UPDATE: After posting this, we have switched to Planning Center for check-ins. It has passbook passes built in. If you’re looking for a church check-in app, I highly recommend Planning Center.

Vista Passbook Pass

For my church people, I’ve got a really cool tool that will peak your interest. I’ll be sharing code with you in a week or so.

Using “Passes” for Child Check in

We developed a tool for our church to create “passes” for parents to use in check in. We’re using a tool called PassSlot for the generation and hosting of these passes, but I’ve built out the functionality to work with PassDock and PassKit as well.

These passes work on Apple’s Passbook, built in to all those shiny iPhones. But, they also work in Google Wallet and apps like PassWallet for Android. If the user has none of these, it’s possible to bookmark a page in their browser or generate a photo to keep for this purpose.

honeywell-2d-scannerHow’s that?

When we register a family, we ask them if they’d like a physical key tag, similar to a grocery store rewards card, or if they’d like to have a pass to keep on their phones (or both). Mom or dad can scan either of these at any check in station to quickly print their child tags.

You need to have 2D barcode scanners at your check in stations. We use these beauties from Honeywell. You’ve likely seen these at Starbucks, and you may have even used them to pay for your Latte. The traditional 1D scanners won’t read the phone screen, so you may have to make some additional purchases to make this a reality.

When the family arrives at church, all they have to do is open up the Vista pass in Passbook or Google Wallet, scan it at a station, and follow the on-screen instructions to complete check in.

My favorite feature

I have our passes set up to display on the lock screen when a user arrives at the church building. It’s simple and elegant – on the lock screen, a thumbnail of the pass appears, and you just swipe the notification to open directly to the correct pass. I haven’t tried this on Google Wallet, though I’m told it works on Android as well.


The little key tags are handy, but most of the stores don’t use them in our area, so ours is usually the only one on a parent’s key ring. They also tend to break off of keys, and many people just forget to bring them to church. Sometimes they actually cause the express line to slow down as a mom digs in her diaper bag to try to find her keys.

The phone is a natural place to store these things. When someone updates to the newest iPhone or Android, the pass follows them. Almost no one forgets to bring their phone to church, and they rarely are buried at the bottom of a diaper bag. It’s just an easy way for people to hang on to their bar codes.

My friend Jason Lee is big into the biometric scanners. While they are really cool and make the lines go even faster than this model does, our people aren’t quite ready for that jump.

What do you think? Would that work for your church?