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Viewing entries tagged with 'social networking'
"Church service experiences are going to become a devalued commodity. But you know what there's never going to be a substitute for? A shoulder to cry on. And really, that's what the Table is enhancing. It reinforces those relationships that are happening on Sunday morning."
Watch the video:
Watch Substance: Ministry Not Technology (1:14)
Watch the full webinar, How They Did It: Substance Church Case Study, for more on how Substance has utilized the Table.
Granger Community Church (GCC) is a leading congregation in Northern Indiana that launched the Table in the fall of 2011. Granger often draws national attention and helps other churches through their Wired Churches network of training and resources. With an average attendance close to 5,000, Granger put a lot of planning and effort into their launch, which was led by Communications Director Kem Meyer, author of Less Clutter. Less Noise.
We talked to Kem about their efforts, and her answers were so helpful and detailed that we're going to share them in a three part series. Here's part one:
Why did you feel that Granger needed its own private social network?
Kem Meyer: Actually, we didn't. As a matter of fact, we've always had a hard time justifying why we would want a "church version" of Facebook or Twitter. Why wouldn't we just use the networks where the "social" conversation is already flowing rather than try to create a separate track?
However, the growing gap between two extremes—all or nothing—couldn't be ignored. For quite some time, the people of GCC had been asking for a central tool to help them search for, share with and pray for people in their family of faith without going through a middleman. There was a growing connection gap between ALL life and CHURCH life and communication gap between CORPORATE-driven activity and MEMBER-driven activity.
That's the question we were looking for an answer to, the problem we were looking for help solving.
What made you pick the Table for Granger?
Kem: We created a working framework as a filter and evaluated several strong tools on the market (e.g., The Table, SoChurch, The Common, The City, Cobblestone, etc.) against that framework. At the end of the day (actually, we took six months investigating various options), The Table was the absolute best fit for our needs. Here's an overview of that framework:
Fill a void.
We need a 24/7, mobile space that isn't so much our front porch (that's what GCCwired.com is for) but more like our church living room where people live church together. Our primary goal is to create opportunities to enhance community—not to create another broadcast tool for "corporate" communication. And, to meet an un-met need—not to create our own version of something that already exists. We need an online hub that doesn't re-create the wheel, but provides a secure space for people to live out the important aspects of faith that aren't available with our current online environments (e.g., safe place to post things on the calendar, to pray and be prayed for, share resources, etc.)
It's a growing family.
It's hard enough to stay connected beyond a brief hello after a service. It gets even more problematic with six services across two campuses. Something that allows us to search and find each other by name, life stage, interests, etc., can help us stay connected as one church family even if we never go to the same service or campus. People who have been part of GCC for years, as well as people who are new to the congregation, should be able to access the same hub to connect and share opportunities with each other on their own—no bottleneck.
Freedom within a framework.
Anytime you give people the ability to add, edit and respond to content there will be some necessary coaching and course correction along the way. The win isn't a perfectly controlled environment where the staff team chooses what "users" can and can't see, but a real organic environment the staff team can nurture. We'll need guardrails to help free people to be themselves, personalize their own flow and connect with others authentically. At the same time, we'll need simple controls to minimize the potential for destructive rogue usage.
As people start using this new tool, they'll use it in ways we hadn't imagined. Our implementation approach will be flexible so we can adapt as we gain insight from our people—not only about the features and functionality, but also about the language people are using around their experience. It will help shape our on-going communication and care plans.
Just because we can doesn't mean we should. A strong temptation with technology is to use everything too fast all at once. We'll be strategic about what this is and isn't—who it's for and who it's not for—what it does and doesn't do. While this is a new space to interact, we won't make people create a new username, password or profile. The hub needs to integrate and share data with tools our people are already using (Facebook or Twitter and Fellowship One).
How did you go about getting leadership buy-in?
Kem: We have a mission and vision at Granger—it is what shapes our culture and drives our day-to-day. That mission and vision is something we all already buy in to; leadership, staff and volunteer teams alike. As a member of the GCC team, it's my job to help find ways to move our vision forward. As communications director, The Table was part of the answer to specific problems I was charged with solving.
I think people run into difficulty getting buy-in when they try to sell something new versus supporting something that's already in motion.
Churches go to great lengths to ensure that people enjoy and come back to church. We have charismatic leaders, contemporary music, great production values, intimate small groups, trained greeters, parking lot attendants and more. But none of it matters.
What does matter? Friendships with other Christians.
"One study found that 98% of church satisfaction can be predicted simply by measuring how many intimate Christian friends our congregation members have at any given moment! Think about that for a second! ... more than tears cried in worship experiences ... more than 'quantity of church services attended' ... more than the quality of the speaking ... more than the quality of the facility, the number one cause of church satisfaction was quantity of intimate Christian friends. "
One way to encourage connection, community and friendship within your congregation is with the Table. People can be introduced through the directory and then get to know each other as they discuss, serve and pray together throughout the week.
