MSP User Spotlight: St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church

With approximately 1,400 families who come together to worship at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, it takes 85 volunteers each week to ensure that masses run smoothly. The task of communicating with and scheduling volunteers at St. Gabriel is enormous, so in 2007, the ministry schedulers began using Ministry Scheduler Pro (MSP) to streamline volunteer scheduling for liturgy.

Nearly 10 years later, St. Gabriel parishioner Jeff Thomas began coordinating the Reader ministry and was introduced to MSP. He was thrilled to discover the power behind MSP: “I realized that this program has an algorithm somewhere deep inside of it that pays attention to user profiles and then makes schedules out of them.” MSP’s unique ability to honor volunteers’ scheduling preferences sparked Jeff’s enthusiasm for the tool from the very beginning.

MSP’s flexible scheduling options have been central to the success of ministry scheduling at St. Gabriel since they began using the tool. For weekly services, ministry schedulers have run the auto scheduler, which is a quick and powerful way to automatically fill ministry positions based on volunteers’ qualifications and scheduling preferences. But for special yearly services, volunteers can sign up for positions online, empowering volunteers to commit to service times that work for their unique holiday schedules.

What’s more, St. Gabriel is one of a handful of parishes in the Diocese of Colorado Springs that provides a Spanish-language mass each week for the area’s Spanish-speaking community. As a result, St. Gabriel is a community of both English and Spanish speakers. However, for holidays such as Easter and Christmas, St. Gabriel holds “combined masses” where English and Spanish speakers worship together.

“When we have combined masses, we’ve made those services to include a certain number of Spanish positions and a certain number of English positions, and then we can just populate them accordingly.” In combined masses, both Spanish and English speaking volunteers are scheduled for the ministries of Sacristans, Altar Servers, Readers, EMHC, and Ushers, ensuring there is a rich blending of the two languages present.

To do this, Jeff first connects with the Liturgy Coordinator to determine the number of volunteers needed for the services. Next, they build the services times in MSP to designate how many volunteers they need for the special services. To schedule the combined masses, Jeff uses subdivisions. Subdivisions give Jeff the ability to designate some roles as Spanish and others as English.

In addition to accommodating special services, MSP allows St. Gabriel ministry leaders to track volunteer attendance and run reports. Jeff noted that this is essential in helping ministry leaders uncover patterns. “There are times when a leader may realize, ‘Hey, this is the fourth time Jill hasn’t shown up, maybe it’s time to give her a call.’”

Through his experience of ministry scheduling, one thing Jeff has learned is that having the right management tools is foundational to building strong ministries. That’s why whenever he’s asked why they use a software tool for ministry scheduling, he replies, “Our group of ministry coordinators are volunteers, and we are responsible each weekend for making sure 85 lay ministry roles are filled. During each 3-month scheduling period, we must make more than 1,100 ministry assignments — and that’s before considering additional masses during special seasons such as Holy Week, Triduum, and Easter. There’s no way that’s happening with a yellow pad and email.”

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