Why Is Church Software So Expensive? Part 1

January 21st 2013

For thirteen years I was a founding pastor and then elder in a church that went from 0 to 2,500 in average attendance. I also started a church software company with no funding and grew it to the point of serving nearly 1,000 churches. As someone who has worked on both sides of the fence, one of the frequently asked questions that has always intrigued me is, “Why does church management software cost so much?”

Great question! Here are a few reasons:

1. Simple economics – We are used to paying low prices for software because MILLIONS of customers buy it and share the burden of development costs. So if a mobile phone app costs $1, and 10 million people buy it, the software company grosses $10 million! This is why most software we buy is less than $99 or even “free”! Facebook gives away their app for “free” because they sell advertising based on my personal data and that of a billion(!) other users.

But in the US, there aren’t billions of potential buyers of church software. There aren’t even millions. There aren’t even hundreds of thousands. Of the roughly 300,000 churches in America, only a fraction of them currently buy church software. This means the cost of producing the software is spread out over relatively few customers.

2. Production Costs – It takes real people a lot of time to create great software. Shocking, right? We’d all love for Artificial Intelligence to take over the job of managing software development.  Alas, it doesn’t; it takes a lot of clever, highly skilled people to create a great church software company. Not only do you need great programmers, but you need knowledgeable support people, sales people with a heart for ministry, and a wise administrative team (Leadership, Office Support, IT, Finance, HR).

Just stop for a minute and count up all those people and what it costs to pay them a fair wage.

And that’s just the people costs! Just like your church, software companies also have to pay rent, buy computers, maintain the supply of coffee and Twizzlers, pay for utilities, pay for health insurance, and so much more…

3. Deep, Feature-Rich Functionality – Most other commercial software is very limited in scope. For example, Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages do one thing—they create documents. That’s it. Modern church management software does contact management, mass emailing and texting, event management, contribution management, attendance tracking, reporting, check-in, all bundled with a mobile app and web portal, and so much more! All of this functionality takes a significant investment to create and maintain.

I have a friend who’s a lead programmer at Microsoft. In our discussion, I was telling him about all the stuff our software does and his response was eye-opening. “Wow, that’s really impressive.” In shock, he said, “We have 2,000 developers working on just one application that does far less than what you just described.”

Hopefully this presents a glimpse into the core reasons that the cost of church software is more than most mainstream business application software. You should also know that most of the leaders in the church software industry are Kingdom-minded, sacrificial servants of Jesus, just like you.  At least at our company, our mission is to provide the most affordable pricing for the churches we serve while maintaining a healthy enough profit to allow us to continue to grow so that we can do even more to expand the cause of Christ. We are driven by our purpose and what God has called us to do.

We have always chosen to invest in technology tools because they bring exponential value. I am far more efficient and effective when I can instantly communicate broadly (mass emailing and texting) and do the work of two admin staff people by using automated tools for routine tasks like event sign-ups, online giving, and automated report distribution. Most people don’t hesitate to pay hundreds of dollars a month for a family plan for their mobile phones. (Yes, I’ve got three teens and a wife and we all have smart phones.  Ouch.) So why wouldn’t you pay that (or even less) for software that benefits your entire church?

Remember: If you are putting great church management software to effective use, what you pay is a fraction of the value you receive for your ministry.


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