How to create a rota

In this article

Adding a new ministry
Assigning ministry overseers
Uploading a ministry image
Setting up rota reminders
Managing ministry roles
Managing ministry teams
Creating rotas
Archiving a ministry
Deleting a ministry
Why can't I see my rota in My ChurchSuite?

As introduced in the support article Getting started with the Rotas module, the process of creating rotas begins with adding the Ministry. Once the ministry is defined, you'll create one or even many Rotas for that ministry – for example, if you have multiple services, you might create a rota for each Service based on the same underlying ministry (if the teams, roles and ministry members are broadly the same 'pool' of people serving across multiple services). In this way, people can swap across the services/rotas for the ministry they serve in. However, if the teams, roles or ministry members are significantly different for each service, you'll likely create separate ministries and generate rotas for each.

In this article, we'll follow this same workflow – adding a Ministry and then later in the article, we'll add rotas.

Adding a new ministry

Navigate to the Ministries section of the Rotas module. Note also the ministry Actions for existing ministries in the list to View, Duplicate, Edit, Archive and Delete. Click Add ministry.

On the Add ministry pop-up, give the ministry a suitable Name, e.g. "AV/Media", "Refreshments", or "Set up" – it's not necessary to include the service name or site name in the ministry's naming convention as this information will be clearly shown wherever the ministry is listed or displayed.

Next, set the default day(s) and times this ministry typically Serves. To ensure accurate rota clash detection, the serving Times should reflect the actual time range within which someone is expected to serve, rather than the service start and end time. In the example below, the "Service Leading" ministry for a hypothetical 10.30 am morning service serves from 9 am to 12.30 pm. Clashes can be overridden, or even disabled for a rota, but it's often helpful to be alerted to a person being assigned to multiple rotas serving at times that might give rise to an unwanted clash. Note also that the ministry serving days/times can be overridden later when adding the ministry's rotas – for example, you might set the ministry defaults to be for your morning service but where the ministry also serves at an evening service you will override the ministry defaults and set the appropriate serving times when adding the evening service rota (see later). While many ministries are typically for weekend services, note how it is also possible to create mid-week ministries, e.g. for a weekday 'Foodbank', where volunteers might serve Monday to Friday – select each day the Foodbank ministry serves.

Next, set the Team Rotation for the ministry. Again, this can be optionally overridden when adding rotas for the ministry. For Ad Hoc and Simple Rotation team rotations you'll also be able to set the Repeat Rota frequency, which determines how the rota's dates are generated for the days/times the rota Serves within the rota's date range. Repeat Rota is not an option for Serve 13 team rotation as this rotation is by nature always "Every week".

Which Team Rotation do I need?
  • If your ministry does not follow any specific serving pattern, select AdHoc from the Team Rotation drop-down menu. When you create a new rota for this ministry, you'll be able to manually assign individuals or teams to each date on the rota. If your ministry only has one team, i.e. a pool of people from whom you'll assign to a rota on an ad hoc basis, select Ad Hoc too.
  • Select Simple Rotation to create any number of teams and have them follow a simple team rotation pattern. For example, if a team serves every three weeks, you'll create three teams; if a team serves every six weeks, you'll create six teams.
  • For weekly team serving, a great way of covering fifth Sundays is to use Serve 13. Four teams serve once per month, e.g. Team 1 on the first week, Team 2 on the second week, etc. And then for months with five weeks, the fifth week will be covered by each team in simple rotation, i.e. across a year, each team will typically serve 13 times rather than 12. Or, by creating five teams, a Serve 13 rota will assign the fifth team to all fifth Sundays on the rota.

Continuing our example, we'll select Serve 13 and then later in this article we'll see how to create the appropriate teams.

Next, for multi-site customers, select the Site this ministry relates to – ministries are always site-specific. Where a ministry serves multiple sites, you'll create a separate ministry for each site. People can be added to each site's ministry instance where they typically serve across your various sites. A Rota's module setting determines whether ministries and rotas can have people from just the ministry's site or any site – this setting is enforced within My ChurchSuite but a Rotas module User can always add people to ministries from any site they have User permissions for.

When you are finished, click Save to add the ministry and be redirected to the ministry "View" page. You can return to the ministry page at any time, perhaps to Edit and make changes. This is also the page where you can: –

  • assign ministry overseers
  • upload a ministry image
  • set up rota reminders
  • communicate with ministry members
  • manage ministry teams and roles
  • add rotas for the ministry
  • archive or delete the ministry

We'll cover each of these topics in the remainder of this article.

