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Do you have a kind word or story to share about the Table? Let's hear it!
Using email to invite your congregation to the Table is an important step. But what to say? Too often churches rush through this step. We offer some recommendations for what to say and offer some sample text you can customize and use yourself.
There are two different ways to use email to invite members to the Table, both with their own benefits:
1. Send out an email to your regular email list that includes the link to your church's Table.
- The main benefit here is that the email comes from a familiar source. Your congregation won't be thrown by strange looking email that could end up in spam filters.
- You have complete control over the email. You can work it into your regular email newsletter or send out a special announcement with graphics. You can work the Table into your regular communication channels and do what works for your church.
2. Use the Table's invite feature to directly invite people to join the Table.
- You'll need to copy and paste email addresses into the invite field, so this can be more cumbersome. You should be able to export addresses from your email newsletter system.
- The bonus here is that when people click the link to join their email address is pre-populated.
- You have the option of adding a personal message to the invite and we highly recommend doing this. If your church members missed any of the announcements about the Table they may have no idea what it is and dismiss it as spam. Including a personal note increases the chances that they'll sign up.
Which approach you take is up to you, but we recommend sending out an email that's dedicated to the Table. If the Table is only one item in your regular email newsletter, it can be easy to miss. Sending out a second email that only covers the Table—whether you use your regular email list or send the invites through the Table—is a good way to make sure people don't miss it. Plus, you're launching a whole new online community. That's a step that really warrants its own email.
If your church uses the Fellowship One church management software and has it connected to the Table, you can also send invites through Fellowship One. This is a great approach and highly recommend if your church uses Fellowship One. There is no custom invite text though, so no need for the samples below.
- The main thing to remember is to keep it short. People scan their emails pretty quickly, so save the lengthy explanations for another time.
- Let the Table intro video do the heavy lifting of explaining why people should join the Table.
- When you send invites through the Table, make it personal. Introduce yourself so people will see a name they recognize. A customized welcome video will help even more with this.
Here's some sample text you can use. Use it as is or work with it as a starting point.
(ideal for your church's email newsletter)
Church doesn't end just because the worship service is over. "Church" is the body of Christ seeking God's kingdom, not just an event on Sunday morning. Prayer, service, study and fellowship are important aspects of faith that shouldn't be restricted to the hour we sit in a pew. That's what the Table is all about. It's a private social network, just for our church, that enables us to connect 24/7, not just on Sunday.
Join the Table today: http://yourchurch.tableproject.org
(ideal for the Table invite)
This is [Name] from [Church] and I wanted to invite you to the Table. It's a private, online community for our church. It will help us live church together. Pull up a chair!
So you love the Table but you're not sure how to get your church on board. We can help. In our recent Round Table webinar we explored how to get leadership buy-in. We'll outline the strategic benefits of the Table and show you how to pitch the Table to your church leadership. We'll talk about getting the right people in the meeting, the main points to communicate and common questions that church leaders ask.
Watch: How To Get Leadership Buy-In (40:21)
On Sunday I hosted a Table demonstration for my church during the adult education hour. I don't just blog about the Table, I'm helping to run it at my church. Which means I'm running into a lot of the same issues you are.
I learned a few things from doing the demo that might be helpful for your church:
- Giving people a place to ask questions is always helpful. I tried to anticipate the common questions, but unique stuff always comes up. So give people that opportunity to ask questions.
- At our church we didn't do a formal launch Sunday (bad move), so we've been struggling to get people on board. This was a good chance to show people how it works and answer questions. It would have been better if we did it when we launched, but late is better than never.
- I'm not a public speaker or a presenter, so this was a stretch for me, but standard advice on public speaking is always helpful: Test out your equipment ahead of time; pre-load any videos, pages or searches you plan to do; prepare an outline and practice it a few times. I caught myself gesturing to my laptop and realized too late that I needed to point to the screen (and even better, use the mouse to point out items on the screen).
- Talk about why your church is using the Table. We have a lot of blog posts that cover this and it helps to give people that vision for what the Table can do. In my presentation I backed it up with three real examples of how people in our church have already used the Table. Gives it some real world punch.
- Get some help. Have another person who is familiar with the Table there to help you answer questions. My wife has also been an avid Table user and I had her on hand. It was a big help when she jumped in to answer questions and give examples.
- If you're an Admin or SuperAdmin it's a good idea to log out and sign in as a regular Member. There are some differences in the user interface between Admin/SuperAdmin and Members that might trip you up. I was signed in as an Admin and tried to show people the ‘Flag' option for content, but since I'm an Admin the ‘Delete' option shows up instead. Oops.
- At the end be available with a laptop to answer detailed questions, show people how things work one-on-one and be ready to help people take and upload their own profile photo.
