How We Use Basecamp to Manage Events, Trips, and Projects in Family Ministry


I’m sure you agree that in children’s ministry and student ministry, we have to manage a lot. Curriculum, volunteers, events, classes, projects, trips, communication, schedules, email, social media, policies, paperwork, resources, supplies, and other things I’m sure I’m missing. At some point, we all need a system to help manage everything we manage.

Project Management?

I know many of you cringe at the phrase “Project Management”. I’m the opposite, as before I ever considered working for a church I was a project manager and planned on doing some version of that in my career long-term. I enjoy it.

However, even if it makes your skin crawl, it’s important because your ministry needs it.

That’s not all. You need it.

Here are 4 reasons why:

Team Collaboration

If you’re doing ministry alone, you’re doing it wrong. You need to work with a team and your team needs a way to collaborate centrally so everyone is on the same page. Project management is all about helping teams work together. You will be a lid to the growth of your ministry if you cannot work through teams.

Repeating Efforts

There is so much to manage and much of it repeats weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Because you repeat trips, events, and projects, it makes sense to use some tool to help you avoid re-doing all the planning each time. You already thought of everything needed to pull off that event, so why not save it somewhere and get a head start next time?

Consistency Matters

Consistency builds trust. The more you are consistent with your ministries, events, trips, communication, etc., the more trust you build with families. Project management allows you to stay consistent by saving what was done before and offering the same thing again.

Continuous Improvement

Not only does project management allow you to be more consistent, it also makes it easier to continuously improve. You know exactly what you did before and, if you’re smart, you debriefed afterwards and saved your feedback. You can easily use that feedback the next time around because you saved it all in your project management tool.

Basecamp for Project Management

Basecamp is the primary project management solution we use. If you downloaded my free resource, 30 Apps We Use to Lead Family Ministry, then you already know that. Here is how we use it specifically.

Every Event, Trip, or Project Is In Basecamp

Basecamp primarily works in projects. You create a project for whatever you’re collaborating on. It might be an event, a trip, or a project such as re-doing your volunteer job descriptions. In each project, you have to-do lists, message boards, file storage, chats, schedules, messaging, and reports.

We primarily use the to-do lists and file storage. It’s really helpful because items on the to-do lists can be grouped by lists, assigned to specific people, reorganized and given a due date. The real magic in Basecamp, however, is templates.

Basecamp Templates For Recurring Projects

Basecamp TemplateBasecamp 3 is the new version, but templates aren’t available in 3 until later this year or early 2017. We’re on Basecamp 2 and templates are available. Think of templates as a fully-created Basecamp project that’s ready to go. If we have a project that will happen again, like our annual C3 Kids Summer Team, we have a template for it (see the screenshot).

In our case, we create all of our templates simply by taking the first version of the project and saving it as a template when it’s finished. It saves all the lists, to-dos, files, discussion, everything. When you use that to create a new project the next time, it’s all there ready to go. Some simple tweaks and adjustments are usually all we need to run the play again.

There are many good project management solutions out there and I use a couple others for different reasons, but Basecamp has worked best for our family ministry staff.

How do you manage all you have to manage?

30 Apps We Use to Lead Family Ministry

30 Apps We Use to Lead Family Ministry

In conversations with other ministry leaders, I usually find myself asking what tools, resources, and apps they use to see if they might be a fit for our ministry. In order to share the apps we use, I created a FREE resource entitled 30 Apps We Use to Lead Family Ministry (23 of them are free). We use these almost every week and I share how we use them specifically in this PDF.

To get the PDF, just complete the form below and you’ll get an email with a download link.

FREE Resource: 30 Apps We Use to Lead Family Ministry

Download this FREE resource and get the 30 Apps We Use to Lead Family Ministry. We use these almost every week and I share what they are and how we use them to lead our children and student ministries.

To get the PDF, just complete the form to subscribe to get updates about new resources. No spam, and you can always unsubscribe if the updates are not helpful.
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How To Improve Quality & Consistency In Family Ministry

In this post I wrote about how we try to keep a finger on the pulse of our environments in order to monitor quality and consistency. That’s always a challenge in family ministry, where children and student ministries both function like churches themselves with their own teaching plans, small groups, volunteer teams, communication systems, events, care, and just about everything you see in a church overall. It’s a challenge to simply monitor how all of that is going and an even greater challenge to make it better.

systemsSo, how do we do it?
How do we improve quality and consistency in our ministries?

I think it comes down to two important things, systems and leadership. In terms of how they work together, systems set the floor and leadership raises the ceiling of an organization.

Systems Set the Floor

The ceiling/floor terms are common in the sports world, where a college athlete coming into a pro league may be described as having a “high floor” or “high ceiling”. A high floor means you know what you’re getting. Their worst performance is still pretty good, and overall they’re consistent. A high ceiling means there’s a lot of potential for growth and they could become one of the absolute best.

In ministry we want to set a high floor. We want consistent experiences week in and week out in every environment. We also want those experiences to be good. I believe the best way we ensure that is through great systems. Systems are the collection of defined processes used to execute everything we do in ministry. Here are 3 characteristics of systems that help set a high floor in our ministries.

