Getting started with the Children module

Purpose of the module

Welcome to the ChurchSuite Children module! This module is for managing all the children and young people contacts associated with your church, ministry or charitable organisation - typically under 18s. Through the Children module you can record and track levels of engagement, manage common admin workflows, and communicate and report with ease.

We encourage you to read this article in full in order to familiarise yourself with the module's key features and customisation options available, and to acquaint yourself with some of the basic concepts and terminology you'll see within the module and our other Children module support articles.

Children module features at a glance

  • Easily add new or import existing children and young people
  • Child profile pages with everything you need to know in one view
  • Link children to their adult parents in the Address Book (a linked child), or, for those whose parents are not in the Address Book, parent details can be recorded against the child (an unlinked child)
  • Use standard (common) fields, enable optional fields, or create your own custom fields
  • Manage each child's communication options and ongoing consent
  • Categorise those in your Children module using Tags
  • Maintain historic records of key dates and milestones
  • Record internal-only notes against children and young people
  • Use Flows to process people through your common admin workflows and receive reminders when tasks become due (or overdue!)
  • Communicate by Email and SMS - choosing whether to communicate with parents or children (sending in real time or scheduling communications), or produce address labels
  • Wide range of standard reports, or perform custom reporting using Smart Tags or the Table Generator
  • Perform batch updates of information to multiple children
  • Archive children and young people that have moved on from your community, or set them active again if they return
  • Module functionality designed with GDPR best-compliance in mind
  • Stay on top of birthdays, medical and special needs, doctor and school details
  • Create age-based groups for each of your gatherings, easily assign children to groups and process them into other groups as they get older
  • Produce printed registers and badges for manual attendance recording, or use the Child Check-In system to register children (and team) and check them in and out of groups quickly and safely
  • Wide range of attendance reports to help you better manage your children ministry
  • Comprehensive 'change logs' to help you stay on top of all the changes being made by your User or parents
  • Invite parents to access the 'My ChurchSuite' member-facing platform - designed to promote community engagement, enable parents to keep their children's and their own details up to date
  • Multi-site support - assign each child to a site, perhaps where a "site" represents your different communities, projects or locations (e.g. different worshipping locations for church services, or different projects for a charity)
  • Multi-lingual support using in-built translations for many countries or using your browser's regional settings translation
  • Accessible through any browser or via the free iOS or Android "ChurchSuite" app

Overview of the Children module

The Children section of the Children module is divided into three View sections, each representing the status of children for whom you have consent to hold and process their information - Active, Pending and Archived - use the View selector to switch between them. From the Children section you can Add child - perhaps to manually add new children family members - or Import children if you're ready to begin importing your existing children data (see the related support articles for further information on both these options).

Active children
Your Children module may well contain different 'types' of children and young people, not just those who are attending or participating. The active section of your Children module - children with an active status - are all those whom your organisation is wanting to 'touch and track' - from the crowd to the core; irrespective of their level or engagement or commitment, but whom you still consider to be part of your organisation's ministry and mission. They're all the people whom you may wish to communicate with, or whom you still wish to maintain historical or statistical data for. Children are not included in the calculation of your ChurchSuite monthly subscription - there is no charge for children and young people in the Children module. You can use tags to distinguish levels of engagement of children in the 'active' section.

Archived children
When families move on from your organisation you may decide to delete them from the Address Book and Children module entirely if they are unlikely to return - this would certainly be 'best data protection practice' if you no longer have a lawful basis for continuing to process their personal information. However, subject to your data protection policy, you may prefer to archive children for a season, giving you the option to reinstate them in the future, or to delete them after a further period of inactivity. You may also be able, or even required to maintain certain personal information about former members, for example, where you have a lawful basis to do so. See the related support articles on what happens when a contact or child is archived or deleted.

