We had an interesting request from a client at Briar Patch consulting. Our client was distraught over the construction plans proposed by his neighbor. The neighbor intended to build a large, two-story extension over his backyard garage. As you can see from the image below, the current garage has a minimal footprint and does little to obstruct his view.
Needless to say, when our client viewed his neighbors architectural drawings, he was compelled to take action. We were hired to create an accurate representation of what the new view would look like using the image above. The goal was to help the neighbor and the homeowner’s association understand the degree of obstruction and the potential loss of property value. There were several things we needed to accomplish in order to meet these goals.
Measurements and Reference Points
Using a copy of the architectural drawings, we were able gather the precise dimensions of the new structure. We also needed to get a reference point on the photo so the proper scale could be calculated. Luckily, we had access to a mathematician who helped us pinpoint the length and height of the structure, the roof-lines and the slope.
After establishing the reference points on the photo, we had to erase the area where the new structure would stand. The challenge was in keeping the large tree in the foreground. Photoshop and Gimp are great tools for graphic design. Personally, we use Gimp, simply because it’s free. Anyone who has worked on a project like this knows how time consuming it can be to etch out an alpha channel at the pixel level. Overall, the process took a little over an hour.
Building a New Garage
The garage had to be pieced together from three different photos. We needed a roof that sloped at the same approximate angle, white trim with gutters, and a brick wall of a similar color. Each image had to be sized, shaded and colored to match the proposed building. It’s important to note that our client wanted the image to look as realistic as possible.
Layers and Shading
The three images that formed the house were added as three separate layers inside the alpha channel. I had to darken the edges and add a slight blur effect to make the new building appear less stark inside the photo. Finally, I copied the tree inside the alpha channel and moved it to a new layer. Then I created a shadow for the tree. Here’s the final image:
San Antonio Graphic Design
Here are the two images side-by-side:
When our client saw the photo, he said, “That’s exactly what I was looking for. At Briar Patch Consulting, we pride ourselves in helping people on projects like these. If you need help from a San Antonio graphic design artist, give us a call @ (210) 390-4500. We also love designing new websites and running digital marketing campaigns. Finally, this project was just fun.Click To Add Comment
The Web Design Process, Part 2
1. Written Content
Many of my clients loathe writing content for their webpages. Insert exclamation point here! Many web developers plead with business owners to provide them with written text describing their company. This includes the most basic stuff, like, the history of the organization and employee descriptions. Regardless, my personal experience is that most people hate to write. What to do?
Having published two books recently (with a contract for six more), I enjoy using my creative writing skills during the web design process. Blending the right words to create that perfect headline, or a compelling call to action is satisfying. Every writer dreams of producing something that people actually enjoy reading. With out a doubt, this drives their ambitions.
A friend of mine, who recently won the prestigious Christie Award in the category of fiction, had some brilliant insight on writing for clients. He said, “I started out as a journalist in a small town writing about everything from politics and religion, to crime and local sports.” He continued, “I didn’t know much about these areas until I learned how to interview people. I imagined myself as something like a WWII paratrooper. My job was to land on foreign soil, and if I wanted to survive, quickly discover the facts on the ground.”
2. My Approach
Surprisingly, anyone can write about someone’s business or product if they know how to gather the right information. Since I find what people do in life very interesting, this is not a challenge for me personally. Everyone has an interesting story and a core message. During the web design process, you need to draw these things out by encouraging them to talk about what they love. In fact, this is the kind of human interest material that keeps people engaged on a website. In the web design process, its a huge mistake to litter key words throughout a web page and hope that search engines will reward that site with top placement. If people do not stay engaged, they bounce away. And unfortunately, your webpage will suffer in ranking.
For example, in the roofing industry I discovered that “roof repair” was a frequent search phrase among homeowners with leaking roofs. Rather than write about how my clients were the best roof repair business, I described the experience of coming across a leak in your home. The page generated a huge amount of interest. And according to the analytics report, people stayed on the page long enough to read the story. As a result, the webpage ranked highly for that search phrase. My client earned a lot of money—success by most standards of measurement. To visit the page, click here.
3. Graphic Design
Our clients want their websites to look elegant and appealing. On the other hand, an ugly website will put a bad face on any company. It says to the potential customer, “This is the kind of service you can expect when doing business with us.” Many websites display clashing color palettes, over-sized images, poor load times, and cheesy logos. The old adage is, “A picture speaks a thousand words.” I would rephrase that by saying, “Poor graphic design will loose a thousand customers.”
