What Google Images Teaches Me about My Faith

Maybe it is me, but I find myself troubled by the things that Google Image shows me about the faith that I claim. This is significant in my opinion because google will push those things that are referenced or used the most to the top because they have been deemed as having the most worth & credibility for that particular search. I would put the bible in this thought captured in image, but it is boringly predictable. So..


I probably have the most issue with worship.. Seriously, these black silouette hands raised is the predominate image for worship?.. really?..


Doctrine doesn’t get a good rap with the image folks. It also gets mixed up with politics and other cultural items.. Is that telling us something?


I’m glad to know that God is pretty much the same yesterday, today and forever. Except for that muscle character HE is some nice shining lights with a white beard.


I must say, I liked the motivation theology poster a whole lot. contemplated making that my laptop wallpaper. It is intriguing the images constructed to try to explain theology. Throwing out the 10 commandments makes for a limited theology in ways, might not be a bad thing though.


This one kinda freaked me out…


I like the safe pastor look better.. Except for maybe that guy in the top right.. Or the movie Troy, not a very good movie.


I suppose another arms up in the air type image is suitable. I did find that infant baptism rising to the top in so majority of images to be interesting. But maybe those are just baby dedications..


I suppose with two or three Sermon on the Mount images we can call this legit. At least there isn’t a benny hinn pic.


Boy am I glad my mommy taught me to fold my hands together and hid in dark lit rooms because apparently that is the way to go about praying to God.


The gothic nature of all these images has me shaking my head.. Maybe justice is just for goth people.


I like how there are no people in the churches. That’s nice.. Wait a second….


I could have chosen Eucharist, but those results were too catholic. Reminds me of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. “You must choose wisely.” Looking at these, we seem to want to choose poorly.

Last but not least


I like my white soft skinned Jesus. Especially the contemplative sensitive type. But when I go out on Friday night I want Buddy Christ!

NOTE: If you are curious, I didn’t do any scrolling for these. This is the first set of results in each case.

So what does this tell you about your faith?


Open Source Helpfulness #pcn11

One of the best kept secrets in Nashville & probably around the world is the “unconferences” known as BarCamp & PodCamp. Erin & I went to the very first BarCamp back in 2007 at the Exit In. It was a great day of learning for both Erin & myself, from iPhone app development, corporate blogging, twitter, artificial intelligence, marketing, the emergence of Facebook.. wow!

But it is more than that to us!

What was, and is, best of that & the on going experiences of the PodCamp & BarCamp’s here in Nashville is the open source nature of the helpfulness that is embraced by the mass of creative and technical thinkers & practitioners. From sitting in with some great people at these events to having breakfast or drinks on a monthly basis talking shop, family, or events. I have come to love the sharing nature that is embedded within our towns tech community.

I’ve done what I can to give back, sharing some of my different slants on technology & culture in a few speaking gigs, put in time volunteering & show up in supporting by presence. Through this I have made some invaluable friendships and a host of innovators to lean on for guidance and advice. When I had my transition from local church vocation into the larger consumer pool it was my friends of this community that provided some of my greatest tangible support.

How bout you?..

If you come to Podcamp this March 26th at Nashville’s Cadillac Ranch (right on Broadway) you might not have this immediate connection that I have benefited from over the last four / five years. But you will have the opportunity to plug into a community of people that has a ethos of not just being a Source of good knowledge & practice, but also very Open to meeting and sharing with others, and offering Help all along the way.

I’ll be there at all costs!

I will actually be doing a speaking engagement in Memphis the Thursday & Friday beforehand for my youth ministry church leadership type vocation. I am really excited about that. They wanted me to sit in on a number of panels with some very high profile leaders within the church the Saturday of the event (which happens to be Podcamp day), which would have been great exposure for my new transition. But, this community is a part of me that I cannot make any other decision but to be there. So I am driving through the late evening and then getting downtown as early as I can to, 1. get a good parking spot, 2. make sure that I do not miss a thing at this years event.

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 LifeChurch.tv 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 tokbox.com.

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.

How Good is Your Church Facebook Presence?

I get to call some really creative people all over the world my friend. I’m so blessed that way, but not so far away is a super group of creative types that I hang out with as our Hendersonville Geekbreakfast. Once a month we all meet up for breakfast, talk some shop, make fun of somebody and plan collaborative projects. The in between times we’ve become a real solid group of friends. One of my ‘geek’ friends is Jason Elkins. Jason has started doing some really cool things with his media company, Transparent {social} Media, on facebook. They are helping all kinds of businesses, and churches, leverage facebook for to reach their clients in an open and relational marketing.

