Church office in your pocket: the diary
Get your iPhone to help you do your stuff
Maybe you’re a church minister, someone who works in a church office or serves in an area of church life. Anything that makes it easier to handle these responsibilities is very welcome, and my iPhone has been a huge help in this, especially as I travel around.
With over 500,000 apps to choose from, it’s hard to separate the sheep from the goats, so here are some apps I’ve found useful. Many of them are available for other smartphones.
Probably the most important thing in church life is keeping track of what's on and when. The built-in Calendar app on my iPhone isn't bad, but for me the key feature is being able to easily see a month at a time. That way I can see how the month is panning out and where I can fit another date in. The Diary app shows a month view, but only indicates appointments via a simple dot – not enough information.
I've diligently tried with phones and Palms in the past, but nothing replaced the ease of use of a paper diary. However, the outstanding diary software, Pocket Informant (iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry), is the first setup good enough to move me off dead trees and give me something extra.
Pocket Informant shows specific events in the 'month' view including once of its best features – colour coding of events – great for quickly seeing if I've scheduled enough family time or may be too busy with church activities. It makes it really easy to plan ahead as I can really see the big picture. Multiple reminders for events can easily be set (e.g. one hour before + five minutes before).
You can also see events in 'list', 'day', 'week' or 'today' views – and these layouts are very configurable, giving obsessive tinkerers like myself plenty to play with. As well as multiple date views the app also handles notes, tasks and contacts (although I use different apps for these requirements, which I'll share about in due course).
One of Pocket Informant's killer features is some clever synchronisation with Google Calendar, Outlook and – coming in the future – your Mac software. Mac users needn't wait though. Mac or PC users can configure Pocket Informant to backup to or 'sync' with a Gmail Calendar, where your dates can be viewed online as well. Dates can be added in either location and appear in the other as syncing is both ways.
You can also do some further neat stuff with a little technical knowledge. Sync your ChurchInsight calendar to a Google calendar via iCal. Then sync that Google Calendar with Pocket Informant. I've done these two steps separately, not together, but this seems perfectly feasible. Any events you add in ChurchInsight will be updated into the Google Calendar and in turn, should be updated into Pocket Informant.
This will give you all of your church events, continually updated, alongside your personal events. Filters also allow you to change which sets of events you're viewing if you wish, in case things get crowded. It's worth a try. Note that events added in Pocket Informant or the Google Calendar will not appear back in your Church Insight Calendar as that syncing is one way.
At £8.99, Pocket Informant is the most expensive app I've bought, but I've never regretted it – and I've already saved buying at least three years worth of personal diaries, so I think I'm quids in.
Got a great phone app that helps you do your stuff?
Share with others what helps you – why not post on our Facebook page, email me at email@example.com, or tweet to @churchinsight?
Pocket image © vector_master - Fotolia.com
Alistair Birch, 01/02/2012