Pending children
When families submit their details through ChurchSuite's web-embeddable features such as the 'Address Book Embed', new children are first added to the "Pending" section of the module. This is done to protect your "Active" Children module from being spammed. Setting a "Pending" child as "Active" will move them to the "Active" section. Crucially, "Pending" is not a reference to a child's level of engagement or commitment within your organisation - instead you might use tags to distinguish between levels of engagement of children and young people within the "Active" section of your Children module e.g. members and non-members. Once set as "Active", children cannot be set as "Pending" again; they can only be archived or deleted. Children with a "Pending" status must be Set active (see screenshot above) before they can participate in any wider functionality. For example, only "active" children can be processed through Flows, be assigned to Groups and Tags, be recipients of your communications, or be included within report results. The "Pending" section is therefore not the place for non-members! Instead, those children whom you determine to be "non-members" should be tagged accordingly in your "Active" Children module.

Navigating around the children and young people in the module is really simple and intuitive. The Search Bar auto-filters the list of children as you begin to type a name, address, email, phone or mobile number, making it easy to locate the child or young person you're looking for.

Clicking the Advanced Search provides additional filtering options - ideal for drilling down into your children data further or to locate the right list of people within a large Children module based on criteria.

A pagination control at the bottom of the list enables you to change the default number of children per page.

In addition to Users being able to make changes or perform certain actions on individual children from their profile pages, Batch Actions enable Users to perform certain tasks for multiple children at the same time.

Clicking through to a child's profile page you'll see a comprehensive overview of all their details and engagement with your organisation. The grey "meta information" section on the right-hand side of profile pages indicates others details relating to the child - those living at the same address, recent event engagement, small groups and rotas they belong to, and any Flows they are currently being processed through.

The profile page includes a list of the child's Recent Attendance to your age-based children/youth groups. Within the Children module you can group children and young people together in two ways - in age-based Groups - typically those relating to Sunday services or mid-week gatherings; while Tags provide a powerful way to create other custom groupings of children that are not based on age - for example, if you wanted to group together all the young people aged 16+ that are on your 'Electoral Roll' or those that are in 'Membership'. Clicking View all attendance lists the child's full attendance at your various age-based gatherings.

Like your Address Book contacts you can easily maintain details of Key Dates for children and young people - perhaps recording significant discipleship milestones and achievements. There are powerful key date reports that enable you to compare and contrast those who have or do not have certain key dates; ideal for understanding each child's key date history or to help identify 'next steps' in discipleship.

Before adding children we recommend that you review the Children module's Module Settings - particularly the Module tab - as this controls the fields which you will see when adding children.

Adding children

Children can be added to the module in several ways. Users can add or import children directly into the module in ChurchSuite. Parents can add their children via the My Children section of the member-facing My ChurchSuite. Newcomers can submit details of their whole family at your Information Point, including their children, using the 'My Details' form in Connect, or through the Address Book Embed on your website, which includes an 'Add children' option on the form.

Children added through My ChurchSuite, Connect and Embed are automatically linked to their parents in the Address Book. When Users are adding or importing children to the module they can choose to Link a child to their Address Book parents - linking a child to a parent contact in the Address Book will automatically link them to the linked spouse/partner of that contact.

It's also possible to Link to a contact not in the Address Book and record all the parent contact details against the child's profile. The 'use case' for this is where you have children whose parents are not part of your church or organisation that you don't wish to track/manage in your Address Book, but for whom you still need to maintain basic parent details for the purposes of safeguarding and parental communication.

In addition to the standard people-related fields that you will also find in the Address Book for contacts, there are a number of child-specific fields, including Photo/Video Consent, Medical information, Special Needs, Doctor Details and Additional Information. Some of this information is surfaced for group leaders within the Child Check-In system and on printed reports that can be used as part of a manual child check-in process.

New children can easily be assigned to Groups directly from their profile page, or you can use the module's reports to quickly identify any children not currently assigned to groups and add them that way.

Whatever the size of your church or organisation, staying on top of how people's data is changing over time and their communication history is really important. ChurchSuite maintains comprehensive Changes and Communication logs throughout the platform and simple reports to help you understand how your children data is being updated and by whom.

Flows

Every organisation uses spreadsheets to manage certain admin tasks, with spreadsheet columns representing the different stages that things need to happen for each person in the list. Flows enable you to easily translate what you might ordinarily do in a spreadsheet into an "online" equivalent. You'll set up the various stages through which people will be processed, you'll define actions that are to be optionally processed at each stage; and importantly, reminders are automatically sent to let your users know when tasks become due or overdue. Flows are a great way for teams for work collaboratively on recurring admin processes and to stay on top of all the people in the Flow at their different stages. Could this be the end to one or two of your unwieldy spreadsheets?!

