Church Directory Software
Church directory software is a great alternative to the traditional way of creating a directory.
The traditional way involves a photography company. They come in and take pictures of each family. Then a few weeks later, a salesman arrives and meets with each family to try and sell them a photo package. Then the company creates a directory and delivers it to your church.
But there are a few problems with this.
- Cost. Salespeople try to "upsell" packages to your church families.
- Outdated. Within a couple months your directory is out of date. People leave, new families join, new children are added to families, and others pass away. There is no way to keep the traditional church directory up to date.
- Quality. There are some companies which offer a fairly high-quality product. But often, the paperback directory easily tears, wrinkles, and loses pages.
- Lost and found. Have you ever wanted to call someone in the church but couldn't find the directory? Church directory software helps avoid this problem.
Types of Church Directory Software
There are basically three different types of church directory software.
- Online. Some church directory software is done completely online. You enter all your information into the online system and that information is stored securely on the company's servers.
- Offline. A number of companies offer church directory software that is downloaded onto a person's computer. All information is then entered and stored on a church's computers.
- Online and offline. There are some church directory software companies which offer both options. You can choose to build your directory entirely offline or do the work online.
I contacted each of the directory software companies listed below. I offered them the opportunity to write a short article about their programs. Most took advantage of the invitation.
If the company offered a free trial, I also tested out the program myself.
This is a program you download and install on your computer. Even though I prefer online church directory software, this is a really nice program.
When you first open the program you will see a menu of options. This serves as your dashboard. It has links to every part of the software. It is really easy to understand and find what you are looking for.
One feature that makes this program stand out is the integration of email with the directory. You can email everyone or just members of a group.
One other unique feature is that you can track the number of hours an individual volunteers. This probably won't help churches. But schools will really be able to use this feature.
You can download a free 14 day trial.
To make the directory work, you have to print it to a pdf file. You can then save it to your desktop or print it out. In order for other people in your church to get a copy, you will either need to print one for each family or send them an email with the document attached. If you have someone who can do it, you could upload the file to your church website. Then people could download and open the file right from your web site.
Another feature that is better-suited for schools is that you can sell ad space. A church might want to consider this for a fundraiser. Perhaps the youth group could do the work on the directory, sell ad space, and raise money for a mission's trip or something.
Though you have to print to a pdf or to a printer in order to view the directory, the print process is easy. The process is logical and provides a number of options – such as page orientation, number of pages, etc.
Here's what they had to say about their product:
"MyCongregation lets you create a beautiful church photo directory right from your desktop. No more cumbersome spreadsheets and generic publishing software. Our preformatted reports and easy to use data management tools make getting the directory to your congregation a breeze. Whether you're printing or hosting the directory on your website, our software can save you tons of time and money. Features include:
Go to our website for a free trial
- Complete adult and children's contact details
- Preformatted PDF reports are print or web ready
- Multiple report options lets you choose exactly what information to display
- Grouping features let you sort your congregation members into smaller groups or organizations
- Import data from your existing systems and be done in 24 hours
- Comes with a complete Email Manager"
Picture Directory offers both online and offline versions. This is what they had to say:
"Currently we offer two products:
- GEFC Directory 2.2 – For Creating a Printed Pictorial Directory
- Picture-Directory.com Online – For an Online Pictorial Directory
Picture-Directory.com offers directory software, on the web or PC desktop, for any type of organization; businesses, law firms, churches, clubs, and various other organizations. Picture-Directory products put faces to names, are simple to use, easy to search and find who you want by more than just a name. Search, browse, create and maintain employee, law firm, government, school, church, fraternity, membership, or club directories with Picture-Directory.com products.
We offer PC desktop directory software, on-line web directories, and related products and services to make it simple and economical for you to:
- Create your own printed directory with or without photos
- Create an on-line directory accessible from any computer on the web
- Design the print style and pages you want to include or select from a number of well designed print styles.
- Use your own photos that you have scanned, taken with a digital camera, or sent to us and scanned for you
- Control Access and Permissions to the On-line directory
- Import your data from almost any other program"
I tried out the software and found the following.
