Congress on Evangelism 2009 presentation

I’ve been at the Methodist Congress on Evangelism this week with Chuck Russell. This is the annual national evangelism conference for the United Methodist denomination.  Chuck and I were asked to present on the role of a congregation’s website in evangelism.  Chuck covered the basics and I talked about sermon content delivery, social networking and social media, and Internet Campus.

For fun, I used EVDO on my cell phone and a web cam to live stream our presentation via the Clif Guy Cam on uStream.  When I verified that my EVDO signal was strong enough to support the live stream, I tweeted and within minutes we had 10 people watching. The third time we gave the presentation, I recorded it.  You can watch it here.  Sure, the video production values are so non-existent it’s comical.  Despite that, the video gives a pretty good sense of the presentation.

Web sites/products mentioned in the presentation:

Worst? Buy

I know I’m not the first person to have a bad customer experience at Best Buy.  Neither will I be the last, no doubt.  This is what happened last week.

I went with my daughter, who is a college junior, to Best Buy to look for a laptop.  (Why didn’t we purchase it online?  Because she didn’t want to wait.)  After spending an hour looking at all the models, prices, features, screens, keyboards, etc., she decided on a Dell Studio 15.  It was well equipped and less expensive at $780 than we could get it through any other channel such as the Employee Purchase Program.

So I asked the salesperson if they had one in stock.  He looked around a bit and then checked his inventory system.  The only thing he had was the display model, which he said he would sell for 10% off, but at the same time he wouldn’t recommend that to us.  The inventory system told him that another store 5 miles away did have one and it was listed at $733.  Excellent, we thought, so he called the second store and asked them to hold it for us at the customer service desk.  We immediately took the short drive and found the box waiting for us at customer service as promised.  We paid and went home happy.  So far so good, right?

The next day I unboxed the system to set it up for my daughter.  I expected to see the standard Vista “mini-setup” or sysprep – the final steps in installing the operating system and preparing the new computer for first-time use.  Imagine my surprise when I was greeted instead by a screen showing two user accounts.  As I investigated further, this is what I found:

  • neither of the accounts were protected by a password
  • the system had been in use for 3-4 weeks
  • multiple applications were installed that I didn’t purchase, including Microsoft Office 2007 Enterprise
  • 100 GB of the hard drive was in use, including 23 GB of music, multiple bit torrents of DVDs, etc., none of which I had purchased
  • a document titled “Resume” with a number of revealing details about the user:
    • full name, address, phone number, and e-mail address
    • he graduated from high school in 2005, making him approx. 21
    • he was looking for an IT job
    • he was an employee of that Best Buy store in the Geek Squad

Let that last part sink in a bit.  How in the world had Best Buy sold me a laptop as new that not only wasn’t new but contained a huge amount of copyrighted material that I didn’t purchase?  At the very least this was a serious security breach involving a person who others are entrusting with their computers and data.  How could any Geek Squad employee not have a password on his own computer account?  No matter the circumstances of his use of the computer, how could the computer possibly have ended up being sold to me without him removing his data?  Did he use the computer without the store’s knowledge and somehow sneak it back onto the shelf?  Did the store not know they had sold me an open-box computer as new?  My mind was racing without a lot of information but all kinds of speculation.

Needless to say, I took it back to the store.  Ironically, the person who greeted me at the customer service counter was none other than the previous user of the laptop.  I asked to see the manager.  When he came I asked if there was a place we could speak privately.  When I explained, the manager was shocked and immediately seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation.  To make a long story short, it turned out that the employee had purchased the laptop and then returned it.  Best Buy’s errors were twofold: 1) they failed to restore the hard drive to the factory load; 2) they sold me the machine as new.  It’s quite possible they knew it was an open box item, accounting for the lower price at the second store compared to the first, but no one at the second store ever told me that.

The manager’s resolution?  He offered his apologies and provided me with another Studio 15 with a slightly better configuration that sells for $865.  (According to the manager, this second unit had been serviced by the Geek Squad to apply latest service packs, updates, etc.  So it wasn’t exactly in the factory shipped configuration.  I took his word for that in spite of the obvious fact that Best Buy had already given me ample reason to question their trustworthiness and procedures.)  He then asked if I was interested in the extended warranty.  I said I would take it if he gave it to me for free, which he declined.  So how’s that for a mediocre response to what was at best major-league mistake?

I’m now attempting to reach the person at Dell who is reponsible for the Best Buy account in the midwest.  Managers far removed from the sales floor occasionally need to hear from real end customers so they can better visualize the kinds of situations that arise at retail and the systems that need to be in place to serve customers well.

