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The Table is a great way for missionaries to connect with their home church. Many missionaries struggle with posting sensitive details of their work online and often can't share their true struggles on public sites like Facebook. Being away for several years can also mean they lose touch. People come and go and pretty soon their home church doesn't feel like home.
But the privacy and community-building power of the Table can be just what missionaries need. Invite your church's missionaries to join the Table:
- Encourage them to post prayer requests and keep your congregation updated.
- Use groups to support your missionaries. Maybe you create a single group for all your missions work and encourage missionaries around the world to connect and share packing tips and visa woes. Or you could create a group for each missionary and encourage church members to rally around each one and give them individual attention, prayer and support.
- The Serve App could be a great way to meet needs when missionaries are home on furlough. A place to stay, a car to borrow and babysitting are just a few of the needs they might have.
Since your missionaries are likely overseas (duh), they've understandably missed all your Table promotion. Make a special effort to invite them to the Table. Make a quick pitch of the benefits for them and let them know you're available to answer any questions.
Establishing these kinds of connections can be lifesavers for your missionaries and give your congregation a broader understanding of the world. Pakistan, Haiti or Sudan don't seem so far away when you're praying and interacting with your missionaries.
Substance Church in Minneapolis was one of our early test churches and launched the Table back in 2010. This multisite church started seven years ago and currently offers seven services across four locations. Approximately 70% of the congregation is under 30 years old and half never attended any church before coming to Substance.
We sat down with senior pastor and Table project board member Peter Haas during our recent Round Table webinar to talk about what the Table brings to Substance. Much of the conversation covers the big picture vision for why to use the Table that a senior pastor has, as opposed to the specific, how-to details that a Table champion could offer (you can find that perspective in our webinar with Bethlehem Baptist).
Watch: Interview with Peter Haas (32:46)
Highlights from the video (click links to see short clips):
- Numbers: Over 1,500 members on the Table, 2,500 prayer requests (not including groups) prayed for 37,000 times.
- Why the Table?: As a church with a decentralized identity, Substance wanted something to enhance church in between the church services. More than metrics that church management software can offer, they wanted community.
- We Need Community: Today's generation is the most socially isolated generation in U.S. history. Typical sources of community (family, neighborhood, etc.) have fallen away and the church needs to fill the gap. Instead of focusing on church services, churches need to focus on building community. The Table is software that allows Substance to do that.
- The intimacy of a church has nothing to do with size. It's about what you value. Substance realized that as it grew bigger, it had to grow smaller. Substance needed a technology that encouraged connection outside of church.
- Friends Matter: The number one indicator of church satisfaction is friendships developed in the church. Even if people don't like a church service, they'll stick around for friends. The Table is a way to develop those friendships that keep people at church.
- The Table Loves Small Groups: Substance saw 116% small group attendance last quarter. That means more people attended their small groups than attended their church. "It's technology like the Table that's enabled our small groups to thrive."
- A senior pastor needs to constantly cast vision for the Table.
- It's Ministry, Not Just Technology: "It's not just software, it's a ministry." You need to treat the Table like launching a new ministry. It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort. It takes time for people to adapt to new technologies. But once people get it, once the momentum begins to build, amazing things can happen.
- Examples of prayer and service happening at Substance.
Quicknotes are mini messages you can send through the Table. People can receive them via email, text message and on the Table. The idea is to facilitate quick conversations and introductions (you're limited to 140 characters). If you want longer conversations, that's what email is for. Watch this video for more on how to send a quicknote.
One easy way for Table champions to encourage activity is to send a quicknote high five. Whenever you see someone new jump on the Table or someone create a new group or post a Serve item for the first time, send them a quicknote to say thanks. You an also offer to help if they have any questions.
A quicknote high five is a nice gesture, it reinforces activity on the Table and it also demonstrates how quicknotes work. You encourage people to keep using the Table, you interact more and you get to say thanks. Wins all around.
It's Thanksgiving this week and it's a good reminder to say thanks. Every week is a good week to give thanks, but this week we get an extra special reminder in the form of delicious eats and that post-meal nap/coma.
