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Viewing entries tagged with 'why'
You may have noticed a small change in the Table: We've changed the title of the "My Page" tab to simply "Me." This is a purely cosmetic change—everything works the same.
There are two basic reasons we made this change:
1) With our coming iPhone App the "My Page" name didn't make sense. "My Page" references the web and the iPhone takes us into new territory, so we thought a name change would better reflect that and enable the content of your space to be more flexible for different formats (web and mobile).
2) "Me" is shorter, simpler and more focused than "My Page." It's also more consistent with our other single-word tabs (Groups, Church).
So if you noticed that little change, that's why we did it.
The Prayer Wall on the Table encourages prayer. How much prayer?
- Since the Table launched more than 8,000 prayers have been posted.
- Those prayers have been prayed for nearly 70,000 times.
That's a lot of prayer, but we're just scratching the surface. You can use the Prayer Wall to start a prayer movement in your church.
Why Push the Prayer Wall?
The Prayer Wall puts the old prayer chain to shame:
- There's no need to pass requests around—everyone can be instantly updated.
- A prayer can be updated with new info. No need to send out repeated emails keeping people in the loop.
- Using the ‘Pray Now' button you can let people know that you're praying. That's encouraging. If you posted a prayer, you can be notified of that on-going encouragement—there's a shot in the arm when you're going through something tough.
- You can use the ‘flag' feature to call out prayer gossip and keep the Prayer Wall legit.
- Since you can add the Prayer Wall app to any group, you can encourage more prayer. Prayer isn't just for the Prayer Team. The softball team, children's ministry and board game group can all be encouraged to pray. (But praying for a softball championship might need to be flagged!)
- You can post anonymously. Sure, the prayer chain would let you do that, but somebody always knew. With the Prayer Wall it's actually anonymous.
- The Prayer Wall becomes an archive of your church's prayer history. Imagine being able to search through years of prayer history at your church. There's a lot of power in revisiting answered prayer and seeing how God has moved.
Make the Most of the Prayer Wall
The Prayer Wall is easy to use (watch our help video for the basics), but how do you get the most out of the Prayer Wall? Here are some tips we've gleaned from churches using the Table:
- First and foremost: Actually pray. It can be tempting to just push the ‘Pray Now' button and move on. But that would be a tragedy. Stop what you're doing and pray. That's where the power comes from.
- When you talk to people in person encourage them to use the Prayer Wall. Let them know that you pray for items there and that they should post their prayer requests. This is especially helpful when it comes from your church's pastors and leaders.
- Be proactive in your prayer. We often pray in response to what's happening in the world, but we can also pray that God would proactively move. Here are 10 ways you can pray proactively with the Prayer Wall.
- If you have a prayer ministry at church, get them using the Prayer Wall. It's a great way to see the fruit of that ministry and an easy way to get more people praying.
When you first visit the "People" tab on the Table, you may have noticed that people are sorted randomly.
Why sort people randomly by default? Good question.
There are three ways people can be sorted—random, newest and alphabetical. Sorting people alphabetically may be the standard approach for a directory, but that's not what we did by default. If you sort people alphabetically you'll almost always be looking at the same crowd. That's great for the Maya Adamson's of the world, but it doesn't introduce you to new people all the time.
That's what sorting randomly accomplishes—every time you click to browse people, you get a random selection of 12 people from your church. That means you're always seeing different names and faces.
- You may discover people in your church you don't even know. But now you have a name and face so you can say hello on Sunday.
- You may recognize some faces but you never knew their names. Now you do. On Sunday you can put that little bit of knowledge to the test and start a conversation.
- You may see an old friend you haven't talked to in a while. Send 'em a quicknote and reconnect.
That's just three positive outcomes from random sorting. As practical as it is, you don't get that with alphabetical sorting. That's why we do it randomly by default—we think it's that important for the Table to help you connect with people. After all, it's all about community.
If you need to get things done, you can still browse people alphabetically. We just wanted the default to be about connection, not utility.
You can also sort by "newest" and see who's joined your Table recently. It's fun to see who's new and welcome them to the Table.
So next time you browse people, take a minute to meet a random new face.
One of the biggest challenges we face is helping people to understand the difference between The Table and Facebook. Some of our detractors say people don't need another social network. They claim people might look around for awhile, but they'll soon head back to Facebook, and never return to The Table.
Now that we have thousands of real users using The Table in their churches, we're happy to report that concern is baseless. Our users are actually using The Table more and more as time goes on. For example, one church which launched in early December and now has over 1,200 people on their Table has seen prayer frequency on their Prayer Wall rise 45% between the end of December and today.
It is important to note that many of these same users that are returning over and over to The Table are adept in social media, having been long-time Facebook users. They continue to use Facebook, and they use it well. But they also feel the Table brings a whole new dimension to their church community.
Before we begin, we want it to be clear that we don't intend to insult Facebook in making these comparisons. Everyone in our office regularly uses and enjoys Facebook. We've all received real, personal value from their platform, they fill a particular need very well, and we're thankful for their pioneering work. When we say we're not trying to compete with or replace Facebook, it's not just lip service. We really mean it. They've done their job well.
