A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

join.me

Budget. Return on investment. Value. Frequency of use. Ah, those pesky but necessary terms that help churches determine whether to make a purchase. The fact is, when investing in technology, these are very real things to think about. This is why finding solutions that may not be super feature rich, yet meet your needs, and are affordable (or even free) can help make these leaps of faith easier on the digestion.

The ability to offer online meetings is definitely one of those options that churches would like have but balk at it because of cost and how little it may be used. Fear not! There is an option that gives some of the benefits of GoToMeeting but at the cost of Skype (that’s free, by the way). It’s called join.me.

online meetingjoin.me is built by LogMeIn who connects millions of people to their devices, data, and apps every day. Their basic plan, which is free, offers you the ability to connect 10 people to a meeting, plus these features:

  • Mobile apps – works with iOS and Android.
  • Screen sharing – show your desktop to participants.
  • File transfer – send files to each other during the meeting.
  • Internet calling – connect through Voice over IP.
  • Share control – can give control of organizer’s screen to others, one person at a time.

For an annual bill of less than $13 a month, you get some nice extras:

  • Up to 250 participants
  • Unlimited audio – free international calls and meeting access via phone.
  • Share a window – choose a window to share, and keep the rest private. All alerts, email notifications, and third-party chats will be hidden.
  • Presenter swap – let someone else show his/her screen and become the presenter. Works with PC, Mac, or iPad.
  • Meeting lock – control who sees your screen.
  • Annotation – everyone can mark up the screen. As the presenter, you can take a snapshot of the screen for your records and clear the screen to start fresh again.
  • Record your meeting – record audio and visual and store it in LogMeIn’s cloud, Cubby.

If you want to have online meetings or have staff, committee members, parents, or teens attend an in-person meeting they might have otherwise missed, join.me is a great option for parishes looking for a simple needs solution or are limited by their budget. Nervous about trying it? Liturgical Publications, Inc. uses it for their online meetings across the country. Give it a try!

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Mail Chimp

Mail Chimp

Oh, how I love Mail Chimp!  Do you know that the most effective way to reach groups of people is still email? Better than Facebook, better than Twitter; if you want to get the word out about a specific event or topic, it is best to simply send an email. Yet we all know that emails can be wordy, uninteresting, and get lost in people’s in-boxes. Mail Chimp may be the solution for you and your faith community.

Disclaimer: Mail Chimp really isn’t, strictly speaking, a Web 2.0 tool. It is one-way communication, not collaborative like may of the tools listed on this blog. But I find it to be a fantastic supportive tool to enhance the catechetical experience, so I really wanted to share it with you. I’m hoping it passes our editorial team’s discerning eye, and that you find it useful as well.

Here’s the problem: you have a group of students and parents who need to receive information from you, the catechist or school  administrator. You want your weekly or monthly communication to be visually attractive, but also to have space for text: schedules of upcoming events, for example. Maybe you want to include some images of the students engaged in your catechetical classrooms. Oh – and of course you want to also include a brilliantly-written reflection on the Gospel of the week. You’d like to have a blog, but you have no way of guaranteeing that your parents will access your blog. So you decide to go with email. However, regular email doesn’t really grab people. How can you make YOUR emails something that parents look forward to receiving?

First, set up a FREE Mail Chimp (MC) account. Your next step is to make a email list. Be sure to read the rules and regulations so that you understand what you are and are not allowed to do using this tool.  Mail Chimp requires that your list is compiled from people who opt-in, so I suggest you make this part of your registration process for faith formation in the parish. Next, import that list to your Mail Chimp account. Now you are ready to go. Each time you compose an outgoing message, you create what MC calls a “Campaign.” You can use one of the templates provided by Mail Chimp or create your own. If you have basic knowledge of editing functions such as adding text, importing images, and photo editing, you can easily create a customized e-bulletin in minutes. Mail Chimp walks you through each step and when all the components are verified, you launch your campaign.

Check out the “Look what you can do” inspiration page to see how Mail Chimp is used:

MC 6Example of Mail Chimp

Some of the features I love about Mail Chimp are:

  • It saves your template for future use
  • It can be customized – you can add your logo
  • Social icons are integrated so readers can easily jump to the parish Facebook Page or Twitter feed
  • Many templates are mobile-device friendly
  • It gives wonderful stats on the percentage of campaigns that are opened and read
  • People can opt out of receiving the emails, and you will see who opts out and who will need to be mailed a hard copy of the information
  • There is a “test” feature that allows you to see exactly how your campaign will appear before you launch it

 

For a free web tool that allows you to email groups, this is a great option.

