|Twenty Years and Beyond|
By Dan Vis
April 12, 2019
Below is a picture of me from 20 years ago, at what proved to be one of the most pivotal weekends of my life. In this memo, I tell a small bit of that story, and then share some of the changes we just made to our site to commemorate it!
Something happened 20 years ago, right around this time of year. And it was a huge turning point in my life. So we decided to commemorate that event with something big at FAST!
At the time, I was teaching at a small Bible college in northern California, and had been asked to speak at one of our annual spring "R & R" weekends. It was supposed to stand for "rest and relaxation", but one of the guys in my discipleship team suggested it should stand for "revival and reformation". We decided as a group to pray for that exactly.
And we did pray. And ended up seeing God work in some amazing ways. God's Spirit was poured out mightily that weekend, and in the subsequent days many of the foundational principles upon which our ministry has been built came into focus. It set a direction for FAST from which I've not really wavered from that day till now. And for 20 years now, I've sensed God still has something special planned for this small ministry.
For most of these past 20 years, FAST has not been able to provide financially for my family, and I've had to work at other jobs--leaving early mornings, late nights, and vacations to develop our tools and training. We've helped many people grow in their walk with God along the way, but it has been exhausting.
At the tail end of 2017 we took a step of faith and committed to pursuing FAST full time. And these last eighteen months have had their ups and downs, but God has blessed. Thanks to some savings, we made it through our first year. And this year our prospects look even brighter, with our support level almost at 90% of our target goal. If all goes well, we hope to be fully funded by the end of the year, and perhaps even be in a position to explore the possibility of hiring some part time support staff. It's impossible to predict the future, but we are optimistic.
It has taken 20 years, but it feels like a pretty amazing milestone. And we're committed to making an even greater global impact going forward.
To celebrate this milestone, we've not only uploaded another site redesign, but we've also made some big changes to our member benefits we're super excited to announce. Here's some quick highlights of the changes:
An Updated "FAST" bar.
The black bar at the top of our desktop site now has four main sections: Free Stuff, Account Info, Student Area, and Training Centers. A nifty acronym, for sure. But more importantly, these sections have all had some major updates. Basically, we've tried to take the feedback we've received over the last 18 months, and reorganize things to give people more of what they want.
1) Free Stuff.
We get frequent questions about which resources are free, and which are paid. Now the answer couldn't be simpler. One click, and you can find all our current free stuff in one place. And our plans are to keep this list updated with new stuff often, so check in regularly!
2) Account Info.
I also get numerous questions about things like how to change one's password, find a receipt, update their giving plan, etc. Now everything connected to your account is accessible, top level, front and center. We've also redesigned the main account page to make it even easier to find what you want. Take a quick peek. I think you will like it.
3) Student Area.
This is big. First, we're transforming our "LAB" into a more structured Online School, with a regular "recommended" step by step training curriculum. We're still finalizing the details, but you are going to be super intrigued by the new "Action Plans" we've sketched out so far. This is also where you go now to view your current classes.
But we've done something more: we've opened our Online School up to every training center member. In the past, while members had access to our classes and guides, they had to become a partner to access the LAB, or take special LAB only classes like our Breakout Memory Challenge. This change opens up our Memory Club, Lab Forum, Prayer Chapel and other tools to many more people. And we couldn't be more excited. So if you have ever wanted to sponsor your church as a training center, you have more incentive now than before!
4) Training Centers
In addition to giving training center members access to live classes and LAB resources, we also made it easier for center leaders to get members of their church into their training center. First, we've created a "Center" tab on each members profile page. Click a name, go to this tab, and you'll find a super easy button to instantly add individuals with an account to your training center directly. Super cool.
Second, we've created a new tool for leaders to invite members. (It's in the Training Center area under Member Tools.) Basically, it works like our old Share Zone feature (which was renamed "invites" and moved into the Account Info section). Just enter a list of church member emails into this tool, and you can instantly see their status at FAST: including whether or not they have an account, and whether or not they have joined the training center. But it goes one step further. When someone in that list creates a new account, they are automatically added to the training center. Instantly.
