Tech Basics

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PhoneI remember the first time in children’s church that
I said, “Let’s open our Bibles”-but it wasn’t a Bible I opened. I
pulled out my PDA Palm Pilot, and all those little ears ignored
what I said while their eyes were awed by what they saw. That’ll
forever go down in history for me as a great “wow” moment. That was
in 2001.

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At the time, the PDA was the newest and best technology around.
We were using a rather large VHS player connected to an even larger
projector to show videos on a stand-alone screen in our gymnasium
where we held children’s church. My message was big, but I read it
from a small device that fit in the palm of my hand. I believe, for
that day and the rest of the week, the Palm Pilot changed how each
child saw church and Jesus.

A lot has changed since 2001, and we children’s ministers are
using more technological tools than ever to create professional
ministries. Check out these 11 tech basics to see how you can be
even more effective in your ministry.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media is worth the time when you look at the results.
Dwayne Riner, the creative and curriculum director for children’s
ministry at The Ark Church in Conroe, Texas, said his “aha!” moment
came when he looked at free analytics on his children’s ministry’s
Facebook page and saw that their 400 “likes” gave them the
potential to reach 112,000 people.

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“I realized that using the latest technology increases our
capacity to share the gospel,” says Riner, who uses some pretty
cool technology to help keep everyone connected. With a church
attendance of 4,000, he says communication is key, so he taps into
four easy-to-use social media tools that multiply his
ministry.

Facebook

Each week, Riner’s children’s ministry team communicates with
friends and their followers through social media on their Facebook
page (Facebook .com/Ark Kids).
Using Facebook, parents and volunteers can keep up to speed on the
latest happenings in the children’s ministry department.

If you haven’t yet gotten connected through Facebook, it’s easy to
get started. Simply go to Facebook.com/pages/create.php and create
a fan page for your ministry. Pages, which are different from
personal profiles, will give you more options. From there, just
follow the on-screen instructions (church and other religious
groups can be found under the “Company, Organization or
Institution” option).

Twitter

Riner’s team also uses short-message sender Twitter to
communicate and share information. It’s quick to get started using
Twitter; simply go to Twitter.com and follow the instructions to
create an account. This will allow you to post messages of 140
characters or less for people who “follow” you. People can even get
your messages-called tweets-sent to them by text message.

Pinterest

Riner’s ministry started using Pinterest (Pinterest.com), an online social-media
picture and bulletin board, for posting pictures that match
upcoming Bible lessons. “This gives parents the opportunity to
prepare and discuss what their children are learning each week in
our children’s ministry, as well as the ability to gather arts and
craft ideas and materials for daily home devotions…and it’s free,”
says Riner. “Everyone has the ability to use it.”

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, you can’t join Pinterest with a
simple click; you need an invitation. Just go to Pinterest.com and
request an invite to join, or ask someone you know who’s already on
Pinterest to invite you. Until you’re invited, you can view boards
and get some great ideas. (Type children’s ministry in the search
bar at the top to get started.)

Start updating. Once you’ve set up accounts, don’t let them just
sit there. Update on a regular basis. Upload photos, post event
reminders, and communicate with new friends.

MULTIMEDIA MESSAGES

With the tools available today, professional-looking projects,
messages, and videos are just a click away. And, they will help you
connect with people in new ways that’ll grab their attention.

Adobe Creative Suite Software: Riner uses
multimedia content solutions such as Adobe Creative Suite software
(Adobe.com) to create handouts, graphics, announcements, and video
lessons. “We even do video announcements with our children and have
created over 70 lessons on video using this software.”

ProPresenter Presentation: Using all of these
tools is a great teaching bonus for kids, Riner says-especially
when the team projects content in the children’s areas with
ProPresenter Presentation software via a Mac computer. “When I
create presentations in my office during the week,” says Riner, “I
can import all of the videos, announcements, and lessons into one
file and export them onto any number of computers in our
facility.”

Riner explains his passion for using such technology exists
because it gives his ministry a relevant “current” feel. He says,
“We should want to give our ministries a professional quality and
look. You don’t have to have a ton of money to do quality
multimedia, and you don’t have to outsource it. We want to make our
kids laugh and enjoy their experience in church and camps. When you
look at the Arkkidscamp.com website, you can see the results of the
church’s $150 investment to stay current, relevant, and fun.”

SHARING AND SYNCING

Reaching out beyond the church walls is important to Shawn
Michael Shoup, a former youth pastor and next generation leader for
several years, and now the district nextgen representative at
Gateway District of Foursquare Church and technology pastor of
Destiny Foursquare Church, in Rapid City, South Dakota. Two top
technologies Shoup uses in his ministry are Spotify and Dropbox. He
says using these file-sharing sites give him “further reach and
influence with kids and leaders.” He points out how much wider his
audience has grown. “I’ve made connections and gleaned training and
resources that I’d never have without using the latest
technologies,” says Shoup.

Using Spotify (Spotify.com), a music sharing site, gives
Shoup an easy way to share songs with teams and leaders for
worship. “They’re already immersed in technology, and anytime I can
add the technology to nextgen ministry, it helps us all connect.”
Spotify can be used free or with a premium account that gives
access to all types of music on nearly all Internet-ready mobile or
stand-alone devices.

Dropbox: The free online service Dropbox (Dropbox.com) lets you take your photos,
documents, and videos anywhere to easily share with others without
using email. It’s a great resource to connect communities of
parents, volunteers, and staff teams. You get 2GB of free space
with every new account or you can purchase extra space to make room
for even more resources.

Technology can touch-and benefit-all generations, and Shoup and
his team have written several informative articles on how they use
technology in ministry. You can find these articles on
childrensministry.com.

WIRED FOR SERVICE

If you want to amp up your tech expertise, remember that it’s
important not to become tangled up in the mission to be wired.
Sometimes the best use of technology is using it as a means to
connect with others in person.

Glen Woods, a writer, editor, city missionary, and former
children’s pastor in Oregon, actually uses an iPad 2 to minister to
kids in his neighborhood. He says, “It’s pretty simple. I bring the
iPad out to the neighborhood. We play games on it, laugh, and share
conversations.”

You, your team, and your ministry play a key role in guiding kids’
lives toward Jesus. A big part of that is inevitably wrapped up in
speaking to kids in ways they can relate to. No one wants
technology to become a burden by asking for piles of funding,
remodels, or shiny new gadgets. But when we lay our heads on our
pillows at the end of a ministry night, we want to know that we’ve
done our very best, “doing everything [we]can to save some…” And
that means we invest, and benefit, in the latest and best
technology as partners in the gospel.

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