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Elevating Your Church with Cloud-Based Software

Cloud-based software provides an energizing and economical solution to the overwhelming daily administrative and ministerial tasks in which a typical church engages. When properly employed, the pastor, staff, and volunteers find more time and energy to minister to their flock and community.

Cloud-base software provides entry points for churches of all sizes, giving them an opportunity to utilize productivity-enhancing tools that capture and manage church and ministry information effortlessly.

Keep in mind that cloud-based software is not strictly limited to managing financial information or donations but also extends directly into ministry support, as well. The best tools provide a framework for accountability, confidentiality, and facilitation within the context of your church or ministry. Everyone engaged in ministry work can primarily focus on the mission while minimizing the drudgework that inevitably comes along for the ride.

There are a few questions that every church should consider when looking at selecting and deploying cloud-based software for their ministerial or administrative work.

What is cloud-based software?
Cloud-based software delivers the functionality to application users when and where they need it through the Internet. Rather than procure, install, and maintain applications on in-house computers, cloud-based software is hosted on secure, data centers that are accessible from the Internet. Cloud-based software, or "Software as a Service" (SaaS) as it is also known, delivers the functionality of applications in much the same way that water is delivered to your faucet when your open the tap. You pay for what you use.

What are the benefits of cloud-based software vs. traditional software?
Cloud-based software delivers a variety of cost-saving and operational benefits wherever deployed. When compared with traditional software application deployment, the total cost of ownership is much lower for cloud-based software. Church personnel no longer need commit precious time and resources maintaining and operating application software and its supporting hardware.

Furthermore, upgrading software takes place transparently without any effort on your part. Since cloud-based applications are Internet accessible, 24x7, they are available to use wherever and whenever church personnel or volunteers need them. Churches can minister more effectively without needing to run down to the church to access information or use a ministry application.

Imagine the convenience, time, and gasoline saved when people can do what they need to do from home or from a mobile device. Cloud-based services also reduce the risk of a data loss or work interruption because the server crashed.

Can our church employ cloud-based software?
Churches of every size can easily afford cloud-based software. In essence, the application is "rented" on a month-to-month basis rather than requiring a significant upfront capital expenditure in the software and related supporting hardware. Monthly fees are based on a sliding scale so that churches only pay for what they need and use.

As a consequence, cloud-based software provides a small, monthly expenditure that is easy to budget and predict. For example, software pricing may be based on the number of member families or the typical number of worshippers present on an average Sunday. In most cases, pricing is tied to a meaningful metric that is measured or managed within the software itself.

How do we identify where we might use cloud-based software?
Deciding to use cloud-based software begins with a little bit of information gathering. Take a careful look at the functional areas within your church that might benefit from a software boost. This examination should look at the various aspects surrounding the work area or ministry.

* What are the desired goals or objectives?
* Are they currently being met? If not, where are the shortfalls?
* Are the people engaged in the work volunteers or paid staff?
* Who are the people being ministered or served?
* How are they engaged in the process?
* What are the steps or phases that comprise the flow of work and information?
* How are decisions made?
* What needs to be tracked?
* What level of confidentiality must be maintained?
* How do you know that the "loop has been closed" or that the job is done?

Answering these questions will provide a handy list of requirements against which software applications can be evaluated. Then your church can identify, compare, and evaluate the variety of product offerings available to you and select the best solution for your needs and budget.

How can we evaluate and choose the best cloud-based software to help us minister more effectively?
There are a variety of applications that can help a church more effectively manage their ministerial efforts. The level of functionality varies from application to application depending upon how general or specific the services provided are realized. For example, a typical outreach ministry, such as a prayer ministry, illustrates the level of the complexity that a church must consider when choosing an application.

Such a ministry might employ the pastor, volunteers, and sometimes other paid church staff. They engage fellow church members, as well as community members from outside the church, as they seek prayer support. Keeping track of requests, seeking pastoral guidance, and providing meaningful encouragement and feedback are key characteristics that must be addressed. With the constituents and process flow documented, you can then evaluate where things are working or could be improved.

The selection question hinges upon the ministry process and where the most pain is felt. If there is one single area that is problematic, then a point solution might be appropriate. If volunteer scheduling is the problem, then a volunteer management application might be the key.

On the other hand, if the overall workflow needs enhancement, then a more comprehensive solution would be appropriate. A solution that addresses and supports the complete flow of tasks and information from beginning to end can provide the most productivity enhancement and cost savings overall. Moreover, the cloud-based software model makes comprehensive solutions affordable to the widest range of church budgets.

Cloud-based software can provide the most cost-effective means to enhance church ministerial and administrative activities. Valuable time and resources can be diverted to the mission of the church while increasing the attractiveness of volunteerism because of the convenience and state -of-the-art coolness with which ministries are actualized.

Ovation CommunityWARE is a division of technologyxperts inc. founded in 2008 in response to the need for more effective communications within various community-based organizations.

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