Practical Tips For Any Church Management Software Upgrade

The week starts again, a cup of coffee, small chat with a few co-workers, and then you head to your desk to get the day going. There is a good chance that it is just second nature now, when you sit down you fire up your PC, MAC, or even tablet. Click on a few programs, and then open up your Church Management Software (ChMS). You have things to do. Info from last weekend’s events to enter, profiles to add or update, emails to send, texts to type out, contributions to enter, and a host of other responsibilities that you hope your ChMS can handle. A lot depends on the technology you are using. You use this software every day, but do you really know your church management software provider?

When was the last time you dug into your ChMS? Have you evaluated what is out there for your church? Just because you have used the same system for the last 10 years doesn’t mean it’s still the right choice for your church today. What is your provider’s plan for new features? Since technology doesn’t sit still, your ChMS should not be sitting still either. If you’ve seen the same features for the last year with no updates, your ChMS is standing still.

If you’re considering a ChMS evaluation and a possible change, here are few things to think through.

Church Software Service and Training

Changing your ChMS, even if it’s the right path for your church, is a big task. Many churches have not evaluated or changed their ChMS in years, so moving to a new system in some ways is like learning a new language. Regardless of how good your new ChMS is, regardless of how advanced the technology is, if your new ChMS partner can’t train and support your staff the change will be a disaster.

The biggest area of complaint in the ChMS arena is that the service-providers deliver sub-par service. Churches can’t talk to anyone who can help them, or they have to wait days (even weeks) for a response from Support, or only a few people within the church are even allowed to call. Even worse: it costs a premium to get the ChMS provider to provide adequate support.

If your current experience is like this, you must ensure that any new partner will not be duplicating the same service and support experience you have now. If you have great service now, but the technology is lacking, you have to know that your new partner you can support you. With all this in mind, it is important to consider the following:

  • What does service and support look like?
  • Does the ChMS assign as specific person to support your church?
  • What does implementation look like?
  • Can you call and get someone on the phone?
  • How quickly does your ChMS provider respond to support requests?
  • Are only certain people at the church allowed to call?
  • Will they reach out to you proactively?
  • Do you pay more each month for a premium support package?
  • Are there online tutorials and forums to assist you?

Church Software Mobile Functionality

Our world is now mobile. Your ChMS needs to be able to assist you in reaching the people who walk through your doors each week through the medium they want to be reached, which is usually a mobile device. If you haven’t thought through your mobile strategy you are falling behind and will soon be unable to reach the majority of people who walk through your doors. If the ChMS you are looking at does not have an effective mobile solution, it should not even be considered. If they do, consider the following:

  • Does it have the core functionality you would expect a mobile solution to have?
  • Can you edit profiles, take notes, move through processes, take attendance, look up data, or check in children to an event? In essence, can your staff interact and do their job effectively through their mobile devices?
  • Can you send push notifications? Register for events? Give donations through the App? Can your end users take their own attendance, check their own kids into events, read a bulletin, or watch a sermon

Church Software Thought Leadership and Roadmap

It’s critical for you to know the road map of your new ChMS. If the new ChMS you have chosen has no new releases scheduled for this year, or generally relies on what they have done in the past, they may not be the right choice for you. Technology changes so fast that any ChMS you consider must have a roadmap planned out for the next 12 to 18 months. You should know what is coming next from your new provider. (Equally important is to understand what they have released in the last 12 months: if they claim to have a robust roadmap in the future, but have not released a new feature in 12 months, are you confident that they really will deliver on those projected release dates?)

There are so many solutions available to churches now that it is an incredibly challenging task changing software systems. You may want to find a partner not just in the final ChMS decision, but also even in the search process. If the candidate provider is not helpful during the search process, it is highly unlikely that they will be helpful when you are an actual partner of theirs. So, take your time, ask questions, dig as deep as possible, and above all else know your new software provider.