I’ve been doing some research lately on all of the different options for church management software. The market ranges from software that was written in someone’s basement on Windows 3.1 to complete enterprise resource solutions for megachurches.
Although the process can be daunting, selecting the right one is important, because they all offer a different feature set. Here are some of the major differences I found.
Platform: Desktop, web, or mobile
There are several disadvantages to software that runs on the desktop. The most obvious is that you need to physically be at the computer on which the software is installed to use it. Some of the desktop solutions offer support for networking, but setting this up can be difficult, and you must usually purchase separate licenses for each computer on the network.
Some solutions will run on mobile devices and smartphones. This is useful for tracking attendance at events away from your regular meeting location. I have plans to add iPad and iPhone support to Best Attendance in the future for this reason.
Web based applications are awesome because you can run the software from any computer with an internet connection regardless of operating system. You don’t need to worry about backing up your data or networking infrastructure, because the application provider takes care of those details for you.
Another disadvantage of desktop software is that it usually represents a huge upfront investment. Support plans are generally sold separately. Bills for web based software are small and occur at regular intervals. Support is usually included.
Some solutions on the market try to be everything to everyone. They contain a huge feature list, including everything from accounting to social media. Some churches have a bona fide need for these features, but many do not. Usage of large software systems follows the Pareto principle: 80% of the users use 20% of the features. Another problem with choosing overly complex software is that it requires you to change the way you work to fit the software. It really should be the other way around – software should help improve your work, not force you to redefine it.
Asking yourself the following questions will help you decide which solution is best for your church:
- Do I need to access the system from places other than my church?
- Should I pay a large upfront fee, or should I pay small periodic fees?
- What features do I need?
- Will I need to change the way I work to accommodate the software?
- How steep is the learning curve for the software?
Take Attendance Online
Best Attendance is the easiest way for organizations to share event calendars, take attendance, update membership rosters, and communicate online. Try it free for 45 days.