How to create a rota
In this article
Introduction to the Rotas module and basic concepts
Creating a rota for your serving volunteers in ChurchSuite is easy, however we encourage you to take a moment to read this next section in order to familiarise yourself with some basic concepts and the rota terminology you'll see within the Rotas module and other rota-related support articles.
The process of creating rotas begins with setting up the Ministry. Once the ministry is defined, you'll create one, or maybe even many Rotas for that ministry - for example, if you have multiple services, you may create a rota for each Service from the same 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 different service/rotas for the ministry they serve in. Or you may have separate ministries for each service if the teams, roles and ministry members are different.
Avoid the "monster" ministry!
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, rota overseers can be designated to manage their respective areas of responsibility. Also, unnecessary rota clashes will be avoided and the rota sign-up and rota swap features can be maximised without restriction. 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's also easier to direct rota communications more effectively if you are able to communicate with individual ministries or teams within ministries, rather than having to communicate with everyone on a single multi-ministry "monster" rota!
The Ministry is used to define the default structure and serving pattern of teams - the ministry defaults can be overridden when rotas are created. The Ministry is also where you'll assign team members and any roles, and where you set up the rota reminders for the ministry.
While some ministries may have multiple teams - perhaps 3 teams serving in simple rotation once every three weeks, or a team for each of your worship bands - other ministries may only have a single team comprising the "pool" of people who will be assigned to rotas on an ad hoc basis.
You can name your teams and there's no limit to how many team you have in a Ministry. For example, if you have teams where rota members typically serve once a month, you might name your teams "Week 1 Team", "Week 2 Team" etc. Your ministry might have 4 weekly teams or 5 weekly teams, to cover fifth Sundays - we encourage you to take a look at the "Serve 13" rotation option as a really neat way to use your 4 regular weekly teams to cover each fifth Sunday in rotation, as an alternative to recruiting a "Week 5 Team".
You might wish to create a reserves team within a ministry. When adding a rota you can easily exclude teams like a reserves team from the normal team rotation if you wish. You can then supplement in people from the reserves team when you have rota gaps or when need extra people are needed on certain rota dates.
You can create empty teams too. This may be helpful where a ministry doesn't serve on certain Sundays of the month. For example, if you have communion on the 2nd and 4th Sundays monthly, you could either create separate "2nd Sunday" and "4th Sunday" communion rotas, or you could achieve the same results with a single rota by configuring your ministry with 5 teams, but leave the "Week 1" and "Week 3" and "Week 5" teams empty, and select a Serve 13 rotation - this would create a single communion rota with empty weeks 1, 3 and 5, and only have the week 2 and 4 teams on the appropriate rota dates.
When you create the rota for a ministry, you'll be able to select which teams to include for the rota rotation option you want to use. It's also possible for teams to rotate with different frequencies - for example, where your teams serve every week for a month before moving on to the next team in the rotation for the next month. Another example would be where teams serve two weeks on and two weeks off i.e. two weeks in a row before rotation to the next team.
A team may comprise many people, or just an individual person. For example, your organ ministry may comprise 3 organists - you could either set the ministry up with one team (i.e. a single 'pool' of organists) and deploy people to an ad hoc rota on an ad hoc basis - or you could create three teams and assign each organist to their own team; making it possible to rota your organists on a simple rotation rota.
You can create roles for a ministry. Roles may be shared by multiple ministries - e.g. "team leader" role - it's not necessary to create multiple instance of the same role name for each of your ministries. There's no limit to the number of roles you can create for a ministry, and neither is it a requirement to use roles. Roles can be ordered - for example you may wish to see your "Leader" role first on a rota. For role-based ministries (e.g. worship ministry), you can even order your rota by role rather than by name - ideal for spotting role gaps on rota dates.
The Rotas module makes it really easy to communicate with people based on ministry, role(s) and/or team(s) - so you can reach just the right grouping of serving members.
Once a Ministry has been defined, you can easily add rotas from that ministry. When adding a rota you can optionally assign the rota to a service, and in doing so, group together all the rotas for each service (see the related support article on Services).
You can of course make changes to a ministry at any time - adding and removing people, changing roles etc. - when saving certain 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 use your ministry to plan ahead and make ministry changes without necessarily changing existing published rotas, if you wish; or you can deploy new ministry recruits to an existing rota.
