Set World Records at Your Next Event

I was watching some podcast Brian Brushwood was on when I first discovered  This is a online, user-generated world record site.  (I almost feel foolish writing anything else because I know your brains are already spinning on this one.)  It’s easy.  After signing up, you post a video as proof.  They review it and then confirm you made or broke the record.
After hearing about this, one of our students immediately went and broke the record for number of times saying “pretty” before “good” in one breath.  He was beaten soon after by a girl from Canada, but rest assured that he considered it a matter of national pride to get this  record back in American hands!
So, we hosted a world record event and set a bunch of great ones that are being verified as I type.  As a fun promo for the event our staff broke several records including my own world record:

From: YouthMinistryGeek

Quick Tip: Unhiding the Friends Facebook Secretly Hid

Facebook is a great tool for ministry.  Outside of going to school campuses, there are very few places a youth minister can go outside of the church and interact with more students.  However, Facebook added a setting which they made default that is proabably hindering your use of facebook as a ministry tool without your knowledge.
If you go to your feed and click most recent, most people assume that is everything posted by every one, but that is most likely not the case.  Click the disclosure triangle next to “Most recent” and the go down to “edit options.” Now look at the field next to “show posts from:”  Unless you have changed from the default you will notice that “Friends and pages you interact with most” is selected.
For a while, I had been noticing that I wasn’t seeing baby pictures from my extended family or my Church’s main group updates, but figured they were getting lost in the feed.  These were groups that, though I wanted to see the information, I didn’t interact with very much.  All you need to do is change the setting to “all your friends and pages.”  Then, just hide the people and pages you don’t want to see in your feed.

Quick Tip: Laboring with Technology

It's been a while since I have posted [on YouthMinistryGeek] because I was a youth minister who was having a baby in the middle of the already full-throttle state that is a youth ministry in summer.  This being our third child and me being a geek, I thought with my first post back, I should pass along a great iPhone app that has been a part of the birth of all three of our children: Labor Mate.

Labor mate is a typical great iPhone app in that it does one thing incredibly well.  It times contractions.  Press a button when the contraction starts, press again when it stops, and Labor Mate puts together a nice list of the frequency and duration.  Think it's about to get real?  Labor Mate will email the contraction log to your doctor for him or her to review.  It will even update twitter and Facebook if you are the type who loves to over share!

My advice for all people who are pregnant is to go straight to the app store and spend the $0.99 for this perfect little app (and ask your wife before tweeting contraction information).

From: YouthMinistryGeek

Credit Card Payments Everywhere with Square

Every time we have been gearing up for some fundraiser or another, I think (at the last minute), "It sure would be convenient if we could take credit card donations/ payments easily. A couple weeks later I have the same thought about registrations for camp. Each time I remember my research into the cost of machine with the receipt paper, the percentage off each sale it takes as well as the per transaction fee and decide it is not worth the hassle.

Then I stumbled upon Square.

Square is simple. From the little one inch by one inch plastic reader that plugs into the headphone jack on your phone (iOS or android) to the flat 2.75% fee per swipe to the super-straightforward, free app there is one word to describe it: simple.

Did I mention cheap? All you have to do to get the reader is give them basic accounting information and they mail it, at no charge, to your home or office a couple days later. How do they make money? Most places charge variable rate fee from 2.5%-5% per transaction and a $0.15 per transaction fee. Some level the percentage to three or three and a half, but square is cheap and simple. 2.75% per card swipe transaction.

The Square app is super easy to use. All you do is download the app, plug in the dongle, log in and you are ready to take a payment. To do that, you enter the amount and an optional description (we put the budget line item and the event) and swipe their card. They are then taken to a signature screen where they can sign with a finger or stylus if you have one. When they press the continue button, they are prompted to enter a cell number or email address where the app immediately sends a link to a receipt for the transaction. The money is then deposited (one lump sum deposit per day) into whichever account you provide.

You then have access to all that data (minus the full card number) in their clean, user friendly site which will allow you to download it in excel format with a ton of data attached to each transaction.

