Desktop Application from Web URL’s via Google Chrome

I came across this article on Church Crunch and thought, “this is something I’m already doing!” – but then I realized after watching the video there that I’m actually doing it differently than they suggested.  So I just thought I’d throw up this short screencast on how to create a desktop application using Google Chrome.  Just for you:

Going Beyond

I was just reading about American Shaun White’s gold medal run on the halfpipe on Monday and there’s one thing that stands out to me about his performance:  after securing a gold medal with his first run he went all out in his second.

He didn’t have to.

He could’ve just walked down the pipe for his second run and still would’ve won.

He could’ve sat on his snowboard and whooped it down the course, and still would’ve got the gold.

His coach even suggested to him to take it easy on the second run. Sound advice, after all there’s no sense in risking any injury.

But Shaun decided to go beyond that.  Not only that, Shaun performed the most difficult trick ever invented for the pipe (even the name of the trick is intimidating – Tomahawk).

This got me thinking.  How often do we settle for a win and glory in the win and even celebrate the win in our own lives and then decide that’s all we need to do?

When we:

  • get saved (a HUGE WIN) and stop growing.
  • go on a missions trip and help a bunch of people and then just show pictures when we get home.
  • give money to Haiti and then forget about it.
  • participate and serve in an event that helps all kinds of people and then don’t follow up with those helped people after the event (someone else will do it)
  • successfully complete a goal we’ve been aiming for and then fail to aim for something higher/better.

What could you add to the list in your life?  Shaun gives us a great challenge to go beyond.

[image from flickr user: TylerIngram]

My Daily Workflow

What do you do on a typical work weekday?  My typical work week fluctuates but here’s what I do on a day that I don’t have to travel or have any meetings:

  • When I first wake up my morning routine consists of waking up the kids,  a shower, teeth brush, hair setting, getting dressed, having a big glass of orange juice, and sometimes a bagel.  While I’m enjoying my breakfast and the kids are getting ready for school and my wife is packing their lunch I will try to get through my Bible Reading for the day on my YouVersion Blackberry app (I’m currently doing the M’Cheyne One Year Reading plan)
  • Once the kids get ready (hopefully with no fights) I’ll say good by to my wife and will load everybody into the car (actually a minivan) and drop them off to school on my way to work.  On the 10-12 minute drive to work (depending on traffic) my usual practice (not always, but usually) is to just spend time talking to God and thinking about the day ahead.
  • When I arrive at work I usually start my day off by unpacking my laptop and setting it up on the desk (hooking all the peripherals and whatnot – my dream is to have a nice 24″ widescreen monitor to extend the viewing space but alas, at this point, it’s just a dream)
  • If I didn’t get the chance to read from my daily Bible reading plan earlier I will do it after I get the laptop setup.  I will also try to get in a reading from a C.S. Lewis anthology that I’m working through.
  • Occasionally I will tweet any cool insights I think are worth passing on (unfortunately, lately “occasionally” means “rarely”).
  • When I log in to my laptop after everything has started up I load up Google Chrome with Gmail as a pinned tab.  Then I load up Google Calendar and Remember the Milk as separate instances of Chrome in the apps setup that Google Chrome allows (a really cool way of running web apps as if they are desktop apps).  I do this because I “alt-tab” A LOT and this makes it much easier to switch between applications that I use.  I also open Firefox and have our church management app started up in it (Church Community Builder).  I haven’t completely switched over to Chrome yet, there are still a few things that I like running on Firefox better.
  • Oh and one other app that is always running in the background is TweetDeck.
  • After I’ve set all the first apps up I then start up FocusBooster.  A short while ago I heard about the Pomodoro Technique from Scott Magdelain and since then I’ve been using it to power through all the things I do on a work day.
  • By now I’ve usually taken about 30 to 45 minutes of the day.
  • The next thing I usually do is tackle email.  I go through my inbox and triage it – either writing responses, making a todo task from it, or archiving them.  Dealing with email is an ongoing task through my day and communication overall is a huge part of my typical work day.
  • Once I’ve finished getting the first batch of email done I will then move on to working through the to-do list that I manage with Remember the Milk.  Tasks range from preparing for weekend activities, ordering materials, creation of promotional material for upcoming events or classes, writing messages or training materials, leadership development,  communication with leaders,  ministry planning and implementation, research, overseeing the budgets and finances of the ministries I’m responsible for…well – a lot of stuff.
  • I’m also a person authorized for signing church cheques – which invariably means that there will be things for me to sign through the day.
  • I’m also the unofficial tech support person.  What that means is if something isn’t working right with someone’s computer I’m the go-to guy.  I’m also the go-to guy for how-to use-software-to-get-things-done that we use at the church (as much as possible I try to pass off some of this stuff to our Church Administrator as this is mostly his job BUT then, I love this stuff!)
  • I’ve already mentioned that I use the pomodoro technique (well, try to use it is probably a better way of putting it).  That means that every 25 minutes I take a 5 minute break.  During the breaks I read through the posts coming into my Google Reader account and if there are no feeds to read I will work on updating my tumblr blog with highlighted quotes from books I’m reading.  I also do this during my lunch breaks.
  • When magazines come into the church that we share among the staff I will usually read them during my lunch break and sticky tag the articles I want to have for reference into my Evernote account.  When I’m done going through the magazine I pass it off to my secretary who will take care of scanning it for me (whew! Thanks Tanya!).
  • When I’m stuck on something (either facing a tough call with an individual or getting writer’s/creative block) I will usually drop what I’m doing and spend a few minutes just praying about it.  I learned a long time ago that prayer really does help. Sadly, though, I sometimes forget this.

