Church Directories How-to, ideas from church communications

Church Directory Tips

Church directories are great tools for helping people get to know each other in the church–here are some ideas how to create them.

Recently I received this question about pictorial directories and after the question are responses that were sent in and below them is a suggestion of a commercial product that I’ve had a number of folks in my past seminars tell me they really liked. Please put any additional comments or ideas that you have in the comment section below the article.

Question: Do you have any samples or ideas on how to put together an in-house pictorial directory?

We don’t like the traditional 8×10 size like Olan Mills for example prints. We’d prefer the 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 size or 4 1/4 x 11. We want to use photos, names, addresses, phone numbers (home & cell), emails, birthday & anniversaries of each person. All this information is preferred in the same area with the photo, not seperate. But where you can find ALL the information in one spot, but have it large enough to be read.

Looking for ideas. Any you have would be appreciated.

Thanks for all you hard work in making this such a fabulous informative website for church secretaries!


Idea #1:

Lord of Love has a membership-managing software program, Servant Keeper, which offers formatting for regular & pictorial directories.

I’m not able to export that information to send to you, since it is copywrite-protected, but basically, you can lay out the page with 3 large pictures on the right, with the families’ information to the left & horizontal lines separating the 3, or lay out 10 to the page with smaller pictures, photo to the right, info to the left, basically making 4 columns on the page (info, phot, info, photo L – R) with horizontal bars separating each pair of families from the ones above & below.

I’ve even heard the suggestion that in a smaller church, each family can have its own page & add a short autobiography & candid snapshots. It would really take a small church to get all this information gathered in a timely manner!

Judy Rauscher,Secretary

Idea #2:

Hi Yvon,
We put out a pictorial directory in-house about three years ago, but unless some technology changes, I won’t be doing another one again any time soon, at least not a printed version. The reasons are below:

1) Printing issues: To effectively print them on a color copier (our color copier was brand new at the time), we would have had to photoshop every single picture because photos output much darker on the color copier than they do on a color laser printer or ink jet. In the end, I couldn’t get some of the photos light enough to render the people in them recognizable, so I ended up printing them all on a color laser printer.

2) Cost: The color laser printer I have is about twice the cost of printing on the color copier. When it was all added up, the cost PER DIRECTORY was almost $6. (It was 40 pages, 8.5×5.5 booklet format, with approx. 120 families.) We printed about 150 directories, one for every family, plus extra copies for staff and to give to newcomers, for a total cost of nearly $900.

3) Time cost: I had to spend literally HOURS gathering, cropping, sizing, tweaking and importing photos, not to mention the normal updating, merging, etc. of the data itself. It was way more work than we usually do to put out a directory.

Now, for a positive take:

1) If one has a church management system (CMS), where the congregation can log in and upload their own photo, and update their own info, then there is usually provision for printing a photo directory, and it would be somewhat easier, though still costly to print.

2) Taking it a step further: If we were to do it again, I would convert it to a PDF document and hand out CDs, then each individual family could absorb the printing cost if they even want to print it out at all. In this day of iPads and smart phones, I can see PDF being the preferred format at some point. I have a smart phone, and I think it would be great to be able to access it wherever I am. (Until we have a secure, member-only section on our website, I can’t put it online for download.)

Rona Heenk, office manager
East Renton Community Church

Yvon’s note on this:

Though I understand the value and impact of color, the most important thing about the directory is to simply see and identify the people and black and white might work nicely to do that. I recently saw a demonstration of a newer digital duplicator from the RICOH corporation and I was astounded at the quality of  the photos. Check it out if you get the chance, it would be interesting to see how that might work out, especially if you didn’t do something really formal, but maybe a more casual one.

Idea #3:

Utilizing a local photographer or one in your congregation to take the family photos, you could then use a publisher such as Creative Memories or to produce an incredible book in whichever size you’d like. Blurb will even offer you the ability to have members purchase the books directly through their website, rather than ordering them in bulk. The downside, is that anyone would be able to see said directory. Once you find a good solution, please let me know. We are planning to do this on our next go round as well.

PS, last year we had our church photographers take photos of each family on Easter Sunday, just as a fun service to them. That may be a great time to catch most of your members dressed in their Easter best!

