Tech Trends for 2010 & 2011 in Youth Ministry

Wrote this article for the folks at YMToday. I did a similar article last year. What do you think? Crazy talk?

My pastor and friend Jay Voorhees interviewed Leo Laporte some six years ago for a now defunct podcast. For those who don’t know, Leo is a big deal when it comes to geek technologies and new media. In fact, the podcast crashed Jay’s server when Leo blogged about the interview. The portion of the interview that I remember best was when Jay asked Leo about the church’s incapacity to embrace new technologies. Leo threw me for a loop in saying that he didn’t think that the church needed to be on the forefront of technologies. As he went on to explain, someone needed to ground culture from the fad-ish stuff and use was what valuable. I thought that to be a very interesting perspective coming from someone who is most certainly an innovator and early adopter to our emerging technology age.

In 2010 I wrote an article for YMtoday encapsulating some of the best tech tools in youth ministry. I still believe that much of that list is completely valid today (though I do mention Google Wave, which was taken off the development list, and thus is inevitably dead). It’s always fun to look back at last year’s innovations and look ahead to what might become another year in trends.

Best New Ministry “Thing” of 2010—iPad

You might not be a “Mac” person, and that’s cool. But one cannot deny the impact that the iPad has had on culture. The “thing” part is really to say that the iPad has ushered in a new gadget, the tablet, as a technology must-have for ministry. In the past year I’ve seen worship leaders using it for song notes and set lists. They say that since it’s backlit it’s easier to track with the many lighting scenarios in leading music. I’ve seen people use tablets for youth group check-ins and presentations (I’ve done the presentation stuff myself, and am really excited to try out the Prezi app on iPad at my next speaking gig). It takes a little use to make it a production or creative tool, but is easy to use for the tasks of email, checking Facebook, reading books (I do like the Kindle best for that, however). With the concept of “social books” on the horizon, reading just got a whole lot more interactive. Imagine collaborative Bible studies with your youth during the week in which Tuesday is “find a relevant YouTube video for the scripture,” Wednesday is “find a photo,” etc. That day is coming with a tablet

I loved using this for NYWC and Project Homeless Connect here in Nashville, fitting the iPad into my camera case and using the SD Card adapter to send out photos of the event as it was happening. As Sony, Samsung, and other companies give their take on the tablet, we’ll be shifting to a culture that carries these around on trips, work days, etc.

Best Continued Innovations of 2010—iPhone 4 and Evo 4G

The “smart phone” is going to become our norm in life. You will be assimilated at some point, if you’re not already. The iPhone is going to start coming in a pay-as-you-go format, not to mention that the iPhone on Verizon is actually not a rumor any more. Apple folks made their culture-changing product even better, you just can’t argue with that one (though the antenna issue in the beginning was fun for the iPhone haters). For those who are on Sprint and other networks, the smart phone technologies with Droid/Google/Windows systems are different but just as capable. It’s the difference between Fords and Chevys. Most will not notice or care except for the rabid fans of that brand. The Evo 4G I give mention because you can make it a mobile hotspot (more on this later) and it’s is one of the first to tap a 4G signal. One thing is for sure, the smart phone and the capabilities of it to help in ministry (or be a distraction) are game changers.

Best Software Innovation of 2010—YouVersion

Granted, if you wanted to, we could argue over YouVersion being software one housed on a local hard drive or web based. We could argue that YouVersion came out before 2010. It really came into its own in 2010, so there!

I love YouVersion’s Bible app (a creation of folks) and reading sets that you can choose from. If you get behind in your reading (which I am currently), they’ll send you an email reminder to get back on the program. I believe at last update there were some four million users of YouVersion and a few million people on reading programs. You can use the software to start up some reading groups as well. No longer do you need to be in the room with a group of kids to read scripture together. So target those high activity kids who are always out at soccer or football and set up a Bible study group that way.

Best Gaming Development for 2010—Kinect

Yes, Black Ops and Halo get a lot of publicity when they release. But nothing is more valuable to a ministry than a game that can involve groups and build community. Rock Band/Guitar Hero/Wii started something huge and Kinect takes it to a whole new level. Pull out the Kinect for special events or have set up to use for competition games at the beginning of a group meeting or worship. Whatever your ministry set up, this becomes a fully involved game experience for those playing at that moment and for many who are cheering on or laughing hysterically (as in my case).

Best Internet Development for 2010—Facebook

I wondered whether to bring up something like Animoto, Google Calendar, or DropBox as I’m hearing about them being used in ministry by folks all over the states. Still Facebook is king when it comes to pulling your tribe together. Whether you have a Facebook fan page or group for your ministry, maybe your kids have started a discussion group (our youth group has a Facebook group for youth events and one for NFL football…I never said it was a productive tool) you can communicate and relate to your teenagers as much as you feel you need to. Just don’t do too much because that becomes creepy.

