Table Project moves to private beta


I’m pretty excited to see my friends at the Table Project have gone to the next step in their application development process, private beta.

What the heck is the Table Project? It’s hard for me to describe, exactly. At first blush it’s easy to call it a social networking site for churches. But  it’s more than that. To label it as that would cheapen it.  I’d called it a social networking utility for churches.

Most churches have an assortment of inter-connected people. There are people in the pews, an email list, a Facebook page, a website, a youth group list, a group of knitters who meet at the church but no one is sure why, and some sort of database for tracking member information.

These are all separate things that the Table tries to bring together to make life a bit simpler for churches.

Since the Table is a ministry launched from YouthWorks, I’ve gotten a chance to spend time with the developers… poke holes in their theories… and share Coke’s over head-spinning “what if” sessions.

Over the months, in my skepticism, we’ve tossed quips back and forth. I’ve said, “Are you guys just another Jesus-flavored Facebook rip-off?” And they’ll fire back, “What’s your solution? Create a forum and charge people to join?

Zoinks. Touche`.

With this big milestone, I want to point out a few things about the Table and invite you to check it out.

  1. They have a stellar philosophy… they call it a manifesto. (The Unibomber would be proud)
  2. This service is free and open to others building apps on top of it to make it better. (Free and open… two of my favorite words.)
  3. They are a non-profit ministry. Some have said that the ownership thing doesn’t really matter. I think it does, and something tells me churches will think so too. (If money didn’t matter, how come all those investors invested?)
  4. They’ve got a great video explaining what the Table is all about.
  5. This phase of private beta is open to 50 churches, they have a fun little contest going if you’d like to join now.

My disclaimer: Youth Specialties and The Table Project are both parts of the same organization. But no one has asked me to blog about their project. I’m just doing it because they are friends of mine and I’m excited about it going to the beta test.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

6 comments

  1. I love free stuff. Who doesn’t? But my high school economics teacher once told me, “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Everything must be paid for in some way, by some one. It just seems to me that organizations (i.e. churches) that have the ability to pay for a product that they will be using solely for their benefit shouldn’t mind ponying up a small bit of cash to support a company that will be able to sustain itself indefinitely, providing long-term value for the Church. This would be in contrast to churches looking for a free ride from a non-profit that can’t scale to meet the needs of the multitude because it is relying on donations rather than a sound business model to sustain itself.

    I must say, I’m interested in learning more about how long and for whom this free offer will be.

    Business and ministry philosophy aside, I know that the team at the Tableproject are good guys, and as a fellow (former) Minnesotan, if you ask me if I respect their position, I would have to say, “you betcha!”

    1. Ben- I guess we’ll both have to just wait and see. I don’t know any more than you do. But their mantra seems to be pretty clear… the manifesto seems to say “free forever.” If it were me, I’d go freemium. But it’s not!

      The questions you are bringing up are valid from the perspective of any start-up. No new web property has unlimited access to financial resources whether registered as a non-profit or for-profit. Both can be for good. But my inkling is that when working with churches… they are going to dig that the Table is non-profit, just like them.

      One thing worth pointing out about all of the YouthWorks world. Non-profit doesn’t mean donation based. The term you hear a lot is “enteprising ministries.” That is, ministries that sustain themselves financially.

      Like any web property… you can build something cool but there’s no guarantee that people will like it.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, insights, and kind words about the Table Project! You raise some great questions below. The observation about ‘no free lunch’ is generally a legitimate one and deserves a response.

    We have carefully thought through our strategy of delivering the Table as a gift to the church, and want to provide assurances on several counts.
    1. The Table will be free to all Christian churches in the United States.
    2. The Table has a business plan it is executing that makes it sustainable for the long-term while still allowing the product to be a gift to the local church. We will be around for the long haul! We have revenue streams that make the Table a safe, viable choice for the church.
    3. The Table has an exceptionally low cost structure to support. We have a small but very capable team. And, we have no VC folks to answer to, and no investors of any sort demanding a return. Finally, we do not have to produce a profit.
    4. Perhaps some churches are unworried about ‘ponying up a small amount of cash’ for a solution such as this. But most churches we visit with are exceptionally concerned about their budgets and having to stretch them. Most would prefer to allocate their precious resources to direct ministry rather than in payment to a for-profit venture.
    5. Everyone involved with the Table is passionate about and committed to producing a product that is a game-changer for the local church. We want to build a tool that allows the church to fully be the church that Jesus called it to be: to love one another, serve another, and to pray for one another.

  3. Thank you for your responses gentlemen.
    The number one priority of SoChurch is to serve the Church; generating a profit is one of the means by which we will sustain that objective. I have no doubt that Youthworks and Tableproject have the best interest of churches and ministries in mind as well. I am all for “enterprising ministries. Like you say Adam, in this instance, we will just have to wait and see what approach best serves the Church over the long haul.

    1. I’m a “both and” kind of person. There’s definitely room for more than one solution. Just like there are tons of different solutions, there may be different organizations that pop up to meet those needs with purposes that fit.

      Cool dialogue.

      As a nerd, I’m just thankful that there are people thinking about how to do church simpler so we can maximize our resources out in the community without having to do as much to make a church function.

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