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Category: Resources (Page 3 of 7)

Artwork: Hope Restored

Our new sermon series is titled Hope Restored. Here are some of the art files I created as a part of the series. Feel free to use them in your own ministry!

The source files include posters, bookmarks backgrounds and a text only logo in Illustrator CS5. The images file contains a mix of red and green themed title slides and sermon verse backgrounds. See the bottom of the post for links.

Download via Google Drive: Images, Illustrator Source Files. The font is ChunkFive. The background textures are available from Design Instruct.


Artwork: Choosing a Bible

Choosing a Bible can be a paralyzing decision. There are so many translations available that it’s hard to know which one is right for you. We’ve developed a resource for helping people choose the Bible that’s right for them at First Trinity.

There’s also a print piece that contains the following image:

The translations and a brief explanation about them are in the rectangles. They are anchored along a continuum with Word-For-Word translation style on the left and Thought-For-Thought on the right. The circle represents a paraphrase option for those looking for a second Bible to go along with their primary translation.

Click the image above to see the full size version on Flickr.


Updating Social Media with Hootsuite

I am teaching a workshop at the National Lutheran Youth Ministry Conference in San Antonio this summer. The workshop is titled “Leveraging Social Media for Your Church’s Mission.” This post is part of a series relating to that workshop. Here’s a full listing of the topics.

What is Hootsuite?

Hootsuite is a tool for managing your social media. After some configuration, it allows you to view many of your social media outlets in one stream, giving you an “at-a-glance” view of all of your social media. Converting Copy has a good tutorial on using Hootsuite. One of the key features that drove us to Hootsuite for managing our social media was the ability to schedule tweets and Facebook page updates for a specified time in the future.

The tutorial linked above goes into the basics of how to use Hootsuite’s scheduling feature. But why is this feature so valuable? It gives us the ability to really capitalize on our planned content. Being able to schedule content for posting in the future means that we can generate posts, load them into Hootsuite and then let it do it’s thing. One of our goals for social media (really, for all of our ministries) is to stimulate growth.

At First Trinity, we recently took a spiritual life survey through Willow Creek’s REVEAL program. It helped us rethink our ministry strategy. Instead of developing programs that provide spiritual growth, we instead want to stimulate growth in people. While that might include traditional ministries like Sunday School, Sermons and Activities, it’s more important to help people take these spiritual practices outside of the church and use them on their own. A key piece of making that happen is embedding Scripture in everything we do.

To that end, we started publishing a daily Bible verse on our Facebook page. We have compiled 120 verses that we post at random. I use Excel to randomize the order, add dates and upload it to Hootsuite. Hootsuite then does the daily grind of actually posting them at 7 a.m. every morning. I haven’t done much formatting for the file, and there aren’t instructions, but you can download it here. I plan to update the sheet to make it more user-friendly in the future.

Bulk Update Resources

When I first started using the Hootsuite bulk scheduler, I found I needed to do some work to get my content formatted correctly for upload. Being somewhat of an Excel junkie, I decided what we needed was a tool to take some of the tedium and frustration out of the process. And thus was born the Hootsuite Bulk Upload Tool (download).

Currently, the file allows you to choose a start date, frequency for posting (daily, every other day, every third day, weekly), and total number of messages. You can then configure your messages by choosing a lead text (optional), message content, closing text (optional). This results in the following: [Lead Text]Message[Closing Text]. To avoid extra spaces in the final message, you’ll need to add a space after the “lead text” in the cell, and start your closing text with a space. Once you try the worksheet, it will make more sense.

After reviewing the final messages, you can add URLs (optional) and then save the file for upload to Hootsuite. All of the instructions are in the file. It’s an Excel Template, so you shouldn’t be able to easily overwrite the original. Check back here for changes to the tool in the future.

Download the Hootsuite Bulk Upload Tool v. 1.0.1

Hootsuite Bulk Upload Tool Changelog

  • v1.0 (Original Release)
  • v1.0.1
    • Added Character Count for Twitter
    • Clarified instructions to include warning that Hootsuite does not allow duplicate messages to be uploaded in the same file.

Download the Daily Bible Verses spreadsheet

Using Images in Your Ministry

When I was in High School, I used to download MP3s and video games illegally. It was fun hunting for the songs and software I wanted but “couldn’t afford” or “wouldn’t have  bought anyway.” But as a I matured in my faith, I realized this practice didn’t line up with God’s plan for my life or my ministry.Too often, the church infringes copyrights. We tell ourselves it’s because we’re doing the Lord’s work, so it’s OK to “borrow” images, music or software.

Using images in your ministry can really enhance your message, helping it stay in the minds of your hearers. Research shows that the more senses you can engage, the better the chance your content will stick. So what image options are available to churches that won’t break the budget?

One of the nice things about the internet is that there are lots of people willing to share their material with the world. Creative Commons provides a legal framework for making this happen. Photographers (among other types of artists) can choose to license their works for use under certain conditions. Check the Creative Commons Site for specific information about the licenses that are available. They can range from a simple attribution to more complex rights regarding modifications and new works based on the original image.

