Gatherings and groups for children
In this article
Introduction to gatherings, groups and sessions
Within the Children module, age-based groups for children and young people are organised into Gatherings. A Gathering is a collection of Groups for which 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.
Typically a gathering relates to the children/youth ministry run at weekend church services but you may have other gatherings, such as a mid-week youth club or toddlers group, or an occasional gathering, like a holiday club. Where the group structure is different at each of these occasions, you'll have separate gatherings for each occasion, service or event and you'll record attendance for each session that each gathering meets. However, where the group structure is the same at some of these occasions, you'll have one gathering - recording attendance for each session the gathering meets. Where you have multiple services using the same gathering of groups, the attendance Session name is used to distinguish which occasion the gathering's attendance data relates to. Session names need not include the session date - the system already knows which date attendance is being recorded for.
For multi-site customers, gatherings are site-specific, so you'll create separate gatherings for each site's groups.
While Group names need not be unique, a Gathering's name must always be unique.
While children can be members of groups in multiple gatherings, a child can only be a member of one group in any one gathering - see the related support article for adding children to groups.
Gatherings, and their respective Groups, are managed within the Groups section of the Children module. Session attendance for each Gathering is recorded and managed within the Attendance section of the module.
In the example below, there are four gatherings - two are for the Main Site and two are for the North Site. Each site has an 'AM1' and an 'AM2' gathering, probably reflecting that each service has a distinct group structure. Had the group structure at the 'AM1' and 'AM2' services been the same, it would only have been necessary to have a single gathering for each site.
Adding a gathering
Begin by navigating to the Groups section within the Children module. You won't be able to add groups until you first create the gathering. Click Add gathering.
On the Add gathering pop up, give the gathering a suitable Name. Specify the Maximum age of children for this gathering and select the appropriate Child leaves on from the drop-down list. Note that children are not automatically removed from groups when they reach the gathering's maximum age - 'processing' children into and out of groups as they get older is a User task - see the related support article for further information. For multi-site churches select the gathering's Site - gatherings are always site-specific - you'll need to create a separate gathering for each site. Click Save to add the new gathering.
The gathering's "View" page is displayed. From here you can populate the gathering with Groups - see next section - or Edit the gathering if you wish to make changes. Click Delete to permanently remove a gathering; this will also delete all groups in the gathering and all associated session attendance data for the groups in the gathering.
You can return to a gathering's "View" page at any time by navigating from the list of gatherings in the Groups section of the module.
Adding groups to a gathering
Having added a Gathering (see previous section), and working within the gathering's "View" page (below), click Add group.
On the Add group pop up, enter the group's Name and specify the child age Entry Criteria for the group. Also, select whether children are to be Processed into (or added to) the group on their Birthday or a particular month in the year. When adding children to groups (later), the group Entry Criteria is used in conjunction with each child's date of birth to determine their suggested group. Similarly, when processing groups as children get older, the Entry Criteria and Process date are used to determine each child's next eligible group. An exit criteria for the group is not necessary - the exit criteria is based on the next group's entry criteria or the maximum age for the Gathering.
For those using the Child Check-In system, optionally set the Check-In Options, which determine the default number of Badges of each type that are to be printed when a child is checked in to that group. Setting a value of 0 will mean that no badges of that type are produced. Optionally set a group Capacity - the maximum number of children that can be checked in to the group. No further check-ins for a group will be possible once the group is full. Finally, based on your child protection policy, set the group Ratio. A 'real time' group progress indicator is shown in the Child Check-In "Admin Area", representing the number of checked-in adult team members vs. the number of registered or checked in children for the group. Click Save to add the group.
Continue adding any other groups for the Gathering. When adding groups, remember that a child can only belong to one group within the same Gathering. In the example below a child cannot be in both the "Babies" and "Preschoolers" groups. A child can however belong to multiple groups that exist in different gatherings. For example, a child can belong to the "Thursday Younger Youth" group in the "Youth Club" gathering, the "Younger Youth" group in your "AM1 service" gathering, the "All Youth" group in your "AM2 service" gathering, and the "CYFA" group at your "Evening service" gathering. Each of these occasions require separate gatherings, each with their own set of groups. It may be that some gatherings only have one group.
Having created each of your Gatherings and Groups, you can now add children to the groups in each Gathering. See our related support article for guidance on Adding children to groups, which includes guidance on processing children through your groups as they get older and how to quickly add children not currently in a gathering to their groups.
Archiving a gathering
You can easily archive a gathering (and set it active again) when your children/youth ministry changes significantly or where a gathering isn't needed for a season. Archiving a gathering is a non-destructive process...
- all groups remain linked to the gathering
- all children remain assigned to their groups unaffected by the change
- all historic group attendance remains accessible, reportable and in tact
- all session templates relating to the gathering are simply hidden and won't surface in the Child Check-In system
- Child Check-in sessions can't be started for an archived gathering - you can only select from your active gatherings.
- an archived gathering can be set active again
To archive a gathering, navigate into the Groups section of the module and select Archive from the Action menu of the gathering you wish to archive and confirm the change of status.
To reactivate a previously-archived gathering, switch from viewing Active to Archived gatherings and use the Set as active action, and confirm the change of status.
Historic group attendance for an archived gathering persists in the Attendance section, with the gathering name distinguished in strikethrough font. The attendance remains fully editable and report-able.
Within the Child Check-In system, only Sessions templates for active gatherings are listed, and only active gatherings are surfaced in the drop-down list if starting a New Session.
Archiving a group
As your children and youth ministry grows over time it's sometimes necessary for the ministry's gathering(s) to be re-structured. Rather than lose historic group attendance data for groups no longer needed you can either archive the entire gathering (see the previous section in this article), or archive groups within a gathering - rather than delete anything.
Archiving groups means that you can add new groups - perhaps with different age entry criteria - to reflect the new structure. Archiving a group will remove all current group members, but will not delete the group's historic attendance. An archived group can also be set active again and then the group can be re-populated with children. It's important to remember that a child can only exist in one group for each gathering (which is why children are removed from an archived group).
Note that is is not possible to move groups between gatherings - instead, archive the group from the gathering (or archive the gathering) and create a new group in the new gathering - you can re-use the same group name if you wish.
To archive a group - and working from the Gathering's "View" page in the Groups section of the Children module, select Archive from the Action menu on the right-hand side of the list of groups. Notice also the view filter, to switch between viewing Archived and Active groups.
An archived group can be Set as active again. If the group, group member list and historic group attendance are no longer required, you can select to Delete the group.