Kyle Goings
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 / Published in Ideas, Tech Tips, Training

 (Part 2 of 2) Build Your Own Check-In Station Cart

By: Kyle Goings (Student Ministry Pastor of First MB Church in Wichita, KS)

Taking attendance in most student ministries is usually a weakness.  Either it’s not being done, done poorly, or if it is being done it’s not utilized as best it can.  This two-part blog post will focus on the theoretical and practical applications of taking weekly attendance for your student ministry.  Part one will focus more on what is needed both culture wise and behind the scene to take attendance effectively. Part two is a practical approach on building your own check-in cart for those ministries who are looking for inspiration (click here to read part one). 


Part 2:

Now that you want to try to start taking attendance every week you might need a practical way to do so.  There are many way ministries take attendance but the two main ways that we will be focusing on is volunteer check-in and self-check-in.  For a volunteer check-in – it is where you have a volunteer or two type in the information when a person enters the room.  This allows for higher probability for more accuracy but it is heavily volunteer driven (and those volunteers have to know everyone by name so they can enter it into the system).

A self-check-in system is where students come in and taken attendance by scanning a barcode or entering a phone number.  They hit a few buttons and then done!  As long as you have a greeter monitoring the stations and providing help it’s very simple.

  • Before you begin to determine what kind of budget you have available. The number of tablets/computers/iPads will greatly affect your budget (1 tablet for every 25 people checking in is the norm).
  • The quality of the hardware you get will need to be decided. Remember if you purchase a tablet/iPad under $125 plan on replacing it within 18 months on average.  And avoid used hardware as they cannot be reliable.
  • Also, remember for every tablet/iPad you get you will need a stand and locking system so it’s not just the cost of the original hardware.
  • Decide if you can connect to the internet wireless or wired. For dependability wired is always better but it doesn’t always work with certain locations.


For our senior high ministry, we had some specific needs.  We meet in a big gym on Sunday nights that is used for different events throughout the week so everything we had has to be mobile and put away.  We also have about 100 people checking in each week so we needed a minimum of four tablets.    This is our check-in cart that we use and here is what we did.


 First, we purchased four tablets.  We went with the Samsun Galaxy Tab E 9.6”.  The main reason we chose PC over Apple was iPads are just so expensive and we weren’t quite sure if this would work at first.  We didn’t care about the amount of memory.  We just focused on which tablets work best with Wi-Fi and Samsung Galaxy’s have a great reputation from staying connected.  We also have most of our computers at our church using PC so we didn’t want to mess with crossover.  And lastly, we looked for tablets that have a long battery life.  We got them on sale for during the summer back to school months.  Price range is $140 to $199.  You can find them here at Best Buy.


Second, we purchased a cart to mount them to.  We went with a heavy duty cart because we had the budget and wanted complete dependability.  Almost any cart will do but we liked how this cart has adjustable shelves underneath and ring spaces on the outside of the cart that we could use to lock each tablet down.  It also had a strong handle and lockable wheels.  Price is around $100-$300.  You can find it here on Amazon.


Third, we purchased four stands and cords to lock them down.  We wanted 

something that is lockable and adjustable for the tablets our size.  There is a ton of tablet holders so make sure you get one that fits your tablet!  It’s a good idea to just purchase one stand and cord and test it out before you purchase any others.  The price will be totally dependent on which tablets you purchase.  We chose these stands CLICK HERE.  and these cords to lock each down CLICK HERE.  The good thing is we have never had to unlock the tablets so as long as you install them correctly everything will be just fine.


Fourth, we built a custom top of the card and mounted the four tablets on them.  The cart had no way of holding the stands.  So we just built a wooden top for it and mounted the stands on the wooden top, one in each corner facing outwards.  Then we locked the tablets to the cart so even though you can lift the wooden top you can’t take the tablets with you (another reason why we bought the cart with holes on the sides).  We painted it grey to match the cart color.  Price is less than $50.  You can find wood at any hardware store.

