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Last Updated: 8/29/14

Groups of People

Defining Classes, Small Groups, Ministries, Services, Mailing Lists and Events

Here’s how Database uses the above terms. Getting these categories in mind will help you, especially when first setting up or when setting up a new group.


  1. Classes ("Something I go to") - Typically a one time learning event or series with a specific, limited time frame.
      Best for: Baptism Class, Membership Class, Finance Class
      Not best for: Sunday School Class, Tuesday morning Bible Study
  2. Small Groups ("Something I belong to") - Usually 4 to 20 people with a focus on relationships, led by one or two people accountable to a staff member or coach.
      Best for: Typical Small Group ministry, Adult Sunday School, ABFs
      Not best for: Most children's classes, Serving Teams
  3. Ministries (better, Ministry Teams) ("Something I serve in") - Groups focused on specific tasks.
      Best for: Greeter, Nursery workers, Children's Teachers, Worship Team
      Not best for: Ministry in the broad sense: Men's Ministry, Children's Ministry
  4. Services ("Something I attend") - A regular gathering for which you just want to track attendance.
      Best for: Worship services, Youth service, 5th grade girls Sunday school, ongoing large group Bible studies  
      Not best for: Special events, small groups, ministry team events

Events are specific, scheduled gatherings.
   An event can be tied to any of the four categories above to make it easier to see on a screen or report.
      Ex: Small group at the Lee home this Thursday, or attendance for the Lee's Small group over the last six months.
   Or, you can have a special event that is not connected to any category above.  Ex: The annual Thanksgiving Hoe-Down

Mailing Lists are for lists you don't keep in any of the above.
   Ex: Pastors in the Area, Expectant parents.
Don't create a list that duplicates other data...
   Ex: "Youth Retreat Attendees" is info you want to grab from the Youth Retreat Event

Basic users: That's what you need.
Administrators: Keep reading...

Decide based on function

How you decide to use these group types really depends on what you want to get out of them in the software. Get to know their unique functions before making your final decisions.

For example, how should you handle a mission trip?

  • It  can be simply tracked using a mailing list called "Mission Trip: Ecuador 2016". That will let you communicate and create simple reports.
  • Or, you can create a special event with the same name and use that event to track registration details and capture notes for future reference. Then you communicate or create reports based on the registration/attendance for that event.
  • Or, you can create a ministry team or a group since mission trips have some characteristics of these, but are much shorter in time frame. The advantage is that you can see people's involvement and role on the team at a glance. The disadvantage is that it can make your list of ministry teams or groups really long. This can be mitigated with naming conventions that put trips at the bottom of your list or by hiding in-active teams or groups. 

More Details 

Classes  ("Something I go to")

i.e. Membership class, Baptism class, etc

You will see the terms “Classes” and “Core Classes” used interchangeably in Database.  We are referring to disciple development classes for adults, like your introductory membership class that you expect all new adults to go to.  If you are using a Purpose Driven model at your church then these are the Class 101-501 classes.  If you have a curriculum for new believers that helps them understand the basics about faith, the Bible, the church, and living a Christian Life, then these would also fall into this definition.  We are NOT referring to Sunday School classes or children’s classes.

Small Groups ("Something I belong to")

i.e. Men's or Women’s Bible study, Home Groups, Life Groups, etc.

By the term “small groups” we are primarily referring to adult groups that meet on a regular basis (usually weekly) for the purpose of building community and helping each other grow spiritually.  These groups are between 4 and 20 people and usually meet in homes.  They have a leadership structure in that each group is led by one (or more) persons who is accountable to a coach or staff person who oversees the small groups in your church. 

We encourage traditional churches to use the small group features in Database for managing adult Sunday School classes (also known as Adult Bible Fellowships). These are groups that meet on Sunday morning at the church and are primarily for adults. The primary purpose of these groups is spiritual growth through instruction but also include community building. There are a very small percentage of churches that organize their children in small groups on Sunday morning.  Please read the section below on Children's Ministry. 

Ministry Teams ("A place where I serve")

i.e. Greeters/Ushers, Children’s Teachers, Worship Team, etc

Ministry Teams are groups of people who serve at a set time to perform a specific task.  Their primary purpose is to get work done.   We understand that ministry teams can also value community building and spiritual growth like small groups, but the reason a ministry team is formed is so that others will be served by their joint effort.  Thus a ministry team will have requirements for who can be a part of it.  There will be a schedule for when the team members will serve and what role they will serve in.

Services ("Something I attend")

i.e. Worship service for Adults, kids & youth, etc

Services are a very broad way of describing what happens at the church mostly on Sundays in terms of programming where you want to track attendance.  For example, a worship service is an event where adults gather in a large room to participate in worship.  Sometimes a church will conduct multiple worship services each Sunday due to limited space and they will refer to these as “1st Service”, “2nd Service”, etc.  

