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Live Stream Church Worship Or Other Events pt1: Picking A Camera

It seems to me that most people these days are familiar with the concept of live streaming an event. This is where your event is broadcast live over the internet for people to watch if they can’t be there in person. What I find people are less familiar with is how easy it is to live stream church or another event over the internet. And it doesn’t have to cost much either.

Now I should put some caveats here. It is pretty easy, and it can be inexpensive, but as in most things there is still an element of you get what you pay for. I don’t mean if you do it cheap and easy it won’t look good, because it can. More what I’m saying is it will look and sound better the more you pay. So keep that in mind as you consider your event and what level of technology you choose to partake of.

Picking A Camera To Live Stream Church Events

Live stream church events using a smartphone or laptop camera

Your smartphone or laptop cameras can work just as well for live streaming events as expensive external webcams.

It used to be that there would be a short list of webcams that could be put in a section like this. Now though there are many, many cameras that can do the job. So instead of a list of cameras, I’m going to list some of the features you should consider when buying a webcam to live stream church worship or another church event. Remember though, anything can work, even the built in camera on your laptop, or the camera on your smartphone.

Video Quality

This has been made a lot easier to determine in recent years with the rise of HD webcams. In my view, if you’re just looking for a basic system, pick up any camera that says it’s HD. While there are many different quality levels within HD, for most basic purposes any of these will do. If you’re looking for better quality, try to buy a webcam that says it’s 1080p or 1080i. The i and p are just a way to tell you the different way they camera functions, and while i is technically better then p, it’s not something I would personally spend a lot of money on. I’ve managed to find HD webcams as low as $60, but I’m sure there are cheaper ones out there as well. Not that I’d always go that cheap, but just to say you can.

Sound

I come from an audio background, so I know I have a bit of a bias here, but in my view the sound of your live broadcast, or live streaming event is at least as important as the video; especially if it’s a sermon or other presentation. For most of these, the audio by itself would be good enough; the pictures just add another element of interest and of course let people see the full presentation, including gestures and body language.

All that said, unfortunately, in my view, most webcams still focus on the cam part and not so much on the audio quality. That’s changing a bit, but too slowly for my liking. Ideally, you’d be able to plug the audio from the sound system into the webcam so that everything is mic’d properly. As of this writing however, there are not many webcams I can find that make this possible. Your second best options are to buy a webcam with a good microphone and/or to try and put a speaker with the full audio mix close to the microphone. As with every system, it’s best to test it before your first live event.

Other Items

There are many other features you’ll come across when looking at webcams, none of which make a huge difference in my estimation. If you think a feature sounds good, and the price difference between it and the other model you’re looking at isn’t much, go for it. But I wouldn’t pay a lot more for many features.

Conclusions

In the end, though possibly intimidating, buying a webcam to live stream church worship, sermons, or events does not need to be difficult. Take a look at video quality, audio quality if you can (reviews can help here), and don’t be suckered in by extra features. One last thing I factor in is that all else being equal, I’ll pick a brand I know and trust over an unknown one. That’s not to say the unknown brand isn’t any good, it’s just as likely better, but picking a trusted brand does give me a piece of mind that even a great review doesn’t give me.

 

How about you, what’s your experience picking webcams to live stream church worship, sermons or events? Are there any important considerations I missed?

 

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Surf More, Plan Less: Easy Sermon Planning with Evernote pt2

evernote_logo_Vertical found on Church And Technology.caI love all the possibilities of sermon planning with Evernote, which of course is why I’m blogging about it. My initial plan was just for one post, but I quickly realized that in order to share all the information I wanted to, I had to break the post into multiple parts. Part 1 on Sermon Planning with Evernote talked about why you might want to do your sermon planning with Evernote, and about some easy way to take notes. This time, we’re talking about some of the great organizational features of Evernote.

 

Sermon Planning with Evernote pt 2: Organizing Your Notes

I’m starting this section with a quick confession. I really like organizing. This includes both having things organized and actually doing the organizing. This may be why I really love some of the features I’m about to talk about. It could also be because they can be really helpful. … Okay, enough confession, on to the goods.

