A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for November, 2012

SignUpGenius

Tool: SignUpGenius

Volunteer sign-up and organization: the burden of any ministry within any church. Recruiting, availability, scheduling, rescheduling, phone calling, and follow-up phone calling eat up a lot of valuable time. Wouldn’t it be easier to create a sign-up sheet online and email parishioners to volunteer rather than try to track them down at mass or by phone? The truth is there are a number of online tools that allow you to do this such as SignUpGenius.

 SignUpGenius

SignUpGenius is a free service, which, of course, means online ads. The ads are provided through Google, and any questionable advertising is filtered out, which is important if you plan on using this tool with teens. An ad free version is available for a small fee.

SignUpGenius provides themed templates, including ones specifically for churches, that can be customized with images and logos allowing the user to create content with a WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”) interface. Sign-up formatting is flexible offering traditional sign-ups; non-date specific forms for ongoing lists; and options for RSVPs, limited or unlimited quantities and comment fields.

As the administrator of the sign-up pages, you can opt for password protection, limit page access to particular groups, and offer a name only option for people nervous about providing their email addresses. SignUpGenius does not sell or distribute email addresses to third parties. In addition you have the ability to use bulk email for easy communication through a saved address book that can be exported to Excel. You can also defer management of any list to another user for the times you want to distribute responsibility to other people plus other helpful administrative tools.

On the user side, SignUpGenius pages can be integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest along with calendars such as Outlook, iCal, and Google. Volunteers can also receive automated email reminders and text reminders as well as edit and swap with other users for schedule changes.

Check out this video to see how easy SignUpGenius is to use:

 

 

So in which ways can a church use SignUpGenius? Whenever you need people to volunteer for a ministry, such as reading at mass; organize what people are bringing to a gathering, such as a potluck dinner; schedule people for any reason throughout the year, such as cantors for mass or snacks for religious ed. classes; or track donations desired and given for an event, such as a mission trip.

Churches depend heavily on volunteers for many aspects of everyday parish life. Trying to recruit and organize those people can be a taxing chore. SignUpGenius can help ease the load of some of your ministerial duties.

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HP MagCloud

A few years ago when I was snooping around the school where I teach (trying to pick up new ed tech tips) I happened upon a middle school technology class that had just finished up a project using HP MagCloud. The students had taken digital images, used these images to create a PDF file using Microsoft Publisher, uploaded the PDF to MagCloud and, within about a week, each had a four-page, magazine-quality brochure of their work. The finished products were colorful and attractive, and each one cost only about $1.00! In the learning process for this project, each student had to apply lessons of artistic design, planning, digital photography skills, document conversion and of course curriculum content to create these mini magazine. I made a mental note to myself to try out MagCloud myself one day.

MagCloud is a free application. The site has tons of tips to get you started on this multi-step learning process, and examples to browse for inspiration. The hardest part of the whole process is understanding that you have to do the preliminary set-up and creation of the PDF document before you send it to MagCloud for publication. You as a teacher or catechist will want to have a good grasp of this sequence and of the tools necessary before you help your students, of course. But it is possible that your class could also divide up the steps under your supervision to make this a more collaborative project. For example, students or small groups could each be responsible for

  1. Deciding on a theme for the magazine
  2. Taking or selecting digital images that illustrate the theme, editing them as necessary
  3. Being responsible for the layout and design in your desktop publishing tool
  4. Proofing the work (students will learn about bleeds and trim areas!)
  5. Uploading the finished product and deciding how to distribute, sell or ship it
  6. Critiquing the final product when it arrives

As important as it is to encourage the learning process in our faith, sometimes it’s just nice to have a finished product, too. Being able to analyze and critique a finished product also allows us to reflect further on what we have learned and applied. Our faith is much about storytelling in the sense of passing on our wisdom and being able to see the new world into which we are born with eyes of faith. I believe encouraging students to tell the story of their faith, use images that speak to them, and create a finished product to share with others can be an empowering experience for them and one that will help them develop into better tellers of the story of our faith. I took this belief to heart this year when I decided to create a photo collage of a ministry that is dear to my heart, our Other-Abled Ministry. This ministry is for adults with special needs and for their caretakers. We meet monthly for Mass, a meal and faith sharing. As you can imagine, we had hundreds of digital images from the last year. The previous year, I created a movie. This year, I decided to use HP MagCloud. I made a 12 page magazine using the process described above. The magazine contains photos of our good times together last year, and I ordered enough for each family to have one and then some leftover to put in our church narthex for others to see. Take a look at the digital edition here. It was a very do-able weekend project. Although I did this project solo, I firmly believe that with middle to high-school aged students, a catechist could successfully engage students in the process as well.

 

What faith story do your students have to tell? Are they involved in service projects? Do they find images of God in nature? Is their community precious to them?  Could HP MagCloud be the vehicle that they could use to share their faith with others?