Most importantly, hire someone who has an eye for design. While you may not be familiar with them, technical terms like: Layers, overlays, and opacity are the tools used by those of us who love digital artwork. Bottom line, possessing creative skills is an important quality in the web design process. And while creativity takes time, it’s critically important in developing the concept for the overall look of a website, especially if it’s being designed from scratch.
If you have a web design project you would like to talk to us about, please call, (210) 390-4500.Click To Add Comment
The Web Design Process, Part 1
Whenever a client hires me to design a webpage for their business, I always begin with research. There are several things that I need to know about them before I write one line of code. While some of these steps may seem obvious, they have always inspired my clients to have confidence in my abilities.
1. I visit their business.
Not only do I want to know what they do, but I need to know what makes their company unique. Everyone has a special niche, whether that’s a product, a service or a core message. I remember working with a frozen yogurt company in San Antonio called Arctic Ape Yogurt. What I discovered is that their product and selection dwarfed any other frozen yogurt store in the area. The pictures I used in the graphic design phase, and in the content I wrote, called attention to this reality frequently.
2. I look for the key words people type into search engines.
AdWords is a useful tool to use during the web design process. It will tell you how many people are looking for your business category or services online. This removes all the guess work and actually corrects misguided assumptions. For instance, I designed a webpage for a church in San Antonio. While investigating, I discovered that people often search with the phrases, “Churches in San Antonio,” and “Churches near me.” Here is where written content matters most. Including these phrases throughout the website enabled us to take a small church that was virtually invisible online, and allow them to rank on the first page of Google. This is no small accomplishment given the fact that there are over 2,000 churches in the city.
3. I research the competition.
It’s a good practice to visit every webpage on the first page of the major search engines in order to discover how they got there. More importantly, I use “inspect elements” in Chrome to look at the tags and metadata. Not only that, but I also look for SEO tools they might be using. Perhaps one of the most revealing steps is to research their Domain Name and DNS settings. Often a company will rank well because they have been around for long time. Google’s algorithms seem to reward these companies. Even so, a new business can license their domain name for multiple years. This tells the search engines that you don’t plan to be a fly-by-night company. This is an often-overlooked and inexpensive way to help your SEO ranking during startup phase.
4. I design at their place of business.
It is not unusual for me to spend about 10% of my allotted time during the web design process with the clients. This practice has generated more positive comments than anything else I do. In fact, I’ve done this in some pretty hectic environments, i.e., music schools, restaurants, and even construction companies. The advantage I gain is receiving instant feedback from the owners and employees. Every web designer knows the pain of spending long hours on a brilliant concept only to have it rejected by the client. Miscommunication of ideas or expectations can be avoided sooner rather than later if you are getting input real-time.
Add your comments. I’d love to hear your feedback
To read part 2, click here.Click To Add Comment
Frustrated With Your Webpage?
Here’s a question we get asked a lot these days: “Why doesn’t our webpage look like yours?” That’s a good question considering that your homepage is the number one means of determining whether someone visits your church or not. Gone are the days of upgrading your Yellow Pages ad to 2X2″ and placing a grayscale photo in it.
You are now in competition with tech savvy Millennials who know more about web design and Social Media than you know about the minor prophet Joel. Perhaps you had a freelance computer geek in your fellowship who did the best job he or she could do under the circumstances. You may have even paid high-dollar for someone to design your site a few years back. But guess what? The world is moving faster now than ever.
Graphic design and the clothing you purchase have a lot in common. The styles change every two years. Templates that are used for webpages are getting more powerful, stylish and appealing every year. Whatever template your developer used a few years ago is already outdated.
Church Web Design Secrets
Allow us to share a few secrets about about designing a webpage for a church. The first thing you need to consider is that most church websites look alike. Nearly everyone copies the same logical progression for presenting their church to the public. Don’t make this mistake and you already have an advantage. When you surf the average church webpage, it looks something like this: “We have a music ministry, a children’s program, a youth ministry, a staff and some media. Click on our links, and we’ll show you all the times we meet, and how awesome it would be for you to try us out.” Blah, blah, blah. It all looks like a souped-up church newsletter, and we’re being kind.
Do you want to set your church apart from the parade? Do you believe that you are any different from the church down the street? If so, here are some things to consider. First of all, the lead pastor needs to take a high degree of interest in developing the webpage. This is true regardless of how creative your web designer is. He can’t put your heart, your vision, or your voice into the overall look of your webpage if he doesn’t have access to it. The most important sermon you are preaching to the watching world right now is preceded by a www. So guard your webpage like you do your pulpit.
