Groups for Families

A group is automatically created for each family when the first family member is added to the directory (typically head of household).

Family groups provide two primary benefits:

  1. Keep track of which people are in the same family (even if the last name is different)
  2. Reduce effort for adding and modifying contact information for families.  When a new person is added to the directory, and the family is selected, the address and home phone number are automatically filled in.  When the address or home phone number is updated for one family member, the change is automatically copied to other family members.

All of the family groups are added to the Family collection.  The family groups are not shown by default on the roster page, attendance page, etc.

To turn off the automatic creation of family groups, select Admin, then “Edit Church Info”, then uncheck the “Automatically create family groups” option.

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Email to Group Leaders & Helpers When Member Added

When a member is added to a group, an email will be automatically sent to the leaders and helpers for the group, unless the option is turned off.  To turn off the option, select Admin, then “Edit Church Info”, then uncheck the “Email Group Leader When Member Added” box and/or the “Email Group Helper When Member Added” box.

The following is an example of the automatic email notification:

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Moving to the Cloud

In the past, a complex special purpose software program like church management software would require all of the following on the church premises: adequate hardware, experts to install and manage the software, training for users, networked computers, centralized storage, user licenses, software maintenance fees, failover, and data backup. If the church does not have all of the equipment and expertise “in house”, is there a simple way to outsource the complex software needs of the church? The good news is that cloud computing is maturing into the outsourcing solution that makes sense for small, medium, and large churches.

Cloud computing is a popular concept in technology today, and although the underlying ideas have been around for a while in various forms, the term was not coined until 2007. Cloud computing is growing and has a bright future. In general, cloud computing allows a variety of client devices to share information and software services over the Internet. The client devices do not know the details about how the information is manipulated and stored in the cloud. This article takes a closer look at a form of cloud computing called “software as a service” (SaaS), such as online church management software.

Cloud Computing

With SaaS, users access a web application in a web browser running on a variety of computing platforms such as mobile devices, Windows computers, and Apple computers. The web application interacts with web services running on a web server in a secure data center using standard Internet protocols such as HTTP, ASP, PHP and CGI. The web services manage client data stored in a database on the web server. The data center and the web servers provide service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee access in spite of power outages, system upgrades, and hardware failures.

The benefits of a cloud computing solution such as online church management software include:

  • No initial costly software purchase. Just pay a monthly subscription for the use of the software.
  • No risk of data loss due to a hard drive crash on the church computer.
  • Multiple users can share the same data.
  • Data can be accessed and modified from anywhere.
  • Application upgrades are performed on the web server rather than the client computer.
  • Data is stored in a secure data center rather than on a vulnerable computer in a church office.
  • No licensing fees for additional users. Subscription is for the entire church.
  • No training or ramp-up time for new users. Web application takes advantage of the fact that everyone knows how to use a web browser. Online support and extensive knowledge base address user questions.

Shining Light Technologies provides a cloud computing software application that manages church data, including directory, groups and attendance, outreach, giving, missions, and resources.

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Trends in Mobile Web Enabled Devices

In just 2 years, mobile web enabled devices have taken off.  This article examines three trends impacting mobile web enabled devices: applications, devices, and networks.

Applications – When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs announced that the iPhone would support applications authored for the web as well as applications authored for Apple’s operating system.  Apple provided an application authoring environment, established an application testing and release process, and created the App Store to distribute applications and provide revenue to application authors.  There are currently over 213,000 applications available for download, with over 41,000 unique publishers.  The number of available applications is growing by over 1,000 per day.  The primary competitor to the iPhone application environment is Android, an operating system created by Google.  Android already has 80,000 applications and is growing by approximately 600 applications per day.  The Android operating system can run on devices from many different manufacturers, and is currently outselling the iPhone, though iPhone has a head start and is holding a 46% market share as compared to Android’s 25% market share.  The Palm and BlackBerry application environments feature a much lower number of applications, but are still important due to the large number of deployed devices.

Networks – 2G (digital) service was introduced in 1992.  3G service was introduced in 2002, increasing the speed to 200 Kbps, which was barely fast enough for text and email.  Since then, LTE and Mobile WiMAX increased the downstream speed to 100 Mbps and 128 Mbps respectively.  Now 4G is here, with speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps depending on how much the mobile device is moving, and with smooth handoff among network connections to ensure quality of service.