I asked Jason a couple of questions

1. Where do you see most churches going wrong on facebook?
I see most churches going wrong with Facebook in the way they view communication. It’s not a one way street:

1) They are utilizing Facebook like a traditional media outlet. They think of it like a flier or pamphlet with information that they are getting in front of their congregation. In fact, it’s a platform for communication/interaction and engagement. For example, instead of posting your favorite bible verse, perhaps you should ask your Facebook audience what their favorite verse would be.

Instead of saying “we had a great time at the youth event”, you are better off asking “what did you think of our youth event?” or “How could we make it better next time” or “Tell us what you loved about the youth event”.

“Praying for our congregation” is good. “Click ‘Like’ if you need a prayer today or send us your prayer requests” is better.

“Listening to Skillet” is good… “What is playing on your iPod right now” is better.

Announcing service times/cancellations/upcoming events is a great use, but engage with your audience.

2)Two things you can do with Facebook now that are new/unique:

1) Incorporating a podcast of your sermons online is a revolutionary feature in Facebook. Using a custom tab combined with Soundcloud (a hosting application) you can serve up your sermons on Facebook and people can share them with their audience. Because of the way we are developing these pages, an administrator can upload the latest sermons to Soundcloud and they will appear on a custom tab.

2) Other things a church could do on a custom tab would be to incorporate an introductory or testimonial video, show pages of a sermon or a book, take donations for a mission/tithe and incorporate a form to build an e-mail list. The Lifebook page is a good example of utilizing all of these features

thanks Jason for taking the time!

Here is part of an example of Transparent {social} Media’s latest work on a church here in middle Tennessee.

They set up the standard fan page, but tweaked out the welcome to have a matching graphic layout to the ‘profile pic.’ It doesn’t show up, but my cursor is floating over the sermons active link page. I think that is pretty cool.. but it gets better..

At the bottom it has email / contact info capture capabilities. You don’t have to wait for the person to show up in the pew to fill out this form. They can do that over facebook. Not to mention, your parishioners can donate through this facebook portal. Pretty darn cool. They have the rest of the page tweaked out with those things that are pertinent to a church body.

So how are you using facebook for your church? You might want to contact my friend Jason and see what all is out there.

@samdavidson on One Thing I don’t need

Sam Davidson & his wife Lynnette have been good friends of mine for almost a decade. In what started out as a coffee house conversation on church & ministry has led to family traditions, ministry sharing, taking on the world, & now building a business. So when Sam offered to share what I didn’t need in my life, as part of his book on 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need, I was in.

For those not familiar with Sam, he’s a is a writer, entrepreneur, and dreamer who believes that the world needs more passionate people. To help people find and live their passion. He is the co-founder of Cool People Care and now Proof Branding, and lives in Nashville with Lynnette and daughter Lindley (who is just the cutest thing ever).

So what don’t I need?

One Thing Gavin Richardson Doesn’t Need: Pointless Technology

If you’ve read Gavin’s blog – or spent any time with him in the last half-decade – you’ll know that he stays up on current trends and toys in the technological realm. But what’s really refreshing about him is that he’s always searching for a focus, for the “so what” behind all of our newfangled advancements.

This was confirmed for me as he and I recently led a workshop together for church leaders. We discussed social media and online marketing for congregations. Gavin didn’t simply wade through what’s available when it comes to platforms and tools; he made sure to stress the need to use these features to build community, do justice, and accomplish something worthwhile.

I think the same is true when it comes to finding and living our passion. We’ve got to have a “so what” moment.

I firmly believe the world needs more passionate people. This is why I wrote 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need. It’s a guide – a field manual of sorts – to getting rid of what doesn’t matter so you can focus on what does.

But when you find your passion, make sure to ask yourself why it is you’re passionate. You like music? Love art or sports? Crazy about a certain author or food? Big deal. Keep digging deeper to find out what it means.

Passions are good, but using them to accomplish something meaningful is great.

Other things (actually in the book) that Gavin Richardson doesn’t need:
#13 – Unpassionate activism
#22 – Analog versions of digital stuff
#28 – Gadgets that only do one thing
#34 – Shiny tennis shoes

The shoes is a really funny one!.. I do like my thank you cards. Still figuring out #13..

top tech trends of 2009 for youth ministry : new day in @ymtoday

i was asked to write a, shorter than this, article for ymtoday on the tech trends of 2009. this is my unedited & proper use of capitals article for your review.

are the days where spent calling everyone on the youth phone list,
cutting clip art books and taping graphics to papers for making
posters, and sorting slides into a projector carousel. Today's youth
ministry is full of early adoption to new technologies to communicate
and build relationships. It seems to be 2009 amped that trend of
leaving behind the those things we used to do so routinely in the early

Here's a little list of technology trends from the past
year used, being used, or to use for your youth ministry. Not all were
created in the last year, but they did seem to pick up more steam.

