Get input from all ministry areas
As you start the process of looking for the best church management software for your church, you must consider the needs of all your ministry areas. Each ministry will have their own set of requirements. By involving them from the beginning you’ll have a better chance of getting their buy-in. If you are indeed looking for a “whole church” solution you’ll want everyone invested and excited about the new software.
Create a grid of all requirements
During this phase of your search, you’ll want to start identifying your church’s requirements. Think about how the software could make your life easier. Do you need a centralized database to keep track of your members? Do you need something to track visitor assimilation? Do you need a way to easily communicate through email or text? How about contributions? Do you need a way to keep your children secure and know that you are releasing them to the appropriate parent?
Not only do you want to identify current requirements, think about the future. What are your plans and goals for your church over the next 3 – 5 years? How could this church management solution help you achieve those goals?
As you identify each of the requirements, I would recommend documenting each in a spreadsheet. You may also want to indicate a priority for each requirement. Is this a high priority or a nice to have?
Start Your Research
Once you have all your requirements identified and documented, you’ll want to start researching church software solutions. There are several ways you can identify software that will meet your needs. You can do a google search for church management software. Ask other churches in your area what solutions they use. You could also check out Capterra or Software Advice. They have listings of many of the available software products for specific industries.
I would recommend picking 5 – 10 companies that look like they’d have a solution that could meet your needs. Start diving into their websites looking for information. Many companies have a feature chart on their site. Use that to compare to each of your requirements. If you documented your requirements in a spreadsheet, you could put each company name in a column to the right of the requirement. As you learn that a specific software will meet a requirement … indicate that on the grid.
Use the Trial or Request a Demo
The best way to learn how a potential solution will meet your church’s needs, is to actually use the product. Many software companies offer a free trial. Take advantage of that. Use the software with respect to each of your requirements. Does it meet the requirement? Is it easily accomplished? Indicate that on the grid. If the company does not offer a free trial, request a demo. Have the sales person show you the program. Ask them questions concerning each of the requirements. For example, show me how to create the year end contribution statements.
Once you’ve completed your investigation and documented the result, your grid should give you a good picture of the solutions that would best meet your requirements.
Check Out Reviews and/or Get References
Before finalizing your choice, I would recommend checking out reviews and getting references. Capterra has a quite a few reviews for church management companies on their website. Also, most companies will be happy to supply you with references of other organizations that use their products. Find out how other churches have found the experience of using the software. Did it meet their expectations? How is the customer support?
Based on that feedback, choose the best fit for you church. Happy hunting!