18th February 2016

From the very beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist movement we have sought MEMBERSHIP NOTESto look out for those who joined our congregations and became members of the Church. For decades this relied on local church clerks writing out the details of a person's membership in a 'Church clerk's Record book' and then reporting on changes to the local office (Conference or Mission). In turn the local office would report to the British Union Conference (BUC) who reported to the Trans-European Division (TED) who reported to the General Conference (GC).

In time, these reports from the local clerk became typed reports which were transcribed onto index cards in the two Conference offices, and the Union office for the Missions. But with the advent of computer systems things started to change. Some enterprising local clerks experimented with different ways of keeping records on a computer. Some local pastors and those in administrative offices also experimented using programmes like Word, Excel and Access to find better ways of keeping records and sharing the quarterly changes.

In the 1990s Pastor John Surridge developed an Access based database which he called 'Memtrack'. MEMTRACK SCREENSHOTOver time this was adopted by both Conferences and the Union for the Missions who kept separate records from each other. In the early 2000s Pastor Surridge rewrote the programming for a web based database that would contain all the membership records across the BUC. This has served us well, but now its limitations prove a challenge.

In the late 2000s the volume of reporting from local churches led us to seek after a system that would allow local church clerks to enter membership data directly. Through the BUC and TED the Conference Secretariats asked if it would be possible to adopt a system like eAdventist, a database that was operating in the North American Division (NAD). After a few years of comparing systems available and adaptation work, the General Conference have launched an international version of ACMS (Adventist Church Management System) which had been developed in Brazil.

A global software package offers many practical advantages. ACMS was originally developed by the South American Division and then adoptedACMS GROUP by the world Church. Today there is a team of eight people constantly working on developing and improving the system, ensuring that it is compatible with current rapid technological developments. In the past local entities have developed their own software packages, only to find they do not have the capacity to maintain the system or become dependent on one or two people. This system, ensures a seamless continuity when people leave or change positions. It is provided free of charge, the only cost being the computer to run the programme.

And that is more than just number crunching. It is part of the transparency and integrity which should characterize the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

After years of consultation, planning and design with input from specialists across the world, including working out how to keep data secure and in harmony with European laws, ACMS went live in the Netherlands Union Conference (NUC) in February 2016.

On Wednesday, 10 February, some of those specialists from the Trans-European Division gathered at NUC headquarters in Huis ter Heide. Five Union Executive Secretaries,ACMS PL DM two Conference Executive Secretaries, a Union Administrative Assistant, and the TED Executive and Associate Secretaries were joined by Sherri Ingram Hudgins, Director of Adventist Church Management System (ACMS), and Tiago Moises Silva dos Santos, the Chief Programmer. Between them they ran a two-day training programme as part of the first ACMS implementation in Europe.

The first day was open to other Unions interested in implementing the system in their countries, and Pastors Paul Lockham and Douglas McCormac (BUC and SEC Secretariat) joined for initial orientation and training.

The training provided an overview of the system, as well as hands-on experience in how to enter new members, ACMS PAULtransfer membership, record deaths etc. During the first morning Sherri asked the participants to brainstorm and create a wish list of everything that they would like to see in a membership system. At the end of the day when the wish list was reviewed against the system 99% of items were already included.

It is the plan to commence transition of our BUC records from Memtrack to ACMS later this year. Once checks have been run that the system is functioning for us we will also go live on ACMS for keeping our membership records. Then we will begin the training of local church clerks on the system in 2017 so that in time the flow of baptism, transfer and other membership data will be seamless between the local church, the Conference, Mission and the Union and statistics will flow to the Division in a timely manner.

All this so that we can help keep track of our members, their families, our contacts and friends, make the transfers of membership between churches more smoothly and hopefully have a much more accurate record of the membership of the churches within the British Union. Memtrack has served us well, the next level of record-keeping is just before us.

Watch a tedNEWS video that explains more of the history and the advantages of ACMS.

[BUC News / tedNEWS]

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