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Monday, June 02, 2003

This is an edited email conversation between Neil and I. I would like to see comments about two things. First, tech and non-tech Christian leaders working together for the benifit of both. Second, Ideas about tracking churches and ministries in a meaningful way. My early edition of this is at www.praychicago.net (prayerwalking, share, care, prayer areas)


If you would, take a look at our planned strategy for geo-sectioning the state of Indiana, and hopefully identify (and encourage & help) geo-zone leaders who also are interested in network for Prayer, Care and Share in their counties, cities, and neighborhoods.

Our approach is 2 stages -- one constantly sweeping up behind the other.

#1. Encourage these geo-zones to at least put their contacts info out onto a webpage in their area (whichever size-level they want to partipate in... be it county, city or neighborhood).

#2. We want to constantly gleen that contact info from their websites and build a better, more efficient database to house all the info. We notice you're also building a db for Chicagoland -- so of course, we'd welcome your ideas.

But we're aware that we shouldn't wait til a great database system is built before starting to locate collaborative-type leaders around the state. And we want them to feel some autonomy over their geo-zone -- ie, Indianapolis is not DRIVING them, but rather, working WITH them to build out this statewide network. So they need their own webpage and their own team of solid Christians to work together in their city or neighborhood. And if they need our help with a webpage, then sure, we'll help 'em.

Do you have a strategy on the website somewhere? I was able to start our church database with some purchased databases. Then I been going on the www.whitepages.com to confirm each church and update any churches that aren't there. There are two weaknesses of this. One is that it is very time consuming to confirm on Whitepages each of the churches. Second is that this is a one time job. I haven't figured out a good way to maintain the list.

The only maintence idea that I have come up with is to get several para-church organizations that want to use the list as their mailing/contact list, then they will feed updates to the list in order to keep it accurate for their own use. If you used several organizations then each of them would receive a benefit for the the list, the maintence would be split between several groups and smaller organizations that couldn't pay for a good list would be able use it for their own ministries. We have been talking to a couple of orgs about this but we haven't found any takers yet.

I have one source that might be able to get a church file for you. I will look into it.

Thanks for the feedback.

No, our database building strategy isn't exactly spelled out on our site. But as I said, it's really fairly simple... a 2-phase thing.... the first just being to try to find leaders who would at least be good contacts in particular counties, cities or neighborhoods (working on the 92 counties first). Then phase 2 is to come along behind and gleen those contacts from the web-pages, and put 'em into a real database... and make it a web-based database for the future. We anticipate that the toughest part is not the technology; but rather, finding key contacts who will be willing to at least serve as a contact-person per county... etc.

We think we'll be able to have some e-capable people ready to assist those leaders by actually building/maintaining a page for them... if indeed we can find those leaders in the first place. So when you think about it... how tough can it be for 1 person per county to serve as a webmaster... especially if we're not necessarily (yet) asking them for fresh content all the time? Even 1 e-capable person to come alongside a neighborhood leader... how tough could that be? A few minutes per month maybe.

Btw, if/when we have organizations who might be willing to share their data with us, we expect to use Excel format as an easy, common file type to use.... and probably they can easily get their data into an Excel format to suit.

I use a Access database that is formatted for use with FrontPage. It can export to excel, but excel can not do the query work that Access can. But you are right, virtually everyone can see and use a basic excel spreadsheet. The tech is not the problem, you are right. Tech is easy. it is information and people that are the work.

The one person per county thing is probably ok. It just depends on how much updates you want to do. I know I don't put much more than 10 hours a month in to PrayChicago (not that the much sometimes). The key is trying to find people (both community leaders and tech support) that can talk to one another. The tech needs to be patient with the community leaders about the tech. And the community leaders need to have an idea about the potential of the web and what can and can't be done on the web.

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