You can also refer to Children’s programming as “Services.”  Traditional churches usually call this “Sunday School.”  Database uses the term “services” so that you can track the total number of people who attended church without having to record each individual by name each week.  For example, most churches just want to know” how many total people did we have at church last week?”  This total number can be recorded using Services in Database. You can also create services that refer to a whole children’s ministry department. 

If you just want to know how many total kids you had in the nursery each hour, then create services call “Nursery 1st Hour” and “Nursery 2nd Hour”, etc.  We recommend that you keep things as simple as possible and if you only care about how many kids you had in the Nursery for the whole day, then just create 1 service called “Nursery.”  

If you are using our Elexio Check-In Kiosk software, it will take care of handling all your services.  You only need to create 1 service called “Nursery” and it will create instances of this service that correspond to the hours that kids can check in.


Events are scheduled gatherings of people.  You can have different types of events based on small groups, ministries, classes, and services.  Or an event can be a "special event" that isn't necessarily based on any of the above.  Things like retreats, mission trips, high school outings, concerts, dinners, etc. would all fall under the generic term “Special Events.”

When we refer to events, we mean anything that can be scheduled on the calendar.  This includes instances of a small group, service, class, ministry team or a special event.  Each of these are kinds of events that can have different characteristics.  For example, if you are scheduling a service you would never be concerned about charging money for people to attend one of your worship services.  But if you are scheduling a men’s retreat and it costs $100 to go, then you need a way to track who has paid and who hasn’t. 

So What about Children’s Ministry?  Services vs Small Groups?

Database offers a lot of flexibility in how you code children and track attendance. Here are two recommendations:

Option 1: Children's Ministry as "Services"

The simplest option in Database is to use Services in order to track your kids on Sunday morning. Every kid should be coded with their proper Age Group and Status no matter what system you use. Every database worth anything should already have this info as it's a normal data maintenance issue. Since you already have this data then you can create simple "Services" in our system like "Nursery" for example. This is a one-time setup task. Then you setup a recurring Event for each of your Services. For example, go to Events in Database and click on Add New Event. Select the Nursery service on the first tab of the Event Wizard. On the When tab, make this event recur every Sunday.   On the Attending tab set criteria so that only kids in the Nursery Age Group are eligible to attend this event. Save this Event. Now you are ready to capture/record attendance for what Service your nursery aged kids attending. You can print out rosters and reports by Age Group and Status, not enrollment. This eliminates having to put kids in Small Groups and maintain a roster all the time. 

You'll want to create Age Group codes that match your Services and vice versa. For example, if you have a Kindergarten class, create an Age Group code called Kindergarten. And create a Service called Kindergarten too. 

If you don't care which service a child comes to (let’s say either the 8:30 a.m. and the 10:30 a.m. service) then we recommend that you only create 1 service called Kindergarten. We don't recommend creating 2 services that both refer to Kindergarten because it unnecessarily complicates your attendance reporting. 

You can print out rosters by Age Group and put them out in front of the room so the parents can sign their kids in and out. Then rosters can be used to enter attendance. Or better yet use our Check-In Kiosk software for an electronic check in with automatic attendance recording.

This method also allows for easy Advancement of the grades each year.

Option 2: Children's Ministry as "Small Groups"

If you have structured your children’s ministry around a strict small group model where the same kids will be with the small group leader each week OR you are doing a traditional Sunday School where each class has the same teacher each week, then we'd recommend you place children in Small Groups. This gives you strict control over each child and their "enrollment" in a particular class. You can print out the same roster as above for each class each week.  

There are two downsides to this method. The first is data maintenance. You have to "enroll" each child into a small group and maintain that roll over time. Secondly, you also have to manually advance the kids to the next class. We recommend that you just change the name of the class if all the kids are advancing together. For example, all the 1st graders are going to the 2nd grade class, then just change the name of the group and then add/inactivate the teachers, if needed.

Regardless of which method you choose, we recommend that you also create Ministry Teams that somewhat match the Age Groups and Services. However, you only need to keep track of who is serving on the Ministry Team. Using the Check-In Kiosk, you can have your volunteers check in to Serve. This gives you an attendance record for the adult leader.

Mailing Lists

A mailing list is any list of people that don’t fit into one of the above categories. These are hand picked people who may not follow a strict set of criteria (like all adults in their 30's--use Reports like Custom Searches to get a list like that.) Names could be selected arbitrarily. Here are several examples:

Short term mission trip - all the people who are going on the trip
Special Donor List – people who support a missionary or staff member
Expectant Parents
Group of Leaders Attending a Conference
Christmas Card List – list of vendors and ministry partners
Pastors in the Community
Potential Leaders for a new ministry
Church Newsletter list - this is a system list!


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