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One of the biggest adjustments we have made in recent years is leveraging technology to make our staff and students more effective in ministry.

All of the technology adjustments follow this principle – Build Webs not Wheels.

“We must foster environments of interdependence where folks are not just allowed, but encouraged to seek help from any and every source. A mentor of mine used to tell me that the job of a leader is to build ‘webs, not wheels’– an ever-expanding web of interconnected, interdependent parts, not a wheel where all the spokes connect back to me at the center” Jon Hietbrink (Intervarsity Regional Director) – source

For years, I would get multiple, daily emails/texts along these lines:

  • “Do you have the evangelism training notes we used last fall?”
  • “Who is in charge of reserving the Quads for the cookout?”
  • “Do you have Joe Freshman’s phone number?”
  • “Hey, where is staff meeting this week?”
  • “Do we have enough money to give students $100 for their dorm outreach?”

See the pattern?

I had created wheels of knowledge/information with multiple spokes that all ran back to me as the hub. It prevented our staff and students from really leading. And it sucked a lot of my time- chasing down old files and responding to unnecessary texts.

Here’s the technology tools that have really helped us in the past couple years:

Google Drive

Getting our whole team (and student staff) to use Google Drive this year has been a game changer. Everyone has access to all of the files – they’re no longer locked on my hard drive where only I can access them!

    • Everyone can see the budget. Everyone can see who’s discipling whom, who’s leading a Bible study in the Quads, what content we’re going to cover at our upcoming student Leadership meeting.
    • Google Drive is especially helpful for multiple people updating a document simultaneously. My co-leader/MTL couldn’t live without it in our weekly planning meetings as we both edit the staff meeting document. Our team uses it extensively in the months leading up to our Fellowship Dinner as everyone can update the same RSVP and Silent Auction spreadsheets (simultaneously!).
    • For Cru staff, this is a no-brainer because your team is already all signed up for Google Drive thanks to our switch to Google last year.

google drive


MissionHub helps us make sense of piles of contact cards AND mobilizes students to pursue evangelisticMissionHub appointments. MissionHub allows us to quickly search, keep notes on, and message hundreds of students (through group texts or emails).

You can, at a glance, see the spiritual progression of a student as they connect with various students and staff.

I’ve written more about MissionHub here: The Secret to Keeping Students from Falling Through the Cracks.


Google calendar

Keeping a team calendar has really helped increase our communication. Staff REALLY like to know what is coming up on the calendar (especially their release date in December/May!). Everyone knows where staff meeting is going to be. When the deadline is for STINT applications. When fall retreat is (and what time staff need to be there). We don’t (yet!) use this for student events, but it’s been invaluable in making all the J‘s on our staff team happy and decreasing unnecessary texts.

Team Calendar - sept2013


Facebook Leadership Page 

We have a private Facebook group for our Cru leaders with two aims:

    • Students sharing stories of God at work across campus
    • Students encouraging other students to engage in the mission

Here’s what it looks like as students share about God at work and challenge their friends to join in:

Facebook Wall

And this is what happens every week after our Cru meeting:

    • A few student leaders type all the contacts from Cru cards into MissionHub
    • That night, a student leader posts on our private Facebook Leadership page:

facebook mission hub post

Within 24 hours our student leaders are doing incredibly strategic and timely follow-up (which is 100% student-led).


If you want more info on how we use any of these tools, just ask in the comments.

What technology has your team found useful?



Yesterday we tried out Facebook’s new Promoted Post feature to get the word out about our first Cru weekly meeting . Promoted posts are a way to get seen by the people who like your page AND their friends. It’s 100x better than running an ad on Facebook because it shows up in people’s news feed.

Here’s how Facebook describes it (they have a helpful, short video explaining it here) :

  • All promoted posts will show in the news feeds of the people who like your Page and, when they interact with the post, to their friends.
  • Your promoted posts will be seen by a larger percentage of the people who like your Page than would normally see it. It will also be seen by a larger percentage of the friends of people who interact with your post.
  • Only pages with 400 likes or greater can use the Promoted Post feature

We spent $2.92 of our $15 “budget” for the 5 hours that it was “promoted” ($15 was the max amount you could budget).

We let the post run for 3 hours before we promoted it. After 3 hours the post had 37 likes, it had been shared 4 times and seen by 738 people.

Here’s the stats after 5 hours of being Promoted:

Cru promoted post w stats

Doing the math . . .in the 5 hours we promoted the post:

  • 1100 people saw the post – almost 800 of those were a result of Promoted Post (I presume 300 would have seen it if we had not promoted)
  • There was a marked increase in the number of shares: 4 to 22
  • Not a huge increase in likes (I attribute that to the fact that most of our leaders had probably already liked it during the first 3 hours it ran)
  • Not sure if it was the number of likes/shares or the fact that we used Promoted Post, but the post was “pinned” at the top of the newsfeed for the several Cru leaders I checked with

It’s hard to tell how much extra promo Promoted Posts brought, BUT I’m sure it was worth at least the $3 we spent on it.