The Table encourages giving thanks with the option to post praise updates to the Prayer Wall. This week is a good time to exercise that feature and give thanks. We all have things we can be thankful for. Post a few to your Prayer Wall and as a church body say thank you to God.
In case you need a few ideas of things to be thankful for...
- Family and friends.
- Food on the table.
- Your church and the hardworking (overworked?) staff.
- Sometimes a child's answer is the best. Go on, name the ridiculous stuff you're actually very thankful for: Down blankets, Pixar movies, Jell-O—whatever floats your boat.
- In this economy we should all be thankful for our jobs.
- Technology—we're especially grateful for the wonders of technology that offer us maps to get to Grandma's house, cell phones to call when we're late and the Internet to look up last minute recipes.
- A country where we have the freedom to worship as we see fit.
- The Table (we're certainly thankful for the opportunity to work here).
Read more or share your own.
But it's not always clear exactly how the Serve App works. Below are two quick flowcharts that show how the Serve App works for both volunteer needs and items to give or share. These charts might help your church get a better handle on the Serve App and start using it more.
You can also watch our webinar to learn more about how to use the Serve App.
Here's a handy chart showing how the Table can help you recruit volunteers:
1) Anybody can post a volunteer need on the Table. You can post your own needs or post them on behalf of someone else (though we recommend getting their permission first). It's not limited to church needs and can cover anything from Sunday morning greeters to lawn mowing to dog sitting. Here's a video that shows you how it works.
2) Anyone in your church can receive a notification when someone posts a volunteer need. If you're not getting those email notifications, here's how you can change your settings.
3) Response can happen in a number of ways. Using the Table, people can volunteer and others can see needs being met. There's also room to ask questions and invite others to help. The Table will also match volunteer needs with skills in your church, serving up those opportunities on the Me tab. You can also have offline response as people volunteer in person or just become aware of a need and pray for it. Sometimes a need is still being met even if people aren't responding online.
4) In the end, needs are met. It didn't require a staff member getting on the phone and harassing people. Church members stepped up to help one another out. It's a way to tap into people in your church who are willing to serve, they just need to see the opportunities.
Here's a chart showing how the Table can help your church share stuff:
1) Anybody can post a items on the Table to either give away or share. Here's a video that shows you how it works. We recommend keeping the Serve App free of transactions, though churches are welcome to come up with their own posting guidelines.
2) Anyone in your church can receive a notification when someone posts a Serve item. If you're not getting those email notifications, here's how you can change your settings.
3) The Table allows for easy contact. You can send quicknotes back and forth to get connected and arrange a time to hand off stuff. Since the Table is all about your church, exchanging items on Sunday would likely be convenient for everyone.
4) In the end, needs are met. It didn't require any extra staff time. People in your church saved money and helped one another out. And in the end, people in your church who many not have any other reason to interact finally connected. It's community happening, right before your eyes.
You can also download a copy of these charts to share with your church:
- Serve Volunteer Flowchart Image (66 KB PNG)
- Serve Volunteer Flowchart PDF (53 KB PDF)
- Customizable Serve Volunteer Flowchart (Google Doc: If you have a free Google Account, click on ‘File: Make a copy' to save your own version of the document and then customize it for your church.)
- Serve Stuff Flowchart Image (53 KB PNG)
- Serve Stuff Flowchart PDF (53 KB PDF)
- Customizable Serve Stuff Flowchart (Google Doc: If you have a free Google Account, click on ‘File: Make a copy' to save your own version of the document and then customize it for your church.)
For next week's Round Table webinar we'll sit down with Substance Church pastor Peter Haas and talk about how the Table works for their church. Substance Church in Minneapolis is one of our early churches that started using the Table and they've had incredible success. We'll find out what works, what doesn't and how they make the most of the Table.
Register now: Substance Church Case Study, Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. CST
People often wonder why a church needs a private social network. Here's why:
The Table offers a private space for people to connect and grow.
