Case Study: Managing holiday clubs
In this article
Many organisations run Holiday Clubs for children at various points in the year. Often, there is a need for children to be signed up beforehand, to communicate with the parents/carers, collect details of support needs, allergies, medical or dietary requirements and to keep track of attendance when the Holiday Club is running. This case study explores the available functionality in ChurchSuite to administer these different Holiday Club elements effectively.
When choosing the most suitable Holiday Club management approach, it will be helpful to consider your aims. This might sound obvious but considering this at the start will help your decision-making further down the line. So, why are you running a holiday club - here are some example aims:
- To reach out to children in the community - those who may already be in the church family and your Children module, those who are not yet known to you in the Children module
- To encourage a child's journey of faith through the holiday club content and activities
- To provide children and their parents/carers with a great holiday club experience and a positive encounter as they engage with your church or organisation
- To administer the event effectively before, during and after
- To enable safeguarding best practices so that parents/carers are confident and comfortable leaving their children in your care, and so that your team have all the pertinent information about each child to best care for and meet their individual needs
This isn't an exhaustive list, of course, and you may find you have several overall aims!
Holiday Club as an event
Adding your Holiday Club as an Event in your Calendar module gives you a range of options to advertise the group. It can be featured on your website and to those already connected to your church with My ChurchSuite access. It can be promoted through ChurchSuite Connect on a device running at your Information Point at in-person services and events and shared on your social media channels. You might even extend event invitations to known families already in your ChurchSuite Address Book and Children modules.
A customisable Event Page enables you to collect all the pertinent information you need from parents/carers about each child being signed up. As an event, you can easily manage the event (sign-up) capacity and, where there is a cost involved, add 'pay' tickets to collect payment securely and efficiently - giving each parent/carer a really neat sign-up user experience.
In addition to the essential child details you collect through the Event Page, you may have an interest in obtaining more comprehensive parental consent information. This information could be collected through the Event Page but you may prefer to create and use a separate parental consent Form and include a link to that form in your Holiday Club event sign-up confirmation email. However, with this method, you will need to keep tabs on which event sign-ups have subsequently completed the additional parental consent form so you can follow up as appropriate.
Let's take a look at some of the event functionality in more detail:
Multi-day holiday clubs and sign-up to sequence
For holiday clubs that span multiple days - an event sequence - you'll want to consider whether parents/carers are signing children up separately for each date within the sequence for the days their child is expected to attend or if you expect parents/carers to sign children up for the full sequence (although a child may not necessarily attend every day) using the sign up to sequence option Think about your aims - how do they affect your decision here? For example, if you are looking to engage children with an aspect of faith, you will probably want to enable sequence sign-up as it will be important to you that children see the whole picture, rather than single pieces of the jigsaw, and so attend every day. However, you may prefer to offer parents/carers a more flexible choice of being able to sign up for just certain days within the Holiday Club sequence.
Where you wish to offer parents/carers a choice between signing up for the entire sequence or signing up for selected days in the sequence - perhaps with different pricing - you will need to manage this as two event sequences - one with sequence signup enabled and one with sequence signup disabled - a sequence can't be both. You can make this distinction clear in your event naming convention, event description and ticket details.
Using event questions to collect pertinent child information
For signup-enabled events, you can add questions to the form to collect all the important child information needed to run your event. The standard questions can be further customised (click Edit), which will be helpful where you want to distinguish the child's name from a parent/carer's name. For example, changing the signup Name field to Child Name and Email and Phone fields to Parent Email and Parent Phone will be much clearer to you and your signups. You can also add further questions (click Add question) and manage the question order (Note: you cannot change the order of the in-built standard questions).
When the parent/carer signs their child up, they will then be presented with the questions that you have set:
Do consider carefully the question naming convention and question response 'type' used - avoid questions like, "Does the child have any allergies? Yes or No", which may require a second question; instead, perhaps ask "Does your child have any allergies?", with a Checkbox response field for the parent/carer to select the relevant
There's no limit to the number of custom questions you can add - see the related support article Adding questions to event sign up for further information. However, you may feel that the number of consent questions you need to ask will make the sign-up form too long. Perhaps, for sign-up, you simply need basic contact details. As long as one of the basic questions is a required parent/carer email address, you may prefer to create a separate parental consent form and include the form page link in the sign-up confirmation email along with instructions for completing the form. The following related support articles explain Creating forms and how to customise the event signup confirmation email.
From an event signup or from a custom form, you can easily add new children to the Children module. However, custom forms have the distinct advantage of being able to map (Smart Link) the fields on your form to the respective fields in your Children module, which means that once a form response is linked to a child, you can easily update that child's details from the responses received. The Forms functionality includes other helpful features, such as being able to download a CSV file of responses - ideal if you want a simple way to further order or group responses or produce a register of consented children signed up for your holiday club.
