Roundtable: Church management systems & software (part 1)





Our Roundtable Panel

  • Shelby Systems: Mark White, Director of Business Development
  • Cool Solutions Group: Tim Cool, Chief Solutions Officer and Project Facilitator
  • Elexio: John Connell, COO; Allen Ratta; Mark Kitts, Lead Software Architect
  • ACS Technologies: Marvin Owen, President; Russ Fortier, Manager of Training and Implementation Services
  • Seraphim Software: Sam Batterman, Co-founder / President; Chris Caldwell, Co-founder / CFO

On July 16, 2014 — at the National Association of Church Business Administration (NACBA) annual conference — Church Executive hosted a live roundtable on a timely topic: church management systems and software. Several high-level ChMS executives joined together to share their expertise.

Would you agree that many churches don’t take full advantage of their software’s capabilities?

ACS Technologies’ Marvin Owens (left) and Russ Fortier
ACS Technologies’ Marvin Owens (left) and Russ Fortier
Elexio’s John Connell (left) and Allen Ratta
Elexio’s John Connell (left) and Allen Ratta
Seraphim Software’s Chris Caldwell (foreground) and Sam Batterman
Seraphim Software’s Chris Caldwell (foreground) and Sam Batterman

Mark Kitts: Underutilization is the biggest issue out there with software. We’re happy when we occasionally come across a power user — someone who has the aptitude and engages in training. Often, those people become “disciples” for the rest of the staff.

Russ Fortier: As with most businesses, there’s a lack of understanding about what to do or even what decisions to make regarding the data churches are collecting.

Sam Batterman: A lot of churches take a system they’re used to using and try to map old capabilities to a new app and new capabilities — basically “shorting” the new system.

There’s also a distinct lack of process orientation in most churches. The best way I’ve ever heard it described is that churches are supposed to be comprised of prophets, priests and kings. Prophets are good with studying the bible, teaching and preaching. Priests are good at people. But, kings think about things — processes, strategy, real estate, finances, systems, architecture, infrastructure, wireless hubs. Although most kings go into business, not church work, we’re seeing an increased amount of people coming into church work from the secular world.

Tim Cool: The biggest challenge we face with our facility management software is facility managers’ lack of technical abilities. The idea of entering data into a computer is totally foreign to most of them. Administrators know the facility is the second-most expensive department in the budget (after staff), so they want to take care of it. But, they can’t get their facility managers to use the systems.

Mark Kitts: Something we’re learning is that — because the system is so big, deep and broad — churches are almost demanding that we not just to sell them software, but also consult and coach. We just started implementation coaching earlier this year, and it’s been wildly popular.

Mark White: Professional services is a line item that’s been off the charts for us, too.

Churches have a tendency to do something the same way over and over without thinking, OK, now we have all these new capabilities. Let’s do something different.

Allen Ratta: The way I describe it is, you’ve got this beautiful ship with all these beautiful deck chairs. People are being served, and things are going really well. Then, you pan the camera back and you see the name on the side of the ship is “Titanic.”

Churches need to understand that the core competencies they need right now are not serving drinks on the deck; it’s avoiding icebergs and learning how to grow the church effectively.

How can churches be sure they’re making a solid investment in software or a management system?

Allen Ratta: To get an accurate ROI on the investment, it has to be about more than just the money. The better barometer has to do with which company can help you implement the processes that are going to help your church be healthier.

Russ Fortier: Even before that, I’d advise churches to look at their vision. How will technology support their ministry? Churches need to take a holistic look at their particular mission in their community. From that point, they can jump into feature sets and so on.

Marvin Owen: Adding to that, I’d say it’s not just about getting the right system installed, and then you’re done. Churches would do well to bring in a trainer or facilitator every six months and have a training and education budget.

(Left to right) Tim Cool, Mark White, Church Executive Group Publisher Sali Williams, Allen Ratta, Sam Batterman, Marvin Owen, Chris Caldwell, Russ Fortier, John Connell, Mark Kitts
(Left to right) Tim Cool, Mark White, Church Executive Group Publisher Sali Williams, Allen Ratta, Sam Batterman, Marvin Owen, Chris Caldwell, Russ Fortier, John Connell, Mark Kitts

Chris Caldwell: Churches need to look at ROM — return on ministry — not just ROI. Obviously, we’re called to be good stewards of our resources. That involves taking a holistic approach and asking, How is this system going to affect my ministry?

Allen Ratta: To elevate the discussion off of the features and onto the relationship is critical. Otherwise, the church continues to do the same things — in the same ways — and get the same results.

That elevation begins at the sales process. If you don’t break that addiction there, then it follows you right into implementation.

Sam Batterman: To Allen’s point, it’s interesting that the church is delivering a message that’s incredibly disruptive to people’s lives — positively, of course. Even so, the processes in the back office must also be disrupted to amplify that message. It’s an interesting challenge for church management.

A church might have to take its web guy and its email communications person — who might be reporting in a completely different silo — and start to reorganize these people and processes. Or, what ends up happening is, a church might only use 10 percent of the application, because that’s all the back office uses.

So, the shift to a new system will be disruptive. As providers, we have to figure out how to communicate that to churches, and then educate them on how to adapt accordingly.

— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

Keep an eye out for part 2!

This insightful discussion continues in our Nov / Dec 2014 issue. Panelists will drill down on underused and lesser-known software capabilities in key areas of church management:

  • Finance / giving
  • Sunday attendance
  • Small groups
  • Connection / engagement
  • Scheduling



One Response to “Roundtable: Church management systems & software (part 1)”

  1. Thanks for providing expert insights on adopting church management software or system that leads to saving lots of time and the management tasks become very easy too.

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