Barcode Scanners for Check-In

So I've spent a few good days thinking through our transition to Elvanto's check-in system from our old system of just pre-printed stickers that parents fill out. We're around a 450 person church now, and this change has been due for some time. I wanted to write this for a few reasons, but the main reasons are to give some insight into why (I think) Elvanto does barcode scanning the way it does and why, after lots of thought & discussion, this is the right way to do it.

Anyway, my first introduction into barcode scanning with children check-in systems was Planning Center's. As an aside, I'm in no way saying Planning Center is doing something wrong. But I think in our situation (with things we've had happen), this doesn't work well for us.

This system works by allowing a parent to type in their phone #, selecting the children with them that morning, and the system prints out 1 label for each child, and 1 parent label for pickup after the service. This parent label has a barcode on it that you can use to check the children out.

All this seemed like this was the right approach to this system, until we started to dive a little deeper into the security model of this barcode printing. Ultimately it comes down to how secure do you want your system to be. There will always be loopholes, but minimizing those with the least amount of friction is important to me.

So how did we decide that Elvanto's check-in methods were the proper way to go? We started thinking through the following scenario.

What if you had a family who comes to church regularly, and they have either a disgruntled ex-spouse, or family member, who desired to "steal" the children? How would Planning Center's approach prevent that from happening? Unfortunately it could, but it would be a more laborious process. Here's how the scenario would play out, in my mind.

ADULT A: comes to children's room to pick up child, "I'd like to pick up Johnny".

WORKER A: "Do you have your check-out label?"

ADULT A: "No, I put it on my bulletin, forgot and threw it away."

WORKER A: "No problem. Just go back to the check-in kiosk, type in your phone number, and bring the new check-out label back here."

ADULT A: does what the worker suggests, brings the label back, and successfully retrieves little Johnny.

How would you prevent that from happening? Well the only way I can think of would be to require the named parent who checked them in be the only one allowed to check them out. That's a hassle and sometimes it might be hard to do. Maybe that parent forgot to put their name as the check-in parent and it just causes a massive headache. Also this would require that you check an adult's ID, as well, when picking up to make sure that it matches. This would cause a massive delay in the check-out process.

All that to say, that having a "Loyalty Program" style of pre-printed barcodes for parents is much more secure, and actually a better system overall. Now when ADULT A from above comes to try and take Johnny, they will be required to have a barcode key tag. If they don't have it, then they'll need to go back to a manned station, present their ID there, and get a new key tag. When they get to that station, the attendant will notice that they are not from that child's family, and they will deny them the right to get a new key tag.

This of course doesn't prevent theft. Someone could theoretically steal your key tag, but I feel like that's much less likely to happen.

I wanted to throw this scenario out there for others as encouragement. While the key tag system seems like a huge hassle, it's actually a better system now that I've thought through this more.

Take care!

Hey Kennon,

Just realized I hadn't replied to this yet!

Thanks so much for taking the time to share this. I'm keeping this on file as I totally understand how intimidating working with check-in labels are, particularly from a non technical background!

Glad to hear it's been a success moving across, and don't hesitate to reach out if you think of any ideas for updates :)



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