Assigning ministry overseers

Overseers will receive swap and decline notification emails in respect of each of their ministry's rotas (if swaps and accept/decline are enabled in the module options). They will also receive unavailability clash notification emails if added unavailability causes a clash for people already on a rota and rota expiry reminders. Importantly, overseers can manage all their rotas and teams within My ChurchSuite without needing Rotas module User access. In this way, you can empower volunteer ministry leaders to organise and manage their areas of ministry responsibility easily through the member-facing My ChurchSuite.

To add an overseer, head to the ministry "View" page via the Ministries section of the Rotas module. Click Add overseer.

On the Add overseer pop-up, search and select the Address Book contact to be added as an overseer. 

Click Save to add them.

You can add multiple overseers if you wish or return here in the future if you need to Remove an overseer.

Uploading a ministry image

You can optionally upload an image for your ministry. The ministry image is surfaced wherever rotas for the ministry are listed in the My Rotas section of the member-facing My ChurchSuite. Here's how...

Working from the ministry's "View" page, hover your cursor over the image placeholder and select the pencil icon.

On the Edit image pop-up, drag and drop a suitably prepared image onto the drop zone or click to browse and choose the image file from your device. For best results, and to ensure that important information or details of the image are not clipped or distorted, make sure that all ministry images are saved in a 4:3 aspect ratio (e.g. 1280x960px) and that important image information is kept away from the corners of the image.

The image is uploaded and immediately applied to the ministry (and all rotas for that ministry)

When hovering your cursor over an existing ministry image, notice the additional image options to view and delete a ministry image.

Setting up rota reminders

You can optionally enable automated email and SMS reminders to remind those on rotas that they're serving. We've produced a separate support article on sending rota reminders that provide further information about this feature.

To enable the rota reminder for a ministry, select Edit from the Action menu next to either the Email reminder or SMS reminder...

...and tick to enable the reminder.

You can optionally customise the reminder Send schedule and message content. ChurchSuite appends the appropriate rota-specific content to each person's reminder when sending.

Managing ministry roles

For each ministry, you can optionally define roles and then assign those roles to ministry members. It is sometimes helpful to be able to communicate with only those ministry members in certain roles – perhaps the ministry's 'worship leaders'. Roles may be shared by multiple ministries or you can create ministry-specific roles. For each ministry you can change the order of roles – perhaps having a 'leader' role first – the role order is respected in rotas and reports. Later, when adding people to teams (see next section), you can assign one or more team roles (or no role) to each person. Here's how...

Working from the ministry's "View" page, click into the Roles tab and click Add role.

On the Add role pop-up, type the name of the role you wish to add. Existing roles will be automatically suggested – you can select an existing role; sharing roles across ministries saves having multiple instances of the same role, e.g. 'Leader', 'Helper.'

If the role you'd like to create doesn't already exist, click +Add to create a new role, then Save & Return to add your new Role to your Ministry.

Click Save when you are done. The role is added to the ministry Roles list. You can return to this list at any time in the future to Edit or Remove roles. Removing a role removes it from this ministry only – it will only be deleted when the role is no longer assigned to any other ministries. In the example below, the new role has not been assigned to any team Members – this will change when we later add team members – see the next section.

In this next example of a 'Worship' ministry, there are multiple roles. Notice the option to change the role Order – click any order icon...

to open a pop-up within which you can re-order the ministry's roles.

From the Roles tab, clicking on a role name (or selecting View from the role Action menu on the right-hand side) will open the role's "View" page.

From a role's "View" page you can see a list of role members (those assigned with the role) filtered for the ministry, or use the Ministries filter to see the role's members across multiple ministries. From this page, you can easily Communicate with the role members listed.

In the next section, we'll see how roles can be assigned to people when they are added to ministry teams.

Managing ministry teams

Ministries can be optionally organised into teams or a ministry may be a single team representing a single pool of all the people that serve in the ministry. People can be assigned to multiple teams in a ministry and be assigned different roles in different teams. For example, in a 'Worship' ministry you might group people into different worship bands (teams) where musicians typically serve together on the rota; or you might prefer a single pool (team) of all your musicians and then assign ministry members to rotas on an ad hoc basis.

Teams are helpful where the ministry's rotas will have a team rotation pattern and when you need to be able to communicate with just those in certain teams but not others. Teams can have as many members as you like or a team may have just one person per team – you have lots of flexibility to suit the ministry and the rotas you'll later produce.

