Gatherings and groups for children
In this article
Introduction to gatherings, groups and sessions
Within the Children module, a Gathering is a collection of age-based Groups for which you'll maintain group member lists and record Session attendance. Attendance can be added manually - perhaps from printed registers (see the related support article) or automatically using the Child Check-In system.
Typically a gathering relates to the children/youth ministry perhaps 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 on each of these occasions you'll have a separate gathering and you'll record attendance for each session that each gathering meets. However, where the group structure is the same on some of these occasions, you'll only need 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 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 name must always be unique.
While children can belong to a group in multiple gatherings, a child can only belong to one group in any one gathering - see the related support article for adding children to groups.
Adding a gathering
Navigate to the Groups section of the Children module and 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 when a Child leaves on from the drop-down list. Children are not automatically removed from groups when they reach the gathering maximum age, however, children can be processed through each group as they get older and out of the gathering when they are no longer eligible. See the related support article for further information on processing children through groups as they get older. Finally, those using multi-site will need to select the gathering Site - gatherings are always site-specific, so you'll likely need to separate gatherings for each of your sites. Click Save to add the new gathering.
The gathering "View" page is displayed. From here you can populate the gathering with Groups - see the 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. Alternatively, you can Archive a gathering that's no longer in use - groups and related attendance will be preserved. Archived gatherings can be Set as active again.
Adding groups to a gathering
From the gathering "View" page click Add group.
On the Add group pop-up enter the group Name and specify the age Entry Criteria for children to be eligible for the group. Next, select whether children are Processed into the group based on their Birthday or a particular month in the year. When adding children to groups, the Entry Criteria is used in conjunction with a child's date of birth to determine their age and suggested eligible group. Similarly, when processing groups as children get older, the Entry Criteria and Process Date are used to determine each child's eligible group. The group exit criteria are not necessary - the exit criteria are derived from the follow-on group's entry criteria, or for the oldest group, the maximum age set for the Gathering.
For those using ChurchSuite's Child Check-In system, the group's Check-In Options determine the number of Badges of each type that are printed when a child is checked in. Setting a value of 0 means no badges of that type are produced. Optionally set a group Capacity - the maximum number of children that can be checked into the group. No further check-ins will be possible once the group is full. Finally, based on your child protection policy, set the group Ratio - the group "fill" progress is shown in real-time in the Check-In "Admin Area", helping leaders see group capacity and the adult-to-child status based on the checked-in children, visitors and adult team. Click Save to add the group.
Continue adding the other groups in the Gathering.
You can now add your regular children and young people to their groups in the Gathering - see our related support article on Adding children to groups which includes instructions on how to process children through groups as they get older and how to add children not currently in a gathering to their groups.
Archiving a gathering
When the structure of your children or youth ministry changes, rather than making changes to the gathering, you may find it helpful to preserve the ministry history (the groups and the related historic attendance) by archiving the gathering and adding a new one that reflects your new gathering/group structure. As mentioned above, deleting a gathering or group is a destructive action that also deletes all linked attendance for children, visitors and team members. Before choosing the Delete action, consider archiving the gathering, which preserves all the gathering's attendance history for reporting and safeguarding purposes. An archived gathering can later be set as active if needed.
What happens when a gathering is archived?
- all groups remain linked to the gathering
- all children remain assigned to their group in the gathering
- all historic group attendance remains accessible and reportable in the Children module
- historic attendance persists on child profiles
- all session templates relating to the gathering are simply hidden and won't surface in the Child Check-In system and a new session cannot be started for an archived gathering (only active gatherings)
- an archived gathering can be set active again
To archive a Gathering, navigate to the Groups section of the module and select Archive from the Actions menu.
To reactivate a previously-archived gathering, switch from viewing Active to Archived gatherings and select Set as Active.
Historic group attendance for an archived gathering continues to show in the Attendance section of the module, with archived gathering names distinguished in strikethrough styling. The attendance remains fully editable and reportable.
Archiving a group
Depending on the ministry changes, and as an alternative to archiving an entire gathering, it is also possible to archive individual groups in a gathering (and later set them active if needed), preserving the group's historic attendance data. Archiving a group will clear the group member list so that children can be optionally added to other groups in the gathering without issue - each child can only belong to one group in a gathering.
Note: it 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.
To archive a group, and working from the Gathering "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. Note the group view filter to switch between viewing Archived and Active groups.
When viewing the Archived group list a 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, which is a destructive action, so delete with caution!