COVID-19 has forced pastors and church leaders to learn how to minister remotely. While technology offers a wide range of options for meeting congregational needs, virtual care can be just as overwhelming as in-person care. That’s why it’s more important than ever to take advantage of tools to help increase your productivity.
Apps to manage email
Managing your email may be a pain. Sorting, reading and responding to it all can be time-consuming. Thankfully, there’s an app for that. Actually, there are several, and many of them are free or very low-cost.
Email management apps offer ways to more easily sort and save your email. In addition to offering different organizational and response features, some offer the option to defer emails to be read at a different time or on a different day. Some apps also provide the opportunity to automatically populate calendars and other programs with the information from emails. If you’re struggling to keep up with a full inbox, check out an email management app.
Platforms to maintain social media accounts
More than ever, social media is an important part of the ministry of the church. But keeping up with Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and all the other accounts can seem like a full-time job. In fact, for some people it is. If you can’t afford to hire a social media manager, the job may fall in your lap.
That’s where programs like Hootsuite, E-clincher, Sprout Social and Buffer may help. Although most of these are fee-based, they may be worth the money to help you stay on top of what needs posting and what has already been posted. Look for a program that supports all of the social media accounts your church is using. Automating your social media can save time. (But be aware that automated posts during a crisis can come across as tone deaf.) Look for programs with scheduling options where you can upload a lot of content in one sitting and schedule it for later posting. Also look for programs that automatically recycle old content.
Tools to organize your thoughts and projects
Remember the days of white boards and Post-it notes? While those are still valuable, sites like Evernote, Trello and Monday offer similar benefits for the digital world. Tools like these are especially helpful since staff and project meetings are now being held online. These types of tools help you:
- control and share to-do lists and calendars
- set and monitor deadlines
- project-manage tasks and teams
- visually track your progress
- collect research information from other sites
- keep up with checklists and discussion
Depending on your needs, you may even find a free option.
Programs for password management
Everything online requires a password and for good reason. Security is important. The problem is remembering all those passwords. Nothing is more frustrating than being locked out of your own account. Fortunately, there are a lot of programs to help with this problem, and many of them are free.
The type of software you need will be largely based on whether you’re using your phone or computer and your operating system. How do password management programs work? Basically, the program allows your computer/phone automatically to save your account login and password in one place. If you forget that information, you can access it with a single password. This limits what you have to memorize to one password instead of hundreds. Some of the programs also have the ability to create and retrieve complex passwords for you. While there are lots of options, it’s important to use a highly respected password management program.
Modes for virtual meetings
Productivity often requires teamwork, and that can seem complicated when you can’t be with your team. In addition to long-time favorites such as Skype, Facetime and Google Hangouts, there are many other options for online meetings. Zoom, GotoMeeting, ClickMeeting and Slack are just a few of the other ways that you can manage virtual teams within the church.
There are free and paid options for many of these platforms, depending on the number of invitees and the amount of time required for each meeting. Other considerations when choosing a platform may be ease of use, accessibility for all team members and the type of meeting. A one-on-one meeting will not require the same amount of options that a large-group meeting might.
Once you’ve made your choice, make sure that you increase the productivity of the time you have together. Notify participants of the date and time and the means to connect with the group. Send an agenda or a list of items to be discussed, and make sure to include online meeting etiquette or rules.
Today, perhaps more than ever before, technology is a blessing to the church. These and other digital tools will help you more efficiently shepherd your flock during this difficult time.
Tricia K. Brown is a writer, editor, keynote speaker and Bible teacher. In addition to being a wife and mother of four sons, she is the sole proprietor of The Girls Get Together, where she and her team provide women's event programs for churches and other organizations.