Tools of the Trade – by John Francis


My Three tools in Worship Ministry – John Francis, Associate Pastor for Worship and Administration – Beacon Hill Baptist Church, Somerset, Kentucky.

My triumvirate of tools must be: Planning Center Online, LifeWay Worship Orchestration DVD (or and 43 Folders. However a tool is only as good as how well you use it, so allow me to elaborate on each one, how I access them, and how I maximize their efficiency.

Planning Center Online – ( is an amazingly powerful cloud-based program for organizing my worship services, communicating with my folks and publicizing our worship. On my planning side, I have all of the Sundays for 2013 as blank templates, and as something occurs – I drop it in the appropriate Sunday, and arrange and massage later.

Cloud-based is such a boon, especially for the bi-vocational guy or gal, anywhere you have internet (home, work, McDonalds) – you have an office and PCOnline does not disappoint. File sharing is a helpful function there as well. For instance, my pianist uses his iPad for his music, so he simply goes to it and downloads the music that I place on the Sunday morning plan. Using their permission-based security system, I also use this to share worship plans with Pastor, musicians, choir, praise team and even congregation as it has a tool to share on Facebook and Twitter. I can tell you, this software would be the absolute last thing that I would cut in a diminishing budget.

Another great feature is the smartphone app that comes with it. It is good for finishing up stuff, or taking a look at stuff at a quick glance. It even has a PlanningCenter Live feature (on the app) that is way cool!

LifeWay Worship Orchestration DVD – I was using LifeWay site to buy my charts – but I am glad to say that my instrumental ensemble grew to the point that it was cheaper for me to by the Orchestration DVD ($1,800). I have it saved to my external hard drive and the disk stored in our fire-proof safe. This resource completely digitizes my library.

43 folders

43 Folders – This is the one I’m very excited to tell you about! The idea of 43 Folders is the concept in the book by David Allen, “Getting Things Done”. If you are bi-vocational, this could help you at your other job, and even help you centralize and combine your tasks. Simply take a file drawer (your desk is preferable) and with 43 folders, label 1-31, and January – December. This gives you a day file every day, and then a file for the month. Let me explain…

At the end of every month, I take the next month’s folder that I have thrown things in pertinent to that month. Then using a calendar, I pull the folders with the days I will be in the office (omitting Friday and Saturday when I’m out of the office and Sunday when the sanctuary is my office). I then parse out stuff from the month’s folder into the different days as I might need them. If, for instance, I have budget due on October 15th, I place a note in October 9th folder (arbitrarily) to prep budget for the 15th.

So in the mornings, after a cup of coffee, I pull my folder for the day – and do what is in it.

Conversely, when someone tells me a project/ministry/duty that they would like to have done, months way in advance, I simply write it on a note, drop it in the month’s folder and forget about it until the time comes for me to prep that month.

What to do with all those lovely large boxes of demo music – 43 Folder them!

As a former state music guy, I visited many offices of worship leaders. Most often, their office would have a corner, shelf or desk devoted to the ubiquitous demo boxes. Most of the time, the material was totally unchecked. Look at your office now; do you have some boxes never opened? It may make you feel really good to have the full catalog of material from a publisher dating back to 1987, but if you’ve never listened to it, or if you have no way of recall. It does you no good. Let me show you what to do with all of that music. First if you have boxes unopened dating back two years or more – lose them. Sorry, you’re probably not going to preview it. Then take the more recent ones and dump them in the next available month’s folder ( I am backlogged about seven months in advance, but it stays under control) – then at the end of the month parse it into day folders, so that you listen to one or two anthems per day. Then, once you listen to it, keep it to order or throw away.

I am proud to say that I have no demo boxes anywhere, and I FULLY LISTEN TO EVERY SONG THAT I RECEIVE. When I receive a LifeWay “Redbox” or a cube from Word Music – I dump the music in the next available month. Also a good by-product is that I have choral anthems, handbell music, and new congregational songs chosen through 2014 – all by using a simple process. Also, I have really chosen the best music for my groups. This system has also allowed me to have my Christmas music already chosen and purchased for 2013 on last year’s budget!

I would encourage you to read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Allen is not what we would describe as a believer and the book is written on a purely secular level, but God did bless him with some great insight on Getting Things Done especially using 43 folders.

Whatever your system, software or program – buy into it. I use Planning Center to the deepest level, LifeWay Orchestrations have been setup as one of my tabs on my home screen in Chrome, and 43 Folders is the first thing that I go for every morning. In fact, especially with 43 Folders – if you don’t commit whole-heartedly to it, it is more counter-productive than good – because you are trusting a process that you are not using.

Have a great New Year!

John Francis


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