The Five Things to Evaluate when Selecting Software
By Paul Backes
What does Church Management Software do?
Well-designed online church management software can help your leaders understand how people are involved in your community, and foster participation in your community. With a better understanding of what is happening in your church or ministry you can make better decisions on focusing groups and events to strengthen involvement.
It is easy to create a check list of features to look for when evaluating church management software. Click here if you are interested in reviewing a check list of church management software features. What may be more important is how your leadership team will use the church management software. Consider the following 5 thing.
1) Ease of Use
To achieve maximum advantage, your pastoral and administrative staff and volunteer leaders must be able to use the church management software. Look for non-cluttered, well-designed screens and intuitive navigation. Some things to look for:
- Does the church management software use responsive technology so that it displays well on smartphones, tablets and laptops?
- Can a volunteer group leader manage their group online from home with minimal training?
- Can your pastor use a smartphone to find member and family information when called away to a hospital visit?
The flexibility to customize the church management software to meet current and future needs is very important. Yet this should be smartly done to keep the software easy to use. Things to consider include:
- Can you customize people types to reflect your church’s language and naming conventions (e.g. prospects, visitors, guests, members, etc.)?
- Do you have an unlimited ability to add custom fields to your person profiles in the church management software?
- Do you have unlimited giving funds that will reflect your church’s terminology?
The ability to communicate in a timely and comprehensive manner is the cornerstone for fostering participation in your community. For example:
- Can your leadership team use the church management software to regularly communicate to diverse groups through bulk email, and Facebook and Twitter postings?
- Do you have the ability to assign responsibility and set up an organized process to regularly communicate with visitors and guests?
- Can you set up automated messages for first time visitors, birthdays and anniversaries?
- Can the church management software automatically remind group leaders to take attendance at group events and notify group leaders if group members have stopped attending group events?
4) Intuitive Search/Filtering
The church management software’s search/filtering facility is very important in understanding your community. The ability to identify people with specific characteristics, interests and/or levels of participation will be a crucial tool for your leadership team.
- Does the church management software provide a people filter so that you can find groups of people with one or many different characteristics? And can you send an email communication to a filtered list and can you save a filter?
- Does the church management software provide Boolean logic searches (and, or, not) and person searches with prompts after two or three letters of their name?
- Do you have the ability to find new visitors within a specific timeframe and assign follow-up responsibility?
5) Member Access
Some churches also want to provide their members access to their profile accounts and to their direct family member profiles. If desired, consider the following.
- Can you provide your members access to their profiles and their family profiles behind self-assigned user name and password?
- Can members update their information based on fields determined by your church?
- Can you select fields to be published in a member directory and provide password protected access to your membership?
How your leadership team uses your online church management software is more important than the variety of features it provides. Features they don’t use might as well not be there at all. Make sure to invest time at the begining to train your team well.
Paul Backes is a Principal with Fresh Vine, the online church database company located in Minneapolis, MN.