I can justify Facebook as “developing” because they continually change themselves. People get mad about it and create “I want the old Facebook back groups;” then they continue with life. (Anyone remember what the original Facebook looked like?) Now you’re able to put teens in groups for specific emailing purposes, or for monitoring. They’re even talking about voice chat. Video will probably be next as youth become more comfortable with Skype video and multi-user video software like ooVoo or

Best New “Thing” for 2011—Clear/Mobile Wireless

I don’t know about you, but my internet costs me a pretty penny and it’s stuck at my house. Now I can cancel that service, pick up a mobile wireless device that’s about the size of my phone or computer mouse, and take it wherever I go. No more complicated tethering processes to get my laptop or tablet on the internet. I can also let my buddies use my signal as well. How cool am I? Okay, still not cool, but I am saving myself some money. By the end of 2011 I’m betting more smart phones have this capability as the Evo 4G does.

Best New “Continued” Innovations for 2011—Digital Filmmaking

When I started in youth ministry almost two decades ago, making youth group videos was not even a consideration. Paper clipart and a copy machine were considered high tech. This year we’re going to be able to start shooting our youth group mission trip and worship services in 3D. You can spend a little more or a little less. Then you might have to stock up on those 3D glasses from the movie theater. What will your next youth group video look like?

Best New Software Innovation for 2011—Anything Mobile

To me, the future trends to mobility. My guess is that every church will begin to put out their own mobile app, using something like AppMakr or building their own. Youth ministries will be doing the same thing and integrating a robust text messaging communications plan to their ministries. Mobile software developed for the many tablets will become a big demand.

My cliché statement on these kinds of things is, “If you think of it, someone else has probably developed it already.” Look for that to be the case when it comes to mobile software in 2011.

Best New Gaming Development for 2011—Virtual Ministries

Honestly, I’m not a gamer, but my guess is that there is going to be some sort of integration of social gaming apps within ministry contexts. Teen Second Life just got taken off their own grid and merged with the “adult” grid, indicating to me that a gaming environment as a social outlet is still working itself out. But as children who have grown up with WebKinz and Club Penguin become youth and teens who had SIMS and WOW (if you don’t know that code, you’re not one of them) then a virtual environment for ministry seems more and more a norm.

Who knows, though; the best new game for 2011 could be “Angry Birds, Revenge of the Cats.”

Best New Internet development for 2011—Do I dare say Facebook again?

Sure, why not? I’m not sure why, but it’s a safe bet.

branding your YOUth ministry

I wrote up this posting for YouthWorker Movement & encapsulates some of my ‘short session’ from Perkins School of Youth Ministry last month.

Last month I did a session at Perkins School of Youth Ministry on “branding” ones youth ministry (the image above is my whiteboard, minus that “revitalize church” not sure what that’s from).

Brand, is a very ambiguous term. In many ways its best to understand what some brands are. Mac/Apple, has the bitten apple logo. McDonald’s has the big yellow ‘M.’ Nike has it swoosh. Beyond just a logo though, Coca-Cola has a very distinct and branded glass bottle, so much so that it was designed to be recognized even when broken (true story). ‘Your’ brand is more than just a logo. So how does one identify and move forward developing a brand in the church environment?

Well, this is how I see it happening.

Acts 2: “..because each one heard their own language being spoken..”

I have this idea of Pentecost being about the enabling of effective communicating to the masses through the power of the Holy Spirit. Read the story, that scene was a mess before the Holy Spirit came to inspire & enable the leaders. Today it is a present reality that we speak and understand in brands, that combination of who we are along with our sensory identifiers. My opinion is that we need the Holy Spirit in finding out who we are and what we are about to us and others to be able to accurately and adequately communicate to others about our ministries.

Matthew 16: “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

I love this scripture, in part because I feel this is all about identity and many of us, our teens especially, struggle with identity. Christ outlines those cores questions we need to answer for ourselves & our ministries. Ourselves? Yes, as I’ve highlighted in Christ’s responses, he renames Simon to Peter, which translated is “rock” and so “on this ‘rock’ I will build my church” telling me that we are integral to the identity and ‘brand’ of our ministries. Are our ministries all about us, heck no! but they are very much a part of us and many times take over traits and gifts unique to us. That isn’t a bad thing. God gifts us & enables us for ministry. We bring that to whatever ministry we enter and lead.

So, how do we go about answering the questions?

I have a process of discernment that I feel has value to help us open to the Holy Spirit and find the answers. Only after this can we move forward in doing the ‘things’ of branding our ministries.