Notebooks

Notebooks are just like they sound, books of notes. You can also think of them as folders if that’s helpful, but if not, ignore that. All your notes in Evernote go in a notebook, and it’s the main organizing element you’ll be working with. I try and treat my notebooks like broad categories and to keep how many I have to a minimum. As much as I like organizing, there’s no point in creating too many notebooks since it’s really easy to do a general search if you need to find things.

One way I started using notebooks that I’ve found pretty useful in putting my hands on what I’m interested in right now is viewing my notes by Updated. This will put the notes you’ve edited most recently at the top of the list, so they’re right there to be read or edited again. If a note you read a lot but don’t edit gets too far down, just add a space to the end of the note and up it comes back to the top. I find this works really well to keep important notes easy to get at.

 

Here are some examples of how to use notebooks to do some sermon planning with Evernote:

Create 4 sermon planning notebooks. This week’s Sermon, Next Week’s Sermon, Sermon Ideas, Past Sermon Ideas.
When you come across interesting articles use the web clipper, or share feature on your phone, to send them to the appropriate notebook. (We talked about these features in part 1.) Same goes when you get an idea that you think you might want to use in a sermon, whip out your phone, and start entering it in a note in the appropriate notebook. Use the notes when writing the appropriate sermon. You can write in Evernote, or wherever you’re most comfortable.

After you’re done the sermon for that week, re-file the notes as appropriate so ‘this week’ goes to ‘past ideas’, ‘next week’ goes to ‘this week’ and hopefully something from ‘future’ goes to ‘next week’.

It’s a little bit of work, but will keep things organized and easy to put your hands on when you need them.

Tags

Tags are a secondary filing system in Evernote and potentially my favourite. Think of tags as a way to keep things grouped together, but in different folders. Here’s an example to help illustrate.

Evernote Web Clipper in Action, seen on Church And Technology.ca

Using the Evernote web clipper to organize and tag notes for sermon planning.

I’m checking Facebook and notice a friend has posted an article about environmental justice that could be useful for a sermon that’s floating around in the back of my head. I’ll use the Web Clipper to take a copy of the article, and put it into my Sermons – Future notebook. I’ll also tag it with Social Justice, Environment, Creation & Eco-Justice. Now when I go to work on that sermon that’s in the back of my head, I’ll be able to use that article; but I’m not quite done the example. A week later when I’m working on that week’s sermon, I’m in a place where I feel like there should be something more to say, but I’m not sure quite what. My theme for the week is Thanksgiving for all that we have, while remembering those that may have less than us. This is a social justice issue so I take a look through the notes I have in that tag. There near the top is that article I’d planned on using for a sermon about the environment but I realize that it has the perfect illustration for this week’s sermon.

Okay, I know the example is a bit contrived, but I hope you get the point. Tagging things in Evernote can help you find them when you are looking, or bring them to your attention when they may be relevant, but you’d forgotten about them.

 

There you have it, a few of the cool ways Evernote can help with your sermon planning. I hope these posts have been useful. I really enjoy sharing ideas about how I think technology can be useful to churches and people in them.

 

Do you think Evernote could be useful to you in your sermon planning? What other ways do you see notebooks or tags being used to improve planning?

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Surf More, Plan Less: Easy Sermon Planning with Evernote pt1

evernote_logo_Vertical found on Church And Technology.caIf you’re anything like me, sermon ideas pop into your head all the time, but too often you get distracted before you get them written down. Or you run across great blog posts or articles on the internet that you might want to use for a future sermon, but forget where you found them, or exactly what they said by the time you finally write said sermon. One way I figured out to get around this was to email myself copies of articles I might want to use later. That sort of worked, but my inbox would get all cluttered up, and if I archived things I wouldn’t be able to find the right one unless I remembered exactly what the title was. I figured there had to be a better way, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Enter Evernote. Sermon planning with Evernote is way simpler and more convenient than anything I’ve come across so far. Why is sermon planning with Evernote so great? Evernote was created as a digital notebook so is optimized for how we use the internet. This means not only that there are tons of easy ways to get things into Evernote; you also get the benefits of digital search and organization as well.

