Health and Growth

The Perfect Church Directory: An Easy, Online, and Useful Solution

Your church directory is a window into your church culture. Use these 8 tips to make your church directory intuitive, up-to-date, and attractive to visitors.

The Perfect Church Directory: An Easy, Online, and Useful Solution
by

Paul Maxwell

Your church directory is the window to your church’s family life.

How you portray, store, manage, and access your church directory communicates something meaningful to both your church and to church visitors.

Think about it.

If you were visiting a couple with children and asked to see pictures of their kids, their response to your request would say a lot.

Do they have adult kids … but they only have pictures from when they were small?

Are all their pictures hidden in a box somewhere?

Are all their pictures informal—i.e., do they have no portraits of their family?

The way that a family displays and protects its family’s pictures and information communicates something about the diligence, care, and relational status of the family.

The same goes for a church directory.

There are basic principles that should guide how you compose and share your church directory.

By following these principles, you can communicate cherishing, an intimacy, respectfulness, and a professionalism that you might otherwise fail to communicate if you compose your church directory informally and thoughtlessly.

Let’s get right into these important principles so that you can create the kind of church directory that attracts new visitors and excites members to be a part of the church directory.

1. Get as much information as possible for your church directory

Don’t handicap the information in your directory by only gathering the information you’d share publicly, or internally within the church.

Gather as much information as possible.

Get parents’ names, emergency contacts, phone numbers for as many people as possible in the family, favorite bible verse, ministries in which they have been involved, previous churches, etc.

You don’t have to publish all of this information.

In fact, your internal database—church management software—of member information should be far more robust than what you publish in the member directory.

This is important so that in situations that require personalized pastoral care, the pastor can look back on the information in a member’s file—and an entire family’s file—and see what are past data points that can inform his care for them in a new situation.

Again—the church should be judicious about what it publishes. But it should likewise be exhaustive in the information that it seeks to acquire from its members so that it can minister to them most effectively.

2. Digitize your current church directory

You can digitize your church directory in the form of an excel sheet, a church management software, or even a word document.

But you’d be surprised how many churches miss this basic point:

The information in your church directory should be stored on both a physical hard drive and on multiple cloud drives (for safety and security).

You want this information to be extremely secure so that if one machine gets destroyed, the data exists elsewhere.

3. Use the right church management system

You should not simply store member information on an excel sheet.

There are church management software systems that have been developed to sync with the cloud, be exported, house photos, store member information, publish directories, and manage member experience in a far more versatile and dynamic way than the common excel sheet.

Use a tool like this, because sooner than later, every church will be using a church management system.

The only question is whether you want to be an early adopter or a late adopter.

This church management software will be the data source from which you will populate the church directory with data.

4. Define what information will be “public” and “private”

In Tithe.ly ChMS, for example, there is a “Member Directory” feature that allows you to store member data internally.

The Member Directory serves as a place where members can access a predefined list of church members and their contact details in the Member Area.

When setting up a Member Directory, admins can select which people categories or demographics are to be listed, as well as lock down the area to only show members and families connected to a person’s departments or groups. As an extra custom privacy option, individuals can select to hide certain fields in their profile within the My Account area.

Having a Member Directory available in your account can be useful for volunteers wanting to get in contact with different leaders or members within the groups they are a part of, and provides an easy way for getting details of the people they need.

5. Host a members-only photography session every six months

This can be a fun time that benefits both members and church leadership in that it helps to solidify church relationships by capturing moments when families can come together and express their joy for being a part of the church.

Use this time to update current names, numbers, and pictures, if a family so desires.

If your church is growing as it should, every 6 months will be a good frequency at which to update member information.

If you aren’t growing enough for this frequency to be worth it, then you should be researching how to grow your church and then how to display their information internally.

Even if you aren’t growing, a photography session can be a great way to capture member photos that are fun for the church and showcases new members.

6. Frequently host opportunities for people to become members

Some churches only have membership classes once per year.

This is a mistake, in part because you are never certain on how many people you’re missing out because they visited and departed in the year that you didn’t hold a membership class.

You should hold a membership class at least twice per year to capture and codify the involvement and belonging of new church visitors.

Very often, whether new visitors become long-time members has to do with whether there is an opportunity to join and become a part of the church.

If they do become a part of the church, they will stay.

If they feel dispensable and forgettable, they will leave.

Common membership classes communicate to new visitors:

“We want you to stay.”

Twice annual membership classes also give further logistical and theological rationale for hosting twice annual photography sessions for the church.

7. Don’t put children's information on your directory

This is extremely important.

Some churches will put childrens’ first names in an internal directory for the church, but it would be a mistake to publicly publish children’s information—including home phone numbers and addresses—in any kind of public book or website for people to access.

This information should be kept private and internal both for child safety and liability reasons.

Treating this information as sensitive data will communicate to members that you care about child safety and church security, and it will send a message to those without children that the church cares about protecting the data it receives from its members, which builds trust (and therefore engagement) throughout the church.

8. Require a membership sign-in to access your church directory

This is a very simple way to split the “public” and “private” aspects of the directory.

By requiring a member sign-in to access portions of the directory, you require people to go through basic membership screening in order to access a tier of information that other have agreed only to share with members.

By doing this, you can require users to agree to a terms of agreement that commits to not sharing the information with anyone publicly.

Using a secure church management software is the key to ensuring this level of security so that your members feel safe.

Over to you

The church directory can be a great tool to revitalize an excitement about engagement and community in your church.

For an older church, it can make the church feel relevant and alive again.

For a young, growing church, a church directory can add a sense of familial stability and history that makes newcomers feel like they want to be a part of something special.

In either case, the church directory, done right, is a fantastic way to communicate to your congregation that you handle sensitive information with discretion, and yet care about bolstering community engagement by using professional services to both showcase and protect shared data.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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The Perfect Church Directory: An Easy, Online, and Useful Solution