This article appears in the Ministry Magazine Summer 2020 issue. Read and download free here.
Church management software (ChMS) is designed to help solve operational ministry challenges, but many churches are less than satisfied with their ChMS. No matter which ChMS you use, the following 10 tips can help you maximize your software’s usefulness, and achieve ChMS success.
- Start with your church’s unique strategy.
To make good software decisions, you must be clear on your church’s unique strategy, including your identity, passion, vision, and ministry calling. Your ChMS choice and implementation decisions are dictated by your church’s specific expression of the broader Great Commission calling.
- Define your desired processes.
ChMS can help you serve people intentionally. Thoroughly define the processes involved in caring for and equipping guests and members throughout the stages of their lives. With processes defined, you will be ready to choose and configure the proper ChMS tool, and achieve ChMS success.
- Automate what you can.
Determine what you can automate in your ChMS. When you automate important tasks that align with your ideal ministry processes, you conserve staff time and ensure that important follow-up’s and ministry tasks don’t “fall through the cracks.”
- Assign a ChMS “Champion.”
The ChMS Champion’s job is to communicate with staff, leaders, members, and volunteers and to help them use the software to its fullest. As the resident “expert,” they ensure that everyone knows and can successfully utilize the ministry-enabling features. They also encourage ChMS adoption by providing the ongoing training and support required for its effective use.
- Provide ongoing ChMS training.
New people come into the church and onto your staff. People change roles. Ministry processes change. ChMS vendors make updates and changes. Thus, you must develop and maintain ongoing training for all users. Training can include in-person mentoring, group training, video training, and “tips and tricks.” Ongoing training, designed specifically for your church, will provide an enhanced return on your ChMS investment.
- Make your ChMS the authoritative data source.
For any ChMS to be useful, its information must be up-to-date, accurate, easy to use, and trustworthy. Maintaining multiple departmental applications or spreadsheets containing volunteer assignments, addresses, and mailing lists is counterproductive. Your ChMS must act as the Single Source of Truth. With data in multiple “silos,” people will rely on their own specific, departmental data source, and will not have complete, correct data to support ministry.
- Evaluate your current ChMS functionality.
If you require lots of additional software programs, apps, information services and databases, your ChMS software may not be a good fit. ChMS systems are often purchased because they do one important thing exceptionally well, (even while not doing many other church processes very well at all.) The overall usefulness of such ChMS systems may not be acceptable in your church environment.
- Establish concrete ChMS requirements based on your unique strategy.
You must be clear about your specific requirements before falling in love with any software features, “look and feel,” etc. Create a prioritized list of functional requirements that you can use to evaluate 3-4 applications. Make sure to involve key stakeholders from all departments and levels to ensure that this list is thorough enough to give a comprehensive view. Too often, one “cool feature” or one specific staff member can have an outsized impact on a decision that affects the whole church.
- Introduce change in concentric circles.
The best way to achieve adoption is to start with a core group of invested, “friendly” stakeholders who will be excited about a new opportunity. Once they have used the software and fixed any “bugs” in the system, you can enlist successive groups of staff, leaders, and members. This reduces friction and develops momentum.
- Recognize ChMS limitations.
Your ChMS is a tool; it is not divine. It will not do the work of connecting with people, making good decisions, or changing hearts for Jesus. No software is equipped to love people.
To read the full article from Enable Ministry Partners, click here. Enable specializes in helping churches solve ChMS questions to enable ministry and achieve ChMS success. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.