Several years ago my wife was called as secretary in the ward primary presidency. With the traditional binder hand off and a "Good Luck!", she was left with a pile of papers (some of which seemed old enough to have come across the plains). After weeks of her pouring over the paper "filing system", I decided to help.
Together, we went through all the documents she had. Birth dates were tracked in 3 different places, classes were documented in 2 different places, participation in opening exercises was assigned using a "gut-feel" approach. We attacked the pile with the goal of getting rid of R.O.T. Anything that was Redundant, Outdated or Trivial went in the trash; anything that was left was set aside for further review.
It became apparent that the paper system was not working, and emailing spreadsheets back and forth among the presidency led to versioning problems. So we organized everything into a single Google Doc Spreadsheet. Classes, class membership, birthdays, teachers, room numbers were all presented in a easy to consume format that was accessible to all members of the presidency.
But there was still that pesky problem of "whose turn is it to say the prayer in opening exercises?" The answer was a tracking spreadsheet where dates that children participated could be recorded. With a bit of code whipped up by a loving husband the spreadsheet would generate a list of participation candidates based upon how long it had been since they last participated.
A few years, one ward split and several extended family members later--my wife was primary president and five wards around the country were using one version or another of the opening exercises spreadsheet. The problem was that different wards had different requirements. Some wards had a whole suite of opening exercises activities (prayer, scripture, article of faith, talk, and spotlight), while others only used a few activities. Not only was this a struggle for me to support, but we were reaching some of the limits of the technology.
My brother (whose wife had recently been called as primary president) called me and we began discussing options. Within a week we were prototyping what would eventually become Primary Tools. Built upon more robust technology and designed from the ground up to support the diverse needs of different wards and branches, we hope that Primary Tools will help your presidency strive for More Ministration and Less Administration.
Marlo Bell, Co-founder
When we first set out to build Primary Tools, we had the goal of assisting primary presidents (namely our wives) administer their primaries. We also held as a core tenent to not compete with official Church resources such as LDS.org. Leader and Clerk Resources on LDS.org left a lot to be desired several years ago, but they have come a long way since that time, and we are beginning to see overlap.
In addition, we have recently received an email from the Church Legal Department requesting (among other things) that we stop allowing users to upload MLS exports to Primary Tools. Unfortunately, this is core to the success of Primary Tools as it very laborious to manually input the information.
Effective immediately, no new Units will be able to be created in Primary Tools and the CSV upload capability will be disabled. Also, no Units will be able to renew their premium subscription. Because we believe in honoring our promises, we will keep the web site running until May 31, 2018 at which point we will shut down the site and delete all data associated with it.
Making money was never the goal, and we never made any on the project. We have been able to cover our hosting costs and have donated thousands of hours building and maintaining the website over the years. We hope that we have collectively saved primary presidencies hundreds of thousands of hours.
Thank you to all who over the years have given us so many great ideas to make the site better. We encourage all Primary Tools users to begin using the Church’s official tools hosted on LDS.org. About a year ago, we contacted the product manager for Leader and Clerk Resources on LDS.org and encouraged them to adopt some of the capabilities that we have delivered in Primary Tools. Please use the feedback button and ask for specific features that will be lost when Primary Tools is shut down.
Marlo Bell, Co-founder
Jason Bell, Co-founder