kids at University it’s a breeze. Or maybe you’re trying to find someone who loves music and is generally at church Sunday morning so you can ask them to help out, if you’ve got tags for that it will be easy to do.

You should also look at using an online (cloud based) service so that information can be accessed and shared easily among different people and in different locations. This is great if you want to send something out while you’re working from home as well as letting multiple people access the database at the same time.

Try, and Compare Before You Commit

What to look for in a church database

You may not need a church database quite this high tech.
Photo Credit: ditatompel via Compfight cc

Most of the software out there gives you an option to try it out before you commit to buying it. Make sure you do so. Set up a few people and see if you can find them, send them emails, etc. You should already have a list of the features you want to be using, so now’s the time to make sure the software you’re looking at does what you want. You should also make sure you like the interface. Is it easy for you to use? Will it also be easy for others to use? This may seem like a silly thing to consider, but if the software is a pain to use, you’re not going to want to do it, which means eventually you’ll stop using it, which defeats the whole point of getting it.

I’d also make sure to look at church specific databases as well as generic not for profit ones. You may end up paying a bit more for a not for profit one, but it may end up doing more of what you need. Then again, maybe not. That’s why it’s good to check things out.

The more time I spend thinking, the more ideas I get about how to use a church database. This is a good start though for what you should be considering as you look at improving how you organize your churches data.

What features am I missing? What’s the best way to use a church database?

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Why Have A Church Database

Frustrated by lack of church database (small)

Avoid spreadsheet headaches
image via stock.xchng

I got asked recently about what churches should be looking for as they consider moving away from Excel and towards a more robust church database. This got me thinking about how lots of churches are still using Excel or other spreadsheet programs to keep track of things. These programs are good enough for what some churches need to do, provided they have someone who knows how to use them, but as you grow and start to do more, a specialized database can be a boon to your church. Also called Church Management Software, a church database is a great way to easily keep track of the things you’d like to track, attendance, offerings, etc. But it can also be a great way to keep in touch with your church members and adherents.

What Is A Church Database For?

If you’re new to this whole church database or church management software (ChMS) thing, here’s a brief list of some of the things you can do.

  • Keep track of people and their involvement
  • Track visitors
  • Send email notices/newsletters
  • Manage donations
  • Be reminded of follow-ups for pastoral care
  • Attendance tracking

Lots of organizations use similar software to keep track of people. Businesses for current and interested customers and non-profits for members and interested donors are a couple of examples. There is specialized software for different industries, like churches, but as a church it’s worth checking out some of the non-profit ones as well, it may by that you’ll find something there that fits better with what you’re after. You may also not be interested in all the features of some products, so make sure to check out a few before you jump right into one.

Church Database / Church Management Software Options

I’m personally a fan of being able to mix and match services I use, rather then an all in one solution. For many though all in one solutions are their preference and there are lots out there to choose from. Just remember to make sure you get something that can do everything you’d like, or that integrates well with the other services you’d like to use. For example if you use MailChimp or Constant Contact for email distribution, make sure the church database program you use integrates with them.

Church database, or church management software, can be found in all kinds of price ranges, which is another reason to make sure you check out a few before you commit. Depending on which one you choose though, the cost will likely be made up pretty quickly in the reduction of time spent fighting with spreadsheets or other programs that aren’t designed to easily do what you’d like.

Conclusions

While not for all congregations, to me it’s worth looking at different donor or church management systems. You’ll be way better off for keeping track of people and their involvement with the church. What better way to keep your staff and volunteers happy?

What features would you most be after in a church database program? Or if you already use one, what features do you like best?

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What a Techie Pope We’ve Got

I realize Pope Francis is 77, and a Catholic Priest/Bishop/Cardinal, not necessarily things that make us think Techie (although there are many that are), but in the last couple of weeks I’ve been super impressed how Pope Francis has ended up in many of my social feeds. Some of this has been kinda silly stuff as you can see in this Tweet:

and I realize it’s not really him, but his staff posting, but still, it’s generally positive and totally shows an embracing of technology. This became even more evident a couple of weeks ago when I ran across this on Google+ :

There are lots of good quotes in the Popes 2014 message for World Communications Day and I’ll highlight some of my favourites in a minute, but first I need to mention that I love the overall tone of the message. It doesn’t just blindly praise technology or modern communications, nor does it blindly condemn it. It carefully examines how things have changed recently due to technological advances, highlights some of the deficiencies, and goes into ways we can still do better. Here’s a great example:

The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression. The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests. … We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm. This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen. We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us.