Church Web Design Consultants
Secondly, while your web designer probably knows a lot about hosting and html, in most cases, he doesn’t know much about church, theology or you personally. You need someone to guide you in how to present what you have to say. I can’t emphasize this next point enough. It’s critically important for you to get your message and branding out there in a visually compelling way. There will never be another soul born on the planet who is just like you. If what makes you special in God’s creation can’t be seen or read on your webpage, it’s a crying shame. You only have one life to live and one ministry race to run. As the Apostle Paul said, “Run to win.”
Thirdly, your church members need to be taught how important it is to use the social media tools that we will build into your webpage. Nearly every member of your congregation has a social media platform. Are you leveraging this for the glory of God? You should be, because it’s the new evangelism. Are you giving them the tools to drive people to your webpage? Do you know there are things that you can do to increase the likelihood that your webpage will come up more often in Google’s search engine results?
OK, they didn’t teach you this stuff in seminary. But that church meeting in the coffee shop down the street is the wave of the future. They get it, and if you’re not speaking their language, an extinction class meteorite is about to slam into the atmosphere of your church. Don’t be a dinosaur.
DNA & Church Web Design
Briar Patch Consulting has a team of creative people who rock at web design. They understand how to pull the DNA out of your church and place it into your webpage. If you hire us to help you in this, the first thing we will ask you to do is start writing. Get out a piece of paper, a pen and write down WHY you have given your whole life for the cause of Jesus Christ. Tell us what you want your church to be in the future. Write with the kind of passion that King David and the Apostle Paul wrote when they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Lay it all out there and put some guts into what you have to say. Shoot clean and straight and don’t mince words. Somewhere there is a fire burning within you. That’s what we want your city to see whenever they visit: www.how we’re kickin’ the devil’s butt.com.
Church web design is our specialty.Click To Add Comment
The Key To Conducting Church Surveys
Building unity and synergy around your vision is one of the most difficult challenges of leadership. Churches that thrive in this area don’t get there by accident. Someone in the church has made it his or her responsibility to go about the task of building a consensus within the body.
If you were to watch this person maneuver throughout the congregation, you would discover that they do two things well. First, they are skilled listeners. Secondly, they ask all the right questions. Gossips also do the same thing, ironically, but they destroy unity rather than build consensus. In fact, whether we like it or not, informal church surveys are happening all the time.
How Vision Gains Traction
Let’s say you have a fresh vision from God and a new direction for your ministry. Seriously, every pastor I know has a desire to hear God’s voice and see His glory shine upon their church. But reality can sometimes be harsh. Receiving a vision is no guarantee that anything will ever come of it. It must be cast well, owned by those around you, and implemented with excellence. Here’s a secret I want to share with you. Before they will ever see your vision, they need to be convinced that you have heard from God. And don’t minimize this next point. They also need to be convinced that you have heard from THEM too.
Launching a listening tour within your congregation is one of the most strategic things that you can do as a leader. As a pastor, I’ve taken many church surveys in this fashion. There’s just one drawback when you’re the guy at the top. They’re not always willing to tell you what you need to know. Whether or not you are getting accurate information really depends on the church culture and its unique history.
It would be a stroke of brilliance for you to supplement your own listening tour with an outsider’s perspective. The best church surveys are those that seamlessly fit your culture. In two days I can meet with dozens of people in your church on an individual basis. The purpose would be to understand their true convictions and analyze their critical thought patterns. It all comes down to asking the right questions and letting people talk until the tank runs dry.
A Lesson From Jesus
We often think of Jesus as the One who spoke with authority. But have you ever noticed how many times he spoke only after listening to what the people around Him were saying? For instance, everyone loves the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son in Luke chapter 15. But consider that Jesus told these stories after overhearing the negative comments about the company He kept.
This might be an interesting Bible study for you. The next time you read through the New Testament, underline all the questions that Jesus asked. Recently, I did this for myself while reading the Gospel of Matthew. Here are some to whet your appetite:
Matt 16:13, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Matt. 14:31, “Why did you doubt?” Matt. 6:27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Matt. 9:4, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” Matt. 23:33, “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Matt. 20:22, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” Matt. 20:32 is my all-time favorite, “What do you want me to do for you?” The last one is always painful for me to read, Matt. 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
So send me an email and we can start a conversation about conducting a church survey within your congregation. I love to watch a strategic question, well crafted and well placed, dig it’s way into the mind of man or woman. It has the potential to reveal the secret thoughts from the hidden place. What we don’t know remains unknown because we don’t ask enough questions. I know this process may sound a little scary to you, but let me assure you of one thing. I would never throw you under the bus with your congregation. However, I may be able to prevent one from running over you.Click To Add Comment
From Movement to Monument to Museum to Morgue
After pastoring churches for 30 years, here are a few thoughts I put together on the subject of the Church Lifecycle. This journey also led to the publication of my novel, Who Killed My Church?