CITRT Fall 2008 Days 4&5

It’s difficult to believe I got home from the national Church IT RoundTable at Seacoast Church a week ago tonight.  Sadly, I forgot my digital camera battery, so I don’t have any pictures.  Several other people have posted photos online such as here, and here.  Note particularly Jason Powell’s Flickr set, which includes most of the attendees individually with their name tags, allowing those of us with bad memories to go back and refresh ourselves.  Thanks Jason!

Me with name tag at CITRT Fall 2008
Me with name tag at CITRT Fall 2008

Quick notes from Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday:

  1. The hospitality shown by Trace Pupke, Glen Wood, Geoff Surratt, and the whole Seacoast team was off-the-charts.  We pity the next host if they try to live up to that standard.  Wow!
  2. I posted my raw notes from Wednesday’s main roundtable sessions here.
  3. Based on a quick show-of-hands in the management roundtable session, nearly all of us consider ourselves to be spiritual leaders, but few of us are actively asking those reporting to us about their spiritual lives.  That seems to be a huge growth area for most of us.
  4. Enjoyed meeting Daryl Hunter of, who was there with CITRT-veteran Mark Burleson. The CITRT benefits greatly from the participation of the very largest churches such as LifeChurch and Second Baptist.  They are dealing with things the rest of us haven’t encountered yet and illuminate the path ahead.  They challenge us, stretch us, and inspire us.
  5. Having run an IT professional services firm, I found myself in an instant friendship with Scott Smith, CEO of Solerant.  There are hundreds of IT firms in every major city, but few are committed to serve churches as their primary market and fewer still offer the level of talent and expertise present on Solerant’s team.  One of my action items from the roundtable is to find a project I can outsource to Solerant in order to develop the relationship further.
  6. My first in-person encounter with Blackbaud left me very impressed.  I took the opportunity to have a frank conversation with Liz Marenakos, one of their product managers.  Considering we had just met, she allowed me to push her hard.  She seemed genuinely interested in understanding the needs of local churches and working through the process of adapting their technology and pricing models to fit us.  I strongly urged her to come visit me in Kansas City for an in-depth follow-up conversation.  I hope she will, particularly after what we learned when we toured Blackbaud on Friday.  They have an extraordinarily powerful framework upon which to build products for churches.

CITRT Fall 2008 Day 3

Once again, the Church IT RoundTable managed to be the coolest thing ever.  Here are my quick, contemporaneous notes from the roundtable sessions.  I moderated in Studio B, so my ability to take good notes was limited.

Conference WiFi

  • 24 laptops in the room.  Most if not all connected to the demo Xirrus array in the room.  Worked perfectly.  Kudos.

Mac OS issues

  • magic triangle – term used by Apple to describe AD-OD integration
  • Why do AD-OD integration?
  • Daryl Hunter at LifeChurch not sure why it’s needed.  Mac people have tons of files all over the place, completely unmanaged, not searchable, etc.  Hezekiah Barnes – Mac admin from Southeast very strong
  • Brian O’Neal – faith based support from Apple
  • Biggest issue is setting up ACLs so they sync between the two directories
  • Exchange 2007 even worse problems with Entourage than before.  Entourage database corrupts occasionally.  Problems with people using Entourage on one computer and Outlook on another.  Entourage 2008 is more stable with better features.
  • Don’t need AD integration for file and printer sharing.  Ideally it will work for single sign-on, but this is tough.
  • People love their Macs partly because they’re not managed.  Everyone lets their Mac users be local admin.  Some are doing the same for PC users.
  • Too much Mac data isn’t getting backed up.
  • Can become a certified Apple shop and then do your own repair.  Don’t have to pay for Apple Care.
  • Backup Exec has an agent for Mac.


  • Compellent has cool interface
  • EMC is awesome performance, difficult to manage
  • EqualLogic is fast
  • SAN Melody is a software-based SAN – does storage virtualization.  Cheap.
  • KVM virtualization for Linux – feature equivalent with ESX.  KVM easier to manage than Xen.  Performance is very good.
  • Windows people love Hyper-V
  • Mark Rock says ESX people are always looking for a place to hold a user group.  Love churches with an open area and WiFi.
  • Compelling reasons for virtualization:  Better hardware utilization.  Quicker disaster recovery.  Lower space requirements, lower heat.


