Getting started with the Attendance module
Purpose of the module
The ChurchSuite Attendance Module is the core repository for recording attendance metrics for your church. Optionally you can track Address Book contact attendance, but at its simplest level it serves to record key metrics about your church service attendance.
At the heart of the Attendance module are Categories and Groups (groups, in this context are sub-categories). Categories are the headings under which your attendance metrics are grouped and from which attendance reports are produced.
In this article
Recording service attendance data
Archiving an attendance category
Tracking weekly attendance of church members
How to turn the weekly attendance record on or off
Note about adding service data
Attendance dates must be unique - you can only record one attendance entry for a date for each site. You will create Categories for each metric you wish to record for any given date.
It is not possible to import historic service attendance data. However, if you have existing attendance data in a compatible CSV file format and you have created Categories and Groups in the module that match to your CSV file then our developers may be able to import your historic data for you. Drop us a line with your CSV file attached and we'll advise whether it can be imported.
Working within the Categories section of the Attendance module click Add category.
On the Add category pop-up, enter a suitable Name, select a Colour, which is used for distinguishing the category on views and reports, and for multi-site customers, specify the Site. You'll create a separate Category for each site for which you wish to record attendance. You may also wish to create separate categories for each service.
Click Save to add the new category - the Category's "View" page is displayed.
Next, add one or more Groups to the category by clicking Add group. A Group is a statistical value that you wish to record and report for the Category. A Category must have at least one Group. For example, you might have a group for "Total attendance", or you might create separate groups for "Regular adults", "Regular children" and "Visitors". For each Group added, select the Type and set whether the Group is to be Included in the Category total. For example, Groups for 'Attendance' would likely be set to be included in the Category total, but Groups for 'Number of visitor connection cards' and 'Number of communicants' would likely be set to not be included in the Category total, since there is probably overlap of the counts of people in each Group. In this way the total of all 'attendance' Groups for the Category will not be distorted - this will become further clear as we begin adding service attendance data later.
On the Add group pop-up, notice the group Type. Select between whether the Group type records and reports data as a Number or a Currency value. Currency type groups are totalled separately from number types. Again, select whether the Group's currency amount should be Included in the Category total for all currency type Groups. Typically you might create a currency type Group to note the total collection/offering.
Continue adding all your groups, clicking Save for each one. Note that a Group's Status must be Active in order to record service attendance data. You can Archive a group at any time in the future if you no longer wish to record service attendance data for that group, which will hide the inactive group from the list when adding new service attendance data without needing to delete the group and losing the historical group data. The archived group and data will still be present and editable when viewing or editing historic service attendance data where that group was active.
Archived groups - distinguished by a yellow warning triangle - can be Set as active, should you wish to reinstate a group in the future.
When you have finished adding groups, the Category "View" page will look something like this...
You can easily re-order groups within a category if you need to - either by dragging the Order number within the list, or clicking any Order number to open the Reorder pop-up.
You can return to the Category "View" page at any time in the future to Add, Edit, Archive or Delete groups - notice the Action menu on the right hand side of each group in the list.
Note that if you Delete a group from a category, it will delete all historic data associated with that group - we therefore recommend you first Archive unwanted groups, rather than delete them - note the options at the top of the Category's "View" page to Edit the Category name and to Delete or Archive the category and all associated groups and historic category/group data.
Returning to the list of all your Categories, note the option to Order your categories. Categories are always listed in category order "by site". Since adding attendance data is done site-by-site, it's not possible to order categories outside of their site - each site's categories are therefore always grouped together. Note the Action menu on the right-hand side of each Category in the list, which enable you to View, Edit or Delete a category.
As you begin recording service attendance data for a category each Category's "View" page includes a graph showing Recent Attendance, as demonstrated below.
Having created Categories and Groups, you are now ready to begin recording weekly service attendance data, explained in the next section.
Recording service attendance data
Working within the Dates section of the module click Add service data.
The Add service data page opens. Multi-site customers will begin by selecting a Site and setting the attendance Date that is being added. Optionally add any Notes you wish to maintain against the site's service data for this date if you wish. Multi-site service data is always added on a site-by-site basis for a date. You can only add service data for a site if you have User permissions for that site so you will only see Sites listed that you have permission for. You can also only add service data for Active Categories and Groups - you can't record service data for Archived categories and their Groups.
Remember, you can add service data for multiple sites for the same date, but you can only add one site instance per date. If you attempt to add more than one instance of service data for a site for a date that has already been added you'll receive the following warning message. If you need to add further site service data for an existing date, locate and edit the existing service data entry in the Dates section of the module.
