How to create a rota
Creating a church serving rota for your volunteers could not be easier; and ChurchSuite will even send automated reminders when it's their turn!
In this article
Introduction to the Rotas module
By way of introduction, it may be helpful to understand the rota terminology used throughout ChurchSuite and the workflow of the Rotas module. The process of creating rotas for your serving teams begins with setting up the underlying Ministry structure. While you'll likely only set up each Ministry once, you'll create rotas for that ministry time and time again for each season/term that your rota runs for.
Typically a church would create a separate ministry for each area of serving within the church, rather than attempting to combine all the serving areas of a weekend service into a single ministry. So, for example, a Ministry might be "Refreshments", or "Set Up", or "Creche", or "Worship".
In this way, overseers can be designated to manage their respective areas of responsibility. Also, false rota clashes will be avoided, and the rota sign-up and rota swap features can be maximised without restriction. Your serving rota members will also benefit from seeing just those ministries that are relevant to them, without being overloaded with lots of rota information that is irrelevant and may be confusing. It is also easier to direct your rota communications more effectively if you are able to communicate with individual ministries or teams within ministries, rather than communicating with everyone on a single multi-ministry rota.
The Ministry is used to define the structure and serving pattern of teams; it's also where you'll assign team members, their roles, and set the rota reminders for the ministry. While some ministries may have multiple teams, others may only have a single team, i.e. a single pool of volunteers from which rotas are created. A team may comprise many people, or just a single individual. You might also, for example, have teams that serve on different weeks of the month, or teams that serve in rotation, such as your worship bands. You might also have 'reserve' teams that are not automatically included in rota rotations, but from which you might add to the rota on an ad hoc basis to cover absences or busy periods. Importantly you have lots of flexibility.
Once a Ministry has been defined and a rota created, you can of course make rota and ministry changes at any time, adding and removing people, changing roles etc. When saving changes to a ministry you'll be asked if you wish to apply those changes to any existing rotas based on the Ministry. In this way, you can plan ahead and make ministry changes without affecting existing published rotas if you wish.
While the rota is initially created for a Ministry, you can always make bespoke changes to your rotas, perhaps to add ad hoc rota members to the rota without those changes affecting the underlying Ministry structure. While most rota members will exist in a team in the underlying Ministry, you can also add ad hoc people from outside of the Ministry too. Both adult contacts and children can be assigned to Ministries and rotas.
Adding a new Ministry
Navigate to the Rotas module and select the Ministries menu option. Click "Add ministry" at the top of the page. Note also the cog options for each ministry, to view, edit, archive, delete and even duplicate an existing ministry.
Give your new ministry a suitable name e.g. "AV/Media". You'll be able to give your rotas a more detailed name later, perhaps to distinguish which service the rota is for; so for now, a simple name that reflects the area of serving is sufficient.
Next, set the default serving day(s) and times that members will usually serve. You'll be able to override these ministry defaults when you create rotas - for example, when creating rotas for multiple services from a single ministry. While many ministries are typically for weekend services, note how it is also possible to set up mid-week ministries, e.g. for your weekday Foodbank that might serve Monday to Friday. Note, it is not currently possible to set up a ministry that runs overnight past midnight from one day into another.
These serving times are used to determine the duration that rota members will serve. In the above example, the serving duration will be 1.5 hours. Rotas published from this ministry will therefore have a 1.5 hour duration for each rota date, and clash notifications will be calculated based on that duration. If your Sunday service is typically 10.30am to 12pm, but serving members are required to be on duty at 9.30am and finish around 1pm, you should set the times as 9.30am to 1pm - this will ensure that you receive accurate clash notifications when attempting to add members to other rotas on the same dates. You'll still be able to name your rota as "10.30am service" later.
Similarly, if your worship team typically serves during the service from 10.30am to 11am and they are expected to arrive at 9am to set up, rehearse and sound check, setting their ministry serving times to match (i.e. 9am to 11am), will reduce the risk of false clash notifications when you add a worship rota member to another rota set to serve at a time later in your service. In this way you can more easily facilitate those occasions where people serve in multiple ministry areas on any given date.
