Many churches struggle when trying to find software and technology to support their initiatives. And even when they find the right tools, making everything come together can be very difficult. There are simply too many stories of failed technology implementations in churches
. The articles on this page are an attempt to give some sound advice from an unbiased viewpoint. ChurchLead is technology neutral in that the goal is to find the right technology for a particular church in a specific situation. There are too many variables in that equation to be satisfied by one company or one product. Churchlead can help you clearly identify the best choice and then help you make it happen.
Sunday, April 17 2011
The following tools are not really ChMS tools, but have a lot of the same functionality. If you are serious about engaging with people online, then these tools may be for you. With the proper planning and implementation, they could be powerful assets to church initiatives. If you would like to discuss your specific situation and determine the best technology, drop me a message or leave a comment. I would love to hear of other tools that your church has found useful.
SoChurch - SoChurch is a brand new tool dedicated to improve the communication in your church. It is not really a church management system, but helps you keep up with people using all of the various social media tools.
Sunday, April 17 2011
I am a big proponent of web-based church management systems that are hosted by a third party. This would also be called a "cloud" approach to managing your church information. It is particularly useful when your church leadership is geographically spread out. The following systems are recommended systems. I do not claim for this list to be a comprehensive guide to all ChMS products. If you want a detailed list of features of the various systems, see the information on the Christian Computing website. Each of the following has strengths and weaknesses. It is important to do enough research to determine if it provides functionality that you need.
- Fellowship One - A comprehensive system with a lot of functionality and extensive reporting. This is a great choice for a church that is using one of the older systems like Shelby or ACS and wants to move to a web-based system. With many options comes a great deal of complexity. This is a "lot of system" for many small churches.
- Church Community Builder - A comprehensive system with a great way of creating custom work processes like event follow up or visitor connection. This is a very good system for a church built on small groups. (that is a church of small groups, not a church with small groups) Churches that are not group centric may struggle a bit with the group approach use throughout the system.
- Connection Power - The best part of this system by far is what they call "Power Visitor". Connection Power was recently purchased by Active Network which also just purchased Fellowship One. Connection Power will essentially be going away. Their current customers have the option of converting to the current version of F1 or to wait until a new version comes out sometime in 2012. Stay tuned...
- Ignite CRM - This is new system from Faith Highway. It is built with visitor connection and engagement in mind. Like I said, it is new, but I like what I see so far. Unfortunately, it does not yet provide a secure kiosk check-in feature.
If you have a success story to share, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you!
Saturday, April 02 2011
Having helped hundreds of churches implement various technology solutions, I have come to appreciate the difference between potential and real improvement in church processes. Simply put, purchase decisions are made on the potential
of becoming more effective, while the reality is that most will never achieve success. The reason for this phenomenon is different in every church but I have seen several factors that are common.
- Technology implementation is viewed as an issue of minor importance. This is a misguided perception, but all too common. If proper use and application of tools were not important, I would be able to build a house with the tools in my garage! After all, they are the right tools. The truth is that I could build something using my tools, but it would not be a house you would want to live in! The correlation is that the implementation process will be the determining factor between success and failure. Since technology is just a tool for a church to use, it is incumbent on the leaders to make sure that the tools are used properly and for the right purpose.
- Technology implementation is viewed as a lower priority than all other ministry activities. On the surface, this seems like a reasonable statement. After all, it is the ministry that matters, right? Well, yes, but if the implementation is never temporarily elevated to a high place of priority it will never be used effectively. Leaders must properly position the project as a temporary high priority so that there can be an actual improvement in ministry performance. Afterward, technology can go back to it's appropriate supporting role.
- Technology implementation is not put in proper perspective. Let's face it, change = pain! People don't like change and they resist the hard work unless they see the value in the outcome. The staff needs to know that the change is being made for the improvement of ministry efforts and not just to have the latest technology. The senior leadership of the staff will either sanction the project by properly framing the intent of the changes or they will allow it to languish in obscurity. Typically, all I want from a senior pastor on a technology project is for him to share his perspective of why the changes are needed with the staff. The project requires his unwavering support of the implementation process and the intent to see it to the finish. I like to think of it as similar to early settlers burning the ships on the shore so that everyone knew that going back was not an option.
- Technology implementation is led by someone with too little authority. A good implementation plan will include tasks that need to be performed and accountability for those who have been given those tasks. Many times, an administrative person of the staff has been given the unenviable task of managing the project. How can they possibly hold a pastor accountable for their tasks? The most successful implementations of technology always have a senior staff leader who owns the project to completion.
It all comes down to this. If the benefit of the technology is never achieved, then all of the planning and effort was a complete and utter waste of time and money. The worst part is that the staff had to go through the pain of change even though the benefit was not attained. Most times, we just blame the technology and look for a new solution rather than admit that the implementation was a failure. It is always humorous to hear people get excited about a cool feature in a new software program that existed in their old
There are many reasons to implement new technology. I encourage churches to use as much care in the implementation as they did in the tool selection. Technology can provide great benefits if it is used the right way
, at the right time
, by the right people
, with the right training
, for the right purpose
Friday, April 01 2011
Just a few years ago, the biggest issue that faced churches when building a website was determining the primary audience and message. Now, this is only the beginning, as the website has become only one of many online tools used in a communication strategy. Churches routinely use Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and websites along with the face-to-face messages to reach people. While it is great to have so many tools, it does present a problem. The problem with using the various modalities of communication is that it becomes hard for an outsider to get the whole picture of an organization. For example, Twitter can be a great tool, but it is limited to only short bursts of text of 140 characters each. There have been some creative ways that this has been used, but it is virtually impossible to convey a church's identity and message with tweets alone. Sermons and teaching sessions are obviously longer, but it is not practical to go through all of the opportunities for involvement in every occasion. This is where the website comes into the picture. The website can and should be an easy next step for people who find the tweets or hear the sermon.
The website needs to be an "information and communication hub"
where people can find all the various ways that they can learn about the church as well as connect with other people who are involved. It can be a starting point, but it can also be more of a point of convergence from all of the tools being used. Blog posts, tweets, status updates and "likes" can all be linked together via the website where the whole message can be shared. For example, a person might read a Facebook update which references a blog post which links back to the church website.
The website also serves as a hub to re-enforce the messages that are delivered in face-to-face situations. Through some strategic planning, the experiences of an event can be enhanced and extended with direct communication, discussion and other online resources. The diagram below shows the interconnected relationship of the various communication mechanisms.
Technology can be a useful tool in churches if it is properly implemented
. I encourage church leaders to reassess their communication methodology and determine the best way to impact people at this point in time.