Using tickets where you wish to offer parents/carers a choice of sign-up options
The event sign-up functionality works best when parents/carers of multiple children are required to sign up each of their children attending your club, rather than signing up once and specifying the total number of their children. In addition to the event questions described above, you can optionally use Tickets where you are giving parents/carers a choice of sign-up options. Tickets can be set as Paid (pay online or pay-on-arrival) or Free and be optionally set to only be available between a specified range of dates. A good use-case example for tickets in this context is where you offer a choice of age-based groups but need to restrict group capacity. For example, I know that I have a certain number of adult team members available for each age group, so I can set a group-specific ticket capacity to ensure we work within our adult-child safeguarding ratios. Helpfully, as children are signed up for the event, you can visually see how many of each ticket type (group) has been allocated. The ticket (group) is also shown when using Event Check-In to record holiday club attendance and welcome each child on arrival.
Promoting your event and sending invitation
Having added your Holiday Club event/sequence, you'll want to promote it. As a Featured Event, your Holiday Club can be shown prominently on a featured event feed on your website and the featured event list in My ChurchSuite - you could even embed the event on a dedicated Holiday Club page on your website. You might even share your event on your social media channels or include a link to the event page in your weekly newsletter email or an email to prospective parents/carers.
A great feature of the Calendar module is the ability to easily send a personalised invitation to your known parents/carers already in ChurchSuite, making it easy for them to accept or decline on behalf of their child. Since event invitations track the accept/decline response of the prospective sign-up (a child) and a parent/carer may have multiple children, you will need to ensure the Child Email field contains a parent/carer email address so that each child invitation is delivered to their respective parent/carer inbox and so that an "Accept" response creates a child sign-up.
You may already have a tagged list of children you'd like to invite or even a tag of those who have previously attended a holiday club - tags make it easy to bulk-send to multiple children in a single process.
Once sent, you can keep track of each invitee's response status from the Invites tab of your Holiday Club event - knowing who has declined (and why) may be just as insightful as knowing who has accepted!
Take a moment - inviting child visitors
Event invitations are great for children already in your Children module but have you considered promoting your Holiday Club to your recent visitors listed in the Visitors section of your Children module - perhaps those who have recently checked in as a visitor to your Sunday gatherings via the Child Check-In system? Head into the Visitors section found on the Attendance menu of the Children module. You can use the Advanced Search to further filter the list and use the Send email batch action to communicate directly with their parents/carers, perhaps including a link to your Holiday Club event page:
Using Event Check-In to record holiday club attendance
Everything is set up, your Holiday Club is fully booked, your team are trained, excited and ready to go, child name badges are printed and the venue looks amazing. All you need to do now is welcome the children and register their attendance! The Calendar module's Event Check-In functionality (which can be run on multiple devices to keep queues to a minimum) enables you to check children in quickly and safely - all you need to know is the child's first or last name. For larger holiday clubs, you could even designate ticket-specific devices so you can direct parents and children to the appropriate queue.
Holiday Club attendance data collected through the event check-in page is added against the event in your ChurchSuite Calendar module and, for a multi-date club where Sign-up to sequence is enabled, the Check-Ins tab shows a helpful table of attendance for each date in the sequence, giving you some powerful attendance insights for each child. Note that it's not possible to transfer event attendance from the Calendar module to the Attendance section of the Children module.
While it is possible to cancel a Check-In (perhaps if a team member inadvertently clicked on the wrong child), it's not possible to record the check-out time for children at the end of a session. If you don't have a preferred workflow for check-out, see later in this article for further information on running your holiday club as a Gathering, which opens up the use of the Child Check-In system for check-in and check-out, as well as badge printing and secure 'team access' to all the pertinent information about the children in their care.
Take a moment - the Holiday Club as an event - pros
- event signup is accessible to those who are already in and those not yet in ChurchSuite
- a great signup user experience for parents/carers ensures you collect all the important details of each child being signed up
- easy to promote - including personalised invitations
- sign-up capacity can be managed efficiently
- simple sign-up
- easily collect online or at-the-door payment for tickets
- offer broader sign-up, availability and group capacity options with tickets
- a simple event check-in accessible by your team from any device with no additional hardware required
- no link between event attendance and the child attendance section in the Children module
- no child check-out process
- no direct connection between the Calendar module event and consent form responses in the Children module
Holiday Club as a gathering
While you'll raise Holiday Club awareness through event promotion, advertising and through your various communications, you'll want to carefully consider how best to manage the day-to-day arrival and departure of Holiday Club children and their parents/carers. While the Event Check-In functionality offers a simple solution - better suited to smaller gatherings - you may prefer a more scalable solution that addresses a need for child check-out as well as check-in.
