By Ken Camp
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.
Brad Russell, senior editor and chief operating officer of FaithVillage, said, “Our FaithVillage journey has not been about media or technology as an 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.”
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.
“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 of lives, far beyond Texas Baptist ranks, and he remains hopeful another Christian organization — or several organizations — may use the system’s infrastructure.
“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.”