These two features should make a huge difference. I've been wanting to add these for months. And they are now both live!
There are actually scores of other small changes all through the site, which you'll notice as you explore around. I won't mention all of them here. But here's a couple big ones:
1) The Resource Bar
In the past, the blue bar at the top of the desktop version of the site was dedicated to translated resources, but it doesn't appear these were getting as much traffic as other parts of the site. So we changed it into a dedicated resource bar.
On the old site we only had a few of these items on the main menu bar. The rest were scattered around, but only if you knew where to look. Now every single resource section of our site is listed, so you always know where things are. (One of those links is "translations" if you are wondering where those went.) This should make it super easy to find just about anything you are looking for.
And there's even space left for a couple more items--which is good because we have one or two new projects hopefully starting up later this year!
2) The Side Menu
On the old site, there were a number of really important links in the side menu, but they were hidden and only opened up when you waived your mouse over your picture or name. And some people never caught on. Now, we've moved some of those links to other, more logical places, and left the ones that remained always expanded on every page. No more hidden or bouncing menus.
While screen space is at a premium, I wanted to make sure every page showed a link to the Help Hotline, in a prominent place. Providing quick support is top priority for us. You'll also notice all your tool icons are out on full display once again as well.
Note also that on most sections of the the site there is a welcome area in the side menu that replicates the resource bar at the top of the page. We had something similar before, but again, it lacked several critical links. Now it is just as comprehensive as the resource bar at the top. Nice touch!
3) Mobile Version
I didn't forget the mobile version! First I added a small home icon at the top right of every page so you know how to get to the mobile home page!
Clicking it takes you to a list of all the major sections of the site--basically your "resource bar" plus a few other links. In the past, there were several sections of the site that were really hard to find on a phone. Now everything is just a click or two away.
And on the mobile version, the "FAST" bar is replicated in the blue bar near the top. And it includes the exact same four key areas: Free Stuff, Account Info, Student Area, Training Centers--only abbreviated to Free, Account, Students, Training. Essentially, this means the desktop and mobile versions have the same top level navigation.
What will the next 20 years bring? Hopefully a finishing of the work here on earth, and the return of Christ. But if time lingers, our intention is to stick to the path God marked out for us all those years ago. A call back to the Bible. A call to bring cutting-edge, Bible-centered training to the world. A call to revival and reformation.
If anything we intend to double down on our mission. And especially the call to seek that last great revival we so urgently need today. We have lots of new classes planned, new study guides under development, several new translations ready, or near ready to go, and a few new ideas--including something special we hope to launch as soon as this summer. It is also our hope to find ways to open access for even more people to participate in our online school. And by God's grace, we will continue to seek ways to empower churches with more and better training center tools.
And of course, if history is any guide, we may even make a few more site changes along the way!
May the Lord help us all to be faithful in pursuing the personal work He has given to each of us. And when all is said and done, may there be many stars in all our crowns...
So what do you think of the new changes? About training center members getting access to all our "lab only" classes and resources? About the new ways to help church members join your training center? Any questions about where something you use often has gone? Share your comments below...
|Posted by Dan Vis on 04/18/19||MEMBER|
|Thanks Marsha! Anytime you have a support question, send it there first. It's usually fastest anyway. :)|
|Posted by Marsha on 04/18/19||MEMBER|
|Thanks Dan for the advise to report my question (on accessing translations from the hot link) to the help line....done!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 04/17/19||MEMBER|
Thank you Scott, Emma, really appreciate your kind words. It has taken longer than expected to get to this point, and we're still not where I'd like to be but we've made rapid progress these last couple years. To me it's just an indicator of the times that we live in.
