Saturday, August 27, 2011

Great Tech Tools for Church Planters & Pastors (Part 1)

As South Bay Church grows, so do the amount of questions that pastors and church planters ask us.  What do you use to schedule volunteers? How do you track stats? How do you use social media?  Which are the same questions we struggled with for a while.  Well, I figured I would right down some of the tools that have been most effective and useful for us so far.  Some of these are obvious and widely used, but others might be a new idea for you, so just take what you whatever you think would be helpful to you:

Fellowship One

Fellowship One is the online database system that we have found to be the best one out there for churches like ours.  Here are some of the features I love most about it: (1) It is completely web-based, so anyone can access it from anywhere; (2) the inFellowship system for Small Group ministry is great, allowing your people to sign up online and your leaders to manage groups themselves; (3) the iPhone app is a great tool that puts the whole church database in your hands anytime; (4) it groups profiles by families, allowing you to communicate with families or individuals; (5) it allows you to query people by just about any category, for example, "all males, with kids, who attend a small group, and smoke cigars".

Planning Center Online

One of the only weaknesses of FellowshipOne is the volunteer scheduling feature, which is why we use Planning Center to communicate with and schedule volunteers.  I guess F1 recognized that weakness, which is why this year they are 'merging' with Planning Center, which is incredible news to churches that already use both these database systems!  PC allows you to create profiles for each of your volunteers, schedule them to serve, send emails with the request (in which they reply "accept" or "decline", and much more.

GOOGLE: Docs, Calendar, Apps for Business

One of the benefits of living in Silicon Valley is that we get to learn from great companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. headquartered in our back yard.  We have dozens of people in our church that work at all those companies, so we get to visit, tour, and learn from them often.  Our Google buddies are constantly teaching us new tools and ways to use Google for our church, which I must say, has saved us lots and lots of time and maximized communication within our staff.

If you don't yet know the power of Google docs, you really need to try it.  It allows you to share/edit live spreadsheets, presentations, etc.  We use it for our stats, our new believer follow up, our events planning teams, prayer chain sign ups, etc.

The Google Calendar is also an incredible tool that allows your whole team to have easy access to each other's calendars.  You can also create specific shared calendars for "printing schedule", "sermon series", capital campaign dates", "church leaders calendars", etc.

If you want to take your Google experience to the next level, you should also try Google Apps for Business - which is what we're transitioning to this month.  It maximizes the way you do emails, calendars, website hosting, and much more.

Doodle
Doogle is a new tool we're just now starting to use, thanks to one of our Google friends.  "Doodle eliminates the chaos that comes from scheduling and saves you a lot of time and energy when you’re trying to find a time to bring a number of people together. Instead of using just one option, you can propose several dates and times and the participants can indicate their availability online. With one look, you’ll be able to see what the best time is for the meeting, and this works with any calendar system that is being used."  Another great feature is that it can be linked to your Google calendar.

IN PART TWO: Crash Plan Pro, Media Fire, Square, Eventbrite, etc.
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