Four Big ChangesBy Dan Vis
July 31, 2019
If last month our focus was "classic FAST", with articles all drawn from the early days of our ministry, August will be about looking forward. In today's post I share 4 big changes we'll be rolling out over the coming weeks. We're planning something really big for January 1, 2020. August is just going to get us ready...
In November of 2017, I felt the Lord clearly directing me to leave a job and church I loved, as a pastor in the western suburbs of Chicago. I sensed a clear call to focus my efforts full-time on the ministry of FAST. In particular, I knew our website needed a thorough revision and update. And as I ran through the various fixes I knew it needed, I gave it a time estimate of two years.
We'll hit that anniversary in just a couple of months. And by God's grace, we're pretty close to checking off every item on our master plan. It's been a long, winding road with lots of tweaks and updates, and a few hiccups, along the way, but things are finally getting close to where we want them. There are just a few last changes still to come. Four big ones in particular--and we're going to try rolling them all out this month! If all goes well, we'll complete our main revamp a couple of months early, giving us a few final weeks for any needed polishing.
Listed below are the changes we're planning for August. All four have the potential to affect you, so I definitely encourage you to read through the list:
A New Online StoreWell, it will be the same store--just modernized a bit. Those of you who have purchased print items from our store, and compared them to our digital lessons, know there are some big differences in size and format. So starting early August, I'm going to gradually begin shifting everything in our store over to the same format we use online.
This has several advantages. Firstly, it saves us from having to keep two different formats in sync. It's actually much easier to edit our digital lessons, so using them in our store means typos can get fixed and rolled out more quickly. And because these won't be tied to our print lessons, we can update and improve the content much more freely. Secondly, this allows us to easily expand the resources available in our store. Coming soon, you'll be able to get print versions of all our popular classes, as well as teacher notes for our main study guides, and perhaps even some of our different translations. Why not? Our goal is to make anything we offer online, available in our Online Store. And thirdly, we're going to use the change as an opportunity to introduce an exciting new logo for FAST. Our old logo has been around for ages. It's time for something new!
What this means for you: While supplies last, we're going to be running a giant discount to help close-out existing inventory. We'll also be putting up our new materials as quickly as we're able--and unfortunately, those will include some increases in price. (We haven't raised the price of our printed lessons in nearly 20 years!) So if you want to grab some of the old lessons, at a giant bargain, do it now while you can. Or, if you are eager to check out the new lessons, look for those. These should start showing up in our Online Store soon...
Introducing Training TeamsEarly in our ministry, we came to believe in the power of the local church, and have made bold efforts to equip churches with tools to become true Training Centers. And we have every intention of continuing that pursuit. But we've also had requests from many individuals who simply want to share our FAST tools with a few family members. Or perhaps with a small group or team they are a member of. We've also seen tiny churches and large churches charged the exact same amount, which never quite felt fair. I've felt even more uncomfortable with pastors leading districts with three or four tiny churches, who had to pay a separate fee for each. So starting this month, we're going to change how our system works.
Basically, we'll be changing our Training Centers tab to a tab called Training Teams. It will work the same, in that team leaders can share access to our FAST resources with other accounts, but the pricing structure will change. Specifically, you will be able to choose different support levels based on your need: family, small group, or church. We want to give everyone the ability to get just the plan they want--whether it is a highly affordable plan for just a few close friends, or if they prefer to stick with the church unlimited plan. I'll be sending out news when we make this switch, so stay tuned.
What this means for you: The new approach will give you more options to get a leaders' license and share FAST resources with the people you care about most, at what is potentially a lower rate. Most active training centers will see their rates stay the same, or go down, depending on how many members there are in their center. Large centers may see a price increase. One way to avoid this, is to put your training center on our annual plan at our current rate. This can lock in your current rate for a full year or more! We'll be announcing details about how to take advantage of that soon.
Re-engineering the LabOver the last year, we've been gradually adding more and more tools and resources to our Lab, as we've sought to make it the training hub for our site. At times, it has felt like a real Lab, with us constantly tinkering and experimenting with all sorts of ideas to see what worked best. And in the process we've learned a lot--and developed a clearer vision of what our online school could be. We've also had a vision filled with even more ideas we just haven't had time to implement. Yet. Well this month, we hope to roll out the final pieces in that vision.
Essentially, rather than making our school a giant smorgasbord of training resources, we're going to organize it into carefully structured tracks and modules. Each will come with its own training objectives and missions. And we're going to setup something of a transcript system so you can see exactly where you are in your success path, and what step comes next. You'll still be able to wander around if you wish, but we've had plenty of requests for a more organized training environment. And as an educator, I know firsthand how important it is to have clear educational objectives and a well-designed plan to get there. Our new Student Lab will be re-engineered to do exactly that.