Next, set the default Team Rotation and Rota Repeat. Again, these defaults can be overridden when you're publishing a rota. For more information about the different Team Rotations, see the related support article on "Overview of Rota Types".
- 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 them to a rota on an ad hoc basis, select "Ad Hoc" too.
- Alternatively, you might create any number of teams and have them follow a simple rotation pattern. For example, if a team serves every 3 weeks, you'll create three teams; if a team serves every 6 weeks, you'll create six teams. In this instance, select "Simple Rotation" from the drop-down list.
- For weekly team serving, a useful way of covering fifth Sundays is "Serve 13". Four teams serve once per month, e.g. Team 1 on the first week, Team 2 on the second week, etc. On months with five weeks, the extra week will be covered once per year by each team. During a year, each team will typically serve 13 times. By creating five teams and selecting Serve 13, the rota will be created so that the fifth team always covers any fifth Sundays on the rota.
Next, designate one or more ministry overseers. Overseers will receive rota swap notifications (if swaps are enabled in the module options), and they will also be able to manage all their rotas within My ChurchSuite, without them needing to be Rotas module users. In this way you can enable volunteer ministry leaders to be able to organise and manage their areas of ministry responsibility really easily.
Next, upload an optional image for your ministry and add a brief description of the ministry. The ministry image and description display in the My Rotas section of the member-facing My ChurchSuite. Lastly in this section, for multi-site churches, specify which Site this ministry relates to - ministries are site specific, so you'll likely have the same ministry for each site. A Rotas module option can be set to allow rotas/ministries to have members from just the ministry's site or from all/any site.
Then, you can optionally set the system to send automated email or SMS reminders to remind team members when they're serving (see the related support article for further information about this feature).
Continuing, scroll down the Ministry page to the "Team Members" section.
Begin by creating and assigning the Roles that relate to this particular Ministry - click "Manage roles". You can create ministry-specific roles or use the same role(s) for multiple ministries if you wish. In the pop-up "Manage Roles" window, select from your existing roles (if any) or add new roles (type a role name and click '+Add role'). Click 'OK' when you are done.
The selected roles are now displayed as headings at the top of your Team(s).
Give your Team a suitable name, e.g. "Week 1", "John's Band", or simply "Ministry Team", if you wish. The Team name cannot be left blank. At this stage you can begin to add people to your Team using the contact search - either adding people individually, or bulk-adding them by Address Book or Children module tag(s).
You can also assign roles by checking the appropriate boxes for each team member. A contact can only be added to a team once, but they can be added to multiple teams in a Ministry, and they can also be assigned multiple roles within a Team. Typically you will assign all the role/s that a ministry member is able to perform; although you may later modify the actual roles a person is serving on the rota on a date-by-date basis. For example, a worship ministry member might play guitar, keyboard and drums, but when producing the rota you'll select which role they are serving for each rota date. In this way rota members will be more easily able to swap with other rota members who have the same role/s, and ministry overseers will more easily be able to add people to rota dates knowing the particular instruments a person can play.
Importantly, both adults contacts from your Address Book and children in your Children module can be added to a team/ministry. Within both ChurchSuite and My ChurchSuite, children are indicated by a "child icon" next to their name on rotas and reports and in the underlying Ministry.
To create further Teams click "Add team".
Repeat the process of adding all your teams, team members and assigning roles. For "Simple Rotation" rotas your ministry will need a separate team for the full rotation e.g. a ministry serving every other week will require at least two teams. For "Serve 13" rotas your ministry will need 4 teams (or 5 teams if you have a designated fifth Sunday team).
Remember to save the changes to your Ministry before you navigate away from the page.
When viewing a Ministry page (see below), note also the options to Communicate with ministry members, add a rota, or duplicate/edit or delete the ministry. You can also add Notes against your ministries, perhaps as a reminder of changes that need to be made before pubishing the next rota.
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 team members to a ministry at any time by returning to the Ministry and selecting "Edit Ministry". For Simple Rotation and Serve 13 rotas, when adding new members to a ministry in this way you'll be prompted to choose whether to apply the changes to future dates on any existing 'active' or 'future' 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).
Consequently it's 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 a rota who may not yet be a member of any team in the underlying ministry. By its nature, volunteer management can be a very fluid task, so we've made the process of managing rotas and the underlying ministries really intuitive and feature-rich to suit any workflow and church set up.
