Bob Face

In our ongoing efforts to update the First Trinity website, we are getting ready to launch an online portal for members and guests to access and update some of their information and have it sync up with our database. Here are some of the things you can do through the portal, along with a note indicating how “ready” the feature is. (NOTE: Everything is protected by both a password on your end, and a manual approval on our end before you can access many of the features belowActually: If the email you use matches the one we have in our database for you already, your account will automatically be linked to your records after you click the validation link that comes to the email address you register. In other words, no one can sign you up except you, provided you don’t share your email password with others. If your email does not match the one in our system, then we have to make the match manually before you can see your giving records.

  • View an online directory. Accounts that have been verified and linked by a staff member can choose to “opt in” to the online membership directory. You control how much information various permission levels can see in the directory. You can only view the directory if you have opted in. This feature is ready, but very people are in the directory as we are just starting with the roll out.
  • Access giving records. Accounts that have been verified and linked by a staff member are able to view their giving statements. No one else has access to your records. The reports can be downloaded directly from the website and printed for use in filing taxes as well. This feature is ready.
  • Find a ministry group to participate in. All users who register are able to look for open groups and request information from the group leader directly through the website. Once you express interest, group leaders are able to follow up and add you to their group so you can see some additional information like meeting times/locations, group directory, etc. This feature is only partially implemented as we only have a few test groups currently.

Become a Beta Tester

As we get ready to launch this portal to the entire congregation, I’m interested in people creating accounts so we can test the system and see what pitfalls there are. At this point, I only really need people who have been to First Trinity in person. We have the ability to add people from the web registration process to our database, but I don’t want to add unnecessary records. I’ve included a set of directions below for signing up. If you have questions about the process, you can get in touch with me via the comments here or on Facebook.

Registration Instructions

  1. Go to https://firsttrinity.infellowship.com/
  2. Click the green blue “Sign Up” link in the bottom right of the white window.
  3. Fill out the information that is requested.
  4. Click “Create Account”.
  5. You will receive an email with a link to verify your account. Click it to do so.
  6. Go back to http://firsttrinity.infellowship.com/
  7. Sign in using your email and password.

Remember that there is a delay as we manually sync your account with the one in our database, so some features like the online giving records won’t work until we make the link for your account.

Numbers And Finance

I recently ran a survey to find out how members of a church use their church’s website.

A note about the data…

Let me preface this by saying the sample size is nowhere near large (or diverse) enough to be incredibly meaningful, but it does provide some helpful data nonetheless. There were a total of 42 responses. I don’t know for sure, but I expect a vast majority of those responses came from people at my own church. Our existing website undoubtedly influenced their answers. I realized this when I had a conversation with one member about the survey. She was surprised to see that “online giving” was even an option people would look for. We don’t have that feature currently, so people don’t look for it. Therefore, a disproportionate number of people probably did not choose that. Similarly, our previous website was almost exclusively built around upcoming events and registrations for those events, which you will see reflected as a high priority from these results.

So for now, take the survey with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting things from the survey:

Frequency of Visits

I asked people how frequently they visited their church’s website in a given month. Here were the responses:

Visits/Month Responses
1-2 23
3-5 11
6-10 6
11+ 1

As I mentioned earlier, our website didn’t have much to entice people back on a regular basis. I am considering some sort of more regular content in a traditional “blog” style as a way of getting people to interact with the website more and to double as a teaching opportunity.

Purpose of the Visits

Here are how the pre-configured options ranked in the survey for the question “What were you hoping to find/do on your church’s website?”

Option Responses
Information about Upcoming Events 40
Sermon Recordings 21
Sign Up/Register for Event 16
News/Photos From Past Events 13
Prayer Requests 10
Leadership Information (Staff Bios, Contact Info, etc.) 10
Volunteer Opportunities at Church 10
Resources to Grow Closer to Jesus. (Devotions, Bible Reading Plans, Prayer Guides, etc.) 9
Participate in an Ongoing Ministry (Youth Group, Sunday School, etc.) 8
Online Giving Options 5
Resources to Help in Your Daily Living (Parenting Tips, How to Cope with Grief, etc.) 5
Join a Small Group/Life Group 3
Give Feedback to the Church Leadership 2

Again, the results were not surprising considering the primary emphasis of our previous website. I was surprised to see a relatively large number of people who look for news and photos from past events. We don’t report these things much on our website, but we do post pictures and recaps of ministry on our Facebook page pretty regularly. Also not surprisingly, “Join a life group” was very low in our results. There is no easy way to even find life groups on our old site, let alone join one.

What Was Missing on the Church Website

This section asked people to share what they had hoped to find on their church’s website, but couldn’t. Some of the frequent responses:

  • Current newsletter/calendar/announcements.
  • Staff photos/bios/contact information.
  • Service/Bible Study times.
  • Address/Contact info.

