Elexio Church Management Software Blog

Whiteboard: The Moses Method for Choosing Church Software

In this whiteboard session, Rodney provides the initial steps of using the Moses Method to choose the best software for your church.

Whiteboard: The Moses Method for Choosing Church Software from Elexio on Vimeo.

Video Transcription:

Hi. Welcome to an Elexio Whiteboard. In today’s Whiteboard, we’re talking about the Moses Method. It’s a method for making a software selection and more specifically, making a software selection for your church. A church makes many big decisions, and the process of going about picking a new software product can be challenging. There’s a lot of different types of software that churches use. You’ve got somebody that provides your website, check-in software. You may have different vendors for giving software. And the one that is probably the biggest challenge to go about replacing is your church management software, or sometimes called your church database.

The Moses Method is really designed to be a way to manage that process, and the reason it’s called the Moses Method is that it comes from Numbers 13. It’s a story most of us know, the story of when Moses sends a group of scouts or spies into the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, to take a look and see what they’re up against. Well, I use Numbers 13 as just a guide for making and managing this process of selecting new software.

In today’s Whiteboard, we’ll look at the first two phases. It’s really a four-phase method for managing this. We’ll look at these first two phases, and then in a follow-up Whiteboard, we’ll get into the second half. It’s a logical break because these first two really will take place before you ever talk to a potential new vendor. These are things you can do to prepare and really be ready, to have a successful search and ultimately implementation of a new church database.

Okay, let’s jump right in. Phase one of the Moses Method is Clarity, seeking what I would call “Moses-level clarity”. Now, setting high goals can sometimes be disappointing if you don’t feel like there’s any way you’ll get to them, and this may be one of those. Getting the kind of clarity that Moses had about leading the Israelites probably isn’t realistic. But if you set it as your goal to have definite clarity about whether or not your church is going to purchase new software, can really help you get through the whole process.

So a couple of suggestions on arriving at near Moses-level clarity. You probably won’t get the same kind of communication that Moses got. You’re probably not going to just hear from God to say, “You absolutely need to purchase new church management software.” But what you can do is be prayerful about the challenges your church is having and pray specific technology prayers. If you are struggling with growth, if giving is trailing off, if your children’s ministry is struggling with capturing attendance and managing security and name tags and things of that nature, if your website’s all wrong, whatever it happens to be, those things can be indicators of where technology could play a part in improving your ministry. I don’t mean to suggest that software will solve and be the only part of solving those problems, but they can be clues to a place where a new technology could make an impact.

So again, we’re calling this clarity. And not just any kind of clarity; it’s Moses clarity, really focusing in. And if you can arrive at Moses-level clarity by whatever method that is, it will really help you throughout this entire process. Okay, that’s phase one of the Moses Method for selecting new church management software.

The next one I refer to as 12/4, and really, it’s specifically 12/4 buy-in. If you read in Numbers 13, Moses selects one representative from each tribe, and those become the scouts or the spies that go into the land of Canaan. Now, there’s probably a lot of reasons why he picked 12. It’s logical. There were 12 tribes. But I would certainly think that it had to being going through Moses’ mind that he wanted buy-in. To borrow a common term, a modern day term, he wanted buy-in from all of the tribes, on this move into the Promised Land. And so by selecting 12, he got buy-in.

Well, we know if you read the story, he’s got some challenges on getting buy-in, so I don’t mean to suggest that just what I’m getting ready to talk about, is the only way you’ll get buy-in on making a new software selection. What I do suggest is that you pick a representative group, and that becomes your scout group. So think of them as scouts. You want to pull from a variety of ministry areas. Now, it’s probably not a good idea to pick 12 people to be the scouts because what the scouts will do is they will visit websites for your vendors. They’ll talk to the salespeople from these different software companies. They will participate in, and this is what they’ll spend most of their time doing, they’ll participate in product demonstrations.

Twelve people is too many to do that. I recommend three to six people. Now, you may be doing the math and thinking, “Well, three to six people won’t give me full 12/4-level buy-in across all my ministry areas,” and you’re absolutely right. So what you’ll have to do is get your scouts, whatever it is, three to six people, get those scouts, and you really do need to assign ministry areas for them to represent, and for them to properly represent an area that maybe they don’t work in.

Let’s say you pick one of your scouts to be somebody who currently does contribution data entry for you, and that’s their main task—things related to finance. But you’re going to task that person to also represent the views of, let’s say, the missions team. What do they need in a new church management software? The process of that person, who is a scout representing areas that isn’t their expertise, will cause them to have to go talk to those people and figure out, “What do you need?” And you get a side benefit from this, is that it becomes a team-building effort, that really multiplies this idea of 12/4 buy-in because people have empathy for others and they see that this isn’t just a decision about my needs. I have to look at everybody.

So, super important to following the Moses Method for selecting and having a successful software selection is getting 12/4-level buy-in. So quick review. You as a leader, or whoever it is, some group of people have to get clarity on “Are we going to do this or not?” “Is software the answer or part of the answer?” And then next, move into this idea of, “Okay, we’re going to get a group of scouts together, and they’re going to do most of the leg work.” Ultimately, we all have to do it. They’ll do the initial, but they’ve got to have a multi-phased focus.