The interface – or the page where you add directory entries – is straight forward and easy to complete. You can add a lot of information here. It even allows you to enter the name of the company that the person works for, the department they work in, the name of their supervisor, work phone and fax numbers, work email, etc.
When you are completing the page about a person/family, you can select which groups they are a part of. For instance, one of the family members may be an elder and sing in the choir. Someone in a different family may be a small group leader. This is useful because you are then able to sort your directory entries by group. Select, Elders, and a list of all the elders comes up. One minor problem with this is that when it brings back a list of people in a group, it includes both spouses. Unless you know yourself, you won't know which spouse is in the choir, for instance.
I found one other problem. When you click on a name in the directory and it brings up the details about the family, you can't tell which phone numbers or email addresses are whose. It just presents you with a list of phone numbers identified by home, office, and cell. But it doesn't tell you which number is for which person.
One thing that irritates me about church web sites is that the calendar of events is very often out of date. This church directory software eliminates this problem. A person can easily update the calendar page. And the calendar is integrated with the directory. Add a birthday or anniversary to a person/family's page and it shows up on the calendar.
I like that this church directory software offers both online and offline versions. The only problem with this is that you have to choose between the two. You can't integrate the two. They also offer a full-featured free trial.
Visit their web site for complete information and to start your trial.
Courtyard is an online directory program. Just click "Live Demo" at the top of the page to begin a free trial.
Here is what Courtyard had to say about their church directory software:
"Courtyard is the perfect solution for an easy-to-manage online church directory. Unlike business-oriented software, Courtyard keeps your members organized by family, just like you would in a printed church directory.
Use the Courtyard Android and iPhone apps to access your directory from your smartphone. To help you get started quickly, we offer a free data import service for new customers. We also support unlimited custom fields, so that you can customize your directory to include whatever data is relevant to you. You can organize your directory into sections, and download PDFs for printing out hard-copy directories.
Subscription plans are affordable, and set by the number of families in your church. Email & phone support are included with every plan. Annual billing is available by request."
I tested the software and found the following:
I really like this church directory software. It is all online. It's simple to use. You can allow members to view the directory online or you/they can print the directory. They also provide free email and phone support.
Entering family details is very easy. Type the names, birthdays, phone numbers, and email addresses. Upload a picture to complete the entry. Once you add the address of a family, a map will appear showing where that person lives. On the dashboard page, there is a clickable map that shows where everyone in the directory lives.
One really great feature is that you can allow individual members to edit their own entries. That way they can keep it up to date – no one at the church has to do it.
Visit their church directory software website for full information.
Instant Church Directory
This church directory software is completely online. You can email a directory to every member and/or you can print copies to give out. They do offer a free trial.
Here's what they had to say about their product:
"Instant Church Directory steps you through creating a professional church photo-directory in hours, not weeks. Create a striking Cover, as well as Staff and Activity Pages, just as you're accustomed to seeing in any church photo-directory.
Instant Church Directory automatically prints your Members' Photos and Membership Roster in alphabetical order in 8½" x 11" format - in Black & White or Full Color. Simply tell the software what pages you'd like to print and in what order. The program then generates a PDF you can e-mail to members, link to your church website or print. We also provide a high-resolution image-quality option to produce a directory with crisper and sharper images when you're ready to print. The birthday page feature lets you quickly add birthdays for any member in the directory. The birthday page displays member birthdays by month. You can also create a custom page and insert it right into your directory - perfect for adding a special touch!
With Instant Church Directory, you'll have a dynamic church photo-directory ... one you can keep up-to-date quickly and easily. Plus, you can print as many or as few copies as you wish, on request.
Try a 30-Day Free Trial of Instant Church Directory online at InstantChurchDirectory.com or by calling Toll-Free (800) 992-2144."
Church Directory Software Conclusion
These church directory software programs are the main contenders in providing directory software. As far as I can tell, the most important decision you need to make is whether you want your directory to be online or offline.
There are advantages to both. I personally prefer online since changes take immediate affect and people can access the directory from any computer. However, offline programs are good too. They are a little more difficult to make changes to. But you can update the directory and then post the updated version to your web site and/or email everyone an updated copy.
Be sure to thoroughly evaluate each of the software options listed above. Use their free trials and test them out. Compare – don't just choose the first one you test.