Working from the ministry's "View" page in the Ministries section of the module, you have the option to Add team. Note that for Ministries with Serve 13 selected, a message is surfaced reminding you that at least four teams are required for this type of rotation:

Notice that one team is already available for you to add members. For  Ad Hoc ministries, this might be the only team you require. Note that you can change the name of this team by selecting Edit, meaning that for Simple Rotation and Serve 13, you can edit the name of this team before adding further teams:

To add additional teams, click  Add team. Give the team a suitable Name, e.g. "Week 2"  or "Joe's Band" and click Save to add the team.

Continue adding teams as required. 

Notice the option to change the team Order or to Edit or Delete a team. Making changes to a ministry's teams – adding, re-ordering or deleting teams – will not affect existing rotas.

You can now begin the process of adding the existing known team members – click Add member.

On the Add member pop-up, search and select each person to be added to the team; where roles exist for the ministry, select the roles that apply to the selected person for that team. Selected roles change from grey to blue when selected. If the ministry is an ad hoc single team you will typically assign all the roles that each team member can serve – e.g. a worship leader who also plays keyboard, drums and guitar – as this will help you later when adding ministry members to an ad hoc rota and using the "Add to role" option, which will auto-suggest just those people with that role – ensuring you'll never add a drummer to a bass guitarist role if they can't play the bass guitar!

Click Save to add the member to the team.

Continue adding team members as appropriate. Children and Address Book contacts can be assigned to teams – children are distinguished in lists with a 'child' icon next to their name.

You can easily make role changes – perhaps if someone's role changes in the future. Either select Edit from the Action menu on the right-hand side of that person in their team...

... or by using the inline role edit feature that is enabled by hovering anywhere in the Roles column of a team member and clicking edit.

Make the relevant role changes and click Save to apply those changes.

In future, when you have published (or draft) rotas in place for the ministry, adding or removing team members will give the User the option to apply, or not, the ministry changes to some or all existing rotas. In the example below, adding Shane as a keyboard player to the ministry by default selects to Update existing rotas i.e. apply the change to all future rota dates where Shane's team is serving, adding Shane to those rota dates.but a User can select not to do so. In this way you can make 'people changes' to a ministry and optionally not update existing rotas – perhaps if the people changes are for future or follow on rotas yet to be added – without the changes affecting existing rotas.

Remember, for Simple Rotation rotas the ministry will need a separate team in the correct team order for the full rotation, e.g. a ministry serving 'every other week' will require two teams. For Serve 13 rotas the ministry will need four teams and each team will cover each fifth Sunday in simple rotation, or you can have five teams and the fifth team will always be assigned to fifth Sundays when creating the rota. It's therefore important to get your ministry team structure and team order correct before generating the rotas.

What if I don't know everyone who's going to be in a team?

In addition to adding ad hoc contacts directly to a rota, you can also add people to teams in a ministry at any time. When adding new members to a ministry in this way, for both Simple Rotation and Serve 13 rotas, you'll be prompted to choose whether to apply the team changes to future dates on existing draft or published rotas (but not for Ad Hoc rotas, which by nature require you to add ministry members to rota dates manually on an ad hoc basis).

It's therefore not essential to know who every team member for a Ministry is at the point of setting up the Ministry initially. You can also add other people to the ministry later and have any rotas for that ministry optionally updated. By its nature, volunteer management can be a very fluid task, so we've made the process of managing rotas and the underlying ministries intuitive and feature-rich to suit the workflows of most churches.

The next section explores how to add a rota for a ministry.

Creating rotas

With ministries already created (see earlier in this article), the process of creating a rota is now super-easy! Here's how...

Either click the Add rota button at the top of the Rotas list...

...or click Add rota from the top of the Ministry "View" page.

On the Add rota page that opens, select the Ministry (if not already pre-selected), the Service to which this rota relates (optional) and then specify the Date range the rota will run for. While it is possible to extend an existing rota by adding dates, typically you'll create a new follow-on rota. So, you might create a rota to run for a term, a quarter, a year or even just a single date (perhaps for an event that you are running) – you have complete flexibility – the process of adding a new rota is just a few button clicks since most rota options use the ministry's defaults.

The rota Days, serving Time and Team Rotation options (and depending on the team rotation you select, the Repeat Rota and Teams to Rotate options) will all be pre-populated with the ministry's default settings; however, these can be overridden if you wish. For example, a ministry might serve both your morning and evening services, in which case you would select the appropriate Service from the list and set the serving Time to reflect the times the ministry's members will serve at each service. You can also select to enable/disable Clashes and Accept/Decline for the rota (see the related support articles for further information about this option). A suggested rota Name will be populated when you click into the empty field.