In this section, we explore the use of the ChurchSuite Child Check-In system, which you may already be familiar with at your weekend services. As with the various age-based children and youth groups that you might have for a weekend service gathering, your Holiday Club can also be set up as a Gathering (in the Groups section of the Children module) and, in doing so, enables you to make full use of the Child Check-in system - to print child and parent pickup badges as children arrive to each session and to record attendance for children (and your team) for each Holiday Club session.
Importantly, the Child Check-In system has a feature-rich Admin Area that gives authorised team members secure access to the details of the children in their care and their emergency parent/carer contact details, all without needing to give wider access to the full content of your Children module. Unlike Event Check-In, the Child Check-In system allows your team to check children in and out of Holiday Club sessions quickly, safely and securely. Your team and parents/carers will especially appreciate this!
A gathering can comprise multiple age-based holiday club groups or you may prefer the simpler structure of a single group for all the Holiday Club children - you have lots of flexibility! For each age-based group in a gathering, you can optionally set a maximum group capacity, manage adult-to-child ratios and set a group-specific badge print quantity.
From experience, we know that the start and end of each Holiday Club day is a really busy time, with lots of children needing to be processed into groups quickly within a small window of time and later returned to the appropriate responsible adult in a well-safeguarded manner - the Child Check-In system takes all the stress from those peak times! You can either pre-assign children to their respective groups or you may prefer to assign children to their groups during the check-in process on the first day of the club - the check-in system suggests each child's group based on their age or you can override the suggested group and choose one - again, complete flexibility.
Preparing for Child Check-In
An important consideration is how you'll translate the list of signed-up children stored against an event in your Calendar module into your Children module ready for use with the Child Check-In system. Remember, some of the signups may be known children already in your Children module but others will be entirely new. You can easily filter the event Sign Ups list to identify those already "In ChurchSuite" and those "Not in ChurchSuite" (using the Advanced search filter shown below).
For children not in ChurchSuite - and subject to your Data Protection Policy, which describes your purpose for processing data and the lawful basis under the GDPR for doing so - you may be able to add new children ( Add child) to your Children module - perhaps tagging them to distinguish them as 'Holiday Club children' - or you could Download [the] sign-up list for the 'Not in ChurchSuite' children and then import them as Visitor children to your Children module ready for use with the Child Check-In system.
As an alternative to adding new children from the event Sign Ups list, if you have used a Parental Consent Form (described earlier in this article), you can just as easily add new children from those form responses:
For children added or already in your Children module (but not for children imported as Visitors), you can optionally add them to the relevant group in the Gathering from their profile page - select Add to group on the Groups tab; select the relevant Gathering and the most appropriate group is preselected; you can, however, choose a different group if appropriate. Alternatively, as mentioned earlier, you could skip this admin task of pre-assigning children to groups and do the group assignments when each child (or imported visitor) first checks in to your Holiday Club.
Using the Child Check-In system to check children in
Everything is set up, your team are ready to go and the venue space looks amazing. All you need to do now is check the children in as they arrive! Ahead of the first session, and for each group in the Holiday Club gathering, you can set which badges will be printed - you can print child badges and parent/carer pickup passes - ensuring your team is confident they are returning each child to their appropriate responsible adult parent/carer at the end of each session. You can customise the child badge, perhaps to include the child's Medical Short data, so that important information like allergies is super clear to your team before you hand out juice and snacks.
The Check-In system can be run in a range of configurations - either at self-check-in terminals (where children are pre-assigned to groups) or on devices managed by your friendly welcoming team (necessary if you need to assign children to a group on arrival). As each child is checked in, their pre-assigned or eligible group is shown but you can Unlock the check-in and choose an alternative group for a child. You can even check in visitors, meaning that if you still have some available group capacity, you can check in children who, for whatever reason, have not previously booked. If you do choose to take visitors in this way, you may also need to have easy access to your Parental Consent form to collect full child and parent/carer details; or you could follow up with visitors to complete that task after the session.
Top Tip! Prefer printed registers?
As an alternative to using the Child Check-In system, you may prefer to run a paper-based process using pre-printed registers and badges. You can then manually add the attendance data from the registers to ChurchSuite after each session.
Helpfully, all your Holiday Club group attendance can be viewed in the Attendance tab for each group in the Gathering and reported on from the Reports section of the module:
Checking children out at the end of a session
The Check-In system Admin Area is packed with useful information about the children in your care and is accessible to authorised team members during each active session. From the Admin area, your team can check children out of the session as well as access important details about a child, like allergies, photo/video consent and parent/carer contact details.
Take a moment - the Holiday Club as a gathering - pros
- Attendance records are maintained, even if a child is deleted from the Children module
- Child Check-in allows badge printing - important medical information and allergies can be shown on a child's badge
- Safeguarded child check-out process ensuring your team returns each child to their appropriate parent/carer
- Event signups not already in ChurchSuite will need to be added to the Children module - either to the Children section of the module or imported as Visitor - for them to be checked in and out of each session for the Holiday Club gathering