If you’re like us, you’ve probably heard some buzz amongst your online circle about The Table Project. And if you haven’t, we’ve got the information directly from the horse’s mouth. We had the opportunity to speak with Jason Wenell of The Table Project about the initiative.
The plan is to officially launch to the public on Feb. 23. But we’ve got 10 invitation codes specifically to give our readers a sneak peek (Update: Oops, all gone.). But more on that later. Here’s what Jason had to say:
Can you give a quick, one-paragraph summary of The Table for our readers who might not be familiar with it?
Jason Wenell: In short, The Table is a relational, online web application, custom-tailored for the church. Our mission is to engage the community, empower leaders and move people beyond the pews and into authentic, life-changing friendships.
Easy enough. So I remember church social networks coming and going before. What do you think distinguishes this from preceding attempts to solve this problem that haven’t gained wide adoption?
Jason: It depends on what types of “previous attempts” we are talking about. There have been all kinds of “Christian” Facebook knock-offs that, as you said, have utterly failed. But they were trying to just create a “safe” version of Facebook instead of focusing on the real need.
The Table is different in that it is focused on a local, physical community with the goal of getting people together in person. Table apps such as the Serve App and Prayer App were built specifically to help us live out the gospel in our communities. There was a huge hole in the web presence of churches. They had their public website, which is basically just a static promotional site. They had their database for administration. But they didn’t have a community platform that connected their members, started a two-way conversation with their community and encouraged serving and praying for each other beyond Sundays.
We have seen wide-spread adoption from the churches that have launched The Table, and the conversations that are taking place go much deeper level than their public Facebook pages. I truly believe we are at the beginning of a revolution within churches. Seven to eight years ago many churches didn’t have a website and couldn’t fully grasp why it was any different than the yellow pages. In the next 5 years, I would be very surprised if the majority of churches didn’t have a platform like the Table for their community to engage in.
That’s a heck of an argument and a vision. So what about the way churches are currently engaging with congregations through social media? How do you see The Table living alongside churches’ current engagement?
Jason: We encourage churches to continue to use their presence on Facebook and Twitter for many of the same things they do now. Similar to their public website, there are all kind of content, events and information to push out to a global audience. The Table is not a replacement for these global networks but instead a complement to them.
Our lead developer Josh Lewis said it best, “There are things that are appropriate for my small group or for my church family that I would not say into the mic on my high school intercom (Facebook and Twitter).
The Table gives the church a unique, intimate and private environment to start an entirely different conversation. It is our job to make sure it is easy for information to flow back and forth between these environments as seamlessly as possible. By allowing a user to log-in to The Table via Facebook, and share “public” information from The Table out to Facebook, we remove the friction of interacting on both platforms and utilize their unique strengths.
Glad to see you guys are really sold on not just being a social media replacement. But why do you think The Table has staying power? That is, what makes you believe churches won’t hop on because it’s exciting, then watch their engagement fade away?
Jason: We believe today’s church wants to stop talking and start doing. We talk about being a church community, and yet we often forget each other’s names. We talk about being the hands and feet of Christ, yet many let apathy win and sit there asking “I want to serve but don’t know where.” We say that church is not an event but a movement, but after Sunday morning few get involved.
The Table has staying power because it is a catalyst for what church is supposed to be about. As we have watched churches launch The Table, it is no longer an idea but a proven concept.
In one of our most recent churches, let’s look at prayer alone. It launched about eight weeks ago, they have over 1,100 people on The Table, and since launch there have been over 700 prayers and praises put on their church prayer wall and over 16,000 prayers said in support of them. They have also demonstrated a 45% increase in activity the last four weeks—compared to their first four weeks. The engagement in that church continues to go up as the stories of encouragement spread.
That is the church being the church: praying for each other in the moment of need. It is not a question of whether or not the technology has staying power but if the movement of being the body of Christ seven days a week does.
So I’m sure there are still churches a bit leery of trying The Table out. Their capacity for oversight is small, and their staff is busy. What would you say to them? Why prioritize The Table?
Jason: First of all, starting a Table at your church is easy. You create an account, we host it. You don’t pay a dime, sign a contract or have to deal with any red tape. We have removed all the barriers to giving it a try.
Although the software is free, we know your time is not. To roll out The Table successfully, it is true that you will need to set aside some time and resources. As church leaders know, launching any new initiative, needs to be strategized and executed. That being said, the beautiful thing is that once you get up and running it’s all about your community engaging and not your administration team. It is like a flower, you need to plant the seeds but then you can watch it grow. The Table takes pressure off of church staff and empowers the body to engage with one another.
Why make it a priority? If you are a big church, The Table will help you feel smaller and more intimate. If you are a small or medium sized church, The Table will make your ministry efforts more efficient, and better yet empower your members to engage instead of just attend. If you really want church to start after the Sunday morning service is dismissed, invest in launching The Table at your church.
Early Access to The Table
As we said, the public launch of The Table is planned for Feb. 23. But we get you in now. Well, 10 of you. We’ll send the first 10 commenters a code to get access to the Table before their launch. It’ll give you a one-week head start on trying out The Table.
Update: Looks like we hit 10 comments. Thanks for playing.