3 Characteristics of Systems That Set A High Floor

They create behaviors you want to see

As Andy Stanley says, “systems create behaviors.” Systems that help set a high floor address behaviors we don’t want to see continue. A great exercise we can do is list out all the behaviors we see in our organization that we don’t want. The obvious ones include volunteers coming late, leaders not taking initiative, communicators not preparing ahead of time, etc. Good systems help champion the behaviors we want to see and remove the ones we don’t like.

They are documented

The purpose of a system is to allow anyone to carry it out in the same way to get the same results as originally intended. Ideally it is something that is easy to replicate and easy to teach. Documenting your systems allows that to happen. However, they do take time to create initially. Documenting a system is as easy as typing up the step by step guide to doing whatever you want people to do.

They empower leaders

Many of our systems are simply designed to help volunteers execute ministry the way we want to see it done. That is important, but great systems also include a way to empower leaders. For instance, can volunteers create and improve on our systems (lead), or are they just suppose to do what they’re told (follow)?

One Piece of Advice

One other thing I should mention is that few people enjoy defining, documenting and improving systems. As leaders it’s our job to ensure we have great systems, but that doesn’t mean we have to do it. The best advice I can give is to find people who do love this and equip them to do it for your ministry.

 How have you improved quality and consistency in your ministry?

How to Create a “Can’t Miss” Feel at Your Training Events

This post is part of a series on 7 Keys to an Effective Volunteer Training System.

trThe best way to have strong participation in volunteer trainings is to make the events themselves have a “can’t miss” feel to them. It’s easy to talk about, but hard to create.

Encourage & Support

Everyone wants to feel encouraged and supported. Ministry is hard, and we think we’re encouraging our team enough, we can always do more. One part of supporting volunteers at trainings is to provide helpful content. We can also encourage by sharing stories of “wins” and give them a glimpse of the stories we hear (and should actively collect). Training events are a great time to appreciate volunteers as well. Here’s a link to 100 Almost Free Ways to Appreciate Volunteers.

Have Fun

Who doesn’t like to have fun? Different people define fun differently (particularly introverts and extroverts), but it’s important to have as much fun as you can any time you gather volunteers. Play games, give away prizes, create funny awards to give out, play a funny video, whatever you can come up with to help people laugh and have a good time.

Share Important Information

We ask some important questions whenever we’re communicating something important. Two of them are:

Who needs to know this?
When do they need to know this?

In most situations you want to communicate important information through specific channels, going from most invested people to everyone during a service. Sharing important information at a volunteer training (before it’s public) helps create the “can’t miss” feel you’re looking for. People love to be “in the know”, and serving earns them the right to hear about things before everyone else does.

Foster Connection

Nothing helps people stick like relationships. Hopefully our volunteers have that relational connection on the teams they serve on. But, the reality of ministry is that many positions are so focused on kids and students there is hardly any time to connect with other leaders. Training events can and should provide some time for those connections to happen.

I hope your training events have a can’t “miss feel” to them and it leads people to show up in droves. I also hope you’ll share some tips for how you train volunteers.

What is part of the “can’t miss” feel culture of your volunteer trainings?

4 Tips for Making Volunteer Trainings Easy to Attend

This post is part of a series on 7 Keys to an Effective Volunteer Training System.

buttonAs ministry leaders, it’s important to serve our volunteer teams by providing helpful training on a regular basis. In an effort to get as many people as possible to attend, we’ve learned some tips to help make it easier for them. For the most part, these tips apply to large-scale trainings where an entire ministry department (preschool), or an entire ministry are invited. Smaller trainings don’t have as many barriers.

Here are 4 tips to make volunteer trainings easier to attend.

Provide Childcare

This one is tough, I know. Children’s ministry and childcare are 2 different things, but often times your church uses some of the same people for both. It’s difficult to provide childcare, and even more difficult the larger your volunteer base is. In our case, for many events we provide childcare by paying the people who provide it. This adds to the cost of doing a volunteer training event, but it’s well worth it. Our participation is significantly higher when we provide childcare.

Feed Them

This one also costs money, but is extremely important. In order to do the fourth tip on this list, we’re typically meeting at a time when people would eat lunch or dinner. Feeding them makes it easier to attend and provides a great time of connection at the beginning of the event. We budget for this as often as we can, and we have been really creative in the past calling on people to help provide food if needed.

Pick the Date Strategically

Another way we can make it easy for volunteers to attend training is to choose a date strategically. Pick a date that is far enough out for people to plan around and doesn’t conflict with anything else on the calendar. We like to choose dates where there is nothing for 2 weeks on either side we might also be asking some of them to be part of. We also try to pick dates that don’t conflict with the school calendar or sports schedules.

Meet at a Convenient Time

Choosing a time that is easy for people is also critical. Every context can be different, and we learned from trying different times. In our case, there were multiple effective times and it all depended on the day and focus. The four times that work well for us include:

  • Lunch on Sunday – We have typically only done this when we’ve had 2 services, so an already long day isn’t even longer.
  • During a service – We have only done this when we have 3 or more services, and these are much shorter and just within ministry teams.
  • Weeknight – This is probably our most popular option, and it has worked well.
  • Friday night – This is one we’ve rarely used, and only when we invite spouses as well and it’s all about vision / fun / encouragement.

We follow those 4 tips when we schedule volunteer training events in order to help make them easy to attend.

What’s your guide for scheduling training events?