A couple of weeks ago I was stopped on Sunday morning on my way to the youth area by a member who said that he was sorry that he had not yet brought me his donation for a fundraiser.  He never has his checkbook at church.  I told him that I could take a credit card, and he was relieved.  I plugged in the square dongle, opened the app, swiped his card and it was done.  Brilliant.

Simple, cheap and brilliant, but not perfect. If you want to use this for multiple ministries, it may get difficult. You will have to sort through all the transactions to figure out which one went to which ministry. It would be nice if they could have sub-accounts to break things out easily.

Overall, I am telling everyone I meet to stop whatever they are doing, go to the Square website and start making life easier for them and their members.

From: YouthMinistryGeek.

Heaven and Hell Through Google Books

I recently discovered this interesting Google Labs project called Google Ngram Viewier that piggy backs on the data Google is collecting via Google books.  You probably already know that Google books is is not only adding new texts, but scanning (and OCRing) all the books currently available in print at massive libraries all over the world.  You can imagine the interesting types of things you could do with that massive data set.  When you combine all the world's digitized books with a google algorhythm and their massive amounts of processing power, you get Ngram Viewer.

It is pretty basic right now.  You put in a list of terms separated by commas, and it gives you a line graph showing how popular those words were in print from 1500 on (or any subset of years).  Turning our attention towards our graph of Heaven and hell from 1800-2000, we can see that, with a few exceptions, heaven was firmly in the lead until it took a turn around 1930 from which point hell has been on the rise and not looking back.

From: YouthMinistryGeek

I look forward to seeing the interesting sets of terms you come up with!

Is the iPad2 a Ministry Expense?

March 2nd, Apple announced the second version of their game-changing iPad product.  It is another product for us to drool over and desire, but the question most (usually under paid) youth pastors are asking right now is can I justify this as a “ministry expense.”  To that I answer a definite maybe.
That is to say that I would have told you no this time last year about the original iPad.  Apple’s M.O. is to initially release a revolutionary product that is a bit more simple than their final intention (think original iPhone with no app store, copy / paste, or 3G).  Which means that unless you are uber-wealthy or have some other justification, you always wait for the second version.
This is no exception.  We now have an iPad with a stout processor, front AND rear facing cameras, multi-tasking and a robust number of apps (60,000).  That means that you will have no problem justifying whether the hardware is going to be made totally obsolete in a year the way this has pretty much done with the original iPad.
Now that we’ve justified the hardware as a legit expense, we need to turn our attention to the apps.  This is what will make or break your proposal.  Here’s the question you need to ask: will these apps increase the effectiveness of your ministry and/or save you money?  There are several interesting things you can do with apps now.  You can video chat with a missionary you are supporting, you can control keynote and ProPresenter, you can record your praise band with garageband (8tracks), you can edit movies with imovie, you can have a virtual whiteboard run into the projector, and you can show HD movies off of netfllix or other streaming services through the new HDMI attachment.  On the saving money front, you can use this as an ebook reader which has saved me as much as $30 on a single book.
What do you think?  Justifiable?  Maybe.  The clincher may be using this to replace your laptop or desktop, but that is a bit trickier.  While this is incredibly powerful for a tablet, it is lacking in that department when compared to a notebook.  Though, if you don’t do a TON of serious video, graphics, or audio work, you might be able to make this work.  It will allow you to connect an external keyboard and mouse via bluetooth which makes it a bit more credible, but BE careful.  If you are looking into using this to replace a traditional form-factor computer, I would suggest borrowing one for a couple of days to see if it does everything you need.
So, go ahead and run the numbers, write a proposal, and let us know how you end up using this to connect with teens!

There's an app for that.

I have always been intrigued by why some of the weirder stories are in the Bible. Though they are usually quite entertaining, they are not always as easy to apply to your life. I am really excited about this series we are starting this week called iLife where we are going to take some of these stories and allow God to help us apply them to our lives so that we can grow closer to him. The four topics are: Forgiveness, Worship, Prayer, and Mission. Here's the preview video we made for it. I think it turned out really well.