The Apps We Use for Ministry
We use all sorts of apps to pull off what we do on a weekly basis––apps that help us preach and teach better, communicate better, manage our people better, plan services better, manage our events and projects better, produce sound, video, and lighting better, and manage our time better. This list is an (almost) exhaustive list of what we’re using right now.
BIBLE STUDY AND PREACHING
This Bible study software is absolutely indispensable to me. I use it to exegete the text, explore wordstudies, compare versions, read hundreds of commentaries and devotionals, and share (copy & paste) them with our volunteer teachers and leaders. Sometimes I project it up on a screen in my confirmation class to show bible versions or the synoptic gospels side by side.
Bible! (Mobile App)
Their mobile app is great for reading and studying on the go. They give you access to all the same commentaries, bible versions, reading plans, and devotionals. If you use an iPad for teaching or preaching, you can use this app to store notes and bookmark pages.
SERVICE PLANNING & VOLUNTEER SCHEDULING
We use this worship service and event planning program to plan every one of our Sunday worship services, Wednesday night student services, and any major events or special services. It helps us plan each service right down to the minute. We store all our songs, media resources, and rehearsal tracks in it. We also use it to schedule volunteers for various roles in our ministries.
Services Live (Web App)
This internet streaming, real-time status display of the order of service will be replacing our production teams’ tech scripts and will let our Kids Church team watch service release times.
Services (Mobile App)
Viewing, planning, editing, and rehearsing for services on the go. I use it often during meetings or conversations on the fly. It also has a nicely built in media player for rehearsal tracks.
SERVICE PRODUCTION (AVL)
This Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is the engine that drives our entire audio/visual experience during both our Sunday morning and Wednesday night services. Synth and keyboard patches/voices, in-ear clicks, vocal cues, loops and effects, supplemental instrument tracks, automated triggering of lyrics, videos, and lighting scenes via MIDI over ethernet or Wi-Fi are just a few of the features we use during our worship services. For those who really know what they’re doing, this app is a rabbit hole that has no end!
MainStage – Audio (Desktop App)
This Apple product is the most cost effective ($40) live performance app available on the market. Large churches such as Hillsong and countless other smaller churches are using MainStage as their app of choice. Due to its heavy use in the industry, communities are sprouting up around the web sharing sounds and resources.
Apple’s Audio MIDI Setup (Built-in Desktop App)
This little guy works wonders. We run it on both our stage Mac running Ableton and our front of house Mac running ProPresenter. We can program Ableton to send MIDI signals over our network and the FOH Mac will receive them and tell ProPresenter what to do (next slide, verse 1, chorus, etc.)
Bomes – MIDI Translator (Desktop App)
We use this app to automate lyrics, videos, scriptures, etc. for those computers on which we do not have the ProPresenter Midi Module installed. Using MIDI over Wi-Fi or ethernet and triggering from Ableton Live, we can ensure that the lyrics and videos are fired at just the right moments .
This little known program get’s our App of the Year award!! You can record and automate a certain sequence of commands on your computer. Then, all you have to do is press play and it automatically follows all the right commands in the right sequence and timing. We use it to fire up the stage Mac that runs Ableton and Reason. You see, both Ableton and Reason are DAWs and whichever one opens first takes on the role of “master” and whichever one opens second becomes the “slave.” And there are all sorts of other smaller commands that need to be run each and every time we power-up the computer. This is an amazingly helpful app for us because we have several volunteers that rotate running our keyboard station. It’s almost impossible to expect them to know how to start everything up in just the right sequence and timing, even with detailed check-lists. Inevitably, something was missed and we end up trouble-shooting a major sound problem. Automator completely solves this problem for us!
We have a digital sound board (Allen & Heath GLD-80). It’s fantastic! We can save shows and scenes, recall each band members’s personal in-ear-monitor mix, and among a gazillion other very helpful things, it can be controlled remotely with an iPad over Wi-Fi with the GLD Remote app. This helps our Technical Director move around the room making adjustments as needed. What’s even more helpful to us is that while our JV youth group (grades 9 & 10) are using the sound system in the worship center, the middle school youth group (grades 6-8) can be using the same sound system in our courtyard (think lobby and fellowship hall together as one space) controlled by the iPad.
GLD One Mix (Mobile App)
This app lets any band member who so desires to control their own in-ear-monitor mix over Wi-Fi with their iPhone or iPad. We’ve only used it a couple of times for this purpose.
This is the industry standard for projection of video, song lyrics, sermon points, announcements, stage cues, timers, and so on. It’s cross platform (Mac & PC), high powered, multi-featured, and expandable with several modules for networking multiple screens, automating via MIDI, and more. You can even rip DVD clips. It’s super easy to use and very intuitive with the option of using it in a linear or non-linear manner.
ProRemote (Mobile App)
This app is great for controlling screen projection from the stage. It communicates with ProPresenter over Wi-Fi and displays all slides, notes, graphics, and videos on the screen of your mobile device so you can see what you’re selecting and what’s next.
Stage Display (Mobile App)
Connecting an iPod running this app to a flat screen stage monitor has allowed us to send a stage display signal over Wi-Fi. Others can just use an iPad at their station to see what’s on the screen, what’s next, stage notes & messages, timers, etc.
