Creating special check-in schedules

  • By Michael Garrison One Year Ago

Christmas is coming! (but you knew that, didn't you?) And twice every year, most churches find themselves in need of tweaking their check-in configuration as they change and add service times.

Since check-in configuration isn't the area that most admins live, it's easy to forget steps (or wonder if you have). So here is one way (of many) that you might consider setting up your special times, that makes doing it again next Christmas (and Easter) easier on you.

Step 1: Create a special event schedule

Start off by going to the Check-in Page (on the Admin Tools menu) and click on "Schedules".

Consider creating a category called "Extra Service Times" under which you can put your reusable and infrequently-used holiday service times. Create as many services under that category as you need. Here's the fun part: you can just name them something like "Special Service Schedule 1" or "Holiday Service 1" or the like; unlike how most churches name their recurring schedules, there's really no need to name these services after the time they're to occur.

And here's the magic sauce: when you go to set the schedule, set it to be "Recurring" with the pattern of "Specific Dates". That way you don't have to worry about the service popping up at the wrong date and time next year (or next week!) without your specific intervention.

Step 1b:

So once that's set, click "+ Add Date" and give it your specific one-time calendar date for this particular service. Repeat for each of your services, one schedule per service.

Let's say that you're going to have two services on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas afternoon; your schedules might end up looking like this:


Make sure, as always, that you've set the beginning time and service lengths correctly, and that you've set the correct (and non-overlapping) time offsets for beginning and ending check-in.

Next year (or at Easter), you'll be able to come in to these schedules (however many of them you need), change the start time of each service if necessary, and click the "Add Date" to add another occurrence for that schedule to be available. But until then, these schedules won't get in your way.

Step 2: Stop your normal services

This may or may not be strictly required by your service times, but I find it easiest to keep in mind if, on special event weekends, we just have ALL the services be special events, rather than trying to mix-and-match special and regular service times. So how do we keep the normal services from opening up at their normal times (which this year especially could be really messy, since Christmas Eve is a Sunday)?

Easy: just go into your existing regular service schedules, click "Edit" and click on "Edit Schedule". Since these services are weekly events, there's an option at the bottom of the dialogue now to add a date range of exclusions for this service. To be safe, I usually add an exclusion from Thursday to Tuesday =)


Now you've got your new schedules ready to go, and the old ones won't get in the way. Almost done...

Step 3: Set Check-in configuration

This step is the *real* reason it's so beneficial to re-use your schedules holiday after holiday: the real pain with unusual service times is in setting up which ages go to which rooms for which service times. But often these don't change much from holiday to holiday, so if we can slough through this first time, then next time it'll probably be 95% correct for you and ready to go.

So on your Check-in menu, click "Check-in configuration". Usually, you're going to need to do this for each of your areas (in a standard installation, the two areas are "Weekly Service Check-in Area" and "Volunteer Check-in Area". Choose one to start.

Once you're looking at the screen with your "Areas and Groups" where you set labels, age ranges and grade ranges, click the "Schedule" button at the top of the page.


Now you'll be looking at your grid of checkboxes correlating your ages and rooms for each service time. Change the "Schedule Category" dropdown box at the top of the page to the category you created for these Extra Service Times, and then go through and tick all the correct boxes.


Rinse and Repeat

Now repeat this step for your other areas: if you chose "Weekly Service" the first time, go back and do the same thing for your "Volunteers Check-in Area" now.

Putting things back to normal

This is going to be your favorite section. The reality is that, with this system, you don't have to do anything after the last of your Christmas services - next week will just go back to normal. And next time you have extra services, your schedules and areas are probably pretty close to correct already, so mostly you just need to add your special services times and add exclusions for the appropriate dates again like we did in steps 1b-2 here. Go and enjoy your Christmas!

Testing it out

Oh, you want to be sure you haven't missed anything, ahead of time? Good for you. Fortunately, this is easy too! On say, Wednesday this week, just add an additional service time to the special event services you created (step 1b) for that day (12/20 this year). Then be there at the correct time and make sure you can check in (or just change the Time portion of the Start Date/Time dialogue to the current time - but in this case be sure to put it back when you're done). The extra occurrence in the schedule doesn't matter - you can remove it later or just leave it.

Spark Development Network
Flagstaff, AZ

Michael Garrison recently left his job in Architecture to become one of the "new guys" at Spark (the "Core Team"), but he's still helping out Christ's Church of Flagstaff and other non-profits with tech needs in his off-hours, trying to make computers do what computers do best, so that people are freed to do what we do best: relate with people!