We use Creative Commons licensed photos almost exclusively in our sermon PowerPoints to help reinforce the message, with a simple credit on the bottom of the slides. On digital materials (like this blog), I like to link the photo to the original author so people can access it themselves. Of course, the license is just about worthless if you can’t find images. So how do you filter through the millions of images that are available for the Creative Commons licensed ones? Here are a few options:


Compfight is my go-to site for finding images. It’s not the most expansive 0ption (it only searches Flickr.com images), but it’s the easiest to use and quickly navigate. Type a search term into the box and hit enter to start finding images. After you’re first search, you’ll need to adjust some options to only get the Creative Commons content.

I grabbed this image from a sample search I did for trees. There are four sets of options to choose from in the left column of the page. They are:

Tags only / All text

This group decides what gets searched. Tags only will search the tags that people associate with their photos on Flickr. A good photographer will have lots of tags, others might have only one. For example, a “tree” photo might be tagged simply tree, or could include green, blue, sky, bark, ground, and bright as it describes other elements or characteristics of the photo. I’ve found searching tags only eliminates some lower quality images, but gives fewer results. All text will search the tags and any information entered in the description of the photo. This might include a story about where they were when they took the photo or other random details. If you can’t find an image from Tags only, try switching to All text.

Any license / Creative commons / Commercial

The search defaults to any license, which is fine if you’re just looking for inspiration. You’ll have to click through to each image to see if it’s actually usable, however. Creative commons will restrict your search to the images that are freely usable, assuming you follow the Creative Commons licensing restrictions the photographer licensed the photo under. The license appears in the right column of the Flickr page for the image. Hover over the icons below the licenses header to see which restrictions apply. The Commercial option will further restrict the search to items that can be used commercially. These images aren’t necessarily free–most can be licensed via links on the Flickr page.

Show originals / Hide originals / Only originals

Show or Hide originals will either display (or not) the original image size when you hover over the image in the search results. I find this option helpful if I need a high-resolution photo. For projection, you can usually get away with an 800×600 image or larger. 1024×768 or higher is preferred. Only originals will only show the photos that actually have an original that you can download.

Safe / Unsafe

This is a content filter for safe or unsafe images. I leave it on Safe, which eliminates some naughty images, but not all of them. Your best bet for eliminating naughty images is thinking about your search terms carefully. I remember trying to find an image to go with the verse in Genesis about God creating garments of skin for Adam and Eve. I put “leather” in the search box and got some …provocative… images.

Choosing (and Using) an Image

Once you’ve set your search terms, all of the images will appear on the right. Click on an image to go to the Flickr page for the image. Here’s an example page we used in our Easter sermon. To access larger versions of the image for download (if they exist), right-click on the image and choose the resolution you want to use. If you did it correctly, you should end up on this page. Now you can right-click the image and choose “Save image as…” or similar, depending on which web browser you use. You can also choose “Copy image” and just paste it into your presentation.

For the photo credit, I use: “Photo: username (website)” as the template. In this case, the username would be dtcchc, which you can find on the top of the page you were on when you saved the image. For website, I use Flickr.com for this image. If you’re using it online, you can link the photo to the image page that has the comments on it (on Flickr, that’s the page that ends with a number instead of photostream).

Other Options

Definitely start with CompFight, as it’s easy to use and accesses a large database of available photos on Flickr. You can also try Every Stock Photo, a site that searches Flickr and several other sites. I’ve also found some good images on Deviant Art, though there’s no easy search tool to restrict images there to only Creative Commons content. There’s also more questionable images on Deviant Art, so search at your own risk. The easiest way to find the creative commons is through a custom Google search. Enter in the search box:

site:deviantart.com “creative commons” search term(s)

The site: modifier will limit Google’s search to only that website. “creative commons” (with the quotes) will restrict results to only those that include the words “creative commons”, which will be present on pages that have the license. Search terms will narrow down the options to your subject matter. You won’t see previews, so you’ll have to click through each link to see what the image looks like. It’s definitely my last choice for searching, but there have been some good finds in there on occasion.

Lenten Worship Backgrounds

2015 Update: Check out the expanded version of these slides.

Last year, we used a pretty basic Lenten Worship background. We used purple for most of the season with a pine needles texture to give it some depth. Good Friday was all black except for the same cross emblem we were using. Easter was a completely different design.

I wanted a more cohesive set this year that flowed from Ash Wednesday through Easter. I used this tutorial as the basis for the set we’re using. In addition to the backgrounds, we have matching posters inviting people to worship, plus a series of graphics that will appear on our website for the various special worship times during the season.

Here’s the complete set for use in your church if you’d like. The colors are fairly dark because the projector lightens them up a bit when they’re on the wall. It also improves the readability onscreen for the text of the service.

