Getting started with the Rotas module

Welcome to ChurchSuite's Rotas module! This module enables churches and organisations to manage their volunteers by creating rotas, assigning roles, sending automated reminders and much more. Creating a rota for your serving volunteers in ChurchSuite is easy, however we encourage you to take a moment to read this article 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.

Introduction to the Rotas module and basic concepts

The process of creating rotas begins with setting up 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 services/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!

Overseer/s can be assigned to a ministry. Overseers can manage their rotas and teams within My ChurchSuite, without needing user access to the Rotas module. In this way you can empower volunteer ministry leaders to organise and easily manage their areas of responsibility. Overseers will receive swap notification emails (if swaps are enabled in the module options) and unavailability clash notification emails if unavailability causes a clash for people already on a rota.

The Ministry is used to define the default structure and serving pattern of teams but the ministry defaults can be overridden when rotas are created. 

The Ministry is where you will assign team members...

...and roles and where you can set up automatic email/sms rota reminders.

Team rotation options

When you create the rota for a ministry, you'll be able to choose which teams to include for the rota rotation option you select. There are different team rotation settings to choose from:

  • Ad hoc if your ministry does not follow any specific serving pattern eg a preaching rota.
  • Simple Rotation if your teams rotate eg you have three teams and each team serves every three weeks.
  • Serve 13 which enables you to easily cover fifth Sundays. Four teams serve once per month e.g. Team 1 on the first week, Team 2 on the second week and 5th Sundays are covered by each team in rotation. This means that each team will typically serve 13 times a year.

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 teams you can 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 four 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.

It's 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 rotating to the next team.

A team may comprise many people, or just an individual person. For example, if your organ ministry has three organists, you could 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. Alternatively, 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 instances 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.

It's also possible to allow rota members to sign up for future dates using the Sign Up feature. Services can also be created. 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 for that 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.

When you create a rota it's initially saved as a draft rota. This gives you the flexibility to make role or people changes to particular dates on a rota without affecting the underlying 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.

Once created, your rota will show who is serving each week. As both adult contacts and children can be assigned to ministries and rotas, a child icon will distinguish any children serving on the rota; contacts in red indicate a clash as they're serving on another rota at that time; and contacts in red with a strike through have logged that they are unavailable on that date/time.

Separate tabs enable you to review Clashes and Unavailability and to view rota Statistics and any Changes which have been made to the rota.

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 rota has been Published it can be emailed to rota members...

...and it will show in the My Rotas section of My ChurchSuite. Within My ChurchSuite, rota members can see an overview of their Next Serving dates and log their unavailability.

They can also see their forthcoming serving dates in more detail as well as a list of rota members so that they can arrange and record swaps.

Rota overseers can create and edit rotas from My ChurchSuite.

Rotas can also be linked to Plans in the Planning module, ensuring that your service or event run sheet includes all the relevant people and is automatically updated with any rota changes.

Module settings

We recommend that you review the Rota module's settings. Click on the cog icon in the top right hand corner of the Rotas module and check all the settings on each of the Module and My ChurchSuite tabs. Remember to Save your changes before navigating away from the module settings.

In the Module tab there are two options to consider.

You can choose whether or not to enable the Unavailability feature. This allows any contact who has access to My Rotas to submit their unavailability - perhaps to let you know that they’re on holiday and therefore unable to serve. Rota Overseers are also able to manage unavailability for their teams.

If you have multiple sites on your account, you can choose whether or not you would like your rotas to have members from All Sites or just the site to which the Ministry is linked.

In the My ChurchSuite tab, there are further options.

These allow you to:

  • Enable My ChurchSuite access - allowing contacts who are on a rota to see the rota dates and the contact details of others who are on the same rota(s) as them.
  • Enable All Rotas access - a helpful feature which enables any contact with My Rotas access to see the "All Rotas" page which shows all rotas for a given date.

  • Disable Swaps if you would prefer rota members not to be able to arrange swaps. Even if this is ticked, rota overseers will still be able to log swaps.
  • Customise the name of the Rotas module in My ChurchSuite. In addition, the name of the module within ChurchSuite can be changed by going to Administrator > Modules.
  • Select who receives emails which are sent about the rota.

Going deeper - next steps

While the Rotas module is very intuitive, it's packed with lots of feature-rich functionality to help you manage your volunteer teams. You can read more about the features mentioned above and all the other rota functionality in the module's support articles. Some key articles include:

  • How to create a rota
  • Working with rotas in ChurchSuite once they're created
  • Working with rotas in My ChurchSuite
  • Rota clash management
  • Rota unavailabilty
  • Grouping rotas with services
  • Viewing multiple rotas in a single report
  • Adding people to plans

Getting help

You’ll find the answers to most questions in our support articles which are available through the Support beacon in the bottom right hand corner of each page in the Rotas module. We also have a Support Articles section on our website. If you can’t find an answer in the support articles, do get in touch - we’re happy to help!

Still need help? Contact ChurchSuite Contact ChurchSuite