By Leah Merrill
We see some big changes in church software coming for 2014. More convenience and efficiency is on the way! Online giving, online stores — and even online services — seem more attractive to people these days as technology gives them more and more options.
- Why get dressed and go to church when you can just stay put in your PJs and do the same thing?
- Why mail in a check when you can click one button and donate online?
The list goes on and on as technology continues to pave the way for these modern conveniences. Here, based on our experience dealing with hundreds of church software vendors and buyers, are the five church software trends we predict will be at the top of the lists this year:
1) Child check-in
Do you need to organize your check-in process? Many churches need a more streamlined system for check-in to give parents the necessary security when they trust the church with their children. A lot of ChMS systems have a module that’s typically fully integrated with your software and can also work great on your tablet or smartphone. Expect to see this functionality become prevalent in 2014.
In this day and age, the convenience of giving online is growing. This is an automatic transfer program which allows a church member to make contributions without writing checks. A member’s weekly or monthly contributions can be charged to their credit card or transferred electronically from their bank account directly to the church account. This can be set up as a one-time donation or automatically on a monthly or bimonthly basis. E-giving is a great way to give full control online to the contributor, have convenient use of credit and debit cards, or EFT, and also allows you to schedule contributions online. This functionality is likely to become the main method of donating due to ease of use, efficiency and the ability to better plan donations.
3) Content management integration
One of the newer movements among churches is to combine the information that’s in the ChMS with the information that’s on their website. Content management solutions are computer programs that allow publishing, editing and modifying website content. They often have custom apps and mobile marketing. While this is a newer movement, it will probably grow rapidly in popularity as more and more churches want to make the information in their database available to members through their website.
4) eCommerce integration
While this might not be necessary for all churches, eCommerce integration can be a big help for those churches with stores, or events where they sell tickets. This makes it easier for your members to purchase event tickets or religious items online. In the next year, this feature could become more of an incentive for churches to open a store or hold more events.
5) Virtual church service
This is where a church service is broadcast online via church management software. There are other types of virtual church services, as well. Second Life is a large community on the internet — a 3-D virtual world built and owned by its residents. Many churches, such as Life Church, have built a presence in Second Life and now have Sunday services both in the real world and in the virtual world. It’s likely that in the coming year, more and more churches will see the growing appeal of virtual services, and create a presence in either Second Life or another similar platform.
What other trends do you see or predict for church management systems in 2014? Add them in the comments below.
Leah Merrill is a software analyst for Capterra, a company that connects buyers and sellers of business software.