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Google is partnering with the Israel Antiquities Authority to launch the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of 5,000 images of scroll fragments. Among the texts is the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments, and part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which is seen in the picture above and measures in at about 10 cm. Google said the initiative will shed “light on the time when Jesus lived and preached, and on the history of Judaism.” “Millions of users and scholars can discover and decipher details invisible to the naked eye, at 1215 dpi resolution,” Google said in an official blog post. “The site displays infrared and color images that are equal in quality to the Scrolls themselves. There’s a database containing information for about 900 of the manuscripts, as well as interactive content pages. We’re thrilled to have been able to help this project through hosting on Google Storage and App Engine, and use of Maps, YouTube and Google image technology.” // Read more here…

Here’s an interesting commentary… what do you think?  Great idea, or horrible one? Many church staff in congregations perform several ministry functions even though they are not officially a “pastor”. Special attention to church staff (youth directors, associate ministers, musicians, office assistants, interns, educators, etc…) and their work wellness. Appreciating their work is not enough (a raise wouldn’t hurt). Pastors and church leadership need give more time off in a world where church staff have to do “more with less”. Micromanaging, low pay, unreasonable expectations, many evening commitments, and poorly managed church conflict all lead to staff burnout. Giving the standard “two weeks” vacation is another sure-fire way to burnout staff. Years ago, Google allowed their employees to spend up to 20% of their work time on side projects. What if churches let church staff blog, create, dream, build, write, or encourage creativity through side projects? Allowing church staff to express themselves through under utilized skills or talents may help a church find a new ministry. In addition, it allows the church staff to explore and create – something that is innate within humanity. Suppressing creativity only leads to frustration. Churches would be well advised to use a Google-like project to guard against burnout. // Read more here… What do YOU think? How do you help reduce burnout on your staff? Todd  

Brian Young had big plans for his church’s IT strategy. But his vision suffered a serious setback this summer after Google Inc. altered its nonprofit program to prohibit all churches and religious organizations from participating. For years, the search and software giant individually offered some of its products—including its office software and popular Gmail—for free or discounted use to qualifying nonprofits. Eligibility requirements varied by product, but churches and faith-based groups were welcome to use some. All of that changed in mid-March when the company launched “Google for Nonprofits.” The new initiative united a robust set of Google’s tools into one program, but it also came with new guidelines that excluded numerous entities, including schools, political thinktanks, churches, proselytizing groups, and any organization that considers religion or sexual orientation in hiring decisions. The shift caught church leaders like Young by surprise. As the IT director for Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Young spent two months researching Google for Nonprofits before applying on July 12. A rejection e-mail arrived the next day. Young had originally planned to unify 50 paid staff members and 270 volunteers with customized Gmail and office software; distribute video of Sunday services through a premium YouTube channel; beam live feeds of faraway missionaries using Google Video; and map locations of service projects and missionaries with Google Earth. He expected the 3,000-member church would also use Google AdWords (up to $10,000 worth) included in the program. “There were so many things for nonprofits that were going to benefit us,” said Young. “We just wanted to use them.” Disappointed by the rejection, Living Hope scaled back its plans and paid $2,500 ($50 per user) to use Google’s office software and Gmail for one year. Young is happy with the products, but also unhappy that he’ll have fewer capabilities—and fewer remaining budget dollars to aid his church’s social ministries. Tim Postuma, council chairman of a 418-member church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, expects the same scenario to play out for other churches. “That $50 per user is going to be a problem, especially for smaller churches with limited resources,” he said. Overall, he supports Google but said the company is “missing the mark here.” via Google Cuts Churches Out Of Nonprofit Program | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction. Thoughts?

Things are moving fast in the tech world, at least this past week. Facebook added skype video to their platform, and Google released Google+, their answer to the social networking world. But what does all of this, (especially the release of Google+) mean to those of us in ministry? Should we embrace it, or wait and see? Well, I’m an early adopter. I know that. And I realize that not everyone is wired like me… but I think Google+ has some great potentials for ministry that we should all consider together. 1. Internal Staff/Leadership Communication Tool. With the ‘circles’ feature of Google+ you can have part or all of your staff inside different circles. If you’re a larger church, each department could be in it’s own circle. A smaller church could have all staff, or elders, or board members in a circle. This allows you to communicate freely with JUST THEM at any time. If everyone is online, the communication is instantaneous. You can also use the ‘hangout’ feature to do online video chats. 2. Communicating with your people. I could see Google+ (if it is widely accepted and implemented) being a great way to keep in touch with your volunteers. Each volunteer team or ministry could have it’s own circle that could communicate with each other. You could provide announcements, build community, and interact throughout the week very easily. 3. Learning more about your specific interests. One thing that I would love to see Google+ add is ‘public circles’. That way, you could join circles that talk only about your interests… like worship, or student ministries, or church planting. I’m sure that this will be an option in the near future. These are just my top three ways that I think Google+ could benefit your church. I would encourage you to jump in and test the water. If you need an invite, just email me your address and I’ll be sure to send you one. And for those of you already on Google+, you can add me to one of your circles by viewing my profile here. Let me know your thoughts on the new technology. Todd

I whined and moaned and complained that I couldn’t get in to the first round of Google+.  A lot of people sent me invitations and tried to get me in, but to no avail, until Google briefly opened the door for some new people last night.  I was in!  Here are my first impressions. At first, I was underwhelmed.  The interface (especially the streams) take a little getting used to.  It’s nice, but a little harder on the eyes than twitter (with defined tweets) or facebook.  All the videos, links, thumbnails, pics, etc. are all in-line, which is great… but it does take a little getting used to. I played around a little with the Hangout (group video chat) feature.  This has some real potential.  You can invite people in your circles to ‘hangout’ with you in a video chat. The coolest part of this is that the camera view changes to whoever is talking.  That’s a neat feature.  And, you can watch youtube videos and do other things together as you ‘hangout’.  Very cool. To be honest, though, I was underwhelmed with the Sparks area.  It really just brings up articles and rss feeds in a search format.  I thought it would be more of a channels format, where everyone could create their own channel and promote it.  I hear that’s coming soon.  But the way Sparks is set up know, I doubt I’ll use it much. The initial notification settings are a little dumb.  It sends you an email with EVERY single sign-up, comments, etc.  But these are easily shut off in your preferences. Everything does seem to come into place and start to make sense.  The +1 thingy they’ve been pushing for a while finally has some context and use; and the google profile page now takes on a greater meaning for your online identity. Circles are really sweet.  What google has nailed is the ability to control the flow of your information.  You can publish to one person or millions… that’s up to you.  You can share pics with just family, your co-workers, your home group, or everyone on +.  That’s pretty sweet, and a feature that’s hard to use in Facebook.  In google+ it’s natural. Will google+ last?  It’s hard to tell.  It’s addicting, I can say that.  But until they open the door wide open and more of my friends, family, and acquaintances make their way there, it’s kinda sparse. Is it a Facebook killer?  Um… I’m not sure yet. Would I love to have everyone on Google+ to test it out?  Absolutely. What are your thoughts so far with Google+?  I’d love to hear them. And, you can check me out here, btw.   If and when they open the registration again for Google+, you can go here to sign-up! Todd

Facebook announced today that they are implementing group chat and Skype video chat into Facebook. Last week, Google announced Hangouts, a GROUP video chat, that is a part of Google+ (which I’m still ticked that I can’t get into). How much are these two services on your radar for ministry purposes?  Do you think either has great ministry potential? I’d love to hear your take… Todd PS – Facebook is supposed to be rolling this out over time, but you can supposedly grab it now right here.