All Good Things

After 20 years and more than 600 articles, videos, and blog posts on TntConnect, I want to let you know that this is my last post in and I am officially retiring from my volunteer role—and joy—of supporting TNT. And I want you to know how much I appreciate your enthusiasm and support over the years!

Read on and I’ll tell you what I’m thinking…

Greetings from northern Minnesota and the Greyhound Bus Museum.

Hibbing, Minnesota, is home to this gem of Americana. In 1914, two enterprising young men bought two new cars, Hupmobiles, with the intent to sell them to people in this small mining town.

They offered free rides and got many … free riders, but no buyers.

A friend suggested they sell these sample rides for 15¢ between Hibbing and Alice (two miles away), and the inter-city bus business was born. Prior to this, walking was the only option. They added more towns, and as ridership grew they started a side-business to stretch cars to make the multi-passenger vehicles that later became the buses we know today; by the 1940s, Greyhound was the largest transportation company in the world.

The museum traces Greyhound’s history from 1914 to the late 1980s, with the best part being the many classic buses they have on display. Greyhound is a rare company that not only invented an entire industry but also became the undisputed leader of it for decades.

Many innovations start as one person’s solution to a problem. It grows from there, first to early adopters, then gathering steam until it becomes mainstream, and then eventually it saturates the market where there are effectively no more customers. The innovation moves from highly manual to [in most cases] almost entirely automated. In some cases, these innovations were incremental over decades; for example, people used to pump water and carry it into the house which they heated using a fire they stoked; now they just turn on a faucet and hot water pours out.

The innovation AND adoption curves look something like this:

The steep part of the growth curve comes when the innovation, infrastructure, and mass production drive the costs down to where the [whatever] becomes affordable to the masses. Prohibitive cost was not the only obstacle to owning a car in 1914 in rural northern Minnesota… lack of roads and gas stations (infrastructure) limited the reach of this exciting new tool.

While many common household ‘technologies’ (such as indoor plumbing, telephones and television, electricity, air conditioning, etc.) are now universal and taken for granted, software technologies are the relative newcomer. And unlike those sweeping innovations, software adoption sometimes faces a “reverse adoption” curve (green) where both the number of users and the amount of usage declines even as the technology itself reaches a point of maximum improvement.

Software is not the only thing that faces reverse adoption. Diets, fitness apps / equipment / gym memberships, Netflix, restaurant chains, etc., all see this phenomenon as the newness wears off and reality sets in.

This reverse adoption happens when people try a new software tool/productivity product, often with great enthusiasm, but then over time either stop entirely, or at least revert to the way they used to do it. Usually the expectations were unrealistic (and for good reason: unlike TNT, most software home pages promise to solve every problem with little work on the user’s part!).

Lately I have been thinking about this “reverse adoption” curve, not just with TntConnect, but with other powerful productivity tools such as Quicken, Excel, and Word (all of which I have used for 30ish years).

In 2003 we did a survey of our staff about how they budget, and 80% of them used Quicken. Last year I surveyed 100 of our new staff under age 30, and exactly ZERO use Quicken. Fewer than half use any software, and those that do use 7 different products (several of which I had never heard of). You can imagine how difficult it has become to teach personal budgeting in such a fractured space! We’ve had to stop teaching software and focus only on principles; but the downside is that this leaves people having to learn software—and apply those principles—on their own; this is where the big gap is today.

So what changed? Quicken and TNT were in the family of “Killer Apps”, productivity tools that gathered all of the best practices into one powerful tool and had a near-monopoly in the market. Through the suggestion boxes from countless users and rapid innovation, these tools reached a point of near-perfection. People flocked to these tools in hopes of leveraging the new technology to ‘excel still more’. These tools were a quantum leap forward over the paper-based methods used before; they revolutionized how finance and PD were done. I can remember huge displays of Quicken at the office supply store, especially when each new release came out. I also remember a seminar I held after TNT had an upgrade, and more than 300 of our staff came to it. People would stop me in the hall to talk about it.

As these tools matured and the web/mobile began to grow, the software world began to splinter and proliferate. Instead of trying to compete with a single dominant tool, new software began to deliver only a piece, innovating on one element instead of trying to conquer the killer app. People now cherry-pick their tools, using just the most helpful features from a variety of tools rather than seeking to master one super-powerful tool.

Of course, power users still swear by the killer app because they relish the excellence, power, speed, and control over data that these tools offer, much of which is sacrificed by the leaner, web-based tools. For them, these super-tools fill a “sweet spot” and are, in fact, a sheer joy to use.

But the audience has shifted.

