Earlier this year, we set out on a journey to create a new ministry at Long Hollow that would connect people with biblical resources for every day problems. After visiting some similar ministry centers, we decided to convert a small space at our Hendersonville campus into a place people could come to get advice, book recommendations and other great resources.
After months of hard work, HomeLink was born. Here’s how we pulled it off (with a little help from the iPad)…
Paperless is the Way to Go
…and it’s quite a bit cheaper in the long run! When we first embarked on the HomeLink project, the idea was to build a new resource center on campus containing dozens of magazine racks with resource sheets for every life stage and topic. However, if you’ve managed a paper environment for any period of time, you know how quickly the waste piles up; typos are found, information changes and hundreds of print pieces are thrown out every week (or every day, depending on how quickly things change).
It didn’t take long for us to choose a different route. After some discussion, we decided to build our new ministry center around an iPad-based app where visitors could explore, print and email a wealth of resources at their leisure. It’s much easier to manage than a paper environment, and it’s surprisingly cost effective in the long run; we were able to pick up a handful of refurbished iPad’s and a nice AirPrint laser printer for just over $2000.
The result is a high tech environment that’s easy to use, and even easier for us to maintain (more on that in my last point below). Check out the 360 degree view of our HomeLink Center, which opened to the public the first Sunday of September.
You Probably Already Know How to Build an App
At the heart of the HomeLink Center is the HomeLink iPad web app (be sure to check out the brief demo above). Although the thought of coding a native iPad/iPhone app may make you sweat in your sleep, you would be surprised at what you can build with the web tools and skills that you’re already familiar with.
After a few weeks of intensive UI tweaking, I think we ended up with a web app that looks nice and is easily understood by our visitors.
Making Things Easy to Manage
The final piece of the puzzle was to make this whole setup easy to update for our ministry staff. To do this, I built a quick CMS where our growth and discipleship team can upload, delete and categorize all of the resources we make available through the HomeLink Center and the HomeLink portion of our website. Our staff simply logs in, clicks on the name of any resource, and they can upload a new PDF or modify categories within a matter of seconds.
To fix a typo in a paper environment, we would have to remove all of the old resource sheets, modify the template and go print dozens more copies to put back on the shelf the next day. In HomeLink, we can generally fix the typo and update the app before the visitor who noticed the typo has even left the room. It helps us to work smarter, not harder.
So that’s HomeLink! If you’re ever at our Hendersonville Campus, be sure to stop by and check it out (let me know if you’re coming; i’d be happy to give you a tour). Have you used iPads in creative ways at your ministry? Let us know in the comments below.