Churches need their software to be robust but simple. Secure but accessible. Volunteer-friendly but church-staff-controlled. Developers who create church software encounter challenges that other software developers may not face. But Concordia Technology Solutions rose to the challenge when it released Shepherd’s Staff ChMS in 1994 and has consistently adapted to meet the needs of churches of all sizes in an age of booming technology.
Shepherd’s Staff is a Windows-based program made up of five modules: Membership, Attendance, Contributions, Finance, and Scheduler. Here’s how the software’s developers have deftly helped customers meet their needs since version 1.0 came out  years ago.
Balancing Innovation and User Preferences
CTS carefully maintains the balance between innovation and customer satisfaction to make sure users feel that they can trust the software. Shepherd’s Staff customers have consistently preferred to house their church data on their own servers rather than online. CTS has respected and supported users in this desire by helping them maintain all their data in one place on their church computers.
But CTS hasn’t left users behind as technology has surged forward. CTS has made the software faster, added more reports and functionality, rolled out downloadable software updates, and created a web portal to allow volunteers to help out.
In fact, Shepherd’s Staff is currently going through a complete overhaul as developers rewrite the entire program, rolling out updates one module at a time. The new Attendance module was released in 2018, featuring a cleaner design with functions organized by tabs to simplify users’ decision making. Similar updates will be rolled out in future module releases.
Satisfying Both Office and Volunteer Needs
A challenge created by housing data on church servers is making it possible for volunteers to help out because many volunteers prefer to do their tasks remotely rather than in the church office. To bridge this gap between the needs of the church office and the needs of volunteers, CTS created WebTools.
WebTools is an online portal through which volunteers can remotely enter attendance and offering data. Churches can later sync these batches with their databases. CTS envisions that volunteers can glance around the congregation during the service or any other event and mark attendance on an iPad. Or members can count offerings at the back of Bible class, quickly enter data on a laptop, and then join the class discussion. WebTools offers portability and flexibility for volunteers who need it.
Prioritizing Transparency and Accountability
With security being a top priority, CTS has developed several tools to help churches keep track of what happens to their data.
Advanced permissions allow churches to be proactive in protecting their data by allowing only trusted users to access it. Users can be given different levels of access for each module, and specific actions can be enabled and disabled for each individual user.
Once users are permitted access to the database, their activities are recorded. An audit log allows system administrators to track, search, and sort user activities. Administrators can see which user completed each action, the date and time of each activity, and what actions the user took in each module. With these security measures in place, CTS hopes to ease church workers’ minds by knowing that every piece of data is accounted for.
Offering a Safety Net
CTS anticipates churches’ needs by giving them solutions to problems before the problems even occur. For example, with local data storage comes a greater risk of catastrophic data loss. If users’ data is not backed up and a computer fries or the church building is damaged by a natural disaster, a church could lose all its records.
CTS’s solution is to offer database backups for supported Shepherd’s Staff customers. Users can upload backups of their databases to the secure servers at CTS. Then if an emergency happens, they can simply contact CTS support to get their databases restored.
For additional security, all databases are encrypted and are kept for limited amounts of time. For the first  days, CTS stores a user’s daily backups. After that, CTS keeps the last backup of each month. Each of these monthly backup records is kept for  days, and the most recent backup is always kept throughout the duration of a user’s active support contract.
Keeping the Software in the Background
Having been around for  years, CTS has seen a lot of change. For instance, back in the day, CTS sent users floppy disks with updates. Then they sent CD-ROMs; then thumb drives. Now CTS makes software updates available online so users can download them.
When users register their databases, their machines will automatically download and install updates when they are released. Not only does this help users keep their software up to date, but it also helps maintain important security features to keep users’ data safe.
Simplifying and automating tasks for users has helped position Shepherd’s Staff as an effective church helper and time-saver. By freeing up time for church workers, CTS helps these individuals spend less time on the computer and more time with the people God has sent them to serve. Visit the Shepherd’s Staff website to download a free trial and start saving time in your church office.