APPetizers #2: Evernote

Last week we started a blog series called "APPetizers", where we highlight one app per week. Click here to read last week's post. The intent of this series is to either introduce you to a new app, or possibly show you some ways to make an app more productive for your ministry. 

This week's APPetizer is Evernote.

Evernote is a very popular app. If you've never heard of Evernote, I encourage you to check it out. It has been very beneficial to not only my ministry, but my life in general. It helps me keep up with everything. 

For this week's installment of APPetizers, I thought I would give you five ways that I use Evernote in my ministry. 

1. Prepare lessons.
Because it has very good text tools, I prepare every lesson in Evernote. Sure...there aren't quite as many tools as in Pages or Word, but enough to get by. Plus I export all my lessons as a PDF, save it in Box/Dropbox, then upload it to my iPad to teach. It cuts out a step for me to not use a word processor. And preparing my lessons in Evernote means they are all searchable. 

2. Save illustrations & articles. 
The Evernote Web Clipper for Google Chrome may be the greatest reason why I love Evernote so much. Some preachers have filing cabinets filled with illustrations. I use Evernote Web Clipper. I clip articles, illustrations, and stories from the web that I think could be used in a lesson. Since Evernote is fully searchable and has a tagging system, it's like a giant filing cabinet. 

3. Plan youth trips & activities.
I keep notes for trip and activity ideas in Evernote because I can find them. Whether it's a tag or just a general search. If I need to make a trip itinerary, I will copy everything to a Pages file to have more editing options. But Evernote serves as my giant notepad or whiteboard for planning trips and activities. 

4. Keep notes & minutes from meetings.
I serve on a few boards and committees, and one of my responsibilities is to take notes and minutes from the meetings. I create and store these notes in Evernote because I know where to find them and they are searchable. When I need to send a copy of the notes to others, I simply export the note as a PDF. Simple and quick. 

5. Record baptisms & attendance for events.
For four years, I've logged every youth group member baptism in Evernote. How many times are you asking yourself, "Has this student been baptized?" This allows me to search for their name and I can see the date they were baptized as well. 

These are some ways I use Evernote in my ministry. I'd love to hear some other ways you've been able to utilize this app. Send me an email at TheAIMstuff@gmail.com. 

APPetizers #1 - Remind 101

I've been throwing this idea around in my head for a few weeks to blog about different apps that I use on a daily to weekly basis for ministry. So I decided I would create a series called "APPetizers" and blog on one app each week until I exhaust my list. Some of these you may have heard of and use, and some you may not have heard of them or have never used them. Either way, I hope you find this series useful. 

The first app I want to highlight is Remind 101.  

I love this app.  

When Apple released iOS 7, it virtually destroyed all of my group texting apps. If you're a youth minister, you know that 90% of our communication about events & activities is through group texting. So I went on the hunt for a new app. And I tried them all. And none of them seemed to work.  

Until I found Remind 101.  

Remind 101 is a FREE app. it's available on iOS & android devices. You can also access your remind 101 account through their website (https://www.remind101.com/). 

Remind 101 was created for teachers to be able to communicate with students & parents without giving out their personal number. Remind 101 requires parents & students to "subscribe" to your messages. Parents & students can subscribe through sending a text message or following a link you can send to their email. You are able to see who has joined your group because it asks them for their first and last name. However, you cannot see their number, nor can they see yours. You might be surprised how many of your students and parents are familiar with Remind 101 because their school uses it. 

You can create up to 10 "classes" or groups as you want. And to my knowledge there isn't a limit as to how many people can be in each group.  

You are limited to 140 characters per text message. Remind 101 integrates with Twitter so you can tweet your message from within the Remind 101 app. 

Remind 101 gives you the ability to schedule messages to be sent, as well as send attachments with your messages.

Students and parents can't respond to your text message if you were asking for one, so it's important to remind them to send you a separate text if your message requires a response.  

What I like: It's free. It works on all platforms. It integrates seamlessly with Twitter to tweet the messages. Many of my parents & students were already familiar with Remind 101 because of school. 

What I don't like: Your audience has to subscribe to your messages, which can be a headache for not-so-tech-savvy adults. If you require a response, they can't reply back to that message. You are limited to 140 characters. 

This app has worked great for our ministry.  

If you have a group messaging app that has worked great for your ministry, tell us about it by sending us an email to theAIMstuff@gmail.com.  

3 Tips For Planning A Balanced Summer Calendar

Over the next couple of weeks, youth ministries will be in full swing with summer activities. 

Most likely your summer calendar is already set. Hopefully.

I've noticed over the years that some summers I had a very balanced summer calendar, and other years it was way off balance. One summer we had too many fun events. One summer we had more service events. One summer we had more worship-focused events. It always bothered me because I wanted to our summer calendar to be balanced between discipleship, worship, service, and fun events.  

Well, I thought I would give you three ways to plan a balanced summer calendar. Some things I've learned to do over the years that have been very helpful.