Every month our Round Table webinar offers the Table 101, an introduction to the Table for new churches. It's an opportunity to take a tour of the Table, check out some of the main features, learn best practices for launching the Table and get your specific questions answered.
We recorded and archived our November Table 101 so that new churches can always access a quick tour and overview of the Table.
Watch November's Table 101 (1:06:17)
Below is a checklist of items a church needs to make decisions about when they set up the Table. Hopefully seeing the list ahead of time will give you a chance to think through some of the issues and make your launch process faster and smoother.
These are software settings within the Table that control how it functions and how people interact with it:
Does your church have more than one campus? If so then you can opt for multiple campuses. If you decide to set up campuses later you can always add them down the road, but you'll want them set up before you invite people to the Table.
We recommend: Since most activity happens church-wide, we've seen minimal success with campuses. If you do decide to use them, hiding the campus tabs can be a good solution. For campuses with their own culture, an entirely separate Table account is often better.
Sign Up Type
You can set how people are able to join your church's Table. You can have an open sign up where anyone can join and start using your church's Table. For increased security you can require approval, which means new sign ups will need to be approved by a SuperAdmin before they can access your Table. Approval with secret code is the third option, which enables you to give your members a code they can use to bypass the manual approval. This lets people get on faster, but still ensures a level of additional security.
We recommend: Open sign up for the week or two after launch, then switching to approval with secret code. This gets people on quickly when you first launch, but then ensures more security moving forward.
Will you require content in the Church tab to be approved before it's posted or can anyone post anything live? Your setup here will depend on how much trust you have in your congregation and how much time you can devote to approving content. (Note: The ability to flag content provides an added level of security even if you don't require content approval.)
We recommend: Don't manually approve content. It's more work and it's a hindrance to lively community. Trust your people enough to let them post content and rely on flagging to warn you of anything inappropriate.
Group Creation Approval
How much control do you want over groups that are created? You can opt to pre-approve all groups, approve no groups and just let anyone create a group, or for a middle-ground solution you can opt to only approve groups that are shown in the groups directory. This lets people get started with their groups but still gives your church a chance to decide what's seen in the groups directory. (Note: You can also denote which groups are "official" church groups in the directory, which will help distinguish church-approved ministries from informal groups.)
Manually Approve Staff Roles:
You decide if members can assign church staff roles to themselves or if they need to request a role which is then approved by an Admin.
We recommend: Manually approve staff roles. It's generally easier to keep control of these.
There are a number of privacy settings for teens, including the exact ages that define a teenager, who can interact with teens and at what age teens can be given more power on the Table (creating teen-only groups, joining regular Table groups, see adult profiles, etc.).
These are the visual elements of the Table that you can customize:
- Church Logo: We recommend 400 pixels wide by 100 pixels high--larger images will be scaled down.
- Colors: You can select a main color, accent color and link color, using standard hex codes or picking colors from your logo.
- Welcome Video: You have the option of adding a welcome video that will greet your users when they first sign up. You can create your own video or just use our default intro video. Learn more about how to create a welcome video.
- Selection & Order of Apps: You can decide what apps appear in the Church tab and what order they appear in. Just drag and drop to move them around. Click on an app and click the ‘X' in the upper right corner to remove it. Click ‘Add Apps' to browse our selection of more than 100 apps and add your own. Some common choices include adding an RSS feed for your church's blog, adding your sermon podcast and adding video content.
How You're Going to Use It
These items don't require a decision when you set up the Table, but you'll need to think about them pretty early in your launch planning, so we thought we'd include them here:
- Who will you promote to SuperAdmin and Admin?
- How will you use the tip bar?
- Will you set up the F1 integration?
- Do you want to use a Table helper account?
- Do you need to tweak the Serve App guidelines?
You can also get a copy of this checklist as a Google Doc so you can customize it with any additions and keep track of your progress:
- Table Decision Checklist (Google Doc: If you have a free Google Account, click on ‘File: Make a copy' to save your own version of the checklist and then customize it as needed.)