Prayer – Emptying Prayer, get rid of all the junk in you head about what could be, what the Baptists are doing, or what the big mega church in your area is doing. Certainly get rid of those advertising ideas from some national chain that you think are cool. (Do this first as individual, then as a group)

Prayer – Return to prayer after you are rid of all that junk and ask God to give you clarity as to “who you are?” and “what do others say you are?”  (Do this first as individual, then as a group)

Reading – Because God doesn’t give answers immediately (that’s my experience, maybe it isn’t yours). Spend time in reading, read scripture (Searching the Scriptures), art books, local newspapers and magazines, read poetry and creative writing, etc.  Stay away from church growth books are my suggestion, they don’t translate often and confuse, plus you need to go back to that emptying prayer exercise.

Conversations – Begin conversations with a myriad of people. Those involved in your ministry and those outside your ministry. Ask those people the two questions, be okay with whatever responses you get.

Visualize – At some point around here you will see some themes emerging. Start to jot them down and then organize the themes of your ministries identity. What do you want to change? What do you want to emphasize? What do you want to be about? Vizual how you might want to get there.

This becomes then a planning process where you want to go back to many of those people you had conversations with. As you present you leadings from the Spirit you will find that others will understand as well and jump in to help making this new branding a reality.

At this point you might have some specific planning options to help along the way.

  • What is your name? I can’t example that one for you
  • What is our visual identifier, ie. logo? How to create it?
  • What is our language?
  • What do we do? Mission, Discipleship, Worship?.. I’m a fan of identifying three key words, forget mission statements, they are useless and communicate nothing to teenagers. imho
  • What do we do best? Discipleship?..
  • How are we going to do this? Detailed plan for reshaping or building your culture
  • What do we want others to know us by? How to share that; email, outreach projects, community events, etc?
  • How to keep doing that? I call it the, rinse and repeat

In our workshop session on of the participants brought up how Gatorade was re-branding itself. Which brought up for me an important example of jumping this process and mis-branding your ministry. Note: I have this information on good knowledge because my brother-in-law is a national sales member to the Gatorade team. A few years back Gatorade heard that Tiger Woods was entertaining a new brand of Powerade line with his name on it. Someone in Gatorade felt, and enough others agreed, that they couldn’t allow this to happen so they rushed to jump over Powerade and sign Tiger to a huge endorsement and created a whole line of favorite Tiger flavors of Gatorade. Well, the whole line was a super flop (financially speaking) and when Tiger got into trouble it was a fortunate circumstance to break from that failed venture. Gatorade got away from “who they are” and more into who they wanted to beat. It failed for them & will fail for any of us who go that route in ministry as well.

Do you have any questions about branding a ministry?

So the Bible is just a mass of Tweets & Facebook Status Updates

This posting originally written for Sticky Sheep

I’ve been reading this article by a Jewish Rabbi about social media, its impact on youth culture, and what the bible has to teach us about participation in social media.

(I read)”..much of the narrative element of the Tanakh as a series of facebook or twitter posts. Frequently, the biblical narratives come not in long flowing prose but in short burst – often, dare I say of less than 140 characters a passuk. One of the great joys of the brevity of the biblical narrative is that it leaves much room for commentary. We are left to guess at the motivations at the contexts. And we do.”

A couple of things I’ve gleaned from this Rabbi’s thoughts.

  1. Never thought of the bible as a mass of Tweets and Facebook Status Updates strung together, but when you do string that stuff together you can get a glimpse into the life of that person.
  2. There is an embarrassing side to sharing everything. Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder doesn’t get into the fear factor thing of, employers are going to look at your drinking pictures and assume you are bad, type of thing. But instead takes a bit of a higher ground in suggesting, David’s story was a bit of an over share.. Same with Abraham. Surprised didn’t mention Amnon.. <Awkward!>
  3. The short ‘missives’ leave a lot of room for interpretation. Sometimes we do that intentionally. But when we want to truly be understood. Or when others, more importantly, want to be understood we need to know we operate in this short text world. Instead of interpreting what the story is from folks, take that extra moment to listen more deeply and understand more clearly. That is remarkable
  4. Apparently this guy wasted his time.. God already did it.

“History is written by the winners” or so that quote is said. In today’s world, we might as well change that as “History is written by the players” (or those who play social media).

Makes one think of how people perceive us through our social media interactions (or the lack of interactions). We are able to write our story, but it ultimately is rewritten by those others we might call critics, customers, congregations, friends, family, & more.

Now I’m wondering what the bible has to say about texting?…

You, Your Brand, Your Product

Today at All American Pest Control Erin hosted an Accelerent seminar led by John Boyans on building sales, referrals, relationships, and overall Accelerent partnership. I’ve started making a few of these but today was a bit different since it was our home turf & it was in our brand new addition’s training room. My primary responsibility was tech emergencies.

