When you need an answer, ask the secretary. Right?
I love being the secretary at our church, but when I have a question, where do I go? Oh, I’m not talking about a scheduling or budgeting question – I know who to ask for those questions.
But I have yet to find a consistent and reliable source of answers for those questions about how to make my work time more efficient, how to maximize my communications efforts, how to make social media work for our church, and how to keep track of bills and expenses.
The online communities I’ve discovered are wonderful, but painfully behind the times. I’m afraid clipart and Comic Sans are showing their age, but many church secretaries have yet to get the memo.
So, I’ve managed to assemble my own arsenal of online resources and tools, and each of these has been invaluable to making the best use of my time and in teaching me what works in this day and age.
My Favourite Online Tools For Church Management and Administration
Mailchimp – With a variety of templates, intuitive editing and insightful reporting, Mailchimp is one of the best tools for bulk emails. Whether you send your church bulletin out by email, do a monthly e-newsletter, or just email occasional updates to your congregation, Mailchimp is the site to use. I’ve used it for years for both this blog and for our church, and I have yet to reach the paid tier. Mailchimp gives you up to 2000 subscribers (with up to 12000 emails per month!) for free. After that, you pay per month. But I have yet to reach that limit, making this the perfect solution for small to mid-sized churches!
Remind – Remind is a text messaging system designed for teachers to communicate safely with their students. But with a little tweaking, it works perfectly in a church setting! Mailchimp is amazing for email, but I’m finding more and more that people are either moving away from email (the younger generation) or they’ve never had email in the first place (the older generation). Both ends of the spectrum quite often have texting plans on their mobile devices however. And because there are no spam folders with text messaging, you can be sure your messages will be seen. And … it’s free! Watch this video on how I use Remind for our church.
Prochurchtools – Prochurchtools.com is a website that is a treasure trove of information for any and all things having to do with digital church communications. They do a weekly hour-long podcast as well as regular blog posts on various social media platforms, building websites, graphics, video, welcoming visitors, organizing live events … even on writing sermons! They also host ProChurch Academy, which is a subscription-based training website. I’ve just started it, and I’m hooked. I’ve learned a ton about best practices, making social media communication more effective, and more. It’s an amazing resource! In fact, Prochurchtools is where I learned about …
DesignFeed.io – This is a graphics site that actually does all of the work for you! Say you’d like a Facebook graphic to announce an upcoming church picnic. Type in the details (ie. Church Picnic, August 1 at Riverside Park. ) and DesignFeed will show you a variety of font and graphics choices in a variety of sizes, custom designed for various social media platforms, with your logo already added! You can even upload your own graphic if you prefer. It really is a foolproof way to make a great looking graphic.
Picmonkey – Picmonkey is another graphics tool. While it doesn’t do the work for you like DesignFeed.io, it does make your job a lot easier. Because it’s online, you don’t need to worry about downloading a bulky graphics program. And let’s face it, for smaller to mid-sized churches, you really don’t need a big, flashy graphics program. For the most part, Picmonkey is free. The paid tier (which is very reasonable) allows you complete access to the various fonts and tools. The downside: you can’t save your work to come back to. Hopefully that will be something they offer in the future!
Google Docs, Sheets, Slides – I’ve been using Word for years, and it’s great. But carrying a USB stick wherever I go is cumbersome, and I’m forgetful. Having my documents stored in the cloud is the perfect solution. No matter where I am, if I have a data or wifi connection (which, let’s face it, is mostly everywhere), I have access to those files. Google gives you 15 gb of storage for free, but what I didn’t know until recently is that Google Docs (like Word), Sheets (like Excel) and Slides (like PowerPoint), are stored for free in addition to that limit. Since most of my files are word processing documents, spreadsheets and PPT files, it’s perfect for me. I haven’t switched over completely, and I have yet to figure out the intricacies of Slides, so it’s a work in progress. But the potential is a great match for my work.
ChurchTracOnline – All these sites are great, but as a church secretary, you know as well as I do that you’re going to need some kind of church management software to track people, processes, groups, giving, finances, budgeting and more. ChurchTrac does all of that. There are pricier solutions around, and maybe they’re better. But ChurchTracOnline suits my need for management software, reports, attendance, and charitable receipts for a reasonable price. And whenever I have a question that the Help page doesn’t answer, I tweet it to their customer service and they reply within the hour (sometimes quicker!).
Planning Center Online – Planning Center is a tool that our church was using long before I started. It’s not intuitive at all, and the learning curve is huge. However, it does a wonderful job of allowing us to schedule volunteers, speakers, leaders, etc. for each service. It send email reminders to people of the days they’re serving, and allows people to confirm or decline scheduled dates, as well as actually block out dates that they are unavailable. We’ve got a ways to go in using Planning Center to it’s potential. It relies heavily on email though, and because people are moving away from email, communications aren’t always successful. Still, it’s the best option for our needs right now!
Google Calendar – Google Calendar is, of course, free, and it allows you to track several different schedules. You can embed it on your church’s website as well. I have yet to do this, but I would eventually like to set it up for booking meeting spaces in our church building (it hasn’t been built yet). From what I’ve seen, Google Calendar would be the perfect way to track and book all of our rooms to ensure that there is no overlap or accidental double booking.
Those are my favourite tools for church administration. Now tell me yours!
What do you use to make your job easier?