Live media has changed a lot in the past 20 years for churches. Overhead transparencies have been replaced with presentation software. Keyboards have been replaced with MIDI controllers and laptops. And while computers have brought a new world of convenience into the worship environment, they are not perfect machines: apps crash, batteries die, and hard drives fail.

As it turns out, many of the convenient features about owning a personal computer become inconvenientwhen that computer is used in a live production environment. What if I told you that by eliminating some of these features you could prevent most of the blunders that cause distractions in your services?

Here are eight tweaks that I’d recommend making on your church’s projection computer immediately:


We’ve all been there…the pastor is in the middle of a powerful message when suddenly, an innocent but obtrusive chime comes over the PA.  Someone is receiving a message during service…and now the entire crowd knows it.  Make sure to disable – nay, uninstall – all instant messaging apps, including FaceTime.  The last thing you need is someone trying to video chat with you in the middle of worship.


Web browsers can cause computers to crawl sometimes. Many websites have popups that include audio – be it a minor chime or a full musical track. Most web-based e-mail services (i.e. Gmail) have a chat feature that, if left open, will play a sound as soon as you receive any chat-related alerts. With all of this being said, it’s best just to leave your browser closed during services.


Yes, I said it.  If a computer is being used for media in your environment, it should be disconnected from the internet during your services.  In addition to solving the problems in tweaks 1 and 2, this will also prevent any alerts in the event that your computer loses wi-fi signal temporarily. (Tip: To continue using apps such as the ProPresenter remote without internet, try using the “Create Network” feature on your Mac.)


When using computers on a daily basis, a mouse shortcut to reveal your desktop is great. In a worship environment, it’s a nightmare. No one should be seeing your “Hang In There Kitty” desktop in the middle of worship.  I’ve also found that when training a volunteer that is not as familiar with computers, their first response to accidentally activating the desktop shortcut is to raise their hands away from the computer in panic. Your life will be easier if you just disable all mouse buttons/shortcuts except left and right click.


This may seem like an obvious one, but when setting up a new computer, it can be easy to forget. Make sure to disable your screen saver, as well as display sleep, to prevent them from coming on mid-service. I’ve seen this happen too many times right in the middle of a Pastor’s message.


Again, this is a feature designed for convenience: If any bluetooth accessories that come into signal range of your computer, they’ll automatically connect.  Unfortunately, since many people are carrying around bluetooth-enabled devices, this can cause some issues.  To prevent accidentally connecting to a phone or wireless mouse that someone in the crowd has, just disable bluetooth.


As convenient as presentation software is, it’s not bulletproof.  Every once in a while, it crashes.  Having a black background on your screens will ensure that, in the event of a crash, it will be less of a distraction (maybe even unnoticeable).  Having the default desktop background appear on screen is a sign to everyone that something is wrong in the booth.

Update: Thanks to Jon Sheperd for the suggestion: As an alternative to a black background, you could use your church’s default slide or your current sermon series graphic as a background in case of a software crash.


Nothing is worse than having your mouse batteries die in the middle of a fast worship song.  By using wired mice and keyboards on all your production computers, you’ll never have to think about batteries again.


A good friend once told me that production is more about covering mistakes that happen than running everything perfectly.  While there’s no such thing as a perfect Sunday, using these tips will hopefully help you to prevent some of the failures that can be a distraction in your services.

Streamlining Church Communications

By Nick Farr

I was talking to a friend in our Facebook community and he added the title “Church Communications Director” to his title. That got me thinking about my time as a communications director for a global missions organization. If you are in a similar situation, below are some tips that will help your ministry be productive and ensure the highest quality. The list isn’t exhaustive, but it should help. If you have any tips to add, please leave them in the comments. I’d love to learn from you too!

1. Establish a clear line of approval

The very first thing I would do as a new communications director is establish a clear line of approval. Pastors and ministry leaders are typically used to creating whatever they want with little to no approval. This needs to stop under your leadership. You need to set expectations and establish a clear process. This could involve but is not limited to: design request forms, sermon design theme worksheet, requiring “idea boards” for design projects so you have an easier time designing, etc. Don’t be afraid to say no. Churches often hire communication directors but when you start making changes, what churches really want are designers. Remind them that they wanted you to be a communication director, not a designer.

