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I have just finished reading a new book by Jason Gardner, Youth Project Researcher of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (and a member of my extended family), I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to any Christian as the issues it covers relate to the whole of the church body and the relationships within it, but particularly to those wishing to change and shape church leadership. Below are a few comments;

Jason Gardner begins by carefully examines society and in particular the nature of young people and their relationship to adults over the last 100 years and looks at the changes that have occurred in a measured rather than in a sensational or rose-spectacled way.

He then looks at how the church has mirrored society in its treatment of the young, the contradiction of expectations and the polarisation of church communities. Not just in terms of youth congregations and ageing churches, but in terms of how churches create niche groups by age and how leadership delegates youth management responsibilities (appoint an underpaid, under respected youth pastor to reach and deal with ‘youth’, so the leadership does not have to).

I won’t spell out all the recommendations, but to say that the proposals that Jason Gardner outlines are challenging to the church but necessary to avoid a greater distancing of the generations and ultimately the breakdown of the church. With the external challenges faced by young people in particular, and different role that the church fills in society it is so important that churches can be the one place that generations can be side by side working together for Christ and the Kingdom. Through analysis, practical examples and suggestions, this book makes a positive contribution to achieving this aim.

On a side note, of particular interest to me were his points on parenting, one of which suggested that as parents feel guilty about spending inadequate time with their offspring, the time that they do spend becomes child-focused which does ring true. This can lead to the parent-child relationship being about fulfilling a child’s needs rather that the parent preparing the child for adult life. Maybe I should feel like it isn’t such poor parenting by getting my son to help with the DIY rather than doing something he would choose to do. This isn’t a parenting book, it is just one point that I found interesting.

Mend the Gap by Jason Gardner is available through IVP.


I have just come across a discussion started by Michael Boyink suggesting that web designers should not work for free when it comes to creating sites for churches because that inherently means that the organisations that the work is done for do not value it.

Because when a church gets a website for free, it evidently has no value. Things with no value get replaced or reimplemented on a moment’s notice, on staff whim, or as soon as the person leading the effort is called away.

The comments on this piece numbered 85 when he closed commenting, and on Church Marketing Sucks comments are still coming in, so it is obviously a topic that people have strong opinions on.

The criticism around this says that the website creation should be a gift without reservation to the church and what they do with it is their business, but this misses the point of the article. Churches that invest nothing in the original design and building of a website are not likely to invest the relevant resources ongoing to develop compelling and relevant content for the site.

And when someone else offers to take over the site, the old design is too easily abandoned (as it costs nothing) and replaced, when in fact the time spent on the redesign could have been better used on content. Michael Boyink suggests that churches that pay for the site in the first place are more likely to commit the relevant resources to get the most out of their investment.

A WordPress plugin has been released to bring bible verses in blog posts to life, by linking them to and also showing the verse as a ‘tooltip’ via the title tag.

There is a demo blog which shows the plugin in action.

Like other plugins, you drop it into the wordpress plugin folder, but before it works you need to complete the options screen. Most importantly is the API key that you need. You can get a free one here.

Read the rest of this entry »

It might not seem like a usual choice, but apparently because of the similarity between cigarette papers and the pages of bibles, the same machines produce both. Therefore machines originally produced to make pages for bibles are being switched to meet demand for cigarettes.

There are at least two good reasons to stop smoking. Number one: It may [sic] damage your health. Number two: It raises the production costs for bibles, ASSIST News Service reports. The Chinese craving for cigarettes is responsible for rising paper costs in bible printing, according to the business manager of the German Bible Society, Felix Breidenstein. Because of the rising demand for cigarette paper in China the special thin paper used in bible printing is getting more expensive, as Breidenstein told the German news magazine Der Spiegel. The German Bible Society sells approximately 400,000 bibles per year.

Found via: ESV Bible Blog

Over the past year, the bible translations I have most been using have been the English Standard Version (ESV) for Sunday School and web quotes and Today’s New International Version (TNIV) for personal reading. This compares to being brought up on a the New International Version (NIV).

But I find difficult is if the translation is not Anglicised, i.e. Commonwealth or British English. Although it shouldn’t matter, I find it very off-putting when words are spelt in a way I am not used to, honor instead of honour, counselor instead of counsellor, savior instead of saviour and others.

But reading Philippians last week, I came across garbage in my Anglicised TNIV. It should have read ‘rubbish’ as my Anglicised NIV says. Is this a mistake?

Phillippians 3:8b;

Anglicised NIV: I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…

Anglicised TNIV: I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…

But looking further, I see that the non-Anglicised NIV has ‘rubbish’ and not garbage. This means that in updating the NIV with the TNIV, they have chosen to replace ‘rubbish’ with ‘garbage’. This may work for US English, but it does not work for British English. There is no way I could stand at the front of church and use ‘garbage’, I would have to change it. I consider this an error.

And reading, on the Better Bibles Blog, I see that there are many differences with the British English TNIV.

A guest post on Church Marketing Sucks briefly discusses using RSS or other feeds to provide information to church members. For instance different types of news and announcements. If your church runs their church website on wordpress then this makes it easy to do as each category has its own feed, so that as long as you post different types of news to different categories subscribers can follow them independently.

For instance on this website we have the category ‘church humour’, which is located here:

And the RSS feed is located here;

It is found simply by adding /feed/ to the end of the URL. Fancy an atom feed? Just append /feed/atom/ to the end. If you do this to a post rather that to a category post list (as above) you will have the RSS feed (or atom feed) for the comments to that post. (And by default these comment feeds come prefixed with ‘Comments on:’, in the feed title so that in a feed reader it is clear it is a comment feed. For example:


But there is a problem, and it is to do with privacy. The CMS post suggests prayer requests, but many of these with be of a confidential nature. They cannot just be posted on a public website for all to see. Even if you do not tell ‘outsiders’ what the feed URL is, you cannot keep it private for ever, as your church members will use bloglines or another feed reader to subscribe or google will find it.

One solution is to use the wordpress password-protected post feature, setting a password. These posts appear in the feed, but without the content. Church members can then go to the website and type in an agreed password.

The only thing to consider is that it makes the church look uninviting and closed to outsiders if when they visit the church website to see many password protected posts. The best option here would be to stop entries in this category appearing on the front page loop.

Feeds are very powerful and with wordpress as your content management system for the church website, management of them is made easy.

When it comes to the weekly bulletin or posting some news on the church’s website, the content is the most important thing. But we must also think and consider the layout of the prose and type so that the message is communicated in as effective way as possible.

Taking time to improve the typographical elements such as apostrophes, dashes and quotation marks is important as it shows a level of detail and effort has been put in. It demonstrates that the church is interested in the small details as well as the ‘big picture’. And it just looks better, even if the reader cannot identify why.

There are many resources on typography, but a key reference for the web is the typographical design archives. For a recent summary see the ‘Web Typography Sucks’ lecture notes from the recent South by South West conference.

Typography tips for church bulletins and circulars
Church typography