Biggest Frustrations with Church Websites

This section asked people to share their greatest frustrations with their church’s website. Some of the key themes in the responses include:

  • Navigation – People found the websites to be too difficult to navigate and find what they were looking for. This was one of the main goals of our new site–to simplify the navigation system so people can quickly find what they are looking for.
  • Lack of new/updated contact – We’ve all seen that church website that lists a coming event prominently on the front page, only to see that it actually happened several months ago. This also includes sermons not getting posted for several weeks from a couple comments.
  • Lack of online giving options – People are looking for convenient ways to give to a church and aren’t able to find it on their church’s website.

If you would like to contribute to the survey data, you can find it here. Feel free to share with friends who are members of a church.

There’s lots of information online about why guests access a church website, but what about members? I can’t find a good source of information about why members at a church visit their church’s website. So I need your help! This survey is by no means scientific, but it will give me a starting point. Mark your answers below and if you don’t mind, send the link to your church-going friends to get their feedback. I’ll report back with my findings in a later post.

Blank-Red

Here’s a set of Pentecost/Holy Spirit-themed backgrounds I created for worship at First Trinity Lutheran Church. You can download the files via Dropbox below. There are blank slides in blue, brown, green, orange, purple, red and teal. There are slides in various colors for different parts of the worship service (see Dropbox link for full preview). We use the slides once a year on Pentecost Sunday.

The fire texture came from Fire-Love-Account on Deviant Art. The original flame icon came from ecelop via Vector Stock. I modified the flame to create the dove portion.

Download FREE Pentecost/Holy Spirit Backgrounds

Blank-Green

Here’s a set of Easter Backgrounds I created for worship at First Trinity Lutheran Church. You can download the files via Dropbox below. There are blank slides in blue, brown, green, orange, purple, red and teal. There are slides in various colors for different parts of the worship service (see Dropbox link for full preview). We use the slides on Easter Sunday through Pentecost.

Download FREE Easter Backgrounds

“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”

St. Augustine, Confessions

It’s time to launch a new website for First Trinity. It’s been two years since our last major redesign, and as is always the case, we’ve outgrown the existing structure. Here are some of the resources that are influencing the latest version of the website:

Some of my goals for the new site:

  1. Guests are the first priority. Lots of members use our website, but we’re going to be intentional about targeting guests first and foremost. The front page in it’s current form tells a story as you scroll down. The basic outline:
    1. Two quick facts about us in visual form. The first is that we provide relevant teaching for your life today and that you don’t need to know everything (or anything!) about the Bible to come here. The second is that we want to pray for you, with a link to submit prayer requests to our prayer wall.
    2. What we believe. Rather than an itemized list of doctrines, it’s a more personal call to the guest. A “read more” button will lead to more standard theological beliefs like Communion, Baptism, etc.) The four key points:
      1. God is for you.
      2. We aren’t perfect.
      3. God has a plan for you.
      4. Check us out from the comfort of home. (Listen to sermons online to find out more about what we believe.)
    3. Be our guest at worship, highlighting the service times and a brief description about each, including how many people typically come to that service. There will also be a link back to a page with more information about our services, including some sample services.
    4. Our current sermon series topics. Rather than “This week” being highlights, we’ll list all of the topics in a particular series. This saves us from updating that page every week, but it also gives people a broader sense of what we’re talking about. I’m unsure if it would be a turn-off to see we’re on the last topic in a series, causing them to not visit. Subject to change.
    5. Address, phone number, “get directions” link, and an embedded map.
    6. Ad for Lifetree Cafe (subject to change)
  2. Provide regular content updates that teach and build community. Maybe it’s a short devotional about the message topic from the previous week, or a longer post that explores what we believe about a particular topic. We can share some ministry success stories, similar to the Bi-Annual Report articles written by others or something else. I’m not sure exactly what all we’ll include, but I think something regular might be helpful.
  3. Identify a better way to promote ongoing ministries and events.
  4. Outline a clear “next step” path to spiritual improvement on the website, connected with what we’re doing at Launch and other classes.

The new site will be ready sometime this summer. There might even be a sneak peek here at some point…. Stay tuned…

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

Lord's Supper 580

Key Theme: Jesus leaves some last instructions, including a special meal for our spiritual health.

Read John 13:12-17

  • Underline: Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
  • Write: Serve others

Read John 13:31-35

  • Underline: A new command I give you: Love one another
  • Write: Love others

Read John 14:1-7

  • Underline: I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.
  • Write: Jesus alone saves

Read John 14:15-20

  • Underline: Because I live, you also will live.
  • Write: Jesus is our life source

Read John 14:27-28

  • Underline: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
  • Write: Jesus gives us peace

Read John 15:1-8

  • Underline: verse 5
  • Write: Actions come from Faith

Read John 15:18-21

  • Underline: Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
  • Write: We will be treated like Jesus

Read John 15:26-27

  • Underline: you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
  • Write: Tell others about Jesus

On the night that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Romans, Jesus took time to be with His disciples and share a meal with them. That evening—the day before He would be crucified—Jesus wanted to share some important truth with His dear friends and disciples. Imagine being in a position where you knew you were about to die and had one last chance to share what was important with your family and friends. This is what Jesus did in the hours leading up to His death.

