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  • Writer's pictureSara Zober

Service Outlines, Streamlined (Post 1: spreadsheet basics)

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Every week, we do (pretty much) the same thing. Kab Shab is pretty much always Kab Shab, and we used to make these outlines each week from scratch, entering in page numbers, always needing the siddur next to us and all my music. It was obnoxious and time-consuming and hands-down my least favorite part of the job.

On top of that, every two months I'd have to go back and look at them and remember which of these songs I needed to add to our JLicense for the week. Some are public domain and not reported. Others definitely need to be. The only database that has that info is JLicense, and it's constantly updated. And to be frank, I've got 4 kids homeschooling in my living room every day I clock in, so my memory ain't the best to check.

In walks: The Spreadsheet.

I have never been a spreadsheet maven. They give me a bit of anxiety, to be honest (too much info), but I played around with it and this became the absolute best way to do our "formulaic" services AND stop doing so much repeat work in our JLicense reporting. Let me show you what I mean.

(click the pic to get a copy for yourself so you can explore)

When we open up our Service Outline document, there are a few things that jump out. First, it's neat and orderly. My goal was to have all my music info, service slides for our various Virtual Siddurim, JLicense info, and outlines in a single document. Second, I wanted to be able to share it with the office but also share it on a restricted basis with guest service leaders. Third, I wanted to be able to plan ahead and see what we did in previous years (especially for themed services), so I didn't want a document that we would have to overwrite or copy each week.

This fulfills all of those things and more than that, you can fit an entire year of Shabbat services in a single document, if you so choose. All of your Bar and Bat Mitzvah services. All of your Friday nights, Tot Shabbats, Shabbat Mornings. Heck, you can even add in Mincha if that's your style. And you can share and protect your master documents (I'll show you how later) so nobody can mess up your stuff.

So let's explore this thing.

The first page is a reference page we call PPT Services. We do Virtual Siddurim (PPT documents updated every week) so that our congregants can follow along with us. This allows us to customize our services however and whenever we want. Needless to say, we have a TON of PPT documents for different services at this point, and I'm always losing them. (Is the Tu B'shevat service in the Tu B'shevat folder? Or the Visual Siddur folder? Or on the Drive? Or on the Admin's Drive and in my Shared Docs?) This first page is our linky doc where we store all the PPT links so that anyone in the office can access them whenever they need. This is something I highly recommend, but isn't necessary for the functioning of the spreadsheet.

We're going to skip page 2, the Master Music Doc, right now because it deserves a post of its own due to its complexity and I know a bunch of y'all have cantors and cantorial soloists who may be doing this part of the job for you, so I'll segregate it into its own post so you can send it along in a more concise format.

Page 3 is the Master Outline, where you will create your Template. Some congregations have 1 Friday night service where only the music and readings change. Some have 5 that rotate. Here is where you create those templates and lock them down so nobody messes with them. This is a picture of our Generic Friday night Kab Shab outline:

You'll notice some things are filled in already. We know we'll do candle lighting and it's on page 2 of our siddur. The blue (Change the color! Go wild!) indicates that we have an honor and need to know who to announce. The other ones (without page numbers) are what I call "slots." Those are prayers or songs that may change. They may rotate between music and a reading. They may sometimes be in Hebrew, sometimes in English. They may sometimes be chanted, sometimes be sung.

Each of those options gets their own drop-down menu that contains every possible option for that "slot," along with the corresponding JLicense information or page number. So when you go through and choose your songs and readings for the week, it'll look like this:

LOOK HOW ELEGANT THAT IS. All the information for the whole team is right there, and everyone can print them out from their own computer once you fill in the honors sections. The added benefit is that whoever gets the duty of reporting your JLicense information just has to reference the spreadsheet and enter in the JLicense numbers that are already in the outline. Easy-peasy.

One other thing to love about this is that you can schedule an entire year at once. If you look across the bottom, each week gets its own tab. Once you know the outline template for that week, you duplicate it into that week and you're ready to choose your readings. Plan ahead as far as you want. Next year, all you have to do is copy the doc and reset your fields.

NOW, this being said, it's more complicated than just these couple of pages. All of this hinges on the Master Music Doc, which may take you/your cantor/your cantorial soloist/some trained monkey a bit of time to put together. I'll handle that in its own blog post later.

But once you've got this set up, you only ever have to tweak it. It's cut our setup, outlining, and reporting time remarkably. I hope it helps you too!


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