I started working with IT in the context of ministry with YFC in March of 2001. I was technically knowledgeable from running my own little music studio but not experienced beyond family IT and running my own little business. (I was more of a musician then so it was mostly for gigs). I started making a website using a WYSIWYG editor while working with a little team of students and made their website. Computers were donated for student use, so we imaged them, I locked them down, and put in requested tools to monitor them for the protection of the students using them. (If someone was using them to talk to a creep online we would need to know, and we had notices near them saying they were being monitored). All of this complimented vocational schooling I was receiving, and later the Information Technology degree I was pursuing in college. This was also when I became known by people in other YFC districts as someone who had the technical knowhow to provide out of warranty service on staff computers if there were any issues.
After I had been with them for a few years I had grown in my knowledge of html in part due to vocational schooling, and I rebuilt their website. I coded it by hand in notepad using site elements that followed the Web 2.0 design aesthetic. It had rounded corners, and was visually pleasing. They were able to use the kind of site that a lot of organizations of their size would need to pay an outside company for. For the remainder of my time with them (until 09) the site they used was based off of this site, and any updates I took the lead in providing. I also followed the brand design guidelines to create graphics for ministries that didn’t exist in other districts outside of their district so their unique ministries had a cohesive brand identity.
My time with them wasn’t completely technical in nature. During summers I was the DJ at pool parties they would have in the evenings every week at the local public pool. Additionally like other volunteer staff, I helped lead meetings and led small groups, but most of my time went into design and IT. While I was serving with YFC, I also spent much of my time in college as the President of Campus Crusade for Christ on my college campus. (It is ran as a student organization on most campuses).
When I moved on to serve with Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru, there was a transitional period. I was accepted into Cru in December 08, and spent much of 09 transitioning away from YFC, and into Cru. My wife and I moved to Indianapolis in November of 09. In Cru, I was the regional IT guy with them.
I served under a leader who headed up the creative and tech team, and the regional Director of Operations. I was in charge of the IT infrastructure that the regional team used, and my job was to provide IT leadership to local staff and volunteers in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan who had roles that intersected with IT. I provided regional office staff with computers, helped made decisions on what computers to get, and so on. I was the office IT department. However I was also the regional support department, so if we had staff in Chicago who were having issues, for example, and they needed computer support and had no technical person they could turn to locally, then they could come to me directly.
As with YFC, that wasn’t the entirety of what I did with Cru. On Friday’s I was involved with one of their ministries called Bridges International for international students studying at IUPUI where we led an English Club and Bible Study as two separate events back to back. The English Club was where students could come to practice English and make friends. The Bible Study was a safe place for internationals of all religions to come learn more about what Christians believe; it was a safe place to ask questions about God. Before and after these events, Karen and I would meet with students to discuss their own personal and spiritual development.
Eventually Karen and I had to leave Cru. I loved working with Cru, it is probably the best job that I ever had, but Karen and I couldn’t continue raising the entirety of our paycheck from one time and monthly donations. It was enjoyable in that you had a team of people standing behind you, but tiring because whenever you lose a little support in one area or another, you have to find and meet with even more people, and present your ministry to them and hope they feel called to support you. If they only provide a little support ($5-$10 a month instead of like $50-$100) you have that many more people that you need to find to help cover your paycheck.
There was a side project I was running alongside YFC and Cru called seventy8 Productions (later nicknamed 78P). The name came from Psalms 78, and the entire purpose of this project was to equip Churches and para-Church organizations to be able to effectively reach out to teens and college students well, using more modern tech and approaches. It started as a ministry from the district I was serving with in YFC for other districts and local churches. Eventually I and our cofounder Jeremy Smith opened it up as a ministry to all churches and para-church organizations on a wider scale. One of our earlier projects was when we were brought on to make a series of DVD’s for a large church in NW Ohio whose youth group was going to have some small house groups throughout the area as a way to reach out to friends. We also led some workshops on using pro-level presentation software like Pro Presenter and MediaShout. As time went on, and we formed and built our blog and brought on more writers, much of the focus went into equipping other ministries through our blog.
Part of the reason 78P worked so well, was because it was an overflow of what I was doing with Youth for Christ and Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru. When I left Cru, I continued to be involved with 78P for a time, but eventually there just wasn’t the overflow, and I never had enough time for it to be a main focus since I was temporarily working at a secular job at the time, commuting over an hour one way for work every day. Jeremy Smith was bearing the brunt of running Seventy8 productions, so we sold our identity to churchm.ag. They integrated our articles into their site, and some of our writers including Jeremy Smith went to continue writing to them.
About a year after I left Cru, I found an opening at my own church, for a Sys Admin position, so I applied for it, and shortly afterwards, was hired. I am excited to once again be getting paid to do what I am passionate about, increasing the capacity of others to do ministry better by using technology well.
Helping ministries reach others more effectively is something I’m passionate about. It is this passion that helped spawn seventy8 Productions about 10 years ago, and something I feel driven to continue doing for the foreseeable future. One of the things I enjoyed most with seventy8 Productions wasn’t blogging, but the hands on work with clients, when I could help create a solution, or teach people how to use tech to make their ministry more effective. If you are with a ministry, I would also be interested in seeing how I can help you.