How to automate processes using cron jobs

In previous tutorials, I’ve covered common actions that most of us will encounter on a daily, weekly or monthly basis as we manage our respective church operations using Church Community Builder (CCB).

Although CCB is great tool and a leading web-based Church Management Software, the current version does not contain *true* automation that automatically processes individuals based on a set of performed behaviors or simply time-based automation actions.

Yes, CCB does allow for you to create processes and queues. However, to process individuals from process to process and queue to queue, a person has to manually process and queue individuals. And what a time and labor intensive process this is and can be for numerous church administrators.

Not having true automation features for process and queues leads to a slightly unmanageable bottleneck of always depending on persons to remember to check and process queues for processes to be truly beneficial and worth their weight in gold. This can be a problem, a huge one at that, due to us humans always increasing and introducing the opportunity for error when managing a manual process.

Now, this does not mean that CCB’s development team will not include true automation functionality in the coming versions. I’m not privy to CCB’s product roadmap for future releases and features, but I would imagine that true automation throughout their product is on their roadmap and slated in the near future.

That being said, this automation talk leads me to the point of today’s tutorial in showing you how to automate repetitive tasks and operations using cron jobs. Simply put, cron jobs are nothing more than timed automated steps that consistently perform business logic.

In today’s tutorial, I’ll show you how to automate the process to backup your CCB data, and the birthday emailer using cron jobs in my Bluehost account. Not only will you save time and multiply your church’s operational efficiency, you’re going to fall head over hills in love with the consistency that using cron jobs can and will bring to your church operations. Continue reading

How to parse Excel and CSV files using PHP

I recently received a tutorial request about creating a tutorial using PHP to parse Excel and CSV files. So today’s your lucky day, and by the end of this tutorial, you’ll be able an Excel and CSV parsing professional.

When migrating to Church Community Builder (CCB), sometimes other Church Management Software providers give you a backup of your data in an Excel or XML file.  But don’t fear when migrating to CCB, and you’re sitting confused and puzzled, endlessly staring at an Excel or XML file wondering how you’re going to migrate your data.

I recently wrote a tutorial about how to parse XML using XPATH and PHP, so that should help those of you handle the XML file migration portion.  But for those of you with rows and rows of Excel data, this tutorial is for you. Continue reading

How to backup your CCB account

Today’s tutorial is sure to open the flood gate of opportunities for how you use your CCB account data in an automated manner.

Most of us are quite familiar with CCB’s Process and Queues.  From Connection Card follow ups to church Membership to messaging and communications, Process and Queues provide a structure and system for tracking attendees and members for a variety of church workflows and processes.

Although Process and Queues provide a church with an advancement in system tracking and communicating, one of the areas that it lacks is true automation.  What I mean by true automation is that CCB lacks an automated method to message, communicate and process persons via Process and Queues.

This means that for every Process and Queue created, there always has to be someone to man the system.  This can be good and bad depending on the size of one’s church they manage, and church staff to man the system.

So what does this automation business have to do with backup? Well, I’m glad you asked! :)  Although CCB backs up your data, I’m going to show you how to backup your data to an external source other than CCB.

As for further automation, I’ll have to cover more of this in up coming tutorials.  For now, let’s get started on getting your data out of CCB.

Keep in mind that today’s tutorial can help you if you’re looking to migrate away from CCB to another provider, and help you if you seek to automate some simple tasks without hiring additional staff or putting more on the plates of your current staff. Continue reading

Creating a CCB Birthday Emailer

Have you ever thought about a way to make your members and attendees feel special?  Sure, you can personally call members and attendees that complete Connection Cards or Prayer Request forms.

Would you execute a simple program if I could show you how to send year around reminders WITHOUT hiring additional staff to pick up and dial the phones or send emails?

The good news is that today’s tutorial will show you how to create a CCB Birthday emailer.  I will not cover the automation portion of this tutorial as it pertains to storing and retrieving your CCB data in an external database, and using a cron job to run the script daily.  I’ll cover these automation components in another tutorial.  But I digress

This tutorial offers a simple one-off PHP script that will compare and determine whether or not it’s the attendee’s or member’s birthday, and then send a simple email message to the person if it is their birthday.  If you’re ready, let’s get started! Continue reading