Here are some examples of how Mail Chimp could be used in catechetical settings:

  • Announce registration for your program, class or event to your classroom or parish
  • Set up a Mail Chimp for your parents. Send schedules, last minute changes, images of your students, and homework assignments throughout the year.
  • Ask your students to help you compose the next campaign. Choose a theme, such as “What we learned in the last unit,” or “The Sacrament of Reconciliation.” Use the campaign to display student learning. Have the students contribute all of the content. If you are working with an older group, allow them to construct the campaign with supervision.
  • Use Mail Chimp as an administrative tool for your catechists. Set up two campaigns per year: one with the schedule of classes and church holidays; one with professional development opportunities for your catechists to explore, such as diocesan certification, online retreats or classes, webinars, etc.

We would probably all rather be in the classroom working with the students, but the reality is, there are administrative tasks that must be handled. I believe Mail Chimp could make our lives a lot easier, don’t you?

 

 

WuFoo

As someone who has worked as a consultant with churches to integrate technology into their ministries and now as the person responsible for communications within a parish, finding a good solution to online forms has been a difficult task. I’ve seen pdfs sent to recipients to be printed and returned; pdf forms that could be filled out online, but were difficult to construct; emails used to gather data and then used to create a spreadsheet; and templates for online forms that were limited and confusing. If this has been your experience too, then read on about a solution called WuFoo.

Owned by Survey Monkey, WuFoo allows you to build online forms that have a built-in, robust backend. The result is a browser based form, be it sign-up, availability, registration, survey, mailing list, contact, application, order, or invitation that is very user friendly and extremely easy to create.

WuFoo

You begin in the form builder where most of the work is drag and drop. Having a rough sketch of what you want the form to look like will help you in this process. With its automatic backend building, as you add rules for a cleaner look, WuFoo will let you know if something is not working. This is very helpful if you have a complex form such as an availability form with lots of dates or a new parishioner form. You can give it a customized look with its themes and the ability to include your parish logo. You cam embed the form with codes WuFoo provides. You can accept payments. WuFoo can even set up notifications to be sent by email to the user and anyone who needs to be informed once the form has been completed. Moreover, if you need to compile your data into a spreadsheet, WuFoo allows you to import everything into an Excel document all at once.

So if I’m telling you about this tool, it is supposed to be free. The trial of three forms is free. To go beyond that, there is a monthly/annual fee. For most churches, you are looking at $15 – $30 a month depending on the choice of plan. What you will save in paper and labor alone will offset the cost. The parish I work at started using WuFoo less than a year ago. Currently we have forms for new parishioner registration, cantor and musician availability, lector availability, server availability, facility/room requests, IT service requests, and vacation/personal time requests. We have plans to continue to grow our use including registration for our intergenerational faith formation program.

If you are looking for a one-stop site to meet all of your online form building needs, give WuFoo a try!

Remind 101

Tool: Remind 101

One of the more daunting tasks in church ministry is good communication. So much of the church world is dependent on volunteers to come in and make things go. The reality is that these people have their own lives, and occasionally forget some of their commitments to their churches. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to instantly connect with a specific group of people to remind them of meetings coming up or service commitments, broadcast time change alerts, or post last minute cancelations, without worrying about whether or not they opened their email? There is! It’s called Remind 101.

Remind 101 is designed specifically for schools, but the applications are very useful for parish work.

Benefits:

  • Privacy – There is no exchange of phone numbers. Remind 101 sets you up with a dummy phone number that recipients see, and you never see their number. Also, texting is one way and only in groups. People will not be able to respond to your reminders. This is a huge benefit in the current safe environment climate we face.
  • Ease of use – Remind 101 is incredibly intuitive. Your recipients only have to read texts. Joining your group is as easy as sending a text. Management on your end is a snap and you can do it from your phone, tablet, or laptop/desktop. Beyond this, you can schedule your texts so you post your reminders at your convenience.
  • Multiple groups – Everyone in ministry works with more than one group. You can manage multiple groups from your one account. A history of your reminders is also kept so you know what was sent to who.
  • It’s free! – Enough said!

Applications:

  • Meeting reminders
  • Service work reminders
  • Schedule reminders for liturgy ministers such as lectors and servers
  • Time change alerts
  • Cancelation alerts due to bad weather

These are just a few possibilities. I’m sure you can think of more. My advice, give Remind 101 a test spin and see if you like it. No cost, no commitment. You truly have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by trying this out. Check out this video to learn more about Remind 101 in the classroom.

Click here if you cannot see the video below.

