By John Connell & Emily Kantner
As churches evaluate their processes and introduce new ways of doing things, the common next step in the evaluation is the fundamental platform of a church management system (ChMS).
But, what are the milestones that would evoke a pursuit of this magnitude?
In our experience, churches usually “pause and reconsider” their ChMS for three main reasons:
1) The church changes. Is your church exactly the same as it was 25 years ago? As the church grows and changes, you might need to add ministries for the large number of single parents in your congregation. You might have been able to manage basic member information in Excel as a church plant, but that method just isn’t practical for a thriving church of 1,000.
2) The community around your church changes. People probably aren’t looking for the exact same external qualities in a church as they were decades ago. Many church seekers are now looking for a place where they’ll have the opportunity to get involved and make a difference, and they’re searching online for the right fit. To reach them, your church must adapt.
3) The technology changes. As technology advances at a rapid pace, the variety of tools available to churches only continues to grow. Volunteers no longer need pens and paper — there are check-in kiosks and app check-in. Donations are online or mobile. Data is entered once with ease of integration.
So, you’ve decided it’s time. Now what?
As you begin to wrestle with the idea of introducing a new ChMS platform, you quickly realize that the market has seemingly changed overnight. Vendors seem to be speaking to you with their promotion of how they’ll change your life with their solutions.
But, here’s the reality: Before embarking, you’ll first need to establish your needs. Here are a few primers that might help get the conversation started:
What are you trying to accomplish through a ChMS? Consider your ministry goals and the processes you’ve established to meet them. If your church hasn’t already determined these important factors, you might need to take a step back — name the things you’d like to accomplish, and determine the steps you must follow to make it happen.
Church management software is designed to simplify the administrative tasks so staff can focus on ministry, but it’s not a “magic ministry pill.” Keep in mind that ChMS can’t repair broken processes; it can, however, help you optimize them and facilitate discipleship.
What are the details of the switch? What are you switching from? Is your church currently using another ChMS or just making do with spreadsheets? Your transition — including data conversion and training — will vary based on what you’re using now. And, are you prepared to use the next ChMS to its fullest potential?
What is your motivation for switching? Do you want to save time or money? Are you unhappy with your current customer service or lack of new updates? Does your current solution offer competitive features?
What features and functions do you need? Who are your stakeholders? What do you value most, related to data management? Does the product roadmap fall in step with your continued growth projections?
Determine what functions your church must accomplish through a ChMS — and also what features aren’t your highest priorities but will stay on the wish list.
Whatever you’ve found to be your motivation to begin the pursuit, make sure to pause, reflect and begin to assess your needs. Solutions are plentiful, but marketing only goes so far in telling the whole story.
Narrow your results. Find your matches. Get stakeholders involved in the discussion.
There’s no mystery that selecting a ChMS is an intense process. Even so, don’t let the intimidation of the process overshadow your ability to start the pursuit.
John Connell is COO at Elexio Church Software in Elizabethtown, PA.
Emily Kanter is Elexio’s Content Marketing & Communications Specialist.