I’ve got so much I want to share about sermon planning with Evernote this post got way to long, so I’ve split it up into multiple posts. In this one, I’m going to focus on note taking.

Sermon Planning with Evernote pt 1: Taking Notes

Evernote Web Clipper, seen on Church And Technology.ca

Add an article to Evernote with “one click”

Basic note taking in Evernote is just like any word processing software you’re familiar with.  Create a note, enter a title, and type away. No big deal I know. Here’s where it gets cool though. Evernote has what it calls a ‘web clipper‘ available for all the major web browsers. The web clipper gives you one click saving into Evernote. You can save either just a link to the web page or just the contents of the page or both. This is great for keeping searchable copies of some of the interesting sermon related items you find on the web.

I should note that while it is possible to save things with one click, I don’t really recommend it. Depending on your browser the web clipper will give you different options about how to edit and save your note. I recommend putting the note in a notebook, and tagging it as well. These are features I’ll talk about later, but for now I just wanted to mention that it’s very much worth taking the time to organize things right when you save them. This can be super helpful later when you’re trying to get your sermon notes out of Evernote.

Evernote Web Clipper, more options, seen on Church And Technology.ca

Use the Web Clipper icon in the menu bar for more options when clipping.

Evernote Web Clipper in Action, seen on Church And Technology.ca

Use the Web Clipper to add an article to a notebook, plus add tags and comments.

When you clip something from the web, I also recommend adding your own personal thoughts above article. This makes life easier when you go back to an article and are trying to remember exactly what you were thinking and how you planned on using it. These notes also become searchable, which may bring an article to your attention when planning a whole different sermon or event.

Article in Evernote, seen on Church And Technology.ca

Your article in Evernote

Evernote also has a mobile app for all major platforms. This way if you’re reading something on your phone it’s easy to send it to Evernote, just share the item as you would anything else (like how you’d post it to Facebook say) and voila, you’ll have it in Evernote ready to be used when you get around to that sermon writing; which of course you don’t have to as often since you’re so well planned. : )

In the next post, I’ll talk about organizing your sermon notes in Evernote and some of the other cool features available like tagging.
How do you plan your sermons? What electronic tools do you use to help?

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How churches can benefit from the cloud pt2

How churches can use the cloud, info from Church and Technology.caIn how churches can benefit from the cloud pt1, I gave a more general overview of the cloud and mentioned that it could be useful to churches. In this post I’m going to go into more detail about how churches can benefit from the cloud and give some examples of programs and services you may want to explore.

While there are two main elements to the cloud as I mentioned in how churches can benefit from the cloud pt 1, in this post I’m going to split cloud computing in two so I can give you a bit more detail on two elements of cloud computing I think are important for churches to consider: online notebooks & other cloud computing.

Cloud Storage

Churches can benefit from the cloud by using a programs like Dropbox or Sugarsync to store files that multiple people will want access to in the cloud. This can be anything from old minutes and annual reports, to files for the website, to pictures from the latest church social event.

Online Notebooks

Programs like Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote let churches organize things like agendas, minutes, and church policies in an easy to use, searchable notebook that can be accessed from practically anywhere and is shareable with others.

Churches can benefit from the cloud by using Evernote

Learn more about Evernote from my post Seven Simple ways to use Evernote for Churches

Cloud Computing

Services like Google Docs (now part of google drive) and Microsoft’s office web apps (in conjunction with skydrive) let churches benefit from the cloud by putting their full office in the cloud. These services let you store and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentation files  (read: PowerPoint) in the cloud to be worked on anywhere by anyone you choose to collaborate with. No more having to go to the church office to work on a document or have 33 copies on different computers. You can keep one version online that will sync to different computers if desired.

You can also create a public church calendar of events. You can then embed this calendar on your church website or just share the address with attendees. This is an easy way to keep people up to date on what’s going on in the life of your church. Some Online calendar programs like Google Calendar also let people add your calendar to theirs so every new event you add shows up in front of them.