  • Joomla has a CRM plug-in
  • Tony says all ChMS are too hard to use.
  • Most discussion around check-in and attendance.  Various theories about hospitality and whether self check-in or assisted check-in is better.
  • David Drinnon built a system using RFID for check-in
  • Text to a short code number (like we did our survey this morning) used by Southeast to do student ministry attendance

Desktop management/Help desk

  • Altiris.  Dell is a reseller.
  • Spiceworks
  • AuditISX – open source
  • Easy Audit
  • Everrest Corporate Edition
  • Dave Waters works in the IT Dept. for Numara, makers of Track It
  • Ruckus does authentication integrated with AD
  • Dameware – remote support NT Utilities includes Mini Remote Control.  (Numara resells as Track It Remote)
  • Vista image utility boots from a USB drive.  One image for any kind of machine so long as all drivers are present.
  • Help Desk –

Network monitoring

  • Cacti
  • Ground Work
  • Open NMS


  • David Drinnon: “I don’t like Sharepoint.  We’re playing with it.”
  • Daryl Hunter: “LifeChurch built an internal portal.  No adoption.  Abandoned.  What does an intranet give us a search server doesn’t?  We live in e-mail.  Use corporate IM, Yammer.”
  • ACS has a home-built intranet.  Couldn’t work without it.
  • Al Fresco – Sharepoint competitor


  • ACS – music not on the network except certain users and certain specific network folders

Remote access

  • Don’t use port 3389 for terminal services.  Consider 2-factor authentication.  Security concerns.

New facility construction

  • 20% “forward thinking”
  • Two 4″ conduits between buildings
  • Two 4″ conduits into the building for the telecom providers

IT Management

  • Surveys of users about help desk experience
  • How to measure IT health?  Key indicators?  My answer: ticket load, project time lines, annual goals
  • Identify felt need -> evaluate how a particular solution fits with mission/values
  • IT Staffing – importance of team affinity is Jason Powell’s #1 lesson of the last year

CITRT Fall 2008 Days 1&2

On Monday I traveled with Brian and Jeremy to Atlanta for the Fall 2008 Church IT RoundTable. Here are my quick notes for Monday and Tuesday:

  1. The flight from Kansas City to Atlanta was the best kind: smooth and uneventful.  The airport rendezvous with Jeremie Kilgore was flawless.  We managed to get a rental car with a trunk large enough for 4 suitcases and 4 laptop bags. The Sprint Navigation GPS software on my Mogul directed us perfectly to Moe’s, though it is quite buggy and requires frequent reboots of the Mogul. While at Moe’s I installed the latest WMWiFiRouter software, which is schweet!
  2. Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.  After dinner, Derek Schwab gave us a tour of JFBC.  Derek is a very busy network manager who has made the best of a small closet for use as a server room.  If you imagine a small data center and then cut that by a factor of 8 or so, you have Derek’s server closet.  😉  A few things caught my eye: metro Ethernet service from Bell South, which makes me jealous; a cool LED message system with a web interface and wireless connectivity; and a monster Xirrus WiFi array, covering their 3-story entry foyer and adjoining rooms.  Derek has done some solid work of which he is justifiably proud.
  3. North Point Community Church and their adjacent office building.  Tuesday morning we enjoyed a tour of NPCC’s IT and A/V infrastructure given by Ryan Clevenger, the head of their network and server team.  We saw and heard many of the things Tony mentioned when he visited 18 months ago, but new things as well.  They are currently in the process of expanding and completely rebuilding their data center in the NPCC main building, but of course everything has to keep running even while the room is under construction.  They’re making the best of a tough situation.  By contrast, their data center in the office building is a thing of beauty.  Sean Strickland, the IT Director, explained that their network infrastructure is “overbuilt” as an intentional strategy.  They want to install infrastructure once and then not mess with it any more so they can focus their efforts on areas that add more value.  They also have clearly-defined processes for day-to-day prioritization as well as annual goal setting.  My team was impressed with that.  They want more structure in their lives.  Heh.
  4. Next we ran over and had a very quick tour of Perimeter Church – only the main auditorium, the data center and IT offices, and the original demarc/MDF.  I just couldn’t stand the idea of being that close to Perimeter without my guys having a chance to see a bit of it.
  5. Following lunch at Zaxby’s, we drove the 5.5 hours to Charleston, checked into our hotel, and left immediately for the pre-roundtable dinner.  Was awesome to see so many friends and meet a few new people too.
  6. After dinner, we went over to Seacoast to help Trace finish last-minute setup.  We got to see his incredibly neat data center and then helped him put out four demo Xirrus WiFi arrays.  Cool!  The CITRT crowd will push them to the limit on Wednesday and Thursday.  By the end of this week, we’ll definitely know what they can do!
  7. The Courtyard WiFi is giving 2.2 Mb/s down and 1.7 Mb/s up.  Not bad; only problem is, connectivity keeps dropping.  Jusin Moore thinks it has something to do with the configuration of their Nomadix box.  Grrr.

