0 comments | Posted: 4 September 08 in Interviews, by Nathan Smith
A few months ago, I asked Terry Storch of LifeChurch.tv if he would field a few questions for Godbit. Busy man that he is, it’s taken a little while, but I am happy to say that it’s been worth the wait. Terry’s is a story of passion for pastoral ministry, the journey of an author, and a true technologist at heart.
You have quite an accomplished track record. Formerly the Technology Pastor at a mega church in Dallas, you now spearhead the Digerati team at LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma. You’ve had to keep abreast of advances in new media, but also manage groups of people in a spiritual setting. Have you found the coexistence of theo-tech to be exhilarating, exhausting, both?
Thank you Nathan, and thank you for the opportunity to be on Godbit. This is a great community, and I am excited to see what is going on here. As for my track record, it truly is a God thing! I am not nearly that good, or talented. For some reason though God keeps showing up in the middle of things that I am working on. It is my continual prayer not to mess up what He is doing.
Onto your question… is theo-tech exhilarating or exhausting? I find theo-tech to be 100 percent exhilarating! It’s my passion, and I know without a doubt that this is my true calling. It can certainly be exhausting, but I find that is the case with just about everything. Simply having the opportunity to do what I do is truly a blessing and is exhilarating. LifeChurch.tv is so supportive of theo-tech, and understands the mission critical nature of leveraging technology for the Kingdom.
Along with Brian Bailey, you co-authored the book Blogging Church. It seems an unlikely topic for a printed text, yet is so relevant in our always-on, plugged-in society. What was it like writing that book, and how did the idea come to fruition?
I give Brian all of the credit for “The Blogging Church.” Brian was approached with the idea and frankly needed a “pastor” to partner with on the project, and there I was. We are great friends, and at that time we working together at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas. Our partnership was natural. Brian and I teamed up on the project, but in reality Brian was responsible for writing most of the book. My core role was the interviews, podcasts and some of the more relational necessities. As you can tell from this interview, I am not a writer!
When we began breaking down the concept, and really putting structure to the book, it quickly became challenging. We wanted to reach a wider audience than just the technology person, so we narrowed the focus of the book to focus on broader concepts, and higher level information. It was extremely important that we connected with church leaders and pastors. If we could reach and speak to them, we knew the technology geeks would ultimately appreciate it.
“The Blogging Church” was a great project, and we have seen and heard some awesome stories of how it has positively impacted so many churches and ministries.
Aside from being a mentor in a fast paced team environment, you also wear the pastor hat from time to time. How do you fulfill your professional duties and still manage to reserve enough time each week for your family? What advice do you have for other Christian professionals, trying to advance in their careers but also be true to their familial calling?
Honestly, I struggle in this area like so many others do. I am a natural work-a-holic. Then factor in that I love what I do and would be happy to do it 24×7 / 365 without blinking an eye, and you have a recipe for disaster! Nathan, it is sad to say, but after 10 years of marriage, and over a decade of working in ministry I am just now starting to get better. I have a beautiful wife and two young daughters that need me, and frankly they are much more important than my personal ministry or job.
Don’t get me wrong, I still work very hard, and often I work a lot of hours. I think hard work is Biblical! However, several factors help to maintain a better sense of balance.
First, I have amazing people who I trust who speak truth to me; call me out when I need it; and mentor me. Some would call this accountability. I simply call them friends. They are guys that will kick my butt when I need it, and will encourage me when I need it. At the end of the day, these are guys that see me lay it all on the table. If you are reading this and you do not have those people in your life… YOU NEED IT!
Another key for me is, “Being where I am.” That sounds a little strange, but it is so true. I work very hard, and I still work a lot of hours. I have found that one of the most important things for me is to be very concious of when I am home with Robin or with my girls, and to actually “BE THERE” with them. It is so easy for me to physically be with them, but to mentally be somewhere else. So in the last 6 months I have been praying about this and working hard to be where I am. I still have a lot of work to do, but wow, this has been great for me.
The politics of code platforms can sometimes be as fierce as loyalty to a sports team or alma mater. I know that your team initially settled on CodeIgniter for your PHP needs, but seemed to use a variety of JS libraries. What decisions went into the selection of the various frameworks used at LifeChurch.tv?
I have a great team, and I trust them. I am not a micro-manager, or a granular leader, so most of those decisions involve me from a macro level. The team comes together at a micro level and will pull the trigger on it. My leadership filter usually asks the questions regarding aspects such as scale, speed of development, or whether we can we give it away, but I learned a long time ago to hire talented people and let them do what they do best.
We are now a Kohana PHP + jQuery shop. Technology changes so fast. I often remind the team that we are not married to any technology, and that we must stay focused on what is the best tool for the job, period. As I type this, a few of our developers and I are preparing to fly to San Francisco for a Google developers conference. So who knows what we will be developing with next week? Python, ROR? Who knows? I do know we will not be married to any of them.
