Video Introducing FaithVillage.com

Where do you go to find good Christian content online?

Let’s face it, Googling “God” is just not good enough. Introducing FaithVillage.com, a new social network for faith resources coming in 2011.

FaithVillage surrounds a robust social media experience with blogs, forums, videos, podcasts, articles, news, shopping and more. You’ll find some of the best content online served up to you in one convenient place. And FaithVillage is accessed through an awesome visual interface that mimics the kind of real brick and mortar neighborhood you like to hang out in.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only take one web site with you, FaithVillage is that site.


mirrored from The Gadsden Times (October 2012)-

Social media site FaithVillage now online

PLANO, Texas — FaithVillage.com threw open its virtual doors Oct. 8, inviting an increasingly diverse community of evangelical Christians into a unique social media site for individuals, churches and related organizations.
“Quite simply, there is no other Web address for Christians like FaithVillage.com,” said Brad Russell, senior editor and COO. “The driving vision is to provide a vibrant online community that expands personal faith, fosters robust sharing of the best ministry resources and deepens collaboration among Christian causes.“
Evangelical Christians comprise the largest group of people who claim a religious affiliation in the United States — about 26 percent of U.S. adults, according to the Pew Forum.
But many people see evangelicals as a monolithic bloc of like-minded individuals sharing opinions on politics, science and world affairs.
The truth is, as PatrolMag.com editor Jonathan Fitzgerald has said, “It’s more like there are shades of evangelicalism.“
FaithVillage.com creates the one place online where evangelicals from various backgrounds can meet in a safe environment to share, learn and grow.
At the recent Religion Newswriters Association annual conference, Russell led a panel discussion — 50 Shades of Evangelicalism — geared toward helping journalists understand the diversity among evangelical Christians. In addition to Fitzgerald, the panel featured Robert Jones, CEO and president of Public Religion Research; Patton Dodd, executive editor of Bondfire Books; and Christianity Today Online Editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey.
FaithVillage.com leverages emerging social media technologies to provide a safe, encouraging online space for people of faith to connect, collaborate and share ideas.
It offers a shared publishing platform where a variety of content producers, book publishers, church resource organizations, causes and churches can work together to create mutual benefit and serve broader faith-related purposes.
Beginning in fall 2012, the site will also feature an online bookstore as the first of several e-commerce venues.
The result is a sustainable online media model providing free services to users and churches while offering significant value to content partners and sponsors.
“FaithVillage.com fills needs of the faith community unmet by Facebook,” Russell said.
“While research indicates Christians enjoy engaging with the general online world, many also seek a faith-friendly online space where like-minded believers can gather and share their Christian experience.“
Designed for Christians active on social media in the 18 to 44 age range, a development staff crafted the site after three years of planning and testing.
Its novel “virtual village” design creates simple, visually appealing navigation. Behind the virtual “buildings” awaits a bounty of content and connectivity.
A few examples of FaithVillage’s buildings, intersections and gathering places:
• Personal Social ‘Loft’ Space — Individuals, groups, churches and organizations, can create a social “loft” where they can post photos, videos and audio, network blogs and feature articles; “like” and share information; share calendars and hosted files; and enjoy a newsfeed of activity from others they follow
• FaithVillage Newsstand — Relevant, timely news and information from a variety of sources plus original content.
• Grove Theater — Videos from site members; Christian artists and musicians; churches and ministry organizations.
• JavaJuice Blog House — Bloggers on a range of topics.
More than 20 thematic buildings serving as content channels for leadership, youth, collegiates, moms, faith and culture and more.
A nonprofit organization, FaithVillage.com offers its content free to everyone.
Content Partners and advertisers help support FaithVillage.com with sponsorships and ad spending in exchange for branded pages and advertising, all approved by FaithVillage staff and relevant to FaithVillage members.


FaithVillage Launches Nonprofit Online Bookstore: Unique online Christian community helps readers discover new authors while supporting nonprofit ministries

PLANO, Texas, March 26, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — FaithVillage.com, the social network for faith experiences launched last year, is opening a new online bookstore this week. FaithVillage Books bookstore will serve the website’s growing community of readers with a faith-friendly, nonprofit shopping experience that helps support its free services to site members and participating causes, churches and ministries. Opening with more than 200,000 Christian titles, the store plans to expand book and music categories in the near future.”While the retail book industry has been undergoing massive changes, we have increasingly heard from Christian readers, authors and publishers who want more alternatives to the existing channels for finding new authors and purchasing books online,” said Brad Russell, FaithVillage senior editor.The Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA), already has adopted FaithVillage Books as its official online bookstore to support its rapidly expanding continuing education program for Christian leaders.

