New Church Internet tool offers simple service, reaches 20,000 users

Members from 100 countries worldwide gather in one place to assist in the Lord’s vineyard—the Internet. Reaching 20,000 users on September 30, the LDS Church’s Helping in the Vineyard website has been able to accomplish 628,929 tasks and translate 500 pages into several different languages.

This new tool, recently released by the Church at vineyard.lds.org, connects departments within the Church to one location where members or non-members from all over the world can go to participate in activities and projects. These projects are small, bite-sized pieces of a larger goal.

“The Vineyard has two purposes,” said Jayson Seegmiller, product manager for The Vineyard.

“One, it is to unify the departments of the Church into one single front door where they can present the needs of the departments to the members. The second one is then to provide an opportunity for members to come in and find opportunities that best meet their interests or skills and help serve and meet the request of those departments.”

This program allows members of the church to speed up productivity. “As the Church continues to grow, over time the infrastructure of the Church cannot grow consistently to meet the overall demand,” said Seegmiller. “They look to its members to assist in meeting that demand over time.” Seegmiller compares the work being done at The Vineyard to the service given in full-time missions. “Now we can bring the talents and interests of members into a single place and the work of those departments that may have been put off for a long amount of time, or languages that may not have gotten to . . . Now the community can come in and participate and hasten that work forward.”

And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort to hasten that work forward. “If you have five minutes, you can go in and do one activity,” said Jennifer Anderson, the community outreach specialist. It may not seem like a lot, but it actually makes a huge impact on the church departments getting the work done and getting them out to the membership.”

The emphasis for this tool is that volunteering requires only a few minutes as the user can fit it in to his or her schedule. No commitment to a certain number of hours is required. “[Church members are] stretched so thin in all the things that we do,” said Seegmiller. “We use crowd-sourcing to break it down into small and simple tasks.”

The impact that the volunteers have provided since the website’s public debut on January 28, 2011 equals that of 20 full-time employees and has allowed for translations and publications to be produced at an increased rate.

The program is designed to implement the skills and talents of members who may be busy with family, work, or school. “There is so much coming in on a computer that [college students] can do,” said Anderson. “We’ve had several comment: ‘If I’m going to be on the computer it’s nice not to just wander around aimlessly. I can actually go accomplish something. . . . I can actually go be productive while I still have ten minutes in between class or I have a 35-minute break.’ They can get benefit from it spiritually.”

Along with the younger, tech-savvy generation, many others have been able to find ways to make serving in The Vineyard work for them. Families use it for Family Home Evening activities or to get in tune with the Spirit before church. Members who cannot participate in wards in the traditional way are able to participate in The Vineyard and feel like a valuable member of their congregation. “It’s a great way for people who are bedridden,” said Anderson. “There was a lady that sent us an e-mail saying that . . . she’s a disabled, very senior lady, and that ‘This allows me to contribute even though I can’t hold a calling in the ward.’”

Some wards are using it to build their youth community. Anderson said, “We received an e-mail from either a Young Men’s president or Scout leader . . . asking what the possibility of doing this as an Eagle Scout project was. I had never even thought about this. He wanted to set up something weekly or monthly in the ward’s gym with just computers, where the teens would teach the members in their ward how to use this tool and come in and serve, and kind of use it as an educational experience but also as a technical/volunteering thing to do as a scout project, which I thought was really intuitive.”

Many users express how the activities often feel like games, but the knowledge that they are making a difference and consecrating their time to something greater comes as an added bonus. Comparing some of the activities to games would not be far off.

“We certainly are looking at technologies that could enhance that experience when they come on,” says Seegmiller. “Even based on age demographic, or interest, we look at things like game-ification. . . . We’re looking at things like that—how we can incorporate that into these various activities to make it more engaging.”

The translation tool can be used on the iPad. “Say you’re commuting to work; you can sit there on your iPad and you could translate,” said Anderson. “People can do it whenever, wherever.”

The Vineyard is a tool that has been able to traverse many boundaries, with users in over 100 countries worldwide. “It gives members of the Church an opportunity to cross continents, languages, and come together and contribute together in a more visible way,” said Seegmiller.

“We know we are all members of the Church worldwide, but now this connectivity that The Vineyard provides, we will be able to present more visibility to the users of who’s using this tool. . . . We have the ability to have that sense of community, to say ‘Wow, there are members of the Church throughout the world doing this,’ which is really exciting. And as members of the Church, we are cause driven, we like to share the gospel, share what we know with other people. This tool really enables everyone to share that experience with other people and have that common experience.”

To learn more about how you can get involved, visit our LDS How-to blog: How to Help the Church in 5 Minutes.

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