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5 Best Practices for Utilizing Your Church Database

by Janie Richmond
Church Database Best Practices

Your church database is more than just a place to store contact information. It’s a tool that can help you shepherd your people better. Here are five best practices for how to utilize your church database.

1. Prepare for Pastor and Leader Buy-In

When selecting a church database, such as Aplos’ Church Management Software, or deciding to fully use the one you already have, making sure the pastor or pastors are leading the call is a must.

Admins, who are generally the ones entering data and running reports, tend to be the early adopters when it comes to using a database. They understand the value because they are the ones who use it in their daily jobs. Getting pastors bought in, however, tends to be more difficult because they may not see the need to log in and use the database at all.

But to best care for the people God has entrusted you with, everyone on your staff—whether it is large or small—should be on the same page, and your database can help you do that.

Bonus: When pastors and key leaders are bought in, and they regularly use the database themselves, the rest of the staff tends to follow their lead.

2. Prioritize People Details

Notes are a necessity. When a person gets baptized, someone’s spouse dies, a couple gets married, or someone suddenly stops attending a small group, they may need care or follow-up. Keeping track of this information in your database isn’t about the data itself; it’s about people.

A pastor could keep track of some of those details in their own Excel file or Evernote account, but what happens six months or a year later when the widow is still grieving and everyone else has moved on with their lives? Your Excel file won’t remind you to follow up when she needs someone to reach out to her. That’s especially true if another pastor or staff member took charge of her initially.

You may also have a case where someone is under church discipline. If so, you absolutely want all that info in one place to refer to any questions that may come up in the future or note any progress in their restoration plan.

3. Promote Consistency

Every church is different, so the way data is entered won’t be the same across the board, but it is important for your church to enter data consistently.

Keeping formats consistent for phone numbers, addresses, names, etc., may seem like a lot of work at first, but when you’re ready to run reports and need to have everything as clean as possible, you’ll be glad you took the time to consistently format your data.

4. Properly Maintain Data

No matter how refined your data entry process is, data can become outdated. It’s also possible for people to make mistakes when entering information—because they’re human. Having a person or a team in charge of data integrity can help you stay on top of things before your database gets out of control. Whether you set up weekly, monthly, or yearly tasks, cleaning up duplicate entries and updating people’s contact info will save you from future headaches.

Keeping your data clean can also save you money in the long run. If your church sends giving statements or other communications via snail mail, Address Verification, an optional add-on feature in Aplos, automatically formats mailing addresses according to USPS standards. It also syncs nightly with the USPS database and updates people’s mailing addresses when they move, saving you the time and cost of re-sending mail after it is returned to your church.

Tip: Asking your church congregation to update their contact info annually or even semi-annually can help you keep your data as up to date as possible.

5. Provide Data Security and Privacy

Implementing and maintaining proper data security and privacy policies can be daunting, but choosing the right database can cover some of those requirements for you. Your people trust your church with their information, so it’s crucial that you keep that information secure. Setting up internal controls and having procedures in place to make sure staff and volunteers only see the information they need can help you accomplish that.

Your database is an important tool that can assist you in caring for your congregation. The church is the people, and your database can help you shepherd your people well so your church can share the good news with others and fulfill its mission.

What are some other best practices for utilizing your church’s database? Let us know in the comments.

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