ForAllRubrics

ForAllRubrics-1

What is a rubric? It is a way to assess the learning of an individual who may be a participant, a volunteer, or a professional in your ministry training and formation.  To become a competent catechist, youth minister, RCIA leader, or any other minister there are various skills and learning objectives that one needs to demonstrate in their ministry.  The challenge of a mentor or a coach is to engage others in learning what they need to know for their ministry and to be able to communicate to them if their skills are “poor to excellent” or “novice to expert” or any other continuum.  To learn more about rubrics, you may wish to read DePaul’s Teaching Commons blog “What Are Rubrics

Those of us, who are trainers, look for tools that will assist us with the task of giving feedback.  I recently discovered ForAllRubrics.  I tried it, and I like it!  It is easy to use, and it allows me to give concrete feedback to a trainee quickly and easily. As needed, a face to face meeting or phone conversation can be a follow-up. If I were working with students in a classroom, there is an option to engage their parents in the conversation.

Of course it is FREE!

To learn more about this tool, you can visit Karen Jeffrey’s blog ForAllRubrics How To: Setting Up Your Roster  – Where she walks you through the basic steps of setting up your class roster.  When you set-up a rubric, I found it easy to do and there are plenty of examples, but not faith-based examples.

The ForAllRubrics Short Tutorial video, gives you a brief overview of the tool.

So in ministry, what could you use this tool for? Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation: Look at the Confirmation Guidelines for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.  If you were a Confirmation Catechist, what type of a rubric could you create that would reflect these guidelines?  What five (5), ten (10), or maybe (15) faith objectives are relevant that could be represented in a continuum from say “novice to faith-filled” or any other meaningful continuum.  As you engage with your confirmandi, you can share your assessment with your confirmandi several times during your Confirmation preparation quickly and easily.
  2. Children’s RCIA Catechist:  If you are a Parish Catechetical Leader and coordinate the Children’s RCIA group.  One of your responsibilities is to engage the children’s RCIA catechists in a formation process.  Perhaps you use the Six Skills that Every Children’s Catechist Must Have as the basis of your formation experiences.  So your training classes are finished and those attending the sessions know what needs to be done to be a good catechist.  But what are you observing in their interactions with those they are teaching and how are you sharing your observations? Perhaps a rubric that uses the six skills that you have highlighted as important would provide the concrete feedback that you need to affirm or to encourage further growth in becoming a wonderful and competent catechist.

I’m sure that as you explore and use this tool, you will find a variety of ways that it can be used.  I am inviting you to come back to share your story.  After all, the wheel was invented once, and since then, we have been improving it in so many ways.  Looking forward to hearing from you in the near future!

© Cerveny

GroupMe

Tool: GroupMe

One of the more fun things about ministry is gathering groups of people together for a variety of functions: prayer groups, bible study, mission trips, service projects, annual events, etc. A couple of challenging aspects of running or participating in these communities is coordinating and communicating effectively, especially on the fly or in last minute situations. One to one and group text messaging has really helped in this aspect, but depending on your phone or data plan, accomplishing this task could be cumbersome or expensive. There is a free app out there, however, that can help deal with these issues. It’s called GroupMe.

logo[1]GroupMe (part of the Skype family) provides free group text messaging for anyone who has downloaded the app. It works on the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone platforms and can be used to text from your computer or tablet as well. Don’t have a smartphone? No problem. GroupMe is able to work over Short Message Service (SMS) texting phones, too, which means that any older phone that can text will still suffice. Some of the features include the ability to send photos, “like” posts, share locations, direct message one person in your group(s), “mute” conversations that you no longer want to follow, or text specific members of your group(s) rather than everyone.

The ministry applications are pretty straight forward. If you have a group of people that need to communicate with each other or the organizer needs to contact regularly, GroupMe is a very convenient way to do that. So why not just use group email? Not everyone is near a computer to check emails, but their phones are usually on them. Older phones may not receive email. Depending on data plans, email and texts cost money to receive and send. Texts are instantaneous; emails need to wait for the browser to refresh if the receiver doesn’t know it is coming. This concept is extremely important for emergency situations or last minute change of plans.

There are some things to be aware of before going the GroupMe route. One is a group size limitation of 25. This is to prevent spammers from bothering your groups. If you contact their support, GroupMe will work with you on expanding the size limitation. Another concern is anyone who will receive texts from any group through SMS (that is, without the GroupMe app). Without the features of the app, there is no user control. Everything the group sends goes to them and everything they send goes to the group. A talkative group could get expensive depending on the person’s data plan. If possible, have everyone in your group download the app.

Coordinating and communicating with groups can be challenging at times. Check out GroupMe. It could be the solution you are looking for.

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.