That’s a typical work day for me and I try to reserve at least two full days where I can do much of the above.  However,  there are other things that happen through the week that I also do:

  • Meet with people (I’m currently using a neat tool that I came across called TimeBridge for booking appointments.  Here’s the link I give out to people who want to see me. (about 2 hours a week meeting with folks)
  • I try to take some time for personal leadership development and I’m currently enrolled in a leadership coaching course (Coaching Level II) that takes up about 4 hours a week.
  • I’m also currently mentoring a Bible College student (about two hours a week)
  • I’m also currently helping a Chinese immigrant learn English (about one hour a week)
  • Staff prayer and meeting (2-3 hours a week)
  • I’m teaching some of our staff coaching skills (avg about 1 hour a week, our sessions are spread over a few months and aren’t every week)
  • I handle all benevolent requests coming into the church and correspond with our benevolent committee in making decisions on the big requests.
  • Hospital visits (I’m terrible at this and don’t do it that often)

Once I’m done my day at work I will head home and on the evenings that I don’t have to head out again:

  • Get welcome home hugs and kisses from my kids (and I realllllly try to not get upset when I see all their backpacks and coats and boots spread all over the place – this is something I’m working on. Pray for me.)
  • I take a 10 minute breather (sometimes a nap, but usually just a quick browse through any mail that came in).
  • Enjoy supper prepared by my AWESOME wife Kerryanne.
  • Listen to my kids talk about their day around the dinner table.
  • Spend a few minutes with my children reading their books and helping with homework.  When that’s done,  I might play a bit of the wii with them, or I might wrestle with them (which is getting more and more dangerous every day)
  • I’ll spend some time talking with my wife about her day and she’ll ask about my day (and we’ll try to outdo each other with our war stories….just kidding!)
  • The kids usually start getting ready for bed around 7:30pm and are in bed by 8pm.  I’ll go around with my wife and hear them pray and then pray over them.  I LOVE hearing my kids pray – it’s so awesome hearing their faith expressed in their talks with God.  When I was a kid, I was taught to pray “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my Lord my soul to keep…” and I prayed that EVERY night.  I had that sucker down pat.  But my kids?  We’ve told them to get frank and honest with God from day one – and that is exactly what they do.  Every night is a surprise as we listen to them pray (I really am going to have to blog some of them!)
  • IF all goes well with the children going to sleep (I swear my youngest daughter, Jenna has caffeine for blood), then Ker and I will sometimes try to get in a TV show together.  Invariably, however, I have my laptop with me and I’m either writing a blog post, working on my WordPress plugin, or doing some freelance work to earn a few bucks on the side.  Currently, I’m doing more freelance work (we’ve got a goal of eliminating our credit card debt so I’m doing custom web development work on the side to help towards this goal).
  • Around 11pm Ker and I will head to bed together and I’ll read out loud the Bible Reading plan that we are currently working through together.  Sometimes we’ll discuss what we’ve read, but usually we’ll alternate praying together and then go to sleep.  I used to stay up and do more coding or reading on the internet but lately I’ve been staying in bed and crashing for the night.

