Every client I serve employs some form of internal church management system - Church Management Software, or ChMS. Some are dedicated to tracking financial information while others do that and much more. From simple systems (Excel spreadsheets - yikes! and/or Quickbooks) to complex models, there are many choices in the landscape from which to choose.
One of the best I have seen is Church Community Builder (CCB), a web-based solution that offers a vital component that others don’t - the ability for not only staff, but ministry team leaders and volunteers to access the system at any time from any place. To better understand the system and it’s advantages, I recently sat down with my friend Steve Caton, Vice President of Sales and Marketing to discuss what to look for in a ChMS solution.
I see a lot of things happening in the church database arena. What are the advantages of the online system CCB provides?
First and foremost, the system we provide was designed from the very beginning to support an Ephesians 4 model of equipping the saints for works of service to build the body of Christ. That means we designed the system to be placed in the hands of staff, leaders, volunteers and congregants while all other ChMS options at the time were designed primarily with administrative staff in mind. This requires software that is intuitive, easy to use and accessible anywhere you can find an internet connection. Many other ChMS providers are rushing to support this model. However, their foundational code and user interfaces require major overhauls or a patchwork of modules to pull it off. CCB, on the other hand, was architected from the ground up to support a relational, distributed model of workflow and a delightful user experience. That said, we are NOT trying to be Facebook for the Church. To be truly effective, CCB must be easy to use and relational while also being robust and capable of managing the growing and more complex needs of today's church.
Is it possible for staff, team leaders, small group leaders and volunteers to access church info online through CCB?
Yes! As I stated in the previous answer, this was core to the original design of our system back in 1998, long before the emergence of Social Media. Again, for us, it was about equipping as many people as possible with the tools to do ministry.
Why is that important?
By equipping EVERYONE with tools, you distribute the workload of ministry and exponentially increase your capacity to reach and serve people. It is also much easier to ensure people don't fall through the cracks. Think about it: as a church grows it requires more people and more resources to effectively steward new visitors and those who have been a part of the church for a long time. If you can provide tools to anyone who "raises their hand" to help, you can then empower them to help you keep track of where people are connecting and where they aren't. If this role falls only on the shoulders of your administrative staff, you will either quickly overwhelm them or find that they are not as effective at other aspects of their role. That usually leads to the hiring of more expensive full-time employees and the loss of people from your church who don't feel cared for.
What correlation, if any, do you find between congregation interaction/involvement with CCB and generosity?
Well, we all know that a the more connected a person feels to another person or an organization, the more generous they will be towards them. That generosity manifests itself in many ways: serving, leading, showing up, giving, inviting, etc. When a church uses CCB effectively to create greater connectedness and community, generosity is just one of the positive outcomes. However, all of this begins with PROCESS. Software alone will not increase generosity. The church must have well-defined processes which help them create a heightened sense of belonging and clearer understanding of the vision and mission of the church. CCB simply supports those processes very well when they exist. Without good process, however, CCB won't "fix" your generosity problem....or any other problem for that matter!
I believe it is critical that a church connect the dots between ministry success and giving. How can CCB help the church tell those important ministry success stories (stories of life change)?
Because of CCB's design and distributed access model, it is very easy for those stories of life change to be shared and stored within the system. Furthermore, because CCB does such a good job of tracking the interests, involvement and engagement of the people in a church, it becomes very easy to target communications in such a way that you can connect those dots as you stated. Too many times, churches take a shotgun approach to communications, bombarding their people with every bit of information they think is relevant. That just causes people to tune everything out and miss the really good stuff you have to share. In order to connect people's heart to the impact you are having in their lives and on causes they care about, you must target your stories to the people who will resonate most with them. CCB helps you care as much about WHO you are talking to as you do about WHAT you are saying.
One of the issues I hear from my clients regarding changing database systems is the expense. How does CCB help the church who thinks they can't afford to make a change in their current system?
Well, this is an issue that requires more than a couple of sentences or a paragraph to address. Perhaps we can have a separate discussion on this topic alone? The bottom line here Rusty is the church has to stop looking at price and pay attention to cost and value. What many churches don't realize is the cost of doing nothing is much higher than the cost of changing. If their current system is not helping them steward people well, the long-term impact of that problem is huge and potentially devastating. I am sending my 15 year old to an advanced driving school so that he can be a mature, disciplined and effective driver, able to react well to any situation. Is that expensive? Sure it is! Is it worth it? Absolutely! Bad technology can slow down and even derail the mission God has called you to. Effective technology can scale and accelerate it. What is that worth? Every church must determine their own answer to that question.
Does CCB assist the church with online giving? Is it easy to link to one's current online giving provider?
Yes we do! We provide a full suite of donor management tools including online giving. We also support one-time giving without requiring the donor to create a login, which removes a huge barrier to the first-time giver! We offer several different provider options on the merchant side as well. The choices are designed to support the wide variety of functional and budget needs we encounter.
What are the most common mistakes churches make while evaluating church management systems?
Here are the big ones Rusty. These are the ones that often lead to a misalignment of technology and purpose….ultimately resulting in a bad case of buyers remorse!
- Believing software is the answer to process problems - There is often serious resistance to making the changes that REALLY matter. Changing your software alone won’t fix systemic problems. (Check out Tony Morgan's Leisure Suit Trap for more insight.)
- Executive leadership opts out of the conversation. If they only knew how that handicaps their staff and their ministry goals, they would not do this. (Dig in on this topic here.)
- Emphasizing what they pay today over the long term cost of their decision - Whoever came up with the saying, “Cheap is good. Free is better.” has provided justification for some very poor technology decisions.
- Viewing their ChMS provider in the same way they view who they buy computers from - A ChMS, used properly, is a mission-critical tool which supports your most important ministry processes. It can and should become "hard-wired" into the DNA of your church. This requires a church to see the ChMS provider as a partner in ministry, not a vendor. It is important to assess not only the technology but the company that develops and supports that technology.
As my church analyzed options for a new management system, I quickly realized that the issue was much less about the system, and more about the ability of those using it to utilize the system to its full potential. It is vital to have a provider that becomes your partner in providing an easy to understand and simple to use database. Check out CCB. Thanks Steve for your thoughts!