Stop Killing Dead Trees: Theotek Podcast #091

The church uses a lot of paper to share its message, whether that message tells members and attendees what’s happening this week, the order of worship that day, or asks them to sign up for activities. In this episode of the Theotek Podcast we talk about using digital alternatives to paper bulletins, newsletters and even sign-up sheets.

Watch the podcast below from our YouTube Channel. The end includes a review of my Apple AirPods.

Digital Alternatives to Bulletins or Newsletters

In the episode above we talked about a few options for digital alternatives to paper communication tools. For example, if you want to text your entire congregation or even send up a voice mail over the Internet consider a service like CallEmAll.

Use a service like CallEmAll to send mass text messages.

I use CallEmAll at my church, High Peak Baptist Church. We only use it for emergencies, but it’s reliable and easy to use. You could send weekly reminders about events, activities or worship times. You can also categorize members into groups like your choir, youth group, parents, seniors, or Sunday school teachers. Only contact them. The service isn’t free, but it’s also not expensive. It costs 9 cents for credits and a text message is a single credit while voicemail counts as two credits.

Wes Allen said he used to create an eBook for his weekly church bulletin. People could download it from the website. They also put announcements on their WordPress Blog. Another alternative is SquareSpace, a web hosting and content management solution that a lot of people are using instead of WordPress.

Two other services that include digital bulletin alternatives are YouVersion’s Bible app and Logos/Proclaim from Faithlife. We’ve talked about this before on Theotek. You can put your bulletin, order or service, scriptures and more in these apps. If people install the mobile version, they can use open the bulletin on the phone. Some of the things these services handle include:

  • Bible readings in the service
  • Announcements
  • Images
  • Links to the website or other sites
  • YouTube videos
  • Giving
  • Surveys
  • Sign-ups
  • And more

YouVersion’s Bible app offers YouVersion events to the church. The church signs up and then someone from the church creates a weekly event for your worship service. The above video explains more about how it works.

The Faithlife Bulletins service works with Proclaim and Logos. Users can join an online social media group at Faithlife’s website where they’re receive the bulletins. Also, Proclaim offers live signals which get sent to the mobile Logos app on a phone or tablet. See my recent review of Proclaim 2.0 at Church Tech Today.

Don’t forget services like Mail Chimp for sending out email newsletters. Also, consider using a Facebook Group as your primary way of getting news out about your church.

Digital Sign-ups

As mentioned above people can sign up for events or to volunteer in the mobile apps from YouVersion and Faithlife. We also talked about using a kiosk system where people sign up at a computer or tablet in the church. Set up a Google Form to do this and it sends the list to you automatically in a spreadsheet.

WordPress and SquareSpace offer online forms for sign-ups. Search for a form plugin in WordPress or SquareSpace.

What About People Without Computers, Smartphones or Tablets?

The question arose in our discussion. What do you do for those in your congregation who don’t use or own a computer, a tablet or a smartphone? Maybe they do, but don’t feel comfortable using them for the above solutions. This is where community comes in.

Announce occasionally that such people should pair up with someone who does use these tools. Maybe a senior adult can have their son or daughter or a good friend print the digital email newsletter or bulletin. Those with these tools can look out for things their non-technical friends or family would find interesting. They can share it when appropriate.

Try to make a limited number of paper version available if possible. For example, you’ve already got the graphics and copy for a newsletter in email form or on a website. Why not just copy/paste to a document and print off just enough for this group?

Apple AirPods Review


At the end of the show, I reviewed my Apple AirPods. Here’s my bullet list review:

  • They sound great.
  • Pairing with an iPhone is awesome and easy; just open the lid and a dialog box offers to pair.
  • Once you pair with one Apple device iCloud syncs the pairing with others so you don’t have to pair again to an iPad or Mac.
  • They fit my ears better than the Apple earbuds in the iPhone box.
  • The battery life is good.
  • You can use one AirPod at a time to double your battery life if you don’t mind forgoing stereo sound.
  • Open the lid on the AirPods and a window pops up showing battery life.
  • They’re way too expensive at $159, but I’m sure glad I bought them.
antoine wright

Antoine Wright from the Future: Theotek Extra

I interviewed Antoine Wright, one of the co-hosts of the Theotek Podcast. Antoine’s a mobile tech and mobile ministry expert. He’s a consultant to believers and churches in using mobile tech to communicate the Gospel. He also helps people and companies with their user-interface design and other general tech topics.

This is the first in a 5-part interview series with our co-hosts on the Theotek Podcast.

Be sure to listen or watch all the way to the end since we ended with our Theotek Quiz, a 7-part questionnaire meant to help people learn more about the subject being interviewed. It’s a fun way to get to know our guests.

Follow Antoine on Twitter at @arjwright.


Take Note of Note Taking Apps and Tools: Theotek Podcast 090

Do you use your iPad, iPhone, Android device or Windows tablet for digital note taking? Then we have the show for you! We discussed our tools and techniques for digital note taking in this edition of the Theotek Podcast.

Note taking is a very personal thing, so our crew shared their favorite apps and tools for taking notes. This includes everything from handwritten notes using the Apple Pencil, Surface Pen or a stylus, to typed notes and even some mind mapping. Watch the video below or scroll down to listen to the audio version at the bottom.

Note Taking Apps

note taking with notability on ipad
Notability on the iPad

The apps we use for taking handwritten notes mostly include the following:

antoine sketchnotes paper 53 visual note taking
A “sketchnote” of one of my sermons by Antoine Wright using Paper and Pencil from 53.