2. Set standards

One standard I have is that we will never use clipart. I believe that if you cannot find a real picture or a design element for your design, then you don’t need it. Clip art is 1995 and should not be used and avoided like a STD. When I first started everyone was used to designing their own things. When I raised the standard, I started to get some push back. I want to tell you…that’s normal. Expect it. At first everyone responds as if you’re taking freedom away (which you are), but once the quality starts to improve, everyone will get on board.

Another issue you’ll probably have is that every ministry probably wants their own brochure. Study after study shows that people don’t read brochures let alone 10 from your church. I’m a big fan of creating ONE brochure or booklet for the entire church. Everyone gets a page in it. Most ministries will say they need more space. That ok! Just let them know that they need to refine what they say, remove all of the filler text, and simplify their ministries communication. Getting one page to do that helps! A brochure is informative–it doesn’t need every detail about your ministry.

Some questions to think about: Does your church have consistent branding? How can you protect that branding? Signage? How many brochures will you allow?

3. Stand your ground

Like I said above, a time will come when you get push back. This principle is easy but extremely hard to navigate. The senior pastor may want to use clipart or an illegal video clip. A whiney staff member may complain to everyone that you’re a dictator. Expect it and get ready to deal with it. While being graceful is essential, you must stand your ground. Remind the church leadership that they hired you to refine communication, increase quality, and make it easier for new people to get plugged in. Ask them to trust you.

Some things to avoid:

  • Getting hurt every time someone asks for a change to your design. Don’t take it personal…you must develop thicker skin.
  • Automatically saying no to everything.
  • Being a jerk. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

4. Simplify

Take a look at everything your organization or church is producing. Look for quality, consistency, and overall message. Once you do that, take another look at see what you can discontinue. I believe the goal of any great communications director is make sure you’re saying what you need to say in the least amount of brochures as possible. You’ll need to remember that each ministry will want some way of communicating their particular area. That’s ok, but it doesn’t mean that they need their own brochure or website. When I was going through this process we went from 30 or so brochures down to 5. I consolidated everything into 4 main brochures that covered all of our major areas. The 5th brochure was actually a booklet that was an overview of our entire organization. Everyone in the organization got their page. You read that right…one page. When I communicated the one page limit per ministry, I did get some push back. My response was a polite, “If you cannot communicate your ministry in one page, then it’s too complicated.” Stand firm on this. It encourages people to focus.

Forcing our organization to simplify helped to clarify what we were communicating and increased our quality of communication.

One last note, remember that your job is to see the big picture. Get out of the weeds.

Why You Need To Use Hashtags and How?

What is a #Hashtag?

Hashtags are being used on social media platforms as a way to organize/group content. The best thing about hashtags are, it is more like a keyword search. When you use hashtags, people who are looking for information can locate your posts, even if they are not following/connected to you. It helps you gain excellent visibility on social platforms like Google+, Twitter and Facebook where it’s being used widely.

How to use hashtags?

★ Pick the right keywords as your hashtags that are already doing great.

★ Embedding a lot of hashtags in your post will annoy your audience. The best practice is to limit them to two or three.

★ Create a hashtag that is relevant to your brand. Market it well with your social media posts and make sure you follow it.

★ I’d recommend not to add hashtags inside your content (maybe on twitter because of the character limit). Attach your hashtags at the bottom/end of your post.


4 More Totally Awesome Bible Apps for Kids

One of the most popular faith and technology posts around this busy corner of cyberspace is 5 Totally Awesome Bible Apps for Kids.  After teaching two sessions to grades 3-8 and one session to the parents at the ch@t conference, I am hopeful that most Christian parents are realizing that the next generation will learn God’s Word in different ways than our current generation is accustomed.

more bible apps for kids

And I love spreading the word that technology is God’s gift to us- to be used as a tool to share the good news of Christ and to grow our faith in Him. I’ve been researching and I really wanted to give you more Bible apps for kids that would get God’s Word into your children in a fresh way that they will love. So here we go:





1. Child Evangelism Fellowship offers an excellent Biblically accurate selection of stories on app that involve the senses in different manners. One of our readers suggested these apps after reading the last post and I do believe they are worth mentioning. With 2 different series of apps, the first focused on Bible Heroes, and the second on the Life of Jesus, these apps contain an audio Bible story, coloring pages, and songs that reinforce the Biblical principle.  I will say that the graphics are not the highest of quality, but the wealth of Bible information is fantastic! Some apps are free, some are $1.99 and some are available in a bundle of 7 apps. For more info, click here.








