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Four Big Changes
By Dan Vis
July 31, 2019
Comments: 26

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 Store

Well, 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 Teams

Early 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 Lab

Over 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 Purge

Lastly, 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.

Conclusion

Well, 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.

Comments

Any 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 Shirley 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 Shirley Phillips on 08/11/19
Pastor Dan, you and Vi and Becca are so greatly appreciated and missed by those you left behind. It is a blessing to continue to grow and study at your Fast missions site. Thank you for all you do to provide the best tools and study guides. You are always in our prayers:) Paul says "Hi"
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 Dan Vis on 08/06/19

No worries Karen, that would only happen if you didn't login for many months or never opened an email. And certainly not if you are a partner!

As for feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the resources, our next big schedule upgrade (#3) is going to include a more clearly defined roadmap through our curriculum. We already have a recommended training track, but it's probably not prominent enough. That's one thing we'll be changing. I definitely recommend tackling just one class at a time, rather than trying to do everything at once!

As for comments, research has shown pretty conclusively that engaging with information helps us learn it better. But don't let worry about posting a comment keep you from learning and growing. And you just posted a nice comment here! Good job. :)

Posted by Karen Steiger on 08/06/19
Sorry I will probably be one you remove. Since I payed the amount required for all the classes I wanted to try everything I could. Just couldn’t follow the route you required. I also don’t like to having to make comments. I don’t feel I am a deep thinker and don’t make good sense when commenting.
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/05/19
Erica I have all the free versions I've been able to get digital access too. Some versions like NIV and NKJV are copyrighted and won't allow us to put their versions up. But I do have World English Bible, Bible in Basic English, and the Modern King James. Go to ACCOUNT AREA and scroll down to the bottom and select your choice.
Posted by Erica Cameron on 08/05/19
Hi Dan, It would make things easier, if there was also a modern translation of the Bible. Thanks Dan for all you do. Sorry I haven't been in touch recently. I've just not been able to keep up with things at the moment. Erica
Posted by Dan Vis on 08/02/19

God has been good to us Scott! We've been focusing a lot more on building structure and content these last two years, but I'm really excited about 2020 where I hope to be able to turn much more focus toward growth. Please do keep us in prayers!

I'll be sending out more info on what we'll be doing soon Eunice. Next week probably. We did a survey of all our partners a few months back and that was one of our big takeaways. that was a strong desire for more flexibility in our plans. I'm excited!

The best plans are indeed the ones rooted in much prayer and time spent seeking the Lord, aren't they Carole? :)

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
All.
BLESSINGS
Carole
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 Dan Vis on 08/01/19
:)
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 Joyce Augustinis on 08/01/19
Sounds good! I'm always a fan of organization.
Posted by Sherry Olson on 07/31/19
Glad to hear about the different rates for membership, I have a handful of friends I would like to share with. And I've just moved from a bigger church to a much smaller church, so I will have to see if I can drum up some interest.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/31/19

Hi Karen! I see you already signed up. My recommendation is you stick with the level you have now to get started and then upgrade as more and more people sign up. Once you get your portal in place there's a page to help you find members of your church and get them in the center. I'll walk you through all that. I'll be explaining the Training Teams details next week. Email me separately if you have questions.

It would be great if we could work together with you in some way Emmanuel. But either way, you are always welcome as a part of our community.

Thanks for the encouragement Marsha! It's a big job but we've been preparing for awhile. It's just this month it all comes together. Hopefully! :)

Posted by Marsha on 07/31/19
Thanks for the update and clearly identifying the "how this affects you sections"! I worked for several years in technology-related field of health and totally understand all the work and effort that even a minor change entails much less one of such a large scope. God bless and I have no doubt your efforts will reap souls for our Lord in these last days.
Posted by Emmanuel Ajiroghene on 07/31/19

This is quite interesting especially for someone like me. I have not been about to subscribe because I can't afford the fixed plan for all. This is a welcome development for me. God is really working on something for me.

I look forward to talking advantage of these new changes. Thank you Pastor Dan Vic.

Posted by Karen Williams on 07/31/19

I am so conflicted about the training teams. It's a great vision, but I was thinking about sponsoring my church and now I don't know whether to go ahead or not.
The church has about 460 people "on the books" with about 300+ attending.
So far, I've talked with several people who are interested in FAST, and shared links, but I don't see that they've signed up, so maybe I should wait and go the small group route.
We are receiving a new pastor at the beginning of 2020, so I can't talk with him and find out the preference either way, maybe he has his own great ideas to move our church forward.

Make it easy to share on What'sApp?

On a totally unrelated note, I was just on the daily review on a computer and found out when you hover over the verse it gives the first few words of the text - that's fantastic!

Posted by Dan Vis on 07/31/19

Thanks for the encouragement Qing! These are all really big steps, and it's crazy to think they may all be done by the end of this month. Wow. I'm most excited to dive into #3. The rest are pretty much ready to go. Just need to polish up and enable. But the Lab changes will still require a good bit of work...

Appreciate the suggestion Luminita for an app. We've avoided that because we want to make sure people get access to the full site, rather than create an app for just one specific purpose. But I can definitely appreciate the situation you described. Which will come first: wireless being ubiquitous or an app for FAST, remains to be seen! :)

If anyone here is an app developer and willing to help discuss the possibility, let me know...

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.
Posted by Luminita on 07/31/19
Very exciting to hear of the new changes!! One suggestion I have is to develop an app. Perhaps this is already in the works. Last weekend I was off grid and not able to access the Fast tools I use daily. When we are unable to connect to the internet it would be nice to have the ability to keep up with our Bible memorization. Thanks for all you do to empower us to be diligent in planting the seeds of truth in our hearts and minds.
Posted by Qing Ling on 07/31/19
bring it on. I was about to recommend the last big change (#4). i just uploaded my church list to my training center and it was the first time i experienced lag in FAST page loading. But that could be because I was loading over 308 email accounts! good point about protecting your reputation as an email sender also. Change #2 is a great idea.
I can't wait to tinker around in #3 for myself - and I know Kathy and Christine are already actively using the Lab Action Plans with their church! Awesome!

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