This post was part of our 20th Anniversary Celebration in 2017.
A Personal History of the Rotation.org Website
by Neil MacQueen
I launched www.Rotation.org in 1997 when I was on the "seminar circuit" talking about software for Sunday School and introducing people to the Rotation Model. At the end of every seminar, I'd tell people, "Everything you need to get started in Rotation is FREE online at rotation.org."
In the first few years of its existence, I funded Rotation.org out of my own pocket and asked people to give me their lesson plans to post. As the number of Rotation users and lessons grew, so did our need for a better website. So on August 25, 2000, I installed "message board" software at the site to allow people to post their own lessons and talk with each other without me. I THOUGHT that would take care of the interest and let me focus on my software ministry. hahaha
In 2002, First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Michigan (Cindy Merten's church) gave us a grant to fund a part-time resource coordinator and turn our project into an organization. Anne Camp, my friend and fellow rotater, volunteered her church to manage the funds and pay the bills. (Anne would later join the Board and eventually serve as Treasurer.) I asked my friends Ken and Phyllis Wezeman to be our first coordinators. They were well-known curriculum writers and Rotation enthusiasts.
About that time, along came Carol Hulbert, a Rotation Model teacher and writer from Ann Arbor Michigan with a passion for what Rotation.org could become. I first met "CreativeCarol" at a seminar in Ohio and she soon became a regular contributor at the site and part of our leadership team. Along with the Wezemans, and soon to be new Board members Jaymie Derden (prolific lesson writer!) and Julie Burton (our first official treasurer), we laid the groundwork for our incorporation.
In 2005, Rotation.org became a registered 501(c)3 non-profit with Carol as our first President. I turned over ownership of the site and the Rotation trademark to the Board, and lurked in the background providing tech support, advice, and content. Ken and Phyllis stayed on as coordinators. The Board sent out an annual email asking for support, and for several years that modest appeal paid the bills.
Sometime around then the Board "found" Luanne Payne, a Rotation juggernaut in Ontario. She joined the Board and eventually became Board president in 2012.
In 2008, I rotated off the Board and for the next few years, I offered technical and content help from afar. The site kept growing thanks to some great lesson contributions and the hard work of many.
2010 would prove to be a pivotal year for Rotation.org. At the Board's request, I installed the "premium supporting members" module so the site could generate a budget and solve the organization's growing financial needs. Our Supporting Members literally made Rotation.org possible, and their donations freed our leadership to focus on expanding and improving content.
In 2012, I was hired by the Board to undertake a major content renovation of the lesson forums. Working with groups of volunteers for nearly two years, we reviewed, culled, edited, and reorganized every lesson forum.
That same year, Cathy Walz, a creative lesson writer and Rotation Sunday School coordinator from Chicago, joined the Board as our "token Lutheran" --the rest of us being boring Methodists and Presbyterians. In 2017, Cathy became our new Treasurer.
Late in 2012, while still working on the content improvements, the Board added hours to my part-time status so that I could help them implement a major technical upgrade to the site's community platform. Now in our 15th year, our organization and content weren't the only thing that were growing -- so were our regular technical and editing needs,
In the Spring of 2013, we applied for and won a grant from Google for free "Adwords." Anyone searching for "free Sunday School lessons and curriculum" would now see an ad from us in their search results. This caused traffic to zoom.
By the middle of 2013, it was obvious that our technical needs, content, and member management needs had outgrown the capacity of our volunteers and a few hours a week of paid help. In response, the Board created a regular part-time job and hired me to become webmaster and content manager. That's when they started calling me "Wormy."
In 2014, the Board decided it needed to seriously improve the "old" Writing Team's 10 years worth of volunteer-created lessons by hiring someone who knew Rotation, the site, and had written creative lessons. In May of 2015, I said "Here I Am, Send Me!" -- and ended an interim pastorate position early to take on the job as "Lead Writer of the Writing Team Renovation Project. Almost every Board member also took part in the rewriting process. Board President Luanne Payne volunteered as the Editor.
In late 2015, Amy Crane, a long-time Rotation teacher and one of our original lesson contributors, joined the Board. Heidi Weber, another long-time Rotation educator and lesson writer joined the Board in 2016. Both live in Louisiana, which is the first time we've ever had two Board members from same state, let alone, the South.
Also in late 2015, Social Strata, our site software provider, unleashed yet another major site upgrade called "Hoop.la." It made our site 100% "responsive" no matter what computer device you were using and especially cellphones. As our platform grew in complexity, so did our need for regular webmaster work, and over the next year or two the Board increased my hours as webmaster to stay on top of things for them and keep working with the Writing Team.
Looking ahead, our site has technical and content needs which the Board and I are committed to addressing. Stay tuned!
On a personal note...
Moving from founder ⇒ to volunteer ⇒ to paid staff over 15 years was quite an unexpected journey. In 1996 I knew almost nothing about websites, and had no idea of the learning curve ahead. But I can see God's hand preparing me my software work and early website work alongside my Rotation experience to be of unique service.
And I can see God's hand in assembling the Board we have today. They are some of the finest Christian educators and people I have ever met. We are blessed by their commitment and by everyone whose contributions of money and content make this site, and its future --possible.
It has been fun to look back, but I'm even more excited about what's ahead. The Board has several projects in the works, and is always looking for those who want to help manage, write, and improve content. I would encourage you to get involved. It has been life-changing for me.
<>< Neil, 2017
Here's a photo of the 2017 Board
Left to Right: Heidi Weber, Anne Campe, Carol Hulbert (back), Jaymie Derden, Luanne Payne, Cathy Walz, and Amy Crane.
As the Rotation Model and Rotation.org sails into the future, I hope that whoever leads will remember the values that have guided us thus far:
- Being passionate about teaching Sunday School in a way that's creative and attractive to kids.
- Providing a site where people can freely share creative lesson resources and find personal support.
- Maintaining our independence from the Christian publishing world and its marketing practices.
- Continuing to explore the tools and potential of being an online resource community -- without being afraid of the technical challenges.