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The Table does a lot of amazing stuff for your Church. The people directory brings together faces and names, as well as interests. The prayer wall enables the community to lift each other up in the moment of need. The small group tools make communication easier and a little more fun. I am sure you have found all kinds of useful ways to use the Table but we wanted to get your mind going even more. Here are 10 unique ideas to facilitate community on your Table.
1. Organize a neighborhood potluck
The Table makes it easy to find people in your neighborhood that go to your Church. As a church, you could promote a "Meet your neighbors" weekend in which you encourage everyone to find their neighbors on the Table and host an event. Here how:
1) Go to the People Directory
2) Click on the map icon
3) Zoom in on your neighborhood
4) Create a neighborhood group
5) Invite everyone in your neighborhood
6) Use the Calendar app to schedule the event
2. Share Christmas cards on the photo app
Many of us send out Christmas cards to our friends and loved ones. Why not share them with each other at Church? Encourage your community to add their family. Here's how:
1) Go to the Photo App
2) Click Add photo
3) Add your Christmas card and create an album entitled "Church Christmas Cards"
4) Promote it at your Church
3. Encourage a stranger
The Table gives your community the ability to send notes of encouragement to people they may not know or have contact information for. Ask people to Quicknote 5 people they don't know and to encourage them in some way. These short messages can help people in your church meet someone new. Here's how:
1) Got to people directory
2) Find 5 people you don't know
3) Click on the "envelope" icon under their name and give them a word of encouragement
4. Organize a prayer movement
Choose a specific event, country, mission or people group to cover with prayer for 30 days. For example, 30 days of prayer for South Korea. Challenge your community to really learn about what is going on there and for them to post different prayer requests for that country. Ask your people to come around that country during it's time of need. Think big. Can we do 1000 prayers for South Korea as a community, 5000...10,000? Make a goal and ask everyone to pray daily and display what they are praying for on the Table to show the momentum.
5. Flash Christmas Carol performance
Flash mobs are performances or events, usually coordinated through social media, that get a large group of people to do a random act at the same time and same place. If you are unfamiliar with Flash mobs, check out this example:
See if you can use the Table to orchestrate a flash mob. Maybe you do it just before the church service or at the local mall. Think beyond Christmas carols. What would it look like for your church to do a monthly flash service project?
1) Use Quicknotes and the Broadcast Message tool to get the word out
2) Create the event on the Church tab so people can RSVP
6. Start a "My Story" Wall
We all have a story. A story when God really did something in our life that changed us. It may have been a miracle or even just someone that spoke God's truth in our life. Use the discussion board to learn your communities stories. These are the stories we don't hear about in the local news. God is moving, but it's sometimes hard to see it. What an encouraging thread this could be to hear all the work that God does and has done in your communities life. Here's how:
1) Go to the Discussion App.
2) Click on "New Topic"
3) Create a title such as "Our Stories"
4) Add any further guidelines you want, such as character limit
5) Get a few people you know to add their stories first so it isn't blank when you promote it
6) Get the word out
7. Awkward Family Photos
We all have at least one awkward family photo right? Have some fun with this one and ask your community to post theirs. Here's some inspiration and now how to do it.
1) Add the photo app if you don't have it already
2) Add your awkward family photo and create an album entitled "Awkward Family Photos"
8. "Lift up the pastor" month or day
Pastors often do so much for the community and yet often we are all so busy we don't thank them or encourage them. Ask your community to shower your pastor or pastors with words of encouragement on a specific day or even for a specific month. Church leadership is so vital to overall community health and it is essential that they feel supported. Here's how:
1) Go to discussion board
2) Create a new topic entitled something like "Words of encouragement to Pastor __________"
3) Announce the day or month during the Sunday service and encourage people to log-in and share.
9. "Christmas Tradition" videos submissions
Everyone celebrates Christmas a little differently in their families. A lot of people have quite a few unique traditions that they do during this time of year. Ask your community to send in videos documenting their unique traditions. The two keys to this one are setting up the submission instructions and promoting it. Setting up the submission instructions can take a little time but once you do this, you can host all kinds of video contests!
