4 Key Questions About Church Management Systems
[This is a guest post by Steve Caton, Church Community Matters.]
Anyone can create software, right? And some people can create great software. So how do you make a decision that ensures it’s a right fit for you? When a church begins asking the question, “Where do I begin?” I suggest they work through four important questions.
- Question #1. What is the story behind the software?
This question confuses many people because they are not sure why it matters. To them Church Management Software (ChMS) is simply a set of tools to get something done. While that is valid, it is also true that when you select a software solution as comprehensive as a church management system (ChMS), you are hitching your wagon to a train which is headed somewhere. This is especially true with cloud-based software, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS).
Your ChMS should ultimately be an assemblage of solutions to key ministry problems you are trying to solve and opportunities you want to leverage. Those problems and opportunities are not static and unless it came in a box, neither is your software! It will go in a certain direction as it evolves. Do you know what direction that is? Does it align with the direction you are going? What is the “heartbeat” of the company? Who has the ultimate say in what they do, who they serve, how they serve and what it takes to keep the doors open? If you don’t think these questions are important, don’t be surprised when your software provider ends up someplace you weren’t sure you wanted to go.
- Question #2. Who designed the software?
This is important. Yes, anyone can create software. But software that is designed for your niche is most likely going to be a better fit. I’ve been in software for a long time. Some of that time was spent outside the church space. Transportation companies buys software designed for transportation companies. Manufacturing buys software designed for manufacturing. It seems like a simple concept, right? You would ask the guy who mows your lawn to fix your roof, would you?
Churches sometimes think that “any old software” will do or the other extreme is that if it works in this industry then it will work for you. It’s important to know that the people who designed the software understand you, how you operate, your needs, so they can provide a unique fit for you.
- Question #3. What other churches — like us — are using their software and services?
I encourage every church we work with to talk with other churches already using CCB that are similar in size and how they approach doing church. This is incredibly valuable. Whatever you “think might work,” shouldn’t be the basis of your decision. Don’t say “well Super Hip Mega Church” is using Acme ChMS so it must be awesome”. Find someone who is similar to you and understand their experience and how they use the system. This will give you an unbelievable confidence in your decision making.
- Question #4. Will the software fit us, or will we have to fit the software?
You’ll probably hear words like “customizable” and “flexible” as you investigate your options. These are words that mean different things to different people. You never want to invest in a system that forces you to change core systems and processes. Any new system, unless you build it from scratch, has limitations. Often the changes our churches make are because they see a new, better, and more efficient way to do something.
When a solution as complex as a ChMS isn’t able to mold and mend itself to how you do church, that’s a red flag that you shouldn’t overlook. Even if the church you dream of being one day uses it, that doesn’t justify it as a perfect fit for your church.
I hope these questions have been helpful to you. Software can be scary. What gets me excited is when I see churches use technology to accelerate how they build community and make a Kingdom impact.
What questions do you ask when you evaluate software for your church?
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Steve Caton is the vice president of sales and marketing for web-based church management system company, Church Community Builder in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Steve blogs at http://churchcommunitymatters.com.