In our experience consulting with churches who are looking for new church management software, there is one “main thing” that triggers most churches’ search in the first place. People don’t trust their data. The reason they don’t trust their data is that many times, the information doesn’t add up. In some cases, they don’t have the data that they need; but in others, staff members aren’t even using the same data.
How Did We Get Here
The church may have a Church Management Software package that “should” be the accurate source of its most important information, but many times this is not the case. How can this be? Shouldn’t we be able to rely on one unified set of data? Shouldn’t everyone have access to the same data? That seems like a straightforward proposition until you consider what happens in most churches.
Different staff members in each department in a church may have a different comfort level with the chosen church management software (ChMS). Because some departments are not using the ChMS (or not using it holistically or consistently), departmental staff may create their own “workarounds” that feel more comfortable and effective. It is common in these situations for staff to start looking for other solutions, apps, or alternatives.
The result is that a dozen spreadsheets or applications may exist across a dozen departments – all containing part of the data. Some include essential activity information or contact information like phone numbers, addresses, and emails. A problem occurs when updates to activity or contact information captured in a specific department get updated only to that particular department’s spreadsheet or application. Further compounding the problem, the quality and consistency of those updates may well depend on who received the update or the process by which the department identifies, captures and saves updated information.
A Broken View
With this type of unstructured data management in place, it is tough for leadership to see the whole picture. For instance, when the executive pastor needs a report to gain visibility of the congregation and understand who is heavily involved in the church or who is disengaging from the life of the church, it can take days – if it’s possible at all – for administrative staff to compile a report. By the time these reports get done, no one is entirely sure the information is complete and accurate. Thus, the information contained in the report does not provide a reliable or confident basis for making important ministry and stewardship decisions.
Collective Commitment to the Single Source of Truth
In our experience, the first step in discussing church management software is to gain everyone’s agreement and commitment to the proposition that the ChMS is the “Single Source of Truth” for all people and activity data. From there, the staff has to decide how to adjust processes to make the ChMS work as the Single Source of Truth, and to ensure that all staff members comply with the agreed processes. If, after evaluation, the church needs to alter some processes, they can decide to do so on an intentional basis. We emphasize that the church must intentionally make changes on an agreed-upon basis with all relevant parties aware of the changes.
To ensure the accuracy, validity, and efficacy of church data, the staff members must not “go rogue.” In several places in the book of Judges we read, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This strategy was devastating to the spiritual health of the nation of Israel and caused almost incalculable pain.
While certainly not as dramatic as the scenario described in Judges, a similar approach to data management in the church – everyone doing what is most comfortable for them or their department – will produce negative, frustrating results. Moreover, it will tend to negate the very benefits of having a ChMS in the first place. So, why we do not argue that your ChMS should be the “King,” we would recommend that you implement and use your ChMS in such a way that it truly is your church’s Single Source of Truth for important people and activity data.
Enable helps churches utilize their ChMS and other technology assets to their fullest so that they become tools to help serve people, change lives, and expand the Kingdom, all to the glory of God. If you need help configuring software, processes or workflows to ensure that your ChMS is genuinely your “single source of truth,” please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to serve you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how Enable can help your church!