Roll Call: Practicality….Present!


By: Kay Hall


Roll Call from “By The Numbers” is a professional church management system for tracking and managing member information, including contributions, attendance, mailing, visitation and group participation. To run the software you will need a Macintosh (Plus or higher) with at least 2 megabytes of RAM and a hard disk. The database engine integrated into Roll Call is ACIUS’s 4th Dimension (4D), a versatile relational database manager that has attained MacUser’s coveted 5 mice rating for its ability to create powerful stand alone applications.

Roll Call’s look and feel is Macintosh all the way, from its superb “Clarisesque” package design to its lighthearted feedback messages like “That’s all, folks.” More importantly, the program itself is completely
true to the standard Mac user interface. Refreshingly, Roll Call is also distinctly Christian with meaningful Bible verses prominently displayed in the manual and on screen.

When it comes to data entry, Roll Call anticipates your moves and needs so well that you’ll think M*A*S*H’s Radar O’Reilly is inside your Mac. There are on screen hints like “Click Here First” and when the cursor enters category-type data fields, a selection window pops up to show you the available choices. Clicking on your selection in the list automatically enters it into the field. Most of the helpful selection lists can be easily modified at any time. There are many “smart” defaults that save time, and keyboard shortcuts further speed data entry for more familiar users.

There are standard fields for information you would typically want to record about your members or prospects, such as name, address, phone numbers, marital status, and birthday. I couldn’t stump it when I tried to enter family members with different last names, but in some functions I did have a little trouble differentiating fathers and sons with the same full name. In addition to the existing fields, Roll Call provides 6 custom fields (2 of which are for dates) so that you can record additional information specific to the needs and terminology of your organization.

Weekly contribution recording is simple and straightforward. Donations can be entered by name or by envelope number and split into designated funds chosen from a selection list. Your money counters will appreciate the fact that it keeps track of cash vs. check contributions. Pledge information is also fully supported. Entering attendance for church services or Sunday School is as simple as clicking on each attendee’s name from an on-screen list that Roll Call generates from your specifications.

One of Roll Call’s many strong points is its exceptional handling of visitation-related information. It can help you decide who needs a visit, and print an assignment sheet that includes that kind of pertinent data.
Groups of any description within your church can be tracked in Roll Call. This is particularly well suited for Sunday School, and is also useful for committees, home groups, and those with special talents or interests, for example.

Roll Call has anticipated the kinds of graphs, reports, labels, and forms you’re likely to need and makes these readily available as menu items. For instance, a membership directory can be printed out ready to publish in your choice of two attractive styles. Other examples include Sunday School rosters, birthday lists, and donation and attendance graphs. While Roll Call’s pre-defined search, sort, label printing and reporting features will meet the needs of most users, advanced customization features are also available through 4D’s “Editors.”

Unlike more comprehensive packages, Roll Call does not perform church accounting other than donation tracking. In truth, most churches would be better served by inexpensive but excellent secular accounting programs, such as Quicken or MacMoney, than by anything that could be offered within a dedicated church management system.

Thoughtful details show that Roll Call has been developed in a real church environment. For instance, many of the members and prospects of my church are condo dwellers. We would use Roll Call’s “notes on address” field to record the name of the condo complex, making them much easier to locate. The date-sensitive alternate address fields would also be a big help since many of our “flock” are winter residents with summer homes in Canada. An envelope assignment list can be printed showing each person’s envelope numbers of both the current and previous year, minimizing inconvenience when tellers come across donations in outdated envelopes. Contribution statements can be printed a few at a time and are preformatted for standard window envelopes.

To protect sensitive information such as contribution records and confidential comments, Roll Call uses multi-level password systems. Each user can be given a password and an access level appropriate to his or her need. Roll Call can also be used on a network, which is a great benefit to large multi-Mac churches (or those hoping to be.) And, of course, Roll Call is compatible with System 7.

Roll Call has some of the finest documentation I’ve seen anywhere. I generally cringe when I see a manual that skips the tutorials and includes only the menu reference section. Roll Call, however, is so clearly
organized that this approach is more than sufficient. I should also mention that an interactive tutorial on disk will soon be available.

By The Numbers is a family business, run by committed Christians who are serious about serving the Lord and their customers. They offer free technical support for Roll Call and will even modify the software to meet the specific needs of a customer. A single user edition of Roll Call sells for $495 including a run time version of 4th Dimension. Multi-user package discounts are available. For a hands-on look, order a fully functional demo for $5.00

By The Numbers
58ll7 Homer Ave.
Elkhart, IN 46517-3207
(800)554-91 16


(The above material appeared in the June 1992 issue of Christian Computing Magazine.)

Christian Information Network