Relationships are at the heart of every church, yet keeping track of every person’s contact information can be a big challenge as churches grow. For decades, church directories have been used to share names, photos, and contact information so that communities can stay connected and build relationships with one another.
Some consider traditional, printed church directories to be out-of-date like a phone book or Rolodex. However, there are still congregations that value physical church directories much like a cherished family photo album—a kind of historical record of their church family that also functions to keep people in touch.
If your church is looking to create a new, more accessible resource, it’s important to know about online church directory tools that make it more simple than ever to keep your community connected. Let’s take a look at what a church directory is, its benefits, the do’s and don’ts of creating a church directory, and how to choose the best church directory software.
A church directory is a resource that allows people to stay connected with one another by putting names to faces and providing church member information. Historically, church phone directories were printed books that contained church members’ names, photos, family relationships, contact information, and important dates like birthdays and anniversaries.
Churches are switching to online church directories because they’re less expensive and easier to manage, plus many offer built-in communication tools that create deeper connections. Let’s take a closer look at the many benefits of church directory programs.
1. Save time & money
Printed church directories are expensive, and they risk becoming outdated as soon as they leave the printers. Online church directory software, however, is hosted in the cloud and costs significantly less than its printed counterpart. They also offer the convenience of updating church member information as people move, get married, start families, and so on.
2. Privacy & safety
Protecting data is now a major concern, not only for the safety of your community’s sensitive information, but also because mishandling their data can result in fines or other legal penalties. Keeping church members’ personal data in a paper notebook or even a computer spreadsheet is not the safest (or easiest) option available.
The most secure way to protect your members' personal information is by using church management software (ChMS) that is hosted on the cloud and developed with the latest data security. Most ChMS tools offer robust administration features for managing who on your team has access to your church directory program.
3. Know your congregation better
Online church directories allow you to keep up with the changes in your church as life happens. For example, People & Groups on the Subsplash Platform is a simple and powerful tool that allows you to know who’s engaging within your community—all from one, simple dashboard!
Imagine being able to quickly pull reports to better understand and communicate with the people in your church. All of this information will help your leadership team better understand and connect with your congregation.
Creating a church directory goes beyond simply gathering a church member’s contact information. Here are seven best practices to help you build an effective directory that supports your church’s goals.
1. Go digital
If you haven’t already digitized your church directory, now is the time to do it. Putting your data in the cloud provides you with better access, security, and integrations with other software. It’s also much more accessible and convenient for your staff and church members. And if your church computer crashes? No worries—your data is safely backed up in the cloud.
2. Collect information
Your member directory should contain as much information as possible about your people, such as phone numbers, email, ages, family makeup, small groups, and important dates like birthdays and anniversaries. This information will help you better know your members, manage your groups, and improve communication.
3. Keep private information private
Your online church directory is intended to share church members’ information in order to encourage meaningful connections. However, it’s crucial that your church leaders decide which information is open to church members, and what data is only available to authorized church staff and leadership. This will protect your members and prevent potential privacy issues.
4. Integrate with church management software
Keeping member directories on digital spreadsheets is time-consuming and prone to errors. Instead, what your church needs is a single source of truth for your data. Integrating your church directory program with your ChMS allows you to securely collect this information alongside donor information, event registrations, and other important member data.
5. Don’t expose children’s data
Child safety should be of the utmost importance when creating your church directory. Laws and regulations like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”) place restrictions on collecting children’s information. Be sure to limit any public-facing child information to their first names, and do not include any details like physical address or phone numbers. Parents and families will appreciate your dedication to keeping children safe.
6. Hire a photographer
A fun way to improve the quality of your church directory photos is to hire a photographer to capture special moments in the life of your church! For example, during Easter or other special events, set up a beautiful backdrop and have your photographer take pictures of everyone while they’re excited and best dressed. It’s a fun and creative way to get your church involved and excited about seeing themselves in the directory!
7. Require a sign-in process
Your online church directory should require users to register and login before accessing any information. Your leadership team should also be able to invite new users and remove others as necessary. This is a critical step towards keeping your community safe.
Let’s take a look at what the best church directory software offers and what makes these options so much more than a simple church phone directory.
Better connection tools
Many churches attempt to use public social media platforms, like Facebook, as informal church directories. However, these platforms are full of distractions, facilitate cyberbullying, and can be difficult for admins to manage. On the other hand, some online church directories integrate with communication tools, like Subsplash Messaging, that allow your users to interact with each other in a safe environment—free of distractions like ads, “suggested videos,” and other non-church-related content.
Church directory app options
Most of your church members carry smartphones. That’s why the best directories make it easy to use their software on mobile devices with a church directory app. These apps allow your congregation to easily find and connect with other church members.
The ultimate goal of any church directory is to connect people, but how we do that has changed dramatically over the last few years. For example, think of the many ways you keep in touch with your friends and family every day: texting, instant messaging, video calls, social media, and so on. Churches need more than just email to keep in touch with their members.
Subsplash One allows your church to stay connected with powerful tools like mobile apps, group messaging, online giving, live streaming, event management, and so much more! Don’t miss out on the convenience and peace-of-mind offered by simple and easy-to-use software that helps manage your church’s people.