One thing we did was cut a hole in the back of it so all four chargers can be plugged in at all times.  Then we plugged them into a power strip that is held underneath cart so all we have to do is wheel the cart to storage and just have one thing to plug in.  We highly recommend this for easy storage!



You can take this in many directions, and several ministries have permanently mounted tablets or screens on the wall, either way you will need to choose what is best for you.  If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or email me at

Kyle Goings
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 / Published in Ideas, Parents, Tech Tips, Training

By: Kyle Goings (Student Ministry Pastor of First MB Church in Wichita, KS)

(Part 1 of 2) Implementing Check-in Style Attendance in Your Student Ministry

Taking attendance in most student ministries is usually a weakness.  Either it’s not being done, done poorly, or if it is being done it’s not utilized as best it can.  This two-part blog post will focus on the theoretical and practical applications of taking weekly attendance for your student ministry.  Part one will focus more on what is needed both culture wise and behind the scene to take attendance effectively. Part two is a practical approach on building your own check-in cart for those ministries who are looking for inspiration (click here to read part two). 


Part 1:

How do you take attendance?  Are you still kicking it old school style with a paper sheet and checkboxes?  Do you have a cool looking check-in station next to your state-of-the-art youth room?  For most youth ministries attendance taking systems usually is never where it should be.  This isn’t an article about the importance of taking attendance, but rather an example of how to make your life easier if you do check students in.   FYI… follow up is almost impossible without taking attendance, so if you don’t already you should seriously consider starting.  Taking attendance means every week (or every time you meet) each leader and student is tracked in a database.  The days of keeping an excel spreadsheet are over so we are talking about online base systems.  So let’s begin…


Why take attendance anyways:

Most times what’s holding back a student ministry from making taking attendance a priority in their youth ministry is they just aren’t convinced there is a need for it.  I mean they have lasted this long without it, right?  Here are a few reasons you might have not thought of utilizing a strong attendance system.

  1. By knowing who has checked in and who hasn’t it increases safety for your ministry if… God forbid something happens.  (another reason why excel spreadsheets won’t work… if there is a fire)
  2. It helps with assimilation and your guest ministry. By collecting guest’s information and entering into a database correctly when that student returns it will help them feel like part of the group (because their data is treated just like everyone else’s).   There is nothing worse than a guest returning for the second time and told their information is not in there.
  3. It’s impossible to do an effective follow-up ministry without it.
  4. It shows which areas are growing and which areas you need to address. Attendance with juniors are way down this past six weeks, maybe something needs to be addressed.  It’s hard to notice for bigger groups without a system of tracking.
  5. It helps to see your yearly schedule ebb and flow. Is there a week that is consistently low attendance every year?  Maybe try doing something different that week.
  6. Increases trust with parents. I hope this doesn’t happen to you but there have been situations a parent has asked: “Was my child at youth group last week?”  Without an attendance tracker that answer might be more awkward than it already is.


Here are some steps that are needed to create attendance taking system:

Step One: Choose the program you will be using.  There a lot out there: Planning Center Check-In,, Fellowship One, Stuff You Can Use: Grow Numbers,, or the program your churches already use.  You must determine this first because that would dictate what hardware you will be able to purchase.  Talk to the data manager at your church to see what software and hardware is compatible with the software you use.


Step Two: Do some research, then make a plan.  Talk to some people who might be knowledgeable about this.  Decide how you want your students to check in (self or volunteer).  Decide where you want them to check in (if it’s a hallway how are you going to keep them secure during the week)?  Once you have a plan and answer some of the questions below then you are ready for step three.

  • How many people do you need checking in each week?  (1 tablet for every 25 people is a good rule of thumb)
  • Do you go with Apple’s iPad’s or PC’s tablets?  (Based on your check-in software)
  • Do you want stability or flexibility?  (Attached to a wall which is more secure but limits what you can do with it)
  • Are you going to have wireless or wired internet?  (Can your church’s wireless handle 4 tablets all at once?)
    How are you going to keep them secure?  (Locked onto a wall or onto a cart)


Step Three: Build your check-in station.  (More details are in part two of this series)

Some build it on the wall, others need a more mobile station.  Either way, you purchase and build the station near your youth room.  Once built make sure it is thoroughly tested before it launches.  The last thing you want is a mistake-filled launch!


