(This post has been updated, as of June 16, 2020)
“I’ve heard people complain about paying for online monitoring, but come on . . . are you kidding me? This type of accountability
is worth what it would cost two lattes at Starbucks.”
– Pastor and Covenant Eyes Member
Covenant Eyes has been offering accountability software to Internet users for over eight years now. Early on we learned that the more people discovered the temptations of pornography on the Internet, the more a service like ours was in high demand.
Being that our ministry was founded on Christian principles of accountability, and that the majority of our Members come from faith backgrounds, a few have had the expectation that our software service would be free of charge.
Why isn’t Covenant Eyes a non-profit organization? Why do we charge for our software? These are good questions.
Making our software as cheap as possible has, of course, been a concern since we began. We contemplated making Covenant Eyes a non-profit organization in the beginning, but we decided against this for a number of reasons.
1. The Cost of Quality
After we pioneered the concept of accountability software, the problem we noted early on was the heavy cost of software development. The Internet is a fast-paced, ever-changing digital world. Computer technology is constantly being developed. In order to keep up with this pace, and to ensure we weren’t releasing an inferior product, we decided that we would need to charge something for it to offset these costs. We want to sell a quality product that offers airtight accountability, rather than an inferior product that offers only the illusion of accountability.
When I bought my new Bible, I did not expect it to be free. Publishing companies needed to be paid. Translators and editors needed to be paid. The copious study notes were written by a team of theologians that needed to be paid for their time and expertise. While I am a big believer that the Word of God needs to be made available to everyone, I also understand that someone must incur the cost.
On our end, the technical and logistical costs can be large, and the more Members we have, the greater this cost becomes. Our servers track and rate nearly 1 billion URLs every month. We use a constant 30 megabytes of bandwidth in order to do this (those of you tech junkies will know this is not cheap). Our software program is sophisticated enough that it requires highly proficient programmers (each of which have families to support). Product research and development also has a high cost.
Even though we have kept the software price minimal, we’ve been able to meet these rising costs. Our low price enables us to be a self-supporting ministry.
2. Where your treasure is . . .
When Covenant Eyes was first founded, a number of experienced ministers convinced us that a majority of people must pay for something to realize that what they are getting is worth it. Ask someone to invest in something financially, and they are more likely to maximize their use of it.
The nature of our software is that it doesn’t offer an “easy fix” to temptations online. The quality of one’s Covenant Eyes experience is determined in large part by the quality of the relationship between the Member and his/her Ally. When Members are paying for their service, we have found that they are more likely to want to maximize the effectiveness of their accountability relationships.
Men or women who have struggled deeply with porn online, in particular, need to take radical steps in their lives to leave that life behind. We’ve found, talking with various counseling ministries, that when a person makes a financial commitment in the counseling process, they are more likely to try to get the most out of their rehabilitation.
3. What is airtight accountability really worth?
For many of our members the small price tag we put on our software is nothing compared to the value of the freedom they feel when they use the Internet.
For example, we received this email from a woman whose husband used to struggle with Internet pornography:
“As a wife of merely three years, I love this program, and plan to subscribe ’til death do us part.’ I love my husband, and I know he loves me too, but temptation has its name for a reason, and I’ve never felt betrayal hurt so badly. I just want to thank you for Covenant Eyes, I feel so safe now. I can go and read while he’s online, and not wonder what he’s viewing . . . and he can fire up our laptop without feeling like a failure as a man of God. I truly can’t thank you enough! I can’t wait to meet you, in this world or the next, and shake the hand of the person who made such relief a reality for our very young family.”
Or read this testimony from another Member:
“Recently I downloaded a tool called ‘Covenant Eyes’ to my laptop. This is a program that enables my accountability partner to see wherever I have been on the Internet. I did this not because I struggle with porn or going to sites that I shouldn’t. I did it to make sure that I never will.”
Some have asked us why we don’t charge MORE for our software because they realize the value of the service.
4. Oh yeah, and we do offer it for free!
We believe strongly in the importance of Internet accountability, even if a person can’t pay for our software for a season. Covenant Eyes has a hardship program whereby we give away our software for free for anyone who needs it and legitimately cannot pay for it.
5. The Potential for Growth
Internet pornography is like the crack-cocaine of sexual stimuli. Porn has been one of the leading causes of sexual addiction among people of faith, and among those of no faith at all. Talk to any counselor who regularly meets with married men, or talk to many pastors about the sexual issues in their congregation: Internet pornography will rank near the top of the list of sexual health concerns.
The stated purpose of Covenant Eyes is to change lives. As we’ve gathered more financial resources we’ve been freer to network with other ministries, churches, synagogues, counselors, and others who are on the front lines helping men and women to be free from pornography on the Internet. We’ve been able to talk to more people about the cause for which we are fighting. So in part, the price of the software has enabled us to reach out to more people.
When someone signs up for Covenant Eyes they not only receive accountability for themselves, but they are joining a worldwide community that is helping other people find the same freedom.