- Jim Townsley
- Jul 30, 2012
When I first started in the ministry I had never heard of the term database. However, I knew I needed to keep track of prospective members in order to visit them and to keep in touch with them. While on visitation my protocol included writing down every prospect on a three by five card and at the end of the day submit them to my wife. My wife typed them out on a three by five card so that the address was legible and then she filed them in alphabetical order and placed them in a file box. Within two years we had built a list of potential prospects of over two thousand. Eventually we purchased a machine that made metal plates and it was used to print labels which enabled us to send a monthly, four page, mimeographed church update to every person on the mailing list. All of this machinery was archaic and sluggish to say the least, but it was effective. It is important for every new church to keep contact with every member and every prospect.
I believe the church's database is the lifeline to growth. Letters, post cards, and personal correspondence are an essential aspect of evangelism and discipleship. Not only should every church maintain an accurate mailing list, but every Sunday school class, youth ministry, and special activity should be classified and updated so that frequent mailings and contacts can be made.
Technology has advanced dramatically so that recording information on the computer is a relatively simple task. There are computer programs specifically designed for churches or schools that can be helpful in organizing your data. In addition, there are powerful programs provided by major software companies that are relatively easy to use and cost effective. Although computer programs can be updated or changed, it is a good idea to choose a program that can be utilized for several years.
When developing your database include all the information that can be collected. At a minimum, a good database should include the person's name, address, phone number, and if possible their email and birth date. Additional information can be collected, but the basic information is a must.
All this effort to collect information is wasted unless it is used. There are many uses of the database that can be employed. This information provides a call list. People can be called to remind them of special days, a prayer request, or simply a reminder to be in church. It can also provide contacts for leaders to communicate instructions. It can provide an opportunity for counsel and encouragement. Leaving a message on voicemail may be helpful when people are hard to find at home. Another aspect of the mailing list is a person's email which is quick and inexpensive to use. Many people can be contacted quickly and informed of important information. It is important to remember that everyone does not actively use their email and some members may never use email. However, the majority of church members will use it and it is an important and effective tool.
A person's address is especially important so that they can be visited. The best prospects for soul-winning are always the ones that visit your church and are searching for something real in their life. These visits should be made soon after a person visits the church or soon after you receive their information. Waiting too long to visit them could allow the devil to take away their interest.
No one should ever be taken off the list unless they die, move away from the area, or join another church. Though some people will never come to an event or come only one time and not return, they are still a prospect and possibly after several years, the information may begin to make a difference in their life.
One pastor kept such good records that he recorded every home where no one answered when canvassing and he continued to go back and visit those homes until someone answered the door.
There are many ways these names and addresses can and should be used, but first they must be obtained. Every visitor is a prospect and every effort should be made to get their information. Sunday school teachers should get the names and addresses of every visitor. Youth workers should get the names of every teen attending teen activities. Also, in every church service, visitors should be encouraged to fill out a card or in some way register their information. On the church web site names and information can be collected as well. While canvassing or visiting door to door, prospects should be recorded and added to the mailing list. Sometimes names may be submitted by friends, family, or by a concerned person. All these should be added to the mailing list and used to reach people with the gospel.
New church planters should obtain, update, and use their database. It is the lifeline of the growth of the church.