Thankfully, there are many incredible church management software programs available to support a church’s growing needs. You’re most likely already using one of them.

If so, I don’t have to tell you about the value a comprehensive ChMS tool can provide to your church. What I can tell you, however, is that not every ChMS is created equal.

With that in mind, if your ChMS tool has lost its ability to effectively support your church, it might be time to consider upgrading to a new one.

Once you’ve chosen a ChMS vendor, here are some great tips on how to implement a new ChMS tool.

Tip No. 1: Leverage Assistance from the New Vendor

Many ChMS vendors offer training and implementation assistance for those new to the software — though sometimes for a fee. If your budget allows, this additional service has huge advantages. You’ll end up with a faster, cleaner implementation than if you had tried to do it on your own.

If you decide not to use the vendor’s assistance, request instructions from them on how to import data from your old ChMS tool (or spreadsheets, whatever you’ve been using) into the new one.

Tip No. 2: Set Up Roles

Before you get to the nitty-gritty of data import, it’s important to establish roles within your team. Think about who on your staff will require access to the ChMS tool and what each of them will need access to once in the system.

An administrator role, for example, will need to be able to set up new roles, import data, and other administrative tasks. Other members may only require view-only access or access to see certain types of data.

This, of course, is going to vary from church to church. It’s helpful to define exactly what you want each role to be able to see and do, then use instructions from the software company to set these up in the system.

Tip No. 3: Create Workflows

Many ChMS tools provide a method for creating workflows that automatically assign a task to an individual based on a trigger event. For example, the entry of a new visitor card triggers Joe Staff Member to send an email to all new visitors from that week.

This can be a huge timesaver for your team while ensuring people don’t fall through the cracks. Churchteams has an excellent workflow automation service that is pretty representative of most ChMS vendors. See some of its features here.

For the workflows you know you’ll want ready when you go live, go ahead and create those in the new system so you can test them.

Tip No. 4: Use a Test Environment

Instead of importing data over and expecting everyone to use the new system right away, keep using your current system while you train staff and volunteers on the new one.

Ask your new vendor if they have a test environment you could use or if you can try things out in your version and then delete everything before importing real data. Typically, vendors are willing to work with you on this.

Tip No. 5: Provide Real Training

No matter how user-friendly the new ChMS seems, you still need to train all staff and volunteers who will use the system. Schedule training sessions based on roles and the functionality each role will require.

If the vendor provides training videos, start with these during your sessions. However, something to keep in mind, you’ll also need to instruct people on how to use the tool based on your church’s policies and procedures.

Tip No. 6: Create an Implementation Schedule

While you’re exporting data out of the old system and importing it into the new system, you’ll need to keep everyone out of both tools to make sure you don’t lose any data. If your church website connects to an event calendar, small group signup, event registration, or another aspect of the old ChMS, you’ll need to decide when to remove those connections and when to connect them to the new ChMS.

To do this, start by creating an implementation schedule that includes a detailed timeline and assigned task list. Let users of the old ChMS know when you’ll turn off access so they know when that’s coming.

Tip No. 7: Implement and Test

Once you’ve brought over data and reestablished website connections, test the system. Some things to look for include:

  • Does the number of records in the new system match the number of records in the old system?
  • Spot check a few records to ensure what was in the old system made it over correctly.
  • Can you view events on the church website like you could with the old system?
  • Are the workflows functioning as intended?
  • Is each role working correctly (someone with a view-only role isn’t able to edit any records)?

As soon as you’ve confirmed that all data came over correctly and that the new system is ready for use, open it up to users and give staff/volunteers the official green light.

Tip No. 8: Provide a Feedback Loop

Sometimes complaints about a new system are due to frustration with getting used to something new. To help everyone embrace the new ChMS, give them an easy way to submit their questions and offer feedback.

As you receive this information, use it to determine whether or not additional training is needed, if you need to change a particular setting, or if you should contact the vendor’s support team.

Whatever the result, make sure you get back to the person who submitted the feedback quickly (especially within the first month of use), as this is a critical time of implementation.

Change is exciting, but it can also be stressful. These tips to implementing a new ChMS tool will keep you and your church staff organized — and less stressed — as you move on to newer and better procedures for your ministry.