Watch as Peter explains how the Table helps church members develop friendships:
Watch Substance: Church Friends (1:29)
Watch the full webinar, How They Did It: Substance Church Case Study, for more on how Substance has utilized the Table.
Churches are losing control. People start their own ministries without consulting the pastor. They talk about your church on Facebook using language you didn't approve. They can post to your Facebook wall for everybody to see. They post photos to Flickr and videos to YouTube.
And that's OK.
The social media revolution is taking control out of the hands of the few and giving it to the many. Instead of a lone spokesperson giving voice to a brand, the crowd is speaking up. Organizations no longer have total control. An organic voice is emerging that's made up of the official brand lingo but also incorporates the voice of the masses.
It can be a little overwhelming, especially for churches that have trouble letting go of control. But there's freedom in this movement. Instead of fighting change, churches should embrace it. Instead of micro-managing everything, churches should let it develop.
That's one of the advantages of the Table. It empowers your congregation to do ministry, to recruit volunteers and ultimately do church together. It's ministry, not management. It allows your church to be more organic, working from within as opposed to everything coming down from on high. Give your church leadership a break and instead of controlling everything, let ministry happen organically.
Let the Spirit move. Instead of chaos, you may be surprised to find beauty.
- Let new ministries set up groups and spread their wings. You might be surprised at what gets traction and what doesn't.
- Give people a voice: Encourage them to post on the discussion board and share their views. The pastor isn't the only one in your church with something to offer.
- Watch as needs you never knew existed become voiced and met.
- See new connections develop that never would have happened if the pastor asked the same old people.
Community doesn't happen with top-down mandates. It grows organically. Give up a little control and watch community sprout organically in your church.
The Table can be a great way for new people to get connected. It's hard to meet new people and find things like babysitters. It can be even harder at the holidays. But a connected social network can help ease those fears and enable people to serve one another.
Just ask Jamie:
"Our church is too big."
"Our church is too small."
"Our church doesn't even have a building."
If your church is struggling with size issues, the Table can help. The Table helps big churches feel more intimate and connected, while small churches find a wealth of untapped volunteers and resources.
Big Feel Small
The Table can help big churches feel small. The Table helps create community and intimacy that can help your big church overcome the anonymity that happens on Sunday morning. Instead of being overwhelmed by the masses of people, you can find small groups to join, figure out who lives in your neighborhood and discover who shares your interests. Suddenly your church goes from a crowd of strangers to a bunch of connections.
Small Feel Big
The Table can also help small churches feel big. The Table can boost your communication efforts and help you work more efficiently. It's the kind of innovation you normally associate with bigger churches. Your people can connect and are empowered to do ministry without tapping your overworked staff. You can even recruit volunteers more efficiently and share resources. You'll discover a depth of potential you never knew your church had.
The Table can also help house churches, church plants and churches without a building. The Table can offer a sense of place and unity for the church that doesn't have the traditional sign out front. Whether it's just a temporary phase or a core value, the Table can help you build the cohesive community that often centers around a building. Mapping functionality can help you pick a central location and posting volunteer needs can help you organize those Sunday morning set up and tear down times.
Size Doesn't Matter
Community doesn't just happen. You have to work to build it. And the Table can make it easier, no matter the size of your church.
One of the flaws of social networks is people. They're notoriously troublesome. Of course that's also what puts the social in social networks and makes them so wonderfully fun. Social networks give power to the people and that can create some delightful results: a new ministry launched, volunteers recruited and people lifted up in prayer in their time of need. Of course it can also create some not-so-delightful results: gossip, rudeness and spam.
That's why you have the ability to flag content on the Table.
Every piece of user-submitted content on the Table, including prayers, Serve items, discussion topics, photos and comments, can all be flagged. If you see something that shouldn't be there, you can flag it.
Here's what happens when something gets flagged:
- It's automatically removed. No questions asked.
- It goes into the content queue for an Admin at your church to review it.
- The Admin will review the content and decide whether or not it should stay removed. This is a decision made by your church based on their own parameters, not us here at the Table. We let local churches do the content policing.
- If they opt to keep the content removed, it can be deleted. If they decide the content is actually OK, they can restore it to the Table.
Content flagging is an added level of security that keeps the conversations, interactions and community safe for everyone. Churches can also choose to require that any content posted is approved by an Admin before it goes live, but that often creates a lot of work and slows down the community interaction. Flagging is a way to keep the content flowing and the community happening, but still have a way to police inappropriate content if it pops up.
How do I flag content?
- Click the "Flag" text or the flag icon next to any piece of content.
- Explain why you think something needs to be flagged. It might be as simple as "This is gossip," or "This is an item for sale."
