Allow me to tell you a little story about moving into a new website and why we left the beautiful one so many of us loved.
Once upon a time I built a beautiful website and invited friends to join me in writing there to give God glory and to share images bearing witness to the lavish beauty of our world. The website was our home online. It was a place of rest and wonder, different from every other site on the web that any of us had ever seen. Season after season we wrote and shared essays, interviews, stories, poetry, book reviews and recommendations, and recipes. I posted galleries and featured gorgeous images that filled the eye and soul. I made and shared playlists so everyone could have a soundtrack for the season while practicing their craft, if they wanted it. I created a rich set of links to resources to help people grow in Christ and in creative excellence. It was truly a thing of rare beauty.
Over time I invited more friends to share in the good work being done through Cultivating. We grew in number and we grew in connection. For some people this just what they had longed and prayed for. For a few others, it wasn’t what they needed at that time. So, some moved on, but many more stayed. Those of us who stayed grew closer as a set of people sharing a common work from a common heart for it. We did the work for each other as well as others farther afield and whom we not meet in this world. Instead of being a set of individuals loosely connected trying to advance our “platforms”, we became a living, breathing fellowship. Instead of being simply writers, photographers, musicians, poets, potters, or visual artists, we became makers crafting beauty throughout the whole of our lives. Every season we would put together a whole edition of Cultivating to match the season and the season’s assigned theme. More and more readers came to join us and to enjoy the work that we were sharing. It was a thing of joy and wonder.
However, it also was an enormous amount of work. We tried a number of ways to improve our work process (particularly for editing), but nothing we tried really worked for any extended time. Some of us got frustrated with that and discouraged. One of us was me. Every edition of Cultivating took several hundred hours to produce. Each edition was an expression of real Beauty, but over time, it became very lonely work. As we grew in number, I grew to have less and less freedom to do my own writing or even my own photography, and less time with my family.
And then I got sick.
I was sick for a long time: over a year and a half. During that time I was able to get my work done but I wasn’t able to do it very well. Yet ours is a good, good God, who knows our needs before we do, and loves to shepherd us in our growing. Through this difficult time He showed me two very important things. First, He showed a website template that gripped me the moment I saw it. I could see the next structure for Cultivating to move into. (Like C.S. Lewis and his stories, everything with me begins first with an image. I “see” it before I can “make” it.) Second, He showed me that I not only needed help personally to sustain Cultivating, but that sharing the work was part of the deeper work itself. The beautiful website that I had poured so much of my time, energy, and resources into, was just our “starter home”. It could not hold us all as we grew. I had built charming cottage, but what we need is a large inn, with room to grow.
For two years we worked on developing our people from within, including me (though I did not realize it then), and I searched for the right web designer to help build a new site that would be beautiful but also more organized and functional. We had many meetings in our CORE Leadership, and important discussions about our calling, our identity, and our shared purpose. I went through 8 interviews to find the right designer. We evaluated, designed, worked, and built. We overcame many, many hardships, and obstacles. Many of us were very hard hit during this period as were many of our readers. And true to His beautiful character, the Lord made a way for us when there seemed to be no way forward at all, carrying us through long stretches when we couldn’t even walk. Then, after so much struggle, so much discouragement, so many missed dates for launching, we crossed a threshold, which seemed almost like overnight. Suddenly, just at the end of the process, it all seemed to come into being very swiftly, much like a baby being born. Right on time. Not the time I planned, but certainly the time the Lord had planned for us all along. And in early July we unveiled a new space for Cultivating, found ourselves moved into a new home, all ours ~ clean, organized, functional, full of both welcome and possibility, and with room to grow!
With our move, five big changes were made.
What does all that mean?
Moving to continuous flow means is that we will no longer be doing an overnight release seasonally of all new written and visual content. This is probably the biggest change of experience for all of us on the outside. While that release model was a kind of “magic” experience for us, it was not sustainable over the long run regarding the work it took to accomplish it each issue, particularly for me who was doing the formatting alone. We will still base our publication rhythms on the seasons, as we always have, but the seasons will show more subtly with a changes in the featured images for posts. We will still base our writing on assigned themes and in a full range of genres.
Adding Indexing means is that all our posts posts are tagged and listed in Archive and Index making searching for individual authors, topics, or seasons, easy and systematic. You can link to this in READ, at the very top of our new drop down menu! The need for this feature was one of the primary reasons behind the change of the site.
Adding two new logos means we have distinct identifying brand marks to use on our website, for print products, and in wider public use as we engage with and support other Kingdom-focused endeavors. One logo is for Cultivating as a publication, and one is for The Cultivating Project as a specific fellowship and discipling endeavor. To learn more about the development and creation of our logos, read here.
Developing teams to manage our formatting of material for publication and to manage our media communications means that we are growing The Cultivating Project in capability and creating ways for necessary work to be done better to everyone one’s benefit. What it also means is that I, as publisher, am transitioning out of the production work itself and putting it in other capable hands so that I can give my attention to other areas needing my attention in Cultivating, in my home life, and in my writing life.
Changing our editing approach from branches to triads means we are moving to a more organic relationship structure for how we address both editing and fellowship experience. Now, instead of a handful of a generous and capable fellowship members trying to manage and edit incoming material for each issue (and often sacrificing their own writing to do it), we have a more connected structure with sets of three people working together to peer-review each other’s work, acting as a trinity of equals. Triads can promote encouragement and feedback before finished content is sent to our Communications Director and the Formatting team as much as correcting typos. The beauty of triads as team formation is that they create opportunity for each one of us to have personal connections within TCP who know and love us, so that no one need feel left on-the-margins because they are too shy to join into a larger group conversation. This formation style reflects our deep value of kindling close relationships amongst the fellowship and fostering each of us being called to be makers. It is also core to concepts for discipling, which is our calling and purpose for Cultivating.
We trust that all these important changes will allow us to do our work better and to serve God’s people all the more faithfully. Thank you so very much for being our traveling companion.
The featured image is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and used with her glad permission for Cultivating.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.
A Field Guide to Cultivating ~ Essentials to Cultivating a Whole Life, Rooted in Christ, and Flourishing in Fellowship
Enjoy our gift to you as our Welcome to Cultivating! Discover the purpose of The Cultivating Project, and how you might find a "What, you too?" experience here with this fellowship of makers!