Creating a Church Member Directory

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Whether you’re starting from scratch creating your church’s next photo member directory – or you’re just getting ready to update one — it’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to publishing your next church directory.

Here are a few top-level tips to get you moving in the right direction.

Understanding Your Church’s Approval Process.

There is nothing more frustrating or heartbreaking than having a group of volunteers spend hours putting together a church directory only to have the committee or church refuse to print it.  The last thing we want is to see that happen.
Understanding the “who” and “when” of the directory approval process is the best place to start.  Some churches utilize committees and councils that must approve all projects. Others just need the Pastor’s consent to get started.

Here are some basic questions to ask your church before you begin:

  • Who needs to approve a church directory?
  • Is there a budget for a church directory?  Is there a way to receive special donations if there isn’t one?
  • What does the Pastor / Committee / Council need to see to make an informed decision?  (For example, do they need to see a full directory with our members or just a sample?)
  • What information should or shouldn’t be included in the church directory?

Understanding your church’s guidelines first will save time and heartache.

Choose Between a Printed vs Online Directory.

Does your church want a traditional printed directory, an online directory or both?   Are you going to create it yourself or use software to build your directory?
The answers to these questions often depends on the size of your congregation and budget requirements, as well as the average age of your church membership.
For small churches with less than 50 members, creating your own printed directory using Word or Publisher might be the easiest and least expensive way.
However, if your church has over 1,000 members, composed of mostly young families, an online directory software program might be the simplest way to create (and maintain) your directory.
Check out our article about the Pros and Cons of a Traditional Printed Church Member Directory vs. an Online Church Directory to help understand which type is right for your church.

Determine What Members’ Details to Include.

What information is most important to your staff and fellow church members to include in the church directory?
Directories may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Family first and last names.  Remember, some families have members with different last names, so you’ll want to decide how to handle those.
  2. Address or Addresses.  Does your church have lots of “snowbirds”? Do your members often have different mailing and physical addresses?  This is helpful to know as you lay out your directory.
  3. Phone numbers.  Be sure to allow space to include multiple phone numbers.  Think of ways to differentiate between work, cell and home phone numbers for each family member.
  4. Email Address.  Just like phone numbers, you’ll want to distinguish if this is a family (shared) email address or an individual’s email address.
  5. Birthdays. These are great to include in a directory to help celebrate your members’ special days.  Keep in mind, some older members would rather you leave their birth year out the directory. 😊
  6. Anniversaries.  These special dates could be a wedding, baptism, or church membership anniversary.
  7. Family Photos.  As this may be the most important element of your directory, consider taking pictures on a Sunday morning or use a program that will allow the families to upload their own photo.
  8. Groups or Committees.  To help connect members, include group or committee lists within the directory. Consider creating sub-directories for groups rather than trying to include all the information in the main directory itself.

By deciding up front what details to include, you can provide quick answers for church committees or members to make the process of building your directory easy and fast!

Gather Members’ Information.

Once you have your church’s approval and have decided how to build your directory – next comes the task of gathering and imputing all your members’ information.
Experience has shown us that members would rather simply EDIT their contact information than fill out a blank form. Providing each family with a proposed sheet of their contact details to include will motivate them to send corrections MUCH faster than if you request that information on a blank form.  This will also help to correct any inaccurate information BEFORE it gets printed.

One photo taking tip:
If you are going to take member’s photos, Easter Sunday is an excellent day to do so.  Even though it’s a busy day, you’ll get more members’ photos on that Sunday than any other Sunday throughout the year. Members will be dressed in their best and brightest, ready to take a photo.

Make your Church Directory Unique.

Beyond creating a dynamic cover page for your directory, consider ways to add special features to showcase your wonderful church family.  Think about creating yearbook style pages with photos of groups, trips and fellowship opportunities in the back of the directory. Or, simply incorporate scripture or clip-art throughout the pages to give it an inviting look.
You can design pages to highlight events such as high school or college graduations; acknowledge special members of your congregation such as active military personnel who are overseas or create memorials for members who have passed away. Create pages to announce weddings, births or engagements that your congregation has celebrated throughout the year. These pages will transform your directory into more than just an informational tool.  Your directory will grow into a special keepsake to treasure for years to come and strengthen the sense of community within the church.

Rolling Out Your Church Directory.

Now, you’ve done the hard work of putting together your directory. Congratulations! Phew! What a job!  Time to share it with your members!
If you’ve created a printed directory, before or after a worship service can often be the best time to distribute them to the church family.  Or, during announcement time, enlist a few youth members to help pass them out row by row while everyone is seated.
If you’re rolling out an Online Member directory, place login instructions in your church’s bulletin to educate church members on the login process.  Or, during announcements in your worship service, show a Powerpoint slide featuring the login instructions and have everyone log in at the same time.
But by far, our favorite activity to suggest is a “Directory Pot Luck Dinner.  It’s a great fellowship opportunity to come together, share a meal and give recognition to the volunteers who worked so hard to put the directory together.

Author Bio:

Kristen Greene

Kristen Greene is the Creative Director of Communication Resources, Inc. Being the daughter of a Publisher and active Church Leader, she grew up in the Church Publishing Industry. She has also been involved in multiple church roles and non-profit events – which makes solving real church and volunteer problems near and dear to her heart. Kristen enjoys painting with her “herd” of animals and camping with her husband.

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