“I thought the meeting was on Thursday.”
“Oh … you booked the Cana room for THAT date?”
“I’m glad we finally got this on the calendar! Do we win the award for most emails sent to determine availability?”
Does any of that sound familiar? Maybe you haven’t said the last one out loud, but most of us have probably thought it! For some of you, having your parish staff share calendars is a no-brainer, and you’ve been doing it for years. For others, it may still be a matter of paper datebooks and perhaps a room-booking spreadsheet housed on the administrative assistant’s desktop.
Why Shared, Digital Calendars Make Sense
As your staff members plan their days and track their time, having this work-related data accessible to the rest of the office can be helpful. Going digital means you’re not limited to someone’s in-office presence to know their schedule. Knowing when other people are booked increases efficiency by decreasing the drawn out email volley. If you’re concerned about privacy, most calendar apps have ways of limiting what other people see. So the DRE, for example, doesn’t need the entire church staff to know they’re meeting with a parent by name. But everyone could see that they are unavailable at that time. So what digital calendars are best for collaboration and inter-office communication?
Use Microsoft Outlook, if You’ve Got It
The Microsoft Office suite is used by many organizations. If you run your parish email through Microsoft Outlook, consider taking advantage of their calendar tool! On your desktop, it’s only a click away to toggle between your email, calendar, contacts, and other tools. Within the calendar feature, you can easily create meeting requests and reserve rooms if your team is set up for it. Changing the details of your calendar’s visibility is easy, and so is sharing it with others on the parish staff. The application is customizable on multiple levels, from the ways you’d view multiple calendars (side-by-side panels or overlaid together in one) to the colors.
Google Calendar is Free & Easy to Use
If your parish staff isn’t using Outlook and you’re looking for a free tool, Google Calendar is consistently a top choice. It’s accessible from any browser and any device, and it syncs with most any calendar app someone might be using privately.
One of its advantages is the ability to keep multiple calendars in one place, even for yourself. Let’s look at the DRE example again. The average DRE will likely have several calendars, depending on their exact responsibilities. The same person needs to track personal meetings, children’s faith formation, and several ages of sacramental preparation. For their own organizational sanity, having these tracking on separate, color-coded, and uniquely shareable calendars could be helpful.
Inviting others on your team to view your calendar is easy. Viewing and hiding those calendars is as simple as checking a box. So if you’d like to keep a room reservation calendar, you can view it when trying to schedule a meeting or event, and hide it as you go about your daily work. Also, since Google is such a widely used platform, staff members with schedules beyond the standard 9 to 5 can easily share their work calendar with loved ones.
Do You All Have Macs?
Few parishes would have an entire team of Macs. But if a tech-savvy donor felt incredibly inspired, perhaps you’re the exception to the rule! Apple Calendar is the built-in app for Mac and iPhone operating systems that integrates well with other applications. Got an offsite meeting? The Maps app can suggest directions. Alert notifications for upcoming events can push to your desktop. But if your entire team isn’t using Apple products, the integrations to other programs and devices can be a bit clunky.
Applications Beyond the Big 3
Outlook, Google Calendar, and Apple Calendar are the most popular calendars for organizations, but they aren’t all that’s out there. If you’re dissatisfied with the above, there are some other apps to meet your needs.
- For Very Small Parish Staffs: Zoho Apps offer alternate programs to Google Suite, including spreadsheets, word processing, and a calendar. Unlike Google Suite, which charges you to link an email to your unique domain (ex. @stgregs.org rather than @gmail.com), Zoho Apps offers you up to 5 users for free.
- For Outward-Facing Event Sharing: TeamUp is an app specifically for teams. The mechanics make it ideal for the calendar to be centrally managed by an organized administrator, though other uses can adjust their own calendars. The developers recognize that outside events are represented in an internal calendar. With TeamUp, you can share calendar events on social media or even with a unique, customizable landing page.
- For Collaborative Work within a Small Team: Technically an app designed for families, Cozi is fairly niche. It even includes a section for recipes and collaborative errand lists. This wouldn’t be a helpful app for an entire parish office, but it could help smaller teams within a larger church. In addition to a calendar, it allows shared access to-do lists and notes. Cozi is available across all devices.
What digital calendar does your vibrant parish find helpful? Tell us in the comments!