Advice for Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
© Copyright: You may copy this document for congregational use providing copyright is acknowledged. (Revised January 2013)A version of this document, suitable for printing, is available
For a description of records and their care see the Records Retention Schedule for Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Your Records Have a Life Cycle!
You create and maintain the records for your synod in order to have the information you need when you need it; in the format from which you can most easily retrieve it; and in such a way that partners working in your synod, today and in the future, can readily find the information. As you set about preserving information for future reference, plan for the entire life cycle of the records you are creating. If you do this, you should never need to spend time purging files going through old material to determine the potential administrative, legal, or historical value of the documents.
Information that is retained in hard copy, electronic format, or other media is the property of the synod. Such information is not the property of the synodical bishop or synodical staff members to remove, to retain personally, or to destroy at will. Synodical staff members are the custodians of the records they retain.
A pattern of consistency in the care of records is necessary. Any records retention policy has validity, once accepted by the organization, only as it is uniformly practiced. It should neither be selectively implemented nor disregarded at the whim of the custodians of the records. Bishops or members of the synodical staff frequently are called upon to use good judgment with regard to the disposition of individual documents. Retention policies should not be modified or disregarded solely because of possible litigation.
Vital records are the records needed to protect the financial and legal status of the organization and to protect the rights of its people. Vital records are the organization’s records that are essential for the continuation or reconstruction of the organization in the event of natural disaster, human error, or mischief. While such records are essential for operation at a specific time, only some have permanent archival value.
Duplication and dispersal of valuable documents, in identical or other formats, is the most effective and economical method of protection. It also would be the most efficient method of reconstruction, should on-site records inadvertently be destroyed. In many cases, timely transfer of copies of these documents to off-site synodical or regional archives would serve that need. You are advised to place the originals of legal documents in a bank safe-deposit box and to retain copies in the office for your use
Most of the records you create in the course of your work for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America begin life as digital files.