Understanding the Automated Scheduler

The automated scheduler contains a powerful scheduling engine that creates schedules that take into account your organization’s needs and your ministers’ group preferences and availability. Before you undertake the task of creating schedules, read the information in this topic to acquire a general understanding of key scheduling concepts and mechanics. This topic also provides specific suggestions on ways you can produce schedules that more evenly distribute participation by your ministers.

How the Automated Scheduler Behaves

Best Practices for Creating Schedules

Guidelines for Obtaining Balanced and Fair Schedules

How the Automated Scheduler Behaves

It is important to be aware of the factors that influence the automated scheduler’s behavior as it works to optimize schedules. This information can also assist you with problem-solving or troubleshooting issues that may arise if a generated schedule does not match expected results. For a full understanding, you should also read Guidelines for Obtaining Balanced and Fair Schedules.

To optimize scheduling and to create fair and balanced schedules, the scheduler behaves in accordance with the following objectives:

       Ministers are not scheduled at more than one obligation event in a weekend (that is, a Saturday and Sunday sequence).

       Ministers are scheduled according to the priorities specified in their list of ministry preferences (as described in the topic How to View and Change a Member's Ministry Preferences.

       Family members are scheduled at the same event, unless their preference is not to be scheduled together.

       An entire family does not need to be scheduled at the same event.

       Family members are typically not scheduled at different events that occur during the same weekend.

       Only those ministers whose records indicate that they are qualified to serve (that is, the Trained? checkbox is selected in the minister’s record) are available for scheduling.

       If an event is marked as a “special event”, only those ministers who indicate that they are available to serve at special events are scheduled.

       The auto-scheduler applies scheduling preferences in the following order of priority:

  1. Member teams
  2. Minister teams
  3. Families
  4. All remaining available ministers

The scheduler commences to first fill positions with members from the largest group (member teams) and then schedule members from subsequent groups into any unfilled positions. Preferences are prioritized in this manner to obtain the fairest possible distribution of serving frequencies by your ministers.

       The scheduler balances the amount of time a minister serves during the "times served" time period and, in general, works to ensure that one minister is not scheduled more often than another minister for a given event.

The scheduler's behavior is modeled on the assumption that all else remains equal: serving time preferences, family and member preference settings, availability, and number of ministers needed, to name a few.

It is important to understand that the balancing process is implemented on a per-event basis only within each ministry group. The scheduler does not take into account a minister's participation in events in other ministries and ministry groups nor does it consider a minister's participation in other events within the same ministry group. In practice, what this means is that within a given event for a ministry group, the scheduler attempts to balance John Doe's and Jane Doe's participation so that neither is scheduled much more than the other for the event. Slight imbalances are normal and typically even out over time. Factors that affect schedules include:

If you notice that some ministers are being scheduled a lot more often than others, look at each minister's total ministry involvement. If a minister is signed up for lots of events in other ministry groups or ministries, the chances of being selected to meet the minister requirements of those events increase to create a scheduling imbalance for that minister.   

       Roles function as text labels only and do not impact scheduling. For example, if two individuals are defined as cantors and one is assigned the “lead” role, the scheduler does not treat them differently. When the cantor who is assigned as the “lead” is scheduled, the label "Lead" simply appears in that minister’s record.

Best Practices for Creating Schedules

       Always review a schedule prior to releasing it.

       It is better to keep a minister in the system and specify an end date in the minister's record instead of deleting the minister. Deleting a minister causes the system to lose the minister's history, which you cannot retrieve if the minister returns.

       If you must delete a minister, first delete the minister from the schedule and then from Minister Directory.

       After changing configuration options (for example, the number of ministers needed for events), clear the selected schedule and then generate a new schedule using the updated configuration.

       Larger numbers produce more balanced scheduling outcomes.

       Do not create teams that contain multiple ministries. It is best to use the same ministry within one team.

Guidelines for Obtaining Balanced and Fair Schedules

The following guidelines can help maximize your ability to create balanced schedules that not only satisfy your minister’s preferences but also take into account your organization's needs:

       When generating a schedule, select the fewest possible filter options to meet your requirements. Filters impose specific criteria that the scheduler must adhere to. With each filter you add, the size of the selection pool of potential available ministers is reduced, and the scheduler has fewer ministers to choose from to fill slots in the schedule. You can end up with a schedule that does not equally distribute the service load among your ministers.

       Choose a start date (using the Date Range filter) that is the same as the Times Served Start Date (see description of this option in About the Scheduling Options Page).

       Every time you generate a schedule, check the date you specified for the Times Served Start Date (see description of this option in About the Scheduling Options Page). This date is used by the scheduler as a reference point from which it starts to keep track of the number of times ministers in your organization have served.

You should check this date every time you generate a schedule to make sure that the scheduler uses the correct date as a starting reference.

       If possible, opt to schedule more than one ministry and/or event at a time. If you create schedules in a singular fashion (that is, group-by-group or event-by-event), ministers who belong to more than one ministry are more heavily scheduled in the first groups you schedule, making those ministers less likely to be available when you schedule subsequent ministries.

       Larger numbers produce more balanced scheduling outcomes.

       Use teams sparingly. Too many team groupings can result in an uneven distribution of service among your ministers and produce schedules with distribution loads that are less than favorable and fair. For information on the effect of team groupings on a schedule, see Things to Consider Before You Create Teams.

       Recommend to your ministers that they be judicious with their volunteer time, specifically with regard to the number of events they volunteer for at the same time. A minister who signs up for lots of events in different ministries and ministry groups may end up being scheduled far more often than desired. It is important for ministers to be aware that the more events they sign up for—especially in different ministries and ministry groups—the greater the likelihood they will be scheduled.  


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