It’s not that those missionaries care less about PD. It’s just that they are not looking to software to do it. One of my opening lines when teaching a TNT class to new users was: “TNT will not do PD for you. You still have to do the work!” In my research over the past 8 years, the single-most popular PD tool by far is … a spreadsheet. I use a spreadsheet for PD work!

A few months ago, I sensed it was time for me to wrap up my hobby supporting TntConnect.

Recently I had lunch with Troy Wolbrink and was chatting about this. He made an astute observation: “You’ve written everything you could write about TntConnect.” And he was spot-on. As I looked at the 100+ blog entries in my future blog calendar, every one of them was something I had previously written on.

This won’t change my own use of it, of course. I usually have TNT open on my computer whenever I’m working as it is my primary personal management tool. Indeed, I think it is safe to say that using TNT has actually shaped how I do partnership development.

TntConnect continues to serve thousands of missionaries effortlessly, but the real innovations coming from TntWare are the organization tools that help ministries do online giving and/or collect/deliver donation information to their missionaries.

Conclusions and Concluding

It was never, ever, my primary goal to get people to use TNT (as an end in itself), either growing the number of users or helping the users “be better users and love it like I do”.

My primary goal has always been to help people build better relationships with their partners and be fully funded so they can thrive in mission. The intangible impact of TNT is that the collective usage of it worldwide, by freeing up some hours each month for every user, equates to sending hundreds of additional missionaries into the field.

If I may be so bold, my work in TNT resulted in some of my greatest friends in my ministry career: Troy Wolbrink, Martha and Duane Conrad, Horst Reiser, and Sus Schmitt.

I met Troy while writing my first book on TntMPD (as it was called at the time), Exploding TntMPD, and today he is one of my closest friends.

I met Martha (a USA staff member with our organization) in Germany in late May 2006 when Troy and I did the first international rollout of TNT; we stayed a week with Martha and her husband Duane for a week. Martha personally translated both the software and my book into German. Horst came from Switzerland for that rollout and became a TNT champion across Europe from a team/fund-development perspective.

As I look back, I consider that week to be the most pivotal week in the entire history of TNT, at least for our organization. Returning from that one week, I immediately switched to our international division, spearheading the launch of TNT and TntWare’s other ministry tools all over the world. Because of that week, thousands of missionaries started using TNT to support their PD efforts.

Duane (left), Martha, and I discuss the training guide. Martha not only translated TntConnect and my book into German, she also translated for hours during the training. Later, she spearheaded the launch of TntConnect across Europe. Her passion is caring for people and helping them thrive. Duane was a champion of Crown Financial Ministries stewardship training in Europe for many years, but maybe more importantly, has an intuitive sense into how people think and work.

The crucible of growth. Long nights and lots of food led to some of the most transformative developments in the history of TntConnect.

Horst Reiser came from Switzerland to attend this rollout. His passion for tools and excellence left a huge imprint on TntConnect: He was the guiding force behind the development of the robust Campaign features in TNT 4.0
Sus Schmitt has been a TNT champion as long as I have, and has personally ministered to thousands of missionaries in helping use lots of software tools to be more effective.

I’ve also become good friends with Sus Schmitt whose blog eQuipping for eMinistry has been a huge encouragement to me and many other people. She is like my tandem bike partner, doing what I do but for ministry tools in general. She loves TNT as her core PD tool and has really helped me hone my teaching and writing by giving me solid “outsider” feedback. Her blog audience is way bigger than mine!

Thanks so much for reading and your support over the last 7 years of this blog, and even for the last 20 for those who have been with me since I first started this work.

Yours in Christ,



In Memory … (It’s the people)

Heard this week that my very first ministry partner passed away. Full disclosure: I use the term “ministry partner” loosely in this case. I don’t think she knew the Lord and never gave a gift to our organization. But she was the first recipient of my very first newsletter on August 10, 1977, and had an incalculable influence on my life.

I first met Frances Bianco on September 7, 1976, in South Orange, New Jersey … when I started fourth grade and she was my teacher.

Mrs. Bianco in 2019, our first face-to-face visit in decades.

Mrs. Bianco was a great teacher and a tremendous encouragement.

The following summer my father announced a sudden family move across the country to Connecticut (okay, 125 miles away). I broke the news to her and an aunt in Montreal by writing a handwritten “newspaper” just like the little school newspaper we had created that year in class. It cost 13¢ to mail anywhere in the USA or Canada.

Since we also left two older sisters in New Jersey, I wrote a second edition to update them on our fall activities and Thanksgiving trip to the homestead in Quebec. Over time, my mother introduced me to photocopying, typewriters, press-on lettering, and third-person writing.

Four years on the high school newspaper staff almost led to a career in journalism, but at least gave me skills I use today.

