The Church Directory: A Thing of the Past?


I have clear memories of getting our family picture taken for the church directory. I remember my mom choosing a time slot, carefully selecting nice (matching?) clothes for us, and then going to the social room to get our picture taken by the photographer (in front of a white screen). We confirmed our address, phone numbers, and birthdays. A few weeks or so later, our church mailbox contained a shiny new church directory. As a kid, I liked looking through the pictures in the "church yearbook" and finding my friends. 

I wonder, how many churches are still printing church directories? And, are there benefits to doing this? 

As someone who is completely saturated in the digital world, I have a hard time seeing the logic in continuing to print a church directory. I'm not even sure of the value in online church directories. And yet, I think it's worth a conversation. 

For example, I know the church directory is intended to be a resource for members to be able to contact each other. It's nice to know exactly where to find someone's address, phone, email, etc. In this sense, a church directory builds community. In the church I grew up, the directory did also include birthdays. I would receive birthday cards from some of the "faithful prayer warriors" in the church and it was always nice to be remembered. 

Some churches have switched over to maintaining online church directories, often requiring a password to log-in. This ensures a layer of security since they are housing personal contact information on members. This is a good option but are people logging in and using it? Is it being regularly updated when emails, cell phones, and addresses change?

I'd love to know your experience: 

  • Does your church have a printed (or online) member directory? If so, do you find it helpful?
  • Are there any negatives to having a church directory? Does it show visitors that the church has a warm and welcoming community or does it feel exclusive?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Posted in:
Image Credit

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

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.

We have a printed directory, but last year also starting using an online directory, Instant Church Directory.  It runs on smart phones, tablets, and laptop and desktop computers.  Many find it very helpful to look up names and faces, make phone calls, or get directions to members houses.


Jim - Ann Arbor CRC


Thanks, Jim! Interesting that your church is using both - nice way to be inclusive. Do they plan to continue with both or only the Instant Church Directory?

My Church Membership in in the First Christian Reformed Church of Sarnia, Ontario. In our city, we have three congregations of our Denomination and every other year, we publish an updated Church Directory of the three congregations, with the new directory to be published in 2016. I'm a bit puzzled that there would be even a discussion about church directories, if it would be a thing of the past. Absolutely not!!

In our home, we use our church directory almost daily and when there are changes, we update our directory. As far as we are concerned, church directories is a very practical publication and very helpful for the majority of our church members.


Thanks, Bert! Glad to hear it is such a helpful resource. 

Unless a phone directory is restricted to members, they will be suckers for every sort of advertising and political campaign . . . every sort of nut.


Thanks, Bill! Agreed that it is very important to keep spam out of any sort of online directory. 

What timing to see this posted on The Network. We just finished updating our directory, and have it available to our members in both printed and online versions. We also have a picture directory online, but it needs serious updating. Our congregation is a good size, so they appreciate having a photo to help identify who is who, especially as the young couples marry and have their own children. But keeping track of two versions is a lot of work. I anticipate that within ten years time, we will only have the online version. 

But to see it obsolete? No. Now that phone books are no longer being produced, this is one of the main ways of keeping in touch with each other. People eagerly look forward to their updated copy each fall.


Eva - thanks for the timely and helpful comment. I'm finding via responses that these church directories are still an incredibly useful and valuable tool. I can see it being a bit of work to maintain both printed and online versions. Looking forward to hear the progression of how your church decides to best transition! 

We are in the process of redoing our directory after a multi-year hiatus. It was a big job getting everybody's information current again. This time around everything went into an online database. 

Now that it's there we can run a report that outputs the directory in the format for our print directory without all the work of updating a word document or whatever was used before. Plus we can quickly run reports on Profession of Faith aged, teens, singles, widows, etc. Even made these great family reports for house visits.

Also we have it linked to office365, mailchimp, etc. through the api so it's change once and update everywhere. So much better!

Also it's free, so dutch friendly :)



Sounds like some great ideas for other churches and a very sustainable directory! Thanks for sharing, Justin. 

What database program are you using that links to your office 365??! That would be awesome! I currently have to update contact information in so many places!

oops, meant to reply but added a new post. reply below.

We are blessed with different methods of connecting.  Within our our faith community directly there is a printed list of all members and adherents within their districts.  This list / booklet also includes ministry contact info etc. but does not have any advertising.

In addition the area churches in our half of Classis (approximately 15 groups including a non CRC but Reformed community and a Christian Retirement Home) also distributes the lists of members and adherents of those churches.  So we are connected to the churches around us as well.

In our particular context (large numbers of elderly in a semi-rural town) the online component is not yet a priority as many members do not have computer or internet connections that would warrant this level of connecting.


Thanks for sharing! It's very important to consider what makes sense and is most helpful in your particular context. It's a nice bonus that your half of classis also puts out a directory. 

We now use planning center people as our principle database and have built custom reports for household reports, printed directory, etc. The online directory is by a company called adjace that links to planning center people.

Integration is done with zapier. However, planning center has not built in webhooks yet so it's not quite perfect.

The last time our church had a printed directory of its members was in 2016. I was tasked to do an online directory. However for some very odd reason the business manager at our church thinks it is unwise and unsafe. Parishioners have cried out for the directory especially during these times of covid as a means to keep in contact, and be able to get in touch with other members. Can you thinkof any reason at all why this should be avoided? I am so terribly frustrated. Fear is not of God. 

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of self-control. 2 Tim 1:7

Community Builder

as long as it is password protected I'm not sure why it would be unwise or unsafe. You could also require registration depending on what platform you use.