1. Write out your goals for that summer and purpose for your Youth Ministry. Each summer you should have goals for your youth group. Sure...every summer we want our youth groups to grow closer to God and to one another. But what other goals do you have? Do you want to get them out of their comfort zone? Do you want to encourage new leaders? Limit your goals to three to five, so that you don't set yourself up for failure because you're trying to do too much in a limited amount of time. Also, make sure you have your purpose statement in front of you. If you don't have a purpose statement, this would be a good time to write one. Every youth ministry needs a clear, concise purpose that will help bring vision and balance.

2. Put your non-negotiable events on the calendar first. What are the things that you do every summer that you will pretty much always do? For us, it would be Bible Camp, mission trip, etc. Make sure these non-negotiable events are blocked out on your summer calendar first, and list them on a separate sheet of paper with the purpose(s) and goal(s) that each event will help fulfill for your youth ministry. 

3. Put your negotiable/flexible events to the test. List every negotiable/flexible event that you are either planning or want to plan to do. Write out beside it what purpose(s) and goal(s) this event will help fulfill. Pay attention to whether or not you are missing any of your goals or purposes. If you are, write down an event/activity that would fulfill that goal. Also, keep in mind which purposes and goals your non-negotiable events are fulfilling. Start with the events that will meet a goal or purpose that haven't been met. Put them on your calendar. Then fill in the rest of your calendar appropriately. After you are done, list your goals separately. Write down each event that accomplishes each goal. Then list your purposes for your Youth Ministry. Write down each activity/event that fulfills each purpose. This will show you whether or not your summer calendar is balanced. 

Summertime is always crazy busy. And it can be some of the most impactful time we will have with our students. The more balanced our calendar, the more productive and effective our youth ministries will be. 

If you're looking for some teaching material for either you or your leaders to teach this summer, head over to our Teaching Series page and check out some of the resources we have available. 

Ministers Need To Be Shepherded

Unfortunately, not every minister has a great relationship with his eldership. 

Currently, I'm blessed to have a great relationship with all of my elders. It hasn't been that way at every church that I've worked with. 

Recently, one of my elders dropped by my office. He knew I had been dealing with a difficult situation, and was worried I had been discouraged. He came by simply to encourage me. His visit meant the world to me. 

We talked for a while. About what was going on. About what we were studying in our class. Even about heaven. As we talked, I was reminded of his wisdom, proud Bible knowledge, and that he viewed me as a sheep under his care.  

Not all ministers have that blessing. Some elders view the ministers at their congregation as employees. Just employees. 

But ministers aren't just employees. We are sheep. And we need to be shepherded.  

Sometimes we need to be taught. Even though many of us spend every week studying God's Word in preparation for lessons we will be delivering, we still need to be taught the Word of God from those who have more experience and wisdom in the Word. One of the best things you will do when studying a passage for a lesson is to get some insight on the passage from one or more of your shepherds. One reason they shepherd the church of God is because they know His word, and are able to teach it.

Sometimes we need to be encouraged.  We all deal with difficult situations in ministry. It's so encouraging to know that your shepherds support you. Their encouragement is invaluable. 

Sometimes we need to be corrected. There will be times when we will say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, and even teach the wrong thing. It's during those times that we need to be gently corrected. As a shepherd would gently guide sheep back into the fold, sometimes we need to be gently guided and prodded in the right direction. Though correction isn't always easy to receive, we can trust that shepherds of God's church have our best spiritual interests and the love of God at heart.

If you're reading this and you're a shepherd in God's church, don't forget the ministers who serve your congregation are sheep too. They need to be shepherded just as much as anyone else. 

If you're reading this and you're a minister, work hard to build strong relationships with your shepherds. You need them. Take them to lunch. Pick their brain. Pray with them. Pray for them. Their support and encouragement will be invaluable to your ministry.

This Is Our Savior.

On Wednesday night, we began a 3 week series called “Heaven is For Real”. The series isn’t based on the Christian novel. We just used the title since it’s popular right now.

As a result of preparing for this series, and also for part of our middle school class on Sunday morning, I’ve been spending some extra time studying the book of Revelation. 

I’ll be honest…It’s one of those intimidating books of the Bible to me. I group it together with Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel. But I like a challenge. And even though I may be a little intimidated, I am fascinated by these books. 

As I’ve been studying the book of Revelation this week, something stood out to me that I had never noticed before. The book of Revelation doesn’t mention the name “Jesus” a whole lot. In fact, only one time. In the first verse of the book. 

