Church Photo Directories
A church directory can be a great ministry tool. A church directory helps clergy and other leaders to stay connected with the congregation year-round.
Your photo directory should list the essentials such as names, addresses, and phone numbers, but imagine all the other possible information that could make your directory more helpful to members and staff. Maybe you can include areas in which someone serves, or hobbies or interests individuals have, or maybe you can provide links to their social media accounts.
A photo directory is one of the best opportunities to connect members, especially in larger churches where it’s impossible to know everyone. To new as well as current members, directories offer a way to associate faces with names and to act as a source for contact information. Who hasn’t forgotten a name, but knows the face is familiar? Here’s the chance to review the picture of someone you have met at church—and make the connection.
Don’t be pushed around.
There are many photo portrait studios that will push for you to do a printed photo directory. They usually do not charge, but have hard selling practices to encourage church members to purchase their portraits from the company and these sales cover the directory costs. This process can feel awkward and usually is. Times have changed and families simply don’t have physical photos, nor want to be pushed with hard-sell techniques to purchase photos in exchange for being in a photo directory for their church. What’s the alternative? Go digital! You can do this in-house and it can be fun!
An online directory solves two concerns. Members can visit a website for the church’s online directory to view photos of members, the latest contacts and other biographical information. Online directories also are less expensive, and you can update them easily. Limit access to members only by requiring logins and passwords and use SSL encryption, or simply have a password protected PDF on your website. Allow members to opt in and out of the digital version.
Work with a volunteer committee whose mission is to create or enhance your directory. Buy software, hire a photo studio or a skilled photographer in your congregation willing to donate services, or even consider doing a photo booth for a few Sundays to take your photos. Design the pages to send to your printer and/or post online. If someone wants a printed hard copy photobook, they can order it online at a print-on-demand online retailer and pay for it themselves, or you can order a handful of these printed books and keep them in your church office and sell them individually. You can print via artifactuprising.com, blurb.com, shutterfly.com, or lulu.com among others. Utilize online templates from these online companies, or create your own layout. If you are an InDesign user, just search online for photo directory or yearbook templates. If you have a spreadsheet of church members and want a quick and easy way to create a directory using mail merge features in InDesign, here’s a tutorial: http://indesignsecrets.com/creating-a-contact-sheet-or-yearbook-page-in-indesign.php.
You can also subscribe to an online directory service for a fee. Online directories also can make it easier for members to change personal information and add photos themselves. Here are a few companies that offer directory software and related programs; each includes a free trial: Online Church Directory, ABC Fast Directory, Roll Call Church Software and Instant Church Directory. An important consideration in choosing any service provider or program is to find one that allows you to create both print and digital versions.
The Rev. Robert Beazley, from St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in New Orleans, reports: "instantchurchdirectory.com looks outdated and not worth it. I was very hesitant to invest time into it but it's been worth it. If you signup for annual plans, it's only $6.65 a month. Members are able to download the app and have secured access to a digital directory. Administrators have the ability to download PDFs of the directory and easily have them printed. Mail-merge .csv are downloadable for easy mailings. Its simplicity is deceiving."