Church management solutions and their requirements have changed dramatically in just the last ten years. Software in the past used to have strict guidelines in regards to processor speeds, RAM, and hard drive space. While they are important items to consider for a new computer, most church management systems are online — just like your online banking works.
Because of this online capability, many of these past software requirements are either non-existent or minimal. We will go over some things to still watch for when buying a new computer or deciding if the church management software will work on your current computer. The online capability does present a different kind of challenge for the Internet speed that wasn’t present in most installed computer programs ten or more years ago. Online systems can’t work without an Internet browser so we will review that aspect as well.
Let’s start with explaining what church management software (ChMS) is.
What is Church Management Systems or ChMS?
A ChMS is a software that helps churches track membership, record donations, accounting, and payroll all in one system. It is important to have all of these important records in one place. Keep in mind there are some systems that will include ancillary things like facility management, worship software, song repositories, and so on. These ancillary systems are not church management systems.
Think of church management systems as the central systems churches use for recording required information. For example, as a non-profit, you are required to give contribution statements for donors. Also, churches are required to have accounting reports for their auditors and when/if the IRS audits them. Worship software and other ancillary software have no such requirements. If the church doesn’t have worship software, what is the IRS or church auditors going to do? They certainly are not going to come knocking on your door.
A sensible approach to an all in one system is that the various modules should relate to the other modules in a technical and common-sense way. Facility management software that turns on heat/AC for the church building in no way relates to church membership or accounting software.
However, a song repository software does relate to worship software, thus these two systems should be together. And the membership, donations, accounting, and payroll should be together in one system. While churches want to avoid as many disjointed systems as possible, there will be some separation of systems when it makes sense to do so.
Software vendors putting unrelated systems together.
Let’s examine another pitfall when church software companies combine too many unrelated systems into one. Church software companies step out of their competency circle of expertise when creating software. This is when you see the large enterprise systems that are convoluted, overpriced, and hard to use, offered on the market. Keep in mind we do advocate all in one system as much as possible. However, it must be sensible and combines similar church functions. What the church should strive for, are systems that can do similar functional processes within one main system as we illustrated earlier with worship software and the back office software.
Who Should Use Church Management Software?
The answer is — any religious organization. Now that we have established that church management software includes membership, donation, accounting, and payroll modules in one church management solution, we can also conclude that these records are the most important to keep intact above all other church records. This is why any religious organization needs to use a church management software solution to keep these vital records. A church does not want to scramble trying to find or create these records after the fact — i.e. when the IRS comes to visit.
Let’s take a moment and discuss what governs churches so they can ensure their software choice follows the rules. Since the IRS is the government entity that gives a church their tax exemption status, the church should ensure they are happy by following IRS guidelines. FASB is a private, not for profit entity, whose purpose is to create reporting standards. However, they also have a lot of influence on IRS regulations. FASB develops the GAAP policies for private, public, and not for profit entities.
Internet Speed Challenge
Having an online system which any good church management software is, does present one challenge that an installed legacy system does not have to deal with. Online systems need a reliable Internet connection that has an acceptable speed rating. One way to test this is on each computer and at each location, you can run an Internet speed test. It will look something like the image below when the test completes. The minimum to run IconCMO you would need about 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. However, when it comes to Internet speed, the higher the number for the download and upload the better! Another test would be YouTube. If it works with your Internet connection, then IconCMO will work for you too.
Church Management Software — Hardware Requirements
When it comes to computer hardware, online systems really have minimal requirements. With computers, you do get what you pay for. If the computer is $300.00, the manufacture has typically cut some corners to bring the price point down. They either cut processor power, RAM, a lower screen resolution, or a slower hard drive. Most online systems will run on most of the computers produced in the last five years. Where it gets tricky is the computers that are more than five years old.
If you are an Apple user, then really, any Mac from 2010 to the present should work. PC users are a little harder to figure out.
Let’s look at Intel processors which are typically one of these types i3/i5/i7/i9.
For online church management software, you do need something a little more powerful than just a web browsing computer, using an i3 processor. While an i3 may work it might be a little too slow for the more intensive task like creating labels or longer reports. The rest of the processors, i5/i7/i9, should work well. With Intel the bigger the number, generally speaking, the faster the processor so i7 is faster than i5, and i9 is faster than i7.
If the computer has an AMD processor after 2010 you should be fine. If the computer is older (ie pre-2010), it may be time to seriously consider a new computer.
