It's been nearly 10 years since my brother-in-law wrote a website to take bookings for Bracknell Youth Weekend. Since then we've extended, updated, bug-fixed and re-housed the site more times than I care to remember, generally managing to keep the site serviced. In more recent times the site has slipped increasingly far behind the technology curve, making it more and more difficult to maintain. I've therefore made the difficult decision to shut the site down.
Effective immediately, it's no longer possible to add new Youth Weekends to the website.
In addition, it's no longer possible to request account authorisation to create new weekends. If you've already been granted this permission don't worry, it won't be removed from your account, but you won't be able to create events that start in the new year.
Why is this happening?
10 years is a long time in IT. Many of the technologies that the site is built on are no longer actively maintained, which makes it more and more difficult to keep the site running (and more importantly, secure).
There are also a couple of issues which have never really been resolved:
Attendees aren't baptised members of the community, and may not have much affiliation with Christadelphians at all (often people invite school friends). This makes it hard to keep membership "safe". I used to be able to verify members through their connections to people I know. That's getting hard now, because I'm old.
The data model is flawed, as you can only book your member account onto a weekend. There needed to be a separation between the concept of "login account" and the "person booked onto the weekend". This would let you log in and book other people onto an event. Actually delivering this change would affect the majority of the code and would require more of my time than I can sensibly commit.
As a result of the previous point, parents with children who didn't have their own email address had book their kids onto a weekend by opening multiple accounts. This caused a lot of support issues with forgotten emails/passwords. When kids grew up, they would re-register with new accounts, which simply duplicates their data.
Although I used to be an avid weekender myself, I'm now more likely to speak at a weekend than be visiting, and in many cases my two boys are closer to the target age range of most weekends than I am. Unsurprisingly the focus of my life has also changed. Frankly, I've taken on more than I can realistically handle, and I've had to think long and hard about which things are important (read my separate blog post about this). Youth weekends did not make the cut.
Is there anything I can do to help?
There are a lot of things you can do to help, but none of them involve resurrecting YouthWeekends. We need people who are enthusiastic about Bible study, willing to care for others, take on difficult issues with honest and impartial eyes, figure out how to effectively preach and educate people about God's word in the modern world.
Sure, YouthWeekends enabled some of these things to be done a little more conveniently, but it's not like weekends are going to stop without the website. An email address and Excel are a perfectly good substitute.
But how do I advertise my weekend now!?
Two ways. First: tell the Christadelphian magazine. They have an amalgamated list of weekends and events from a number of sources. Getting listed there will also get you visibility in the print edition of the magazine. Second: use Facebook. A massive Christadelphian audience is on Facebook these days. You could even use targeted advertising to promote your event to a specific audience.
Supporting YouthWeekends has not only been a great privilege but also extremely rewarding. It's one of the few projects I've worked on that's actually seen broad user adoption! By the time it closes we'll have served over 200 events over the 7 years of its current incarnation.
If you used YouthWeekends to run your event, or book on to a weekend, thanks for your support. I'm glad that the site was able to contribute toward the many great activities in the community. When the lights go out in 2016 we'll be another year nearer to the Kingdom.
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." - Ecclesiastes 12v13-14