In Christ’s Love,
Chaundra Ward
Administrative Secretary  | Clear Lake Baptist Church

Idea #4:

Hi Yvon,
The above link is from Microsoft. I didn’t take the “course” as I’m off to work in a few minutes but it looks like you can sit back and watch it or you can keep clicking Next at the bottom and it walks you step by step thru a Catalogue Merge.
If they create a data file (excel, access) with the information that they want to appear in the directory, they essentially do a mail merge with Publisher… except, Publisher lets you merge photos in too… so as long as they sorted their data on last names, and saved their photos by last name, so they would merge in. So as long as they sorted their data on last names, and saved their photos by last name, so they would merge in the right order, it would be (hopefully) fairly simple to do.

Secretary – Dundas St Centre United Church
Communications Committee Chair – East London Anglican Ministries

Idea from Yvon

In the past I have gotten some very good feedback about this product:

They are the same people who make the clip art resources for churches, Communication Resources.

I’d love to hear from any of you that have used it, good or bad–just put your comments in the comment section below the article.

This is how they describe their new version:

Instant Church Directory on CD 2011

The new 2011 version of Instant Church Directory offers you all the same ease of use as the 2008, but now with five brand-new features.  Now you can provide your congregation with an updated photo-directory every year – or as often as you like – without dealing with a photo-directory company.

You can do it yourself, right in your church office, with the equipment you already have. And you’ll see the results in hours … not months!

All you need to do is recruit a few members with digital cameras to stand near the doors on a few Sundays and take “head-shots” of families and individuals as they arrive or leave. The Instant Church Directory™ software will walk you through the process from there.

Instant Church Directory™ automatically prints your members’ photos and roster in alphabetical order.

Once the directory is on your computer, it’s a snap to make changes and keep it current. Simply print out updated copies anytime on request – as many or as few as you need (Instant Church Directory is designed to print on 8 1/2 X 11 portrait format only).

It’s like having a professional photo-directory without the hassles of a directory company. Or without obligating your members to buy expensive portraits.

And just like a professional photo-directory, Instant Church Directory™ will help your members get to know one another better, help build a sense of community, and strengthen member care.

Don’t expect your members to tolerate an outdated directory or loose supplements. Put an updated photo-directory into their hands that they’ll appreciate … and you’ll be proud of!

Instant Church Directory™ is also great for producing photo-directories for your Youth Groups, Choirs, Sunday School Classes, Pre-school, Women’s, & Men’s Organizations, Fellowship Groups, and other ministries of your church.

New Features for 2011!

New! Birthday Page – Quickly add birthdays to any member.  The ALL-NEW birthday page displays member birthdays by month.
New! Custom Pages – Insert any PDF page right into the directory.
New! Custom Information Fields – Two new custom fields allow you to add any special information.
New! Reorder Pages – Now you can tell the software which order to print your pages.
New! High-Quality PDF Directory – A high resolution image quality option for printing


Below are the websites of the companies that produce the professional directories.

I am not crazy about either of these companies, but I included them as something to check out for ideas or to compare options. Any directory is better than no directory at all and they do provide a useful service for busy church staffs.

Please add your comments, ideas, input and information in the comment section here. Thanks so much!

[[T_F]]Data Leak Prevention – Data Security Solutions – Information Theft Protection, Detection and Prevention Software Productstracefusion_signature=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[[T_F]]

  22 comments for “Church Directories How-to, ideas from church communications

  1. 10 March, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Our church is about mid size (around 600) We started using Instant Church Directory. Our member have loved it. Yes, there is a lot of work involved in setting it up. My suggestion have teams – photographers, info receivers, proofers….. Ours are 8 1/2″x11, cardstock paper. We put it in a 3 ring binder, and asked for a donation of $5. That is far less than it would cost when a professional comes in and “hounds you” to purchase additional pics. We make up additional pages for church wide special events such as Mother & Daughter Banquet, Trunk or Treat, Men’s Camping Trip,etc.

    • 10 March, 2011 at 9:41 am

      Thanks so much! Great advice–teams are always a great way to solve challenges!

  2. 25 March, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Two more comments, thanks so much!

    We have decided to try printing our own directory next time. (We have not actually begun yet.) But we were thinking a page for each person or family put into a three ring binder would be great. It would be easy to add new people and keep it up to date. My husband is one photographer in our church and there are others. But we could put all the photos into a data base on one computer and print them on photo paper. Staples sells their own brand of photo paper that is very good. The most challenging part will be organizing everyone to come have their photos made. But that’s the same challenge when you have Olan Mills or another company come. They pretty much leave the organizing up to the church secretary anyway.

