Help for Church Staff in Saving Records

What Do I Keep?

What to keep? Although it is very tempting to keep just about everything that is created by the church, it is not practical to keep every single scrap of paper. These guidelines were developed to give a general out-line of the items necessary for legal, historical and financial matters of the church’s history. A lawyer should always be consulted on any legal matter, including the maintenance of all the church’s records. For safety’s sake, it is recommended that a duplicate copy, such as microfilm, be kept in another location. Contact the Louisiana Baptists’ Archives for information on microfilming these records. This service is free of charge.

The first step in determining what to keep is getting input from all interested members of the congregation, as to not leave any important materials out of this process. After listing the materials, determine how much space will be needed to archive these items. Make sure you allow enough space to have a work area and that the area is secure with proper environmental conditions. Limit access to a special history committee or archivist. The committee or archivist should also establish goals, policies and accession procedures for the church archives collection.

This listing will give the committee or archivist an idea on what needs to be a part of the church’s permanent collection or what only needs to be kept for a few years. If there is ever a question, it’s always best to keep the item.

Permanent Collection

ALL OFFICIAL RECORDS:
  • Church minutes
  • Minutes of staff, committees, deacons, WMU, etc.
  • Legal papers (deeds, trust agreements)
  • Taxes (federal, property, state)
  • Financial records (audit reports, payroll records, general ledgers, journals, annual reports)
SPEECHES & PRESENTATIONS:
  • Final drafts of sermons, special presentations, etc.
PUBLICATIONS (only keep one of each):
  • Newsletters
  • Worship bulletins
  • Membership directories
  • Brochures and pamphlets published by the church
HISTORIES
  • Written and oral (recorded & transcribed)
  • Recordings of services or special events
PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Church members and special celebrations
  • Church building
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
  • Pastors, Ministers of Music, Education or other church leaders
  • Members
MEMORABILIA
  • Plaques
  • Communion ware
  • Diaries, scrapbooks, or trophies
UNOFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE
  • Birthday cards
  • Invitations
  • Birth/death announcements
NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS
  • Church and church members

Helpful archival hints

Do not use tape of any kind or Post-it notes. ONLY use stainless steel staples and paper clips. For permanent collection, only use acid-free boxes, folders, plastic sheets, and paper. This will insure your collection for many, many years to come.

Suggested Record Retention

2 to 3 years:
  • Bank statements
  • General correspondence
  • Voided payroll checks
  • Delivery receipts
3 to 4 years:
  • Deposit slips
  • Expired insurance policies, all types
  • Requisitions & purchase orders
4 to 5 years:
  • Correspondence with applicants
  • Employees’ applications (terminated)
  • Tax withholding statements
5 to 6 years:
  • Equipment inventory records
  • Safety, insurance, fire inspection reports
  • Internal audit reports
  • Monthly trial balances
6 to 7 years:
  • Bonds, registers & cancelled
  • Expired contracts & agreements
  • Employee records (terminated)
  • Federal/state income tax returns
  • Insurance, group disability, etc.
  • Invoices, paid
  • Payroll, general, part-time, over-time
  • Sold real estate records
7 to 8 years:
  • Checks, payroll
  • Purchase orders for capital expenditure
8 to 9 years:
  • Accident reports (after settlement)
  • Agreements, leases (after expiration)
  • Checks, general & petty cash
  • Compensation cases (after closing)
  • Vouchers, cash & numeric copy