Church Management Software – 4 Steps to a Successful Implementation

If your current church management software isn’t working for your church, and you’ve decided to make a change, there’s much more involved than just converting data to a new system. Even if everyone on your team hates the current software, there’s still going to be some resistance to change. New software involves learning a new program, possibly changing processes, and the usual implementation headaches. They might all agree that change is necessary, but you still may deal with frustrations along the way. So, how do you have a successful church management software implementation and a happy team? 

Tip #1: Fix Processes First

One trap many people fall into is thinking a new tool will fix all their problems. Unfortunately, even the fanciest and most expensive ChMS can’t correct a broken process. Before you evaluate potential ChMS options, examine the processes you would perform within a new tool.

Here are a few examples of the types of processes to review:

  • First-time guest follow-up
  • Baptism requests
  • Hospital visitation requests and follow-up
  • Small group signup

If these processes aren’t functioning well now, fix those issues first. Decide how you want a process to work manually, then consider how a ChMS could help you automate aspects of each process.

Tip #2: Evaluate Several Church Management Software Options

There are several excellent options for church management systems. That’s the good news! The bad news is that the process to figure out which one will work best for your church can be cumbersome. Take your time evaluating various options and use these tips to make that effort a bit easier.

Tip #2: Perform a Data Clean-Up

If you plan on migrating data from a previous ChMS, take the time now for a data clean-up effort. It doesn’t make sense to bring outdated or inactive records into the new system.  

One way to clean up the database is to remove the records of people who are no longer active at your church. You can find these by running reports to identify people who haven’t donated, registered for an event or small group, checked in as a volunteer, checked in their children, or other key activities within the last 12-24 months.

Here are a few ways to verify you have valid contact information:

  • Send an email to everyone in the system asking them to log in and update their information or reply with the new information (such as a new mailing address).
  • Ask small group leaders to talk with their members about providing updated contact information.
  • Instruct volunteers at your Information Booth, volunteer check-in, and children’s check-in to ask people to verify whether their contact information is up-to-date.
  • In December, make announcements about updating contact information so the church can get giving statements to everyone in time for tax season.

Tip #3: Get Buy-in From Key Influencers

Who within your staff or key volunteers has the most influence? This isn’t always the person in charge of a department. These individuals are those whom your staff and volunteers listen to and whose opinions they value. If they like this new software and are champions of the changes required in the implementation, then the rest of the team is more likely to buy in as well. Once you’ve identified these influencers, get them involved in the selection and implementation planning process. Once they’re on board and like the new system, they’ll be your best champions in getting the team to change.

Tip #4: Make Gradual Changes

Many ChMS applications have multiple modules you can implement separately (giving, check-in, event registration, facilities, etc.). Whenever possible, change over to a single aspect of the new ChMS at a time. For example, you might migrate contact information and start using childcare check-in, but wait a few weeks before using the online profile aspects of the system.

Too much change at once, even good change, can be overwhelming. A phased approach gives your team time to learn the new system gradually. This approach also gives you the flexibility to work out any “bugs” in the process one module at a time.

Tip #5: Invite Feedback

Ask your staff, volunteers, and congregation to provide you with feedback about the new system. Find out what’s working, what isn’t, what they like, and what they dislike. As you receive this input, make whatever changes are appropriate and possible. When you implement requested changes, let everyone know you made the change due to their feedback. This communicates that you’re listening and taking action on their requests. 

It is not easy to change a significant tool such as your church management software, so you need your team to fully support the new direction. As you involve key influencers early on, run a phased implementation, and invite feedback, you should have a much smoother changeover to the new software.

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