- Click ‘flag' and your church's Admin will take care of it.
People are the heart of your church and the heart of any social network. That means things can get a little messy, but that's OK. Features like content flagging are designed to keep it from getting out of hand. That means less of the troublesome downside, and more of the wonderfully fun upside.
The local church is the ideal place to find community. It's a group of people who meet together in person on a weekly basis. Vibrant community and deep connections should happen naturally.
But all too often it doesn't.
There are the obvious exceptions: Small groups, volunteer opportunities, prayer meetings, etc. These are the moments in church when people push deeper and community really happens.
But why doesn't it happen on Sunday morning?
The problem is that most church relationships are built on two-minute interactions that happen once a week on Sunday morning. To make matters worse, it's usually the same interaction every week. You nod politely and shake hands, maybe ask how it's going and get a non-committal "fine" in response.
The average person who sits in a pew on Sunday morning has minimal opportunity to connect with others. Just remembering someone's name is hard enough, and in most cases you've been doing the Sunday morning meet and greet for so long that now it's beyond awkward to ask what their name is.
But an online social network for your church, like the Table, can change that dynamic. Now you have a forum to share prayer requests and a place to swap ideas. There's a directory with photos so you can finally learn some names. You can browse profiles and realize you have a shared interest in biking—conversation starter. You can ask for help without a guilt trip and join groups to connect even deeper.
Suddenly the weekly meet and greet tradition can become something more.
A couple weeks ago we sponsored the Speak conference in Minneapolis. Our customer experience/marketing guy Kevin D. Hendricks (that's me!) spoke about sharing your church's story and our product VP Jason Wenell gave a short pitch for the Table. But more than just offering a commercial, Jason talked about how social networking is a chance for your church to live out your story.
Jason introduced the Table and shared our intro video, but then went on to give three real examples of people using the Table. There was a woman asking for prayer as she undergoes cancer treatment, a couple facing infertility that asked for prayer and people came up to them on Sunday to pray for them, and a blind man who needed help moving and people stepped in to help. All examples of people needing help and their church community reaching out to help them. All examples of people getting help without the church staff needing to waste time and resources passing things along or recruiting people. That's the power of social networking within your church.
Watch the video from Speak as Jason shares these examples (feel free to skip past the intro video if you've seen it before):
Highlights from the talk:
- The Table is a nonprofit organization that was birthed from a missions organization and not a corporation. This is one of the favorite parts of our story and impacts our decision making. Point one in our manifesto is "Mission First."
- The Table is not as much about communicating your message but is more about writing a more impactful and authentic story as a church.
- Jason was the biggest skeptic. He met with 100 churches and pleaded with them to see if Facebook and Twitter would work. Instead it revealed a large gap between global networks and what the church needed.
- We are at over 1,800 churches now and thousands of people log in every day. Not to update their status, but to pray for a stranger and serve their neighbor.
- Story about a woman going through cancer treatment asking for prayer. Praying for each other in a moment of need: She didn't need to wait until Sunday to get support from her community.
- Story about a woman being prayed for at her church for infertility issues. The special thing about this story above and beyond 48 people praying for her need is that no fewer than 15 people came up to her at church and told her they were praying. Virtual communication turned into physical relationship.
- Story about blind man getting help moving: His friend saw the need and posted it to the Table. It wasn't from the church but from a member. Five people signed up and the need was met. This empowers the congregation to serve their community by mobilizing them in an easy way.
- We've gotten the event down. Churches have great music, motion backgrounds and facilities. But are we missing the hundreds of opportunities between Sundays to write our story and to be the church.
- A recent quote hit Jason hard this past week. Biz Stone said, "For Twitter to be successful, it cannot be a triumph of technology but instead a triumph of humanity." Jason would say the same for the Table: For it to be a success, it will be a success of Christianity not technology. The Table just acts as a catalyst to help us be a more connected and impactful faith community.
One of the reasons I like working for the Table is because social networking is a prime way for your church to tell its story (I'm Kevin D. Hendricks and I do customer service and marketing here at the Table—I write blog posts like this one). The Table gives your church a place to live out its story online, in a way that's different than Facebook and Twitter. We love hearing those stories and we share them every week.
Unfortunately churches aren't always very good at telling their story and they need some help (in some cases, lots of help). That's the idea behind another blog I write for, Church Marketing Sucks. Last week Church Marketing Sucks released a new book that can help your church tell its story better. It's called Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication. It gathers more than 60 experts and dispenses advice on marketing, outreach, design, leadership, technology, creativity and more. It's been featured in the Christian Post, Rick Warren's Pastors.com, the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and more. I edited the book and contributed two chapters (you can read one of them here and download a free preview of Outspoken).
If you're a church using the Table, you get that communication is important. Outspoken can help you do it better. We hope you'll check it out and tell your story, both through the Table and your other communication channels.