Step Four: Launch your check-in system and utilized your database!  Build your greeting and follow up ministry around your database.  Strive for perfection, and don’t let time pass entering new members.  Our rule of thumb is within 48 hours.  Clean up your database once a year by doing an evaluation and seeing if everyone’s information is correct.  Because no one ever changes their email… right?!


Tips on Creating a Culture Where Students Use a Check-In System:

  1. Test it out multiple times before you have your check in cart go live.
  2. Train your leaders/greeters thoroughly. If the adults don’t know how to use the system why would the students do it differently?  Students follow the example of the adults.
  3. Create an “everyone does this” mentality. Leaders, students, volunteers.  Everyone the more exceptions you have to the rule the weaker the rule becomes.
  4. Place your check-in system in a location where most students enter and cannot pass it without checking in. It should be in the hallway before you enter the room or near the door.
  5. Go nuts with welcome signs and directions. Assume no knows how to do it each week.
  6. Send an email to parents or share why you do check in at a parent information meeting.


If students/leaders push back (creating something new usually does) here are some ways that worked for us:

  • We use “incentives” like you cannot purchase anything at our Snack Shack unless you are checked in. The first couple of weeks we even gave them candy right after they checked in!  We also offered a free bowl of cereal during our Sunday school hour (given a bowl only after they check in).
  • Give out prizes or call students up front for games but only from those who have checked in.
  • Contact students (even if you know they were there) after 3 weeks of them not checking in, explaining why you take attendance.
  • Don’t let things slide – even for one week – for two months and you should be over the hump of a new habit. Each week enter new people so they can feel welcomed the next time they come there.


For building a check-in station, read part two of this series.

Kyle Goings
Tuesday, 04 September 2018 / Published in USMB, YouthCon

(This was first announced in our email newsletter, if you have not received our email please email us at

We are excited for YOUTHCON ’19 and look for our promo pack in the mail shortly but in the meantime, we want to give you some heads up on who is going to be there.

First, we have Scot PierceSara Jo Waldron & Hallie Bontrager will be our hosts for the event. You will start to hear from them in the next several weeks.

A common way to plan a convention is to pick a theme, hire a speaker and let him/her come with 6 talks. We decided that for this upcoming event we wanted to plan a little differently and we wanted to share our process with you.

We understand that there will be many different students at many different places in their faith in attendance at the YouthCON in Glorieta. Students will register and attend because it looked like a fun trip, or because of friends, maybe because they want to grow in their faith. Some are going to go because they are searching, some will go because they are ALL in and want to express their commitment to faith and some are looking for the next level in their Christian walk.

Imagine a funnel. (Thank you Doug Fields, the godfather of youth ministry) the wide end is the most basic commitment and the narrow end is the most committed. All that to say we will have students in attendance from all over the spectrum. So here is our plan… We want to address each student in an engaging, loving and challenging manner. We want to INVITE each person to take one step towards a deeper faith, wherever they may be starting. SO, we want to talk about our lives and the world we live in as a narrative, a story. Each of us has pages of the script and an important role to play. (see EPIC by John Eldredge) We want to introduce students to Jesus and invite them to begin a relationship. We will also talk about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and look at what our role might be in the Kingdom story. We will talk about a big God that loves us like crazy, rescued us and wants to include us in his world no matter what think of our inability. We also want to talk about His invitation to join him in reaching others that all may know him.

We decided to think about the people that we knew who was the best at these topics and invite a handful of people to teach and speak from the main stage. Several of the speakers are (more to come):
Ryan McCullough
Kat Smith
Tam Hodge
Randy Friesen
Bill Hogg

We are excited that Ryan and Brie Wallace will be leading us in worship and James Isaac is back to direct the house band.

OneTimeBlind will be with us, making us laugh, cry and think.

