A Workable Records Retention Policy (AKA How to Clean Out Your Clerk's Office Responsibly)

Discuss questions around local unit policies for budgeting, reconciling, etc. This forum should not contain specific financial or membership information.
supertitus
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A Workable Records Retention Policy (AKA How to Clean Out Your Clerk's Office Responsibly)

Postby supertitus » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:33 pm

I was called as the stake clerk a few months ago. The first thing nearly every clerk must do is clean out the clerk's office. The stake clerk's office is large, which means it had collected decades of junk. I went through every inch of the office. There were, broadly, three groups of materials:
[*] Materials that should clearly be retained (e.g. financial records for the time required by state law, membership records less than one year old, etc.)
[*] Materials that should clearly be destroyed (e.g. old financial and membership records)
[*] Materials that should not be clearly destroyed or retained (see below)

I have included a sample of the types of materials I discovered, and what I decided to do with them, and the rationale. I hope this can be helpful as others make similar decisions. During this process, I discovered several guiding principles:
[*] If it is not useful and a potential liability, it should be destroyed.
[*] Just because it is printed does not make it holy. Recycle useless stuff even if it has never been opened.
[*] Useful materials should generally not live in the Clerk's office. They do no good locked up. Send them to a good home.
[*] The Church History Library is your friend. They will take ANYTHING you don't want.
[*] Ask: "If I had this document from Joseph Smith's time, would it be interesting?" If so, send it to the Church History Library.
With that background, here is what I did, with an explanation of my thought process. I hope the reasoning helps others responsibly clean out their clerks' offices.

Retained and Secured
Financial Records Less than X Years Old: Note, your retention period may be longer or shorter than mine (three years in Colorado). Retain financial records to comply with state or local law regarding non-profit records retention. The Church doesn't need the financial records hard copies. They already have everything.
Membership Records Less than One Year Old: Membership records are a liability, because they contain personal information. Retain them long enough to conduct a membership audit, which should occur annually. Again, the church does not benefit from these hard copy records because they already have the original information.
One Copy of Really Old Manuals: We came across old church manuals about how to run road shows from the good old days, and other old (sometimes humorous) manuals. I recycled all but one of each of these, mostly because I got a kick out of browsing them. And I figured someone else might appreciate it in the future.
Current Handbooks 1 and 2: Though all printed copies of Handbooks 1 and 2 are out of date almost as soon as they are printed, the Clerk's office is a good place to keep them until otherwise directed by Salt Lake.
Old Building Insurance Documents: I confirmed that while these were not technically needed by Salt Lake City, there weren't many of them, and I'm frankly a little afraid of the FM Group, so I saved them.
Old Building Drawings and FM Group Materials Generally: Building drawings can come in handy for multiple reasons (and the FM Group scares me), so I saved all of this stuff.

Sent to Good Home
When I say "Send to a good home," I mean send it to the library (only if the material is current, and after consulting with the librarian), or place it on a "free to good home" table in the hallway for members to take.
Any Old Printed Church Curriculum (except Handbooks): If it wasn't being used, it is out of date and should find a good home or be recycled.
Any Current Printed Church Material (except Handbooks): This especially includes current workbooks, awards pamphlets, curriculum, worn out hymn books, etc. that are being used. Stored in the clerk's office, the material was never used. We put a lot in the library, gave a lot to members, and recycled the rest.

Destroyed
Financial Records Older than X Years Old: Again, your retention period may be longer or shorter. Destroy (e.g. shred, burn) old financial records that are no longer needed for audit purposes or are older than the legally required retention period. They are liabilities, not assets.
Membership Records More than One Year Old: Destroy printed membership records after the Membership Audit. The church does not need hard copies, and they contain sensitive data that needs to be locked up. They are liabilities, not assets. This includes old priesthood ordination records, Member Progress and Activity Reports, lists of active or less active members created for boundary realignment purposes, and expired temple recommends.
Old Membership and Financial audits: Audits are now done online. Unless you receive direction otherwise or are required to retain old audit forms to comply with local law, old audits serve no useful purpose and are a liability, because they must be protected.
Welfare Assistance Rendered Reports: Unless your bishop or stake president specifically asks you to keep years-old welfare assistance records, they have no practical use, are a liability, and should therefore be destroyed.
Bishops Storehouse Records: Same.

Recycled
Any Non-Current Printed Church Material (except Handbook 1): If I could not find a good home for these materials, I recycled them. This included anything with an old church logo, old forms and certificates, etc. I ended up recycling four large garbage bags full of old printed material.
Old forms now in MLS or LCR: We found lots of old blank ordination certificates and other similar forms and certificates from years ago, still wrapped in plastic. We recycled them all.

Sent to Church History Library
The following is a sample of materials I sent to the Church History Library. I asked myself these questions: 1. Is it useful? 2. If not, if I had this document from Joseph Smith's time, would someone be interested in it? 3. If so, I sent it to the Church History Library.

Building Dedication Information
Missionary files
Return Missionary Correspondence
Sacrament Meeting Minutes
Missionary Return Schedules and High Council Reporting
Private Stake President Correspondence with members and community members
Announcements
Calendars
Attendance Sign-in sheets
Stake Directories from multiple stakes in the 90s
Stake Presidency Meeting Minutes
PEC Agendas and Minutes
Bishops, Melchizedek Priesthood, Aaronic Priesthood, High Priest Group Leader, and Elders Quorum Council Minutes from the 90s
Boundary adjustment applications
New unit applications and correspondence (excluding lists of active or less active members)
Stake and ward conference notes and instruction
Sustaining lists
Volunteer lists for major events, such as a temple dedication in 1992
Rosters of Welfare Committees
Welfare Committee Minutes
YM/YW excursions, internal documents, and letters


I hope this helps someone else out there. I'll see if I can also create a decision tree.

russellhltn
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Re: A Workable Records Retention Policy (AKA How to Clean Out Your Clerk's Office Responsibly)

Postby russellhltn » Sat Jun 08, 2019 5:53 pm

supertitus wrote:Membership Records More than One Year Old: ... This includes old priesthood ordination records,

I'd suggest caution on this one. There was some "gap years" where the "ordained by" wasn't be recorded by SLC. Once they figured out that was a problem (line of authority issues), they wanted that information.
Have you searched the Help Center? Try doing a Google search and adding "site:churchofjesuschrist.org/help" to the search criteria.

So we can better help you, please edit your Profile to include your general location.

lajackson
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Re: A Workable Records Retention Policy (AKA How to Clean Out Your Clerk's Office Responsibly)

Postby lajackson » Sat Jun 08, 2019 5:56 pm

supertitus wrote:I was called as the stake clerk a few months ago. The first thing nearly every clerk must do is clean out the clerk's office. The stake clerk's office is large, which means it had collected decades of junk. I went through every inch of the office. There were, broadly, three groups of materials:

During deep cleaning experiences such as these, be sure to refer to the Help Center Retention of Records article.

Also note that if you find copies of Melchizedek Priesthood ordination records where the ordination took place from the early 1990s to the late 1990s, be sure to send them to Church headquarters. During that period, the name of the person performing the ordination was not recorded on membership records. The Membership Department will update this information if it is discovered.

Finally, building drawings stay in the meetinghouse for the life of the building.


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