While we tend to expect our church management software (ChMS) to display valuable information on every report, we need to remember that the information it provides is only as useful as the data we enter. If you’ve had your ChMS in place for several years or if you’ve ever switched from one ChMS to another, it might be time for a system cleanup effort.

Here are several tips to help you get started:

1. Review inactive records

Run reports to identify individuals who may no longer be an active member of the church. Look for the following:

  • Individuals who haven’t given financially in 12 months or more
  • Children who haven’t been checked into the nursery or childcare within the last 12 months
  • Individuals who were part of a small group but haven’t attended it in 12 months or more

Consider whether you want to contact these individuals, archive their information, or take other action.

2. Fix outdated or incorrect information

If the Smiths moved last month, did you get their new home address updated in the system? Multiply that by all the potential changes within the congregation, and you could have quite a bit of outdated data.

So, how do you make sure you have the right information? Try sending an email to everyone within the ChMS asking them to update their contact information. Consider offering an incentive for those who log into the system and update their information (offer a free coffee or pastry from the church coffee shop, etc.).

3. Check staff and volunteer access

Review how you’ve set up various access levels within the ChMS. What screens, reports, or data can someone with each role access? What can each role edit or delete? Decide if that setup is still optimal based on how your team is structured and adjust accordingly.

Do you have a process established for updating an individual’s access to your ChMS when a staff member resigns or is fired? Make sure you revoke their access to the system immediately upon the end of employment. Review the list of who has access to the ChMS to confirm former employees no longer have access.

If your ChMS is also your accounting system, scrutinize who has access to any financial records within the system.

Also, if your ChMS vendor bills you based on the number of people who access the system, determine if there’s anyone with a login who doesn’t need it.

4. Review reports

What reports do you have set up within the ChMS? If you have any custom reports, are those still in-use? If not, consider whether it’s time to archive or delete those reports. If there are reports that most people use frequently, see if there’s a way to make those easier to access and view.

5. Check for duplicates

If Jane was a member of the church for a few years and then married Joe, someone might have created a new record for Jane under her married name instead of updating her original record.

Try running a report that shows duplicate email addresses, phone numbers, or even birthdates. That can help you identify potentially duplicative records so you can merge them and then delete (or archive) the duplicate.

6. Review workflows or process queues

Many ChMS tools have a process queue feature. A process queue involves a series of automated actions the ChMS will take based on specific factors.

For example, if Jane indicates she’s interested in joining a particular small group, the ChMS will send a notification to the leader of that small group, so she knows to contact Jane.

Periodically review all process queues to determine if each is still in-use or if it’s still a valid process. Delete or update them as needed.

A ChMS tool is only as useful as the validity of the data within it. By performing a periodic cleanup of the system, you're ensuring it remains a valuable ministry tool for your church.