Having said that, there are at least three profound differences between The Table and Facebook that we think really matter to the people who use The Table.
The Three Big Differences
- The fact that The Table is designed for "us" instead of "me" is a fundamental shift from the traditional social media mindset.
- The Table's atmosphere of privacy and intimacy causes different behaviors to arise that are not seen elsewhere online.
- The fact that The Table is designed specifically for the church directs what we create and helps us to define "success" differently.
Let's examine each of these in depth.
"Us" instead of "Me"
The first profound difference between The Table and Facebook is that Facebook is designed to be "me-centric" and The Table is designed to be "us-centric." We began our designs by centering around the shared space of the church ("us") rather than the isolated space of the individual ("me").
You're probably friends on Facebook with a few people from your church, but not all the people from your church. What that means is that all those people to whom you're not connected would never know if you've tried to post a prayer request to your Facebook Wall. And since they don't know you've posted that information, they can't use that opportunity to get to know you and serve you. They probably wouldn't even think to come find you on Facebook unless they met you in person. And if they did seek you out on Facebook before meeting you in person, it might even be considered a "creepy" thing to do.
By contrast, on The Table, people can choose to share new content (like a prayer request, discussion board topic, or a photo) with the whole church. Sharing information church-wide allows new introductions to strangers within your church to happen easily. And every time you meet a stranger on The Table, you know you have something in common with them already. You'll probably see them face-to-face in the foyer next Sunday. That's a powerful difference.
Two more great examples of The Table's "us-centric" design are our People Directory and Groups Directory. Discovering new people and groups at your church can't be done well on Facebook. Using Facebook to search for groups at your church (or even searching for your church itself) often leads to matches from other churches all over the world, and it's not clear which item in the search is the one you're looking for. In some cases, that problem causes multiple instances of the same Facebook group to be created, accidentally fracturing the community.
Let's say you were searching for your chuch's page on Facebook, in order to get to know other church members there. Once you finally found the right church, all the people who "like" that church on Facebook are listed as a single summed total (e.g. "1,832 People Like This") and you can only see six of those people at a time. That means meeting new people who go to your church via that church page on Facebook is a nearly-impossible chore.
The Table makes it easy. Every person in the church and every group visible to the whole church are all listed out in a convenient, searchable interface. No mistaken results from other churches. Every search result is immediately more relevant.
A Private Platform
The second profound difference is that on Facebook, everyone in the world is in the same giant, open room. Comments you make (depending on your account settings) could be seen by hundreds of millions of people. Furthermore, Facebook is growing more open at every turn. That's not a mistake on their part; a piece of their stated mission is to "make the world more open and connected."
By contrast, The Table is a comparatively closed system where the people in each church don't see and interact with everyone in every other church. That difference is not at all about being "safer" online when using The Table. It's about creating a space where intimacy, accountability, honesty and personal openness can happen. It's like the difference between sharing a highly vulnerable prayer request with your church family vs. sharing that same highly vulnerable prayer request on the microphone at your high school reunion. Those are very different groups of people, and there's a different purpose for each of them.
Designed for the Church
The third profound difference between Facebook and The Table is that Facebook's core functionality is made for 1-on-1 personal connections with acquaintances and friends, and personal "broadcasting." The Table's core functionality is made to allow people within the church to "live church together." Specifically, that means our built-in apps help people to live out a Christ-centered, gospel-centered life in the context of their church community.
How do our apps accomplish that lofty task? We'll give two examples.
First, we designed a Prayer Wall specifically to post and display prayer requests (including anonymous prayer requests!) from anyone and everyone in the church. It's certainly possible to post prayer requests to your church's Facebook page, but you'll notice very few people do it because it's awkward, overly-public, and it can't be anonymous when it needs to be. You might think people would be just as shy on their church's Table, but that's not what we've seen. In the last few months we've seen prayer requests by people expressing some of the most difficult emotions a person can experience. Calls for help that are only for the church's ears. We've seen stories of miracles and of God's work that are celebrated throughout the church. And through all this, connections are made between people that would have never happened otherwise. This kind of vulnerable sharing allows people go deeper in each others' lives in wonderfully sweet ways that strip away the facade of our Sunday morning silence.
Secondly, our upcoming Serve app is being built to match each person's giftedness and resources to real needs in their church. That idea wouldn't usually make sense outside the context of a local, physical community. The Facebook community is too global and too fractured to be used effectively or efficiently for that purpose. That's not a criticism of Facebook, it's just not what Facebook was created to be. That's why we don't agree when people see The Table and say our plan must be to "transfer behavior" from Facebook to The Table. These are behaviors that don't exist on Facebook. They can't be transferred because they weren't there to begin with.
Churches have suggested to us that the best thing about The Table is that it's not centered on what the church staff or leadership are doing or getting involved with. It's centered on the church being the church. It's centered on the community supporting each other through connection, prayer and service.
So, will non-social types come in droves to the Table? Will people actually find themselves drawn to physical community through this product? When a church experiences the kind of caring and considerate embrace that we’ve seen on The Table in recent months, the answer has been an unmistakable "yes."
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 email@example.com.
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.