Documenting Your Church’s History

small old globe sitting on top of a stack of books

As your church moves on through history, what records are you keeping? What will the next generation read about your church’s journey? In this digital age, keeping records is easier than ever. Much like any other culture, churches are proud of their history. Although many families move frequently, some do stay in the cities they grew up in. Plus many people may come back to the city they were raised to research their family history. It would be great for them to see that information through the lens of your church.

Why Document Your History?

Geotagged photos with metadata is easily stored, sorted, and searchable. You can annotate who is in the photo and provide a brief description of what is happening. An archive of articles about the church, both scanned newspaper articles, and documents written by congregation members, are a treasure trove of information. Children born after September 11, 2001 may want to research about how the church responded to the needs of its congregation. They may want to see if there were any natural disasters their ancestors played a critical role in. All of this information can be created, stored, and backed up online for a surprisingly low cost.

Not Everything is Public

I understand that some of this information may not be fit for public consumption. Perhaps a scaled-down version would be suitable for your church website. I would recommend a stand-alone machine in your church’s office with an off-site backup. Regardless, I hope you consider the value of this information and how technology can make it a reality to store years of information in a very small place.

Create the Standard

Finally, do you think it is a coincidence that a church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) developed the leading format for storing genealogical information? Genealogical Data Communication, or GEDCOM, is a nationally recognized data format for sharing genealogical information. This church wanted to preserve their history in a standardized format that every one of their parishioners could use.

Action Item

Explore how your church can use computers and your website to document its growth and history. If you archive your past, you will help your congregation understand their roots, and give them a clear sense of what direction they should head in the future.

Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.