Necessities of a Good Church Database
If you are involved in dealing with people at your church at any level, you probably have a database to help you. As you work in your database, you may ask yourself the following: How do I properly maintain my database? What kind of information should I keep? How can I get other people to help me use the database? A church database is an often unseen but extremely valuable tool to help reach more people with the message of the gospel. Christians have not always had the opportunity to keep their databases electronically. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to lead and work with the 5,000+ members of the church at Jerusalem in Acts. However, in modern times, having a database is more convenient than ever. Here are some necessities of a good church database:
1. Start Right Away
If you do not already have a detailed database full of records, there is no better time to start one than right now! Do not delay. The need for a database just for legalities sake is in itself a giant topic. If you already have a database, retool it to use it as much as you can. Every moment that you delay in keeping organized and comprehensive records in a database is a moment in which useful information is thrown away.
2. Make it Electronic
There is no reason in today’s society to keep hundreds of 3×5 cards and pretend that it is a database. There are many database systems available for churches and ministries to keep information accessible and organized. If you do not like a specific database or if you do not want to pay a specific amount for a database system, I know many churches, bus ministries, and Sunday school classes that use Google Sheets to store information.
3. Take It to the Cloud
Any modern database should be cloud-based in order to make it accessible from any computer or mobile device. A cloud-based system simply means that the information is stored on the internet in a specific location instead of on your computer’s desktop or a local server. This is one reason why Google Sheets works for people who do not wish to pay for a database program. This is not an advertisement for Google, but Google Sheets is useful to store information. However, the best feature is that you can access that data from your phone, work computer, or home computer. The data is now available from anywhere.
4. Ease of Use
The database system that you choose to use should be just that – useable. Do not pick a database that takes a seasoned rocket scientist in order to figure out how it works. A user-friendly interface makes storing information and accessing that information practical and easy as opposed to difficult, frustrating, and then discouraging.
5. Customization of Database Fields
With each differing ministry and church comes various needs and wants. Ensure that your data can be customized in order to fit your specific needs. In order to accommodate the needs of your ministry, you may have to add an additional record field in order to track the information that you want to.
6. Security of Information
When compiling a database, people are entrusting you with sensitive information that needs to be kept secure and safe. Cloud-based systems often strive to have the most advanced security because their livelihood is to protect and store that information. Additionally, people should only have access to data that pertains to them. A first-grade girl’s Sunday school teacher should not be able to look up the personal information of every member of your church. Wherever you keep your database, make sure that it is always password protected and stored somewhere safe.
7. Formatting and Sharing Data
Any database system should be capable of sharing and manipulating the information in order to meet specific requests or questions. Printing labels for absentee letters is a great example. You should be able to complete requests like pulling absentee information from your database and formatting it easily to print labels for letters. The information you keep in your database is only as good as the amount of times that you can use it. If you cannot edit, manipulate, or share the information in your database, it is not very useful to your church.
8. Keep the Good
Lastly, when starting or retooling a database, it is very tempting to keep each and every piece of information stored in your system. This is not always the best practice. Databases are meant to store extreme amounts of data, and your database system should be comprehensive and complete. However, do not just collect data for the sake of putting it in the system. Keep only good information that will serve a purpose at a later date. Ask yourself, “Will there ever be a time that I will use this data that I am keeping?” If the answer is yes, then please record it so that you can use it. But be careful of keeping useless data that will just bog down your database and make it cumbersome and unwieldy. Do NOT keep information about someone unless you believe that it will be useful to you or someone else in the future.
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Luke Flood serves on staff as the bus director and is responsible for seeing hundreds of people in church on a weekly basis. He is a true product of North Valley Baptist Church. Having grown up in a wonderful Christian family, he attended North Valley Baptist Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade. After graduation, he attended Golden State Baptist College where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.