For RAM you should have a bare minimum of 4GB which is just a little more than the minimum for Windows 10 to be installed on. Most computers have at least this much, but it is always good to check. Hard drive storage should not be an issue since it’s an online system. Like it was mentioned before if you can play YouTube videos on your computer with no issues, an online system will work.
What Internet Browser Should I Use?
There are four major browsers that are on the market today. They are Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple’s Safari. Using one of these browsers should work on most church management online systems. If they don’t, it might not be the best church management system to go with.
You should always make sure these four browsers are vetted on any online system the church wants to implement. The other issue is just keeping the browser updated to the most recent software release. Church management software companies rely on a lot of security features that are in browsers to keep their software secure. If you are running an outdated browser version, you are opening yourself up to a computer attack.
Cloud-based vs. Installed Systems
Let’s first explain what a true cloud-based system is versus an installed system. There is also a hybrid system that churches should be aware of which we call the fake cloud systems or cloud washing their installed (on-premise) systems. What a lot of software vendors do, is if any part of their application is delivered over the Internet, they market to the general public that it is a cloud system.
Cloud based system…
True cloud vendors design their solutions from the ground up for the cloud. They code their software to perform better as a fully hosted solution and build talent and expertise around hosting, maintaining, and managing the software across hundreds of servers and across multiple levels of data redundancy in their own multi-tenant cloud environments.https://bmonline.com.au/cloud-computing/
Let’s clarify a few things in that definition. The system is designed from the ground up, which means that the software vendor used their existing on-premise software and adapted it to work on the Internet. This distinction is important because the on-premise software vendors are cutting corners by not putting in the 2- 5 years of developing a ground-up cloud solution, then bringing it to market. They instead are taking cumbersome technology and overlaying it on their current solution using a hodgepodge approach. This hodgepodge approach creates an inefficient, costly, and slow system.
What is multi tenant?
What does multi-tenant mean? This simply means that a single instance of a software application can serve multiple users. So the single instance is on the server far away from your location. The software on that server is running all the time and when you log in, it hooks you into the software application and to your database. It does not need to start up another ‘instance’ of the application on the server for your co-workers or the church down the street.
This is important because it means your church is using the same code base as everyone else. If you had software on your church’s server that would mean the only people that could use that program is at your church’s location. The church down the road could not use it.
is installed and runs on computers on the premises of the person or organization using the software, rather than at a remote facility such as a server farm or cloud.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-premises_software
This type of system is pretty easy to explain. It has no Internet connection and only works on the computers that it is installed on. This type of software was commonly called ‘shrink-wrap’ or ‘off the shelf’ software and typically had a very high upfront cost.
Hybrid System or the Fake Cloud…
is a system that has some piece of the software as an on-premise application and is installed on the organization’s hardware. It will use a web browser for some part of its feature set but lacks the elasticity (not multi-tenant) or recovery from failure (limited data redundancy) that is unique to real cloud-based systems. Also, it does not have on-demand user provisioning.Icon Systems
A fake cloud system is tricky to spot unless you know what questions to ask. The application will appear to be on the Internet. However, the application will require you to install more software than just a browser. It will also require license type pricing where each additional user is more money per month.
Cloud-based systems are here to stay because of their many benefits and a small number of disadvantages. When looking at various cloud-based systems, ensure that you verify it is truly a cloud-based software before any further investigation into its features. It would be a waste of time to explore features and software capabilities when you want a true cloud-based system and find out later that it isn’t.
Church Management Solution Summary
There aren’t many church solutions on the market that are true cloud-based systems. The future of software is more Internet-connected systems because of the advantages over disadvantages. However, the church must determine if their solution is cloud-based. We recommend this architecture for any churches that are serious about their organization’s future. On-premise and hybrid systems are going to fall to the wayside. Over time, people will be more connected. Additionally, they are going to demand software vendors to provide more features faster.
We also explained what church management software is and why less disjointed systems are better. While there is a time to have multiple systems, it needs to be sensible. For example, worship software has nothing to do with recording donations. Thus, having these two separate is okay. But, having the donation and church accounting systems separate makes little sense. It would be unwise to account for money coming in through one system, and money going out through another.
We also went over hardware and browser requirements that online systems use. As we stated there are very few requirements for hardware and operating systems. In the past, this used to be a huge issue for on-premise and hybrid systems. But with online systems, it is not an issue in most cases because most computers today have the bare minimum needed. Like we said earlier, if you can play a YouTube video on your computer you should be able to operate a church management software online.