Read Matthew 26:26-28

After relating some important truth and final advice for the disciples, Jesus instituted a new practice that was meant to encourage and uplift His people. We will explore what happened with

Class Documents

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

Small-Group-Material-580

Key Theme: God calls us to practice contentment in Him, rather than focusing on the things we do or don’t have.

Read Exodus 20:17

  • Underline: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house
  • Circle: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … manservant or maidservant, … ox or donkey … anything that belongs to your neighbor
  • Write and underline: 9th Commandment or “9C”
  • Write and Circle: 10th Commandment  or “10C”

Read 1 Timothy 6:8-10

  • Underline: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil
  • Write: Don’t love money! (9/10C)

Read Luke 12:15

  • Underline: Be on your guard against all kinds of greed
  • Write: Don’t love stuff! (9/10C)

Coveting at its heart is about desiring something more than God. What the object is is less important than this simple fact: it is sinful to make something a higher priority than God. While money, stuff, or relationships are not evil, loving those things more than God is considered sin.

Read Genesis 3:6

  • Underline: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye
  • Write: Coveting led to first sin (9/10C)

Read Romans 7:7-8

  • Underline: But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire
  • Write: Sin leads to coveting (9/10C)

From the earliest moment of creation, Satan used coveting to trick God’s people into sinning. Eve listened to the devil’s prompting and coveted what God had reserved for Himself: the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve gave into that temptation and sinned. Ever since then, our sinful nature has led us to consistently covet what other people have or things that are forbidden. It is not God who put that desire in you, but sin living in you.

Read Philippians 4:10-13

  • Underline: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances
  • Write: Contentment cure for coveting (9/10C)

Read Hebrews 13:5

  • Underline: be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
  • Write: Contentment found in Jesus (9/10C)

Read Psalm 37:4

  • Underline: Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  • Write: Seek God first (9/10C)

If coveting is part of our very DNA because of the sin living inside us, how do we fight it? Paul tells us in Philippians that the secret lies in contentment. Being content is an act of the will whereby you choose to be satisfied with what God has provided, rather than focusing on what you don’t or aren’t allowed to have. But even more, it’s is not merely being content with stuff. Stuff in itself cannot provide contentment. True contentment only comes from a relationship with God. Knowing that he will never leave you, and delighting in Him will change your attitude towards money, stuff, and relationships.

Class Documents

This is part of an ongoing series on the Cornerstone Confirmation Curriculum we are developing at First Trinity Lutheran Church. (Main Confirmation Page)

Small-Group-Material-580

Key Theme: Our words are powerful for tearing down or building up a relationship. God asks us to choose them carefully.

Read Exodus 20:16

  • Underline: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
  • Write: “8th Commandment” or “8C”

What is forbidden in the 8th Commandment?

Read Proverbs 19:5

  • Underline: he who pours out lies will not go free.
  • Write: 8C: Don’t Lie.

Read Proverbs 11:13

  • Underline: A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
  • Write: 8C: Don’t Gossip.

Read James 4:11

  • Underline: do not slander
  • Write: 8C: Don’t talk bad about others.

God calls us to guard our tongues in the 8th Commandment, especially as it related to how we interact with (or about!) others. The temptation to lie is an easy one that can often lead to more lies, until you become trapped in a web that is difficult to escape from. Talking about others behind their backs—or gossip—is especially difficult. As Christians, we sometimes couch our gossip in the form of a prayer request: “Did you hear about Sally? She got pregnant with some guy she hardly knows! We should pray for her…” While it may feel like genuine prayer, too often we use this as the excuse to talk about others.  Very closely related to this is talking bad about others. It might not be a rumor or juicy piece of news, but putting others down publicly is also forbidden here—whether your assessment of them is right or wrong.

What is commanded in the 8th Commandment?

Read Ephesians 4:25

  • Underline: put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor
  • Write: 8C: Speak Truth

Read Ephesians 4:15

  • Underline: speaking the truth in love
  • Write: 8C: Speak in Love

Read Proverbs 31:8-9

  • Underline: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves
  • Write: 8C: Defend Others

Read 1 Peter 4:8

  • Underline: love covers over a multitude of sins
  • Write: 8C: Assume the Best

There are also God-pleasing ways to interact with others, however! We have opportunity to speak truth to others, but always with a loving spirit. If you have a hard truth to share with someone (maybe their actions are hurting you), you can bring it to them in a loving way. Basically, your goal is to help build up the other person or the relationship. While you can’t control their reaction, you can control how you present your words. We also are called in this commandment to speak for those who cannot defend themselves. Maybe this is speaking out against bullying or on behalf of someone who is unable to speak for themselves for whatever reason. We also assume the best in our dealings with others, rather than take offense first.

Class Documents