Online forms for dummies: Easy tips to save time and money
Work ran late. You got stuck in traffic. The drive-through took longer than expected, and now, you are running late to your child’s first night of vacation Bible school. Your children pile out of the car, skipping with excitement, until they walk through the front door. There, crowded together in the foyer, are at least 20 other parents with squirming children, waiting to complete the paperwork to register their children. It’s a common scene that easily can be avoided.
Imagine instead, if, while waiting in the drive-through for your dinner, you had registered your children on your smartphone and simply clicked a button to check in upon arrival. Using online forms, churches can provide an easy, convenient way to register for VBS and other activities that previously required paper forms.
Why use online forms?
Churches need information about participants’ names, contact information, consent and so forth. Forms are an unavoidable necessity. Here is why you should consider using online forms in your church ministries.
Most churches are trying to make the most of a small budget while being good stewards of the money invested in God’s kingdom. Even seemingly insignificant costs like forms can add up quickly. Paper, commercial printing, and copier maintenance and ink are expensive. After you collect email addresses using online forms you can cut your print budget even further.
We live in an electronic age in which almost all information is now stored on computers. Smartphones are helping many people cross the digital divide, giving them Internet access at their fingertips. When paper forms are used, someone must collate the information and enter it into a computer program. Online forms eliminate this time-consuming task. If a paid church employee is entering the information, that is another expense that can be eliminated.
Save the environment.
Good stewardship extends beyond saving money. It also includes how a church cares for the environment. According to forestethics.org, manufacturing paper is one of the main causes of forest destruction, one of the biggest consumers of energy and one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. While churches cannot realistically be expected to be paper free, online forms offer one way to make a substantial difference.
Where to use online forms
Online forms are one of the many low-cost Web-based tools for ministry. They can be used in a variety of church ministries. Think about it. You can use online forms to replace or complement:
- New visitor cards
- Event registration
- Sign-ups for weekly meals
- Volunteering for various ministries
- Applications for teaching/leadership positions
- Sign-ups for nursery duty
- Nursery or childcare registration
- Prayer-request forms
- Contact forms
- Consent forms
- Sign-in/dismissals of nursery, childcare or youth
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How to create forms
If you lack the time or expertise to create, code and upload online forms, you are not alone. However, free services such as Google Forms makes it easier than ever to whip up a form and start gathering data.
Before you jump in, figure out how your users will need to interact with church forms. If you need payment processing connected to your event registration, you may need something a little more robust. Come up with all your technical requirements and do a side-by-side comparison of several form services to see what will meet your needs.
Wufoo is free up to three forms per month and offers drag-and-drop tools to make building forms a breeze. Wufoo also includes templates for three common church forms that you can further customize. Check them out:
The process might look something like this:
- Follow the step-by-step instructions to choose and create the form you want.
- Preview the form for acceptability.
- Copy the code provided by the site.
- Paste the link onto the church website, blog or other Internet site.
- Direct users to your site to complete online forms.
It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. It really is that easy. Some services may also let you email forms directly to participants. Check out these Wufoo tutorial videos to get a better idea of the process.
The best part of online form services is that many providers offer basic packages free. So, there is little risk in trying it. If you like it and want to upgrade, you pay monthly fees for more extensive plans with more features and forms.
— Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education, and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing, and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.