We are heading back to where it all began for us in 1975. Glorieta, New Mexico. Check out this amazing, newly renovated camp.

We have been thinking, planning and praying over this event for several years already.

Watch for many more details, promo kits and fundraising ideas in the weeks to come. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Neil Bontrager & Kyle Goings
CoDirectors, USMB National YouthCon ’19

Kyle Goings
Tuesday, 24 July 2018 / Published in Ideas, Leadership, Resources, Small Group, Tech Tips, The Top 5

(The Top 5 is our quick list of resources, recommendations, or reasons that we feel you should know).

As of July of 2018 there are over 5 million different apps on iOS and Android.  And 4.77 billion people have a cell phone in the world.  So apps are a big deal.  We are going to go over the top 5 apps that help you and your youth ministry.  We are not including any social media apps as that is a separate list.  As always we do not own or represent any of these apps (except for the USMB Youth one).  Yeah, that’s right we now have an app for you!


ONE – Bible (The Life.Church Version) (Apple & Android | Free)

This goes without saying but this app has evolved into much more than just a Bible app.  Besides all the versions of the Bible, ability to now read the Bible out loud, scripture verse look up, meme creator, there is one feature that just came out this year that every youth worker should know.  The “Plan with Friends” feature is a must-have.  How it works is you choose a devotional plan (there are thousands) then choose the option “with friends” where you can invite your friends to join you in doing that plan.  You’ll complete days together at the same pace, be able to discuss it through the app, and track people’s progress.  You can have a small group or whole ministry keep each other accountable and increase spiritual depth through discussion by doing a devotional together.  And it’s all for free!

TWO – GroupMe (Apple & Android | Free)

There are a lot of communication apps like GroupMe, but this is the original and the most popular.  This is a MUST if you want to communicate to your teens, adult leaders, or even ministry as a whole.  It’s like a group texting app.  All you have to do is create a group by adding phone numbers or email of the people you want and then send them messages.  Only the people in the group will see the message.  And you have an unlimited number of groups to be in.  I have one for just my small group leaders, student leaders, my small group, and teaching team.  You can upload files, send texts, or even pictures.  You can create polls, schedule events, and more.  And a person doesn’t even have to download the app to respond it just comes across as a text message for those people.  The only downside is you better turn off notifications because of how often students chat back and forth within the app.

THREE – Buffer or Hootsuite (Apple & Android | Free/Paid Plans Available)

Both of these apps basically do the same thing.  They post on your social media platforms all at once!  No more switching back and forth copy and pasting from Twitter to Facebook.  By linking your social media profiles you can make one post and be done!  They even have the ability to schedule posts (which is the feature we enjoy the most).  You can schedule a whole month’s worth of social media posts at the beginning of each month.

FOUR – A Task List Database app (there are many different kinds)

If you need help remembering sermon ideas, keeping track of what items you need to purchase for your next event, or having a to-do-list hand than you should have some kind of note app.  The best ones are Evernote (Apple & Android | Free), Google Keep (Android | Free), or SimpleNote (Apple & Android | Free).  Each of these apps allows you to keep track of lists, pictures, meeting notes and pretty much everything else in the cloud.  Throw out that paper notebook, because you can update these apps on your computer, phone, or tablet and you’ll never lose anything again.

FIVE – Expensify (Apple & Android | Free & Paid Version)

Ever have to pay out of pocket for an expense only to lose the receipt?  Never again with this expense, travel, budget, and report management system.  You can simply take a picture of each receipt, load it up to a report and your ministry’s treasure or bookkeeper gets it all automatically.  It’s basically a virtual accountant.


Honorable mentions:

  • Encounter Outreach (Apple & Android | Free) Helps individuals or groups to develop effective outreach strategies and track the progress of praying for every person in their community.
  • God Questions? (Apple & Android | Free) Has over 5,600 common asked questions and answers about God, the Bible, and more.
  • Canva (Apple & Android | Free) Design posters, memes, cards, and graphics all without hard to use or expensive software.