Notice that I said it’s the only time the name “Jesus” is mentioned. Because Revelation is all about Him. In fact, He’s referred to by 35 other names. And they are fascinating. Here’s a list of them:

  • Faithful Witness - Revelation 1:5
  • First Begotten of the Dead - Revelation 1:5
  • Prince of the Kings of the Earth - Revelation 1:5
  • Alpha and Omega - Revelation 1:8-13
  • First and Last - Revelation 1:8, 11, 13
  • Son of Man - Revelation 1;13
  • He that liveth and was dead - Revelation 1:13, 18
  • He that holdeth the seven stars - Revelation 2:1
  • He who walketh midst the golden candlesticks - Revelation 2:1
  • He who hath the sharp sword with two edges - Revelation 2:12
  • Son of God - Revelation 2:18
  • He which searches the reins and hearts - Revelation 2:23
  • He that hath the seven Spirits of God - Revelation 3: 1
  • He that hath the seven stars - Revelation 3:1
  • He that is holy and true - Revelation 3:7
  • He that hath the key of David - Revelation 3:7
  • He that openeth and no man shutteth - Revelation 3:7
  • He that shutteth and no man openeth - Revelation 3:7
  • The Amen - Revelation 3:14
  • The faithful and true witness - Revelation 3:14
  • The beginning of the creation of God - Revelation 3:14
  • Lord - Revelation 4:11
  • Lion of the tribe of Judah - Revelation 5:5,9
  • The root of David - Revelation 5: 5,9
  • A lamb as it had been slain - Revelation 5: 6,7
  • The Lamb - Revelation 5: 8,9
  • Lord of Lords - Revelation 17:14
  • King of Kings - Revelation 17:14
  • Faithful and true - Revelation 19:11
  • Rider of the white horse Revelation 19:11
  • The Word of God - Revelation 19: 13-16
  • Christ - Revelation 20: 4
  • The Lord God of the Holy Prophets - Revelation 22:6
  • Beginning and the end - Revelation 22:13
  • The bright and morning star - Revelation 22:16

This is Jesus. This is who we serve. 

He wasn’t just a name. He is the Name above all names.

He wasn’t just a man. He is the King of kings. 

He didn’t just die on a cross. He was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. 

We may call Him Jesus. But in Heaven, He’s known for so much more.

I hope this list brings you to your knees. 

This is our Savior. And He loves us more than we will ever know.

TECH: The Google Drive Update

I love tech updates. Whether it's a new operating software update or an app update, normally I love them. Especially when a company totally revamps an app and changes the UI and overall design. 

One of my favorite and most-used apps is Google Drive. I use Google Drive pretty much on a daily basis. I keep up with mileage for my taxes, money reports and budget stuff for our youth ministry, and I collaborate with a couple different people using their ability to share files and folders. Andrew Jenkins and I develop show notes through Google Drive for the I'm A YM Podcast. I also plan, organize, and execute an entire week of camp pretty much through Google Drive. 

What I love about Google Drive, and the reason I use it every day, is because you can create and edit documents and spreadsheets within the app. Everything syncs together. Not only do I store documents and spreadsheets within the app, but I can create and edit in realtime, all within the app. It consolidates a lot of things into one app...which I love. Google Drive simplifies my life and ministry. 

Last week Google Drive updated their iOS app. I was pretty excited to see an app update because it's like opening a present to me. However, when I opened the app after installing the update on my iPad, I noticed that it encouraged me to download two new apps: Google Docs and Google Sheets. Immediately I dismissed it because why would I want two more apps when I can do it all in Google Drive?! Or so I thought...

The latest update requires you to download Google Docs and Google Sheets if you want to create and/or edit documents saved to Google Drive. The reason they did this was to allow users to access documents offline. I can see some merit in that. But the downside (in my opinion), is having to download and use two other apps just so Google Drive is functional. 

Before, what set Google Drive apart from Dropbox, was the ability to create and edit files within the app without having to use third-party apps. Now Google Drive's iOS app has become just like Dropbox, requiring you to use additional apps to create and edit files, and turning Google Drive's iOS app into another form of Dropbox. 

Pros to the update: You can access files offline from my Google Drive.

Cons to the update: You must download Google Docs and Google Sheets to create and edit files in your Google Drive. 

At the end of the day, I will still use Google Drive just as much as I did before because I love this app. But Google Drive lost some of the distinguishing factors that set it apart from other cloud-based storage apps. 

YM Summer Calendar Idea

If you're like me, you've been planning your summer calendar all year long. Planning out trips...pricing...researching. Making sure we fill the summer with plenty of activities that will keep our students growing in their faith. 

Then the summer arrives. And you're constantly reminding parents and students about event dates. Your phone is blowing up with questions about when...where...how much. 

So today I want to give you an idea of a way to keep your summer calendar in front of your parents and students on a daily basis. By the way, this idea comes from Andrew Howell, youth minister for the Regency Church of Christ in Mobile, AL.

If you use Photoshop (or any program like it), create an image 1136 x 640 pixels (for iPhone 5 screen size), find or create a background that is that size, and put your big dates for summer events on it. Export the file as a JPG or PNG file. Then either attach the picture to a Twitter/Facebook post or text/email the graphic out and encourage your parents and students to either save it to their photos on their phone or set the graphic as the lock screen on their phone. 

You can also take this same graphic and have it printed either through a local printing company or through a website like Vistaprint. 

It's cheap. It's practical. 

If you have any questions or need any help, send us an email to theAIMstuff@gmail.com. 

Hope you have a great summer!

-- Eric Gray