John had a few quotables & thoughts that stuck out to me, but the one that stuck the most was.

“People will buy You first, your Brand second, and your Product third.”

I am very inclined to tell folks that they are their brand, and their brand is their communication.. Which pushes on his thoughts a bit.. Then I pieced together the difference. It is the sale, the commitment that make because of the relationship with you. That relationship is real, ie. they actually know you, or perceived, ie. your brand is strong enough that they feel they know you.

What does this mean?…

It means that your mom knows you and loves you and will buy your product no matter what. Even if you tell your mom that the book you were writing has no real value to her what so ever [personal experience confession]. It is why whenever you start something new, you plug the ‘low hanging fruit’ of people who “know you” not necessarily your brand.

It can build on itself as well.

I have no physical product to sell… at least right now.. But I am trying to bring about change. For me this means that my personable relationships are king right now in bringing change. My brand is directly affected and plays a role in these relationships (many times as the introduction to a personal relationship) and how I keep these relationships builds my brand. It is a wonderful cycle

So understand this, whether you are a CEO, Pastor, Writer, Intern..

  1. You, as a person, have a brand that people can relate to
  2. You may belong to a corporate brand that people cannot relate to, only its people. You
  3. When these stars line up you are building some kickass leverage in making change

Where’s Gavin these days?

What is Gavin Up to?

I haven’t been asked where i’ve been of late so much as “what I’m doing now?” Which is an acceptable question since my leaving the paid staff church work back in july. The last few months have been a real ride emotionally and spiritually (not sure if those are completely separate but for purposes of this sentence they are). I’ve run the gamet meeting/talking/chatting with people I respect a great deal on what they might see God’s plan in my life. my general idea is that I was so close to myself that I needed help stepping back and looking in through the window. through this process I’ve identified some short term and long term places I’m putting my creative and passionate self into. thought I’d share those with you, so we can skip the “what are you up to now?” question.

All American Pest Control: this might be the most visible of the entities of late because for the past month or so I’ve been pretty chatty about my work with All American Pest Control. This is our family business and Erin has been working there for the last 7-8 years. We will eventually finish a purchase of the company in about 4-5 years from her mom & dad and we’ll be sole owners. So, in the spirit of doing anything for the family, I’ve been crawling houses of late to help tend to our historical customers allowing our other employees to focus on some of our more current and up to date protection services. i am also helping Erin our with promotions, marketing, and social media aspects of the company. you can follow the adventures of my life in pest control by following on twitter or facebook.

Sticky Sheep: this is one has been in the brewing for a year or two now. My buddy John Ellis & I had spent a number or conversations talking up the mixtures of church & business, specifically marketing. we started writing a book on these conversations and we are still putting that together. In the mean time we figured it is time to start sharing these connections. you can engage in our little musings by hitting up the site or checking our twitter or facebook presences.

Proof Branding: this is an exciting project to be a part of. I’m joining in with long time friend sam davidson and a crew of others whom are especially creative in a full service branding company. My part in the team is to help translate and work with the church communities that wish to re-brand themselves. This would cover communications, marketing, design, creative directions, and more. I’ve been working independantly with with first presbyterian church youth in Nashville before the launch of proof this past month and have had some real successes and enjoyable moments. You can follow the tweets of Sam & Matt via proof and the news on facebook.

YouthWorker Movement: is something that I’m really jumping into as my youth ministry passion. i am helping to put together a vibrant and transformational entity to help my beloved, and struggling, United Methodist church & fellow Wesleyan youth ministries. I’ve partnered up with Charles Harrison and a team of others i getting things mapped out and ready to roll next month. If you want in on the brain-trust of a vast community of people you should get plugged in with the Youthworker movement. in the short term we will have a new email list going out next week. a new website will launch in January (a temporary one will be available next week). In the spring we will be putting forth full service curriculum options from a Wesleyan youth ministries perspective. through all this you can keep up on the ‘movements’ via twitter or facebook as well.

Thanks a quick gist of me, if you want to talk further on any of these projects or hire me or my friends give a shout via email gavoweb(at) is still my email. I’m pumped to get creative!

Hello WordPress

My New WordPress BlogIt’s time.

Time for a change.

With my leaving the active day to day church staff life this summer it has freed me up to do a myriad of other things. I’m rediscovering some of the passions I’ve had and finding new passion in new endeavors.

With this change I have come around slowly to something I’ve wanted to avoid for years, but knew I needed to do. Change the blog.. Not just change the blog look (something I’ve spend countless hours over the last six or 7 years) but change platforms and set myself up for the growth and connectivity that is possible.

So I am finally building my own site, again, for the first time on WordPress.. Hey, it’s a big deal for me.