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Best of 2011

Jon —  December 28, 2011 — Leave a comment

2011 was a whirlwind year for me. While serving in our student ministry, I also spent half of the year revamping all of our discipleship courses, and the other half of the year directing our elementary ministry. We built a website to host all of our discipleship course registration and blog content, directed the largest children’s Christmas production our church has ever hosted, and are in the middle of planning a county wide student conference. At the same time I am pursuing an MDiv in Apologetics. I have relied heavily on technology this year but have also found some other non-techie favorites. Here they are in all of their glory:

Adobe Indesign CS5

Having done all of my publications in Microsoft Publisher over the years the switch to InDesign was fabulous!  In an effort to keep users from messing up, Publisher limits the ability to manipulate the document however you want. While this is not a problem most of the time, there are moments when it becomes quite bothersome. Publisher often gives me grief when I have images layered one on top of the other. InDesign has been a breath of fresh air. The program offers so much control over the document. The learning curve is steep at first but you catch on. I highly recommend this software if you want to step up the quality of your publications


Color Scheme Designer (

Creating a professional looking publication means you don’t need to guess about your color scheme. While most of us can “eye-ball” a good color, this web app takes all of the guess work out. Plus, the app allows you to choose between monochromatic, complementary, analogous, split complementary and every other scheme you can imagine! I found this one late in the year but it has quickly become a go-to app.Samsung PX2370 LED Monitor:

I purchased this monitor at the beginning of the year and I have enjoyed every minute in front of it (well, maybe not every minute). The LED backlighting and 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio makes for a crisp display. Once again, if you want a top notch publication you need to create it on a display you can trust.


When we built our discipleship website for our church members to register an account on we created a screen cast video to walk them through the registration (basically a video that captures everything happening on your computer screen). The software we used cost a pretty penny. Well, just the other week I found Screencast-O-Matic! It has 95% of the features as the expensive program but only costs $12 a year to use. I am amazed at what we are doing with web apps now, and this one is one of the most impressive I have seen yet!

Ethics for a Brave New World:

I took an ethics course this semester and this was one of our main texts. The title plays off of the famous work by Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. It’s a massive work (close to 1000 pages), but boy does it cover a load of pertinent topics. The Feinberg’s set out to give evangelical views on issues ranging from abortion to just war theory. If you want to give yourself a kick in the pants, pick up a copy and begin working your way through it.

Well, it’s Christmas eve when I am writing this and I am wicked tired and ready for Santa to get here! Hope 2012 treat you all well, and I hope all your techie dreams come true.

Marshmallow Shooters

Jon —  December 13, 2011 — Leave a comment

Every Youth Pastor needs some back up, and our preferred weapon for office warfare is the Marshmallow Shooter. Each week Chris Dortch (Lead Youth Pastor at my church) and I will be showing you how to create sweet and often geeky youth ministry inventions! And if you are in dire need of other office weaponry check out these items at Think Geek!

Free Digital Film School

Chris —  November 27, 2011 — 1 Comment

Have you ever wanted to learn more about movie making even if it’s just to make your Youth Group videos better?  I just saw this class over on iTunes U that might help.  It’s an 18 part class to help jump start your digital movie making. It covers both iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, so no matter what platform you use, you should be covered. It doesn’t appear to be the complete class but a crash course to get you started.

The iTunes description:

Have you ever wanted to pick up a video camera and make a short video or film, but felt intimidated by your lack of knowledge? The explosion of film-making for websites and mobiles gives people and organisations the opportunity to tell their stories and show what they have to offer, at low cost. This collection of exciting videos features the Open University’s experienced team of filmmakers, who will show you some of the craft secrets that underpin good filmmaking, and how professionals stay up to date. You will learn the basics of editing, how to conduct an interview, the role of the producer and other crew members and how to archive your finished project. This material forms par

Best part is, like all iTunes U courses, it’s free. It may be a great way to introduce some students to film making so they can help you out by making some awesome youth group videos for you.

Chick here to check out the course.


Xtranormal Video

Jon —  November 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

Xtranormal is a digital animation company that allows you to create your own movies! Just think of the applications: camp rules, announcements, topic teaser, discussion starter, mid=week shout out. These are so easy to create and incredible versatile. Check em out at

I’m not sure if you did any shopping on Black Friday, but I’ve seen pictures of how crazy the malls were.  In fact I saw people camping out at Best Buy 2 days ago.  I like a deal as much as the next person, but that’s a little extreme.  That’s why i prefer to do my shopping at home.  So if you’re like me and you love a great deal on youth ministry resources check out the Youth Specialties Black Friday Sale.  Great resources from the Skit Guys, Mark Matlock, Kara Powell and Brad Griffin, Lars Rood, Chuck Bomar, Zach Hunter and more.

I recommend checking it out, while you are eating your sandwich made out of the leftover turkey.  It goes through Monday, don’t miss it.

Youth Specialties Black Friday Sale

Free iOS Course

Jon —  November 22, 2011 — 1 Comment

Just the other day on twitter I saw the most interesting tweet. Stanford University was offering their iOS app building course for free through iTunes University. I have a few app ideas I want to develop so I have downloaded the videos in HD, and plan on working my way through the course this coming spring. Just figured I would share this with all you fellow geeks out there. You can find the link to the course on Stanford’s iTunes U page. I have only watched a few minutes of the first lecture but they look top-notch; which is what you would expect from SU. If you decide to watch these all the way through anytime soon let us know what you think!