Actions that can be processed include everything from assigning and removing Tags, assigning Key Dates and Custom Field values, to sending Preset emails and SMSs to parents or children, or archiving or deleting people. Flows will help you and your team stay on top of each person's progress through the various stages of the Flow, with reminder notifications highlighting when tasks become due or overdue.

Gatherings and groups

Within the Children module, age-based groups for children and young people are organised into Gatherings. Here's an example gathering.

A Gathering is a collection of Groups and you'll record group attendance for each Session that those groups meet. Session attendance can either be added manually - perhaps from printed registers (see related support article) - or automatically using the Child Check-In system.

For each Group you'll define the age Entry Criteria and when the group is processed - ie when children typically move into the next group as they get older. Processing children into their new groups as they get older is then a really simple task.

Recording group attendance

ChurchSuite makes recording group attendance really straightforward. If manual registration is your preferred option, we've provided everything you need, from printed registers to name badges and leader 'group summaries'.

The information from printed registers can then be easily added into the Attendance section of the module.

Child check-in

Rather than relying on printed registers, and reducing the amount of paperwork and manual attendance processing, ChurchSuite includes an amazing Child Check-In system. Children can be registered and checked into their groups electronically, with child and parent pick up labels produced as appropriate to the group. The system is ideal for visitors and your regular children; giving parents and your team a well-safeguarded process for checking children in and out of groups.

My ChurchSuite

Parents in the Address Book can easily manage their linked children's details from within the member-facing My ChurchSuite. Here they can make changes and keep important information up to date.

And when there's an active child check-in session, parents can scan the session QR code to locate their children within the check-in system and check them in quickly, without having to search by child name. And if a parent loses their printed parent pick up badge they can simply bring up the electronic version on a smartphone instead!

Communication

ChurchSuite makes communicating with children and their parents/guardians very simple. Whenever you're communicating within the Children module you'll have the following options to select who receives your message.

Reports

The Children module includes a wide range of standard reports for common admin tasks, or to help you drill down into the content of your Children module data for strategic purposes or historic reporting. Filter reports to see just what you're looking for and then download, print or send the report, or communicate directly with those in the report's results.

Module settings

Before adding or importing data to the Children module, we recommend that you first review the module's settings to make sure the module is customised to suit your church or organisation's needs. Some features will not be accessible until they are configured or enabled. For example, you will not be able to import data into custom fields until the custom fields have first been added into the module's settings.

Accessing the module's settings is done via the cogwheels icon in the top-right corner of the module. This option is only available to those Users with at least Manage-level user permissions or Administrators.

The Children module's settings are divided into 4 sections, each controlling different areas of the module's functionality across each part of the ChurchSuite ecosystem.

Use the Module Options tab to:

  • select the optional child fields that are enabled for the module
  • automatically assign tags and key dates to new children added to the module by a User
  • set the default communication options assigned to new children added to the module
  • create Custom Fields
  • set the default label format used if printing labels from the Children module

Use the My ChurchSuite Options tab to:

  • enable and customise the My Children section of My ChurchSuite
  • select which fields are to be editable by parents, and whether any of your custom fields are to be visible or editable by parents within My ChurchSuite
  • control who is able to add new children via the My Children section of My ChurchSuite

Use the Connect Options tab to:

  • customise the settings for the Child Check-In system
  • customise the user experience of newcomers submitting their children's details via the My Details form that you may have running at your Information Point for an event or weekend service

Use the Embed Options tab to:

  • customise the Address Book Embed form that you can add to your website so that newcomers can submit their children's details as part of submitting their own details

Next steps...

In order to explore many of the Children module's features and functionality you'll need to add or import some data. It's easy to do, or the ChurchSuite Support team can import your data for you. See the related support articles at the end of this article for further details.

Got a question?

You’ll find the answers to most questions in our support articles - they're all available through the Support beacon located in the bottom-right corner of each page in the Children module - just search by topic, phrase or keyword. You can also access the Support Article library on our website. And if you still can't find something you're looking for, click to get in touch with one of the ChurchSuite team - we’re happy to help!

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