I can get on board with this. Here’s another couple quotes I’m fond of:

Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator. Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence.

Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ.

The whole thing is worth a read, it shouldn’t take that long, and I think you’ll end up thinking more about communication, which I’d say is a good thing. You may also end up thinking a bit differently about the Pope, which may also be a good thing.

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Why You Shouldn’t Have A Church Internet Policy

Church Internet Policy image (pen on paper)I was reading an article recently about how a New Study Finds High Clergy Internet Use, [but that] Guidelines [are] Lacking. I wasn’t really surprised by this fact. Most demographics are now showing high internet use, so it makes sense that clergy are as well. This is especially true when you remember that clergy deal a lot with congregants, who are you and me, so therefore also online.

The second part of the title of the article that references a lack of guidelines also doesn’t really surprise me. The rate of adoption has been pretty quick for online activities like social media and churches want to be there, and want their clergy to be there as well. This often means that people start blogging and using Facebook and Pinterest before their congregation or denomination has time to decide it should have a policy regarding these things never mind having the time to write and adopt the policies.

As I was reading through the article and seeing some of the references to things that are lacking policies it struck me that most of these actions are already likely governed by other policies that churches have in place. Still others are likely governed by the current moral code that may not currently be in policy for offline or online behaviour.

As an example, the study found that “less than 10% of congregations had a policy around online interactions between clergy and staff with congregants”. I’m curious how many congregations have a policy around offline interactions between clergy and staff with congregants. If they do, would this policy not apply to online behaviour as well? I’m guessing this kind of policy probably doesn’t say it applies everywhere but Twitter, so, likely it’s relevant to online behaviour as well. So then, why the need for a new church internet policy or new online guidelines?

In case you’re starting to think that I just don’t like policies, let me assure you that quite the opposite is the case. I have and do sit on many organizational boards. This includes a 5 year stint on the national Executive Committee for my denomination. I also read policy and governance books for fun. I don’t dislike policies. What I dislike is excessive use of policies.

I feel that the excessive use of policies is becoming more and more common, and I link it to a lack of trust amongst each other. I find this lack of trust is gradually becoming stronger, and is entering more and more parts of our lives. This is a bigger issue then I’m going to tackle here, but what I will say is that I think we should trust each other more and not create policies that tell us what we already know we should or shouldn’t do, especially when we already have a similar policy on the books. We should be treating our online lives just like our offline lives; they’re becoming less and less separate every day after all.

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Using A Bible App: It’s Actually Pretty Fun

I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to start a blog post off with a confession, but I’m doing it anyway. I don’t read the bible much, nor have I ever read the whole thing. As a mainline Christian this likely isn’t that uncommon, but I’m not sure it’s something to be proud of either. Now, this is not to say that I’m not familiar with the contents of the bible. I am, and at a reasonable level I’ve been told. I just haven’t spent much time sitting down and just reading, I’ve always only done it for a specific reason; until now.

My First Bible App Reading Plan Badge - Church And Technology.caThis changed recently after I downloaded a new bible app for my phone. The one I’d been using before changed a bit, and I didn’t like it as much, plus I’m always on the lookout for one with a free NRSV text (which this doesn’t have either though). While I was looking this time I came across You Version’s The Bible App and decided to give it a try. It was created by LifeChurch.tv with the goal of helping people connect the bible to their daily lives. It does this in a few ways. There’s lots of integration between The Bible App Social Media to help people share their bible experiences with their friends. This could be bringing up this week’s scripture passages as you read them in church and then posting them to Facebook with your comments or sharing where you are in your bible reading plan.