I'm hoping that one day soon we'll be able to share the tools, lessons, and insights we've picked up over these last 20 years to help other nonprofit ministries build a more viable ministry model and a more vibrant web presence. Not sure when, but that's definitely on my list of life goals...
|Posted by Emma Assogoma Gbenedio on 04/17/19||MEMBER|
|Thank You sir.|
Only God can reward your labour of love and all your sacrifices Ps Dan. For a non-profit ministry as this, it is easy to give up except when we remember whom you have believed. May the Lord give you many more reasons to continue...
|Posted by Scott Sterling on 04/16/19||MEMBER|
|Yes, I agree with the rest who thanked you for all your hard work. I thank God for your example of diligence, it's inspiring. I pray that God provides all of your needs as you make this transition.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 04/16/19||MEMBER|
Marsha, why don't you go to that page and report it on the Help Hotline from there. It should tell me exactly which page you are talking about. Or you can just tell me the url.
I was assuming you meant the "Help with Translation" link but maybe you are on a completely different page, talking about something else. Use the Help Hotline though, and maybe tell me more where you are when you click that link. I can probably fix it easy if I can just find the spot.
|Posted by Marsha on 04/16/19||MEMBER|
|Hi Dan, as of this morning, I am still getting the same error message when I click on translation. Has anyone else experienced the same? Is there a step that I need to do first such as load other translations? This is not a priority issue so don’t let my inquiry pull you away from other work! Many thanks and prayers, ~marsh|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 04/15/19||MEMBER|
|Thank you for the encouragement Carole! And definitely appreciate the prayers... :)|
|Posted by Carole Bliss on 04/15/19||MEMBER|
|Just to say thank you for your dedication and hard work.|
It makes things easier for people. With prayer, this ministry cannot help but to grow. HE is able
|Posted by Dan Vis on 04/14/19||MEMBER|
|My pleasure, as always. :)|
|Posted by Diane Castanon on 04/14/19||MEMBER|
|Thank you for the clarification, Dan! 🙏🏼🥳|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 04/14/19||MEMBER|
|Thank you Fiona! Other than the improved navigation, most of the improvements affect our Training Centers. But the action plans in the Student Area (formerly LAB) are worth looking at. :)|
|Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 04/14/19||MEMBER|
|Awesome, Dan. I have not checked out any of the new features yet, but I will still do so. I appreciate all your hard work. God bless you for all the work and time you put into FAST. :-)|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 04/13/19||MEMBER|
Thanks everyone for the feedback! Good to see the enthusiasm. :)
Marsha, very strange. The translations link seems to work for me. Anyone else notice this?
To find your current classes Diane, click STUDENT AREA.
The new action plans are going to be one of the most exciting parts of the new school Anita. If I have time, I hope to start working on them next week.
The new training center tools for adding members is a big plus for making things easier Lynn. And of course the fact they get access to all the old LAB resources including the live classes. It would be great if your church could start up again! And of course, there's still more improvements to come!
|Posted by Lynn Badger on 04/13/19||MEMBER|
|I'm excited and plan to talk to our church members about being a part of this again. Pray that I can get enough interested to move forward.|
|Posted by Anita Huffman on 04/13/19||MEMBER|
|Wonderful changes! I had tried sharing FAST with my church and those folks who joined/tried to join had problems finding things and understanding the whole concept. They finally gave up. I'm going to announce the changes today and encourage them to try again. I think it's quite simple and easy to understand now. Thanks for all your hard work! I'm looking forward to the Action Plans update.|
|Posted by Diane Castanon on 04/13/19||MEMBER|
|I like the upgrades, especially for the mobile app. I haven’t checked the desktop version yet, but I had difficulty finding the list of classes I’m currently enrolled in. It’s a great reminder for me to make sure I’m keeping up. |
Great job! Happy Sabbath!
|Posted by Marsha on 04/13/19||MEMBER|
What a lot of dedicated work! Thanks Dan 😊. The navigation seems logical and well organized, it will be of value to hear feedback from users who are a bit newer to the site and see if the navigation is as intuitive for them...from my perspective so far so good!
I’m just getting started with the exploration of the updates and haven’t tried everything out yet, but thought I’d send you a quick note that I’ve stumbled across a link that may be awaiting update? When I click on “translations” in the lower menu bar I get this response:
Thanks again Dan!
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