Other cloud computing services that churches might consider might be online accounting programs like the one offered by QuickBooks, or online meeting tools like LiveMinutes.

That’s not an exhaustive list but it gives you some relatively easy to implement ways your church can benefit from the cloud.

What is your favourite way your church uses the cloud? What great cloud program or app did I miss that no church should be without?
church icon courtesy of dapino-colada.nl
cloud_storage icon courtesy of icons8.com

 

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How churches can benefit from the cloud pt1

How churches can benefit from the cloud - Church And Technology.caThe Cloud like the internet is a concept that means something to one group of people and absolutely nothing to another. Fortunately the group for which the internet has meaning has grown a lot, and these days I’d say contains most, but not all, people. The cloud however is a relatively new term that some people still may find confusing. Here at Church And Technology.ca we are hoping to clarify things for you a bit, and share some ways churches can benefit from the cloud.

In its most basic form the cloud is just another, fancier maybe, term for the internet. Generally the term the cloud is referred to when talking about things that happen on the internet. This can be when things are stored on the internet, cloud storage, or when computer programs are run through a browser like Firefox instead of being a program you install on your computer, cloud computing.

Here are a few examples. Web based email is probably the cloud computing service that most people will be familiar with. This would be services like Hotmail (now Outlook.com), Gmail, etc. Most users of these services use the web interface rather than programs like Lotus Notes or Outlook. This is cloud computing at its most basic.

Cloud storage is when you use a service to store or backup things on the internet. Most of these cloud storage services, like Sugarsync and Dropbox, sync a folder from your computer to their server (read: giant computer) and make sure that you can access it from anywhere using a web browser they can even sync the folder to other devices like your smartphone. This is how the internet, the cloud, and in this case cloud storage, works. Someone somewhere gives you access to something. In the case of cloud storage, it’s your own files.

How does all this benefit your church? There are different was that churches can benefit from the cloud to enhance their organization and their ministry. These include storing and sharing documents like minutes and agendas, creating public events calendars, and storing documents online so multiple people can edit them without creating multiple copies.

In part 2 of How churches can benefit from the cloud I’ll get into some specifics of how the cloud can help churches with their operations and thus their ministry.

Is the cloud something your church is considering using? What cloud services does your church already use?

 

church icon courtesy of dapino-colada.nl
cloud icon courtesy of thenounproject.com

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Seven Simple ways to use Evernote for Churches

Chruch And Technology.ca suggests Evernote for churchesEvernote is an easy to use free program and app that lets you keep track of all kinds of information in one place. It’s like a notebook that’s kept online “in the cloud” if you will, so in today’s connected world, you pretty much always have it with you. Don’t worry if you’re not someone who’s always online, your Evernote notebooks are also saved on whatever device you have the program installed so you can access them even without an internet connection. Evernote can be a pretty handy tool for a volunteer organization like a church. How you may ask?

Here are 7 simple ways to use Evernote for churches.

1) Keep all your login in information and passwords in one place

As we get more and more accounts for all the cool services available online, it’s easy to forget or misplace one or more of them. One of the great ways churches can use Evernote is to record all the login information for online accounts, so you always have it in one place. Admittedly you do need to remember the login and password for Evernote to do this.

You may be thinking, “I can use a word document to do this.” True. Evernote however stores the information online in “the cloud”, and this is where Evernote really shines if you ask me. Now you can access that password list from wherever you are, provided you have internet access, which if you have a smartphone is pretty much everywhere. (See way 7 for simple smartphone ways churches can use Evernote.) Now if you want to update the churches twitter feed from home for example, you have the login information right there. Or if a great new event is planned that you want to put up on the church website right away, but you’re on vacation, you have all the information you need to do the update right there with you. Cool eh?

2) Organize all the important church policies and documents in one place

Many churches create policies for all kinds of things, and then promptly forget exactly what they are once the situation that required the policy has been dealt with. When a similar situation arises again someone is bound to say “I’m sure we have a policy about that.” and then have no idea where to find said policy. In my experience this situation usually leads to a bunch of time spent creating a very similar, if slightly different policy. Personally I find this quite frustrating to be a part of.