1. A Movement Is Born
Movements that produce significant life-change and leave lasting imprints on people’s lives are uncommon events. And yet, few things are more thrilling than being pulled into the vortex of a movement whose time has come. On the inside it feels like you’ve been drawn into an unstoppable force. Everything the movement slams into is influenced by its power. Each contact creates transformation. In a movement’s wake nothing stays neutral, static or stagnant. Movements either create enemies or disciples, and rarely anything in between. They are meant to move you. That’s why we call them movements.
Over the years I’ve noticed that every church, no matter how young or old, originally started out as a movement. The founders had over-sized dreams empowered by an outrageous faith. They believed they could reach their city for Christ. They wanted to plant a church where none existed before. They presumed to penetrate the darkness with their fearless faith. Their dreams were like a shower of meteorites that light up the midnight sky. After a festival of light and a shock wave that rocked the very foundations of hell itself, a church was left standing at the epicenter.
Yes God moved. It was real. Everyone believed. Everyone served. Everyone sacrificed. It would be nearly impossible to start a church without a culture of movement, fueled by motion and emotion.
2. A Monument Is Made
If you are like me, you’ve probably noticed that movements give way to a second stage. I call this “the monument phase.” Here the movement actually becomes a monument to the past. During this period the original crew who started the movement begins to reminisce.
“Do you remember what it was like in those early days?” they say. “We were caught up in something that inspired us to live better and do more than we ever thought was humanly possible. We changed and we grew. We laughed and we cried. We were here when it all began.”
So nostalgia has taken root. And it’s not a good thing!
The movement is at great risk during the monument phase in the church lifecycle of a church. Present experiences seem cold by comparison to yesterday’s dreams. The energy begins to dry up. From the member’s viewpoint, God doesn’t appear to be on the move much anymore. He’s not actively blessing like He did during those early days. The fruit, once so abundant, has begun to wither and disappear.
These monuments, whether figurative or real, can take on the nature and appearance of an idol. Sometimes they become buildings dedicated to the achievements of the movement. Other times they become outdated ministries where the season of spontaneity and effectiveness have long since passed. Over time, monuments gather like a herd of sacred cows that graze in the fields of yesterday’s success.
3. A Museum Is Built
When enough monuments have been collected, the congregation enters the third phase of the church lifecycle. This is the museum stage. During this period, stagnation and maintaining the status quo become the new reality. The church has now become the very picture of what it was not when it was once a movement. It reacts strongly against change. It refuses to butcher the sacred cows. It remembers the original movement as a formula of success rather than a culture of innovation.
The pastors and leaders become curators of the museum rather than visionary leaders. New exhibitions of God’s power are seldom allowed to occupy space in a museum class church. They are looked upon suspiciously. They seem to threaten the legitimacy of and the memory of the movement that went away. This is more than sad.
4. A Morgue Is Left Behind
When left to the forces of spiritual decay, movements become monuments that turn into museums which ultimately become morgues. This fact is not even debated among the experts who study church lifecycle trends throughout history. It’s simply a reality that can be verified by anyone driving down almost any street in America.
There is only one solution to this often repeated pattern. Rage against it. Make no mistake, your personal sanity and continued growth depend upon it. Dig deep within. Lay hold of your smoldering passion and pour spiritual gasoline over it. Let a real movement of God begin anew on inside of you. Never, ever let it become stagnant again. Watch it become new every day. Feed it. And allow it the freedom to change as you change and the needs of the culture around you change.
Then at some point in the future when you are feeling a little nostalgic again, when another monument begins to take shape and take center stage, smash it. Smash it like Hezekiah smashed the snake that Moses made in the wilderness, (2 Kings 18:4). Israel should have never worshiped what was merely a reminder of God’s movement in the past. He alone is the object of our praise.
When you live monument free, you give yourself permission to start each day alive with God, filled with the Spirit and running fast after Christ. It’s a yoke free, bondage crushing, hell-less way to live. Enter into it. Take possession of this land. It has been promised to you.
