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It has been an amazing year here at the Table. We continue to be so honored to serve the Church and be part of God's movement in this world.
Of course we wrote tons of code and got to talk shop with a lot of amazing churches. But we also gave out cool swag in exchange for your amazing stories, showed up a bit in the press (Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, Outreach Magazine), ranted about a new model of ministry and got to sit in the director's chair to capture the power of a real-time prayer community. In our freetime we went all Sherlock in our data to find out that reading is Church members' favorite pastime and that Jeremiah 29:11 is their favorite bible verse. And in the midst of all that, also connected with amazing church consultants to build out our Carpenter program. 2012 was an amazing year and it's only the beginning!
We grew more in 2012 than ever before, serving over 3800 churches in over 40 countries. We owe you, our fans and customers, a huge thank you for this. With virtually no marketing, we continue to grow as word spreads about our mission and product. Cheers to you for being a partner in ministry with us.
Adding new churches everyday is one thing, but what we really get excited about is daily ministry engagement. In just over 20 months since launch, we have reached and surpassed 580,000 prayers on the platform! That is something to celebrate because it means our churches are more engaged with each other through prayer than ever. And it doesn't end with prayer. Thousands of people have also found volunteer opportunities that match their giftedness, shared their possessions, debated topics and found new friends at church. That sounds like the Acts 2 church if you ask me!
2012 was also one of our most productive years from a feature perspective. Here are some highlights:
Jan - Added new notification system
Feb - Push notification system for iOS devices
March - Table goes global - completes internationalization features
April - Calendar upgrade allows integration with Google calendar and iCal with subscribe feature
June - Discussion board released for iOS app
July - Daily and weekly email digest features
August - What's New app released, giving users a real-time feed of Table content
Sept - Table Pro is launched, delivering a premium Table account for greater customization
We are really looking forward to the 2013 development roadmap as well. Very cool projects are in the hopper, and we will be announcing them as they are released. Is there one feature you HAVE to see in 2013? Give us some feedback.
The stories we hear from all of you are what fuel us. It is truly a blessing to see how God uses the Church to move. Here is just a taste of the things we are hearing. Have a story? Submit it here, we would love to hear it.
"We are bound together through prayer..." - Stonebridge Church
"We have struggled for many years in finding a consistent way to "disciple" our members throughout the week." - New Life Community Church
"The Serve App has exploded!" - Bethel Church
"Server delivered within hours." - Zion Lutheran Church
"Prayer within minutes." - Collin Creek Community Church
"Not feeling alone." - Park Community Church
"Putting a name to a face." - Suzanne Rios
"Connecting rural congregations." - Giddings First Assembly
Thank you again for helping make 2012 an amazing year at the Table Project.
Here is a list of 10 unique ways to use the Table during the Holiday season.
What does your family do special for Christmas or Advent?
1) Create a discussion category or photo album titled: Christmas Traditions.
2) Promote the conversation on Sunday and via the Broadcast message announcement bar.
Share Christmas card pics
You send them out to family and friends, why not let the church in on the goodness?
1) Create a Christmas Cards album on the Photo app.
2) Encourage your community to upload their images.
3) Highlight a few before sermon on Sunday.
3. Christmas Lights contest
Whether it's bright lights or great manger scenes, it is fun to see how everyone gets into the spirit.
1) Choose a prize: Maybe front row seats at your Christmas play or pastoral staff singing you carols.
2) Add a category on the photo app entitled Christmas Lights Contest.
3) Promote via Sunday service, announcement bar on the Table or via quicknote.
4) Tell people to vote by Commenting "My vote" in the comments of the picture.
4. Serving challenge
Many people are in need of help duing the holiday season, urge your community to be a light in the darkness.
1) Publically challenge the congregation to serve 1 person of the community during Christmas.
2) Encourage people to find a need in their neighborhood, community or region. Give some simple examples.
3) Take 3 minutes during a Sunday service to show people how to post a service opportunity. And fufull the ones listed.
