By Amy Bechdel
When you think of a church directory, what do you picture? A book that sits on your shelf? A list of contact information your church administrator keeps? An old photo album?
If that’s your current church directory, you may wonder how moving it online could really benefit your church. But an online directory is so much more than your current directory taken off a dusty shelf and placed on the World Wide Web.
To better understand the benefits of an online directory, start by imagining a useful, up-to-date tool that your members access on a weekly basis for communication, and can keep with them on the go.
Now, consider the fact that online member profiles, connected to your directory, can even become a place for members to manage their info, register for events, view personal giving history and more. Read on to find out more about the benefits of an online directory.
1. Easy Access
When you have an online directory, all your church members have the latest church member data at all times. Unlike a traditional directory that needs to be reprinted, as addresses, phone numbers, and household members change, your directory can reflect this immediately. This results in your members being able to reach each other…and also fewer calls to your office for updated information.
Plus, members can access this information from anywhere at any time via their phone, computer, or other mobile device. This means your members can literally carry a directory in their pocket to access as they are headed to a new home group, for example.
With an online directory, members can update their own information.
First of all, your directory will be updated more quickly. Members can sign in to their profile and add a new picture, change their information, or even choose to make some of their information unlisted. This no longer requires them to remember to call the church office, and then wait for the administrator to have a chance to update the info.
Secondly, when members update their secure online profile, it not only updates your directory, but also updates your church’s database. As a result, communications and efforts to reach your members will also be more effective.
Third, members can add their own pictures to the directory. You can still offer professional picture services and upload those images. But for new people, people who missed picture day, or maybe members who don’t have the budget for professional photos, they (or you) can upload a photo taken on a cell phone or saved on their computer.
3. Online Statements
Today, anyone who is giving to a non-profit expects to be able to see a history of their giving at any time. It’s an expectation in a world where people can get online or access an app to see their credit card statements, bank accounts, online shopping history, and more. Your church members will appreciate being able to access their tithe and offering history online, as well.
Being able to access and print contribution statements online helps your members in various practical ways. First of all, they can print their statement at any time. This means that they don’t need to wait for your office to mail them a physical statement at tax time. In fact, they can even select to not receive a physical statement, saving them from having personal giving information going through the mail, and saving you a stamp.
Additionally, your members will be able to view past giving history to better plan for increases in giving, both throughout the year, and at the end of the year.
4. Online Event Sign-Up
You no longer have to rely on your members to remember to call someone, or find a physical sign up sheet in your church to register for events. You can add events to your online member profiles, and allow members to sign themselves, or their kids up for retreats, Sunday school classes, youth events and anything else you have going on.
This means, if sign-ups for a particular event are low, or you know of several members who wanted to sign up, but didn’t fill out the form, you can quickly email them a reminder and a link to the directory. From there, they can log into their member profile, and sign up just by checking a box. It’s that simple.
5. More Traffic to Your Church Website
Your website is a valuable asset and communication tool. Having members frequent your site helps to keep them informed and more engaged. It’s a central place where you can post all public information so that nobody feels uninformed. Adding a valuable tool like an online directory to your website will help keep your members going to your church website.
The directory will also be a tool to help them to take action on what they see on your website.
- Members can see upcoming events online and sign up in their online profiles.
- They can see announcements about volunteer help that is needed and access the volunteer coordinator’s email address from the online directory to reach out and get involved.
- Remind your members via a note on your website about the passing of a brother or sister in Christ, and they can find the family’s info to send a condolence, or show up with meal.
- Members can view their giving history, and then (if you have online giving set up) choose to give directly from an online member profile.
A well-designed directory will be even simpler to use than Facebook. Search and sorting features will allow anyone who can access the Internet to be able to easily navigate an online directory. And for those who don’t have a computer, online directories can be quickly printed out in an easy-to-read, book-like format.
Finally, it’s quite simple for churches to secure their online directories and online member profile. The church can easily set a directory password and allow members to set their own passwords for their member profiles. Members can also fine-tune their personal security by deciding what information they want to be made available or public on the directory.
Amy Bechdel is the marketing director at Servant PC Resources. She works to help other churches discover how Servant Keeper church software can help them manage membership, contributions, and check-in, www.servantpc.com.