While most discussions surrounding modern ministry turn to packed megachurches, not much attention is given to those that make up the majority of churches in America. According to the National Congregations Study, the average Christian church has 186 regular attendees. And 59% of US churches have 99 or fewer in weekly attendance.
Although small churches may not have the same number of resources and members as a larger church, technology like church management software can still be a valuable tool for them. But taking the step to a ChMS is a major decision. If your small church is considering the move, check out the answers to these four common questions:
1. Does my small church really need a ChMS?
Many small churches may think that a ChMS is unnecessary because of their size—they only have 75 members, so why would they need the same technology as a church of 7,500? But the basic processes that shape how the church operates are the same whether you’re a small congregation or a megachurch.
Every church still needs an organized method for managing membership records, events, and communication. Small churches have donations to record and ministry roles to fill. Just because your country church sees humble attendance numbers doesn’t mean your ministry is any less important than the large urban churches.
In an effort to save money and resources, many smaller churches will turn to a program like Excel for managing all of their church data. But as more and more information is added to the mix, records can become overwhelming to manage in this format.
By streamlining processes with a ChMS, churches can better care for visitors, members, and volunteers. They can easily follow up and monitor the discipleship process. So people aren’t just visiting your church—they’re staying and getting connected. And your church starts to grow.
2. Can my small church afford a ChMS?
Don’t be scared away by confusing pricing pyramids and numbers that seem to exhaust your church budget. The price you pay typically depends on the size of your church—average weekly attendance, for example. So the cost for your small church would be much less than your large counterpart. And many providers, like Elexio, offer special pricing for church plants.
While an added cost each month could seem like a drain on your finances, consider the time your staff and volunteers will save on one-time data entry. When everything is in the same place, you can work efficiently and dedicate more resources to discipleship.
Many churches that adopt church management software and its added giving options also see an increase in donations. People are more inclined to give when it’s easier for them, so the ChMS often begins to pay for itself.
Open source software has become popular among smaller churches because free sounds like a great price. But understand that these products can cost the church in the long run—in more than just financial ways. They often don’t have the funds or manpower to keep the technology current, make bug fixes, or provide support. If you opt for an open source software now, you may eventually need to make the switch to a paid ChMS.
3. How do I know which ChMS is right for my church?
While cost is certainly going to come into play when selecting a ChMS, the price tag should not be the only determining factor. Church management software is not one-size-fits-all. As a small church, you should look for a solution that’s simple enough to use for the basic functions you need right now but can still grow with you. Will it integrate with other solutions when the church grows, yet allow you to engage and connect as you do now?
Some other important questions to consider—especially if a non-tech staff person or volunteer will be managing the system—are: Can they offer the personal support you need? Can you contact them in a variety of ways and expect a timely response? Is it easy for staff and volunteers to use, yet powerful?
4. How can my small church get started?
- Make sure you have the resources to effectively manage a ChMS database. Even the best solutions will have a learning curve and require substantial time to manage. Recruit the help you’ll need to get started—staff or volunteers who can dedicate the energy needed to effectively use this tool for your ministry.
- Do your research and take advantage of free demos to find the best fit for your church. Ask questions. Read the reviews. Choosing a ChMS for your church is an important decision.
- Pray and seek advice as you narrow down the list of contenders. Hopefully you will stick with your ChMS for years to come, so you want to find a good match for your ministry.
Check out some other great resources for the small church:
Image Credits: istockphoto