A “mission station” or experimental community in Santa Monica, California, Thad's has moved from location to location over the years. Throughout the transitions, Thad's and Membership Vision have worked together to utilize technology to build a diverse group of members, many of whom only connect with the community online.
Thad's started in 2006 without a building. Meeting in parks and restaurants, the community grew and began a nomadic journey across Los Angeles, Culver City and Santa Monica, California. From the very beginning, Membership Vision's Merrill Whatley worked with the Rev. Jimmy Bartz (now Rector at St. John's in Jackson, Wyoming) to find ways to facilitate community online and to grow the congregation.
Early on, Thad's faced many challenges related to its experimental nature. In addition to the lack of a permanent home, there was also the lack of any paid staff. It would be a few years before an assistant would be hired, so online tools needed to be easy to learn and effortless to utilize.
Music become a focal point of worship with an eclectic and talented group of musicians joining the community. Another focus was a style of teaching followed by conversation. It was vital to communicate with community members in a non-traditional ways to reflect these unique elements that made Thad's special.
Thad's began podcasting early on, making it easy for visitors to hear and share the teachings online. In late 2007, Thad’s started receiving messages from regular listeners around the world. When one of those messages explained that every week that particular listener walked several miles to the nearest internet café in order to download the sermon, burn it to a CD, and play it for others in his home, Thad’s knew that this way of allowing people to discover and share the teachings was working.
Thad’s also began uploading audio and video of music from the services. When social media usage took off, Membership Vision enabled Thad's to easily expand into sharing music over Facebook and Twitter, which worked well for Thad's population. By building content from social media posts and developing the hashtag assignment system for site pages and posts, Thad's was able to update their site more easily than ever.
Thad's has never lacked in energy and passion; the community just needed a way to easily share that energy and passion online. Membership Vision provides Thad's a simple way to harness that energy while keeping the usual complexity of technology out of the way, allowing natural interaction, connection and growt.
Tools for scheduling automatic updates, calendar content integration, drag-and-drop uploads for sermons and other features of Membership Vision have made online communications for Thad's fluid and responsive. As Thad's became a leader in providing outreach and social services in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica -- Laundry Love, Imagine LA and others -- their digital communications enabled the community to spread the word and make lasting, meaningful connections in their communities.
Thad's has recently undergone a leadership change -- welcoming the Rev. Jon Dephouse, who is invigorating the community in all new ways and moving them into new areas in Santa Monica. Most of the online communications is still done by a single staff person, yet Thad’s digital presence is robust and authentic. Sermons dating back to 2007 are still available on their website along with beautiful video presentations related to Laundry Love, Surfing as Spiritual Practice, Thad's music, and other features of Thad's community. The best part is that Vanessa -- the "lone hire" mentioned above -- is able to tell Thad’s stories without the technology getting in the way. Membership Vision makes Thad’s online presence easy to maintain so that Vanessa can spend her time connecting with the community and beyond.