Although technology is meant to help us manage our time, find information in an instant and simplify our lives, it can be both confusing and challenging. Below you will find the technological resources that have been tested by daily use, approved and recommended by the USF BCM. (www.usfbcm.com) Best of all, they are completely free, save the minimal advertising fee mentioned through Facebook. As with all technological services, implement and utilize it for 2 to 3 weeks and then evaluate if the service has benefitted or hindered the effectiveness of your ministry.
GOOGLE – Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Forms
In order to access any of the following suggestions you need to get an account in Gmail (www.gmail.com ). This is an email service offered by Google. It hosts just over 6 gigabytes of free space, but I use it specifically for the spam filter that works extremely well. What’s great is that it can also receive email from other accounts, making it a hub for all of your incoming emails. Gmail also has a great search tool within, whereby I am able to locate any email that I have EVER received, deleted, or sent. It also has a feature in which you can LABEL the emails your receive for easy access and organizaion. You can create labels such as “Leadership Team” or “State Office”. It is great for sorting and is very easy to use.
Google Calendar (www.google.com/calendar ) is an online calendar put out by Google. I use Microsoft Outlook for my day to day calendar but use Google Calendar in order to collaborate with my staff and student leadership. We currently sort through 6 calendars (Building Use, Website, Leadership, Friends of Internationals, Rahul and MCC BCM). We needed a place where these dates could all be viewed at the same time and edited accordingly. Google Calendar is a great way to keep everyone abreast of what, when and where activities, events and meetings are taking place. It can be shared publicly or privately with anyone across the world. You can also implement it through your Gmail account; and put a condensed (or full size) version on your website. Each user who contributes must be given access and have a Google account, all of which are free ( www.google.com).
Google Docs (docs.google.com ) is an online tool that lets multiple users collaborate in real-time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Each user who has been given permission can edit and view the documents (which are similar to Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint). We use Google Docs for a variety of reasons. For leadership interviews, each staff member contributes to a single document for nominations, position possibilities and additional comments. Other uses for Google Docs are creating idea labs, holding meetings with a record of what was typed, and collaborating on projects with students. Personally, I appreciate that Google Docs allows me to edit a document anywhere in the world, and my staff automatically receives the update.
Google Forms Tired of entering data from info cards? Want to survey your students? Registering students for an event? Google has just made this super easy and FREE for you! Surveys and opinion polls, event registrations, mailing list updates, setting schedules with your students can all be done on Google Forms found in Google docs. Follow the link below for an easy and step by step guide to making your life easier and saving you time! You can email these forms and even post a link to the form on your website and Facebook page! Go ahead just try it: http://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/archive/2008/02/08/google-forms-to-spreadsheet-easier-email-data-collection.aspx
Facebook is an amazing tool that can be used to further God’s glory. Every morning, the first thing I do when I get to the office is check my Facebook account. I do this primarily, because it is the easiest and most efficient way to keep up with the students to whom I minister. I take about 15 minutes at the start of my day, to write on 2-3 students’ walls. (Facebook has the option of either sending personal messages to the recipient or posting comments on their ‘wall’ which may be publically viewed.) I say small little things such as “You Rock,” “Thanks for your help with … the other day,” and “I prayed for you this morning, asking that God would bless your day.” Many, if not all, students love to hear from their college minister! You will be surprised how many of them will start communicating with you as a result of these encouraging comments.
Some of you might be thinking, “Rahul, didn’t you mean sending the student a message instead of writing on their wall? What’s the value in this specific method?” I purposefully said write on a student’s wall for two reasons: 1. you are publicly saying you like this person and 2. others realize that you actually care about the students who come to your ministry. Another use for Facebook is simply to communicate with the students on various issues, BCM events and to continue to build relationships even when the students aren’t sitting in your office! I’ve found that my students actually prefer Facebook over email as their primary form of communication. In addition, the USF BCM utilizes Facebook to create a group specifically for leadership, where students can brainstorm, reach others as a whole group, and stay in touch over the course of the week. We also have an USF BCM group that we send weekly announcements through, knowing that students are more likely to read them online than on a handout provided at our weekly Bible Study. To further our usage of Facebook, our BCM has created a Fan Page. When you create a fan page or group and encourage your students to join, advertising becomes a breeze (if that is even possible with college students who always say “but I never heard about that”). When a student joins your group they are allowing themselves to be “invited” to events you post on your group. When they accept specific invitations, the event will show up on their right sidebar when the date approaches.