2. The Jesus Calling for Kids app is an excellent 365 devotional app. If you’ve been around here much, then you know how much our family LOVES the Jesus Calling for Kids devotional itself. This is our third year reading it in the mornings at breakfast and we never tire of it. This devotional app is the exact same quality of the book. You can check out the lite version for FREE for IOS users or you can purchase the full devotional for $9.99- same price as the book.

For those of you who think $9.99 is expensive, might I encourage you that this is the same material contained in the book and the quality of the app is superb. High quality apps are expensive to produce, as I’ve stated many times over when discussing Bible and devotional apps. Moving on. ;)

bible bloom





3. This next app, Bible Bloom, is what I would like to label as a Family Bible app. It is not necessarily designed for children, but is such a fabulous resource, I couldn’t leave it off this list. I introduced Bible Bloom to my readers last week and you can find the full review here.  But I’ll reiterate that my favorite feature is the daily challenge, a simple exercise to help you live out your faith each day.  With beautiful colors and easy to use screens, this app is attractive and perfect for families to use together as they track prayer reminders, Bible reading schedules or wish to challenge each other in daily living out the spiritual lessons they are learning.

superbook app





4. Superbook Kids Bible from CBN is the last app I’m introducing today. I am super pumped to be able to list this last app on the list because I had to search high and low and filter through a lot of junk apps. Pardon the strong language. ;) But I am confident your kids will LOVE this app.) This app contains games, Bible trivia, videos, and cool sections for your children to mark their favorites. The graphics are EXCELLENT and  it’s FREE! Can you believe that? Available on Itunes - and good news- this app is brand new but it soon releasing for Android! I’ll keep my eye on it, Android users. – NOW AVAILABLE for Android.- addendum 11/24

Best Features of the Top Bible Apps


The top 5 Bible apps in my opinion are Logos, Bible Gateway, Olive Tree, YouVersion, and Blue Letter Bible. All five of these apps have received accolades for their quality. But each has its own strong points. All are free, though some have more translations available within the app without cost.

Logos holds the strong suite in platform accessibility. This app is available for Iphone, Ipad, Android, Kindle, Windows, Mac, and Biblia.com. With easy social sharing buttons, you can share verses across social media. The Greek and Hebrew word comparison in the Logos app is really fabulous for in-depth Bible study.

Bible Gateway has an awesome audio delivery feature for listening while reading. Their app received a Christian New Media Award for 2013 for mobile/tablet app of the year. This app boasts an excellent one-click history button. Toggling back and forth between passages is streamlined with the Bible Gateway app.

Olive Tree contains the best reading plans, along with a fabulous way of maintaining the plans. I’m a big fan of their reading plans because you can check off your progress as you go and if needed, skip or go back to fill in the gaps.  This feature of the Olive Tree Bible app keeps me a strong fan,in addition to the way you can study offline and sync your notes and study highlights when online again.

YouVersion is a favorite of many, especially with over 100+ languages available. One of the cool features of YouVersion is the ability to enlarge the reading font size. YouVersion also houses several cool in-app videos.

Blue Letter Bible has an excellent concordance and commentary system within the app. Their audio delivery is a fabulous feature as well.



Social media can be an incredible tool for ministry if it is used correctly. Sadly, most churches either “set it and forget it”, use it only for event announcements, or avoid it altogether.

In our efforts to spread the word about our new church plant, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with social media. In the past few months, our social involvement has proven extremely successful as we’ve added several to our Launch Team and have met many individuals who have expressed interest in our church. Our Lead Pastor even encountered one lady while grocery shopping who recognized him from Twitter! Since we are seven months away from launching, I’d say it’s been a great first step for us.