Be the one who invites God to move in your church. But first, it must begin within the core of you. The morgue is death, and death is your enemy. You have what it takes to reverse this trend.
Always remember. You have a calling. Listen. You have a vision. Watch. You have a voice. Shout. You have faith. Believe.
I’m James Shupp, CEO of Briar Patch Consulting and Founder of The Movement Church of San Antonio. I’d love to hear from you. Let’s discuss your thoughts on where you are in the church lifecycle.Click To Add Comment
Coaching Church Leaders To Navigate
“Congratulations, you are the leader now. Go make it work!”
Ever heard those words? All leaders share this “baptism by fire.” The first time you were asked to lead in a church setting, you had probably never done that before. It was your first test. So congratulations! You must have done something right, because you’re still in the game. And now, you’re trying to figure out how to do the next thing right. Right?
The most important truth that we’ve discovered about leadership went something like this: “All leaders are learners. If you are still learning, then you are still qualified to lead. Whenever you stop learning, you stop leading. The reality is that you cannot lead someone farther than you’ve been able to go yourself. Once they pass you by, they become the real leader.”
I’ve spent the last thirty years of my life in leadership roles, studying high-impact leaders, and reading every book I could find on the subject. If you have a group of leaders in your church, and precious little is done to encourage and equip them, “Yikes!” Allow Briar Patch Consulting to help you make coaching church leaders a priority. When leaders are not equipped, something will happen in the near future that you won’t like. Whoever is in charge of the rudder, make sure they plan to avoid this iceberg.
Leaders don’t require you to do much for them in order to feel appreciated or believe that what they do really matters. But whoever has the responsibility of watching over the leaders should surpass what little expectations they have and offer them something great. Briar Patch Consulting conducts THRIVE conferences and retreats for established and emerging church leaders. We can do this on your church campus, or better yet, splurge. Schedule a retreat. Make it a day and plan lots of fun.
Our Unique Approach
One more thing, our subject matter doesn’t come prepackaged. In other words, we don’t show up with our agenda and natter on for a day about irrelevant topics. Let us know how the leaders in your church need to grow or be encouraged, and we’ll bake that cake. So hit us up with an email. We can discuss some dates and the issues we can address for your group. Coaching church leaders is one of our main passions!
Briar Patch Church Consulting exists to help leaders thrive in ministry and in the marketplace. Our specialized skill set includes a variety of technical capabilities as well, i.e., marketing, branding, webdesign, and SEO. We have over 30 years of experience in helping people overcome obstacles and set a new course in their ministries. Nothing matters more than the success of God’s Kingdom in the hearts and lives of men and women. Allow us to lead you beyond your present circumstances and toward a new day!Click To Add Comment
Coaching Church Staff For Progress
Briar Patch Consulting loves to work with church staff. We believe the that the support role is one of the most critical positions in a church. Let’s face it, the senior leader can’t do it all. That’s why the church hired you. Under God, you have been called and tethered to this role. And He most definitely wants you to succeed. Your most important assignment is to contribute to the success of God’s ordained leader, so that everyone can participate in fulfilling the church’s mission. Personalities and conflicts aside, this goal must happen in order to advance the Kingdom of God.
Nevertheless, church staff needs times of refreshing with the Lord just as much as anyone else. One of the requests that Briar Patch Consulting loves to fulfill is facilitating staff retreats. Give us a conference room or a cabin in a Christian campground, and we’re in our element. We will teach your group some powerful truths from the Word of God, and depending on the size of the group, set up time to meet with each staff member individually. Our ears are open, and our prayers are unfailing.
A few of our favorite topics of discussion are: “Creating a Culture of Gift-based Ministry,” “Spiritual Warfare and Spiritual Renewal,” “The Lifecycle of a Church,” “Conflict Resolution,” “Marriage and Family Renewal,” and “How Jesus Multiplied Disciples.”
Hit us up with an email. We can discuss some dates and the issues we can address for your group. Coaching church staff is one of our main passions!
Briar Patch Church Consulting exists to help leaders thrive in ministry and in the marketplace. Our skill set includes a variety of technical capabilities as well, i.e., marketing, branding, webdesign, and SEO. We have over 30 years of experience in helping people overcome obstacles and set a new course in their ministries. Nothing matters more than the success of God’s Kingdom in the hearts and lives of men and women. Allow us to lead you beyond your present circumstances and toward a new day!Click To Add Comment