Another way to advertise is a targeted ad that shows up in the left hand column when students are logged into their accounts. These ads are charged on a per view or per click basis. To narrow down a specific group who may see the ad, you can add key words. For example, we have a ministry to gamers at our BCM, so we created an ad that targeted people who might have names of popular games (such as Halo 3) in their profiles. We paid roughly $25 and were able to reach approximately 100 people. Advertising through Facebook is yet another option for utilizing this social networking site, and while it may have a small price tag, it reaches many students who might not otherwise hear about the ministries offered on his/her campus.
Remember The Milk (RTM): Online to do list and task management
RTM is a free service whose primary function is to help you remember simple tasks and effectively manage time. The USF BCM utilizes RTM to help manage the ever growing to-do list, to maintain scheduling and to be reminded of due dates. Personally, I have discovered the benefit of being able to place all my tasks online and check them off as they are completed. This eliminates the need for a lengthening legal pad list, which often times can become a bit overwhelming. Our staff has also benefitted from RTM through the option of setting due dates and reminders based on personal settings. Such reminders can be sent to nearly every electronic device. For example, one can receive a text via cell despite location, via an email, instant message, or a popup on one’s browser. One additional advantage of RTM, is to implement it as a way for staff members to share assignments between one another. RTM has the capability to share these lists and assignments among users. For example, when Kylie (my administrative assistant) receives a phone call and I am unavailable, she simply takes the message by adding it to my list, then RTM texts me with the information. It remains on the list until it is removed by one of us. I am also able to use RTM to keep a running list as I think of projects and assignments for my associate. I quickly add them to her list, she removes them when they are finished and I can rest assured that the project has been completed. We have also found that RTM is a very valuable tool when showing and teaching students time-management techniques.
Survey Monkey is a website the USF BCM uses to create online forms for students to register for events, sign up for Bible studies or respond with feedback regarding different subjects and events. The site shows you how to link your online surveys to your website or provides the option to directly email from survey monkey. The website is extremely easy to use and guides you through each step from creation to implementation.
Flickr is an online photo sharing site where the USF BCM uploads photos from our events. The unique feature found on this site is the social aspect, whereby students can comment on photos, share them, and search by keyword for additional images. When you upload photos to Flickr, each photo can be assigned to a “set.” Each “set” is then tagged with keywords that relate to the photo set. We tag all of our photos with USF BCM and then the event name. Feel free to go to Flickr and search for USF BCM to see how we utilize the sight.
YouVersion is a new online Bible put out by LifeChurch.tv (www.lifechurch.tv). YouVersion touts itself as “A revolutionary online Bible that enables community and collaboration like never before.” To me, this statement is true. I utilize YouVersion to gain new perspectives on verses, as I am preparing for Bible studies and sermons. For example, search Ephesians 2:8-9 (my favorite verses) and you will find a variety of perspectives from others who have studied the passage, as well as personal insights, words of encouragement and other personal applications by the contributors. If God has touched you through a certain verse, or section of Scripture, you can also contribute your comments on the site for others to view. One additional feature present in YouVersion, is the My Journal section, which allows visitors to the site to keep notes while researching topics and verses.
We have a wireless network that is not password protected running throughout our building as an outreach to students. Many students on the USF campus utilize the BCM to study with others simply because of this free Internet access. Having a wireless network, has been an easy and amazing way to reach others for Christ. Consider adding this to your ministry if it is possible.
I listen to a variety of podcasts; here are some of my favorites:
– Buzz Out Loud by CNET (http://bol.cnet.com) is my daily ingestion of everything tech. It is an easy way to find out the latest information in the tech world.
– David Platt Messages: by The Church At Brookhills (http://www.brookhills.org). David really brings out the meaning of Scripture, helping you understand how to live as a true servant of Christ. He always leaves me feeling encouraged and challenged.
– Catalyst Podcast by the Catalyst Conference (http://www.catalystspace.com). This podcast provides great interviews with both ministry and business leaders that are very informational and uplifting.
Here are some great websites for information regarding tech and ministry:
• Engadget (http://www.engadget.com). Latest reviews of gadgets and tech happenings.
• Swerve (http://swerve.lifechurch.tv). A blog on leadership, technology, creativity and innovation.
• Open (http://open.lifechurch.tv). Free resources for ministries. This site is great because you can get ideas for ministry, media, print, etc.
• Church Marketing Sucks (http://www.churchmarketingsucks.com). A great blog that gives creative ideas of reaching the unchurched through advertising and branding.
• Threads (http://www.threadsmedia.com). Resources for young adult ministry (I really use this! Lifeway was not abused or hurt in the making of this article).
* Wild Apricot Blog: http://www.wildapricot.com/resources.aspx#Blog
Feel free to email me if you have any questions regarding the resources I have mentioned. Finally, these are merely a collection of those sites and resources that have benefited our ministry. Please share those that have saved you time and/or helped as you have ministered to college students!