Tami Heim, CLA’s president and CEO and a former executive with Borders Books and Thomas Nelson Publishing, praised the partnership.

“As the premier provider of lifelong learning resources for Christian leaders, CLA is thrilled to be partnering with FaithVillage as our exclusive online bookstore,” Heim said. “We share with them a deep passion for providing transformational content which leads to higher thinking for greater Kingdom gain.”

“People can be put off by the aggressive commercialization, controversial products and monopolistic strategies of some online retailers,” Russell said. “We think there should be a place where you don’t have to worry about these things when you’re doing some good in the world, a place where your purchase supports your life work and not merely stockholders.”

The unique integration of content, community and commerce in the FaithVillage.com website creates an unprecedented benefit for readers and authors alike by providing a seamless continuum from discovering new authors, to engaging them, shopping and sharing, Russell noted.

Authors can become independent content contributors to the site or be represented through content partnerships with a publisher or publicist. Readers can discover new authors and books through the many articles, book reviews, videos and podcasts found in more than 20 thematic buildings, or channels, on the site. When a reader is interested in a book, a click on a “Buy Now” button locates the item in FaithVillage Books, where the book can be reviewed, purchased and shared to social media channels.

“Easy to navigate, bright and inviting, the FaithVillage bookstore is a boon to both authors and readers,” reported Mary DeMuth, an author and early contributor to the site.

“FaithVillage is dedicated to nurturing emerging writers,” Russell said. “As a community of young leaders, thought-shapers and artists, FaithVillage validates their faith experiences, gets their voices heard and ultimately supports book sales.”

Dave Schroeder, a Nashville-area publishing strategist, affirmed FaithVillage’s concept and execution. “As a consumer, I value the process of discovery in finding the best books that will help me make a difference,” he explained. “The innovative FaithVillage bookstore has the benefit of new channels for author discovery and engagement, a faith-friendly online space for book clubs and the value of a nonprofit shopping venue that supports Christian causes.”

FaithVillage.com is a service of Baptist Standard Publishing, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. 


FaithVillage Adds 10 New Features for Online Church Communities

PLANO, Texas, March 10, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — FaithVillage.com, the social network for faith experiences, today announced ten new feature enhancements as part of an expanded Church Partner program available in 2014. Along with its open social network and content community that connects thousands of Christians across the Internet, the site enables churches to launch their own private online community and publishing platform.

Opportunity for daily engagement

“The great opportunity created by the explosion of social media is that churches can now engage their members on a daily basis to accelerate spiritual growth, relationship-building and volunteerism,” says Brad Russell, Founder and Sr. Editor.

But while online users of all ages are flocking to general social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, many church leaders have observed that these channels aren’t always conducive to the community-building and discipling tasks of the church.

“We love Facebook for outreach and engagement in the marketplace of ideas, but it’s not a great space for having thoughtful faith conversations,” says Russell. Along with security concerns, an often distracting river of information and ever-changing algorithms that keep reducing visibility of posts, research shows that many Christians also tend to restrain their faith on Facebook due to diverse friend-circles, fear of minimizing dating prospects among singles or privacy issues.

Sacred conversation, sacred space

“We believe ‘sacred conversation deserves sacred space,'” says Russell. For the same reasons that Christians dedicate time and space to meet with fellow believers in physical space, they can now connect online in a faith-friendly space. Where there are obstacles to getting together in person, believers can conveniently connect online from anywhere, at any time.

Church Partners who “move in” to FaithVillage can set up a church organization, a customizable social space called a loft. The church loft acts as a hub for a network of affiliated groups and members. Through the loft, a church can post status updates, schedule events, share photos and files, offer online giving, and upload their own articles, video, audio and blogs. The service is not a replacement for church websites but a complement to them that provides the community and content tools that churches typically can’t afford to build into their own sites.

Churches also get access to thousands of pieces of content from the FaithVillage contributor community that includes over 700 church leaders, authors and bloggers. The content can be shared into their church loft, small group and member lofts, as well as to popular social media channels.

While the site was in beta testing prior to 2014, churches were offered a basic suite of tools for free. The site’s expanded Church Partner program with ten enhanced features will require an annual subscription tiered by worship attendance.

The newly announced features include:

1. Online Giving

Online giving and event registration integration is easy-to-use and highly visible every time church members engage with their friends or inspirational content. Churches can use existing merchant accounts or have one created for them. Growth in donations by making online giving conveniently accessible in well-trafficked areas could easily pay for a church’s annual subscription.

