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On Sunday I was released as the secretary from our ward’s primary presidency.  It came as a bit of a surprise since we had thought we were going to be in for three years and were just getting geared up for our third year.  But apparently it was our time to go on to other things – hopefully it means that we were doing things so right and awesome that it was time for us to grow in other capacities and not that we were failing so miserably that they needed someone else to take over 😉

Anyways, last year I started putting together all of my resources in a hope that I could make them so easy peasy to use this year that I didn’t hardly have to think about it.  So now I have a bunch of resources to make my life easy, and I don’t need them.  So I thought I would share them with all of you and hopefully make someone else’s life easy instead 🙂  We have a primary with over 120 kids (plus 45 kids in our nursery) so anything I could do to make things run super smoothly made a huge difference in our ward.

One thing that I decided to do at the beginning of the year was to put together all of our birthday cards, conducting sheets and opening exercises assignments wristbands for the entire year and have them all set to go in our cabinet at church.  It was a LOT of work at the time (and of course, the week that I finally got everything finished was the week just before they split our ward – so I had to reshuffle a lot of things again 😛 ), but it helped SO much with keeping our primary running smoothly.  Plus, it made it so that if there was a week that I was out of town I wasn’t racing to get things finished at the beginning of the week and passed off to the right counselor – everything was already in place and they just had to pick up the little packet when they got to church on Sunday and there was no frazzle in my absence.

So, I thought I would start by sharing the birthday cards that I made for our kids, and the spreadsheet that I used to generate them so that I wasn’t custom making 120+ cards.  We decided to give each of the kids a birthday coupon that they can show to the bishop to get a treat on the week of their birthday.  We thought this was a good way to let the kids get a chance to meet with the bishop for a brief second and let him wish them a happy birthday.  It just felt more meaningful than handing them a piece of candy during sharing time.    Here’s a preview of what it looks like –

The imagery that I used is from Megan Turnidge‘s scrapbooking site.  I tried to contact her to secure definite permission for using it in this project, but I haven’t received a response.  Since I only used her free birthday scrapbook pack I feel like it’s probably ok since you could just as easily go download all the graphics yourself.  I don’t think I’m violating her terms of use, but I’m definitely on the border line so I would have liked to have had her explicit permission (I try to be very sensitive to how I use other people’s intellectual property).  Anyways,  I totally recommend that you check out her stuff, it’s super cute!  Also, if you want to use the same font I got it from Kevin & Amanda’s Fonts for Peas site and the font is called Pea Marcie (you will need to download that font if you want your card to look like mine, otherwise it will just use whatever default font Publisher feels like using). I started with a Microsoft Publisher document and made a little card with a space for the child’s name, birthdate, and whether they were in Jr or Sr Primary.  Then I put together an Excel spreadsheet with those fields and pasted in all the information from MLS.  Then I did a mail merge and voila!  One hundred and twenty birthday cards done without my having to fill in all the information manually.  It’s like magic!

If you’d like to take advantage of these templates but don’t know how to do a mail merge, don’t be intimidated!  I’ve tried to make this as easy peasy as possible so that, even without much technical skills, you can quickly make these birthday cards too 🙂  I promise it’s not nearly so scary as it sounds or looks, I even tested the steps out on my much less technically inclined sister (thanks Taylor!) and she didn’t have any problems with it.  I hope you’ll give it a try!  Here are the steps you’ll need to take –

  1. Download this zipped file: Birthday Coupons.  There’s an Excel file and a Publisher file (if you’ve never used Publisher before still don’t be intimidated!  You really won’t need to know anything about Publisher for this to work.  If you’ve used Word or Powerpoint before it’s very similar, but you don’t even have to know that much about it to make this work for you)
  2. Open up the Excel file and enter in the data for your primary.

    If you want to pull this data from MLS it’s actually pretty simple.  I would include screen shots but since I’m no longer secretary I don’t have MLS access to get the screen shots.  But to the best of my memory this is what you’ll need to do.  Go into MLS and find the Custom Reports menu item.  Then make a new report that filters for just primary children, and include the fields first name, last name, birth month, birth day (not the full birthday just the number of the day the child was born), birth year.  I don’t think they have a field for Jr vs Sr Primary, but if they do then add that in as well.  Run that report and I would recommend sorting the report by birth day and then birth month (just click on those field titles in those order to order the report).  Under the File Menu there should be an option that says “Export” or “Export to CSV”.  If you export the report as a CSV and either email that to yourself or pop it on a USB drive, you can take that home and copy the information and paste it straight into your excel spreadsheet rather than having to type it out yourself, just don’t overwrite the header row or your first card won’t print out and you’ll be frustrated.

  3. Save the Excel file. Make sure you know where you’ve saved it – you can save it where it was before, just make sure you know where that is whether it’s on your Desktop or in the Downloads folder or wherever.  Then close the file.
  4. (Psst, the hardest part is now done!)
  5. Open up the Publisher file.
  6. A pop up box should appear like the one below asking if you want to reconnect the data source – click yesaccess data
  7. Another pop up box should appear saying that reconnecting the data source failed (don’t worry, that’s what’s supposed to happen!) and it should have two option buttons, click the one that says “Try to reconnect the data source” and click continue.reconnect
  8. A file finder box should pop up asking you to try and find the file.  Connect to the excel file that we saved in step 3.
  9. Another box should pop up asking you what sheet you want to use, it should already have sheet 1 selected, but if not select that and click “Ok”select_tables

That should be it!  You should now have birthday cards for all the kids in the ward!   That wasn’t so scary was it?

You can preview and edit the individual cards by going to the mailings tab at the top and scrolling through the recipients:

Or print them by going to Print and selecting “Print All Records”.  Or you can enter in which records you want and print them out a few at a time (I did this when I did them the first time because I was always worried about printing 30 pages and having run out of one of the colors of ink after page 5 and having wasted 25 pages of cardstock!)

Hopefully this saves someone lots and lots of time, or lots of people a little bit of time 🙂  If you want to change what I’ve done please feel free to do so!  The layout is all controlled on the master page, which keeps you from having to make changes to each individual card, and also keeps your file size a little smaller.  You can access to Master Page by going to View -> Master Page

If anyone has a cute template that they would like to share I’d be happy to post it here, or you’re welcome to post it on your own website.  If you use my mail merging-ness I would appreciate a link back to this tutorial.  And let me know, I’d be happy to link to you as well!

If I haven’t scared you off with the complexity of a mail merge then tune in for the rest of the series where I will provide downloads for door signs, binder covers, conducting sheets, and reminder wristbands!  As well as including all my other tips and tricks of the trade from my couple of years as a Primary Secretary 🙂