So there you have it.  A typical work weekday for me at my church.  What’s your typical work day like?

[photo from flickr user: wurz]

Raising the Value of Volunteers

One of the things I’ve chosen to work on as part of the staff at my church is raising the profile of volunteers and developing ways for people to find on-ramps to serving in our church.  Any person doing this will tell you that it’s not an easy task.  Still it’s one I relish in tackling because I love seeing people discover their “fit” and living in it.

Some time ago I came across an interview Tony Morgan conducted with Ritchie Miller, the senior pastor of Avalon Church in McDonough, Georgia.  Tony writes that,

Of all the churches I’ve worked with in the last number of months, Avalon has the highest percentage of people serving in volunteer roles.

A little bit later, Ritchie gave the stats that show this:  Their weekly attendance average for 2009 is 1,419 and of that attendance they have 602 active adult volunteers (which does not include the middle and high school volunteers). So of course, I wanted to read what Ritchie had to say about volunteers.  Here’s some takeaways from this interview as Ritchie discussed what he believes are the reasons for such a high volunteer rate (Ritchie’s points are italic – the rest are my thought’s):

  • It’s a part of their discipleship strategy:  They “simply expect people to serve as a volunteer in ministry”.  In other words, being a disciple isn’t just about sitting and learning facts about the Bible.  I agree here.  Making disciples has to have a big emphasis on the growth that comes from doing ministry (not just participating).  One way I hope to implement this is by providing opportunities for people to be matched up with a “coach” who will work with them in discovering areas that they could serve and then trying it out. The coach would solicit feedback on the experience and help people discover a better fit if the first didn’t work out.
  • We talk about it a lot – If it’s not communicated (and frequently at that) then people aren’t going to get that you volunteers are valued.  One of the ways I hope to ramp up communication about volunteers at my church is by highlighting stories of volunteers who are in ministry.  These stories will be told via web, via print and video –  but more importantly from the pulpit as well.
  • We keep it simple – That’s a challenge in a established and bigger church. However, one of the activities our staff are currently engaged in is evaluating the effectiveness and necessity of our existing ministries.  This is because we want to focus our energies on the things that we know God has called us to do as a church and are proving effective in fulfilling His vision for us.  Ultimately,  we want to offer opportunities to volunteer with things that matter.
  • We try to keep easy entry points into ministries – This year we made the effort to have a clear job description for every ministry position in the church highlighting all the kinds of things that would help people better match to a position (spiritual gifts, talents, abilities that would make a good fit etc.).  All these ministry descriptions will be made accessible to those looking for a place to serve using a online matching tool as well as by coaches that will be trained to help people find an area to serve.  I also want to develop a “open opportunities” page of some sort on our website that people can see some of the available ministries they can volunteer in.
  • We emphasize the recruitment process  –  Everyone needs to be involved in the recruitment of volunteers.  In my opinion, some of the best recruitment potential can come from among the volunteers themselves.  If volunteers love what they are doing and have opportunity to share their story, others will want to be involved.
  • We try to keep it fun – Every year we hold a volunteer appreciation dinner where we celebrate the volunteers at our church.  Another thing that makes volunteering fun is making sure to celebrate the AWESOME things God does through the volunteers.  This is something I hope to do more of.

Finally, it’s worth repeating what Ritchie says will motivate people to give their time:

  1. …when it is clear how they can get involved
  2. …when it is clear what the value is.
  3. …when they feel like they are making a difference.
  4. …when you celebrate with them.

I learned some great things about valuing volunteers from this interview.  Go ahead and read the whole thing -> and let me know what you think here.