I'd also recommend giving people something to take home. I put together a handout that gave a basic overview of what I presented. I'm not much of a designer, so I just slapped together a quick one-page handout in Google Docs. Since it's already created, I'm making it available to share:
If you have a free Google Account, you can click on ‘File: Make a copy' to save your own version of the document and then customize it for your church. I highlighted all the areas that you'll need to edit. And of course feel free to change anything else to make it your own.
The easiest way to start conversation is with a question. You can't expect conversation to take off on its own. So if you want to generate conversation on your Table's discussion board, you need to prime the pump with some engaging questions.
The first thing to do is answer the question yourself. Never ask a question that you're afraid to answer. Plus your answer will encourage others to chime in.
And feel free to stack the deck—ask a few staff members or friends to answer the question and get the ball rolling. People are more likely to respond to an active thread than one so lacking in replies that you can hear the crickets.
Another key is to stick to questions that people can easily answer. Anyone can answer questions about their opinion or their experience. But if you get too specific or too deep then people have to think too hard or don't have an answer. Your goal is to ask engaging, inviting questions.
Here are some general types of questions you can use to get things started. Run one every week or every month to keep discussion rolling. You'll be amazed at how you can get to know your fellow church members. And as people see activity in the discussion board they'll be more likely to start their own discussions.
1. What about our church? People like to talk about their own experiences and asking about the shared experience of your church can get some good responses. Plus it's a good way to build community. Reflecting on why people first decided to come to your church or their favorite church memory is a good way to remind people why they love your church. That can be especially helpful when you're about to do an outreach event and are trying to encourage people to invite their friends.
2. Were you sleeping during the sermon? If you're unsure what kind of questions to ask, a sure-fire approach is to ask questions about the sermon. It's regular weekly content and asking questions about it will help your congregation get more out of it. This one is ideal to do every week in order to get people in the habit of doing it. But if you do it every week, be sure to ask questions unique to the sermon. Don't just ask what their favorite part was or what stuck out to them. Ask them what they think the parable of the seeds means or how as a church you can learn from the example of Acts 2. Make it specific.
3. How can we do this better? Churches are notorious for having outdated processes that were set up three volunteers ago and no longer efficient or productive. Before diving in with yet another system, tap into the expertise within your church and ask how you can do something better. Be sure to relate this one to people's experience—don't ask the best way to set up a new church calendar, ask how people track church events at home.
4. Getting to know you. A couple years ago on Facebook there was a popular message making the rounds that consisted of 25 random things. People would share 25 things their friends probably didn't know about them, and then their friends would do the same. It spread like wildfire. Why? People loved to read them because they could get to know their friends better and people loved posting them because they could talk about themselves. Posting a series of ‘get to know you' type questions and asking people to respond with their answers could be a good way to get conversation rolling.
5. Groups are a chance to get specific. A children's ministry might ask questions about parenting, an outreach ministry might ask for evangelism resources and a football group might ask about the best place to watch the big game.
6. What do you think about change? People have very strong opinions when it comes to change ("but that's how we've always done it!") and will be happy to share. Two discussion threads that prompted the greatest response at my church were changing the service times and ditching the weekly bulletin for PowerPoint. Nothing brings the lurkers out of the woodwork like proposing change. Just be sure you're asking for real input and you actually care about the input. Don't ask people just to ask them and then ignore their feedback. And don't manufacture a controversy just to get a discussion going. That's lame.
7. Share your story. Once upon a time the testimony was a powerful force in the church. It still can be. Ask people to share how they came to Christ or how they've responded to a crisis of faith. The bonus of these kinds of questions is that they don't require an advanced degree in theology. People can speak from their own experience.
8. What should we do for an event? Another great way to generate discussion is to ask for input on an upcoming event. If it's a regular event, ask what worked and what didn't on the last event and see what you can improve. People will be happy to share their opinions and you can make your event better.
9. Quiz time! Everybody loves a good quiz. The age of Google and Wikipedia make it harder to stump people online, but you could stick to the honor system or go with questions unlikely to be answered online (how many rows are in your sanctuary?). Questions that encourage guessing are probably better than stumpers as the goal is to get people to speak up and interact. You don't want to shut down the conversation with a total brain stumper. Something like who is Pastor Jessie's favorite Bible hero might be a fun, guessable way to start.
10. True or False? Another fun discussion starter is to throw out some historical facts about your church and play a little game of true or false. Was your church really founded in someone's basement in the 1950s? Did your church's most recent performance of the Easter Cantata really feature the youth pastor as Judas? Did your pastor really moonwalk across the platform during a sermon in the 1980s? Photographic proof is strongly encouraged.
There's a reason why they call them ice breakers. Try a few out with your church and get some discussion going.
So you love the Table but you're not sure how to get your church on board. We can help. Check out the next Round Table webinar. We'll outline the strategic benefits of the Table and show you how to pitch the Table to your church leadership. We'll talk about getting the right people in the meeting, the main points to communicate and common questions that church leaders ask.