Note that changes made to the team structure (adding/removing teams, changing the order or name of teams) will not update existing rotas - the team structure is applied to a new rota at creation based on the rotation options set. For example, deleting a team from a ministry will not delete that team from existing rotas. If your team structure, team order or rotation changes and you wish to deploy that change immediately, you must create a new rota.
While the draft rota is first created from the ministry, you can of course always make ad hoc changes to a rota without those changes affecting the underlying ministry. This gives you the flexibility to make ad hoc role or people changes to particular dates on a rota, without affecting the integrity of the ministry. And while your regular rota members will belong to a team in the underlying ministry, you can of course supplement in ad hoc people to a rota from outside of the ministry too.
Both adult contacts and children can be assigned to Ministries and rotas.
Create a new rota or extend an existing rota?
A rota is always produced for a range of dates. 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 rotas 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 publishing 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.
Next, in this article, we'll explore how to add a Ministry, and then later we'll add the rota(s) for the Ministry.
Adding a new ministry
Navigate to the Rotas module and click into the Ministries section. Click Add ministry at the top of the page. Note also the cog options for each ministry in the list, to View, Duplicate, Edit, Archive and Delete an existing ministry in the list.
Give your new ministry a suitable Name e.g. "AV/Media", "Refreshments", "Set up" - it's not necessary to include the service or site name in the ministry's name as there are separate fields for these two pieces of information.
Next, set the default day(s) and times this ministry typically Serves. Ministry serving days/times can be overridden later when creating a rota, if required. 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 that might serve Monday to Friday. It's not currently possible to create a ministry that Serves overnight past midnight from one day into another.
Next, set the default Team Rotation for the ministry. Again, this can be overridden when generating rotas for a ministry if you wish. For Ad Hoc and Simple Rotation team rotations you'll also be able to set the Repeat Rota frequency, which determines how rota 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 a serve 13 rota by nature is 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 them to a rota on an ad hoc basis, select Ad Hoc too.
- Alternatively, you might create a 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 Team Rotation 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 in rotation - 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 fifth Sundays on the rota.
Next, designate one or more Overseer(s) for the ministry. Overseers will receive swap notification emails in respect of each of the ministry's rotas (if swaps 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. Additionally overseers can manage 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 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 always site-specific, so you'll likely have multiple instances of the same ministry, one for each site. A Rotas module option determines whether ministries and rotas can have members from just the ministry's site or from any site - with the latter, rota members from one site can be included on rotas for other sites.
You can now set the system to send automated email and/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. This is where you'll create teams, Manage roles and assign people to teams and roles. A person can be assigned to multiple teams and they can be assigned multiple roles within their team.
Begin by creating roles that relate to the 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 a new role by entering a role name and clicking Add role. Click OK when you've added/selected all roles relevant to the ministry.
The selected roles are now displayed as headings at the top of your team(s).
Give the team a suitable Name, e.g. "Week 1", "John's Band", or simply "Ministry Team" - the team Name cannot be left blank. At this stage you can begin to search and add people to the team using the contact search - either adding people individually, or bulk-adding people from contact or children tag(s).
Assign roles by checking the appropriate box(es) for each team member. A contact can only be added to a team once, but they can be added to multiple roles in a team and they can be added to multiple teams in a Ministry.Typically you will assign all the role/s that a ministry member is able to perform; although you can make bespoke role changes later on the rota if you wish. For example, a worship ministry member might play guitar, keyboard and drums, but when producing the rota you'll select which role(s) 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 "by role", without needing to know all the particular instruments a person can play!
Importantly, both adults contacts from your Address Book and children/young people in your Children module can be added to teams. 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.
Note: Rota members receive rota reminders to the own email or mobile - children receive reminders to the child email or mobile (not the parent email or mobile) - where a child doesn't have their own email or mobile, you may prefer to enter a parent email and mobile in the child's email and mobile fields on their profile. Emailing a rota works in the same way - being sent to the child email address, not the parent email.
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, and each team will cover each fifth Sunday date in rotation (or you can have 5 teams and ChurchSuite will deploy the designated Week 5 team to fifth Sundays).
Click Save Changes to save your ministry.
When viewing a Ministry, note also the options to Communicate with ministry members, to Add a rota, to Duplicate and Edit the ministry, and buttons to Delete or Archive the ministry. You can also add Notes against a ministry, perhaps as a reminder of changes that need to be made before publishing 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 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 really intuitive and feature-rich to suit the workflows of most churches.
