Online Spiritual Resources

There are so many online resources we use in our everyday life–e-mail, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook. There is so much online that can help boost our spiritual lives not just through social media but also all over. There are so many blogs and downloads it can be hard to find something that you can use for personal spiritual practices that updates on a regular basis. Worship Times has put together a list of resources that we hope will help you find God in your everyday life.

Candles and cross

-The Daily Lectionary is a 2-year cycle of scripture readings meant for personal reflection that offers a morning Psalm, an Old Testament reading, an Epistle reading, a Gospel reading, and an evening Psalm. You can also subscribe to get it e-mailed to you (on the left above “more information”)!  The PC(USA) is also planning to release an iPhone/iPad app later this fall. Keep an eye out for that!

-The Hear the Word Podcast, also by the PC(USA), is an audio recording of the Revised Common Lectionary (read on Sundays by many churches) with an Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel reading. You can also go to your iTunes and search “Hear the Word” and subscribe to the podcast to easily put it on your computer and mp3 players.

-Also an audio recording, Pray-as-you-go is designed for people to listen to while traveling on their mp3 players (although it could be used anywhere). It’s made by the British Jesuits and features beautiful music, one scripture reading, and questions for contemplation. It is also available as a podcast. Search for “Pray as you go.”

-The popular devotional Our Daily Bread has a podcast and a daily e-mail with devotions. You can also listen or read the devotions online daily without having to subscribe.

Day1 is a multimedia resource designed for Mainline Christians that includes a weekly sermon podcast, video conversations, an app called “Call on Faith.”

-Many churches offer prayers and reflections through e-mail or on their website (sometimes even on Facebook). For example, Christ Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, NJ offers a Thought for Contemplation every day. Check your church’s website.

Saint Paul Used Social Media

Things have changed with social media.Circuit Board with People

Back in 2005 when I first got on Facebook only college students could get a Facebook account. Even back in 2009 when I started seminary many churches who at that point could get on Facebook didn’t want to, and many people thought Twitter was for nothing but short updates about meaningless things.

Now, my mom and grandma  are using social media. Churches, synods, dioceses, presbyteries, and the like have Facebook accounts that at the very least give their contact information. More and more individuals, organizations, and churches are becoming Twitter converts as they see it being used in huge movements like the 2012 election as well as for personal communication.

For anyone in ministry who has hesitations about social media, let me calm some of your fears. There is biblical precedent for churches and ministries using social media. Saint Paul used social media.

Paul used the absolute best social media of his day: letters. The people who wanted to be like Paul wrote letters. We may not think of letters as incredible technology, but back in Paul’s time letters were a big deal. Never before had people been able to communicate like this!

Someone like Paul who traveled so much was able to keep up with communities he had let not just through sending messengers or constantly having to travel back and forth. Through writing letters Paul was able to keep relationships going that he may not have been able to if he didn’t write letters. He was able to help those early communities with their problems and struggles. He was able to encourage what the churches were doing well and explain what they were not.

Then the communities had those letters to continue looking back to. Today we still look to Paul’s letters to help us understand how we live out the Gospel. The technology had drastically changed, yet churches and ministries are still using social media to build relationships, encourage, and explain. Social media connects us with communities we are not with in body. It is a useful tool in our lives individually and communally as we try to live out out our commitments.

Saint Paul used the best social media of his day to be in communication and conversation with people he cared about and people he did not even know! He had never been to the church in Rome yet felt so strongly about wanting to be in conversation with them he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, an incredible letter.

Saint Paul is a powerful example of how to use social media, and as social media continues to change we continue to look back to his example of using technology to best serve his ministry to discern how best to use technology in our ministries.

Visitors and Your Website

Have you ever wondered what people who aren’t regular attenders at your church think about your website? The easiest thing to do is to find someone who fits in that category to look at your website and tell you, but that’s not always possible. We don’t want to jump on people who visit the church on Sunday morning and bombard them with questions.

Kingston UMC front page

Instead, here is a list of questions to ask yourself as you look at your website to try and get an outside point of view.

1) What is the first thing your eye is drawn to? A picture? A logo? Does this represent something that’s important to the congregation? Is there too much going on to focus on one thing? Maybe you need to break the homepage up into multiple pages

2) Is there a clear navigation tool if you have a multi-page site? If there is, is it clear what each page is about? The page labeled “JOY!” may point to your church’s retired person’s group list of activities, but to someone who doesn’t know joy stands for “just older youth” it doesn’t mean much

3) Where is your contact information located? Ideally it should be in more than one place like on the home page and on its own separate page labeled “contact us.” (Also a good idea to check and make sure all the contact info is up to date for the church and staff/volunteers.

4) Is the font consistent throughout the site and large enough to be readable? You don’t need to only use a single font; but make sure all the page titles have the same font, all the links have the same font, etc

5) Where are your worship times listed? Many people browsing online for churches want to know when your church worships. Worship times need to be on the front page and easily seen in the first look at the screen. (No scrolling.) You can have all kinds of information about the style, the music, and the dress on another page

Hopefully these questions will help you start to see where or if your site needs to be updated. Knowing what needs to be done is the first step!

Online Resources for Advent Worship Planning

It is that time of year in churches across the world. It’s Advent worship planning time!

Advent Wreath

Advent wreath

Advent is the four wonderful Sundays before Christmas where we focus on preparation for Jesus’ birth. This year Advent begins on December 2nd, but Advent planning often starts months beforehand.

There are many online resources for worship planning and plenty especially for Advent. Worship Times has put together a list of places to start your worship planning.

