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 distinguishes which occasion the gathering's attendance data relates too. 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 and optional Description. 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, which 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 to their groups that are not currently in a gathering.
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 a Gathering, it's possible to archive groups, rather than delete them. You can then add new groups to the gathering to suit your new ministry structure. Archiving a group does not delete the members of the group or the group's historic attendance. It is not possible to move groups between gatherings - instead, archive the group from 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 active again. If the group, group member list and historic group attendance are no longer required, you can select to Delete the group.
Sessions - Introduction
A Session name is required when adding attendance manually from printed registers or if using the Child Check-In system. The session name distinguishes group attendance for a gathering from other attendance sessions for the same gathering.
For example, if you have a "Sunday" Gathering that is used for the 9.30am and 11.30am services, then the session naming convention could simply be "9.30am service" and "11.30am service". The session date is already maintained as part of the attendance data being recorded, so the same two session names can be used from week-to-week for each service. In this way you can easily produce group attendance reports that distinguish just the 9.30am service or just the 11.30am service or both. Therefore avoid creating new, uniquely-named sessions each time you record group attendance; otherwise you'll lose the ability to report on group attendance for the same session over time.
With this in mind, when adding group attendance - either manually from printed group registers (added in the Children > Attendance section) - or when using the Child Check-in system where attendance is auto-added for a Session - a session name must be provided, against which the group's attendance for that gathering is recorded. See the related support articles for further information about the Child Check-In system and attendance recording with printed registers.
Removing unwanted sessions
When using the Child Check-In system, the check-in Session name is recorded against each group's attendance added in the Children module. Similarly, when manually processing printed registers, the Session name is recorded against each group's attendance. Children group attendance is maintained in the Attendance section of the Children module.
When manually adding or editing group attendance for a date a Session name is required. To avoid creating unwanted or similar session names, a drop-down list of previously used Session names is provided.
To remove unwanted previously-used Session names in the drop-down list it is unavoidably necessary to manually search historic group attendance (in the Children > Attendance section) to locate instances of the unwanted session name, and to then edit the attendance to change the session name. Once the last instance of an unwanted session name has been eradicated, the unwanted session name will disappear from the drop-down list
Additionally, if you're using the Child Check-In system, when opening a New Session, previously-used Session names are listed as Suggested names, from which you can select in order to re-use a previously-used session's check-in Options, rather than having to set the check-in Options afresh each time.
Each time a new session name is used it is added to the Suggested names list. To remove unwanted Suggested names from the Child Check-In system, head into the Reports section of the Children module and locate the Session report. Using this report you can easily delete all instances of unwanted session names, which will in turn remove them from the Suggested names list.
Note: Deleting a Session from this report does not delete the associated child attendance records for that Session - these continue to be recorded in Children > Attendance under the deleted session name. Deleting all instances of a session name from the Sessions report simply removes it from the Suggested names list.
As an alternative to deleting historic Sessions, you can also Edit a Session.
In this way you can edit any incorrectly-named sessions to make them consistent with your preferred session name(s); and in doing so, eliminate all instances of an unwanted session names.