Rev. Louis Tamminga says he has become “increasingly enamored with” The Network, the CRC’s online community that is celebrating its fifth birthday this month.
What he loves, he says, is the chance The Network gives people to share ideas and and approaches about how they involve themselves in ministry across the Christian Reformed Church.
“I learned that there is just such a beauty of insight among God's people, and such riches of experience,” says Tamminga who is the guide for the Elders section of the Network.
“I also found that notions I held as true were not always totally valid and I had to accept correction. In general, I found that ministries of churches and individuals gain in value and effectiveness when they become known.”
In the last five years since the social site began, users have created nearly 5,000 new ministry-related posts and those posts have yielded over 10,000 responses. Still, there are many more who read posts but haven’t themselves joined the conversation. Since its inception, the site has averaged more than half a million page views per year.
The Network covers dozens of ministry-related topics, including Church Administration & Finance, Church Planting, Faith Formation, Deacons and Worship, as well as Youth Ministry, Safe Church and Disability Concerns.
“The whole idea behind The Network has been to help us all do ministry better in our churches,” says Staci Devries, Community Manager for The Network.
Each week, thousands of people visit The Network to read weekly blogs, share resources, discuss forum topics, and get answers to ministry questions.
Whether someone is a deacon, elder, small group leader, webmaster, nursery coordinator, or volunteer for any other ministry in a church, The Network is a place to learn, share, and connect with others who do what you do, says Devries.
“The Network is one of the CRC’s most popular sites and it might be the first thing that gets people wondering and asking questions about the CRC,” says Devries.
The Network was launched in February 2010 to create an easy-to-access, one stop resource center about the “nuts and bolts” of ministry. All along, it has provided resources—articles, blogs, basic guidelines, advice, and helpful links. But is has also been a meeting place for the CRC and its friends—a place of conversation, learning, and comparing notes about practical aspects of church ministry.
Bonnie Nicholas, director of the CRC’s Safe Church Ministry, says she appreciates the extra visibility that The Network provides and the opportunity to connect with people that may not otherwise know about the ministry.
“In addition, The Network is a place to share information, promote dialogue, and learn from one another. We've especially enjoyed being able to produce webinars on various topics, something we could never do on our own without the assistance and expertise of The Network.”
Abigail Genzink is The Network guide for Global Missions. Besides sharing what the CRC is doing in global missions with others, she says she loves “to browse the other pages and see what is going on in the church.”
Network guides such as Genzink and Tamminga provide a welcoming voice on their topics and help connect people to conversations.
“The guides have a real heart for their area,” says Devries. “They post regularly on the site and keep it active.”
Some of the most significant changes to The Network came last February when it received a new design and better navigation, making it easier to search for topics, types of posts and authors “so you can get straight to what you need,” says Tim Postuma, web manager for the CRC.
Especially popular, says Postuma, has been the ability for more resource sharing. “Instead of the guides being the only ones to post resources, we’ve granted those permissions to the entire community,” he says.
Also popular has been opening The Network up for anyone to post a blog in one of the ministry sections. “We want The Network to continue to be a place where both ministry ideas and practical tools are freely exchanged,” says Postuma.
While anyone can read content on The Network, you need to create an account in order to post resources, a blog or to comment on something that appears on the site.
As part of its fifth anniversary, The Network will be awarding badges ("Participant" and "Community Builder") to Network users who have met various criteria.
These badges will be visible on the users profile on The Network and are attainable via easy steps, including completing profiles and interacting on the site, says Devries. Without participation, social websites like The Network wouldn’t exist and so badges are a way these online communities can recognize their active members.
The Network will also be giving away two Amazon gift cards. “First, we are having a ‘Caption Contest’ where we will post a fun, ministry-related picture and ask users to provide clever/interesting captions. The winner receives a prize,” says Devries.
“Secondly, we will be posting a blog highlighting our most-read posts from the last five years and soliciting others to post on the site. Those who post during the month of February will be entered in a drawing for a gift.”
People will need to have an account with The Network in order to participate in the fifth anniversary activities. To browse the site and join the conversation, visit crcna.org/network.