Introducing: ym wiki

Jon —  November 15, 2011 — 6 Comments

Are you one of those people who can spend an hour following internal links on Wikipedia? I am. This past March I was having coffee with our very own Chris Davis at SYMC. We began talking about new possibilities for combining technology with ministry. One of the ideas that sparked was creating a wiki for youth ministry. It’s never been done, until now. I am so excited to introduce ym wiki. It’s your personal database for gaining and sharing your youth ministry knowledge! Find the best games, restaurants, guest artists and speakers… it’s all HERE! What makes a wiki so great is that anyone can upload content. Just think, every youth worker in the world sharing their experience, and knowledge. Do you know a sweet restaurant in Duluth? Add it to the wiki. Is there a game that really worked for your group? Add it to the wiki! Wanna find a great guest speaker for your D-Now weekend? Find him or her on the wiki! This could grow into the largest database of youth ministry knowledge in the world; a virtual compendium of youth ministry knowledge. Don’t let all of your experience die with you! Leave it for other generations! Okay, maybe I’m a little too excited, but I don’t think so. Head over to the wiki and create an account, surf around, then share your own expertise! You can also follow @ymwiki on twitter to receive links to games, restaurants and other cool stuff on the wiki.

I saw over on Doug Fields’ blog, that his podcast returns today.  It’s now called the YouthMinistryGarage and the new site launches at 5:30 PM EST.  I’m so excited the crew is back.  I got to see a little bit of the first episode and it’s the return of everything I loved from the version we did over at Simply, and I’m so glad that YS is powering the show now to help keep it going.

Here’s a little video tease of the opening:

I can’t wait to watch it again.  If you’ve never watched before this is a great time to check it out.

Have you ever hunted for just the perfect movie clip to use as an illustration for your teaching?  There’s brand new iPhone app to help with that: Clips ~ Teach the Bible; Use scenes from movies.  I love that it’s made by a Youth Pastor that’s also a developer, RJ Grunewald.

Description from iTunes:

Have you ever noticed that a scene from a popular movie can often teach better than any great lesson from a pastor or small group leader?  Clips is all about helping people engage with the Bible by using scenes from great films. Pastors, small group leaders, and youth ministers can all benefit with the tools provided. Clips tells you exactly what scenes to use, what topics to teach, the verses you could use, and even some possible discussion questions.  It gives you everything you need to easily find the scene you are teaching from, even linking to it in iTunes.

Open the app and you are free to browse the movie library, look up topics you’d like to teach, or even search for a scene based on a particular verse.  Once you’ve found the movie you want to use, Clips makes it easy for you to have exactly what you need to lead a discussion on that scene.

– Library of 50 movies (and growing…)
– Over 80 topics
– Search by title, topic, or verse
– Share scene details via email
– Save your favorite clips and add used clips to history
– Easily find movies in iTunes through download links

Looks like a great youth ministry resource, go grab it on the app store now!
Clips ~ Teach the Bible; Use scenes from movies - GrunewaldDev

Here’s part 2 of my favorite iPhone / iPad apps for ministry and everyday life.

1. Bible – – This is my go to Bible reader on the iOS platform.  I’ve tried others, but I always come back to this one.  The team at LifeChurch just keeps making it better and better.

2. AppShopper – As a app junkie, I’m always looking for new apps and AppShopper is a great way to find out what’s new.  One of my favorite things about this app, is creating a wish list, and you’ll receive and email when the app is updated or on sale.  I’ve saved a ton just waiting till the app I wanted was on sale or even free.

3. Kindle – This is my go to book reader.  I think iBooks is prettier, but I love Amazon’s pricing and I love being able to access my books on all my devices.  I always look to kindle first for ebooks.

4.GarageBand – This one is iPad only but if you are interested in making music, this is an amazing app.  It’s the touch version of the popular app on OS X.  You can play piano, drums, or guitar and record them.  It’s also been so fun watching my kids make music of their own and get into it.  I love this app.

5. iMovie – This is my favorite quick video editor for iOS.  Again, the touch version of another of Apple’s desktop iLife apps, but it works so well on iOS.  It’s great for simple videos on the go that you can upload directly to YouTube or Flickr.  Easy to use and fast.

6. OmniOutliner for iPad – Another iPad app here, but it’s so useful. I often organize my thoughts in Outlines, and this is a great tool for that.  I use it for projects, teaching, writing, and just organizing.  It also works with the desktop version which I also really like.  Like all Omni apps, it’s a little on the expensive side, but I always feel it’s worth it in the end.

7. Documents To Go® – Office Suite – I’m a big fan of Google Docs and do a lot of my writing there, and this is best Google docs editor I’ve used.  I can access all my google docs there so I can edit or write on the go.  It also can access microsoft office docs stored in dropbox so you can edit or access on the go.

Bonus Pick: Live Curriculum – OK this one is a little selfish, but I’m pretty proud of it.  It’s the first app I helped design and produce.  It’s the app to access Simply Youth Ministry’s LIVE Curriculum. Click here to learn more about it.

There are so many other apps I use all the time, but I’d love to hear about some of your favorites.  What ones did I miss?  Tell me in the comments.