One of the biggest mistakes you could make is gathering maybe your admin users together. Maybe they are the biggest users of your current software, and you task them to go out and find new software. If they’re just thinking about things from an administrative standpoint, you could sacrifice a successful purchase process.

Okay, that’s the first half of the Moses Method for buying new software. In our next Whiteboard, we’ll take a look at the next two phases. These take place, when you’re actually doing the search. You’re watching videos, you’re talking to references, all of those different factors that go into making a successful purchase. So we’ll look at these things in our next Elexio Whiteboard. Thanks for watching.

8 ChMS Considerations for Church Plants

church plantMuch prayer and preparation go into a church plant before it ever opens its doors. A secure location, volunteers to manage ministries, and the necessary technology are all important considerations. As church planters determine if they’re ready for a ChMS and which provider to choose, they should keep these eight items in mind:

1. Ease of Use

Church plants might only have one staff member to preach, clean, and pay the bills, so any tools like software should simplify tasks, not make them more challenging. An easy-to-use ChMS will cut down the workload for an overwhelmed staff and make administrative responsibilities more manageable.

2.  Volunteers

Because church plants typically have limited staff, they heavily rely on volunteers to keep things running. Organizing volunteers for every ministry and event can be challenging, even for a church plant. A ChMS should provide simple tools for people to sign up for service opportunities and stay in the loop online.

3. First impressions  

Church plants hope to see dozens of new faces each week as the congregation continues to grow. The experience for those visitors is critical. An efficient way of capturing their contact information and a simple, secure child check-system can make all the difference in that important first impression.

4. Follow-up

Part of growing the church plant is engaging the visitors and getting them to return and ultimately become active members of the church community. A swift follow-up is the first step in transitioning visitors into disciples, so tools that simplify that process are critical to a ChMS for church plants.

5. Assimilation

The assimilation process is often quicker with church plants, and they see a lot of people join within the first year or two. Those new members of the church community need simple ways to connect with a small group and find opportunities to volunteer. An online small group finder or ministry sign-up that’s integrated with the church database will help each person get plugged in.

6. Communication

Communication is always critical to the local church, but especially in the early stages of a church plant. That church needs to communicate with staff, volunteers, visitors, and members in addition to engaging the surrounding community. The ability to reach all these people in a variety of formats from a single platform—within a ChMS—will streamline communication.

7. Giving

During the first year of a church plant, contributions are critical to keeping the ministry alive. Integrated options like text to give, mobile giving, and online giving will make it easy for people to make donations and simplify contribution management.

8. Cost

Budgets are tight for church plants, so some believe that church management software is just a luxury for established churches. But starting off on the right—organized—foot is important and many ChMS providers will provide special pricing for church plants.

Is your church plant utilizing a ChMS as it grows?

4 Reasons Your Church Needs Check-in for VBS

Church VBSAccording to a 2013 Barna study, two-thirds of churches in America still host VBS each year—and the percentages are even higher in mid to large-sized churches. With all those kids, parents, and volunteers circulating through your church, your staff needs to be organized and prepared for this summer hubbub. An intuitive check-in system can take some of the stress off your shoulders by providing a few of the most important elements:

1. Safety

With hundreds of kids coming and going each day, a check-in system can ensure safety. Printed nametags that include food allergies and medical information and security receipts for parents will provide a safe environment for your VBS.

2. Peace of mind

Many of the parents who are dropping off their children have never even attended a service at your church. A secure check-in system will instill confidence as they leave their little ones in your hands for several hours.

2. Efficiency

A streamlined check-in process will save your staff and volunteers time so they don’t spend hours manually recording data for hundreds families.

4. Follow-up 

Your VBS isn’t just about providing a week of cookies, games, and Bible stories; it’s about ministering to your local community. You don’t just want the kids to learn and have fun; you want their entire families to come back to your church. When you quickly collect their information at check-in, a team can follow up with these families.

Step up your church’s VBS check-in game with these tips:

  • Utilize mobile check-in so that the parents who already have your church’s can app begin the process before they even unbuckle their rowdy kids from the car. And station volunteers throughout the check-in area so they can quickly check children in from a tablet.
  • Don’t just track attendance for the kiddos. Ask all your volunteers to check in each day and thank them for their service after the event.
  • Customize your check-in kiosks to match your VBS theme.
  • Make sure your check-in kiosks can run offline. Especially if your check-in station is located outside, you could experience connectivity issues.

Check out these other resources for more helpful tips:

Your Guide to Preparing for Summer at Your Church

Top 10 Things You Need to Recover from VBS this Summer

5 Ways Your Church Check-in System Could Be Holding You Back

 

How to Choose the Right ChMS for Your Church

ChMS feature checklistIf your church is in the market for church management software, you’re probably overwhelmed by the wide variety of solutions out there. From open source options to paid solutions, you’ve got a lot of information to wade through.

