A Cyberpilgrim's List of Web 2.0 Tools for Ministry

Archive for the ‘Social Bookmarking’ Category

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.

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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.

WeGather

Tool: WeGather

Answer this question: What is the #1 goal of any church? Answer: To build community. To help in this mission, there are many wonderful tools available through the Internet to share information and socialize. But perhaps with all those different tools, you feel a bit overwhelmed. One ministry group communicates on Facebook, another on Google Plus, and yet another through Yahoo! Groups. For some people, it can get very confusing trying to remember which group is where, especially if you are the organizer of many ministry teams and events. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a tool that allowed you to organize your entire parish’s social groups and ministries, sent email from centralized lists, shared a single calendar that filters events based on group, and allowed your parishioners to socialize online in a safe and secure environment? Wouldn’t it be even better if it were free? Guess what? There is such a tool! It’s called WeGather.

WeGather

WeGather was developed by Liturgical Publications, Inc. (LPi), who are well known for their production and distribution of church bulletins. Over the last few years, LPi has developed web tools specifically for parishes including website templates and online giving. WeGather is their answer to social networking that meets the needs and concerns of a church community.

Liturgical Publications, Inc.

Here are the main features:

  • Provides a safe, secure environment – A church administrator approves all membership requests so only authorized people have access to the site. Secondary administrators can be given access to maintain particular groups and ministries.
  • Centralizes email lists for easy updating and distributing information.
  • Organizes ministries and committees by “groups.” Only members of each group can see information specifically for them but can be shared publicly (any authorized site member) if desired.
  • Provides a centralized calendar of events. Information shown on the calendar can either be group specific or shared publicly.
  • Allows members to easily post and share documents, photos, and videos specific to each group or publicly.
  • Provides members the ability to create their profiles and control which information is available to fellow parishioners.

Again, the core system of WeGather is free but does offer some optional “modules” available on a monthly subscription basis:

  • Online giving via WeShare, LPi’s online giving and event registration program. WeShare can easily be integrated with WeGather.
  • Service Opportunities-promote your volunteer needs where members can easily sign up for volunteer opportunities of interest
  • Additional Storage for documents and media

So, why use WeGather over other online tools?

  • A clean, professional look that is easy to navigate for the casual computer user.
  • A web based tool specifically designed for churches.
  • The privacy of each parish and its members is strictly maintained. No information is sold or given to third parties of any kind.
  • LPi working to build additional modules to plug into WeGather.

WeGather is a very powerful –and absolutely free –communication tool for any church and its members. If you are part of a parish that is looking to organize all of its online ministry outreach and communication in one place, check out WeGather and feel free to leave a comment on how it works for your church.

Pinterest for Ministry

Pinterest, the popular newcomer to social networking that focuses on images and allows you to create interest-based “boards” is a great tool for sharing visual links to catechetical ideas, images, videos, projects and more and more.  Basically a virtual bulletin board on which you can pin any web link  that has an image associated with it, it is a favored site of crafters and art-lovers, but there are a great many Catholic boards to be found, as well as boards associated with technology  ideas.  Some major Catholic organizations and publishers such as the Diocese of Cleveland and  Our Sunday Visitor have boards as well.

The search function at the upper left enables you to find virtually any topic. To see how catechists and Catholic home schoolers are using Pinterest, simply put “Religious Ed” into the search box.  Searching for “catechesis” gets another series of results. Some catechists use Pinterest to bookmark and share craft and teaching ideas.  This sample of a Religious Education board is a great inspiration piece.

Religious Education Board

As you can see, this catechist includes crafts, recipes, seasonal items, lesson ideas and more.  What’s more, exploring pins on a board like this will connect you with other sources of catechetical ideas.

Since the age-requirement for Pinterest is 13, like Facebook and other social networks, it is more likely a catechist of children would use it to connect with parents or other catechists.  A board for a parish program, for instance, could be a great place to pin resource ideas for catechists and parents in the program, including links to helpful videos and articles.

Pinterest can also be a source for images and bookmarks to great items for obvious catechetical themes, such as Eucharist , Saints or Sacraments. Since Pinterest is a public space which includes many people who are not Catholic, it is necessary to sort and filter posts for appropriateness  and Catholicity of some items, but it is likely that usage will continue to grow and more Catholics will pin their favorite links to boards for you to discover and share.

How do you use Pinterest? Are there more ways a religious educator can make use of it?  Please add your ideas in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Delicious

Tool: Delicious

Lori Burch gives an overview of how she uses Delicious as a Social Bookmarking website. Since these videos have been created, a newer version of Delicious has been released. The basics are still in the video, but you’ll notice some of the features have changed.

Delicious Part 1:

10 minute tutorial. Describes how to set up an account in Delicious.com and how to use this social bookmarking tool.

Delicious Part 2:

10 minute tutorial. Discusses the finer points of how you can use this tool, explains the “tag” process and more.

Delicious Part 3:

10 minute tutorial. How to bookmark a website, explaining the various ways that you can bookmark website.

Here are examples of how catechetical leaders save bookmarks by using Delicious. This provides and opportunity to share your research with others.

Ministerial Examples: http://www.delicious.com/timewelch and http://www.delicious.com/ccerveny

With the “stack” option, here is an opportunity to create a group of websites chosen by you for a  specific group.  Here is an example of a Confirmation stack intended for an RCIA group.  Notice how you can add comments and/or questions to the suggested links.  You are able to suggest what you would like the RCIA candidate to focus on while reading the article.

Delicious Stack Example

Cerveny's Delicious Stack Listing

Delicious Stack Example

Confirmation Links in a Stack

It is also possible for those participating in the RCIA program to add comments after they have read the articles.

Delicious Stack Example

Comments can be added.

If you LIKE this post, remember to click on the LIKE button.  We would love to hear from you how you are using Delicious in your ministry.  When you are ready (now or later) share how you are using Delicious in your ministry.