Devices - In the early days of mobile computing (phones, PDAs, laptops), mobile and connected were distinct concepts that could not be reconciled due to the lack of a high speed mobile network.  When WiFi (IEEE 802.11) was introduced, network connectivity was possible when in the range of a WiFi hotspot, so network access cards were added to laptops to enable limited mobility.  It was not long until WiFi access was integrated into all new laptops.  Mobile carriers provide network access cards for laptops as well, using the 3G network to obtain decent connection speeds. Mobile phones have changed significantly in the past three years, with various forms of touch screens on the market today.  As the network speed has increased, the usefulness of mobile phones for purposes other than making phone calls has become more and more apparent.  The newest trend is towards smaller laptops and tablet devices.  In May 2010, Apple released the iPad, which features a nearly full size touch screen keyboard that facilitates much faster data entry than the small keyboard of mobile phones.  Motorola is expected to release an Android tablet in late 2010 as well.

Trends in Mobile Web Enabled Devices

Trends in Mobile Web Enabled Devices

The trends in applications, networks, and devices all point to a common theme.  Mobile computing has arrived.  As a pastor, staff member, or volunteer at a church, you may have already embraced mobile computing for simple functions such as calendar, task list, banking, etc.  Now is the time to embrace mobile computing for managing the data your church needs to effectively reach people and minister to them as they grow in the faith.  With Shining Light Technologies software, you can take attendance on your mobile device, track visitation results on your mobile device, look up a person in the church directory, and much more.  Why stay tethered to a computer at the church when you can access and modify your data from anywhere?

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Group by Age/Grade

Regardless of how your Sunday School is organized, you can group children, teens, and adults by age/grade.  If the group contains only one grade (e.g. “3rd Graders”), you can promote the entire group to the next grade with one click.  Set the “Next Group” for each group.  Keep in mind that the “Groups” module can be any kind of list of people that you want to create, regardless of whether or not there is an actual group that meets for the list of people.

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Automated Messages to Parents

Messages are automatically sent to parents when any of the following occur:

  • Student is late
  • Student is absent
  • Student receives a demerit or detention
  • Student receives a D on any homework, quiz, test, etc
  • Student receives an F on any homework, quiz, test, etc

In order for this feature to work, one or both parents must have valid email addresses configured in the Directory.

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Weekly Outreach Team Reports

Weekly reports are used to increase accountability for the outreach team. Each member of the outreach team posts a report with the number of hours visited during the preceding week, a written summary of activity during the week, and a summary of any issues (e.g. “need new baptism tracts”). The number of visits completed, the number of phone calls made, and the number of mail contacts are automatically counted and displayed along with the weekly report in the summary list. Church leaders can access all past weekly reports for each outreach team member.
Weekly Reports
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Very Important People

Reaching people transcends programs and processes. Personal interest usually makes the difference. Each outreach team member can set up a list of VIPs (Very Important People). This flexible tracking mechanism allows outreach team members to put anyone on their VIP list, whether an unsaved prospect, an occasional attender, or a faithful member. For each VIP, a list of all activity is displayed in date order, including phone calls, mail, visits, and decisions. A quick scan of the VIP list can prompt a much needed phone call. Prospects will not fall through the cracks when outreach team members are actively engaged with them. A VIP can even be added to more than one outreach team member’s VIP list. For example, the singles pastor and the senior pastor can both track the same college student as a VIP.
VIP List
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Decision Details

The visit details page is used to add or modify a decision. For a new decision, select a person as the counselor (optional). The date of the decision must be provided. A built-in calendar simplifies the process of entering the date of the decision.
Decision Details
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Browse Decisions

Decisions are arranged in a folder hierarchy, like files on your computer. This intuitive and familiar structure makes decisions readily accessible. Expand or collapse folder levels to show groups of decisions (e.g. all decisions this week). Enter text to search for decisions made by a particular person. Apply filters to show all decisions counseled by a particular member of the outreach team, to show all decisions of a particular type (e.g. “Salvation”), or to show all decisions in a particular group (e.g. “Children’s Church”). Use the arrows at the top of the columns to sort the decisions in ascending or descending order by a particular column (e.g. Date). Each decision is linked to a decision details page. Click the name of the person making the decision to access the decision details page.
Video
List Decisions
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