Whether your church is new like ours or you’ve been around for 100 years, social media has a lot to offer your ministry. Here are eight tips to use it more effectively:


It seems like a new social network pops up daily. It’s impossible to be active on all of them, but it’s easy to manage a few important ones. I recommend having your church active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – in that order. These are the big players in the social realm and you’ll want to invest your time on the networks with the highest potential for impact.


Churches are famous for using insider language that only Christians understand. Proofread your posts from the perspective of someone who has never attended church. Also keep in mind that while it may seem like a good idea, sharing bits of scripture can cause confusion since they’re out of context. Twitter’s 140 character limit doesn’t offer a lot of space to explain how they apply to the lives of your followers.


One of the best ways to build (and keep) an audience online is to post meaningful phrases, quotes, and information that people enjoy sharing. At Piedmont Chapel, we aim to post quick, encouraging thoughts that reflect the values of our church. We often focus on themes of love, life-change, dreaming for a better tomorrow, generosity, kindness, and making a difference in the lives of others. Our followers love to retweet and share these posts with their friends.


Because the culture of Twitter is built around connecting with people that you don’t know, “cold-call” following works great for reaching new people. Search for users in your area or hashtags from local events, then follow them from your church’s account. Expect follow-backs from only about 10% of these new connections, but it’s estimated that at least half will view your profile.


Social media works best as a two-way street. Asking questions is a great way to spark conversation with your followers. Not only does it grab their attention, but their responses will often show up on their friends’ feeds. Ask questions related to pop culture, big events, or something associated with your current sermon series.


Build a culture in your church that encourages people to snap photos on Sunday mornings, at their small groups, and during church events. This is a great way to spread the word about your ministry in your community as their friends see their posts. I’ve even seen churches offer small prizes like $5 Starbucks gift cards to the best photo of the week. (Using a hashtag is perfect for keeping track of these posts.)


Use a free program like Hootsuite or Buffer to pre-schedule your posts. This enables you to be consistent in your posting without being tied to a computer. We schedule daily posts about a month in advance and simply add on to these as new topics develop.


A clean, professional look across all of your social profiles is extremely important. Keep a consistent theme and make sure that your bio communicates the necessities – website, lead pastor, and location. It’s also extremely helpful for your bio to include a link to your lead pastor’s social account.

Do you have any other tips that you’d add to the list?



I don’t know what I would do without my iPhone. 

I use it in every area of my life and Creative Ministry is no different. Having powerful tools readily available in my pocket makes all the difference in productivity.

Of course, I use the obvious apps that many of you do. I use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for my social media. I listen to music with Spotify and Apple’s app for podcasts. I’ll even admit to being slightly addicted to the Roller Coaster Tycoon game.

Beyond the everyday downloads, there are few apps that are extremely helpful for Creative Ministry. 

I use these tools both on Sunday mornings as I lead our Production Team and during the week for various creative tasks.


Last week, I posted a tweet expressing my love for Planning Center along with the question “Do you use PCO?”

There was a massive response.

In fact, there was so much buzz happening on Twitter from my post that the PCO staff sent me a message thanking me for the publicity. A lot of churches use it.

While integrating this system into your church can be a little overwhelming, I don’t know where our church would be without it. I use the app throughout the week for planning our services and scheduling our volunteers. On Sunday mornings, I use it as a digital order of service to keep us on track.

With this app, you never have to go searching through emails to find who’s running ProPresenter this week or which songs your worship team singing. It’s all in one organized place.


I was first introduced to this app when I trained with the production teams at Church of the Highlands and Elevation Church.

To be honest, I didn’t see the true value when they first recommended it to me. It took me using it at our church to fully understand.

Once I saw that I could keep all of our team’s communication in one place, I was hooked.

Our church’s staff uses a group message for all of our basic communications to each other, each ministry team (production, kids, connect) uses it to keep volunteers aware of what’s coming up on Sunday, and we’re able to communicate last-minute changes to each team during service.

This app has also been useful for our kid’s ministry to communicate nursery alerts to our ProPresenter operator.


More than an app, Buffer is a total package for all things social media in our church. 

