Let’s get a few facts out of the way first. There is no one solution that will work for every fellowship, synagogue, Christian or other churches. Secondly, church software shouldn’t be picked based on bottom line pricing – ever. Click here to see why. Pricing shouldn’t be reviewed until after the church made the decision ‘will the software work in our organization’.
When choosing software, several factors to consider are ROI, church transparency, member’s data organized well, communication to church members, church directory creation, and is reporting compliance obeyed. Compliant reporting for contributions and accounting in one system is essential, plus it keeps the church from unnecessary politics – internally or externally.
In this blog, we will try to give some guidelines only based on church size. However, the church should have brainstorming sessions of what they want for features. Additionally, the church should review what is and isn’t working right, and where do they plan on being in a few years.
Below we review membership software in comparison to size of church. While this isn’t the only matrix to look at when deciding to take a step towards using church software, it’s important to understand how the size of the organization may affect the ‘when’ and ‘which software’ questions. Church software comes in all different variations, where some work well in small to medium size churches but not large churches, whereas others work really well in large churches but the complexity is too much for a small church.
The household numbers are just loose guidelines. To translate from a member to household count, you can take the member count and divide it by 3. So if you have 500 members, you would have about 166 households. The church should be counting active, friends, and other statuses in this count as you should be tracking and communicating to all of them at some level.
Small churches (under 75 households) – Smaller churches have an idea we need to be bigger before looking at software. This is a myth for several reasons. It is easier to organize when you are smaller, as it’s more manageable than when you grow larger and have a lot more clean up. Additionally, tracking relationships of people and communicating to them becomes irreplaceable. A big mistake is relying on someone (typically a pastor or secretary) to remember all the relationships of people in the church. Even if the church decides to use simple tools to track visitors, donations, members, worship notes, and other data elements – you need to have something in place, other than a person’s forgetful memory. Or the church could use a church membership database.
Let’s use an example about managing data early – my Dad taught me to clean out my car each day when I came home from work. It made it easier to keep it clean this way than cleaning it out every few weeks which takes longer to do. Clutter piles up and you have to remember if you should throw this or that in the garbage or keep it. The same holds true with cleaning your house. Waiting to get software when you think the church is big enough is the same idea – by the time the church is big, there is so much clutter, it will take weeks, if not months, for you to clean it up.
Check back later for the next installment of this blog, discussing the medium and larger churches.