A good church management software (ChMS) system can streamline business processes, provide financial protection and increase giving opportunities. Many systems include powerful Web, mobile and database interfaces that make them an incredible asset to church leaders.
Here are several reasons to consider using a church management system, along with tips for finding and implementing a solution:
Track much more than basic contact information. ChMS can capture relationships, talents, interests, attendance, gifts, fundraising campaigns, volunteers and much more.
Work from one database. Many times, church leaders create separate contact databases for each ministry. ChMS will eliminate the extra work and allow everyone to work in one database.
Build for nonprofit accounting. According to Nick Nicholaou, president of Ministry Business Services, "Churches and ministries exist in a unique accounting niche that most software (and even most CPAs!) can't help with. But many ChMS packages can help in this area."
Protect from embezzlement. Nicholaou hears all too often about churches that suffer embezzlement by a trusted team member. ChMS accounting features help protect you by providing a good audit trail, which users cannot alter, that tracks every transaction. Be sure to look for ChMS with fully integrated accounting systems. If you already have one, look for a ChMS that can easily integrate with it.
Create an online membership directory. ChMS Web design tools allow you to create an online directory. It is a simple feature to provide since you easily can pull the data from your ChMS membership database. Most Web-design programs do not offer a membership database, and even if they do, it may not cater to church use. You could purchase a third-party directory solution, but then you would have to manage another database or synchronize two databases, which can be quite cumbersome.
Make online giving easy! Electronic giving increases offerings. Online-giving website features are one of the greatest tools ChMS offers. Electronic giving is convenient and allows congregants to donate 24/7/365.
Use ChMS comparison charts. This ChMS feature comparison chart, created by Ministry Business Solutions (MBS), specifies whether systems provide accounting tools and other features directly or if a third party meets the need. The list does not include common features, but mainly focuses on the big differences. MBS also includes all the ChMS business contact information (scroll down the page), along with how long the business has offered its software, how many organizations it currently serves, its technical support hours and how often it updates its software.
Create a custom comparison chart for your church. Christian Computing Magazine offers a robust ChMS feature comparison chart. This interactive chart lets you uncheck features and solutions that do not make sense for your church. Chisel the chart to meet the exact features and solutions your church needs. Narrow the list to three to five top contenders, print it and share the customized chart with key decision makers.
READ THESE RECOMMENDATIONS BEFORE YOU SHOP.
- Get senior leadership to buy in first. They will help excite and prepare all church staff to use the software.
- Meet with all church leaders and document business processes. Keep separate lists for each ministry that includes reports, inefficient processes and issues that require resolution.
- Put all your notes into a master document, organized by team and then by task.
- Have each team review its section to ensure accuracy.
- Recruit church staff to help validate each solution.
- Pick your top two candidates and ask for thorough demos.
- Do not evaluate based on features alone. Ask how easy it is for each feature to accomplish the need (one step versus 10).
- Make a list of items the software does not handle.
- Involve senior leadership in the final decision.
Does the ChMS "play well with others"? Even the top solutions may only cover 80 percent of your needs. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate how well they "play" with other systems you currently use or may use in the future. Evaluate how the ChMS integrates or exchanges data from its built-in membership system with other technologies (PhoneTree, Constant Contact, PayPal, Giving Kiosk). No single ChMS will meet every church need. You may choose a solution with fewer features, yet more compatibility with third-party solutions. Create a compatibility chart to help.
Is complexity a problem? Yes, a fully featured ChMS can be hard to navigate and understand at first. However, a robust system is not necessarily the problem. In many cases, the real issue is inadequate training. Ask the ChMS to help set up the system to match your church's needs as closely as possible and to train leaders to do their specific tasks. It is also helpful to ask which features to ignore because they do not fit your ministry. You might have the option to remove the feature from the dashboard to reduce clutter.
ONGOING TRAINING IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.
One training session during the implementation phase is great. However, processes and people change over time, so it is imperative to budget for ongoing training. If you skip this step, people will think the ChMS is too hard to use and may ask to look for another option. Considering the time and money required to change systems, switching should be the last resort.
If you do your homework and equip leaders with adequate training, you will see how a good ChMS can make it easier to do ministry.
Shop UMC partners with LOGOS, one of the top contenders among ChMS packages. LOGOS is a very robust system and is customizable with add-ons like Online Giving and Mail Manager. They also offer a scaled down small church version, which includes many of the most important features. The online-hosted solution allows access from multiple computers or you can choose a Desktop solution. Learn more about LOGOS today.