December 20, 2014

Find Your Pastor with New Smartphone App

Every have trouble finding your pastor? What about the youth pastor? While lots of offices have a traditional in out board that lists everyone in the office with the intention that every staff member checks out when they leave and notes where they’ve headed — this often doesn’t actually happen. Enter mobile technology – a simple app that helps church staff locate one another without having to remember to sign out on the board. Simple In/Out is a cool new app created by Simply Made Apps. We took some time to interview Brandon Medenwald, co-founder of Simply Made Apps, to help churches understand how this app might help their organization:

Explain the basics of your app, Simple In/Out and how it’s being used within ministry.

A traditional in out board has a list of everyone in the office. There is a marker next to each name that is moved to indicate whether they are “in” the office or “out”. Sometimes there are extra columns to show when they will return or to write a note.

Simple In/Out is a digital version of an in out board. Instead of having to manually change your status, it uses GeoFence technology to automatically check you in or out based solely on carrying your smartphone. This is especially useful if there are staff or volunteers who work from home or who have to meet with people outside of the church office (I’m looking at you, pastors!)

PhonesSimple In/Out is available on the web for your laptop or desktop computer. You can also download the app for:

  • iOS
  • Android
  • Windows 8

Wait – I don’t want everyone knowing where I am at all times. That’s kind of creepy.

Our applications use location information to process status updates only if you have a GeoFence enabled. GeoFencing monitors a location of your choice and sends notifications to the application when the boundary is crossed, either in or out.  We never send your location data to our servers so no one can ever see your exact location.

For example, let’s say you created a GeoFence boundary for the church building. When you arrive at the church in the morning, the GeoFence will send a notification to Simple In/Out when you cross the boundary and your status will show you are “in”.  When you leave for your lunch break, your status will change to “out” so that others know you left the church and when. But no one will know where you went for lunch – unless, of course, you set up and enable a GeoFence for your favorite sandwich shop, too.

How did you come up with the idea for the app?

Simple In/Out began as a problem that didn’t have a good solution. I used to work in an office that used employee in out board software. The problem was that it was always inaccurate and out of date.

People would forget to make updates, and management had more important things to do than remind people to change their statuses multiple times a day. Eventually, the software was completely ignored. In fact, it was such a complete failure that I often boasted I could build better in out board software in a single weekend.

Years later, a small group of fellow software developers and I met up every Wednesday night. Among them was Bill Burgess, who was a self-taught iOS developer itching for a project of his own. We were in search of a new project that would allow us to work with the latest technology – something we weren’t able to do at our day jobs.

Then, I had an epiphany. The answer to the problem was a frequently-occurring topic during our Wednesday night discussions: smartphones. Using GeoFence technology, smartphones could automatically update the in out board without any human effort. That meant no more forgotten, out of date in out boards.

I pitched the idea in January of 2011. A month later, we began; three of us locked ourselves in my basement for forty-eight hours straight. We referred to it as “the forty-eight hour project.”

And that’s how Simple In/Out was born. Today, thousands of organizations around the globe use Simple In/Out.

Are pastors, children’s leaders, worship leaders, etc. using the app? What is some of the feedback you’re getting?

Tasks, requests, phone calls, visitors, and emergencies are frequent occurrences in church offices. Just a quick glance at Simple In/Out and you will instantly know:

  • Is anyone in the office to unlock room 312?
  • Where is the pastor?
  • How many hours did a volunteer or staff member work last week?

The more staff and volunteers you manage, the harder it is to know who’s in and out, let alone when they are coming back. Instead of running down the hall because you don’t know if someone is in the office, you can just glance at the electronic status board on your phone or computer and be instantly in the know. You can even generate reports or export the data to Excel.

Pastors do so much more than lead worship services. They visit shut-ins and hospitals, attend meetings and various social events. Youth pastors go on outings and mission trips. Simple In/Out easily allows pastors to tell others where they are and/or when they will return.

A situation that is becoming more and more common is having employees who work from home. With modern technology, tasks that traditionally needed to be done in the church office can now be completed anywhere you have a device with an internet connection. In fact, many volunteers and part-time staff members have full time day jobs and families so they don’t ever work out of the church office. Remote workers can update their status manually so you can see when they are available and know how many hours they worked.

What are some innovative ways the app can be used within the Church?

You can display your status board on a TV or computer monitor. Then you can just glance up and instantly see where everyone is. There are a few of different ways you can do this:

  • The website has a fullscreen mode designed to be displayed on a TV or spare computer monitor.
  • There is a link available which shows your main board without having to log in. You can use the link to embed your status board on the church website or into various web displays for televisions.
  • You can also download our FrontDesk app for iPad. This option actually allows you to update the status board. So if someone doesn’t have a smart phone they can manually check in an out using the iPad.

Any other tidbits of info that would be interesting to my readers would be great!

We have a special discount for Church Tech Today readers! The apps are all free to download and you can add up to three users for free. Have more than three users? Enter the coupon code churchtech to receive 50% off the first three months when your church signs up for any Simple In/Out subscription plan.

[Simply Made Apps is a valued site sponsor of ChurchTechToday.]

About the author  ⁄ Lauren Hunter

Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer, consultant and blogger who loves the Lord and desires to encourage churches to better use technology to improve every aspect of ministry. Her blog, ChurchTechToday, was born out of a need to find a place to discuss how technology can impact the Church in positive ways.

2 Comments

  • Reply
    January 20, 2014

    Interesting answer to a problem many industries – not just ministries – run into. Thing is… and its not a knock… this is something that appears on one’s mobile; does it also appear on a big-board (attached to a desktop notification system, kiosk monitors, etc.) so that the *behavior* of looking someone up doesn’t first need the interaction of “going to you mobile to see if they are available while you are looking up that item which needs their attention.”

    A couple of questions about the app/service:
    – does it connect to Exchange (and similar) for those status updates
    – does it change the status automatically based on what’s in one’s calendar, not just location
    – is everyone shown as “here but unavailable” when service is going on (that’s a different status than here or away).
    – would this app (on Android) been better served as as a plugin for apps like Tasker, etc. which have this and richer functionality

    Just some thoughts; good to see some location-based thoughts going on in the #mobmin admin space.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2014

    Hi Antoine,

    Simple In/Out has several options for displaying on “big boards”. Our website (simpleinout.com) has a Full Screen mode that looks wonderful on a television. We also have an iPad app called FrontDesk that can be displayed anywhere.

    We don’t currently integrate with Exchange or calendars. We’ve had that request before, but we haven’t had enough interest to make it a priority yet.

    We have “in” or “out”, but we do allow for commments on every status. These comments can range from anything from “On a call”, “Do Not Disturb”, etc.

    Tasker is a neat app, but it doesn’t do the things we can do. It can’t display a list of users, for example, and it wouldn’t lay the groundwork for the neat things we plan to do next. We do have a read-only API in beta testing now, so in the future integrations like this are possible. We’re constantly blown away by the cool things our customers do.

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