    Christie Lane

    Hi. Kathy the parish co-ordinator at our church sent me your email as I update the church web site and do free advertising. My suggestion for the book, is to made one using Microsoft Word and include what you want and then take it to a printer. We just did this for a cookbook. You could check prices from different printers before starting.

    Edith Freeze

  3. marypersky
    29 June, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I borrowed this idea from another church; we take the pictures in house; I edited them in Photoshop Elements. Using Publisher, I used the landscape with 2 columns. Each family is printed 2 per page so when I run 50 pages, I have 100 copies for that family. We put bds, anniversaries, etc. The first one was in BW but we did a whole new version last year and everyone wanted color so we made it possible (on my laser printer and yes it was expensive) but the plan is to not do the whole thing again at one time; just as needed for major changes in a family. We purchased 3 ring binders (for 81/2 x 51/2 sheets. If I were in a large church, I probably would not print them myself. Everyone loves it and one family uses it as a prayer ministry, making notes on each family page for needs. Families helped pay for the cost of the binder. (one per household)

    Mary Persky

    • 29 June, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      I just LOVE this!

      Our church recently had a national company come in….SUPER EXPENSIVE….I think what really bothered me was the $40 they charged to “Soften” the image. ONE CLICK does that, as we all know who edit images on the computer.

      I could not in good conscience participate, I sent in a picture I took. I know many families who could not afford their very high prices didn’t realize they could do that. I was sad the church sponsored it.

      BLESS you for your GREAT idea!

  4. 20 September, 2012 at 3:31 am

    You could also consider churchedin website for building a church directories. Its database got about 230,000 churches nationwide and we are adding more churches every day.

    • 20 September, 2012 at 9:07 am

      Thanks so much for you comment. I went on your site and though I found it very interesting, I’m not sure how similar that is to a directory within a church. Could you clarify that?
      Thanks so much.
      Yvon Prehn

  5. Jaimie Adams
    10 November, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I am a Church Directory Advisor. This is my profession, meaning I am an expert in the field of all things Pictorial Church Directory related. It is my expert advice for all above comments to thouroughly research a Pictorial Directory Company. Finding the best company to fit the individual needs of your church will illiminate the many hassles that you will experience in producing an “In-House” Directory. My company offers a turn key program (meaning we do the majority of all work involved). We even provide all promotional materials and all of our programs are at no cost to the church or its members! We have even develpoped our “App Ready Program” (Smart Phone/I-Pad Directory) for busy Pastors/Staff and even families that need their directory on the go. We are the only company that actually offers each individual member their choice bewtween 3 different formats of the directory (Traditional 8×10, Compact 5×7, and a Directory on a CD-Rom). I understand that church directories produced by companies have earned a bad name, but I personally stand behind my company as being full of integrity and we always try our best and work hard to provide exceptional, hassle free service to our churches! I am a Christian and would never work for a company that did not stand behind what they promise to Churches and I can honestly say that my company does just that! So, my advice…research various companies to see what they can offer your Church and make sure that what they offer best fits your individual Church needs. Benefits: Free Directories, Families normally receive a free family portrait, Outreach, Various technological advances (online, smart phone, etc.), At no cost (eliminates the printing costs for the Church), and Turn Key programs eliminate the hassles and work for the Church Staff. Any questions? I will be happy to give my professional, honest, and heart felt advice for any Churches that have questions regarding Church Directories. I will not post the name of my company, because my interest is helping Churches with a solution to their problem by offering my professional advice, not to advocate or advertise my place of employment. Thank You!

    • 10 November, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you so much for your comments! I could sense the care and passion in your voice as you wrote.

      I would invite you to post the name and contact information for your company–I approve all the comments before they go out to people and I’d like them to have that information available.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to write your comments and if you have any additional ones on how people can have a successful time getting their directories done, I’d love to have your share your ideas.

      grace and peace,

    • SB
      6 February, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Have been looking at MyCongregation software and also Instant Church Directory. We have about 250 families in our church and are trying to decide whether to put together our own book or use a directory service. Any input you may have would be very appreciated. God Bless!