Lent (Wednesday Services)

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday


The Digital Tutor

I don’t have much to say about this web site except:


If you’re in need of some tutoring (or maybe your child), I just found a great site for helping out: Khan Academy. Here’s a preview video of what to expect there:

I watched a couple of them for a few minutes each and they seem like a great resource for getting help on math and science based courses, plus a smattering of other topics.

Christmas Gift Card Flier

After getting feedback about the Gift Card Ministry (formerly Scrip), we decided it would be beneficial to highlight this ministry for Christmas. Here’s what it looks like:

Christmas Scrip Flier Front Christmas Scrip Flier Back

Some thoughts on the design:

  • I went simple on the design, using the motif of a Christmas tree. The explanatory text continues the image of the tree, making it appear like a larger tree.
  • The catch phrase “serve others in Jesus’ Name” is accented in red. This is consistent with the next flier we’ll release in February/March.
  • I intentionally focused on gifts people might give, not every card available. It seemed breaking them out by price group was the way to go for listing those options.
  • The order form looks very different from the front page, but matches our regular order form. My hope is that when people see the “usual” form, it will be familiar once they get this flier.
  • You’ll notice an extra line at the bottom of the order form for gift card wrappers. We’re giving away wrappers with every card valued at $10 or more. We’d lose money on cards that are $5 or less. There are currently only about 5 cards that we sell that are below that threshold.

Look for the finished product in a church mailbox near you this weekend. In case others would like to use our work, grab the originals in Illustrator (Front) and Publisher (Back).

Scrip Improvements, Take 2

Thanks for all the feedback on the Scrip program over the past couple days! Here’s a summary of what I heard, both online and off, from this group of readers and research in other programs:

  • Increased visibility of point-of-sale. It’s hard to find it and when you do, it’s really crowded. A sign would be helpful. Also signs to help navigate from the information center to the ministry support center.
  • Increased awareness. People forget it exists, don’t know it exists, or just plain don’t know what it is. Fliers, skits, video commercials and more are options to help here. We also want ways to easily share the information with friends/family that might be interested in partnering with us. Quick access to what’s in stock and what needs to be ordered is helpful as well.
  • Incentives. Gift card wrappers at Christmas (and possibly other times), key-chain Sharpie marker with purchases over X dollars, one entry into a drawing for a $25 gift card of your choice for every X dollars.

Today’s questions then:

  1. Check out these gift card wrappers. Most are 16 cents per wrapper when ordering 1000. At best, we can order two designs. Do we go with one more generic “A gift for you” type card, a Christmas themed one, or one of both?
  2. Here’s a flier about the Gift Card Ministry. It answers three basic questions about the program: Why, What and How. It’s intentionally emphasizing the “why” we do it and frames profits in terms of how many trips it paid for. It also draws the “why” into the “what” and the “how” using the recurring phrase “serve others in Jesus’ Name.” We do it to help students serve in Jesus’ Name and when you purchase gift cards, you serve in Jesus’ Name through us. The back side is not done yet. Any wording that’s confusing? If you can, show it to someone who’s never heard of Scrip and see what they think about it.
  3. Which incentives would get you buying cards?  Most are self-explanatory. The marker idea was so that people could have it with them to track the balance. Also, what should X be for pens and drawing entries? Markers cost around $1.20, so we’d lose money on sales of $25/50. We’d make money at $100 on all cards except Wegmans/Tims/Target where we essentially break even.

Billboard Top Hits: Blame It by Jamie Foxx

Continuing our series, we’re doing Blame It by Jamie Foxx.  Sort of.

The song actually crosses the line for what I’m comfortable playing at Sunday School, so we’re going to look at the key topics Jamie Foxx brings up through a different song: Maybe it’s Maybelline by Relient K.  Here’s the song, courtesy of Grooveshark:

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We’ll primarily be looking at this idea of “blaming” others or things for the sins that we commit.  We’ll look at those things we “blame” for not drawing closer to God.  You know, the “I’d read my Bible more, but …” type statements.

We’ll also touch on the dangers of Alcohol, the primary “blame” in Jamie Foxx’s song, and what the Scriptures say about drinking.

Here’s the study sheet and lyrics for this weekend.

Billboard Top Hits: Dead and Gone by T. I.

We’re doing a series in High School Sunday School called Billboard Top Hits.  Youth are able to vote one week for one of six songs, all at the top of a different Billboard Music Chart.  In addition to looking at themes brought out by the music, we’re trying to teach our youth to be discerning when they listen to music or consume other forms of media.

The first week we did it, we looked at You Found Me by The Fray.  We used this excellent Bible Study from St. Thomas the Apostle Life Teen.  It’s amazing how much the story parallels Job’s experience with life.

This past week we looked at Dead and Gone by T. I.  Lots of great stuff to examine in that song also, even though the lyrics have lots of ****’s in them.  You can hear the song on Grooveshark if you’d like, then follow along with the study we did.

Up next: Know Your Enemy by Green Day.

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