4 Digital Apps To Help You Do Youth Work Better

Tim Balow
August 27th, 2019

I used to run with the mantra “fake it til you make it” until I was in my late twenties. For me, staying organized, productive, and focused on my tasks and goals was more about perception than actually living in the real world of executing on a regular basis. More often than not, my conception of productivity meant that as long as I stayed busy and connected to my day-to-day work, it didn’t matter how it got done.

It wasn’t until my first major department meeting as a Children, Youth, and Family Ministry Director supervising 6 other staff persons did I realize how important things like organization, work-flows, processes, and communication were to the success of any team. Since that first experience nearly 6 years ago, I’d learn a great deal about myself and how to be effective in my day to day ministry/office life as it relates to my own responsibilities, staff inter-connectedness, and project management. One of the greatest tools that has emerged since I first started youth work over 10 years ago are digital apps.

Without further ado, I’d love to share 4 different apps (or app categories) that can radically change how you do your youth worker job on a regular basis.

Slack (Communication, Collaboration, and Project Management)

Slack has quickly become the demi-god of team communication apps/tools and has so much more potential once you learn how to utilize it. While it’s not necessarily designed as something to use with volunteers (as it is priced more for business and staff teams), it very well could become your infinite communication tool to connect, inform, share/store documents, and even manage phone calls through the app. Slack replaces a majority of inter-office email, and even builds capacity as far as reducing the number of intergroup exchanges in order to either trouble shoot an existing issue or even gain understanding of a situation based on a Slack exchange in the past. I don’t work for Slack, but I will tell you everything you would pay for with this digital app is worth it (yes, there’s a desktop app and mobile apps).

Asana | Trello (Visual Project Management)

Asana and Trello (owned by different companies but similar feel and purpose with the app dashboard) are visual project management tools that can easily replace emails, excel spreadsheets, and individual written task lists. Both platforms are designed to be intuitive and easy to use on a regular basis. If the goal is to unite all of your project progress/planning under one dashboard for you and/or your team, Asana or Trello are great options.

Planning Center (Service Order Planning)

This may be a little too grandiose, but Planning Center has been the most seminal digital tool to change (and improve) how churches do planning for their services. It has everything, from media sharing to element planning, to document collaboration, and they seem to build new tools each year to grow capacity for their users. My most recent church implement planning center across all of the different church service “departments” (children/family, student, and weekend services) and it changed how we were able to learn and collaborate from one another. You’re in the dark if you don’t have Planning Center for your services. And no, they aren’t paying me to say that!

Google: G Suite (Drive, Forms, Calendar Sheets, Docs, etc.)

Do I really need to link Google on this post for you to know how to get there? Sure why not. About 15 years ago, Google radically changed open source work (and no one really knew it until about 5-7 years ago) by introducing a free version of a document processor called Google Docs. Since then, Google has expanded their product offerings to include Sheets (think Excel), Drive (cloud storage), Forms (build your own forms), and several other tools that are really helpful to collaborate, collect/organize data, and word process. Some of these tools are included with any free Google account (many more tools are available if your church/organizations could use G Suite) and are always accessible as long as you can log into your account. The sky is the limit when you realize you can share documents with a link, and people can view, comment, or edit based on what you’d like them to do.

Honorable Mentions: Wunderlist (Productivity), Evernote (Content/Idea Organizer), and Buffer (Social Media Management)

We could talk digital apps all day long. However the one thing that I’ve learned is merely downloading them on your laptop or mobile device doesn’t mean you’ll use them or automatically be productive. What matters is learning to organize yourself around the capabilities of tools and find what works best for you and your team. Run a trial of these and see what you like, what works best for your brain, and don’t try to overdo your app engagement. In the world of apps, less can be more, especially as you work with team members. If apps aren’t helping, un-install them and try something else. Just remember to keep the main thing, the main thing, and we all know digital tools are not the main things when working with students in their journeys with Jesus.

Tim Balow

TIm Balow is has served in a variety of youth worker roles between Chicago and Minneapolis over the last 10 years. Tim currently serves with Youth Specialties working on projects focused on customer and content operations. Tim's passion is to serve the under-resourced youth worker and to encourage the next generation of students to step into a transformative relationship with Jesus.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.