Interview with fbFund Winner MyChurch

-MyChurch Logo-MyChurch, the winner of the most recent fbFund incubator program, has undergone a lot of changes this year. A relaunch of its application a few weeks back and the participation in fbFund ’09 has provided a wealth of opportunity for the MyChurch team, as they find useful ways in which to create an application around existing faith-based organizations that need additional social networking tools. I had an opportunity to interview Joe Suh, CEO of MyChurch, who speaks on the relaunch of the application, as well as being a winner of the fbFund.

Kristen Nicole: What is your MyChurch application all about?

Joe Suh: The MyChurch app (apps.facebook.com/parachurch with screencast here) allows churches to connect and engage their members on Facebook between Sundays.

Church members first find and join their church (over 30,000 churches have members in them). As a member of a church, they can post prayer requests and announcements, offer something on the classifieds board, or discuss church content like sermons and videos. Anything they post or comment on gets published back to their Facebook wall and their friends’ newsfeeds.

The app’s goal is to enable churches to engage their members by encouraging them to share information and have conversations within their church community. This, in turn, leads to outreach and evangelism opportunities since a member’s friends will see her church activity via the newsfeed.

Kristen Nicole: You also have a standalone site. What takes place there and how do you relate your application back to the main site?

Joe Suh: Anything a church member can do on MyChurch.org can be done through the Facebook app. Facebook members can log onto MyChurch.org through Facebook Connect. And again, anything they post or comment on through the destination site gets published back to their Facebook walls and feeds.

Most of the 30,000 churches represented on the site also have Facebook members that use the app from within Facebook.com instead of MyChurch.org. And a user can link their Facebook account with their MyChurch account. We want them to have the same experience and social graph distribution whether they’re on the Facebook platform or off.

Kristen Nicole: Now you actually relaunched the MyChurch application earlier this year. What are some of the new features?

Joe Suh: We re-focused the app around sharing church content. Church pastors want their members to spread their message and outreach. Church members want to interact and engage with each other. The Facebook platform achieves both – comments beget more participation and engagement from other members in the church community. And distribution through the newsfeed encourages outreach to friends who don’t go to church.

Another new feature of the relaunched app is that church members can now get Facebook notifications for new church announcements and posts. So in case they miss something in their feed, or if someone who is not their Facebook friend posts to their church community – they can be alerted for things like urgent prayer requests.

Kristen Nicole: What are the next steps for you now that you’ve won the fbFund?

Joe Suh: We want to deeply integrate our site with Facebook. Our Connect implementation was hacked together really quickly, and our clunky interface and integration shows it. We’re going to this incubator program to learn – best practices, stronger engagement, better viral hooks. The value we’ll get from fbFund is in the mentorship and learnings to improve our site and app’s user experience.

And online tithing is something we eventually want to do. Churchgoers give $90B in tithes and donations each year to their churches, and almost none of it happens online yet. We’re focused on being a communication utility for the churches we serve. But Facebook payments look interesting. And so we’ll also use our fbFund time to explore that with Facebook.