At Greenwood we have about 200 children come through our check-in system for children each Sunday. We are certainly not a small church, but also not a mega-church. The check-in system I’ll show today is pretty scaleable, so it would work in smaller churches too. I’m not sure about mega-church, but my guess is that it would work basically the same there just on a larger scale.

Check-In System for Children 1
Wide View of our Children’s Check-In Area

Check-In System for Children – Software

There are several different software options out there. At Greenwood, we use planning center’s software called check-ins. This software is cloud based, so it requires an internet connection at all times for things to work. If you don’t have super reliable internet, you probably want to look at something else. There are other options that you can host on your own server, and just require a local network connection, which will still work even without internet.

Check-In System for Children – Equipment

No matter what software you choose, you are probably going to need some label printers. We have one label printer per station, so that as a family checks in they are given labels before moving on. A piece of hardware, such as a PC, mac, or iPad can be used as the user interface at each station.

Check-In System for Children 2
Close up of our iPad self check-in station
for Regular Attenders

To start, we have 6 stations that are made up of an iPad along with a wifi printer. The printer we use is a Brother QL-810w. We also use the optional battery base, so that the printer does not need to be plugged into the wall. This setup allows us to have stations that are completely wireless where our regular attenders can check in using only their phone number.

Check-In System for Children 3
Wide view of First Time Guest Check-in
Check-In System for Children 4
Close up of the Windows machine
in “manned” mode with a Dymo 450
Turbo connected

Then, we have 2 stations for first time guests. We utilize two cheap PC’s for this purpose. These two stations each have a volunteer who inputs the information from the guest, and a keyboard speeds things up. After obtaining information, the volunteer prints labels on a Dymo 450 turbo.

Check-In System for Children – Networking

At Greenwood, I’m in charge of the networking aspect of this system as well. In order to ensure that the iPad will always connect to the same printer (which I labeled accordingly), I have assigned everything a static IP address. Once I determined to go the static IP route, I’ve had no issues with quick connectivity and rock-solid stability. At some point in the future I will likely put all of these devices onto their own VLAN so that I can give priority internet bandwidth to the Check-In System for Children in a Local Church.

Check-In System for Children – Troubleshooting

I’ve had great luck with Planning Center’s support. They are responsive to emails during the work week. On Sunday I’ve had the best luck through twitter. You can find the twitter account for their software here. If something is acting weird, you can always use their status page to diagnose where the problem lies. Sometimes the problem is with planning center, and sometimes it is on my network – but their status page helps me find a quick diagnosis.

Check-In System for Children in a Local Church – Conclusions

I have been very satisfied with this particular system. We have used this version of software for a few years. This is the second location that I’ve designed an installation, so I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. The ability to use an iPad as a station that prints to another station is brilliant. If we see the lines getting too long, we just open the app on another iPad, or our phone, and start checking people in. Those labels are set to print at our First Time Guest station where traffic moves a little more slowly anyway. That way we don’t disrupt the other stations.

So with the caveats that I’ve mentioned in this post, I can say that I highly recommend a check-in system for children like this at your church. If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my post about installing ProPresenter in a small room, or using a cloud-based phone system at your church. I would also love it if you would subscribe to my Podcast that drops twice a month on Wednesdays.

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