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Six of Our Best Tips for Church Directories

1. How Often Is “Often Enough?”
The church directory cycle has been typically every three to four years. But, each church needs to assess their individual circumstances. In a rapidly growing church, the cycle may need to be shortened. The need to document new members and the changes that come with growth may warrant a new directory more often. A church with a changing pastoral staff may consider a directory sooner rather than later. Not only does an updated directory help the new pastor become acquainted with the membership, but it also gives the new pastor a vehicle to document his message and commitment to creating a strong religious family.

Another important consideration is the opportunity a directory creates for family portraiture. Many directory companies offer update programs. The company will come into the church (at no cost to the church) during non-directory years and photograph new families or families who missed the original directory photography session. A supplement to the directory with photographs and roster information for these families is provided free for all new families and those who participated in the original program. These updates further connect families.

2. Connecting Through Technology
A new way that many churches are leveraging their directory is by making it available to members online. This has quickly become a popular option, because it provides a new level of interactivity and more opportunities to reach out to the congregation. With minimal effort and no financial investment required, online directories offer a beneficial new tool for the entire family of faith.

The customizable online directory can be linked to the church's Web site or serve as a stand-alone site. The best online directories also provide a high level of security by providing individual passwords to each family of the congregation. A number of user features are available, such as targeted searching, broadcast or targeted e-mails, desktop printing, bulletin boards, event calendars, and online surveys. The searching tools are especially helpful, as they allow members to search for others with similar interests, providing a new way for members to communicate and connect with one another.

Another key benefit of an online directory is that it can easily be updated on an as-needed basis. Individual members can access their profiles and update their information at any time, which is particularly important to young families who are changing. New members of the church can join the online directory immediately and no longer need to wait to be included with the rest of the congregation. Directory companies also offer opportunities to update or add member photos in between versions of the printed directories.

3. Make It Personal
It is important to partner with a company that will go beyond the traditional head-and-shoulders family photograph to capture the family's personality. Today's portrait providers not only offer a multitude of backgrounds, but they can be personalized to tell a family's story visually. Some members add pets and props to their photographs or dress in similar clothes to help illustrate their unique qualities.

Many churches have found that members appreciate the opportunity to have family portraits taken. Studies have shown that, on average, families like to have a professional portrait taken every three years, and they often rely on the church for that opportunity.

Offering family portrait sessions is a wonderful opportunity for churches to reach out to inactive members. By offering this service, churches are able to reinvigorate relationships with members and increase participation in the congregation. It also results in a more complete directory.

In addition, many churches are using their directories as a marketing tool when recruiting prospective church members. The most effective directories not only include photos of members but also convey the organization's unique history, values, mission, and vision. Many directories feature activity pages highlighting members' involvement in the church's activities, such as volunteerism, ministry programs, and events.
4. Make It a Partnership
No matter if a church directory is new for you or you are updating a current directory, there are a number of considerations when choosing a portrait and directory provider:

* No cost to the church
* A complimentary directory and portrait for each family photographed
* Free, secure, easily accessed and updated online directory
* Additional directories for outreach
* Compelling photography by trained professionals employed by the directory company
* Design and production options
* In-house production of directories and portraits to ensure consistency and quick turnaround
* Free tools to encourage participation, such as posters, bulletin inserts, pulpit and newsletter announcements, reminder cards, sign-up displays, online sign-up tools, DVDs, and presentations
* References from other churches

5. Liven It Up
Continue to list the essentials (names, address and phone numbers), but imagine all the other possible information that could make your directory more helpful to members and staff.
A photo directory is one of the best opportunities to connect members, especially in larger churches where it’s impossible to know everyone. To new as well as current members, directories offer a way to associate faces with names and to act as a source for contact information. Who hasn’t forgotten a name, but knows the face is familiar? Here’s the chance to review the picture of someone you have met at church—and make the connection.

Helping your congregation build relationships means your directory goes beyond the simple. It needs to help everyone relate to each other.

6. Connect. Reach Out. Grow. Raise Funds.
A church directory program can help your church grow by getting the word out, and the people in, shall we say? A program designed for your needs can help you connect with and reach out to your less active or completely inactive members.

Plus, it enables you to generate revenue for your church. What church would say "no" to that opportunity?

Today, directory companies are tailoring programs based upon the ministry needs of the church. A directory company can provide unique outreach materials designed to help grow your ministries and membership.

You can get professionally designed materials provided at no cost to promote your church and your ministries and advertise your events. These items include brochures, postcards, greeting cards and more, making it easy to inform current members and reach out to inactive members.

You may even consider using a photography program as an effective outreach event. Many directory companies will encourage you to open up your program and invite members of the community to participate. Not a bad idea, right?

You might provide tours of your facility, give information about what you offer, and extend a personal invitation to attend a service or activity. The visitors receive a complimentary portrait, while the church receives the benefit of increased participation and, best of all, a unique opportunity to have people walk through your door that typically wouldn't have.

Fundraising programs are being offered today, as well. Partner with a directory company that provides a way for your church or a specific ministry to earn funds. 

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Religious Product News