Leveraging church management software (ChMS) is how many churches keep up with first-time guests, members, volunteers, and all the data associated with ministry follow-up.

In fact, a ChMS tool — which automates daily operations to assist in membership, donations, event planning, marketing processes, etc. — streamlines the back-office side of things so church leaders can support ministry with an efficient and useful tool. There are, however, a lot of ChMS options to choose from. So, how do you know which one is best for your church?

To help you decide, here are three tips on what to look for in church management software.

Tip No. 1: Determine What You Need a ChMS To Do

As you think about your needs in a ChMS, it’s always good to write it out. Create a list of the processes you want the software to facilitate, such as:

  • Accounting (There aren’t many ChMS vendors who have accounting capabilities within their tool, although most do provide some integration or data transfer from the ChMS to an accounting solution.)
  • Membership directory
  • Coordinate volunteers
  • Manage small groups
  • Children’s check-in
  • Event registration and check-in
  • Service planning
  • Facility management

Be prepared to discuss these processes with potential vendors. Ask how their software would handle each process and see if they can walk you through a demo of how that process would look in their ChMS.

Tip No. 2: Identify Who Will Use the Software

Will staff members and volunteers need access to this tool? Will you provide members of the congregation access to update their contact information and view their donation records?

Once you determine who will use the system, consider their unique needs to anticipate what they’ll want from the ChMS. If you already have a church management tool and are thinking about switching, find out what these groups like/dislike about it.

Tip No. 3: Research Vendors

Before deciding on a ChMS tool, it’s essential to research the companies behind each one. Within the last few years, we’ve seen a great deal of merger and acquisition activity in the ChMS space.

Some of those purchases have gone well for customers while others haven’t. Implementing a new tool involves the initial purchase, possibly a long-term contract, migrating data, training your team, and more. After all that effort, you want this to be a long-term relationship with a vendor you like and trust.

Here are a few items to consider when researching potential vendors:

  • Is their main clientele the church market or is that one of the many industries they serve?
  • Has this vendor been acquired by another company within the last five to 10 years? If so, search Capterra for reviews on the software. Tip: sort the list to see the most recent reviews first. Scan through the reviews to see if there are any comments about the acquisition and how it impacted users.
  • Start contacting your favorite vendors to gather pricing information, find out about their onboarding and setup process, and discuss technical support (and if they provide that on the weekends).
  • Request a demo version to use for a limited period to get a better grasp of how the software works.
  • Ask for client references. Talk with those church leaders and seek out others on your own to get their insights on the tool and the vendor.

Church management software can make all the difference in how your church runs its day-to-day operations. Investing in one should save your church money — and precious time — in the long run.