Hey everyone – I’ve been doing IT support for our church in Auburn while being an associate pastor here, so it’s not my training but something I enjoy. We’re stuck in the world of Shelby v. 5, so unfortunately I don’t have any experience in the newer platforms.
I just was called to be the new senior pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama, and I start in a few weeks. I discovered they have an archaic church database and they want me to help them get caught up to the 21st century and improve church communications from the start. So I’ve got to hit the ground running in terms of moving them to a new database platform.
I know everyone has different opinions, but what would you all recommend for a more cloud based database that makes communications easy, provides both membership and accounting options, provides online giving capabilities, makes it easy for group leaders and leadership to send messages to the entire church or specific groups, etc.
Do you guys recommend Shelby next, ACS Realm, Fellowship One, or something else…. or would you recommend sticking with a server based solution? I’d love your input! I like what I see in Realm but have never worked with it.
We just switched over from Shelby to Ministry Platform- Shelby was getting long in the tooth, and MP is web-based, and so far everyone is very impressed with it. It does everything you asked about - and has some really nice mass communication portals, including SMS.
We have been using elexio for about 4 years and I love it. They just come out with a web based option that is somewhat paired down from what I hear. The full version is not out yet. They are continuing to make advancements.
Depending on the size of your church I would recommend you take a look at elexio. They do website, online giving, check-in, some accounting (we don’t use this feature), communications from the database or the app so leaders can use it easily, event registration online including collecting charges. They are their own merchant processor to help keep the fees lower for smaller churches.
That said, I am currently looking at ACS Realm to see how it compares. I am not far into my review yet so I can’t really speak with experience or knowledge yet.
Let us know what you decide. Praying for a smooth transition for you and the body you will be pastoring.
We (Shades Mountain Baptist in Birmingham) switched from Shelby / Arena in April 2015 to Ministry Platform. It’s been really nice for us. We are hosting a “Show and Tell” next week - Thursday, Nov 3. I’d love for you to join us! Let me know if you’re interested in coming up. We’re close enough to Auburn and Montgomery to be able to give you a hand.
Yeah, that’s REALLY hard to answer w/o a TON of info about your objectives, church culture, etc, etc, etc! First step is really figure out what you want in a ChMS solution. There are lots of options today
We have been on Fellowship One for 5+ years and are in the process of moving to Ministry Platform after the first of the year.
You might check out articles from Nick Nicholaou with MBS INC about ChMS selection.
I believe he even offers consulting services to help you make a good decision based on your church’s needs.
One article to read to start the process is found on MBS Inc. site.
Try demos of prospective systems, which will further reject ones not satisfactory
Collect input from church staff regarding needs/wish list for a new system
Assemble a group of church staff representative of different ministry areas to help evaluate systems making your short list. This list should include those most familiar with your current system, it’s strengths/weaknesses/wish it could do ??. The list should also include those with vision toward future use of the system.
The new ChMS will be the informational heart and soul of your ministry, so you should choose carefully. Also, the migration to a new system is a very large project, consuming considerable time for the staff most involved.
Create a spreadsheet with a scoring grid laid out, comparing important features of each system.
Have you evaluation group meet with church leadership, looking at the scoring grid, and any other considerations, then make the decision.
Working through these steps, we narrowed down to Church Community Builder and Ministry Platform as our final choices. CCB won by a narrow margin in the scoring grid, with it’s strong forms and form automations being the clincher.
I really appreciate @gbrenneman & @jpowell’s responses because I think a natural tendency, especially in this network, is to point people to the ChMS that we like or that was the best fit for our church. Contrary to popular belief, there is no single ChMS that is perfect for every church and any ChMS that claims that it is should be suspect. I say this as someone who works with one of the ChMS companies and I know we are not the right fit for every church. I have to truly believe that if my ultimate goal is to serve the Bride of Christ. My goal is to help church leadership figure out what their real ministry needs are and to point them in the right direction. Oftentimes, that is the system that I represent but other times it is not.
There are some basic priority questions that you could ask that would help narrow down the options though.
Do you want software that is more focused on administration, leadership or the congregation?
Do you want simple, cheap software that meets your needs today or more robust software that can grow with you?
Do you want to partner with someone that will host & develop the software on your behalf (Software-As-A-Service) or do you want to provide resources to develop, customize (and potentially host) the software (i.e. Open Source)?
Does the longevity and financial stability of the potential partner matter to you?
Does the ownership of the potential partner matter to you? (i.e. Christian-owned vs secular-owned)
Do you want protected access to the software or a distributed model to spread out the workload of ministry (including group leaders, etc.)
But I believe that the most important questions that you can ask are from a high-level ministry leadership point-of-view.
What’s working well in ministry? (that software would need to support)
What’s not working well in ministry? (that software could potentially help us improve)
What’s our biggest pain in ministry? (that software could potentially eliminate?)
and the final question I would ask…
How could software potentially help us be excellent at what we are called to do as a Church? (For most churches, that is about making and growing disciples). At the end of the day, bells and whistles don’t matter if the church isn’t helping people move forward into a relationship with Christ. I believe that this question is the most important question you could ask when evaluating a potential church management partner. Which software and software partner is going to provide the most value to you in getting more people into a dynamic relationship with Christ?
Thanks for letting me ramble. I hope that my rant made sense.
And I’d add to @DavidCoons reply above to 1st make sure you’ve fully leveraged all support options with your current solution before jumping ship. Changing platforms costs time and $ so you want to make sure whatever beef you have with your current solution can’t be resolved adequately.
That’s a great point, @jpowell. I’ll also add in the recommendation to not allow issues and problems with your current system to fester too long before giving the software company a chance to make things right. Oftentimes, a church is not getting the full value from their software because it’s not set up correctly, they aren’t using it correctly, they forgot why they purchased it in the first place, etc.
If you allow the problems to fester for too long and THEN try to give the software company a call about the issues, the staff and your church’s attitudes toward the software will be so tainted against the idea of staying with the software that they won’t support the process.
Sometimes, it’s a lot easier to blame the software and jump ship than it is to admit that the issue might be outside the software, like incorrect usage, set-up or inadequate training. Jason’s advice is sound to make sure that you’ve leveraged every option before going through the process of moving.
Thanks everyone! We are using a super old Power Church software with no web access and archaic interface. So we are at a place looking to start afresh. I have noted the different ones you recommend and we will begin looking at them in the weeks to come.
Training is critical to whatever system you choose. With our move to CCB, we paid extra for 2 days of onsite training, which we felt very important. CCB also includes Implementation Coaching, which I would consider essential. I cannot imagine migrating to a system as complex and powerful as a new ChMS without some form of coaching from the company.
Each vendor would have some form of training/coaching to ensure success of their system.