Google Alerts: Web Tool for Pastors

Have you Googled yourself lately? You should. It is important to know what the internet community is saying about you and your church. You definitely want to be a part of that conversation! From time to time, I type my name into Google to see what pops up. I have found articles from my blog republished in some interesting places. It is fun to see how my articles spur discussions across Christianity. I have also found some sites that had out of date or inaccurate information that I have been able to correct. I have always thought it would be nice if there was a way to automatically know when someone posts something new about me or my church. Now I can, thanks to Google.

Google has a free service, called Google Alerts, that notifies me anytime my name or my church is added to its search index. I went to Google Alerts and after an easy setup, Google now emails me as soon as they discover that someone has posted something to the internet  that meets my criteria (my name and/or my church’s name). I recently had an article published in Leading Ideas, an online newsletter from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary. The next day, Google sent me an email making me aware that my name had popped up in its web search index. Very cool!

This service is also very helpful if you want to follow the latest information on a specific trend or topic. You could put “general conference” as a search string, and Google will notify you any time they index something new on the internet with that search string. You can also tell it to combine all the results in a once daily, or once weekly email to keep your inbox from being overloaded.

Google Alerts is definitely a tool that every web-using pastor and church should know about!


I Found $10,000!

I found $10,000 today! Well, sort of.

I misunderstood a finance report to the extent that I thought we had spent $10,000 more than we actually spent. For our church, a $10k hole in the budget is cause for concern. When I started adding numbers together, though, the numbers weren’t coming out that bad, so I knew something had to be up with the report. The bottom line: The report wasn’t user friendly.

So, I learned an important lesson. It’s important to audit our reports (not just our bank statements) to make sure that they are reporting the numbers that you think they are reporting, and that the information is presented in a way that an average person can understand.

Most church management software packages allow you to design your own reports. The ability to write custom reports makes it possible to have nice, clear reports tailored to the needs of your church. Writing custom reports also makes it easy to insert human error. After this experience, I strongly suggest periodically auditing and cleaning up reports to make sure they are set up correctly, and that they are easy to understand.

I hope our finance committee will enjoy our crisp and clear budget report that they will have at our next meeting. And, we are $10k better than I thought we were!

PS. For any of my church members that might read this, I want to make one thing absolutely clear: The $10,000 that I found is just in my head. It doesn’t really exist. Please don’t spend it! Thank you.

What Works Wednesday: AWF Conference Website

A little while back, the Alabama-West Florida Conference gave our website a face lift. I love the new site. It is easy to find things and has a very clean and professional look. I believe that it is one of the best conference sites out there at the moment. If you ever want to get a quick idea of what other conference websites look like, simply go over to google and search for: annual conference umc. That pulled up a few pages of conference web sites for me to peruse. Anyway, I sent a note to our conference resource center to let them know how happy I was with this design. It works for me!

Word 2007 Makes Blogging Easy!

    I use Microsoft products. I haven’t always given Microsoft great reviews, and I don’t think I’ve ever just jumped up and down about any of Microsoft’s features. Well, I recently upgraded to Office 2007. I have used it for a week or so, and it seems to do just fine, but I didn’t see anything to get excited about until today.

    Today, I was writing blog articles. I usually type them up in MS Word and then copy them over to my blog. That way I get the full use of spelling and grammar checks from Word. In Word, I clicked on New Document, and it prompted me with “Blank Document” or “New Blog Post.” I thought that was interesting and selected New Blog Post, not expecting much. It then asked me what type of blog I use (WordPress) and asked me to enter my site’s address and user info. I entered it, still not expecting much. But lo and behold! It worked. It publishes just fine! I can’t set the date stamp on it to publish future posts (although you can publish it as a draft), and it won’t let me choose multiple categories, but other than that, it works great, and it’s simple! It even uploads pictures that you insert. It also handles multiple blog accounts.

Way to go Microsoft! You get a standing ovation from me for this one!