Tracking Congregational Contacts: Is There a Simple and Confidential Way to Report Electronically?

  143 views

I have found great value in keeping a confidential, integrated, real-time database of contacts that have been made by pastors, elders and deacons. It helps identify households that have not been attended to in a timely manner, and it helps reassure our designated visitors that the church is attending faithfully to congregants. The integrated database also supports efficient stewardship of finite volunteer hours.

With congregants' permission, the designated visitor submits a very basic report of each visit to the administrator of the secure database including the name of the visitee, date of visit, a one word description of the nature of the visit, and an optional flag for follow up. In my previous congregation, visitors submitted these reports via a dedicated, password-protected voicemail box at the church. In my current congregation, elders would prefer to send their reports electronically. I haven't found a simple electronic format that protects confidentiality. Any suggestions?

Jack VanderVeer, Community Support Pastor, Jubilee Fellowship, St. Catharines ON

Posted in:
  • Deacons
  • Elders
  • Q&A

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.
Admin

Have you considered a Google Spreadsheet, Jack?

You can give access only to those who are authorized to see it. Those that are authorized can enter their contact as a new row. Having it in a spreadsheet allows it to be sorted, grouped, etc. People use their Google Account to log in (note that they do NOT have to use Gmail, a Google Account is simply a login and can be created with any email address).

When the elder's term is up, you can take them off the permission list and add the new elder to the permission list.

It does mean that all elders could see all contacts. If that's not OK, you could get fancier with a separate tab for each district, and then configure permissions so that elders can only see the tab that applies to them. But to do that you'd need to dig into the Google Spreadsheets help to get it set up correctly. It's a little more complicated, but still fairly easy once you figure it out.

That's just one option that comes to mind. Hopefully others can weigh in with thoughts about this approach, and other alternatives. I'm sure other churches have faced the same question.

Thanks Tim! That sounds like a straightforward and simple procedure.

I am still hung up on Google's access to the content of what we would write. Maybe Google wouldn't actually use the contents of our database as indicated in the user agreement, but I'd have to give them permission to do so if I want to use the Google platform. Any thoughts about this confidentiality factor?

Jack

Admin

I haven't heard of concerns about this before. What part of the user agreement are you concerned about? Google Drive is widely used, and if they didn't take data privacy/confidentiality seriously it would undermine their entire business.

There are many articles online about the security of data with Google, and here's one that explains some of the wording in the user agreement. Personally, I'd trust Google Drive more than most other online tools because it's in their best interest to keep their customer data secure and private. And they're big enough to do it well.

That's a helpful link, Tim.  It addresses exactly the part of the End User License Agreement that I am concerned about.

Several comments to that post identify Word-encrypted attachments as a possible way forward. If we can do this simply, I may have found my solution.

© 2014 Christian Reformed Church in North America. All rights reserved.
For website questions or corrections, use the feedback tab at right or contact us.