This is the first part of our #SpotlightTuesday series. If you want to read the background on what we’re doing, see this post. Be on the lookout for new posts dropping every other Tuesday!
I chatted with Andy Lara, VOX Community Co-founder and co-host of the VOX Podcast with Mike Erre, about a variety of topics. Andy was incredibly open and honest, and the passion he has for their mission was obvious throughout the entire conversation. I hope you enjoy learning about Vox Community as much as I did!
How did you get started?
I work with Mike Erre, a pastor in the Orange County (Los Angeles) area who had previously served large congregations. Mike saw some of the hypocrisies in the typical conversations happening at churches and wanted to create a place where folks felt safe asking questions on any topic related to Christianity. We saw that the typical church held a very rigid point of view on a wide range of topics with no room for how modern situations apply.
So it all started with the VOX podcast. The pod was created as a safe place for us and others to bring those questions to light and have some conversations on topics that were typically off limits in your traditional church setting. We wanted it to be something where people of all beliefs, including atheists, could join in the conversation and find any answers they sought to questions previously unasked.
What is the mission of your organization?
We are a completely inclusive community for pre- and post-Christians and the Christians who can love and serve them. Anyone is able to attend church, and no one is subject to judgement regarding who is “in” and who is “out.” Under the mantra “Safe to Belong,” we know it’s a process to understand what it means to be living in a Christian faith and want to enable people to access that process from any stage of their belief.
We want our model of church to captivate the next generation, rather than condemn it. We recognize a shifting social landscape in which the traditional church model is not always so accommodating. On topics such as LGBT culture, we believe that the church teachings today do not reflect how Jesus actually lived his life, and we want that openness to come through in our community.
Do you have a favorite story that you’d like to share about VOX?
I think our favorite story stems from our beginnings. We decided, after about three months of our podcast and a substantial amount of downloads, that we would try to evolve from an online conversation to an in-person gathering. So we set up our first mission casting and had about 300 people show up. We explained to them our goal of setting up a physical gathering place and had about 80 people immediately donate, pray, and sign up to volunteer; about five months prior to us actually getting the church up and running. This outpaced our expectations and we were amazed at the outpouring of support for our vision!
What do donations you receive fund today?
One of the first things we did after launching our podcast was see how other churches were running the business side of things. Knowing how different our model is, we decided to really run VOX with a “start-up” mindset. We raised capital, organized full time staff immediately, and went through vigorous organizational planning to streamline the type of community we wanted to offer. While many churches offer a buffet of events and resources, we decided to commit [ourselves] to a few directives. Podcasting, corporate and communal gathering opportunities, and a single justice initiative. We use our budget to help causes that are improving the world around us so that we know that we aren’t only serving those who are in our community, but rather the entire world.
What are some short term and long term goals for the organization?
In the next year, we want to continue on that path to identifying a cause which improves the world around. Our goal is to pick one cause or one charity, and go “all-in” with them. From that point, we plan to commit ourselves to joining their fight, whether that be with volunteer hours or donations; we want to be their partner.
Longer term, we are going to continue building this community we’ve created. With the VOX Podcast, we are going to expand our live shows, holding between eight and 10 next year. Many folks have expressed a great desire to gather in a smaller and engaging format around faith conversations. At VOX Community, our goal from our gatherings is to drive a very modern, open conversation about faith and perhaps be that next generation Church where all feel welcomed, but willing to be challenged in their application of faith and how they offer it to their neighbors around them.
How has Donately been helpful in your success?
We looked at the landscape of donation tools other churches were using and saw the gap between innovation and implementation. There was too much friction from webpage to donation and the user interface was not what you’d expect from a modern technology perspective.
We really wanted it to be as easy as possible for our followers to contribute, and as easy as possible for us to manage. Donately checked both of those boxes right away. On top of that, the turnaround time on troubleshooting has always been fantastic. We know if we have an issue, you’re only a quick email or chat away.
What would be your words of wisdom for an aspiring or early-stage nonprofit reading this?
Assuming you have a vision for something special and have a passion to help, the next most important step is gaining support. Take a hard look at how easy it is for your followers to read about your cause and give if they feel so inclined. Providing an excellent and frictionless experience is critical to your donors perception of how seriously you treat their support. We believe the world can be changed through the outrageous generosity of those inclined to make a difference.
Interested in giving to Vox Community? Visit this page!