1) Create a Dropbox account (to host big files) - its free at Dropbox.com
2) Create a SendtoDropbox account - free at Sendtodropbox.com (this will give you a unique email address that people can send large files to.)
3) Post email link such as firstname.lastname@example.org via the "Broadcast a Message" tool, and print it in your bulletin. People can now record themselves talking about their tradition, and email it right to you.
4) Upload the videos you received to your Youtube channel
5) Add youtube videos app on the Table and display this channel. Title the video app "Holiday Traditions"
10. "Pay it forward"
The "Serve App" is coming along nicely and is really built to do this exact thing. But in the meantime, you can use the discussion board as a place for people in your group or church to post needs. Ask your community to post a need and when someone completes that need, they can post another one. See how long your service chain can go. Can your church complete 50 needs in one month?
Have you used the Table in a unique way already? Or do you have a story about how the Table has impacted your church? Email it to email@example.com
As we've been doing market research and building The Table over the last couple years, numerous questions and concerns have come up internally and from potential customers. As we build the Table, we constantly examine our product with these objections in mind.
1. Technology can do good things, but it's potentially distracting and dangerous.
This question is so important that our lead developer Josh Lewis has already written an entire post about it. Technology is just a tool, it isn't good or evil. In Josh's post, he compares it to the early telephone. Surely some said the telephone would just be a distraction and another thing to answer to. In reality, it was more than that. It became a staple in the way we communicate. The ring of the telephone now represents people and relationships, not just distraction.
If people are using social media to communicate, interact, share and connect, then it is important enough to pay attention to. It is only a means to an end, it is not the end itself. Research proves that people actually do get together with their core networks in person more frequently when they connect digitally. As with all things in life, we need to be careful and make sure we use technology in proper balance with everything else competing for our time.
2. The Table talks about community, but using online applications isn't real community.
The Table's applications aren't the real purpose of the Table. Our apps are there to help facilitate community. Take the Prayer Wall for example. If you look at it by itself, you could say it just sits there and displays information. But if you look at it in the context of a larger story, you'll see it differently.
Let's say a woman named Susan takes her son Ben to the hospital. Ben has been badly injured. As she waits at the hospital, she posts a prayer request using her phone on her church's Prayer Wall. Within 30 minutes she has 5-10 people praying for her and Ben. Susan is notified through the Table of this support and knows that her church body is praying for Ben, right in the midst of his and her moment of need, with no delay. Roberta is one of the people that saw Susan's prayer request and prayed immediately. The next Sunday, Roberta introduces herself to Susan and asks about Ben's health. A new relationship, one based on very real compassion and care, is formed in that moment. That connection and that new relationship are the purpose of the Table. Our apps are there to allow connections to happen that would otherwise be difficult or impossible.
3. Why not just use Facebook?
To be clear, we are not trying to compete with or replace Facebook. We act as a compliment to global networks such as Facebook. The first questions we asked when we visited the 100+ churches in our research phase were, "Is Facebook everything you need? How are you using it? How is it working for you?" The feedback we got was unanimous. Facebook works very well for some things, but really falls short with a lot of other things that are unique to the Church. Here are some of our findings:
a) Facebook is great for global interactions and keeping up with everyone we know, but is not built for privacy and intimacy. People are in a "public" state of mind while using Facebook, and they act accordingly. The Table, by contrast, is a place for sharing everything you would share with your small group or church family. It is about local community, people that actually get together face-to-face on a weekly basis. There is a big difference between surface-level comments on a public profile page and intimate stories and prayers on your own private network.
b) Facebook is not built with the Church in mind. Churches have unique community needs and the Table is built specifically to meet those needs. Settings and features such as content control, specialized teen access, new membership settings and church roles are unique to the Table platform and have been designed with the help of real churches throughout the development process.
c) Facebook is somewhat of a black hole. It's so big that you don't know what is actually a part of your church and what isn't. Let's say your church's name was "Gateway", for example. We counted 104 Gateway Churches on Facebook before we got tired of counting. Because of that, when users are looking for their own Gateway Church and Gateway Groups, they're never sure which groups are officially part of their church, and which are part of some other Gateway Church. Since there is no hierarchical structure and no consistent branding available, this can be very confusing to your community.
d) Inappropriate advertisements - a men's accountability group shouldn't ever have ads of scantily-dressed American Apparel women on their screens. That happens regularly on Facebook. It shouldn't.
e) Custom applications built for the church - The Prayer Wall app, the Serve app, the member map and other apps we'll be developing soon are built specifically to meet the needs of a church.
