Understanding the Cloud and Church Management Software
By: Gina Calvert
Miles Advisory Group reports that according to a Pew Research Center study, (The Future of Cloud Computing), 895 IT stakeholders were surveyed and responded that "Cloud computing will continue to expand and eventually dominate information transactions…because it offers many advantages, allowing users to have easy, instant and individualized access to tools and information they need wherever they are, locate-able from any networked device."
Cloud-computing is everywhere, and it's here to stay. Despite that, and the fact that virtually everyone in a church benefits from Cloud-based data management, churches are a little behind that curve:
• A September 2010 survey sponsored by the creators of Fellowship One, a partner in LifeWay's Digital Church initiative, found that only 12 percent of Protestant churches use Web-based church management software to share information about their church members and ministries.
• A March 2011 survey conducted by LifeWay Research found that "very few churches are thinking about 'the Cloud' as anything more than fluffy, white vapor hanging in the sky."
As individuals and organizations' dependence on mobile technology increases, churches will be forced to adopt Cloud-computing if they want to stay in touch with their people.
The Cost of Waiting
This choice implies that there is no cost to waiting. In reality, the cost of operating inefficiently or losing ministry opportunities is incalculable, but real. This cumulative financial leak can be considerable over time. The speed of technology ensures that "later" there will be something newer and better that will keep "late adopters" in this place of indecision.
How many potential members are lost to other churches because a church can't keep up with its visitors and attendees or offer 21st century conveniences like online giving and registration?
It's really about the value proposition of the tools you consider. Dollar for dollar, Product A may be cheaper, but what is the true cost of lost opportunities?
2. I CAN GAUGE THE GROWTH OF MY CHURCH BY ATTENDANCE NUMBERS, BUT HOW CAN I KNOW IF MY FLOCK IS GROWING SPIRITUALLY?
To know if your members are growing, a good ChMs will not only allow you to gain insight into several possible predictors for growth, such as:
• Consistent giving and attendance
To know if your church is really growing, you'd need to be able to access your data and have it presented in ways that allow you to discern who is engaged, and how.
3. EVERY MINISTRY SEEMS TO ACT INDEPENDENTLY; HOW CAN I INTEGRATE ALL OUR MINISTRIES TO WORK TOGETHER?
This allows for 360-degree visibility of individuals, no matter which ministry representative is inputting the data. For example, Mary may attend the women's Bible study, volunteer in children's ministry, and host a small group. Even though three separate people record her involvement, it should all show up in her profile.
Once upon a time, church management software consisted simply of a server-based accounting system with a database for housing contact information and tracking contributions. Today, companies that provide church management software can:
• Provide tools for building community within the church
To access the ChMS, does it require that software be installed on your local computer?
Does the ChMS run equally well on PC and Macintosh computers?
Is the ChMS easy to use?
Was the ChMS designed and developed from the ground up specifically for the Internet?
Does the vendor utilize "continuous release" for true "no-touch, no cost" upgrades at regular intervals?
Are Cloud-based solutions the vendor's core competency or do they offer them as simply one option among others?
Does the company offer support options that complement their ChMS?
Is the product browser-neutral or at least supported by multiple browsers?
Gina Calvert is a writer for ACTIVE Network, which produces Fellowship One software for churches, www.activenetwork.com.