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 I have also found some sites that had out of date or inaccurate information that I have been able to correct.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!

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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.

No Screen Day

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Usually, Cindy and I do a good job of monitoring our ‘media’ time for ourselves and the boys, but lately we have become a little more lax. It has been so hot, that we have retreated indoors for the heat of the day (which lately has been from sunrise to sunset). Our various forms of electronic media have been a convenient way to keep the boys (and ourselves) occupied. Lately, however, it has been too convenient. We have been spending more and more time in front of our various electronic screens.

Cindy likes to read blogs and loves writing new posts for her blog. The boys jump from watching Tivo, to playing on the computer, to playing one of three different types of Lego games on the Wii (Star Wars, Batman, and Indiana Jones). I am just as guilty, if not more so. I could easily spend the entire day sitting in front of my laptop while sipping on a glass of sweet tea. If left to myself, the only reason I would need to get up would be when it was time to make room for more tea.

Yes, we have definitely let ourselves get carried away with our electronic gadgets. So, Saturday, Cindy and I talked about it and came up with an idea: No Screen Day. We got the boys together first thing in the morning and announced that we were not going to look at anything with a screen for the entire day. While I expected much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the boys took it well. To my surprise, they were up for the challenge. And they liked it. I took Daniel to the hardware store, and we stopped for lunch. Daniel had a ball. Luke did, too. Cindy and I had fun, too. Not only did we survive No Screen Day, but we actually enjoyed it. Daniel even asked if we could have No Screen Day again sometime soon. Maybe people don’t need a computer or a TV or a video game to be happy after all!

Now that No Screen Day is over, we will have to go back to that time-tested rule -> Moderation.