Register now and tune in on July 20 at 3 p.m. CDT for this free webinar.
Seeing more prayer happen because of the Table is so encouraging. Check out this story and consider how your church could use the Prayer Wall to start a prayer movement:
How is your church using the Table? Share your story!
Back in April we said hello to the Serve App and goodbye to apathy. The Serve App is a simple application on the Table that makes it easy to match skills and items with people in need. Help is a click away. It easily enables serving, sharing and giving in your church. It helps us overcome apathy and make better use of our stuff.
The Serve App offers so many ways to help that we thought we'd offer a few suggestions. Over the past 10 weeks we've offered 10 new ways the Serve App can help each week and we're thrilled to present the full list, 100 ways to use the Serve App:
- 10 Ways the Serve App Can Get You Serving
- 10 Ways You Can Give it Away with the Serve App
- 10 Ways the Serve App Can Get You Sharing
- 10 Ways the Serve App Can Change Your Community
- 10 Ways the Serve App Can Help You Move
- 10 Ways the Serve App Can Help Your Church
- 10 Ways the Serve App Can Help This Summer
- 10 Ways the Serve App Can Help with Vacation
- 10 Ways the Serve App Can Make Someone's Day
- 10 Ways to Use the Serve App You Probably Haven't Thought Of
Check out our archived webinar to learn more about how to use the Serve App.
Share your stories of using the Serve App.
Critical mass is the point at which a community has enough momentum to become self-sustaining. What does it take to get there is a question a lot of churches ask. It's an important question, but unfortunately there's not an easy answer.
The answer can vary based on the size of your church and how committed people are to using the Table. It's a question of quantity vs quality. You need a certain quantity of users to log on to the Table for it to be useful, but you also need quality users that pray for prayers, reply to discussion posts and respond to volunteer needs.
You might find encouragement in a number of technical theories including Metcalfe's Law, Reed's Law and the network effect. The short, non-mathematical version is that more people doesn't just equal more community, it equals exponentially more community. Going from 10 to 20 people on your church's Table doesn't just double the opportunity for community, it increases exponentially.
Unfortunately, launching a new social network isn't easy. That's why companies like Facebook and Twitter required loads of capital to get started. Thankfully you're not launching to millions of people so capital isn't an issue, but you still need a plan to achieve critical mass. Otherwise you'll just be floundering—social networks don't take off by accident.
What's critical mass for the Table? We don't know. But we do know that there are things you can do to help achieve critical mass:
- Make launching the Table an event. Roll the Table out to your church during a single weekend when you can give it a huge push. We call it launch Sunday (or launch weekend if you do multiple services over multiple days). Be sure to pick the right weekend.
- Put together a solid launch plan. Don't just throw the Table out there and hope people will use the Table. You have to plan for success. It's unlikely you'll stumble into it.
- Avoid the empty amusement park. Part of your launch plan needs to include populating the Table so it isn't empty and boring when people first sign up.
- Get leadership buy-in. The Table won't get any traction in your congregation if the leadership isn't supporting it. Make sure they get it, make sure they've joined and completed their profile, and ask them to make their support known. A welcome video featuring your pastor is an ideal way to show leadership buy-in.
- Cast vision for what the Table can be. It's not just a social network, it's 24/7 church. It's a conversation, not a broadcast. It's ministry, not management.
- Have a plan for how you're going to use the Table. You probably have an existing prayer ministry—how will they make the most of the Prayer Wall? Will you create groups to match all of your small groups or ministries? Consider using content as a carrot. Don't just leave these things to chance—they're opportunities to build toward critical mass.
- Offer help. If you're going to use and implement a tech solution, you're likely pretty tech savvy. But not everyone is so tech savvy. Something like uploading a profile photo is pretty basic stuff for some of us, but there are loads of people out there who get stumped by the process. And often the hiccup isn't what you'd expect—it's not that they're having trouble with the upload process, it's that they don't even have a way to take a digital photo. If you want to reach critical mass you need to reach out to these people and help. Set up a help desk on Sunday morning, provide a Table tutorial during Sunday School, offer to take and upload pictures for people.
- Share stories of success. When people hear a story of the Table in action they're much more likely to jump on and give it a try. Pastor John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis shared a story in his sermon about a woman asking for prayer for a sensitive issue and being prayed for by 35 people. That's incredible. And you can bet more people are willing to share their needs on Bethlehem's Table because they talked about that success story. We're gathering stories like as well, so feel free to share your stories with us.
So there's a lot you can do to help your church hit critical mass with the Table. And maybe that's the answer to what it takes to hit critical mass—it takes a lot of work. But as community develops, as people are prayed for, served and connected, it's worth it.