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Using Google Doc Forms to Make Church Life Easier

September 14, 2011 in Administration, Church, Leaky Jar, Tech, Tutorial

As you may have begun to learn in my previous post on Keeping a Church Prayer List, I am a firm believer that the tools developed by Google can be a great benefit to churches, particularly in the unglamorous but vitally important arena of church administration. One particularly useful Google tool is the Google Doc Spreadsheet, which is useful primarily because its spreadsheets:

  1. Work like Microsoft Excel
  2. Are free
  3. Are accessible from any computer connected to the internet
  4. Easily shared and developed with collaboration

While each of those features are helpful on their own, Google has recently added a whole new layer of function to spreadsheets with the advent of Forms. It is now possible, with any Google Spreadsheet, to easily create a form that imports responses into your spreadsheet. This can save you and the members of your congregation a great deal of time in administration.

For the sake of this tutorial, we will develop a spreadsheet and form for Vacation Bible School (VBS) registration, but simply by altering the details of your spreadsheet you could just as easily use this for potluck dinners, Sunday School volunteers, van drivers, a prayer list, or anything else that you might need.

Tutorial: Building a Form for your Spreadsheet (Using VBS Registration as an Example)

  1. Log- in to http://docs.google.com (if you do not have a Google account yet, you will need to sign up for one, but it is free and deserves to replace whatever e-mail client you are currently using)
  2. On the left-hand side of the page click Create New -> Spreadsheet
  3. At the top of the new spreadsheet, click the title, Unsaved Spreadsheet and then rename the file. In this example, we will name it VBS Registration 2011
  4. We will now begin to fill in the title for the different columns by typing in the following at the Spreadsheet adresses:
  5. Child Last Name at 1A
  6. Child First Name at 1B
  7. Child’s Age at 1C
  8. Parent’s Last Name at 1D
  9. Parent’s First Name at 1E
  10. Phone Number at 1F
  11. E-Mail Address at 1G
  12. Allergies at 1H
  13. Emergency Contact Info at 1I
  14. Now to do a little formatting…
  15. Click the 1 to the left of the first row, this should highlight the entire first row
  16. Change the Text Background Color to something other than white so that it will stand out (Text Background Color is found at the button that looks like a T in a box)
  17. Right-click the empty square just above the number 1 and to the left of the letter A
  18. Choose Sort, then check Data Has Header Row, then press the Sort button
  19. Now select the View menu from the top of the page, then click Freeze Rows -> Freeze 1 Row (doing this means that no matter how far down you scroll on the spreadsheet, you will always see the column titles at the top)
  20. Ok, you are ready to make your form…
  21. Select Tools at the top, then Form -> Create a Form
  22. A new page will open showing your form and allowing you to edit it
  23. Hover your mouse over any of the form fields and you will see a little button with a picture of a pencil appear, click that Pencil to edit that form field
  24. On each form field you can choose whether or not to make that field required (a good idea for emergency contact info, not necessary for E-mail address), provide a help text to explain what you are asking (regarding emergency info, for instance, the help text might prompt parents by suggesting, “Names and Phone Numbers of Emergency Contacts if the Parent Cannot be reached”), and even change the type of question it is (e.g. “Text” is appropriate for the last name, “Paragraph Text” is appropriate for emergency info, “Multiple Choice” is great if people should only select one option, and “Checkboxes” are great when you need them to be able to select multiple options).
  25. Once you are done formatting your form, you should save it if it doesn’t already say Saved at the top
  26. Now you just need to share your form with the people who will be signing up. You have the option of sending the form inside an e-mail using the E-Mail This Form Button, embedding it in your pre-existing website by copying the code from the Embed button and pasting it in your site, or by sending the form as a stand-alone web page by returning to your Spreadsheet, selecting Form at the top, then Go to Live Form and then sending the address to others
  27. When people fill out the form, their responses will automatically be entered in your spreadsheet for you to see simply by signing back into http://docs.google.com
  28. Finally, if you have multiple people who need access to the spreadsheet to see the responses, you can share it by clicking the Share button above the spreadsheet and entering the e-mail addresses of those who should have access (please keep in mind that many spreadsheets, such as those used for VBS registration should always be kept on the Private setting as you do not anyone but trusted church members having access to children’s information)

If you would like to save yourself a little time making a VBS form, please feel free to use the template I have developed as an example.

All questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome below.

http://docs.google.com

Keeping a Church Prayer List

July 27, 2011 in Administration, Church, Leaky Jar, Tech, Tutorial

Although many of us rebel against the notion of keeping an organized list of something as personal, spiritual, and intimate as prayer needs, faithful congregational ministry often requires administrative effort to bring cosmos out of the chaos. In an effort to help churches begin keeping an organized prayer list (or to move to a new format if their old version isn’t quite doing it), I am sharing the following tutorial for using Google Docs (a totally free resource that allows you to give access to documents to only the people who should have it) to create such a  list.


Creating Your Google Docs Spreadsheet Prayer List:

1. You will need a Gmail account. If you do not have one, you will be glad that you need one for this, as Gmail will blow away whatever e-mail service you are currently using. If you need an account (they are free), sign up for one at Gmail.com

2. Use the Prayer List Template. If that link does not work, search for “Prayer List Template” here.

3. Be sure to Save the spreadsheet to your account.

4. Start filling in information as you get it. Please note, on the bottom of the spreadsheet you will find the tabs for all the sheets in this template, where you can also record information about prayers for Evangelism, Records of Deaths, and Answered Prayers.

Where to find the tabs

5. Once you have entered your data, you will probably find it useful to sort it. Although you can easily sort it by any of the columns, I recommend sorting by Date. To do this:

  • Select the empty square to the left of A and above 1.

The empty square next to A and 1

  • Click Data and select Sort Range
  • Select Data has header row checkbox (this tells it that you have titles in Row 1 that you don’t want sorted)
  • In the Sort By drop-down menu, select Date Requested (note: your Date Requested data should be imported consistently in the m/d/yr format)
  • If you want it to sort by more conditions, click +Add another sort option and select the item you would like to sort by secondarily
  • Click the Sort button
  • Unfortunately, you will need to do this individually for each of the tabs in the template, and you will will need to use this sorting command every time you want to sort your list, as Google Docs does not make it easy to autosort. On the bright side, if you sort by date descending as suggested, you can simply add new requests at the bottom of your list as they are made and they will already be in chronological order.

6. Assuming that you would like this prayer list to be available to multiple church members, staff members, elders, prayer team members, etc., you will want to use the sharing function.

  • Click File then Share
  • Enter the e-mail addresses of whomever you would like to have access to the file (note: You will want to remember that there will be personal information in the list that probably should not be made available to the whole world or even the whole congregation, so it is best to grant permissions sparingly. You can always use this database to provide the information for a public prayer list that doesn’t go into all the details)
  • You can grant these people permission either to simply see the document or to edit it.
  • Click Close when you are done

7. Just like that, you are on your way to having an organized, shared database of prayer needs and answers to prayer.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below.