We've all had moments where the software we're using doesn't seem to be working for us. When it comes to church management software, that tends to mean we aren't getting the information out of it that we want, reports aren't configured the way we expected, it's difficult to set up new functions or features with the system, or other issues.

While our initial instinct is to blame the tool (and the vendor), there are times when these issues truly are due to some form of user error. Before you spend months evaluating software vendors and spending thousands of dollars on a new ChMS, consider these signs that maybe you should relook at what you have now:

Sign 1: No one really knows how to use the software

Depending on when your church initially implemented the current ChMS, many staff members (and volunteers) may not have received formal training on how to use it. Many times, the reason we can't find the information we need or aren't able to set up a workflow how we'd expected is that we don't know how to use the software.

Contact your vendor to see what training they offer. Many provide online videos and documentation that your team can walk through to learn how to use various features. In fact, you may discover features you didn't know you had in your current ChMS.

Sign 2: You're trying to make the software fix a broken process

If you're trying to run a report that shows a list of anyone who joined the church within the last six months, that report is only as accurate as the data entered into the software. If you don't have a consistent process for capturing and entering data into the system, even the most expensive ChMS can't fix that issue.

For every complaint about your ChMS, take a hard look at the processes that might be the real cause of the problem. Correct those issues first, then see if the ChMS works for you.

Sign 3: You have a list of concerns but haven't talked with the vendor

If frustration is building up among the staff about your ChMS, it's time to compile a list of concerns. Find out what everyone on the team wished they could get from the tool. If you don't know how to solve those issues, then it's time to talk with your vendor.

They might recommend a training module, or they may be able to explain how to resolve the problem over the phone. They might be working on a fix already and can tell you when that will be released, or they may tell you that their software isn't designed to do what you're asking.

Regardless of the answer, at least you'll have the chance to let the vendor know that they're at risk of losing you as a customer if these issues aren't resolved. That tends to motivate vendors.

Sign 4: You're not sure what you want instead

Switching to a new ChMS isn't automatically going to resolve your current frustrations. Before making the leap to a different tool, take the time to document exactly what you want a ChMS tool to do for your church.

  • Do you need it to handle the church database and accounting functions, or can those be handled in separate tools?
  • Do you want it to integrate with your church's mobile app, email system or other application?
  • What reports do you want to be able to run? Do you want to be able to access it through a mobile app?

Get specific on what you're looking for in a ChMS before you consider shopping around for a new system. Selecting and transitioning over to a new ChMS is time-consuming and expensive, so it's best to weigh your options before taking that step.