Churches can use Evernote to keep all their policies in one easy to find and access place. If someone thinks there is a policy on something they can just use the search function in Evernote and if there is a policy they will find out right away. Evernote even lets you attach documents to notes so you don’t have to retype, or even copy and paste, policies you have e-versions of, just attach them to a note. For premium users Evernote has the capacity to search within PDFs, which can help you to find exactly what you are looking for.

3) Keep track of meeting agendas and minutes

Keep your church life organized with Evernote photo by Church And Technology.ca

My recent decision to try and go paperless at meetings has meant I often had to bring my laptop just to have a copy of the agenda with me. I could email it to myself, but then if I need to look at a copy of older minutes or a policy, I was out of luck. That is until I started putting all my church documents in Evernote. Now, I can access everything from my smartphone, or tablet (Android or iPad available). This makes life way easier as even my relatively small, light laptop was annoying to bring just to have an agenda. (And I felt like people were always thinking I was going to break out power point or offer to take minutes or something.)

By having all my meeting agendas and minutes in Evernote, they’re always with me, and I can use them on the device of my choosing. This is also great for being able to look up past minutes and agendas to see what was going on the last time the group got together.

4) Have a master list of who has a church key and other important information

It isn’t easy to keep physical lists of who has what keys, or where different keys are kept. It seems to me the list, along with the keys, are always going missing. With Evernote you can create a document style note with who has what keys, or create a table in your note to keep track of key numbers and who has them. You can also note where specific keys, like to the notice board, are located so you don’t have to replace the lock every year when someone forgets where the key is. And while church keys are a good example, it’s only one. Churches can also use Evernote to keep track of when the microphone batteries were last changed, where to find the extra boxes of matches and candles, and whatever else you can think of.

5) Share notes with others

Once you have all your church policies and meeting minutes in Evernote, wouldn’t it be great to be able to share that with other people so they always have access as well? Good thing you can. It’s easy to share notes or notebooks with other people, whether they also use Evernote or not. (Obviously it works better if they do.) As a premium user, you can also give other Evernote users permission to edit notes. That way it doesn’t always have to be you adding new policies to the policy notebook. This is a great way to make sure the list of who has what key for example can be available to everyone who needs to know, even when they aren’t at the church. It also lets you make sure everyone coming to a meeting has the most current agenda, without flooding their inboxes every time you make a change.

6) Make sure you always have those ‘wider church’ documents with you

In many denominations church work doesn’t stop at the local congregation. Often people are also involved in work of Presbyteries, Synodes, Conferences, National Offices, or whatever names your denomination has for these larger bodies. In my experience these other meetings also come with a reasonable amount of paperwork. By putting it all in Evernote not only will you have it with you at your next meeting without needing to bring one, or more, giant binders of paper, you’ll also have that National Office document with you when a board meeting drifts to discussion of it. There’s no better way to calm peoples nerves about a power grab for example, then by reading directly from the document rather than having to remember what it said.

7) Having Evernote on your smartphone

Having Evernote on my smartphone has saved me a number of phone calls and trips to the office. It’s also given me copies of meeting agendas that I can easily print for others who have forgotten and would like a paper copy. Having my documents with me wherever I go seems unnecessary, but it really can be helpful. Being able to give someone that piece of information they are looking for right away, means I don’t have to remember to do it later.

There are many other ways to use Evernote that I didn’t get into here, including tagging notes to make them easier to find, as this post is about simple ways churches can use Evernote. If you are interested in learning more, here is the overview video from the Evernote website, which you can also take a look at for more ideas.

 

 

Remember to be creative about using technology, and think about combining different programs and devices. For example, make the most of Evernote by having an inexpensive tablet in the church office that people can access for use in the building. This is a great way to bring Evernote to those that don’t yet have a smartphone or their own tablet.

Do you use Evernote to help organize your church or your life? What are some of the basic ways you’ve found Evernote to enhance the way you work? Are there any easy to implement ways churches can use Evernote that I’ve missed?

 

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