This brings me to another interesting feature of The Bible App, the reading plans. I recently completed my first reading plan “Minor Old Testament Prophets”. It took me a bit more then the recommended 25 days, but the program easily lets you re-configure the schedule if you happen to get a bit behind. And the daily ‘read the bible’ reminder (which you can turn off if you don’t want it) was helpful in finishing the recommended readings.

Overall I found the experience to be a good one. I’m happy that I’ve read more of the bible and that I’ve found a relatively easy way to do so.

One other fun feature You Version has for Christmas is a live map of where in the world people are reading the Christmas Story. It’s pretty fun to watch as stars light up and fade away all over the globe. Here’s a view I caught recently.

Reading the Christmas Story as seen by Church And Technology.ca

Have you ever used a bible app for your smartphone? What do you think of electronic bible reading plans?

 

 

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Live Stream Church Worship Or Other Events pt2: Picking A Service

While there are lots of great church events happening all the time, for many, especially us rural folk, it’s hard to get there to catch even a small proportion of them. But this is changing slowly as more and more often we are seeing people live stream church events. It used to be that this took some technical knowhow and a fair bit of money, but no more. Today, it’s simple for anyone to live stream church events using affordable technology, and easy to use services. In part 1 of Live Stream Church Worship Or Other Events I focused on picking a webcam for your broadcast. This time I’m taking a look at what service, or platform, you should consider using to live stream your church event.

Using LiveStream App to Live Stream Church Event

Using LiveStream App to Live Stream a Church Event

A service or platform is the company you use when you live stream church events. LiveStream and Ustream are the two companies that show up the most when you search ‘Live Stream’ and ‘Live Stream Church’ and they are definitely the two biggest live streaming companies out there right now. Both are companies have been around for a while and have good products. Both also offer free and paid services for you to choose from. It’s here that we start to see some of the differences between the two. Not only are their pricing plans different, their free services are also reasonably different in what they offer. I’m going to focus on the differences in their free services since I’m assuming most readers will try that out first.

Free Live Stream Services

Ustream offers an add supported free HD service with limited archiving, while LiveStream’s free service also has limited archiving but is not add supported. The catch with the free LiveStream service is that users must login to watch. While for some this won’t really be an issue, it will definitely turn off others. So while it may seem great to not have to have ads present as you live stream church events, you may end up with a smaller audience since they have to sign up as a LiveStream user and login in order to watch.

There is also another option to live stream church events that, while a bit more complicated to get started with, offers a lot of possibilities to live stream church worship services or events for free. It’s Google+/YouTube. I’m sure most people are familiar with YouTube and many of you have likely heard of Google+ which is Google’s social network. If you’re worried your viewers will have to sign up for Google+ using this method, don’t be, the only person who has to sign up is the one doing the live streaming, they need a Google+ account.

Here’s how it works. As Google has begun integrating all their services together they’ve really expanded the practical uses of Google+, including Hangouts. Hangouts are a way for up to nine people to video chat together, just like Skype, only you can have multiple video streams without having to have a paid account. Sounds great you may be thinking, but I want to have more than nine people watching my event, plus you said people wouldn’t have to sign up. This is all true, that was a long aside. One of the added features of Hangouts is the ability to stream to YouTube, where you can also save and archive the event to watch later. It’s easy to set up, and you can either send people to your YouTube channel to watch, or embed the video in a web page on your church website. Once the recording is finished, it’s saved to your YouTube channel and if you embedded the live stream on a web page, it is automatically updated to show the recorded video.

While I’ve got to admit I’m a pretty big Google fan anyway, this is a pretty great service they offer, for free (at least for now). To me, this is probably the best service to live stream church events. Although I recognize that it is a bit more complicated than the other two services I mentioned earlier. If you’re willing to put a little bit more work into it (and really while a bit more complicated, Google does provide very clear and easy to follow instructions), you can live stream church worship services and events without advertisements and archive them to YouTube. What’s not to like?

So as I mentioned at the beginning, live streaming church events is not all that difficult. Once you have picked a webcam all you need to do is decide on a streaming service, LiveStream, Ustream, Google+/YouTube, or another one not mentioned here, and you’re on your way.

 

Do you think you can now live stream church events in your context? What else would you need to know to make it doable? If you already live stream church worship services or other events, is it a simple process? What service do you use?

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