1. Facebook: Do you remember MySpace? I do, and I thought it was pretty cool. Facebook though is just a fabulous youth ministry tool where MySpace
wasn't. Create a group or fan page for the ministry you are a part of,
easily send messages to the whole group, create events, post pictures
& videos. It is easy to do, takes less time, and its where your
teenagers are hanging. Have you watched your teenagers spend time onFacebook, it borders on problematic. If you have some cash, you can invest in ads on Facebook
, the metrics for adverts is amazing, not terribly expensive either,
plus it shows who are 'fans' in your ad extending the trust
relationship. You can even get on board with a free mission trip via the social media network.

2. Twitter:
People are up in the air as to whether Twitter is a usable youth
ministry tool. My teens many follow a few friends and a bunch of
celebrities. I don't have a youth who would create a twitter based newsletter for us like Adam. Twitter for me is brain trust
& community of other youth and ministry leaders. Have a question,
need prayer support, want to celebrate, need consolation after loosing
a job, and more you can join into the community of youth workers on
Twitter. I sought help developing this list via my Twitter community.

As a program, Twitter is a mobile based application, so it has txt and alert capabilities. Which leads us to our next item.

3. Mass Text Services:
If you think it is going to be a pain to get all your people onto
Twitter and then to enable the cell phone alert tweets for your twitter
account, just set yourself up for one of the many mass text messaging
services. If you are like me, youth gathering times are their normal
loud and crazy, but now its all that with the teens staring at their
cell phones. They have entire conversations overtxt . I've even caught
teens not answering their phone calls but then answering text messages.
Tap into that behavior with some of the paid services like txtsignal or a free service like broadtexter.

Note: Txt services use two basic formats: One is where message is more like an email going thru the system. Different cell companies handle that information differently, so a txt
service will have you indicate what type of provider the corresponding
phone number is. Other services are more like a phone to phone
communication, big difference with those is you do not need to know
service providers, but they will most likely charge by the number oftxt's and phone numbers (ie. each txt to 1 number is 5 cents, so one mass txt to 50 people is $2.50).

4. SmartPhones:
I was told once that 'there haven't been any new inventions, only
inventions making everything smaller.' This is certainly the case with
the fusion of computer & cell phone. Whether you are iPhone,
Blackberry, or now Droid the day of a phone being just for talking is

The smartphone as it continues to become more affordable
& builds in development will become the youth workers greatest
tools (might even out do the guitar,haha!). As new applications are being developed from YouVersion's Bible app, Youth Specialties Tough Topics, productivity apps like Evernote, GPS directions, to even creating your very own phone application
more & more will administration and communication will be done
through the phone. I can be sitting at an sports match and send out
emails & text messages to the whole group or just our leaders, make
notes for the next days to-do list, take pics of the game and load them
up to ourfacebook group or flickr page, and then post new information to our website.

5. Flip Cameras:
Video used to be the toughest thing in the world. Cameras cost a bunch
of money and then you had to edit the videos. Chances are your computer
was not powerful enough to deal with all the resources needed for
video, so it took many days to put together and render videos. Those
days are gone.

With the advent of YouTube being the quality
standard and the destination for most created video content the Flip
Camera is the new video must have. Not only are they extremely cheap
($100-180, for a decent one) they shoot really good quality video,
transfer extremely easily (digitally, so you don't have to do the tape
playback recording), and portable so they can always be on your person.
You can purchase one, two or three of these gems & hand them out to
youth during events to capture footage for a highlights video. Pull out
a camera when you are out on the town and inspired to do a little
devotional for a video podcast. Get some of the youth to create a
news/announcement video. Have a bunch of cameras to do a scavenger hunt
and post stuff immediately to your presentation software or to the web.

what's on your list of big trends for the year? Leave a comment or two,
I'm sure there is something I'm missing or maybe my numbering is off.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Digital Photography: Every youth event I go to seems to have youth & youth
    leaders in tow with high quality cameras. Bye bye disk camera &
    slide film.
  • Digital
    Publishing: All those pictures & graphics can be printed into
    beautiful books & posters for affordable prices & effort.
    Forever keeping the narrative of that ministry
  • Netbooks: Though I'd say that might be more for the college scene
  • Google: From Google Voice, Docs, Earth, Ocean, Maps, Latitude to the beta test of Wave there's something for everyone
  • Affordable
    Presentation Equipment: Doing the projector thing was a huge ordeal
    (not to mention projectors were HUGE!) now the hardware & software
    is small in size and price
  • Collaborative Tools: Maybe its Basecamp, could be Google Wave, we all are using stuff to help us collaborate with our team of ministers & cohorts.

