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Evaluating & Selecting Bible Software
By: Bob Dasal

I have used Bible software for more than 20 years. A popular Gaither song says, "If it keeps gettin' better and better, oh Lord, I don't know what I'm going to do." Those words accurately describe my feelings about Bible study software. Bible software companies continue to make major strides in improving their products' functionality and content.

For students of the Bible, obtaining a Bible software program is more than an excellent investment; it provides the most powerful set of tools available today for Bible study. The technology toolbox Bible software provides is beyond compare in the history of Christianity. The software is not a substitute for prayer and meditation, but it provides the capability of putting a wealth of resources at your fingertips.

Choosing the program right for you involve many factors. For example, a preacher's approach will be somewhat different than a Bible professor's, with a layman's different still. Plus, not every person is wired the same way, so the purpose and methods of Bible study vary.

Before making a choice of software for Bible study and/or research, it is important to ask some basic questions. As you consider the many choices available, here are some of those questions.

Why study the Bible?
There are many reasons why people study the Bible, but the most important reason is because God tells us to [2 Tim. 2:15a, Deu. 6:6]. Bible study is an indispensable part of knowing the mind and heart of God. Preachers study because they are commanded to "preach the Word" [2 Tim. 4:2]. Bible professors study to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" [2 Tim 2:15b] in the classroom. Sunday school teachers and small group Bible study leaders study to encourage others to know and love the Lord and be obedient to Him. Every believer should study because it is only in knowing Him that we can make Him known! 
 
What should Bible software do?
We must study the Bible with a heart hungry to know the Lord. Bible software provides us with study tools to enhance and deepen our study. As a pastor for more than 29 years, I accumulated more than 2,000 reference works and books to help my study of the Bible. These resources provided background information and valuable insight God gave to others like the early church fathers and many others down through the centuries. Background research took up a lot of my study time.

Using technology tools, such as Bible software, allows us to be more efficient and thorough in our Bible study. I took less time taking books off and on the shelf to scour them and had more time for prayer and meditation.

It is comparable to a carpenter moving from hand tools to power tools. The power tools don't make him a carpenter, but they can help him be a better and more productive carpenter. Bible study software provides power tools for a student of the Bible to be more efficient and productive.

Some of those power tools include search tools and language tools. There is a wide variance in how well the different programs handle these tasks. It is imperative you check out the program's ability to query quickly and completely a Bible reference or topic you're studying.
 
Do I like the software's interface?
The software's interface is extremely important. It provides the end user's first exposure to the program. There is a learning curve to all of the programs, and how a software company helps the user through the process should be thoroughly understood.

The key to being a happy and productive end user is to know the interface. There is a wide variance in how the major companies approach this challenge. Do they provide training videos? What online help is available? Do they provide live technical support?  

Does the program provide the content I need?
Where a business might say, "location, location, location," with Bible software, it's "content, content, content." Even if you like the program's interface, if it does not have the content you need, it is of little value. Most programs carry a large number of Bible translations, Bible dictionaries, interlinear Bibles, commentaries, etc.  Knowing what a particular package includes and what additional resources are available is certainly good to know before making a purchasing decision.

Is the cost/benefit factor there?
Remember, Bible software programs are not equal. Each software company will focus on a certain type user. For example, WORDsearch has a package called "The Preaching Library," and Logos has its "Scholar's Library."  We see all applications are not intended for all users, and their value is measured by their ability to help a specific user reach their objective. 

The choices for Bible software are numerous. Many factors are involved in measuring the value of a program. Free programs are okay, but they lack the powerful features and content found in programs produced by the major Bible software companies. Ask yourself—based on the price you paid, did you get your money's worth?

Bible study software is a set of tools for study. Buying a program is not expenditure, but an investment so we can "study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" [2 Tim. 2:15b].

Today, there are so many options available for those who use the computer to study the Bible that it would be a shame not to invest in the program that best meets your needs. There are online Bible resources and Bible software programs available for both the PC and the Mac.  This issue features some of the best programs available. Check them out on the pages following this article.

Bob Dasal pastored churches for 29 years. He was managing editor of Christian Computing Magazine for three years and editor-in-chief of Pulpit Helps Magazine for nine years.

Product Roundup

Church Helpmate
Church Helpmate is the church management system that's simply powerful – and powerfully simple. It's a complete church membership management system that is designed to help your church save time and money, build unity, make better disciples, increase ministry participation, and simplify your life. Church Helpmate is easy enough for your entire team to learn and use, yet packed with enough power and flexibility to satisfy the most demanding church office. Pricing starts at just $274 for smaller churches, and it is free for evaluation. 
www.helpmate.com

Church Windows
Church Windows represents more than 20 years of implementing customers' suggestions into the software. The Membership module tracks people as Members and Visitors and has fields to store addresses, significant dates and contact information, attendance at both worship and class meetings, and more. The Contribution module features easy contribution entry, pledging, customizable giving statements, and automatic posting into the Church Windows Accounting module. Scheduler allows events to be scheduled onto a church calendar, along with locations, equipment, people needed, contact persons, and more.
www.churchwindows.com

Nspire Software
Spend less time managing and more time ministering. Nspire Software makes this possible by giving you a robust set of user-friendly software tools enabling you to manage information better.  Nspire includes: People Management, Volunteer Tracking, Built-in TXT Messaging, Bulk E-mail, Automated Barcode Attendance, Fingerprint Attendance Tracking, Child Security through Check-in/out, Contributions, Pledge Drives, QuickBooks Compatibility, Automated Online Backup, Event Financial Tracking, Assimilation Tools, Photo Directories, Integrated Calendar and more.
www.nspiresoftware.com

ConnectionPower
ConnectionPower offers fully scalable Web-based church growth and truly enterprise level church management software, for churches of every size. ConnectionPower has the lessons learned and best practices from 25 years of working with thousands of churches to successfully increase visitor retention and member assimilation. They embed proven and flexible ministry processes that help you to double and even triple your power to connect newcomers, which is 100 percent of your church's growth potential. 
www.connectionpower.com

PowerChurch Plus
PowerChurch Plus is a complete software package, featuring Membership, Contributions, Accounting, and Event Scheduling. Both local and online access versions of the software are available. PowerChurch Software announced that PowerChurch Plus has received the highly regarded Campbell Award for User Satisfaction in the 2009 Church Management Solutions nationwide survey. The Church Management Solutions survey was conducted online in February 2009 by Campbell Rinker. Users of all major church management solutions were included in the survey, representing churches of all sizes and denominations.
www.powerchurch.com

Logos Bible Software
Maximize your time in God's Word with Logos Bible Software.  Whether you are a pastor, scholar, or lay-person, Logos Bible Software gives you the tools to engage God's word like never before. Enter any passage and click "GO" for instant access to passage guides, commentaries, dictionaries, sermon helps, and more. Logos Bible Software has spent more than 17 years researching how people study the Bible. The result of all this research is a program that is easy enough for a novice, yet powerful enough for biblical scholars—and it is built for both the Windows and Macintosh platforms.
www.logos.com









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