2. Prayer Wall

A Prayer wall conveniently captures prayer requests and notifies the church loft admin when one is posted.

3. Serve Wall

A Serve wall provides dedicated space for posting and responding to service opportunities throughout the week.

4. Ads Replaced with Action Reminders

Previous advertising in church loft and affiliated group lofts has been replaced with graphic reminders to Pray, Serve and Give that are linked to the appropriate tab in the church loft.

5. Primary Organization

A Primary Organization designation for site members has been created that displays the member’s church name and link beneath their name, in the top navigation bar, and beneath the name of any group affiliated with a church organization. This effectively creates a visible online community exclusively for church partners.

6. Feature Article Permissions

Permission is granted to church partners to create feature articles with photos, custom bylines, church branding, donate now/signup now buttons for response and more. Previously, feature article permissions were only granted to content partners. Church partners continue to have permission to upload video and audio, along with networking blogs into the site via RSS feed.

7. Expanded file sharing

File sharing volumes and file sizes have been expanded. Subscriber churches get up to 100 files of up to 20 MB each for the organization and each affiliated group.

8. Expanded video tutorial library

The video tutorial library for site training has been expanded to get church teams up to speed quickly with all site features and functionality.

9. New In-Church Launch Resources

New launch resources are available including a Church Leader video, a Church Member Move-In video, a step-by-step Move-In Kit, worship insert, PowerPoint slide, church website badges, social media icons and graphics package for church promotion.

10. Support by Move In Specialists

Move In Specialists will provide our Church Partner subscribers with personalized Online Leader Training and support by phone and email.

These new features are now available to churches that subscribe to the partnership level plan appropriate to their average weekend attendance.


FaithVillage ceases operations

(Baptist Standard, August 2014)

DALLAS—Baptist Standard Publishing’s board of directors voted to cease operation of FaithVillage, a social media network and resources website for young Christians, effective Aug. 31.

Although the site attracted about 40,000 unique visitors each month, it failed to generate enough revenue to sustain itself, said Marv Knox, editor and publisher of the Baptist Standard and FaithVillage.

But Knox hopes another Christian organization or organizations can use the FaithVillage infrastructure—a unique combination of a content-publishing site built on a social-networking platform.

“Our FaithVillage journey has not been about media or technology as a end in itself, but rather about applying the latest technology to fulfill perennial ministry goals, to share compelling faith stories, to build community, to disciple and form faith, to disseminate art and ideas, to sharpen leadership skills, to build collaborations that advance kingdom causes,” said Brad Russell, senior editor and chief operating officer of FaithVillage.

The idea for FaithVillage grew out of a discussion immediately prior to the spring 2008 Baptist Standard Publishing board meeting, when Knox picked up three board members at the airport. Knox told them he planned to propose hiring a staff member who would post non-news resources on the Standard website, hoping to attract a younger audience.

“In short order, they said they liked the general idea but felt I was thinking too small,” he recalled.

In response, Knox and Russell, who recently had joined the staff as marketing director, developed a strategic plan that called for creation of a resources website aimed at teenagers and young adults.

A vision of an online village

“I vividly recall sitting at my desk in late summer 2008 when the initial idea of FaithVillage took shape in my mind—an online community, metaphorically visualized as a virtual village,” Russell said.

He saw it as “a community of people who shared their art and ideas” and as a place that provided “easy access to a broad range of Christian content in one convenient place, all integrated with a Facebook-like experience for personal, small-group and church engagement using the latest tools for social collaboration.”

With the board’s authorization, the Standard conducted nationwide market research and used the information gained to work with engineers and designers to develop the FaithVillage site, which launched publicly in February 2012.

Although the site generated significant traffic, it did not attract enough advertisers, content partners who would pay to place their material on the site or churches that would pay to use the system as an intra-congregational communication tool.

“So, our board has voted to discontinue production of FaithVillage, effective the end of this month. Frankly, this decision initially felt like the death of a dream,” Knox acknowledged.

But he noted with satisfaction FaithVillage touched tens of thousands lives, far beyond Texas Baptist ranks, and he remains hopeful another Christian organization—or several organizations—may use the system’s infrastructure.

Future options

“Many options are possible. We’re talking to a complex and dynamic organization that seems tailor-made for utilizing both our content and social-networking components,” he said.

“Meanwhile, Baptist Standard Publishing will perpetuate our 125-year legacy mandate. We’ll keep updating our website daily, producing the Baptist Standard every Monday (for digital delivery) and publishing CommonCall magazine each month.”