4. I don't have time to check yet another thing online.
The Table acts as a content aggregator to actually make your life online simpler. You can bring in content from Facebook, Twitter, news sources, blogs and websites that you visit everyday. Furthermore, in the future you'll be able to log into the Table using your Facebook account, so you won't need to remember another username and password.
5. Maybe our youth group would use it, but not everyone else.
We hope the youth at your church will love the Table. It speaks their language. However, the most up-to-date facts and statistics tell us every generation is beginning to speak the language of social media. Have a look.
64% of Twitter’s users are aged 35 or older.
61% of Facebooks’s users are aged 35 or older.
75% of all social network users are 25 or older. (See Graph)
6. Our church is trying to do so many other things right now, we just can't administrate another thing.
Remember, the Table is built for your community, not for your staff. This is not a tool that will take lots of time from your church's staff. Like any new initiative, there will be time spent at the beginning, getting the ball rolling. You do need to promote the Table and build out the first round of content. But after that, once your community is on the Table, church staff can be more hands-off. The Table is about empowering the community, lay leaders, and group leaders to have their own place to add content and interact. This does not have to be administrated constantly from a single centralized team. Does someone administrate your interactions on Facebook?
7. It would be great if this took off at our church, but it's not realistic. It's more of a utopian idea.
A church will get as much out of the Table as it puts in. High adoption makes the Table even more powerful and useful for everyone. It shouldn't be seen as a “bolted on” strategy in your church, but should instead be seen as a core function of your church's online strategy. In our early testing we've seen churches that have made it a core part of their online/social strategy, and they're getting 75%+ adoption rates. Here are the central questions: does your church want this? Can you give the time and energy that it needs to get going? If you can, then it is possible and realistic.
One church launched on December 5th, and in the first five days had about 700 people sign up on their Table, and a new prayer request posted every hour or two.
Here's a photo of what the map in their church directory looks like right now. It's beautiful!
8. It doesn't have all the features we would like.
Software is always evolving. We have a huge list of features that we can't wait to add to the Table. That being said, if we waited to release the Table until we had added all the features we've thought of, it would never get released! We released the Table now because we believe it's ready to benefit your community. We believe its current functionality has great value (and at no cost!) for a lot of churches out there.
Many churches are still printing paper directories (which go out of date quickly), but some have stopped printing them because of their high cost. Churches that don't print directories have nowhere to see the people of that church all in one place. Many don't have a current group catalog, or a place for groups to communicate outside of just "reply all" emails. We also see churches with links to their videos, blogs, and podcasts sprinkled all over their website. We wanted to bring all those things together in one place for you. Those are just some of the problems the Table solves right now.
We know that we can't build absolutely everything you might want. But if there is something you want that you don't yet see, the good news is that you have the ability to build your own applications on top of the Table. That means you aren't limited to relying on only what we build. If you are interested in building out your own custom apps, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have a fantastic roadmap of functionality coming down the pipeline that we can't wait to release to you, but in the meantime, you can use the Table to do all kinds of wonderful ministry at your church.
9. I get why social media is a great thing and other people use it, but I don't really have the desire to do so.
We understand that social media isn't for everyone. That's OK. But statistics prove that a whole lot of people do communicate this way. (For instance, there are 500 million people on Facebook.) The Church needs to be in this space to continue to be relevant in today's culture. Also, social media is an efficient and effective tool to help you carry out your mission. Think of it this way: you may not be personally passionate about social media. But are you passionate about prayer, engagement with others at your church, knowing names and faces, and serving one another? If you are, then you'll love the Table.
10. Why not go with the Table's competition?
First of all, we're happy to be innovating alongside our sisters and brothers in this space. We all have a similar mission, and we're thankful that we aren't the only ones facilitating social media in the Church.
