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5 New Technologies for Gathering Data in Your Church
By: Leah Readings

Right now, many churches are collecting information and taking attendance by hand or by manually inputting the data into their church management system—sure, it might be a time consuming task, but what other way is there?

The thought of fingerprint scanning and facial recognition software to keep track of attendance and members makes you think of Minority Report—that stuff only happens in the movies, not in real life, and especially not at church!

Well, believe it or not, that technology is actually becoming a reality—and churches are starting to catch on as well. Using bar codes to check children into church daycares is more commonplace, and even fingerprint scanners have started popping up in churches. Gathering data in these ways is becoming a thing of the present, not the future, and it is incredibly efficient.

Your church should be aware of these emerging technologies so that you can stay informed of the possible changes your church may need to make in the near future. Here are five of these data-gathering new church technologies you should be keeping an eye on.

1. Bar Codes
Bar codes are so far the most commonly used technology (out of these new data collecting trends) within church systems.

They are often used with check-in systems to make locating people much more efficient. Many church systems that offer the check-in feature include bar code readers as well. This can be good for both child check-in and for tracking church attendance. The system will allow you to scan the bar code of everyone who is present and will then automatically mark who is absent. This can greatly reduce data entry time as well as increase the accuracy of the data entry.

2. QR Codes
QR codes, like bar codes, have been around for a while, but unlike bar codes, have yet to see widespread adoption. Many churches will use QR codes for linking people to their website, online giving portals, or internet bulletins and newsletters.

Useful ways to implement QR codes include putting one next to each item in the Sunday bulletin with a link to more information on your website, adding a “sermon notes” section in the bulletin and then linking it to audio video, or extra notes, including QR codes in your direct mail, or including a code on an invitation that links to the event website.

3. Social Media Integration
Software systems are now definitely moving in the direction of integrating with social media information, such as Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. The software system must get the user’s permission, of course, to use that information, but social media integration has a lot of potential for sharing and networking as well as for gathering demographic information, and this can drastically improve church marketing.

4. Proximity Software
Right now, the most prevalent proximity technologies are GPS and near field communication. These are used at times in retail businesses to notify people of deals as they enter stores. It can also be a way to pay dues or make donations straight from your cell phone. These kinds of technologies are gradually gaining popularity, and if they do, they could turn into some great ways to track attendance, volunteer hours, and general involvement in the church

5. Facial Recognition/Fingerprint Scanning
While it seems strange to think of doing attendance based on facial recognition (or by fingerprints), it could be a possibility in the near future. Biometric Attendance Machines can make attendance taking more efficient and can also generate industry standard reports. This type of technology reads the face or fingerprint with the biometric scanner, and then that biometric image is stored within the software—this type of technology could eventually eliminate the use of barcodes as it can be much more efficient and takes up less space.

While it is unlikely that the majority of churches will implement this type of technology immediately, it is possible that in the distant future this could become normal. Some church software companies are already starting to use biometrics for their check-in systems.

Leah Readings is a software analyst for Capterra, www.capterra.com.

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