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During a recent staff meeting, we discussed how it's been a few years since our church came out with a photo directory and how this may be a good project for the coming year.

One question that came up is whether it's better to try to produce one in-house or if we should hire a company to do this. We've used an outside company in the past, but we're wondering if it would be easier or more convenient for members if they could just submit their own photos or if we just took photos ourselves instead of trying to fit everyone into a schedule (we had a few problems with that last time we did this). The upside of hiring pros is that some of the families buy the photos from the company for family portraits/Christmas cards.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this? Have any of you produced your own directories and if so, how did it go?

Side note: I know that the CRC's Bridge App gives members access to an online directory where they can upload their own photos, but this project would be for a printed directory.


Good topic! Here's what we do...for a few weeks each year, we announce that we'll be taking directory photos after the service. Those photos are taken in a prominent location, so even those that miss the announcement see what's happening and join the line. One of the staff just takes photos on her phone, but it could also be a good volunteer task for someone. A few people choose to email their own photo to the church office.

The rest of the directory info comes from our church management system (ChMS), and then the photos are added as part of the page layout. But this year, with our new ChMS, I believe they'll be adding photos directly into the ChMS so they're available there as part of the online/app directory as well. And then everything - photos and text - are dumped out from the ChMS to build the print directory.

I know some other churches use Instant Church Directory with success, so might want to check that out as well. Especially if you aren't currently using a ChMS.

So that's roughly how we do it....but I'm really curious to hear how other churches do it. Others???

Hello Tim, our church (Community CRC Roselawn) is looking to upgrade from Power Church to an integrated suite. Are you aware of any good resources that compare the features and functionality, ease of use, reporting, customer support, and future feature development for leading church management systems? Also, are you aware of churches that have recently gone through the process of evaluating, selecting and implementing an integrated system? Thanks!  

Hi Bob - I wasn't involved in my church's evaluation of systems, but in the past I think I've seen some online comparisons of different tools. Hopefully some online searches will reveal those, but I'm sorry I don't have anything specific to point you to. One thing I'd suggest...only looking at web-based tools (as opposed to installing a program onto a computer in the church office). I think nearly all of the serious tools have moved online.

Some interesting questions and ideas you have raised here, Rachael.  BTW, thank you for what you and your congregation are doing to utilize The Bridge App, as one of the US churches that have asked to use the app.

In terms of print vs. electronic directories, this is a bit of a transitional time for many congregations; some members still prefer and want to have a print directory of photos and contact info.  Other members enjoy the convenience of having instant access to that info wherever they may be.  And church leadership is acutely aware of privacy/confidential laws and that a physical/print directory can easily become a major leak of info, whereas an electronic directory (like the one in The Bridge App) is only accessible to verified members.

Tim paints a great picture (sorry, no pun intended) of how a church can facilitate the gathering of photos.  In some cases, the quality of a directory may be fine if you choose the route of exporting photos and text from a ChMS.  But don't rule out using a volunteer who is familiar with InDesign or some other high quality publishing program to assemble a customized directory that could also contain a bit of additional info about the congregation -- an opportunity to build 'community' through the directory.  For someone familiar with InDesign, assembling a directory would not be a major undertaking once the raw content is ready (photos, names).

But once you have the photos, it only makes sense to also upload those to the app directory.  An electronic/app directory is a great way to stay current with photos of new members, and families welcoming new children, not to mention the ability for families to upload a fresh photo after their child has gone through the recent growth spurt.  I know you are aware of this Rachael, but just so others know also, any user photo uploaded to The Bridge App directory needs to be approved by an administrator, and I presume most if not all other directory apps have a similar requirement.

Yes, I think most churches will need/want both a print directory and online (whether through their ChMS or a separate tool like the Bridge app, InstantChurchDirectory, etc). And I agree that instead of wrangling with whatever print directory template comes with your ChMS it might be easier/cheaper to simply export the raw data (photos and text) and give it to a designer to lay out. Professional tools like InDesign can even do directory layouts from a data file (basically a fancy mail-merge). Which means that, once the directory template is set, doing next year's version might be as easy as having the designer hit 'refresh' from an updated data file.

No advice just wanted to say I appreciate this question. I have been asking around and have heard from many people that the printed directory is still valuable to them (as many churches have a diverse age demographic). 

We redid ours recently. Our office manager/secretary is a good photographer and for a few weeks she would catch people on their way into church in the morning and take their picture in front of a nice plain background. For the few that were missed she had them email in a photo. She then used the same publishing program she uses for the bulletin and made the photo part of the directory (photo with names beneath). Then she printed the directory portion (phone numbers, emails, etc) out of Servant Keeper and put the two parts together just using a basic slide bar report cover. Our copier does color, so we just printed on normal paper and it looks fine.

We then also took the photos and added them to the Bridge directory.

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