Everyone has their favorite go-to tools and resources. In my time as a pastor and ministry leader, I have found a few favorites of my own that I believe will make your ministry job a little easier as they have mine. This one is going to be long and full of links (click any tool name), so in no particular order, I give you my fave fifteen.
(Free, All Devices)
What it is: A free, third-party file-sharing app for mobile and desktop devices using Windows, Apple, or Android.
How it works: Either by accessing through the website or installing the share folder on your computer, dropbox keeps files in the cloud for mobile and keeps actual files on the hard drive of desktop/laptop computers.
After signing up, everyone starts with 2Gb of space. If you share your folders and get people to join Dropbox, they reward you with more space. I’m still using the free version and have over 8Gb of space. Using either your wireless data or wifi connection (you can set which one), Dropbox will sync when changes are made to a document in the shared folder and update the file on all other devices that share that folder and file.
You can pick who you want to have access and it has permission levels too. It’s not just an open door to everything on your computers. For business with large files, I recommend buying a storage plan, but individuals sharing photos, Word docs, and spreadsheets should have no problem with the free version.
. (Free, All Devices)
What it is: A note-taking and inter-office communication tool.
How it works: You can also sync this program across all of your devices. Take notes in meetings, take pictures that insert directly to your notes, start office chats, and even free-draw with your finger on touch devices.
I probably haven’t tapped into everything this one can do, but it has organized my life in incredible ways. Virtual Mentor Michael Hyatt recorded this podcast and this blog all about it that you may find more informative.
(Purchases as low as $3)
What it is: A website with free to cheap downloads of screen games, videos, curriculum, event ideas, and other tedious youth ministry tasks that require a lot of time and creativity (and it doesn’t suck).
How it works: Go and sign up for an account. After that, it’s kind of like and instant Amazon.com. You search through the games and products, find what you want, then purchase and download. If you are a youth or children’s pastor, you’ll love this site. Seriously; best one out there.
4. Thom Rainer’s Blog/Podcast
What it is: A blog about ministry leadership and strategy for the hard stuff from a seasoned vet with a grandfatherly way about him.
How it works: The podcasts are short and very helpful if you had a bit of a commute to work and the blogs are also short and full of practical ministry advice for the nuts and bolts.
Lots of really great content here. Advice on budgeting, handling difficult people, trends in church growth are all under one roof. As the president of Lifeway.com, Thom has seen it all.
(Subscription, All Devices)
What it is: The Christian version of Netflix. A vast online library of Conferences, Bible study curriculum, and kids programming all on demand.
What it does: Either by Air Drop to an Apple TV from an iOS device, or the app available on Roku, it operates just like Netflix. There are marriage, parenting, children’s and youth curriculum from today’s famous and not so famous Christian teachers.
Churches can sign up for a site license for a fee and then offer access to the entire congregation for free. RightNow Media will also help you to roll out the program and get your people using it for free. One of the easiest applications is small group Bible study in homes and children’s content for those “babysitting” nights. Why not teach God’s Word while fundraising for camp at the same time?
I’ve used this for a few years now in our home and I cannot tell you how awesome home church has become (that’s when we stay home Sunday mornings once a month and have church as a family).
(Free, $1 Purchases)
What it is: An online graphic design resource for non-designers.
How it works: Select a project type (social media post, web banner, poster, letter, etc), then file through all of the templates of well-designed artwork. Select what you like, then fill in the text. Save it. Yes, it’s that easy. Or you could go through a 12 week course on Photoshop. Your choice. I bleed Adobe, but this is just so easy and quick.
Many items are free, but most that are not are only $1. I cannot tell you how many hours of my life this site has given back to me.
What it is: A blog that gives away free, hi-quality photos from professional photographers.
How it works: Find what you like, right click and save. You can search the many photos. It is mostly photos of nature and landscapes, so it is a great place to find still backgrounds for worship or blog headers, etc. In fact, I probably used one for this blog’s header! (I did)
(Subscriptions as low as $14/month) and
What it is: A scheduling hub for worship teams (really, any team you want to put in) for service planning. They have now branched out into database services for churches.
How it works: I could not tell you everything you need to know about this site in a simple blog post. My best advice, find someone who uses it and ask them to show you or look up the tour videos on their site or YouTube channel. The most common use is for worship pastors and senior pastors. They will assign people in the database a role on a certain date like “Guitar” or “Service Host.” Then the person assigned will be emailed and have a chance to accept or decline. If they accept, they can then access the service schedule/format, complete with music mp3’s and chord charts to learn the songs as well as the order of service.
It syncs live too. As soon as you make changes, it changes for everyone else too.
Double Feature: Transposr.com
is a site that allows you to copy/paste a chord chart into the field, select the key it is in, then select the key you want to change it to, and presto! In a matter of seconds it changes all the chords to the new key. It’s not perfect, so always check its work after. It can also change mp3’s, which sometimes can be both helpful and hilarious. In fact, here’s what Chris Tomlin would sound like if he sang in man keys: Everlasting God.