5. Organize a community potluck
Breaking bread is a big part of the holidays. Do it as a church! There are many people that can't make it home and would love to enjoy a feast together.
1) Add the event to the Table calendar.
2) Post a serve opportunity with the things needed to pull it off - food, drinks, utencils, childcare etc.
3) Promote it through the announcement bar and on Sunday.
6. Organize a Giving tree
With 8 days left to complete your giving tree, use the Table to make sure all the items get assigned.
1) Collect specific gift needs from the families you are serving.
2) Create a Giving Tree account to facilitate the needs.
3) Post the specific needs on the Serve App.
4) Promote the giving tree via quicknote, announcement bar and on Sunday.
7. Suprise the Kids
Yes, it's a bummer that our wee ones can't join the Table. But this gives us the perfect opportunity to spring an awesome holiday suprise on them. Perhaps santa shows up during sunday school with all his reindeer in tow (picture your elder board in the costumes).
1) Send a quicknote to your elders group with the details.
2) Create a Calendar Event on the Table Calendar alerting the parents of your plot.
3) Make those kiddos laugh!
8. Offer up your favorite holiday recipe
It's time to fork over your secret ingredient to those Christmas cookies. Share your favorite recipes on the Serve app and give everyone a shot at the delights.
1) Create Discussion Topic titled "My Favorite X-Mas recipe."
2) Type your recipe into the text field or attach it in PDF form to the topic.
3) Encourage folks to post their feedback.
9. Campaign for your favorite charity
The Serve app is a great place to raise awareness about a particular charity. Make an organizations needs known via the Serve app. Give details on what they need and how someone can serve them. Be their voice!
1) Google the charity and get all the info you need (address, hours of operation, etc.). You could even call them and see if they have holiday-specific needs.
2) Create Serve Opportunity based on a need or multiple needs that charity has. Upload their logo as the photo.
3) Create tasks for everything the charity needs.
10. Invite an out-of-towner
Chances are someone who goes to your church has nowhere to go for holidays. Why chance it?
1) Create a Serve Item and title it something like "A Home for the Holidays."
2) In the description, make it clear that you wish to host anyone who doesn't have a place to go.
3) Upgrade to the 15 lb. turkey. :)
People often point to Facebook and wonder why the church would even need the Table. Facebook is ideal for outreach, but it falls short at building community. That's what the Table is all about. We encourage churches to use Facebook and the Table together. But the fact is there are things you can't do on Facebook that the Table is designed to do.
Like content control.
Social networks are built on content. People sharing stuff, posting comments, photos and more. But sometimes that content isn't appropriate. People can be troublesome that way. And it means churches need to be especially careful with social networks.
Content Control on the Table
The Table gives churches two major tools to control content:
Flagging: Any user can flag content as inappropriate and it's immediately removed, pending approval by a church admin. This means offensive content comes down instantly, protecting your church community. But there's also a human layer to check and make sure that content actually needed to be removed.
Approval: Alternately, churches can require that all content be approved prior to posting. We don't recommend this option as it discourages active community, but it is available for churches that are especially concerned about policing content.
Read more about how content flagging and approval works on the Table.
Content Control on Facebook
Facebook doesn't give you as much control when it comes to content. If your church has a page on Facebook, you can turn posting on or off and you can also moderate posts. There's also a profanity and blacklist filter to moderate posts as well. That all sounds pretty good.
But Facebook pages are kind of tricky. As an admin, you can mark a post or a comment as spam and remove it, but it's still visible to the person who posted it and their friends! It seems that Facebook doesn't even give you total control of your own page.
Here's another example of your loss of control, straight from Facebook: "Page admins won't see posts about their Page that people haven't shared publicly even though people visiting the Page might see them if they're part of the audience the post was shared with." So if someone makes a negative comment about your church, your might never see it, but that person's friends will see it when they visit your page? Whoa. Not cool.
Your users can also mark content as spam and hide it, but it doesn't do much good. It gets hidden for that individual user on that specific visit. Everybody else can still see it. And that user will see it the next time they visit. Page admins aren't even notified that someone thinks content on their page is offensive.
