Evaluating Church Management Software
It seems like most churches are either dissatisfied with their current software or are looking to make their first purchase of major church management software. I want to spend several blog posts talking about the different options that are out there and giving you a few questions to think about. To start off, we need to define what church management software is. Here’s a starting definition from Wikipedia
it is a specialized software that assists churches and other religious organizations in organization and automation of daily operations. These packages typically assist in the management of membership and mailings, fundraising, events, and report generation.
In order to better understand how software can help the day to day operation of your church, I think it is good to think about your current processes. How do you follow up with visitors? How do you do reports? How do you handle communication? Software solutions can help you automate and improve these and they also help improve the communication of your staff and leadership team. If you are currently evaluating software, I want to give you a few questions to think about. There is not one solution that is right for every church. You will need to spend time analyzing your biggest needs and developing your goals for the software.
Questions to Think Through
- Do we want a system just for leadership or for everyone in the church? Do you want everyone in the church to have access so that they can lookup addresses and find and share information, or do you just want leadership to use the software.
- Do we want a server based solution or a web-based solution? Many older software solutions are based on maintaining a server with the software at the church. All information is stored in-house, and you need access to the church network if you want to access the system. Newer software solutions are based on storing information on servers hosted by the software company, so that you can access the data from any computer at any time. You have to decide if you trust the privacy controls that they have in place for your data.
- Do we want to create a new online community for people in our church, or do we want to utilize existing online communities? Neither is wrong or right, they are just different. Some software solutions enable you to create a protected online community, while others integrate with services that people are already using like Facebook and Twitter.
- How do our current processes fit into the software? If you have good systems in place, you don’t want to change the way you do things because the software isn’t flexible. Visitor followup and assimilation is a good process to think through. Will the software make your life easier or harder?
- Do we want to utilize the software for tracking attendance for youth, children, small groups, worship services? Many solutions offer check-in or barcode attendance tracking. If you have this information, how will you use it?
- Do we need to track giving and contributions? What about all bookkeeping? Several software solutions offer this built-in, while others integrate with your current accounting software.
- Do we need to integrate this into our current website? Online giving, small group directories, and event registration are all possible with the right software.
- Do we need mobile access? How connected is your church? Is smartphone access important? Specialized apps and mobile websites can help people access the information from anywhere.
- What is our budget? This will automatically eliminate some of the solutions
- Do we need a better way to communicate with leaders and church attenders? Some solutions excel in communication, while others neglect it.
As you work through these questions, you can start narrowing down your possible solutions. In the next blog post, I’ll share my thoughts about the future of church management software. But for now, I want to list some of the solutions that you can research.
Church Management Software Solutions
Web-Based Small Group and Communication Solutions:
- SoChurch – A new communications control center with great pricing
- MemberHub – A group communication tool with membership management built in
- ChurchTeams – Allows you to manage and lead your small group ministry more effectively
- Groups Interactive – Specializes in integrating with your current website to improve your small group management
Community Based Solutions:
- Church Community Builder – Church Management Software that specializes in building community within your church
- The City – The City is a web-based communication and administration platform for your church that builds community
Do Everything Church Management Solutions:
- Arena – One of the best solutions for larger churches
- FellowshipOne – A powerful solution geared to churches of all sizes
- BVCMS – A free open-source solution for church management
- ACS Technologies – A server based system that does everything
- ConnectionPower – It specializes in visitor assimilation but has additional modules for everything else