This free software by Chauvet works just great. There are some other more high-end options out there but this works fine for us. It even has the built-in ability to receive MIDI signals for automating lighting scenes from Ableton Live.
OFFICE & PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Our Macs come with a variety of apps built in that we use quite a bit. These include
Of course, we use Microsoft Word and Excel quite extensively. We especially use Excel to track registrations for our trips, retreats, and conferences as well as event budgeting. We rarely use Powerpoint anymore since we use ProPresenter so much and I actually prefer to use Apple’s Keynote when I do need something like it.
This is our church’s membership database, attendance, and finance software. It tracks everyone’s contact information, financial giving, and age group and class lists. Using the check-in system via their CDM+ Mobile (below) on iPads, we’re able to track which kids and students have checked into our programs, ensure the proper check-out of children to parents & guardians, track attendance and group stats. It’s also handles our church’s financial accounting, payroll, and budget planning.
CDM+ (Mobile App)
With this app installed on iPads at various kiosk stations throughout our building, families can check in their kids and print name tags and receipts by themselves. Using iPads and/or iPhones, our welcoming team can check-in new families and can ensure that their children are being checked-out to properly authorized adults (avoiding potentially dangerous custodial and lost-child crises). Using iPhones or iPods, our small group leaders can see who is checked in and who should be in their small groups (alerting us to runners and wanderers).
This user-friendly project management web app is quickly becoming our favorite! It allows us to manage numerous projects simultaneously by tracking each project’s task lists, team member assignments, calendar milestones, working documents (Google Docs, Word Docs, PDFs, videos, etc.), sharing files, discussion threads, etc. We can loop in any number of staff and lay leaders we need, even those who really prefer just using email. We use it to plan special services, major events, trips, ministry initiatives, and new staff orientation. We also use it to track on-going discussions and decisions for various areas of ministry.
Google Docs – Word Processing (Web App)
Many of our shared files, working documents, policies, etc. are now on Google Docs. They’re accessible to anyone who has permission from anywhere they have access to the internet.
TeamGantt – Project Management (Web App)
This web app is a new one for us and we’re still learning how to use it. A Gantt chard is a visual way to see all your projects and tasks at once and how they overlap with each other. The benefit of using Gantt charts is the ability to see where the busiest, most intense seasons are over time. This allows us to better manage our energy and workflow, adjusting the timing of some initiatives, delaying others, and anticipating certain seasons of intensity balanced by seasons of relative down-time. TeamGantt integrates very nicely with Basecamp, pulling in all of Basecamp’s to-dos and milestones and visually displaying them in a Gantt chart.
This cloud services allows us to quickly share and store files with one another. The nice thing about using dropbox is that it’s so ubiquitous. So many people use it that we can share files with just about anyone now.
This cloud service allows us to store and share all our vital files. The great thing about SugarSync is that you can select any folder anywhere on your computer and sync it to the cloud and with any other folder on another computer. We use it to synchronize our office files and folders between several computers and mobile devices. We also use it to store and share our heavy Ableton & Reason files.
One big notebook for keeping track of notes, web clippings, files, scans, and so on, this app is pretty handy for keeping things organized.
We use Facebook Groups to communicate with all our small group leaders regarding weekly lesson plans, video previews, program details and other discussions. We also use our Facebook Page to post pictures, videos, announcements, reminders, etc.
This subscription-based mass email service allows us to send great looking emails to everyone in our church. Because it each person has given us their email address and because MailChimp allows them to “unsubscribe” if they want, we can feel confident that we’re not just spamming people. The entire list can be segmented into subgroups and lists such as parents of students, parents of children, those who subscribe to our blogs, small group leaders, etc. We use it mostly to send out all-church notices and Parent CUES for kids and students (keeping parents informed about our curriculum, lessons, and discussions).
This messaging service helps us communicate with all our families at once by sending voice messages or text messages to their phones. This is especially helpful when we have weather related cancellations, a change to the normal routines of our weekly service times, or any other urgent messages that need to be guaranteed to be heard or read.
I don’t know what I’d do without SaneBox. It brings order to my email chaos. It watches what I do with email and trains itself to repeat those patterns. No longer do I need to sift through hundreds of junk mail messages to find the good ones. It learns to identify what is junk mail, what isn’t, and what to do with them. Love it!
For all our creative needs, we use this amazing suite of apps. Of course, we don’t use everything in the suite, but there are a few we use all the time.
There isn’t a week that goes by without us using Photoshop. It’s the best most powerful tool for creating, editing, and manipulating graphics. We use it for promotional posters, screen graphics, website photos and banners, teaching & preaching series, announcements, etc.
This amazing app is used to add post production special effects to any video. When we use it (which isn’t very often) we use it to animate text and logos. However, it’s super intense and has a very high learning curve.
It’s free and it’s great! I use it all the time. Most of the videos we produce are simple and of good quality. iMove is easy to use and very intuitive.
iSkySoft Media Converter
This is a tiny but absolutely indispensable app. With it, we can convert any video or audio file format into any other format that we need. You can convert AVI, WMV, MOV, MP4, MPG, MP3, WAV, AIFF, and many more into any format you need. Super helpful when you just want the video to work!