In general, it seems that Facebook wants to leave content policing up to the user. If you don't like something, you can remove it or block it—but that won't have any effect on what everybody else sees.
That's all kind of disappointing considering that Facebook is worldwide. You expect global content would need a little more policing and a little more control. But Facebook seems to take a hands-off approach. That's not very reassuring for churches who want to protect their members from spam and abuse.
A little less confusion would also help. Sorting all these rules and scenarios out to even understand them enough to write this post took a while. Hope your pastor has time for that.
You Can Do That on the Table
The bottomline is you can't really control content on your Facebook page while still allowing interaction. But the Table puts you in control in a simple, straightforward manner.
Table newbies, join us for this month's Table 101 webinar. We'll give a tour of the Table, talk about best practices for launching the Table and take questions at the end. It's a great opportunity to learn more about the Table and see if it's a fit for your church.
We offer the Table 101 on the first Wednesday of every month. The next Table 101 is Wednesday, December 5sth at 3 p.m. CDT.
Register now for this free webinar.
(If you can't make it for the live webinar, check out the archived Table 101 webinar from May.)
You probably already knew this but the Table Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. That means whatever money we make from this platform gets poured right back into making the Table better.
Today is Give To The Max Day, an event to help schools and non-profits based in MN generate some much-needed donations. You know where this is going, right? Before you roll your eyes, hear me out!
We have been giving the Table away to churches for almost 2 years now. We have a team so small that people have laughed at us. Yes, we run lean but we pour everything we have into transforming the Church we love dearly. We've seen relationships blossom, generosity boom, and communities change for the better. We know that our Creator has special plans for this ministry and we feel up-to-our-ears blessed to be a part of those plans.
So, do you want to be part of it too? GIVE NOW. Or keep reading...
Not quite convinced that we're worth some of your hard earned cash, eh? Here's 2 more reason.
1) In the past 2 years we've release the Serve App, the What's New App, Email Digest, Table Pro, and much more. We've released the Table internationally and are now in over 60 different countries. We also built iOS and Android apps. Every dollar we get goes into cool new features that further this ministry.
2) We integrate your feedback (that's what that green tab is for!) into every decision we make. Whether or not you choose to support us finiancially you can always support us with your ideas and help us continue to tailor our decisions to meet your needs.
Still not convinced you should give us a few sheckles?
Ugh. Fine. I wanted to avoid this but you've left me no choice. Time to pull out the big guns! Here's a cute picture of my kitten.
(DISCLAIMER: The car was parked.)
Do it for Ira?
We've seen some amazing launches happening this fall. We couldn't be more proud of our new churches and the creativity they are pouring into their launches. One church here in Minneapolis really blew us away.
Upper Room is a vibrant community (they prefer this title to church) that has made waves in the Twin Cities in recent years. Worship at Upper Room is always hard hitting and ground shaking. Their services find that difficult balance between modern and intense yet still genuine and relatable. The result is an experience that leaves you amped up on the Spirit and ready to take on the week. Plus, they have a handle (pun intended) on how to leverage new technologies for the benefit of their community. Simply stated, they rock.
For 10 months they have been planning their launch of the Table. Launch Sunday coincided with the beginning of a new sermon series focused on innovation in their community. The title of the first installation was "Rethinking Community." Enter, the Table.
Computers lined the santuary with helpful Table team members wearing Table logo t-shirts . They also invited me, Caleb, to be a part of the fesitivities! (More on that in a later blog). But, the crown jewel on this impecably planned launch weekend was Pastor Joe's pithy words about the Table. You cannot understate the value of having a pastor that really "gets like" like Joe. Listen to what he had to say...
"Life on life." I love that. Hats off to Keith (@KeithKlingen), Nathan (@nathannerland) and the rest of the Upper Room Community (@urminneapolis) launch team. Thanks for letting us be a part of your amazing launch weekend!
To listen to the full sermon, click here.
