“What’s the difference between a roll and a register?” is a question many new clerks ask. Both are similar-looking ledger sheets containing a lot of the same names, and may even be bound together in a single volume. Wouldn’t it be simpler if they were all just combined into one record?
It wouldn’t, because rolls and registers have very different functions.
The difference can be simply described in this way: a roll is a record of names and a register is a record of events.
Information is recorded in church rolls and registers only upon action of the Session. There must be a corresponding notation in the Session minutes for every entry in a roll or register.
The Constitution requires clerks of session to keep the following four rolls:
Active Members Roll – G-10.0302a(2) – This is the most familiar, and the most frequently used. These are the church members who are entitled to vote at congregational meetings.
Inactive Members Roll G – 0.0302a(3)(a) – The best way to think of this roll is as a guide to intensive outreach on the part of Session members. These folks have already made themselves scarce; if the Session doesn’t so something to re-connect with them soon, they’ll be gone for good.
Baptized Members Roll G – 10.0302a(1) (Please note: this is different from the Register of Baptisms, described below.) – These are the children in your congregation who have previously been baptized in your church or any other, but who have not become active members by making a public profession of faith and confirming the promises their parents or guardians made at their baptism. Names should be added to this roll at baptism, or when families with already-baptized children join the church . At confirmation, these names should be removed from the Baptized Members Roll and transferred to the Active Members Roll. In the case of children who are baptized in the church but who never do become active members in their own right, the Session should develop a policy to direct when these names should be removed from the Baptized Members Roll.
Affiliate Members Roll G-10.0302a(2)(b), G-10.0302a(4) – Your church may not have one of these rolls, because not every church has affiliate members. Affiliate member status is a flexible category that’s especially useful in the case of temporary residents who are worshiping in your church during the time they’re in the community. Examples include college students, Armed Forces members stationed nearby and “snowbirds.” Affiliate members maintain their active membership in the community where their permanent home is located.
Besides the rolls, there are five (and possibly six) registers, that record dates when certain things took place:
Register of Marriages – G-10.0302c(1) – all marriages of members and all marriages performed by pastoral staff of the church, whether on or off church property
Register of Baptisms – G-10.0302c(2) – full name, parents’ names and date of birth
Register of Elders’ Ordinations/Installations – G-10.0302c(3) – date of ordination, church where ordained, history of terms of active service, record of removal
Register of Deacons’ Ordinations/Installations – G-10.0302c(4) – date of ordination, church where ordained, history of terms of active service, record of removal
Register of Trustees’ Installations (if the congregation has a separate Board) – date of installation, history of terms of active service, record of removal
Register of Pastoral Staff (G-10.0302c(5) – ministers who have served the church, with dates of service
It's much easier to keep the rolls and registers updated on an ongoing basis, instead of doing it in a last-minute rush once a year, just before the Presbytery's review of Session minutes.