A few takeaways as I think about how to make Promoted Posts even more effective:

  • We need to work on getting more students to like our page (so that when we do promote posts, they will see them for sure)
  • We need to encourage our student leaders to friend as many new students as possible (so that when we promote posts, all the students we’re trying to reach will see the post). If our students are only friends with other involved Cru students then only involved Cru students will se our Promoted Posts.

What have you seen work in promoting your ministry on Facebook?



Chris Brogan with some great insights:

“photos with text over them are the new big thing.” Have you noticed your Facebook stream lately? A huge chunk of what goes by lately are photos with text over them.

For whatever reason, the “photos with text” experience gives us that feeling we get when we read magazines. It makes the texty text of blogging a lot less stark. It draws our eyes in. It’s fast to consume, and it brings an emotional response faster.

He gives three key ways to think about their use:

  1. Make interesting graphics worth sharing.
  2. Make it easy to share them.
  3. Evoke an emotion.

Using photos to gain visibility on Facebook is definitely something we’ve been trying to do more of (thanks to Brian Barela’s repeated advice over the past 2 years). Every time we post an event on Facebook we try to include a photo:

As you scanned over those last three images, you can see why it is so powerful:

  • It only took you a few seconds
  • It was visually appealing
  • It wasn’t a boring block of text that you skim straight over

But I don’t think we’ve tapped into the full potential of marketing on Facebook in the “photos with text” world.

What are you thoughts on how to better capitalize on Brogan’s three keys (I don’t think we do well at #2 or #3)?

Weekend Links 1-21-11

January 21, 2011 — Leave a comment

This article has an interesting prediction on Twitter and Facebook.  I tend to agree:

Twitter and Facebook are no longer both general social networks.

My prediction is that Twitter will become a platform where you can connect with some people in their professional lives, and Facebook will continue to be the platform where you can connect with most people in their personal lives.

This is fun and interesting – The United States of Surnames (via Alltop)

National Geographic has put together an interesting map showing the popularity of surnames in different parts of the United States. Each surname is color coded to indicate origin and the font size relates to number of people with each surname per state.

Great thoughts from Ben Arment – It’s Okay to Say No

Who doesn’t love a good infographic? I thought this one was interesting – Fed Ex vs. UPS – (via Challies)

And since, like me, you haven’t watched any soccer since the World Cup we’ll end with this – some unfathomable soccer ineptness:

Weekend Links

January 14, 2011 — 3 Comments

I’m trying to ease myself back into this Blogging thing. So we’ll start with some Weekend Links.

We could all learn a lot from John Piper. But, in my opinion, one of the best things we can learn from him is brutal honesty in confessing his sin. Piper’s report on his leave of absence (via Justin Taylor) is striking in its honesty in revealing his deep heart sins (specifically in his marriage).  Read the whole thing here.

“I would label my decades-long, besetting (and I hope weakening) sins in this relationship as selfishness, self-pity, anger, blaming, and sullenness (all of them species of pride). There are others, but these are close to the root of our troubles.”

As Ken Cochrum tweeted: this is “required reading for anyone serious about online ministry: the future of connections”
Time Magazine – Person of the Year – Mark Zuckerberg

An utterly fascinating, and surprisingly deep, article.

Relationships on Facebook have a seductive, addictive quality that can erode and even replace real-world relationships. Friendships multiply with gratifying speed, and the emotional stakes stay soothingly low; where there isn’t much privacy, there can’t be much intimacy either. It’s like an emotional Ponzi scheme, where you keep putting energy in and getting it back tenfold, even though the dividends start to feel a little fake.

For all its industrial efficiency and scalability, its transhemispheric reach and its grand civil integrity, Facebook is still a painfully blunt instrument for doing the delicate work of transmitting human relationships. It’s an excellent utility for sending and receiving data, but we are not data, and relationships cannot be reduced to the exchange of information or making binary decisions between liking and not liking, friending and unfriending

Facebook is the bottle, and we’re the genie. How small are we willing to make ourselves to fit inside?

Another very insightful article – Andy Crouch’s The Ten Most Significant Cultural Trends of the Last Decade

#1 – Connections: “What did not take off in the 2000s was “virtual reality”—a world constructed entirely of disembodied bits, populated by avatars and existing only in the realm of the ideal. As the 2000s ended, the virtual-reality world Second Life was on virtual life support.  Instead, we used technology to reinforce our embodied relationships.”

#4 – The End of the Majority – “White Americans were still a bare majority of the population by the end of the decade, but in delivery rooms they were already only a plurality (the largest of many minorities).  We are all minorities now.”

2010 was a year rife with bad Logo makeovers, here’s the Worst Logo Makeovers of 2010 .  Here’s the Best.

The following news was mind blowing to me. How did I miss the memo that you aren’t supposed to put two spaces after a period?

Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.

I like Twitter about 1000x more than Facebook.

Like Brian Barela quoted on his blog: “Twitter makes me like people I’ve never met and Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life”.

