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Church Software: Rethinking the Norm

July 6, 2020 jill Blog
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By Craig Chadwell

In the new world of social distancing since COVID-19, we’re being forced to rethink the norm. Modern technologies and scientific knowledge are blending with the comfort of tried-and-true methods of thinking and of communication.

“We’ve always done it this way” are words we often hear in the church, whether it’s in the church office, in a committee meeting, or just in casual conversation. It’s as if the status quo is somehow linked to the sacred rites of the church.

The churches that are experiencing growth in these difficult times are those who can look at past practices, keep what works, and then not be afraid to try new things. Sometimes, people that you think won’t be open to new things will surprise you.

Let’s look at a few “We’ve always” statements. Are any of these true at your church? Look at some of the suggestions for change. Perhaps you can think of a better idea for doing these things.

Some suggestions are designed to save time and give you more opportunity to do ministry vs. spending the time on recordkeeping.

“We’ve always assumed everyone should put their giving into the collection plate on Sunday.”

If your church is not using an electronic giving service, especially since the onset of the latest Coronavirus, do it now! You’re missing out. Many churches are now using management software that allows donors to send their giving directly to the church. This covers those vacation Sundays when attendance is lower. It ensures that those who aren’t there and don’t forget to “make up” the difference. Setting up regular giving electronically ensures that the life blood of the church remains intact.

“We’ve always mailed our newsletter.”

These days, most churches use their software program to track which members want a paper vs. email newsletter copy. Then within the program, select the email people and go straight to the email screen and attach the newsletter. This can save the church a lot of money in paper, duplicating, and postage. Most people are used to receiving PDF attachments and likely even reading them on their computer, phone, or tablet.

“We’ve always communicated with our members through the bulletin.”

This assumes that attendees and even pastors read the bulletin. Many churches have the recycling bin at the back of the narthex for after service. (Kudos to you!) But how many people who just glanced at announcements then recycled their bulletin will remember all of the announcements? Surely not everyone. Use email announcements, texts, and automatic phone messaging to convey critical information and reinforce announcements.

“We’ve always had the same person track giving and also paying the bills, plus had only one person count the money each Sunday.”

There is not a church out there who likes to think about this. It’s an ugly subject. But this is a security issue. There should always be more than one person handling incoming money. And for fraud protection in the church, the person paying the bills should never deal with the income of the church. “Our people are honest” is not something we can ever take for granted, sadly. We hear all-to-often from client churches that are going through the painful process of investigating and charging someone for embezzlement.

“We’ve always mailed everyone their giving statements.”

Let your software assist you in mailing those who wish to have them mailed and emailing the rest. Much like mentioned above with newsletters, most management software systems will send these via email. As long as members receive their statements at the end of the year for tax purposes, the church has fulfilled its responsibility.

“We’ve always set up the pastor’s pay according to his or her instructions.”

It is wise to use a payroll program designed specifically for pastors to assure that IRS guidelines are being followed. This is especially of importance when it comes to housing allowances, auto reimbursements, and other allowances or deductions. It is better to be certain than to risk liability for the pastor or the church. The office for your ruling church body or a tax professional experienced with the tax characteristics of ministers can provide you with guidelines.

“We’ve always passed out paper copies of everyone’s monthly report at our meetings.”

How much time is saved if reports are emailed in PDF format to everyone before the meetings? Then, committee members can review the information and be better prepared. Meeting times can be drastically shortened, especially for financial reporting meetings. In 2020, many churches are now forced to conduct their meetings online using a conferencing program. It’s even possible to display or to share these reports using your teleconferencing provider.

These are just a few ways that church work can be streamlined to make the church more effective. Take a look at your church’s “we’ve always” processes.

Move into the 21st century and help your church not just survive but thrive in 2020 and beyond!

Craig Chadwell was one of the original Church Windows Support Techs from the ‘90s when the software morphed from its earlier DOS predecessor, www.churchwindows.com. Now as marketing manager and webmaster, he’s kept busy much of the year wearing other hats. But you might very well speak with him on a support call when the need arises. As with all other members of the Church Windows family, he’ll do whatever it takes to answer your questions as quickly and concisely as possible!

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