The next section explores how to add a rota for a ministry.
Adding a rota for a ministry
Either click the Add rota button at the top of the Rotas list...
...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), the Service to which this rota relates (optional), and then specify the Date range the rota will run for. A rota always has a start and end date. While it is possible extend an existing rota by adding dates individually, it's intended that a new follow on rota would be produced, rather than perpetually extending rotas. Typically you might create a rota to run for a term, a quarter, a year, or even just a single date, perhaps for a specific event that you are running - you have complete flexibility - the process of adding a new rota really is just a few button clicks since most rota options use the ministry's defaults.
The Days, 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 whether to disable Clashes for the rota (see the related support article 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 - so there's simply the option to set the Repeat Rota, which 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, 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 4 or 5 weekly teams, there is simply the option to select the Teams for Rotate, giving you the option to perhaps exclude your reserves team, but include the 4 or 5 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, they determine how rota dates are created within the rota's date range; whether teams/people are auto-populated to the appropriate dates on the rota based on the rotation, or whether the dates are to be left empty, ready for you to add ministry members on an ad hoc basis.
Clearly teams in rotation have distinct advantages over ad hoc rotas. Not only can ministry members better manage their serving commitments from knowing ahead of time which weeks they can expect to be serving (which is especially helpful for parents with young children), 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 is a more "fluid" team composition.
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 really 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 to 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 participate. 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.
Having completed all the Add rota options, click Save Changes to create the draft rota.
New rotas are created with a Draft status, allowing 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 obviously 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 or rota-management functionality available. For certain rota changes, such as new people joining a team, you might find it more helpful to add those new people to team(s) in the underlying ministry - then, when you save the changes to the ministry, you'll have the option for the ministry changes to be applied to any existing rotas for the ministry.
When you are ready to distribute your draft rota and make it available to the rota's members, simply click the Publish button at the top of the rota page.
Note also the options available on the rota page to Communicate, Download, Print, Edit or Delete the rota.
Distributing the rota is really easy too. Once a rota is Published, the Send rota option on the Communicate drop-down button menu is available...
...which will embed a copy of the rota into the email body. Simply add an email Subject and any personal greeting you wish to add. Note that you can further customise the draft rota email if you wish - scheduling the email, assigning an email template, personalisation with merge field or adding file attachments - then click to Preview Email...
You can now 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 the rota email.
The sent rota also includes a rota member list added at the end of the email. Each rota member and their contact details is included, subject to each rota member's privacy settings. While this table of rota member contact details is intended to help rota members contact one another, perhaps to organise swaps, you can edit and delete this section from the email before sending, if you wish.
You can view your rotas in the Rotas module at any time. From the rotas list, simply select a rota to view. The list of rotas (and ministries) can be re-ordered - click a column headings at the top of the Rotas or Ministries list to change the order. The Search box at the top-right of the Rotas list and Ministries list will filter the list as you type, making it really easy to locate a particular rota or ministry 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.
Archiving a ministry
From time to time you may wish to archive a ministry that's no longer operating, but you may also want to be able to reinstate that ministry at some point in the future and 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 a ministry that is not currently in use. Archiving a ministry retains all historic and active rotas.
To archive a ministry, open the ministry and click Archive, located at the top of the page. Archiving a ministry will make no changes to the ministry - overseers, roles, teams, ministry default serving times and rotation, and even the 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 from reports as appropriate - for example, Not in a ministry report will correctly include archived ministry members if they are not serving in other active ministries. Similarly, the Ministry members report and Multi-ministry members report will correctly exclude archived ministries and members from the report 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 the overseer has not actually been designated in the underlying ministry, and so the overseer will not be able to see their own rota as a result!
Beyond these common mistakes, it may be helpful to define who is a rota member, since only rota members will be able to see their rota. Rota members are: -
- All people that are in a team in the ministry (ministry members), irrespective of whether or not they are on an active or future rota. So this will include people in a reserves team who may not be on the rota yet.
- 'One off' people who are not in the Ministry but who are set to serve ad hoc on a future date on a rota. If all their ad hoc serving dates have passed, they cease to be considered a rota member.
- Ministry overseers are also considered rota members, even if they themselves are not serving on dates on the rota.
If a rota member is unable to see a rota, it is always because they do not satisfy one or more of the above conditions.
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 has "rota sign-up" enabled.
- manage their unavailability (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 own 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!
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.