I use it as an all-in-one:

  • Feed reader (letting me know when my favorite blogs update)
  • News Aggregator (NYTimes, CNN, CollegeFootball)
  • Devotional (gospel-centered content throughout the day from guys like @PastorTullian and @PaulTripp)
  • Leadership-Developer (short bursts of leadership genius from the likes of @MichaelHyatt or @ScottBelsky)
  • AND Friend-updater (the one feature Facebook is good at)

But when I link to my blog in my Facebook status I get 5x more traffic then when I just get the word out via Twitter.

Matches up pretty well with this interesting Fast Company article: “Facebook Is Worth $2.52, Twitter Only 43 Cents” and the fact that Facebook has 5x as many Users (and I have 5x as many “friends” there!).

A primary reason why Facebook continues to dominate?  Ease of use.

Have you ever tried to explain Twitter to someone new?  What are hashtags? What does RT mean?  What’s  Where’s the insert photo button?

37Signals blog states it well:

Some serious flaws are holding Twitter’s usability back. A collection of hacks that were initially cool and clever among the geekset have turned into de facto features. Why should users have to know what a URL shortener is? Why does attaching a photo to a tweet require third-party tools and diminish your character count?

Related back to college ministry. . .

What are we unknowingly doing that prevents new people from understanding our ministry and wanting to “Sign On”.  
What do we need to do to make our ministry, in the words of 37Signals, “easier to use, easier to explain, and easier to expand”?

To Start:

  • Hashtags = getting rid of insider Christian lingo
  • URL Shortener = Bulit-in ways to help students take the next step (clear map of what it looks like to get involved past the weekly meeting)

What would you add?

photo courtesy of abraham.williams via flickr

Weekend Links

October 22, 2010 — Leave a comment
  • I remember reading this prophetic article in Time Magazine over 2½ years ago that asked “Is Facebook the Future of Search?“.  It made a good case:

“On Facebook, we don’t have to seek information. Instead, information just comes to us.  The future of search: I don’t just want the information faster, I want it before I even ask for it.”

Last week, with the Facebook-Bing alliance, that future became NOW.  Great article from Fast Company on what this alliance means for all of us.

A couple important points: 1) If your website isn’t getting “Liked” on Facebook, it won’t show up in searches, and 2) You should go check your Facebook Privacy settings

  • Travelocity, Orbitz, and Kayak are so 2001. shares which new travel websites alert you when particularly great deals become available out of your local airport and predict what airfares will look like in the near future so you can adjust your travel plans accordingly.
  • It is mind-blowing how big Africa is.  Check out this amazing map that shows how it’s bigger than the USA, China, India and all of Europe COMBINED!
  • Donations to the top charities dropped 11% this year – the worst decline since they started tracking giving
  • And check out this cool video from David Crowder.  Easily the best Christian music video I’ve seen (Except for maybe Michael W Smith’s Secret Ambition video).

The best new outreach idea we’re trying for the fall is Facebook. You may have heard of it.

Outreach by definition is an effort by an organization to connect its ideas to the general public.

You take your ideas to the audience.

And where is our audience?  On Facebook!

We’ve done quite a bit with Facebook in the past – advertising, Cru group, events, etc.

But a Facebook Fan Page is a whole ‘nother deal.

First off – you should subscribe to Brian Barela’s blog (click here for an explanation of the life-changing discovery of how to subscribe to blogs).  You would know all this stuff already if you read his blog and another blog he contributes to:

This is our strategy this fall as we meet freshmen (courtesy of Brian Barela):

  • Add them as a friend on Facebook
  • Click the “add a message” box
  • Write something like this: “Hi this is Tim from Cru – you filled a card expressing interest and I just wanted to invite you to come to Cru on Tuesday at 8:30.  Please also join our fan page:”

Before I start, let me shoot down your main excuse (at least it was mine):

  • “I don’t know anything about setting stuff up on Facebook and I don’t have time right now to learn” – I had a student set it up (I attached below the email I sent out to solicit help- just copy and paste!).  I guarantee you have a student who would be willing and able to do it.

First the Why’s, then the How’s:

  • Facebook is where students live.  Go where students are.
  • It’s free.  We all know advertising isn’t cheap.  But thru a Facebook Fan Page you can “advertise” your events on a site where 99% of your target audience spends hours every day
  • It’s interactive – students can comment and ask questions.
  • You can get a custom URL for free (website name):
  • Fan Pages are way more “viral” than Groups.  So we’re shifting from a Facebook Group to a Fan Page.  Check out this informative video explaining why from Brian Barela.

And best of all: It’s pretty easy to work the system (by “liking” the fan page, commenting on it, etc) to where your Cru Fan Page will show up on the News Feed of anyone your students are friends with.

How do you set one up?

  • Here’s a step by step video on how to do it (from Brian Barela again!).

We watched this video in staff meeting yesterday – it builds a great case for why we HAVE to engage in social media:

Here’s an email you can adapt to solicit help from students.

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