Up to this point we have simply set up the Ministry structure, the teams, the people in those teams and their role(s). From here, publishing a rota is now really straightforward. The next section explores how to add a rota for a ministry.
Adding a Rota for a Ministry
Either select "Add rota" from the Rotas page...
...or select "Add rota" from the top of the Ministry page.
On the "Add rota" page that opens, select the Ministry (if not already pre-selected), and then specify the date range your rota will run for. This might be a for a term, a quarter, or even just a single date, perhaps for a specific event you're running - you have complete flexibility.
The 'day(s)', 'time', 'team rotation', and 'teams to rotate' options will be pre-populated with the settings from the underlying Ministry, however you are able to make custom changes to these at this stage. For example, you might be using a single Ministry to add rotas for your morning service and your evening service; in which case you would simply edit the rota times to reflect the different serving time slot.
Note that the serving time duration is applied to the entire rota. While you can make bespoke rota changes, including adding rota dates and changing the serving start time and end time on a rota date, the serving duration (start time to end time) applies to all dates on the rota. So, in the example below (when adding a new rota), the serving time duration is one and a half hours. The overall rota start/end times can be edited after the rota is created and changes made will apply to all dates on your rota. However, while you can change the start time for one of your rota dates (by selecting "edit date" on the action cog for a rota date), you cannot change the end time - the end time is derived by adding the rota serving time duration to the date "start time" i.e. one and a half hours in this example.
Next, if you have more than one team in your ministry and you have selected a Serve 13 or Simple Rotation, you can select which Teams to Rotate - so for example, you might exclude one team entirely; such as your "Reserves Team" and just rotate the remaining teams.
Depending on any existing rotas in operation, or if your rota starts part way through a month, a rota with Simple Rotation will allow you to change the Start Team for the rotation. The starting team will be assigned to the first rota date on the rota and then the remaining teams will be added in rotation to subsequent rota dates based on the teams you have selected to rotate.
For Simple Rotation you can optionally set a serving pattern, representing the number of consecutive dates each team will serve on the rota before rotating to the next team. For example, if Team A serve two weeks running and then Team B serve two weeks and then Team C; set the serving pattern to "2 Date(s)". If however Team A serves for an entire month and then Team B serves the next month, set the serving pattern to "1 Month(s)".
Finally, you can enable "Rota sign up" and set the rota sign-up capacity - see the related support article "Working with rotas once they're active" for more information about rota-sign-up. In brief, rota sign-up allows ministry members to sign up to available future dates on a rota in My ChurchSuite. Once the capacity for each rota date is filled, no further sign-ups are permitted for that date.
Click "Save Changes" to generate the rota.
New rotas are created with a "Draft" status, until such time as you set the status to "Published", allowing ministry overseers the opportunity to manage or make changes to rotas in draft, without them being visible to rota members until the rota is published. Only Published rotas will be visible in My ChurchSuite to your serving rota members (although Overseers can obviously see draft rotas too).
To publish a draft rota, simply click the "Publish rota" button at the top of the rota. Note also the options available to communicate, download, print, edit or delete the rota. You can make changes direct to this rota page; changes are saved automatically and are immediately visible to rota members when they view their rota in the My Rotas section of My ChurchSuite.
Distributing a rota is really easy too; so you can let everyone know that a new rota has been published. Once a rota status is "Published", the "Send rota" option on the "Communicate" drop-down button is available...
...embedding your rota into the email body; simply add an email subject. You can further edit or customise the email if you wish (e.g. scheduling the email, assigning an email template, personalisation or attachments), then click to "Preview Email"...
...and review the list of recipients. By default all rota members are included in the distribution, but you can edit the list, adding and removing recipients as needed. Click "Send Email" to send your rota.
The sent rota also includes a rota member list at the end of the email. Each rota member and their contact details (subject to each member's privacy settings) is included - making it really easy for rota members to contact one another if they need to.
You can view your rota(s) at any time in the Rotas module. From the rotas list, simply select a rota to view. The list of rotas (and ministries) can be re-ordered - click a column heading at the top of the rota or ministry list to change the display order. The "Search" at the top right of the Rotas list and Ministry list will filter the list as you type, making it really easy to locate a particular rota or ministry from within a long list.