Rather than individually creating posts on all of our various social networks, we are able to use this one central app to get the word out.

Social media for your church doesn’t have to be difficult. This app gives professional results with ease.

I use Buffer to schedule all of our social posts for the month in advance, then simply maintain on the go with the app.

I made the switch from the similar app, HootSuite, a few months ago and haven’t looked back.

Plus, it also comes in handy that we’re able to post to networks like Google+ without actually having to have those apps on our devices. ;)


The only downside to social media managers like Buffer is that they don’t include Instagram.

If I was granted three wishes from a magic genie, one of them would be for Instagram integration into Buffer.

Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.

The closest thing to scheduled Instagram posts is this awesome app, Latergramme. It allows you to pre-write your text and schedule your IG photos so that when it’s time to post, you’re notified on your phone. With just a few taps and mere seconds, you can move from this app into Instagram and post your image.

Would it be great if there was an easier way? Yes.

Is this the easiest thing currently available? Definitely.


One of the best ways to share with the world what God is doing in your church is by posting photos on social media. 

Unfortunately, not every church has professional photographers who are willing to volunteer on Sundays.

But, you do have a congregation full of people who have phones in their pockets with high-quality cameras.

Encourage your church family to take photos on Sunday mornings and share them on their social networks using your church’s hashtag.

Then, you can use the handy app, Repost, to share their photos on your church’s networks.

Not only does it allow your church to have great photos from your services, but it gets your congregation excited to share their Sunday experience with their friends.

5 Ways To Use Technology At Your Church


If your church isn’t on the technology train yet or you’re wondering if there’s something new that you might be missing, here’s some places to start:

5. Get On Facebook

Unless you’ve been under a technological rock for the last 5 years, Facebook is pretty much the biggest thing since, well, the internet. Right now, Facebook boasts some 800 million active members. In the United States, more than half of adults are active on Facebook. In short, if your church doesn’t have a presence on Facebook, you’re missing out.

What makes Facebook popular and why it works so well for churches is that it’s all about interaction. Websites are more one-sided: come here and read about or watch what’s happening. Facebook is a place for people to not only read about your church but comment, ask questions, start discussions and engage in community. Yes there are ways to do those things off of Facebook, but if that’s where people are, why not go to them?

Where do I start?

If you haven’t setup a Facebook page for your church, here’s a helpful guide. Also, consider integrating Facebook and your website using a variety of Facebook’s Social Plugins allowing people to comment, like or share pages of your site with their friends.

4. Encourage People to Use their Phones in Church

I’ve mentioned this idea before and it was met with resistance, mostly because when we see someone on their phone we automatically assume they’re texting or are otherwise disengaged from what’s happening. We need to reconsider the negative stigma and embrace using cell phones – especially smart phones – in church.

First of all, within a few years, we won’t even need to say “smart” phone because it’s getting increasingly difficult to get a regular “dumb” phone. Smart phones are thefuture present. Secondly, nearly everyone carries their phone AT ALL TIMES. It’s a tool that’s at their disposal every minute. Why would you not leverage smartphone technology at church?!

Where do I start?

  • With smart phone in hand, your people have the Bible wherever they go. During worship, we use YouVersion’s (the best online Bible app out there) Live Events feature to post our message outline where people can follow along, take notes, highlight passages and even interact with the message.
  • Using a bar code reader app (which is nearly standard on every phone now) people can scan QR codes placed in the bulletin to take them off the page and to the website for information or to sign up.

3. Eliminate Paper Wherever You Can

Until iPads and tablets become cheap enough for everyone to afford you can’t go entirely paperless, though I often dream of the day when everyone comes into church, pulls out their tablet and downloads the bulletin on their device with no printing or copying required! Until then, we have to print stuff. The key is printing only what you must and eliminating where you can.
Where do I start?

I see a lot of churches abandoning their printed bulletins in favor of a simple one-page announcement sheet. If your church can do it and get away with it, great! Our bulletin is just one page. We keep the information concise and direct people to the website for everything else.