Giddings First Assembly of God in Giddings, Texas, is a rural congregation with an average weekly attendance of around 130. They launched the Table in the spring of 2011. The congregation is led by Senior Pastor Pat Herlitz. His son, Luc Hertliz, was instrumental in launching the Table. Luc is an associate pastor and focuses on creative arts and media.
How did you prepare for the launch?
Pat: My son had launched his first Table while on staff at a church plant is the Detroit area. That launch did not take off quite as well as his second attempt here. He learned from his early mistakes. One of the first things he did was require the pastors to get on first and he worked with us for weeks before we launched it to the congregation.
Luc: The problem in Detroit was that I moved four days after the Table went live. Your system was new and I ended up moving to Texas. Because I didn't have a chance to get much "buy-in" it never really took off. It's a pretty tech-forward church, but without leadership pushing it forward, it just collapsed. Here in Texas, I took a more hands-on approach. All staff are required to be a part of the Table. We keep it very active.
What did you learn from that experience?
Luc: Leadership buy-in is imperative.
What kinds of things did you do to encourage people to check out the Table?
Pat: When we were ready to launch we made use of the posters (24 x 36" in the foyer) and we used the promo video in our video announcements.
Luc: I demoed it after service in the foyer. Plus our church shut down its Facebook prayer wall and moved it to the Table.
What specific steps really seemed to help with the launch?
Luc: Seeing the leaders and staff involved, clear demonstration of the value of the service and a demonstration of its ease of use.
How has it been going at First Assembly?
Luc: Our Prayer Wall is exploding.
Pat: I see Prayer Wall posts daily. The Serve App has not quite caught on, but the prayer app is invaluable.
Do you have some stories you can share?
Luc: My personal story is about when my dad had a tragic accident and had to be airlifted to an Austin hospital. While I followed the ambulance to our local hospital (before he was helicoptered) I put an urgent prayer request on the Table. Instant notification came to me minutes later with incoming prayers.
Are there ways that the Table uniquely helps a rural congregation?
Pat: Since going to the hospital requires a 40-60 minute drive, the Table is invaluable in terms of feeling connected to our brothers and sisters who are hospitalized.
Often there's a stereotype that rural populations aren't as tech savvy or plugged in. How has your rural community adapted to a digital space?
Pat: While rural defines us, we are not technophobes. It is safe to say the vast majority of people over 18 who attend regularly participate in our Table to some degree. Giddings is as smart phone connected percentage wise as Austin. When I walk through my Wal-Mart; I see as many bluetooth ear pieces per capita as I see when I am in Austin.
Sometimes people think small churches already have community and don't need the Table. How is the Table helping you as a small church?
Pat: It really has been the Prayer Wall that has created the most connection. One woman started attending our church on special occasions about three years ago. We'd maybe see her six times a year. After she joined the Table and added a photo, she started posting regularly. Before I could encourage her to come to church more, she did. She's now coming to church twice a week.
The What's New App is live and ready for action! What is it you ask? Well, it's What's New! This application, which has been added to all areas of the platform by default, creates a whole new interface to interact with content on the Table. Instead of having to go looking for new content, the What's New App aggregates it all into one live stream.
View prayers, events, photos, service opportunities, shared items and discussions in one place. It doesn't just change the way you view content, but also how you interact with it. Intrigued? Watch the quick demo video and view some of the highlights below.
RSVP to an event, pray for someone, volunteer to serve or keep a discussion rolling. All from one interface.
The "Post" dropdown allows you to quickly navigate to any posting screen within the Table. Just choose the type of content you want to post and away you go.
Comment on any piece of content right from the What's New App. Once you comment, the content gets bumped to the top, so the most popular content gets seen more often.
No need to refresh, the What's New App will notify you when there is new content to see. Just click the blue bar and boom...hello new stuff.
Afraid of getting important items lost in the stream? No worries. As an admin, you can promote content and it will automatically bump to the top every 4 hours. We know, we haven't sent you a super hero cape yet, but we still think you're special.
And in all its glory
We have struggled for many years in finding a consistent way to "disciple" our members throughout the week.
Do you have your own story about using the Table at your church? Post it here