On Thursday, May 12, 2011 the Synod Communicators group gathered at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Elkton, MN to talk about databases and church management software.
The following systems were used by people at the meeting:
- Servant Keeper (Wendy at Zion, Stewartville)
- Church Windows (Barb at Hosanna, Rochester; Joanne at Our Savior’s, Rochester; Chris at Trinity, Hayfield; Marge at First, Le Sueur)
- Shepherd’s Staff (Kathy and Tara at Little Cedar and Marshall, Adams; Tricia at Bethel, Rochester)
- Church Management Solutions (Jessica at United Redeemer, Zumbrota)
- ACS (Katie at the synod office)
Most appreciated features:
- Creating groups
How to manage multiple users:
- Data can be stored on a server
- Remote instances
- Online systems (some systems are now offering online versions where data is stored on remote, secure servers and can be accessed with a username and password from any computer, some also offer online directories for your members)
- Most users don’t use these features
- Many systems offer a mapping feature, allowing you to click on an address and get a map (Google Maps, Mapquest, etc.)
- Most have the option to set each field/type of information to be viewable by, editable by, or hidden from each respective user.
Shepherds Staff’s Member Connect:
- A feature that allows for many online features including websites, online discussions and collaborations, and password-protected member directories
For official records:
- Having a database is not a replacement for a parish register
- The database can be used to generate one. Printouts should be stored as any permanent archive would. Digital copies can be made in addition, but not as the sole version. Paul Daniels at Region 3 Archives can answer any questions. Contact and info at www.luthersem.edu/archives
- More information about maintaing records can be found at www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Office-of-the-Secretary/Congregation-Administration/Records-Management.aspx (see left side for some sub-categories) or contact Paul Daniels (see above).
- Unless you’re using an online system with appropriate duplicate versions (i.e. your data is stored on multiple remote servers), you should make regular backups of your data.
- Weekly backups are a good idea, but it depends on your circumstances.
- Backups should be kept off-site. Ex. at your home, bank, etc.
- Most systems offer training
- Some offer webinars or private online training
- Most will send trainers to your site (at a cost)
- Many have conferences and other events to attend. A benefit to these is hearing others ask questions you never thought to.
Trial and Error:
- Some systems (ACS for sure) will let you make a duplicate set of data to play with. This will allow you to test different settings and ways to do things without ruining your data.
- Another way is to take a copy home and play on another computer. Church Windows has recommended this.
- Most have long manuals and other resources.
- It was agreed that a “cheat sheet” for other staff would be good, but no one had one.
Feel free to share your additional suggestions or questions in the comments section below.