Here's how we're different:
1. Non-profit ministry - We realize that our competitors are ministries too, but our unique position as a non-profit gives us the ability to be extremely focused with our product and business model. The Table has an exceptionally low cost structure to support. We have a small but very capable team. We have no VC folks to answer to, and no investors of any sort demanding a return. We don't have to produce a profit.
2. The Table is a gift - It was our goal to eliminate the barriers to entry and encourage growth in your church. The Table is completely free. Furthermore, there are no limits on content, people or groups.
3. We have an open architecture - Our system is the only system you can build onto if you have needs that aren't met. Our open API allows you to build an app for your own church. And, if you are willing, bless hundreds of other Table churches by sharing it.
4. We are integrators. As you use the Table, it is evident that we are not re-creating the wheel. If there is a "best of breed" provider of a piece of functionality that would benefit you on the Table, then we will integrate with it. For example, we are not trying to replace your Church Management System. Instead, we want to integrate with it. For instance, the Table will be the most highly integrated product with Fellowship One and will move forward to partner with other ChMSes and platforms in the future. We don't want you to have to learn a whole new backend system. These companies have years of learning about all of your administration needs. We just want to be the social frosting on their cake!
5. Flexible and Customizable - Our app structure gives you more control over the platform than any of our competitors. The apps let you fully customize the experience for your users in different places on the site, since your needs may be different for each campus or sub-group.
Thousands of people all over America (from 30 of the 50 states!) are already using the Table, praying for each other, and going deeper in community with each other. We couldn't be more excited, and from the feedback we're hearing, many of them feel the same! But even if you're not in one of the 50 fast-acting churches to have gotten onto the Table in November, you won't have to wait long to experience it for yourself. Stay tuned.
For those folks who are already on the Table, there's one troubling trend we're seeing that we'd like to warn against. It acts like a wet blanket on your community. We'll call this trend the "silent profile." You'll recognize a silent profile right away when you see it. It looks a lot like this:
If you were in a church with this person, and you wanted to get to know them, what would you do next? You don't know what their hobbies or gifts are because they haven't entered any on their profile. You can't recognize them in the hallway next Sunday because they haven't uploaded a profile photo. They haven't linked to any of their profiles on other social networks, so you can't get to know them that way either. It's hard to relate to this person because we know nothing about him.
You might be thinking, "But I can just walk up to a stranger next Sunday, introduce myself, and start asking questions." You're right. But let's face it, most of us simply never introduce ourselves to strangers, and we leave it at that. Some people even react negatively to that kind of introduction.
A better idea is to have more options for more kinds of introductions. Let's lower the bar, make the introduction less nerve-wracking, and get something started that's convenient for everyone. It's forward momentum even if it's not a big first step. Don't worry, you'll be shaking hands in the foyer and having coffee soon enough. It's already happening at the churches that are on the Table now.
Now, let's pretend this was the profile we saw instead of the "silent" one:
We can see quite a lot about this person! We know what he looks like, we can see he's a technology enthusiast, he's on several other social networks, and he loves to sing. From his choice of Leviticus 13:40 we can even tell he has a sense of humor about his bald head.
It's a lot easier to introduce yourself to the person in this profile than the person in the first one. We could send him a quicknote and ask questions about which video games he's currently playing, we could ask for help in developing a website, or send him an email and discuss the finer points of his favorite verses.
The options are limitless, and many of them may lead to meeting him in person, becoming good friends, and having a relationship where you pray for each other, sharpen each other, and serve each other. Eventually, you may even serve others in your community side-by-side with him.
So for your sake and your community's sake, avoid the silent profile. If you see someone on your church's Table with a silent profile, send them a quicknote and ask them to upload a photo or add some information about themselves to their profile! You'll both be glad you did.
If you're the owner of a silent profile, don't feel bad. We don't mean to pick on you. But we do want to point out that you can't get a lot out of the Table if you put nothing in, just like any other relationship. So you want to improve your profile? There's hope! Our friend Jeff has made two videos showing you how to upload your own profile photo, and how to show your interests and skills using "tags" on your profile. It's easy! Enjoy. You'll be making life-long friends in no time.