If your church or other organization needs to track children, whether for Sunday School or a childcare program, the easiest way is with a computerized child check in system.
As with any software project, before purchasing, your organization should first lay out their user requirements. Here are some things to consider as you start to put together yours.
1. Determine how your church/organization wishes to perform the check in process.
Establish what your procedures and flow for the check in process will look like. Will you have a centralized check in area? Or would you like the check in to happen in the classrooms? Do you envision having volunteers or staff man the check in kiosks, or will they be self- serve?
You should also select a method for checking in students/families. Most check in systems offer a variety of ways to identifying the person who is there to check in. They can range from typing in a last name or phone number, to bar code or fingerprint scans.
Next you’ll want to consider what happens after the student checks in. Do you want to print a name tag for them with a corresponding parent/security tag? Or would your organization prefer a permanent badge for the child?
As part of the check in procedure, your organization should decide if and how the teachers will be notified of the students who are checked into their classes. Do you want to print out a roster to give to the teacher? Do you want them to be able to pull up a list on their smart phone?
Another decision will be how to handle reaching the parents when a child needs them. Will you project the security number from their parent tag onto your screen? Will you use pagers? Will you text them? Or will you have someone find them in the service?
Once you’ve finalized your procedures, start your list of requirements based on those procedures. For example:
- The system must be able to be run in a “self- serve” fashion
- The system must be able to accommodate checking in based on a bar code scan
- The system must print out name tags…and this information should be included on the name tag
- The system must be able to print out a check in roster of students that are present
- The system must be able to text the parents when they are needed
2. What are the procedures for checking students out of their classes?
Now that you have outlined your process for checking students into their classes, you must determine the process for checking them out. Will you have the parent bring their security tag to the classroom to pick up their children? If so, what will your policy be if a parent loses their tag?
Or would you like to use the system to record check out times and who checked the child out? Do you want to keep a list of people that are authorized to check the students out?
Then based on your answers to these questions, you can add to your list of requirements. For example:
- The system must be able to print off a parent security tag
- The system must be able to record check out times and who checked them out
3. What is your strategy for checking in visitors?
Now you’ve outlined how you’d like the check in and out process to work for your regular attenders. But what should that look like for your visitors? Will you have someone available to check their children into the system and get them to the right class? Will you have a form that you’d like them to fill out to capture contact information or would you like to have them entered directly into the system? Would you like the system to recommend a class for the visitor based on their age or grade? Do you want name tags and parent tags printed for visitors?
Based on the answers to those questions, you’ll want to add those requirements to your list. For example:
- Must allow entry of visitors names and address
- Must be able to print out name tags and parent tags for visitors
4. What type of reporting and follow up will you do based on the information from the check in system?
Next, identify the types of follow up activities you’d like to perform based on the information captured by the check in system. If you are entering visitors into the system, would you like to send them a letter or email after their first visit? Do you have folks that do follow up calls after so many visits? Maybe you’d like to find out who hasn’t attended in so many weeks to follow up with them.
Does your organization, church or denomination have any reporting requirements that must be met? Will you need to provide reports of how many children attended each class over each weekend, month or year?
As you identify these reporting requirements, add them to your list. For example:
- Must be able to identify first, second, third … time visitors
- Must be able to send emails or produce letters
- Must be able to identify people who have not attended in X weeks
5. What are your hardware, networking, and internet constraints?
In the previous steps, you’ve identified what you need the system to accomplish. Next, you’ll need to take a look at the hardware resources your organization has available. Do you have computers that you are planning to use as the check in kiosks? Are you planning to use mobile devices, like tablets or smart phones? Will you be purchasing new equipment? If you meet in a different location, does that location have internet available? Is the internet available reliable and speedy?
Based on the answers to these questions, you may have additional requirements for the check in system. For example:
- Must run on a Mac
- Must be web based OR must be installed software
- Must be able to use tablets for check in
6. Identify potential solutions that fit your requirements.
Now that you are armed with your organizations list of requirements it’s time to start searching for the perfect solution. Capterra is a great place to begin to narrow down your child check in software search. You could also search the web for child check in software. Many of the companies that offer this type of software have feature charts available on their website. You’ll be able to compare their list of features with your requirements.
If the company offers a trial, consider using that to evaluate the software. If they do not offer a trial, ask for a live demo to evaluate the ease of use as well as whether the software will meet your organization’s needs.
Once you’ve narrowed down the list of solutions that would be a good fit for you, investigate the companies. Check out the reviews available on Capterra. Call references. Find out what their support policies are.
Once you’ve concluded your research, the perfect solution should be apparent.