What this means for you: In the short term, you can continue with whatever class you happen to be enrolled in, as usual. But as the month unrolls, we are going to be ramping up our Student Lab. Ultimately, you are going to want to make the Student Lab your go-to destination for all FAST training. There, we'll provide tools to guide you to the exact class you should take next, and then tools to encourage you along, every step of the way. And we'll even be adding some exciting new classes! The important thing here, is simply to keep your eyes open for info about these changes.
A Membership PurgeLastly, but not least, we're planning some purges to our membership records. This is something I've been reluctant to do for a long time, and why I've put this off to the very last of our list. But it's a necessity. Having a large inactive membership in our records creates a number of technical challenges. I won't go into them here, but it slows down pretty much every process on our site. We've made massive efforts to optimize how our software handles all this data, and will continue to tweak that. But trimming out accounts that have been inactive for a year or more will really help. And it will give us a clearer sense of how many "active" members we have!
Even more important, we need to purge our email lists. When you send emails to individuals who never open or respond to your emails, that hinders your ability to get emails through to other recipients who want the information you are sending. Most email providers track open and response rates carefully, and when these are low, your reputation as an email sender is affected--which can make or break your ability to get emails through. Besides, the last thing we want to do is send emails to someone who no longer is interested in reading them. We're all on email overload. And there's no point in adding to the problem!
So later this month, we are going to begin purging accounts that have not been used in a while, and archiving unused student files. We'll also be automatically unsubscribing email addresses from individuals who have stopped interacting with our emails. We'll even be deleting old messages in your FAST inbox, that are more than a few months old. We're still finalizing the schedule for all this and will notify members as best we can in advance. But if all goes well, we'll have this whole system put in place this month.
What this means for you: On the one hand, this is a positive thing. It means everything on our site will run smoother and faster, and the emails we send will have a much better chance of getting through to you. On the other hand, you could find your account getting deleted! Fortunately, it's easy to avoid. Just login every once in a while and be sure to read, or better yet, click an email from us now and then. And if your account does get bumped somehow, it's always easy to create a new account and jump right back in. I'll actually be keeping backups of most user files, so if you see something missing, just ask. I may be able to restore it for you.
ConclusionWell, that about wraps up what's coming this month and why. Four big changes, and every one of them are likely to affect you in at least some way. We've got most of the code already done. It's just carefully releasing it, week by week over the coming month. Then, once we've got everything finished, and we complete any final tweaking we need to--we can turn our focus to fulfilling our real work, of bringing cutting-edge, Bible-centered, tools and training to the world.
We have much bigger things planned for 2020, and we invite you to stay with us as we launch into the next chapter of the ministry of FAST.
CommentsAny questions about any of the upcoming changes? Anything you would like to see added to the list before we finish off our current round of revisions? Share your feedback in the comments below...
|Posted by Dan Vis on 08/11/19|
|Thank you so much Shirl for leaving a quick note. Really appreciate it! We miss everyone back in Illinois and send our love. Please give my greetings to Paul and all the rest!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 08/11/19|
|Thanks Reno. It's a learning process. But lot's of little improvements over time begin to add up. All glory to God!|
|Posted by Reno on 08/10/19|
|Thanks for the update Dan. I understand the challenges you face with managing the site. May God continue to bless this Ministry.|
|Posted by Carole Bliss on 08/02/19|
|This has been well thought through, and better yet, prayed over.
God Bless you as your continue to make things more manageable for
|Posted by Eunice Makola on 08/02/19|
|Looking forward to the change in subscriptions. May God continue to bless your ministry. Hiding his word in my heart has been such a blessing.|
|Posted by Scott Sterling on 08/02/19|
|Sounds good. I’m happy to hear that since your decision to leave your other job and focus on the website full-time that it has been sustainable. May God continue to bless your efforts.|
|Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 08/01/19|
|I will definitely want to take advantage of the LAB. I really enjoyed it the time that I tried it.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 08/01/19|
|The new Online Store is up by the way, and I've actually already included all our online classes in it as new inventory items. Took a short while to work out the kinks but it all seems to be working now!
Big savings on our old lessons. But inventory is limited...
|Posted by Dan Vis on 08/01/19|
|Awesome Sherry! I'm hoping having more flexible plans will make it easier for people.
The new LAB is definitely going to be more organized Joyce! Can't wait...
|Posted by Patricia Jones on 07/31/19|
|Sounds good. I know our pastor, with three tiny ⛪, will appreciate the restructuring of Training Teams pricing.|
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