Charleston, here we come (but first, Atlanta)

Yay!  It’s time once again for the national Church IT Roundtable (CITRT).  This time it is at the hub of Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  I’m stoked because I’ve wanted to visit Seacoast for several years.  Full details of this week’s events are here.  Even if you haven’t made plans yet, it’s not too late to join us.  Register immediately so Trace will know you’re coming.

Rather than flying straight to Charleston, I’m taking my team early and going to Atlanta for tours of Johnson Ferry, North Point, and Perimeter.  Our hosts are Derek Schwab, Ryan Clevenger, and Tony Dye respectively.

Due to Jason Lee’s first child being due any day now, he won’t be able to attend this time.  Jeremie Kilgore is the only one coming from Northwoods.  He’s meeting us in the Atlanta airport Monday afternoon and we’re sharing a rental car and hotels all week.  Excellent.

If you’re not able to attend, we’ll be using the #citrt IRC channel, Twitter, blogs, Flickr, Ustream, etc. to keep you updated on what we’re experiencing.  Charleston, here we come!

WiFi at Resurrection

As a rule, I try not to get too proactive on infrastructure.  I have found over the years that doing so runs a high risk of investing precious resources to solve a problem you never end up having.  In that spirit, a few years ago when WiFi was exploding onto the scene and many consumers started getting wireless routers at home, I knew we needed to start offering WiFi for guests on our central campus.  Simultaneously, I wanted to use WiFi for children’s check in.

Rather that designing and implementing a rigorous commercial WiFi infrastructure, I felt it was best to go buy some consumer-grade routers/access points and get started at a very low cost of entry.  Those devices cost $100-150 at the time.  I bought one Netgear router and after a bit of experimentation, I quickly bought two more.  Together they covered the narthex (lobby), most of the main sanctuary, and the portion of the children’s wing where we had check-in stations.  Total hardware investment was under $400 and we had something that filled the immediate need.

Over the next couple of years, we continued to buy more access points to cover more and more of our facilities.  Each time we have gotten new access points, we have used NetStumbler to measure signal strength and determine optimum placement.  We weren’t worried about security because: 1) we don’t have a private WiFi network at all; instead we tell staff to use remote desktop when they’re using wireless, just as if they were working from home; and 2) we have the public, non-secure access points on a separate VLAN. Total investment was still under $1,500 as wireless equipment got better and continued to come down in price.

Two years ago we replaced our Cisco PIX firewall with a SonicWALL Pro 2040, after evaluating a wide range of web content filtering products.  Ian, our network administrator, quickly discovered many, many cool tricks he could do with the 2040 and we fell in love with it.  Since then we have upgraded to a 3060.  One cool trick of these Pro-series appliances is their ability to manage access points.  So last year right before the Church IT RoundTable and Leadership Institute 2007, we bought a 4-pack of SonicPoints and deployed them to our most heavily used zones.  We immediately benefited from the improved realiability and manageability of these commercial-grade access points.

Earlier this week we got another 4-pack of SonicPoints and installed them in preparation for Leadership Institute 2008.  The new ones are the 802.11a/b/g version. I mentioned that today would be the best chance to test them until this event comes around again next year. I’m pleased to report that it worked like a champ. The additional NetStumbler testing we did this week allowed us to determine permanent locations for installation over the next few months.

Through this process we have learned incrementally, invested incrementally, and made incremental improvements.  Though we’ve spent less than $4,000 since we bought our first access point, we now have a solid, reliable WiFi infrastructure.  $4,000 is less than the consulting fee alone to have a commercial WiFi system designed for our facilities.

Do you have a story of a time you overbuilt something?  Or what about a time you invested slowly and incrementally, with a great end result and great stewardship?

Leadership Institute 2008

This week is Church of the Resurrection’s flagship conference for pastors and church leaders, Leadership Institute.  Each year it ranks among my top highlights of the year because of the opportunity to serve and meet many new people from all across the country who are passionate about improving their church leadership skills.

This is my 6th Leadership Institute and the first one at which I am not presenting.  This has given me the opportunity to focus much more than ever before on the network, WiFi, and other aspects of our guests’ experience.  I will post tomorrow about our recent infrastructure upgrades and how it is faring under the load.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), only once a year at Leadership Institute do we have a major network load spike.  Each year we learn something new, but then we have to wait until the next year to apply the lessons and find out how much of an improvement we have achieved.  So Friday, when we have all 1,700 guests on campus, will be our moment of truth.

