Thoughts on Facebook groups and why this site is independent

Many folks coordinate ministry efforts on Facebook. When I first started a weekly church production meetup, one of the first suggestions was to create a Facebook group to discuss things.

Facebook provides a lot of value and can be a great fit for a lot of groups, but there are some drawbacks to using Facebook:

  • Facebook encourages short-form communication. There isn’t a great way to write long-form in Facebook and to have topics which might last a long time.
  • Open knowledge. Searching within a group isn’t intuitive. Facebook does not expose content shared in the group to search engines very well.
  • Distraction. Sometimes it’s nice to have a place on the internet where you can focus on a single thing. Facebook is primarily a social interaction tool, so there are many ways folks can spend more time on the site than they’d like.
  • Not everyone can use Facebook. For personal reasons or otherwise, some people cannot use Facebook. Perhaps it’s for privacy reasons, they don’t want to do business with Facebook, or they cannot access Facebook due to Time Limits or self-imposed focus filters. I respect these decisions and circumstances. Using a group on Facebook can exclude people who’d otherwise want to participate.

There are many other reasons, but I’ll be brief. The intention of this community is to share knowledge and support each other in creating great church experiences. The best way to do this is to use the best possible tool for the job.

This forum is powered by Discourse — an open-source tool initially released in 2013. It benefits from seven years of development by smart people who are passionate about creating great online community. This tool empowers a small staff to host a vibrant online community. We can organize topics into categories. The site admins are able to control things like the emails you get, the design of the site, and the experiences of using it. I believe this leads to a better experience for the hundreds of people who have yet to visit.

It also encourages long-form communication. If you have a lot to share — paragraphs, links, photos, even embedded spreadsheets — you’re welcome to share it as long as we keep it civil and on topic.

I’m a software engineer by trade. Running this forum isn’t too much a burden in comparison to the value of getting to use it.

You’re also working directly with me and not a large organization. This forum is my personal project. Your data isn’t in the hands of a large corporation — instead, I’m tasked with stewarding what you decide to share here and I promise to steward this well. This site is hosted on DigitalOcean with weekly backups and the forum instance is backed up nightly. As the site grows, I will be seeking folks to co-administrate the site alongside me.

I hope this is helpful. Please send me a message with any questions!