Last month I published the 132nd edition of this family history. Mrs. Bianco was a subscriber and pen pal for 45 years. I texted her photos as I traveled around the world; I often called her on her birthday or just to chat. She turned 83 last November, did yoga daily and walked miles; she was a model of health and fitness. But alas, a short illness wound down the life of a teacher who influenced hundreds of kids over the decades. Living a half mile from the elementary school where she taught, she saw many of these students into adulthood.

Montrose School in 2019, looking unchanged from when I attended in kindergarten through 4th Grade.

In 2018, a ministry trip brought me to the town of my youth and I visited with Mrs. Bianco for the first time in 40 years. My teen son joined me on a later trip where I introduced the two of them; she made him feel like he was the only person in the room. No wonder her students loved her!

Mrs. Bianco and Camden at the South Orange Public Library across the street from her house.

What did I learn from Mrs. Bianco that has helped me in my years in ministry?

  • Whoever she is talking to is the most important person to her at that moment. I saw this when I brought my teen son with me; he wasn’t an accessory to our conversation. He was the center of her attention.
  • She asks great questions. She asked Camden about his studies, his interests—great leading questions that resulted in thoughtful answers.
  • She believed in me. I once overheard her compliment me to another class (she did not know I was passing the room outside).
  • She loved hand-written letters—she wrote to me until about five years ago when we started texting. Her letters were always filled with positive encouragement and praise for our work and family.

Proverbs 27:23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds…” In Old Testament times, these were the source of sustenance for the people and they needed to be regularly cared for. Our source of sustenance is our ministry partners. God is the ultimate provider, of course, but now—as then—it is up to us to care for and cultivate what He has entrusted to us.

We can learn a lot from a fourth-grade teacher.

Vol. 1 No. 1 (the first printed edition) and Vol. 45 No. 1 of our family update.
A book publisher helped me compile the first 43 years into a full-color, hardbound book so everyone in our family could have their own copy.

Flyby of TntConnect

This blog post is my best attempt at a 3-minute overview of TntConnect. In this post, I am going to give an overview of the four major functions of a partnership development software.

There are four or five partnership development (PD) tools out there, and their shared goal is the same: to help you connect with your partners so you can be fully-funded for ministry. All of the PD software tools have four key functions:

  1. Manage contact information,
  2. View and respond to giving,
  3. Enter tasks and log history, and
  4. View analysis & reports

Contact Information

My core verse that I use is Proverbs 27:23-27, which starts out by saying, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” For those of us who are supported missionaries, our flocks and herds—that which produces the resources which enable us to ministry—are our ministry partners that God has entrusted to us. So we really need to get to know them better and know about what they’re doing and what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling.

In terms of contact information, TNT has more than 120 different fields you can use, and another 70 that it creates itself from those. In my experience there may be 50 fields an average user might use, but I cannot imagine anyone using all 50 for every single contact. (Practically speaking, I know a lot more about some of my partners than others.)

Getting to that data: TNT has powerful “lookups” and “filters” so that you can find contacts based on any of the information in these fields.

TntConnect’s Lookup feature can filter on effectively every data field in the entire database, and even layer filters (such as narrowing down the list with successive filters).

Here’s another post on how Data Lovers enjoy using TntConnect.

Managing Gifts

In terms of managing gifts, you get to know your flocks and herds by tracking what they’re doing with their giving. TNT has a partnership development Tab (the “TNT Tab”) that allows you to track their financial commitment and view each contact’s giving history. There is also a Contribution Report that gives you a financial summary of what your partners are doing.

You can view the giving for each partner individually, or all partners using the Contribution Report.

Managing Tasks & History

In terms of managing tasks and history, TNT makes it possible for you to log activities that you do with your partners. You can enter info from any appointment, challenge, newsletter, email, call, thank you, etc. But it also has a POWERFUL, amazingly powerful history engine. With TNT you can instantly view any item from your history… even if you have thousands of entries.

You can log a specific task you completed with a contact, or a group of contacts (such as sending your monthly newsletter).
The History View shows all of your completed tasks. A variety of filters help you see certain types only, selected time frames, or even search for a single item.

Analysis & Reporting

TntConnect has an Analysis View with lots of charts and graphs, as well as a handful of helpful reports, in addition to specific data stored on any individual contact.

The Analysis View offers a series of charts to help you see your partnership team visually.
TntConnect calculates a number of items for each partner so you can see their annual and lifetime partnership.

Tip: See that nifty “Contact Details” box above? Find it by selecting Ctrl+D or Contact|View Details. It stays visible as you move from contact to contact. OR you can display it all the time by toggling the chart on the TNT tab by pressing the little arrow next to the word “Individual”: