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Last week on our blog we started sharing a series of posts dedicated to Church Management Software and established that there are undeniable benefits to using one. ChMS tools are designed for church leaders and administrators to help them centralise the information on their members, streamline their processes, strengthen communication, and, ultimately, save time spent on admin work, so they can better serve their congregation.

However, it is not easy to choose the right system from the array of available tools offered by different providers, and you might be asking yourself which factors need considering before you commit to a certain platform. Today we’ll discuss what features are essential to help you get the most out of your ChMS.

Where to start

The best place to start is talking to people who will be using the software. What are their main goals? Do they need a system to store members’ contact information, to track revenue from donations, or to plan worship services? Do they need a strong tool for planning events and managing them live? Or will it mainly be used to send out emails and newsletters? What do you need it to integrate with (accounting software, email service providers, or payment gateways)? There is certainly no reason why your ChMS cannot have all of these features, but many systems prioritise particular tasks (such as volunteer / donor management or event planning / check-in), and it is better to make sure your priorities align before you invest in the software.

Below are a few processes you might want your new system help you facilitate:

People management

Membership management is often the most important functionality in ChMS and the main reason why church leaders invest in one. A centralised database that keeps information on members, volunteers and visitors updated and well-organised is extremely helpful. For instance, membership directory makes it easy to contact individuals or groups, which keeps them informed and strengthens communication.

Volunteer management feature allows you to not only organise volunteer contact information, but also see people’s involvement, availability, skills and such. This equips you to coordinate different groups of volunteers more effectively by communicating event details or changes in rostering.

Finance management

An accounting tool is vital for church management as it enables both tracking and reporting of finances. Although there are not many Church management systems that have accounting capabilities, the majority of them provide integration with leading accounting software (such as Xero or Quickbooks) as well as payment gateways for secure collection of donations. These ensure that individual contributions that make up the church’s revenue are recorded, and all upcoming donations and pledges are managed, too. It is also easier to keep track of your expenditures with a reliable accounting solution.

It is also great if your ChMS is able to issue automatic receipts (and email them to your donors along with a note thanking them for their generosity).

Finally, a reporting tool is essential for gaining insight into your financial situation, as well as for providing reports to stakeholders.

Events and check-in

Having a functional event management package takes the pressure off organising and managing activities, simplifies registration process and gives payment process support. Apart form planning regular Sunday services, you can create more complicated events (such as conferences, seminars, retreats or camps), plan all the details (venue, catering, programme and such), and appoint volunteers. In addition, you can create registration forms and accept bookings from your congregation members.

An important feature (that’s been used frequently for contact tracing during the pandemic) is a check-in system that helps you track member and visitor attendance at events. A check-in functionality is also crucial for child security management allowing you to keep track of children in specific church locations and events.

Communication tools

One of the main goals of churches is to increase member participation. This is achieved through regular community-wide communication and providing your congregation with accurate and timely information. That is why you need built-in communication tools to be able to send out personalised emails, text messages and letters. A built-in or integrated email service works much better that a separate provider since you already have all your members’ contact information in your regularly updated database. You can communicate with individuals, groups or your entire congregation with just a few clicks making them feel supported and taken care of.

In conclusion, before you make an investment in a church management system, consider what processes you need the software to handle, and then prepare to discuss the processes along with your needs with potential ChMS providers. It also helps to look for feedback on various platforms or forums and see if others raised any issues or concerns. Do not be afraid to bring these up and check if they had already been tackled. Finally, many software developers collect “feature requests”, so if you find that a desired product does not have a certain functionality, they still might be able to add it for you. And we wish you all the best in your search for the perfect system for your church!