Proceed with adding service data for each of your groups. Note that Groups with an asterisk symbol are excluded from the number and currency Total. For any Group you can enter 0 or leave it blank if you wish.
Click Save before navigating away from the page. Depending on your site permissions, you'll see the newly added site service data, along with any previously entered service data for other sites for that date. Note that where a Site has multiple Categories (perhaps representing different services for the site), site totals are shown. Note also the options to Edit or Delete service data for a site on a date.
To add further service data for another date, navigate back to the Dates section of the module. Service data for each date is listed with the Category totals for each site. The View filter can be used to filter long lists and the Action menu on the right-hand side of each date can be used to View that date's service data.
Once you have started adding some weekly service data to the module, you are then ready to begin exploring the attendance reporting available in the module's Reports section - explained in the next sections.
Archiving an attendance category
Over time your church's various services and sites may change and so will the metrics that you wish to record and report. Rather than deleting an attendance Category that is no longer relevant (which will delete all the associated Groups within that Category and the historic attendance data), it's more helpful to preserve the historic service data by archiving the Category instead.
Existing data for an archived category will persist when viewing and editing historic dates where that category was active; however archived categories don't show when adding new service data, meaning fewer options on the data entry page. Archived categories are also excluded from report results. Archived categories can be Set active again if you wish.
To archive a Category, select Archive from the Action menu on the right-hand side of the list of Categories. Follow the on-screen instructions to confirm your request.
Within the Categories section you can easily switch the View between Active and Archived categories...
...and, where necessary, Set as active an Archived category.
Within the Reports section of the module are two attendance Overview reports.
With the Graph Generator you can filter your Categories, perhaps isolating particular Groups and Categories and plotting the service data attendance results for a range of dates. The report plots attendance - those groups with number type data (not currency type). For multi-site customers, the Categories available to plot will be dependent on the Site the report is being viewed as. Use the Site selector in to top right corner of ChurchSuite to switch between "All sites" and specific sites. Remember to click Generate to apply any filter changes and update the report's results.
The Monthly Breakdown report provides a month-by-month breakdown of attendance service data across each Category and plots the monthly average as well as the actual monthly Category totals.
Tracking the weekly service attendance of church members
We introduce this section with a reminder of the vision for ChurchSuite: to provide useful tools that help churches in their respective ministries. While words like "tracking" and "monitoring" can sound overbearing or controlling, the simple level of functionality offered in the Attendance module is primarily intended to enable mission; to help make disciples and care for people better as they interact with their church. While it's not about 'numbers', in so many helpful situations attendance recording is extremely helpful and sometimes even essential.
From experience - when churches are smaller - this level of personal attendance recording is easier to achieve and can be very useful. If you're a new church and people are coming, are they coming regularly, or are they slipping away for some reason? Whether it's to satisfy trustee or board enquiries, charity commission or funding eligibility "stats" requests, or to quickly identify a family or individual who may be slipping away from fellowship and needs reaching out to; the weekly member service attendance record can be useful.
Service attendance records can only be maintained for contacts in the Address Book. Personal attendance recording for children is done from within the Children module's Attendance section where child attendance to your groups and gatherings can be maintained manually (using printed registers) or automatically (using the Child Check-In system). The service attendance record functionality available here within the Attendance module is only intended for adult Address Book contacts. Let's see how it works...
How to turn the service attendance record on or off
You can turn off the service attendance record feature at any time, which has the effect of hiding the Average Attendance section on people's profile page in the Address Book and also hiding the attendance tick boxes for people that you would otherwise see when adding service attendance data.
To enable or disable the service attendance record, head into the Attendance module's settings, accessed via the cog-wheels in the top-right corner of the module. In the Attendance Tracking settings tick to Show service attendance record and then click Save before navigating away from the module settings.
Note about intended functionality
It is only possible to record each contact's attendance once per site and per date. So if a contact attends your morning service but not your evening service on a date, you cannot distinguish which service they attended; that they were in attendance on that date. However, for multi-site churches, if a contact attends a service at one site in the morning and another service at a different site in the evening, you will be able to record the contact's service attendance at each site for the same date.
Enabling the service attendance record in the module's settings displays a list of active Address Book contacts on the Add service data page. Here you can tick each contact in attendance on that date. You can optionally filter the list of contacts listed using the Tag filters - click on a tag to apply that tag as a filter.
The data from the Attendance Tracking section of service data then pulls through to each contact's profile page in the Address Book, enabling you to view a snapshot of a contact's recent attendance.
With the service attendance record functionality enabled, two further Attendance reports for Attendance Tracking become available in the module's reports section.