For an Ad Hoc rota, there are no teams to rotate because ministry members will be added to rota dates manually on an ad hoc basis – the option to set the Repeat Rota determines how often the rota Days repeat within the duration of rota's Dates. Many Sunday rotas will probably repeat Every week but other options are available.

For a Simple Rotation rota with one or more teams, there are options to set the Repeat Rota (see Ad Hoc above for explanation). You can set the Teams to Rotate – perhaps excluding a reserves team – and the Start Team, which is the team to be assigned to the first date on the rota, after which the simple rotation will follow in team order in simple rotation throughout the rota.

For a Simple Rotation rota, notice also that you can optionally set a Serving Pattern, representing the number of consecutive rota dates each team will serve before the rotation moves on to the next team. For example, in a rota where teams serve for two consecutive weeks before moving on to the next team set the serving pattern to 2 Date(s). If teams serve for an entire month before rotating on to the next team for the next month, set the serving pattern to 1 Month(s).

For a Serve 13 rota, which requires four or five weekly teams, there is the option to select the Teams to Rotate, giving you the option to perhaps exclude your reserves team but include the four or five weekly teams.

Which team rotation?

As you can see, the above settings for each of the three Team Rotation types – Ad Hoc, Simple Rotation and Serve 13 – determine how rota dates are generated within the rota's date range; they also determine whether people are auto-populated to the appropriate rota dates based on the team rotation or whether the ad hoc rota dates are created empty, ready for you to add ministry members on an ad hoc basis.

Teams in a rotation have some distinct advantages over ad hoc rotas. Not only can ministry members better manage their serving commitments by knowing ahead of time which weeks they can expect to be serving (which is especially helpful for parents with young children and the planning of the family diary) but populating the rota with people and roles is a considerably quicker process for ministry overseers. And just because people might typically serve in their regular team(s) in rotation, they can of course still add unavailability and process swaps when they need to.

Of course, some ministries, like worship, often lend themselves better to ad hoc serving, where the mix of band members on each rota date may be a selective mix of musicians on a date-by-date basis. Whether the people in your ministries serve in a regular pattern of rotation or on an ad hoc basis, ChurchSuite makes the process of generating a new rota easy!

Finally, you can optionally enable rota Sign Up and set the Sign-up capacity to be applied to each date on the rota – see the related support articles on "Working with rotas" for more information about rota sign-up. In brief, rota sign-up is a feature that enables ministry members to be able to sign up for available future dates on a published rota from within My ChurchSuite. It's not a "free for all" – only those who are members of the rota's underlying ministry can sign up to the rota. In addition to setting the Sign-up capacity for all dates on the rota, it's also possible to set a different capacity on a date-by-date basis – ideal where additional people are needed just on certain rota dates. Once the sign-up capacity for each rota date is filled, no further sign-ups to that date are permitted. Rota sign-up can be enabled or disabled at any time.

Create a new rota or extend an existing rota?

A rota is always produced for a range of dates – which means that a rota will always come to an end at some point. While it is possible to extend rotas by adding dates one date at a time, we generally recommend you create new rotas for the next range of dates, rather than extending an existing rota indefinitely – so as one rota ends, the new season's rota begins. This method has the distinct advantage of allowing overseers the opportunity to work on the next season's rota in draft and only publish it when they are ready. It's not possible to extend a rota by a range of dates – dates can only be added one at a time.

Having completed all the Add rota options, click Save to create the draft rota.

Each newly-created rota is added with a Draft status, enabling ministry overseers the opportunity to manage or make ad hoc changes to rotas in draft, without the rota being visible to the rota's members in My ChurchSuite. Only Published rotas will be visible to the rota's members in My ChurchSuite – although Ministry Overseers can always view/manage their draft rotas in My ChurchSuite.

You can make ad hoc changes directly to draft and published rotas at any time – see our related support article on Working with rotas for further information about the wide range of rota-management functionality available.

When you are ready to distribute your draft rota and make it available to the rota's members, click the Publish button at the top of the rota page.

Note also the options available on the rota page to Communicate, Edit, Download, Print or Delete the rota.

Distributing the rota is easy too. Once a rota is Published, the Send rota option on the Communicate drop-down menu is available...

From the Send rota pop-up, you can customise the rota email, selecting the range of dates and recipients to send to and an optional accompanying message. Each recipient's rota email will contain a serving date list but you can optionally embed a rota date grid and contact details list.