Reference Resources
Revised Common Lectionary Texts–on Vanderbilt Divinity Library
Advent Visual Arts and Worship Slideshow
Hymns for Advent–on Hymnary

Denominational Resources (lots of tools on each page)
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reformed Church in America
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church

Other Resources
5 Things Your Church Must Do at Christmas–on Ministry Matters
Advent and Christmas Quick Planning Ideas–from St. Mary’s Press
1st Sunday in Advent Resources–from Text This Week
Blue Christmas Worship Service Template–from NAMI

Facebook Fan Page Welcome

You are cordially invited to like Worship Times on Facebook!

facebook.com/worshiptimes

We’re dedicated to creating quality websites for ministries by ministers. We know that many churches are looking to expand their presence in social media. We’re doing the same.

Each piece of social media serves a greater purpose in our various ministries. Facebook is a great place to find information on ministries and churches as well as get updates about their ministries right in your homepage feed.

Our Facebook page features links to our blog posts and other resources we think you’ll will be interested in. It’s also a place for you to ask questions, post comments, and respond to polls. We’ll bring you regular news updates on what’s going on with Worship Times!

So head on over to our Facebook page and click like!

 

That’s a Worship Times Page!

The other day I accidentally deleted my church’s newsletter from my inbox and went to their website to download the file. I was shocked to see a site completely different from the one they had before. Since I began attending this church in 2009 they had kept the same basic website with only recent information being updated.

Plainsboro Pres Homepage

The new site features a scrolling picture wheel from various church events, worship information right up front, upcoming events listed down the side, and a helpful links bar at the top. Straightforward but dynamic and effective.

Scrolling down, I saw the Worship Times logo at the bottom. What?! I thought to myself. That’s a Worship Times page! I have worked for Worship Times for a few months now, mostly behind the scenes. I had no idea that my own church was working with Worship Times to create this new site.

All last year I interned with another church, so I wasn’t able to keep up on what was happening at mine. The new site gave me tons of information about what was going on over the summer and what was going to happen during the fall. I found out we had a new Director of Music (and when choir practice is). I even learned about the history of the church. (The founding pastor was tried for heresy!)

Most importantly, even though the site was new this was still my church. Our beloved prayer doves are featured as part of the picture wheel, our newly updated Mission and Values statement is under the “About Us” link, and everything sounds real and authentic. They didn’t have to change anything about us in order to make a site that is usable for members, visitors, and the curious alike. That’s a Worship Times page.

The Intersection of Theology and Technology

Worship Times is a community of churches dedicated to pursuing a faithful witness in the midst of a society that is rapidly embracing technology as a primary medium of communication. While there was a day when there might only be one telephone in an entire neighborhood, now it not uncommon for each member of the family to have their own mobile phone, not to mention the plethora of other computers and internet connected devices that dominate the technology markets. Like the intersection between gospel and science or gospel and culture, the intersection between gospel and technology is fraught with both highly practical moral concerns (e.g. can children bear the responsibility of technology adequately?) as well as questions of authority.

As part of our encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church is moved to discern what place technology should play in our communal life.  Should it be considered a medium through which the gospel must be preached, or is it dangerous to our life together and should be resisted? These questions, and many that follow them, require sustained prayer, attention to scripture, and theological reflection. It is my hope that Worship Times will be a place for inquiry and theological exploration of these important themes. Its purpose is not to provide answers, but to provide tools so that your body of believers can be empowered to live faithfully in your own place and community.

These tools will take varied forms. Some will be incredibly practical, exploring advancing technologies and considering how they could be employed in your church. You don’t need to subscribe to a hundred of other technology blogs to see how you could use the technology for your church’s ministry, we will notify you when there are great shifts coming in the technological world and how they might impact your ministry. In other cases, we will engage in theological and scriptural reflection, seeking to discern what role technology should play as we witness to the lordship Jesus Christ. Not every technology is equally useful for every congregation or ministry and we want to be a conversation partner with you as you seek to be a faithful witness in the post-technological age. Regardless of the form the tools take, Worship Times is a community of believers seeking to rightly appropriate technology to serve the church in its larger mission and ministry.

Let me encourage you to subscribe to the Worship Times blog, we look forward to bringing you a rich selection of information that will assist you in your life and ministry.

Proudly Using WordPress

For the last few weeks I’ve been stewing over a way to explain why we use open-source software for Worship Times.  More importantly, why we use WordPress.  In my research for statistics, I came across this amazing post by Lorelle that perfectly sums up the “why WordPress” question.  If you’d like to learn more about WordPress and why we use it, visit Lorelle’s blog here.  If you still have questions, please leave us a comment.

Blessings on your ministry.

Hello World! Worship Times is on its Way

You may ask, what is all this chatter about Worship Times?

Simply put? Worship Times is a revolutionary new approach for Church Ministries to establish their presence on the internet.

Corporations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars employing entire design teams to hand craft their websites. As a result, today’s congregations are used to high quality web design, whose tastes have been finely tuned by large organizations who have enough resources to commission a “great website.”

Let’s face it, most churches simply do not have the money needed to commission a “great website.” In reality, this is not an entirely a bad thing. After all, isn’t the church’s first calling to do ministry, not web design?

Unfortunately, however, many churches have been unable to keep up with the advances in web design techniques and are left with websites that are more of a hindrance to their ministries than a useful tool. (Trust us, we have seen some doozies!)

Worship Times has been designed to bring the expertise of full time web developers to church web design while also creating a cost effective solution. The result? You get a a great website at a fair price, making it possible for you to use your budget for mission while using the rapidly advancing web technology to work for you, rather than against you.