If you were able to post a relationship status for your church and your church management software it would probably be “It’s Complicated.” More often than not, it isn’t “In Love” or “Happily Ever After.” What is it that makes Church Management Software (ChMS) such a complex issue in churches?
A lot of the complication comes from within a church or ministry. Departments within ministries often operate as independent silos, creating tension when a ChMS solution is implemented and tries to integrate data together with procedures ministry wide. Church politics lead to churches using multiple management systems, or to constantly-changing software platforms.
Changing platforms further complicates the relationship status. An immense amount of resources must be invested in making a ChMS change. During this process, these resources are not being invested in the ministry itself but rather in the process to do ministry. This creates a real drain on ministry effectiveness in the short term (or every time you switch ChMS providers).
Another complicating factor comes from the users of the software. Users who are not well trained often want to change—not because they need to change but because they have not been trained in the capabilities of the software they currently use. This creates a vicious cycle of resource drain going from ChMS to ChMS. This cycle can only be broken by properly investing in training for staff. As staff turns over, the goal should not be to replace the ChMS with whatever the new staffer is used to, but rather to invest in training the new staffer to be successful and effective with the exiting tools.
While there is no doubt politics in churches plays a role in the complicated status between ministries and ChMS, there is also the changing ChMS landscape itself. Church software is no longer by the church for the church. ChMS has become an industry of its own. Not an industry of nonprofits serving nonprofits, but rather for-profits profiting from nonprofits. To be clear, I’m not saying ChMS providers should give their products away. They need a business model to be able to support their users and continue investment in updates, development, and quality control.
The complication comes as the industry loses its heart for the ministries they serve. Does your ChMS provider have a heart for the lost in your town? Do they care about how their products and services affect your ability to grow the eternal Kingdom or is your ministry a sales figure?
Instead of focusing on making changes, try focusing on what your current system can do. Find a ministry partner who will help you succeed and make it your goal not to change providers. If you have to change (for whatever reason) make it your goal to make this the last change. Keep the focus on ministry, not complicating ministry with spending time on figuring out how to do ministry.