What sort of planning process goes into the design and development of LifeChurch.tv ideas, including the flagship dot-tv site, as well as some of larger domains and one-off promotional sites? Do you guys use extensive wireframing, or just delve straight into design and code?
That is a great question, and the answer can be different on each project. My personal preference is the rapid development from design, but that does not always work depending on the size and scope of the project. Also, each team member brings their own style. I like that and the flexibility that it brings.
One thing that does not change is the “marinating time” on the white board. I am very visual, and the best way for me to flush out ideas and concepts requires large white boards with lots of colors. When I start drawing, something magical typically happens. Then we will go from the white board to some sort of high level scope document that will coincide with wireframes. After that, we move to design and to development.
I am a HUGE fan of 37signals’ book Getting Real, and recommend it to anyone who as not read it. Jason and his team really gets it, in my humble opinion.
As a team we often say we have more ideas than we have the ability to execute. I think that is just part of the DNA when you in an innovative environment like LifeChurch.tv. What I have found in this type of environment, is that there is not a one size fits all model for project execution. We try to balance all aspects and ultimately strive toward being good stewards of the resources we have. That being said, I typically use insourcing mixed with outsourcing to achieve optimal results.
Frankly, we are always hiring for the Digerati team. Even when there are no official job openings posted we are always going to hire gifted and talented people that are passionate about leveraging technology to impact the Kingdom. If you are reading this right now and are interested in learning more, hit me on Twitter @terrystorch.
Your current focus is on YouVersion, which is a way for people to take and share notes on Bible verses, virtually writing in the margins their scriptural insights. Please share more of the vision behind this project, and where you see it going: mobile, and beyond.
Wow, YouVersion has blown our mind over the past year! This project started as a thought, and it quickly blew up into reality. Actually, it was less than 90 days quickly!
Honestly, YouVersion is one of the most exciting, and one of the most frustrating projects I’ve worked on. It has had indescribable impact. The short version of the mission for YouVersion is “scripture engagement.” Over the past year we have seen the YouVersion.com website gain a lot of traction, and it has grown in an overwhelming way. Just yesterday we pushed out an update that took YouVersion to 31 Bible translations in 16 different languages.
Right now, a huge focus for the YouVersion team is language localization for all three current YouVersion properties (Web, Mobile, and iPhone). We are so passionate about localization we had to stop development for a bit, and build a dynamic localization tool for YouVersion. We needed a tool that would help us empower volunteers from around the globe to translate in a simple fashion. That tool is now functional and in the hands of our volunteer team, and we plan on rolling out localization to YV Mobile and the YV iPhone app really soon.
YouVersion Mobile is major effort for us because we believe there is great power when people have the Bible in the palm of their hands all the time, everywhere. A common statement we make is: “The future is mobile, and the future is now!” YouVersion Mobile debuted April 29th, and adoption has been lightning fast. I am not aware of any other Bibles available on your mobile device that are FREE and offer 31 Translations in 16 languages.
Then we have to look at the YouVersion iPhone Bible App! The only words that come to mind are HOLY COW! Here are the quick facts about the app as of Aug 30th. We launched July 11th, with 274,512 unique users who have spent 485,326 hours reading scripture.
Version 1.2 should release from the Apple App store very soon, and will include all currently available Bible Translations and languages. It will also be localized to English, French, German and Spanish and have A LOT of new and cool features. We have some amazing things coming down the pipe with the app, but our big focus is offline. We plan on releasing an offline version very, very soon.
Last but not least, please share your testimony. How did God get your attention, and show you the calling he had for your life? What has changed since you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
This be a long response, but I will try to make it as brief as possible. The bottom line for me is that I did not grow up in a Christian home. I didn’t become a Christ follower until 1994, when I was 21. I was very, very spiritually lost, living a very, very spiritually lost life and found myself in a very, very empty parking lot of Ed Young’s church on accident late one Saturday night. Sunday morning rolled around, and I decided to try it out. I had tried just about everything else, so what the heck. It was that day, my first day in church in who knows how many years that God used Ed to speak directly to me. I gave my life to Him, and my journey with Christ began.
Jesus messed me up! I started volunteering at the church like crazy. At the same time my business career was taking off like a rocket. The dotCOM days were really good to me those next few years, but there was just something “different” about volunteering at the church. I loved it!
After volunteering for almost 5 years, I joined the staff at Fellowship Church. FC was amazing, and the opportunity to serve under the leadership of Ed Young was priceless. My passion for Christ grew, and my passion for leveraging technology to impact the world for Christ grew. In 2007 God “moved” our family, and we joined the LifeChurch.tv team, and Jesus is messing me up again. 6.684 billion people on this Earth, and they all need Jesus… Thus begins the journey to leverage technology to reach them all!
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