Note about Ad Hoc rotas
While Simple Rotation and Serve 13 rotas will be ready-populated with the serving teams and members and roles of the underlying Ministry, if you have chosen to create an "AdHoc" rota for a Ministry, this "View Rota" page is where you will now assign ministry members/teams to serve on the various rota dates. In addition to adding contacts that have set as Ministry members in a team, you can also use 'contact search' to add ad hoc contacts that are not in the underlying ministry. In both instances, you can always make bespoke changes to rota dates, the serving team members and their roles, without affecting the underlying ministry set up.
Archiving a ministry
From time to time you may wish to archive a ministry that's no longer operating, but you may wish to reinstate that ministry at some point in the future and would therefore prefer not to delete it. Deleting a ministry will delete all past, active and future rotas associated with the ministry. Instead, you can archive ministries that are no longer in use. Archiving a ministry retains all historic and active rotas.
Archiving a ministry (select "Archive ministry" in the top right of the ministry page) will make no changes to the ministry - overseers, roles, teams, ministry default serving times and rotation, and even people assigned to the ministry remain exactly as they were when the ministry was active.
When a ministry is archived, the ministry members still assigned to the ministry are included/excluded from reports as appropriate - for example, the "Not in a ministry" report will correctly include archived ministry members if they are not serving in other active ministries. Similarly, the "Ministry members" and "Multi-ministry members" will correctly exclude archived ministries from the results.
Why can't I see a rota in My ChurchSuite?
The most common answer to this question is simply 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 easy mistake is that an overseer has not actually been designated as overseer in the underlying ministry, and so the overseer will therefore not be able to see their own rota as a result.
Beyond these common mistakes, it may be helpful to define who is considered a rota member - since only rota members will be able to see their rotas. Rota members are: -
- All people that are in a team in a Ministry, irrespective of whether or not they are on an active or future rota.
- 'One off' people who are not in the Ministry, but who are set to serve ad hoc on a future date. If all their serving dates have passed, they cease to be rota members.
- Ministry Overseers are also rota members.
If a rota member is unable to see a rota, it is because they do not satisfy one or more of the above conditions.
In terms of 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.
- be able to sign-up to future dates on published rotas that have sign-up enabled.
- add their unavailability.
- arrange swaps with other rota members (subject to compatible role/s and availability), if rota swap functionality is enabled in the Rotas module settings.
- send and receive emails using the "Send email to rota" feature in My ChurchSuite.
- show as being on a rota in the their Address Book or Children module contact profile page (in the grey panel on the right hand side of the page).
- not be included in the "Not on a Rota" report results (meaning that 'one offs' who no longer have any future rota dates will be included in the report results).
Q: I served as a one-off on a rota last month, but I can no longer see the rota in My ChurchSuite and I no longer receive rota emails - why?
A: This is because you are an ad hoc rota member who has no future serving dates remaining on the rota. If you wish to participate in rota swaps and rota sign-up, ask your overseer to be added to a team in the Ministry (perhaps a 'reserves' team), then you'll be able to see the rota in My ChurchSuite, even if you're not currently set to serve on a future date on an active rota.
Q: I served as a one-off on a rota last month to help my church out, but now I keep receiving emails about rota swap requests, even though I've not agreed to any future serving dates - why?
A: You're receiving emails still because your church added you to a team in the Ministry. If you're not expecting to serve again on that rota, you might ask to be removed from the Ministry. You'll no longer receive rota emails or see that rota in My ChurchSuite.
'One Offs' - Top Tip!
Churches that have people serving on rotas as 'one offs', perhaps added to rotas on an ad hoc basis when needed, might consider adding them to a Reserves Team in the Ministry if they wish them to participate in rota sign-up, swaps and rota communications. You can easily exclude your Reserves team from the rotation when creating a rota. However, if a 'one off' is unlikely to serve on that rota again in the future, you would likely not add them to the Ministry.
You may find it helpful to periodically do some Ministry 'housekeeping', 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 communications are less likely to go to people who no longer need to receive them.