      • 6 February, 2013 at 10:44 pm

        In addition to the comments of other churches in the article here, one thing that is very important is that you have someone with the skills, software and time to do your own book. It is a HUGE task and takes a lot of time. Be sure that the person who would be doing it is involved in the decision. Other than that, both of the products you mentioned will do what you want and I always think it is better to use your own people (if all is well there, as I said–you don’t want to lose a member or create significant hardship for a staff person). When you use your own people they learn new skills and the end product is always more personal. Overall, it is always a much better use of finances–the overall cost of the directory services is excessive, when you consider how that could be used for outreach, feeding hungry children or other mission ideas.

        Hope that helps–kudos for you for doing a directory–people connections are so important!

  6. Ernie Johnson
    21 December, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I have done the last 3 directories for out church at about 2 yrs apart. These were done on a Windows platform. I utilized 3 programs. Adobe photoshop elements after the shot was taken to correct anything needed. I used MS Excel – creating a spreadsheet with all their contact info as well with a cell that hyperlinked to where there photo was. Then I used MS Publisher to create the directory. First I created a template setting up how I wanted the information. My pages were set up at about 6 per page with Picture and info underneath. Once the information was all set up I then did a catalog merge using the spreadsheet I created. This put everything I wanted on letter size pages in a publisher file. I then could go in and create a front page, admin pages and any other pages I desired. I saved the file to pdf and took to a local copier center and had it printed. I did about 150 books this way. This last year I also created a small size phone directory that would fit into your purse or quick carry as well.

    • 22 December, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      Thank you so much for this–your system for linking the information is brilliant! I never thought of doing that with the catalog merge. I have got to check this out. One note I’d add is the to do the initial photo editing is (it’s free and you can do basic photo edits with it).

      A related note–in the coming year–I want to set up a forum for church communicators–this is exactly the kind of shared information that would benefit so many.

      Please read the newsletters to keep informed of it and thanks again so much!

    • Victoria Friend
      15 October, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      Would you consider sharing your template?

  7. Cyndi
    12 December, 2014 at 11:01 am

    All the above comments and information has been extremely helpful! We are gathering the personal information at this time to begin creating a directory for our church after the first of the year. We 110 families featured in our previous directory (printed 2012, not pictorial). We are really wanting a pictorial directory for 2015 and trying to cut costs by doing it in-house. I look forward to the challenge of this great task :-) Thanks for the help! Cyndi

  8. 15 January, 2015 at 2:35 am

    We offer an outstanding online church member directory solution….with a mobile app included. :)
    Some of the features include password protection, members can update their individual and family profiles, the directory is customizable to match the look and feel of your church website, and there are optional listing categories…and the mobile app is fabulous as well….with texting, calling, and mapping features included.
    Visit: to learn more.

    • 15 January, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Totally missed the Google spelling! Thanks for catching that–I put that in quickly while recording because I wanted to have a review for people and didn’t even notice it!

    • 15 January, 2015 at 9:21 am

      I’d like to find out more–but a quick question and forgive me for not taking the time to research this–can members or the church also print out a directory from your program?
      Let me know,
      Yvon Prehn, Effective Church Communications

  9. 9 March, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Yvone, I’m sorry for the delay in my response! Yes..members can print out the directory…..all of it or just the selected portions they want to print! It’s a great directory program! Would you be interested in me sharing more information with you?

    • 10 March, 2015 at 9:22 am

      No problem–our lives are all so busy now!

      Thanks for the response, but I would love to have you share more about it. If you’d like to write up and article explaining it well and send it to I’d like to look it over (editorial if needed) and publish it. We don’t take advertising and I’m not asking for that, but I do like to pass on useful resources — many don’t know what is out there.

      Hope to hear from you!

      • 14 May, 2015 at 7:17 pm

        HI Yvon! I would love to write an article explaining the online directory service! It’s really awesome and is gaining in popularity! I will send you an email & article next week. Thank you! K.D.

        • 24 May, 2015 at 12:11 pm

          That sounds good–our church is currently going through the very painful process of an outside picture-taking company. I know they mean well, but it is troublesome and I would love to give my readers and members options.

          Not sure if you read anything on this or not, but my company does not take any advertising or participate in affiliate programs.

          If resources look useful, we share them. If you want to include a coupon or any special offer, that would be directly from you to the readers.

          PLEASE direct your article to my email:

          I look forward to seeing what you send–thanks so much!
          Yvon Prehn

Please share your thoughts, comments, questions!