#10yearsago : what i want back & what i’ll gladly leave behind

so all my rowdy twitter friends are doing this #10yearsago tweets. i thought i'd actually create a little list and see what i can remember from the last decade.

  • i moved to nashville and began "my career" in youth ministry the first days of january 2000. since then i've staffed at three churches, one secular hiatus career, and a stint at rei.
  • i might not have owned a cell phone 10 years ago.. its hard to say. my first phone was some sprint flip open phone. i'll have to do some investigating on that one.
  • 10 years ago, socially, i wasn't married and didn't have a child.. so that stuff is relatively new
  • in the last 10 years i've had my work published in a few books, a cdrom project, and a number of articles.. i think that's pretty cool for someone who needed spell & grammar check to get out of university
  • i actually graduated from college 10 years ago. i wasn't finished with my degree when i left the university of alabama. i told them i was going to nashville to finish up (my internship) and take a job offered to me. they told me my gpa wasn't high enough to leave town for my internship, i said tough, i'm going.. a few months later & a lot of paperwork, i had a college degree. (i didn't do the graduation walk for another year when little bro got a grad degree)
  • 10 years ago Coe was my companion.. she was younger then and a little more spry & mischievous. she would open the gate to the house i lived in at that time and would go rolling in the dirt at the mulch company behind our house and thru some woods. would also take my brothers corgi with her. bath's were a regular occurrence in our house.
  • 10 years ago darren & i would pontificate the deepest theology for
    some 25 yr old dudes over cigars and cheep beer in our backyard..
  • 10 years ago my house had an answering machine… i suppose it also had some phone attached to a wall with like 500mghtz of power where you can walk down the street talking. big time!!
  • 10 years ago i was thinner… care not to expand on that further.. 'expand,' sorry, wrong wording
  • 10 years ago i remember watching the millennial celebrations all freakin day long
  • 10 years ago i watched the music city miracle on a fuzzy tv that didn't have cable hooked up yet (remember, check out #1, just moved to nashville)
  • 10 years ago had no idea what blogging, twitter, facebook, were (cause they weren't invented silly).. but i did build a kick-ass youth group & website with a bunch of java script enabled games

so the many things that did happen the last decade will have to wait for another posting.

what were the things you were doing 10 years ago?

we’re all gonna die : so who is your digital executor

saturday i spent my day at barcamp nashville 2009. barcamp is one of my fav days of the year. that along with podcamp are when i get to really hang with the geeks of nashville’s tech community. one of the sessions i took in was dave delaney’s session titled “we’re all gonne die!”

i like dave’s presentations because they are never quite what i expect them to be and his gift is that he doesn’t try and cover everything in his braintrust. i say that’s a gift. anyways, i recorded his session for your viewing pleasures with my notes & thoughts to follow.

Dave Delaney : We’re All Gonna Die : BarCamp Nashville 2009 from Gavin Richardson on Vimeo.

my notes:

  • what is going to happen to our content when we die?
  • when die what to do with email, paypal, websites, domain names, web hosting fees, facebook, etc.
  • facebook will close off profiles to new friends when someone is confirmed as having passed away, but will keep the account live for friends to visit.
  • need a “digital executor,” someone who knows all your stuff to keep your digital footprint going
  • i see this necessity as much as leaving a ‘digital legacy’ much like the last lecture was from a dad to his children.
  • facebook/myspace/blogs become a new place of mourning for a loved one or friend as they pass away. taking the place of the makeshift memorials on roadsides, fences, building walls, etc.

this was an interesting chat with erin after this, exploring the ‘digital executor’ idea. i’d thought of what might happen to all this stuff i do if i were to pass away. erin knows my passwords that i use and could figure out how to get into each account should she feel that need. however, her expression was, if you died i wouldn’t want to mess with that stuff, so it’d be better to have someone to handle that stuff.

so i’m contemplating that.. who would you put in charge as a digital exector? friend, family member? someone you are close to or someone that is close to your wife/family who they are comfortable talking to?

theology of twitter : spirituality and social media

emergent conversant, fellow social media friend, steve knight put together this presentation on a theology of twitter. it has some great content. maybe the greatest content is him quoting me from my spirituality and social media series i did with matt cheuvront.