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Three practical, FREE tools you'll want to add to your ministry toolbox now.


Recently I was asked to teach a room full of children’s pastors on the topic of team collaboration. In many ways the team dynamic in KidMin is unique. Region, church culture, group formats, and individual leadership styles play important roles in how teams work together. This made me wonder if I could connect with this group in a meaningful way, considering my team experience comes from a corporate technology background. Those concerns were soon laid to rest when, after the class, a children’s pastor who had flown in for the conference came up to me and said our time together made her entire trip worth the investment. So here’s hoping that the information I shared with that class can also be of some benefit to you.

The company I work for, Disciplr, is a team of professionals with different skills and areas of emphasis. There are designers and developers, content specialists, marketers, and support folks. All of us have different styles of communicating, however we have discovered some tools that help to bridge any communication gaps that exist due to the limitations our roles or scope of work may create between us. These tools have helped our small but growing team to open up lines of communication and keep everyone informed of what’s going on at all times, without the need for constant meetings and emails (can you believe it?).

I have chosen three of the tools that I use most frequently in my day-to-day work life—all of these have elements that help foster more open collaboration and efficient workflows.

Do you email or do you Slack?

Slack logo

With more than two million daily users and over 60,000 teams using Slack, this simple “chatroom” type application is quickly replacing the need for email communication in companies all over the world.

What is Slack?

Do you remember the early days of the internet and chat rooms? Then you pretty much already understand how Slack works. The simplest way to describe Slack is conversations (chat rooms) organized by topic. In Slack parlance these are called “channels.” Slack takes this concept to the next level and allows you to not only chat, but share files, links and even quickly start a call with anyone else in a channel just by clicking a button. Throw in the ability to DM (direct message) any other Slack user in your organization, plus the option to easily search any/all Slack conversations and channels, and you have one of the best new communication tools for team collaboration.

Why should I use Slack?

Slack is not intended for external communication. In fact, that is where email shines best. When you have an external message that needs to be broadcast to your membership or community, then I recommend email. In fact, a bonus suggestion is to use Mailchimp for email campaigns.

How do I get started?

  1. Sign up at slack.com (it’s FREE)
  2. Download the free apps
  3. Create channels
  4. Set your notification preferences

Plan and execute your next event or project with Trello (the virtual sticky note system)

Trello example

If you drive a Toyota and love it, then you are a beneficiary of a system known as kanban. Kanban is a Japanese word that means “visual signal” and it is what drives the production process at Toyota. This production method is best understood as a board with vertical columns of sticky notes. Each column represents a process and each card in the column represents a task. As you move from the first column (the beginning) to the last column (completion) cards are moved left to right to visually represent where tasks are at in each process. This is the process that Trello has built their platform around, and it has become popular among the ten million people using Trello regularly.

In a team environment, Trello will allow you to manage many tasks for a single project (like VBS) or even many small projects for a department (such as your 5th & 6th grade ministry). Each column can represent what status a task is in, such as:

  • Ideas – a place where you just drop new ideas and things you want to follow up on for a later date.
  • In Progress – tasks that are currently being worked on.
  • Completed – tasks that have been finished and are awaiting approval.
  • Approved – tasks that are approved.
  • Paused – tasks that are on hold.

Each of the above task groupings would represent a column of tasks, or cards as they’re known in Trello. Once you’ve created the structure, you can start adding cards, assigning members of your team to those cards along with due dates, checklists, comments, file attachments and even color coded labels. Cards then are dragged left to right through the pipeline. If you’re really organized, you can even set a limit as to the number of cards that should be in any one column at a time to help manage workloads.

Trello gives you a beautiful visual picture of project management and has become an essential part of our team’s workflow.

Why should I use Trello?

Trello can be used for organizing everything from VBS to grocery lists to weddings—the possibilities are endless.

How do I get started?

  1. Sign up at trello.com (it’s FREE)
  2. Go to trello.com/guide to understand the basics.
  3. Get the ebook Trello Dojo at leanpub.com/trellodojo. This ebook will cost you a few bucks, but it is well worth the money.

Customize your curriculum and collaborate with your teachers and volunteers using Evernote

Evernote

Evernote’s been around a while. In fact, the news lately is that Evernote may have hit their peak. Make no mistake though, while the troubles Evernote is currently experiencing are causing them to refocus on their core value, it is that core value that makes Evernote so powerful. Of the three tools I am listing here, Evernote has the largest user base with more than 150 million users worldwide and support for twenty-five different languages. Evernote isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I use Evernote all of the time, both at home and at work. I have the app on my Google device as well as on my MacBook Air and I even have the Evernote moleskin. I guess you could say I’m a fanboy! The reason why is because Evernote makes taking and organizing notes so easy. It’s also the world’s best scrapbook; any article, website, email or handwritten note can easily be stored, tagged and organized in Evernote. Every note in Evernote can be organized into notebooks, and groups of notebooks can be further organized into stacks.

One of the most powerful tools that Evernote has launched is something that we believe will revolutionize how you use curriculum, specifically web-based curriculum. This tool, the Evernote Web Clipper, is a free browser extension that can be quickly installed and used within minutes. Web Clipper allows you to take any web page and make it instantly customizable within Evernote. This means that any lesson that is web-based (not downloadable, but displayed as a web page—like any of the lessons in Disciplr) can be synced to Evernote and made immediately customizable with Evernote’s editor tools (similar to Microsoft Word). In addition to this, you can invite other collaborators who can be allowed to edit or only view the document based on permissions you set.

Why should I use Evernote?

This technology can transform the way you store and retrieve information. Additionally, use the Web Clipper tool to keep, organize and customize any web-based content, including curriculum and resources on Disciplr.

How do I get started?

  1. Sign up at Evernote.com (it’s FREE)
  2. Download the free apps for desktop and mobile (the paid version gives you extra storage and offline access to your notes)
  3. Set up your notebooks
  4. Use the Evernote iOS/Android Apps as well as the desktop application (the browser-based version has limitations).

So there you go, I hope this information gives you some practical tools to add to your ministry toolbox. Our goal at Disciplr is to equip the local church through technology. If you have any questions or would like to share any ideas or tools your team uses that I didn’t mention here, drop me a line to michael@disciplr.com or find me on Twitter @m_covington.

Michael Covington

Author Michael Covington

Michael Covington is a Team Leader for Disciplr, the only digital and interactive platform serving churches with curriculum across multiple publishers. His role and his passions combine to provide a unique perspective on how churches and ministries can (and should) do discipleship digitally. Michael, his wife, two boys and “Newfie-Poo” live in Colorado Springs, CO.

More posts by Michael Covington