The sent rota is logged against each recipient rota member's profile page - the example below shows the date list and part of the rota date grid. A personal rota page button is also embedded, which takes each rota member to a curated page of all their serving commitments - and where accept/decline is enabled for any rota, the option to respond by accepting or declining those rota dates.

You can view all of your rotas in the Rotas section at any time – click on a rota to view it. The Search box will filter the list as you type, making it easy to find a particular rota within a long list...

...and the Advanced Search can be used to further filter the Rotas list – ideal for just seeing a list of rotas for a particular Service or just those rotas serving on particular Days or those with Sign-Up enabled or combinations of criteria.

We've produced further related support articles explaining how to work with rotas once they're published.

Archiving a ministry

From time to time you may wish to archive a ministry that's no longer needed but that you are aware may be required in the future and you would therefore prefer not to delete it. Deleting a ministry will also delete all past, active and future rotas associated with the ministry. Instead, you can archive the ministry, which will retain all historic and active rotas for that ministry.

When a ministry is archived, the ministry members still assigned to the ministry are included or excluded from certain reports as appropriate. For example, the Not in a ministry report will correctly include archived ministry members if they are not serving elsewhere in other active ministries. Similarly, the Ministry members report and Multi-ministry members report will correctly exclude archived ministries and members from the report's results.

To archive a ministry, navigate to the ministry's "View" page, click  More and select Archive. Archiving a ministry will make no changes to the ministry – overseers, roles, teams, ministry default serving times or rotation; and no changes will be made to the people assigned to the ministry teams or their roles – they remain exactly as they were when the ministry was active.

You can easily reinstate an archived ministry. From the archived ministry's "View" page, click Set as active – the reactivated ministry is moved from the Archived to the Active Ministries section.

Deleting a ministry

Having considered the Archive ministry option described in the previous section, if you wish to delete a ministry, as well as any linked rotas, navigate to the ministry's "View" page, click More and select Delete.

Confirm the deletion as instructed. This process is immediate, permanent and irreversible – if in doubt, archive first!

Why can't people see the rota in My ChurchSuite?

The most common reason is that the rota has not been published, i.e. it still has a draft status, or that it is a "future" rota that hasn't started yet. A draft rota will only be visible to ministry overseers in My ChurchSuite and will be visible to rota members once it has been published.

Another common mistake is that the overseer has not been set for the ministry in ChurchSuite and so the overseer will not be able to see their rotas as a result!

It may be helpful to define who is a rota member since only rota members can view published rotas in My ChurchSuite. If a rota member is unable to see their rota, it is always because they do not satisfy the following criteria. Rota members are: –

  • all ministry team members, whether on an active or future rota or not. This will include people in a reserves team who may not yet be on the rota;
  • 'One off' people who are not ministry team members but who have been added 'ad hoc' to a future rota date. If all their ad hoc serving dates have passed, they will cease to be a rota member;
  • Ministry overseers are also considered rota members, even if they are not serving on dates on the rota.

In terms of My ChurchSuite functionality, rota members can: –

  • see the My Rotas menu in My ChurchSuite;
  • see any "Next Serving" dates and view published rotas that they are part of;
  • sign-up to future dates on published rotas that have "rota sign-up" enabled;
  • manage their unavailability and that of their linked family members (if the feature is enabled in the Rotas module options);
  • view the "All Rotas" report (if the feature is enabled in the Rotas module options);
  • subscribe to an iCal feed of their rota serving dates/times;
  • arrange swaps with other rota members, subject to compatible role/s and availability (if the feature is enabled in the Rotas module options);
  • send and receive rota group emails;
  • show as being on a rota and/or in a ministry on their Address Book or Children module contact profile page (in the grey panel on the right-hand side of the profile page);
  • not be included in the Not on a Rota report results. This means that ad hoc people serving as 'one-offs' who no longer have any future rota dates will be included in the report's results.

'One Offs' – Top Tip!

Rotas often need people serving as 'one-offs', perhaps added on an ad hoc basis when needed. You might consider adding them to a Reserves Team in the Ministry if you wish them to participate in rota sign-up, swaps and rota communications. You can easily exclude a 'Reserves' team from the rotation when creating rotas.

You may find it helpful to periodically do some Ministry 'housekeeping' – perhaps before creating a 'follow on' rota, removing team members who are not going to serve in that ministry again (perhaps because they're now serving elsewhere). By keeping your Ministries tidy, you'll get the most accurate results when you run reports like "Not in a Ministry" and "Not on a Rota" and your rota-related communications are less likely to go to people who no longer need to receive them.

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