But before you dive in head first, consider a few questions:

1. What are you trying to accomplish through a ChMS?

Consider your ministry goals and the processes that you’ve established in order to meet them. If your church hasn’t already determined these important factors, you may need to take a step back—name the things you’d like to accomplish and determine the steps you must follow to do so.

Church management software is designed to simplify the administrative tasks so staff can focus on ministry, but it’s not a magic solution that will fix every problem your church faces. Keep in mind that ChMS can’t repair broken processes, but it can help you optimize them and facilitate discipleship.

2. What are the details of the switch?

  • What are you switching from?

Is your church currently using another ChMS, making do with spreadsheets, or just winging it with no real form of organization? Your transition—including data conversion and training—will vary based on what you’re using now. This will also affect your expectations of a ChMS. Do you realize how robust some solutions are? Will you be using your ChMS to its fullest potential?

  • What is your motivation for switching?

Why is your church looking to make a switch? Do you want to save time or money? Are you unhappy with your current customer service or lack of new updates? Do you want to work with a well-established company that understands ministry?

3. What features and functions do you need?

Not all church management software is created equal. Each will have its strengths and areas for improvement, and each church will have different needs. Who will be using the software and what will they rely on from the data you put into it? Based on your ministry, you might prioritize reporting capability above resource planning. You might need a tool with strong contribution or event management capabilities. Determine what functions your church must accomplish through a ChMS and what features aren’t your highest priorities but will stay on the wish list. Not sure what to look for? Download this feature checklist to get started.

Beyond the basic features of the software, you might also consider:

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is it cloud-based or locally-hosted?
  • Can it integrate with your website, mobile app, or check-in kiosks?
  • Is support available?

Once you know what you’re looking for, you have options:

Open source software

Although open source software might be right for some churches, don’t forget to consider some of the associated costs that come with a free solution.

  • The software might not be as robust and offer all the features of a paid solution—or be as efficient.
  • The solution might not have been fully tested, so all the bugs haven’t been worked out yet.
  • The amount of resources spent on bug fixes and future development is typically limited.
  • Training and implementation resources may not be available.
  • Support might not be available—especially without a fee.
  • Security issues are often a concern.

Proprietary software

Most ministries have limited budgets, but that doesn’t mean they can’t afford church management software. Paid solutions typically offer stronger support, greater longevity, and more advanced features. Still not sure which route is right for your church? Check out this comparison of open source and proprietary software.

Making the final decision

Once you decide the tools and features that your church will need, you should be able to narrow down your list of prospects to a handful of providers. You’ll likely have some phone or email correspondence with them, then schedule demos with those that make the cut.

ChMS providers should be able to connect you with references—other churches in your region, of the same size, or in the same denomination—that face similar challenges in ministry.

Get your entire team involved and take the time to consider your options. You don’t want to make a hasty decision because you could end up putting in more time and money when you need to shop around again next year.

Download this feature checklist now so you can evaluate and compare ChMS providers and learn more about the Elexio Database!

Check out these other helpful resources:

The Smart Guide to Buying Church Management Software

Why Is Church Software So Expensive?

Missional Ministry in Action: Go Beyond 2015

Elexio Go Beyond teamA few weeks ago, Elexio participated for the second year in Go Beyond, a week-long missional initiative here in Lancaster County, PA.

Harvest Bible Chapel of Lancaster launched Go Beyond in 2014, extending their typical Sunday of local service to a full week in order to maximize their impact.

This year, they invited the surrounding community to join them in showing God’s love in practical ways. Twenty different churches—including several of our local church partners—participated, as well as 36 area businesses.

Elexio sent a couple groups to package meals through Go Beyond’s partnership with Global Aid Network. In just two days, 900 volunteers packed 211,000 meals that will be sent to earthquake-ravaged Nepal and Ebola-stricken Liberia.

But Go Beyond wasn’t just about worldwide efforts; most of the 200 projects that combined for 10,000 hours of service benefitted people right here in our local community. In addition to feeding those in need on other continents, the thousands who participated in Go Beyond also:

  • Distributed meals outside a local rescue mission
  • Organized a clothing drive that serviced 1,000 people
  • Participated in a Red Cross blood drive
  • Provided meals for local servicemen
  • Hosted three family fun days that drew hundreds of kids
  • Completed projects at the homes of needy and disabled neighbors
  • Cleaned the surrounding roads
  • Served several meals at a rescue mission

Go Beyond 2015And that list doesn’t even begin to cover all the acts of service completed in just seven days.

To conclude the week of Go Beyond, over 3,000 gathered at nearby Clipper Magazine Stadium for a full worship service, where several people gave their lives to Christ.

Elexio was blessed to play a small role in helping  to demonstrate God’s love through Go Beyond 2015, and we’re praying for an even bigger campaign next year!

How is your church following the missional model and serving others?

Check out these resources on missional ministry:

8 Easy Ways to Be Missional

Missional Ministry: How Even a Large Church Can Do it Well

Two Lies that Keep Families from Being Missional