For us, the website is the central hub for information. By reinforcing that it’s where to find information AND keeping it daily updated, people will use it regularly. Using QR codes (as I mentioned above) help us to do this with minimal effort on the part of the user. While we haven’t done away with our bulletin, we don’t print up fliers or brochures for every event and every ministry. We put together a useful and informative page on our website and direct everyone there. Make sure your website is always updated and current both in content and in appearance. For most websites, a good rule of thumb is to review your design every two years. Two calendar years is roughly the equivalent of a decade in internet time. [citation needed] A lot can change technologically and stylistically in a short time!

If your website looks like the MySpace of a 12 year old, it’s probably time to consider updating it…

Another way we eliminate paper with technology at church is by not printing music for our worship team. We use Planning Center Online to plan, schedule and distribute all the necessary materials for our team digitally. It has the added bonus of having a music stand app which turns any computer or tablet into a digital music stand. We’ve used this for several months now and our musicians especially love it.

For vocalists, we use ProPresenter’s Stage Display. We’ve always used a monitor on stage for words, but it was the same as the screen for the congregation. Starting in ProPresenter 4.0, they added a stage display, which is essentially a teleprompter. The best feature is that it displays the current lyrics AND the next slide, so even if the slide operator is slow on the click, the singers have the words before they’re up.

Yes, there is a cost associated with Planning Center and ProPresenter, but it’s minimal. The benefit and savings in reduced printing, copying and time using Planning Center Online make it worth the small amount it costs. ProPresenter, with it’s incredible ease of use and stellar features, is worth the one time purchase cost. If you’re considering options like this and aren’t sure if you can afford it, take the time to consider the costs and benefits and even find other churches that are using them and pay them a visit.

2. Go Hollywood!

With decent cameras and video editing software becoming pretty mainstream now, there is no reason not to use these tools. One easy way that I would encourage almost every church to do immediately is replace their spoken announcements with video announcements. There are several reasons:

  • It takes way longer than you think to speak the announcements on stage. If you think you’re going to get up and talk for just 30 seconds about the upcoming mission trip, think again. You’ll inevitably launch into a story or go into lots of detail that’s not necessary and before you know it you’ve spent 5 minutes and that’s not the only announcement you have to give. Scripting and videoing the announcements keeps them short and concise. No extraneous details – just what people need and the action steps they should take.
  • It’s more captivating. The reason we talk longer than expected in person when giving announcements is that when it’s just words, we lose people quickly. It’s easy to look away or mentally move on to something else. When it’s a large moving image with helpful supporting graphics and information it makes it more engaging.
  • It’s sharable. You can post your announcements to your Facebook page, on your website or YouTube to make them available beyond Sunday morning.

Where do I start?

Almost every computer now comes with some pre-installed video editing software. We use iMovie and Final Cut on our Mac. The latest edition of iMovie is nearly as powerful as our old version of Final Cut and it only cost $15. iMovie gets us through the majority of the simple editing projects we have.

We purchased a modest used HD camera a few years ago and it does a very good job. But before that, we used my old video camera that I bought years ago. I’ve even used my digital camera to record video to use in our announcements since it records in 720p. The point is, use what you have to get started. Fancy equipment can come later.

When shooting announcements, keep it simple and short. When we first started doing announcements on video a few years ago, they were skits that setup the announcement. While they were often funny and people enjoyed them, they remembered the skits, not the announcement. We took a hiatus and retooled it to be like a newscast with one or two people sharing the information directly. The information is getting across better this way. Find what works for your culture and don’t be afraid to change it if it’s not working.

1. Hire Digital Band Members

One of the latest ways we’re using technology is by adding to our instrumentation digitally. For several years worship teams have used loops or backing tracks for their teams. There are lots of different ways to carry out this depending on your skill level, the need and the time and money you want to invest. Since we are on a shoestring budget [read: we’re broke] the only way we could make it happen is to do it spending next to nothing.

Essentially we use a computer running Finale to play instrument parts and a click track through the system that our band plays along with. The computer plays the instruments that we don’t already have – strings, brass, orchestral percussion, woodwinds, etc. It’s only to enhance, not replace.

Where do I start?

Identify what you want to accomplish by adding digital instruments. If you want to replace a key instrument that isn’t there you’ll need a different approach than if you just want to add some extra flair to your existing team.