If you’re going to type your notes then consider …

Wes Allen mentioned a mind-mapping app called iThoughts. Mind-mapping takes your ideas and puts them down on paper or on the screen in a graphical way using shapes, arrows and lines. Think of a flow chart for ideas. Take a look at the iPad app in action in the video below. They offer a macOS version too.

The Best Stylus for Taking Notes

adonit snap
Adonit Snap stylus is super thin

What’s the best stylus for taking notes. The first on all our lists is the Apple Pencil. It’s almost perfect. For Windows users, the Surface Pen’s just about as good.

pencil by fiftythree

In addition we like the following stylus options:

adonit snap camera shutter button
The Adonit Snap button works as a camera shutter button too.

Adonit makes a bunch of these. The kind with the clear plastic disc at the end of the stylus doesn’t work that well, so we don’t recommend them. My personal favorites include the Pixel and Snap. The Snap looks like a carpenter’s pencil, much like the Pencil by 53 does. It has a button that doubles as a camera shutter button on both iPhone and Android. Both of these work with both iOS and Android.


We also talked about the wonderful artwork that Antoine Wright does when he takes notes. He calls them Sketchnotes and has a whole album of them on Flickr. Here’s the slide show of his beautiful notes.

antoine sketchnote

Theotek Extra Live at CES 2017

Antoine Wright went to this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and Wes Allen and I caught up with him during a Theotek Extra. These are shows outside or normal weekly podcast. We’ll have more Theotek Extras coming soon. Here’s the YouTube video.

change your password to ward off hackers

Tech New Years Resolutions: Theotek Podcast #089

Every year in January people make New Year’s Resolutions, and often break them by the end of the month. Still we do it.

Our team made some resolutions for our technology lives in the areas of general tech, church and Bible tech. We shared them in this week’s episode of the Theotek Podcast. Watch it below and please consider clicking on the YouTube link and subscribing to our YouTube channel.

Here are the tech resolutions we made and shared in this video.

Wes Allen’s Resolutions

Wes decided to switch his Bible reading app from the YouVersion Bible app back to Olive Tree’s Bible Reader. He likes it better and enjoys not getting a bunch of unnecessary notifications like who started or finished what reading plan. He could just turn off the Bible app notifications, but he also likes the way Bible Reader handles devotional readings.

wes allen images

The Adobe Capture CC app lets Wes capture an image and then turn it into a black and white image, which he then turns into clip art using his Apple Pencil to colorize or touch it up. So this year he’s going to share them on to share with others. You can find his uploads at the site.

For churches, Wes suggests they know their limitations and not try to do too much. Just because the big mega church uses the most expensive church database software or worship representation tool doesn’t mean we have to in our small churches.


LaRosa Johnson’s Resolutions

ipad pro apple pencil

We all talked about curbing the amount of tech we have in our lives. Since LaRosa just replaced his computer, tablet and watch with Apple products, he’s going to put the brakes on buying new expensive tech this year. His resolution is to made do with what he has and learn to use it more efficiently.

Our group suggested ways to meet this goal. Here’s out list of tips for remaining satisfied with what you have and avoiding shattering the tenth commandment:


  • Ask “What are you going to use it for” before buying new tech.
  • Does it improve your life in a real way that you can define?
  • If you can’t answer these two questions definitively, then definitively say no to new tech.
  • Another question to ask: Do I have something that will do this and if so why do I need this new item?
  • Have a friend who can say no to your buying to keep you accountable.

The second part of his is to figure out how to get most out of what you already have. Again, here’s a list of suggestions:

  • What are ways I can make better use of what I have?
  • Push to make them more useful by doing more with what you have.
  • Use software and apps you own and become more proficient with them, like the Scrivenor app in LaRosa’s case.

Third, LaRosa wants to also help others do more with their tech and software, specifically using Scrivener in his writing workflow. is a great hosting site for simple websites

LaRosa wanted to suggest that churches take inventory of their online presence. He said something like this: if you’re church website looks like it did in the 90s, then get it updated. Wes chimed in suggesting that people use free or low-cost services that can help them make their site look more up to date, like or

LaRosa then ended with the suggestion to share your sermons online using sites like YouTube or SoundCloud.

Antoine Wright’s Resolutions

Antoine doesn’t make resolutions, but thinks people need to just change behavior when they see need or learn to use new tools and skills as soon as they acquire them. However, some may like resolving to improve their lives at this time of year, so he still suggested some things we can do.

change your password to ward off hackers
Change your password to ward off hackers.

Like LaRosa, Antoine wants to emphasize helping others in two specific areas:

  • Remind people to change their passwords due to all hacking of site like Yahoo.
  • Keep your eyes on what’s coming in tech so you are ready for big shifts.

He also suggested that the people in the church branch out and get to know the rest of the body of Christ. We’re very parochial in our local congregations, in our denominations and connecting with other members of the body can help you grow in your appreciate for the whole church and for God’s people. As it relates to tech, we talked about using tech to experience new traditions even if we can’t leave our churches to worship with other believers on Sunday or Wednesdays.

Kevin Purcell’s Resolutions

I agreed with LaRosa about becoming more proficient with tech. I’m focusing on my Bible study software and other tools I already own. is one tool to help become more proficient with technology software and services.

My second commitment is to get organized and de-clutter my life by organizing and getting rid of gadgets I don’t use or need.

Related to the above notion of changing your password, which Antoine suggested, I talked about doing a tech security audit. Make sure your Wi-Fi passwords are good and secure and change them often. Protect your computers and especially your church’s membership data.

Rick Mansfield’s Resolutions

Rick joined us late since he was traveling home with his roller scooter after the holidays, but he reiterated the security suggestions and also plans to pare down his tech and simplify in the new year.

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