9. Fontsquirrel, Typewolf, and WhatTheFont
(Free, Some Paid Elements)
What these are: Sites with free fonts to bolster your font library beyond the standard issue.
How it works: If you look up a popular, expensive font, they probably have a similar font that they will offer you. If you want the actual fonts, most of those are for purchase.
Whatthefont.com is actually a font identifier, in case you see a great font and want to know what it is. You can upload a photo and it will identify the font for you for free.
(Free, Subscription-based starting at $42/month)
What it is: A streaming service for your online church services.
How it works: Livestream.com is probably the most popular streaming service out there, though it may or may not suite your particular needs. I like livestream for streaming services and classes online because the free version is still pretty powerful.
Once you get past the free version, it can get a little pricey, but this group is marketing themselves as a live production studio in a box, offering hardware as well as software for running the production side of church services. Not gonna lie, the hardware isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely one of the best all-in-one solutions out there.
I have also used Ustream.com, which will get the job done. However, it has a bit of a technical learning curve to it. Both have the ability to store shows online in the cloud, publish to social media/web, and stream in HD (though ustream honestly does not do as well in full 1080p and is very reliant on a super fast wifi upload speed of at least 10Mb/s Up). Test your wifi speed at SpeedTest here.
What it is: A free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office.
How it works: Everytime I tell people about this program I am shocked all over again that it is free. This suite does the basics of just about every Office program. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and a few others are included. It works a little differently and isn’t as powerful or familiar as Office is, but if you don’t have the money to spring for Microsoft, this is a great alternative to get to that point. It got me through seminary. I wrote many a Turabian format research paper on this software!
(Free, Subscription-based starting at $10/month)
What it is: A streaming service for music (and now podcasts).
How it works: It’s like iTunes, but you don’t have to buy the music. Just find what you like in the ever-growing library and add it to a playlist or to My Music for later. It also has a social feature that you don’t really need, but if you want everyone to know every song you’re listening to, knock yourself out. Here’s a public list I made for browsing the rest of this post.
The cool application for this is that it syncs across devices, so your playlists, like pre-service music or youth party jams, can be accessed from any computer that you have signed into Spotify.
Here’s another cool feature. I used to control my presentation computer that was piping music through the sound system with the app on my phone. I’m not sure if that is a paid feature, but the higher quality streaming is worth the minimal fee they charge for it.
13. WordPress.com and WordPress.org
(Free, Elements for Purchase)
What it is: A platform for creating easy to edit websites.
How it works: This is a little confusing. Why two extensions? Well, because they are different. WordPress.com is an easy-to-use, template-based, drag and drop kind of site where you pick your theme, fill in the text and pictures, and bam! You’ve got a website. You can edit pretty easily, however, you cannot edit as much as you can with wordpress.org and you don’t technically own a dot com site.
However, you DO own the dot org site! This version also allows you to pick a theme and work from it. Though it is a bit more complicated, you can edit just about anything you want! This is both good and bad if you aren’t experienced with web design or have someone nearby that is. You can do more with it, but you can also jack more of it up beyond your ability to repair pretty quickly too!
Honestly, if you’re not able to do a Wordpres.org version of your site and do not want to blog, I would skip to my next tool.
(Free with elements for purchase except Squarespace, which requires payment to use)
What they are: All free website creation sites with drag and drop editing.
How it works: Much like wordpress.com, you pick a theme, fill in all the spaces, and publish. Boom. Super cool website. You can blog, upload media, sell items, or whatever you want with these sites. You can purchase a domain name and they will hook it up for you too. Seriously, it’s putting web developers on notice and they are not happy about it.
Here’s the catch: Have a professionally created site is what we should all aspire to and if you use these platforms, it will be obvious. Just like showing up for church wearing the same shirt as someone else, your site could like identical to another church website who also picked the same theme.
They look great and are good enough to just have something to get started, but bloggers beware: If you ever decide to migrate (move) your site from one of these platforms to a WordPress.org site or other host that you own, you will not be able to move the whole blog. Why? Because in the fine print of these sites, you technically do not own the site. It’s like your iTunes library. Wait, what? Yeah, read up on that. Bruce Willis can tell you more about it.
What it is: An internal messaging system that can replace email, share documents, and sync across multiple devices.
How it works: The front end is a little technical and everyone needs an email address to begin (ironically). After downloading the software to all computers, everyone sets up their own user name. The admin sets up groups including a “general” tab for messages to all.
We use this at work and love it. I’m also pretty sure I’ve only tapped into about 20% of what it can do.
The beauty of this app? No servers necessary. If you travel, it works. If you go home and need to upload a large file or send it to someone, it works. All cloud-based on it’s own.
I use it to upload frequently-requested documents to our general tab so everyone can access them without asking the same person for the same documents over and over. Some frequently used documents could be your vision statement or bylaws, room request or media request forms, or child protection and abuse reporting documents. This app can also integrate other apps like dropbox and a host of others.
I am sure there are more tools out there that some of you swear by. Make your case in the comments as these are definitely not one-size-fits-all.