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Record Retention Guidelines

Each RCA assembly should adopt and implement records management and retention policies that reflect its unique circumstances. For this reason, we cannot recommend a single "one size fits all" records management and retention policy for all RCA assemblies. We can, however, suggest a number of useful resources for you to review and consider as you develop your own unique policy. All are available on the Internet. Some discuss in general terms various issues for you to consider; others provide fairly specific "checklists" that may be useful as you consider how to handle particular types of documents. Some have been developed by certain of the RCA's ecumenical partners. Others have been developed by other religious organizations. While some of them may not be directly applicable to your particular situation, they should nevertheless serve as a useful resource as you consider what to cover in your own policy.

1. Guidelines for congregational records retention from the RCA Archives.

2. A useful series of short articles that discuss the "hows and whys" of records management and retention are available on the website of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. They discuss the purpose and importance of church archives, how to establish and develop them, the relative importance of various types of documents and other materials, preservation techniques, methods for creating oral histories, and document preservation. The article entitled "Vital Church Records" may be of particular interest to anyone who is especially interested in preservation of financial and legal documents.

3. Another useful discussion of the "hows and whys" of records management, including some suggestions regarding the types of documents to retain (and for how long), is available from the Episcopal church.

4. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America provides useful guidelines for the method and duration of various materials, including such things as legal documents, membership rolls, correspondence, sermons, and financial records. It also discusses the importance of maintaining (and upgrading when necessary) electronic materials in formats that can be retrieved (look under "Managing Congregation Records"). Additionally, there's information on similar resources for congregations and regional assemblies.

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