Not presenting this year has also given me the opportunity to take photos of conference activities all over campus.  Andrew Conard asked LI photographers to upload their pictures to Flickr and tag them with “LI2008.” Right now it looks like I’m the only one who has really taken him up on that.  Here are a couple of my favorites so far.

Paul Baloche and band lead a clinic for worship musicians

Attendees enjoying the presentation by Midnight Oil
Correy Trupp talking about Small Group ministry
Yvonne Gentile presents in the Wesley Chapel
Conference guests outside before opening worship
Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton interviews congregant Kelly Sisney

For more, check out my full Flickr set.

David Kinnaman at Resurrection

David Kinnaman, President of The Barna Group and author of unChristian, gave a talk at Resurrection tonight and took questions from Adam and the audience.  Here are my notes.

David has been with Barna for 14 years, since he was a junior in college (which makes him approx. 35).

The public thinks present-day Christianity is no longer like Jesus intended

Favorable view of evangelicals:

  • 16-29 year old outsiders: 3% favorable
  • Boomer outsiders: 25% favorable
  • Elder outsiders: 27% favorable

75% of Americans over 40 say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important in their lives. 70% of Americans believe the resurrection is literally, historically true.

60% of Americans under 40 would say the same.

“Biblical World View” defined by Barna – 3% under 40 and 9% over 40.


  • Post-Christian context invites effectiveness in living as true missionaries, in tension
  • Political backlash invites opportunity to change “culture ware” rhetoric
  • Limited number of Christians with BWV invites expression coming from serious discipleship
  • Global awareness invites leadership for social and environmental justice
  • Hyper-individualism invites counter-cultural movement of community and non-materialism
  • Pluralistic culture invites opportunity to work alongside non-Christians to renew our cities
  • Desire for transparency invites authentic opportunities for spiritual conversations and project-focused churches
  • Search for purpose invites empowering students to pursue lives of service and clear vocations, energizing and equipping spiritual entrepreneurs

We suffer from a failure of kingdom imagination

What does it mean to be Christ-like?  Luke 7:36-50. What would the woman in John 7 say about Simon? He was judgmental, hypocritical, anti-sinner, too political, insincere, out of touch. This is what young people say about Christians today.

Births to unwed mothers: 1960 – 5%, now – 38%

Next generation is very relational. Music piracy – loyalty to peers is much greater than loyalty to authority, etc. Loyalty to peers is their primary moral compass.

How to post-moderns perceive truth? The majority of young people don’t respond to an apologetics approach (some do, but not majority). Being a Christian should make people have a clearer picture of what God has called them to do in their life. If a lawyer, a lawyer who is called to restore justice, etc.

Young people want deep answers, not simplicity, canned, or phony answers. For example, student ministry might be better with fewer students (lower student/teacher ratios) and deeper investment in their lives. We might think a great curriculum or a great program will communicate the gospel effectively. Since they’re relationally-motivated, that may be less true for young people.

It’s very easy for us to slip into patterns of judgmentalism, superficiality, and religiosity. For example, students often say that rather than being accepted at church, they’re socially shunned at church just like they have been at school. Church leaders favor the popular, beautiful, smart, rich, etc.  Students conclude the church is no different, or even worse that secular social groups.

It’s very possible for Christians to use terminology that non-Christians don’t understand.

43% of Americans say they’ve gone to church in the last 7 days. That’s probably over-reported (“halo effect”). Frequency of worship attendance among committed Christians is declining. People have many more options and fragmented attention. People can listen to podcasts, etc. (Adam says it has gone from 2.7 times per month to 1.4 times per month.)

Situational awareness is important, but relational awareness is even more important.

The media doesn’t get spirituality at all. Barna has recently gotten lots of questions from the media about Sarah Palin such as, “Why would she speak about spiritual things in her leadership?So it’s no surprise that the media doesn’t project positive portrayals of committed followers of any religion.

Young people today: it’s cool to care; they’re eager to take on big things and solve them.

12 years ago 80+% of people had a positive view of Christians. Now it’s something like 40% who have a negative view.

Young people don’t want to feel that they’re the object of someone’s attempt to win them to Christ. How do we feel when a Mormon comes to the door? We notice that if we’re not a great target for conversion, they move on. We don’t want friends who are friendly with us because of an agenda: insurance salesman, etc.

Critiquing Christians has become popular. There is very possibly a “bandwagon effect” going on.

Table talk: We incorrectly believe that non-Christians are faithless. Imago Dei tells us all people have a spirit that believes in something and is potentially open.