Before I felt the call to ministry, I was educated and worked as a software engineer. I was part of the first wave of people in the late nineties who recognized the internet was going to be a daily part of life, and soon. Out of college I went to work for a firm that focused on building the first generation of web-based applications. Today, web-based applications are commonplace; things like online banking, Google Apps, and Amazon Web Services have pushed more and more programs to what we now call the cloud, making our information available anywhere we want and from any device.
In that first job, I helped develop human resource applications for large companies. These programs let supervisors manage their employees directly without the need to contact a call center. Everything was available via your browser. It saved large amounts of time and money because a smaller HR staff could support a greater number of people. One project I worked on was with Sprint. At the time, they were transitioning from being a long-distance company to a wireless provider. This was a necessary move for their survival, but it also meant entering a very competitive market. Efficiency was key. They had to learn to do more with less.
As my career path changed and I entered local church ministry, I was surprised to learn how uncommon it was for congregations to take advantage of the many benefits modern technology had to offer. In 2015, I did a survey of over 100 churches, large and small, about their technology. I was happy to learn that 70% had screens in their worship space, 73% had a website, and 72% had a Facebook page. At the same time, 60% reported having no church management software and an additional 23% reported using outdated PC based systems like Power Church or Church Windows. To me, good church management software is a critical component in any congregation serious about reaching its mission field.
There are a wide variety of options available to congregations to manage their work. Traditionally, church management systems have been difficult to use and so are used primarily for simple tasks like tracking members and contributions. The common legacy systems are problematic because your data your is locked up in one location and you must be on the same network, or the actual computer, to access it. In a world of smartphones and ubiquitous Wi-Fi that simply doesn’t cut it.
Today’s modern church management systems don’t just track members and contributions, though they can do that, they also provide tools for communication, online giving, visitor tracking and follow-up, event registration, and child care check-in. Previously, these sorts of integrated solutions were only available to churches with large budgets and able to afford the many hundreds of dollars a month they cost. Today, any sized church can have access to these powerful tools for as little as $50 a month.
Most congregations are in a place of needing to do more with less. Many have less staff and smaller budgets than before. Yet, we also need to be engaged in new ministries to reach new people. Our only option is to become more efficient. And, like Sprint over a decade ago, an investment in technology can help us spend less time on organization and administration and more time on mission and ministry.
Currently, my favorite tool to help congregations become both more efficient and better equipped for ministry is Breeze CHMS. My area is actually paying for 12 months of Breeze to each of our new church starts as a way for them to organize, communicate, and collect donations. Here are some of the highlights of what Breeze has to offer:
- Cloud based (Your data is available anywhere from any device)
- Member and contribution tracking
- Online event registration
- Online giving (one time and recurring)
- Give by Text (Text the word give to 720-552-6707 to try it out)
- Child care check in and name tag printing
- Group email and texting
- Follow-up tracking
- Free import of data from your existing system
- And much more…
There are other good products on the market with similar features. One place Breeze sets itself apart is in pricing. $50/month for any sized church and any number of records. That’s a bargain.
Let’s talk through some scenarios about why having a system like Breeze is important.
Say a church develops a pastoral care team to visit homebound members, people in the hospital, and follow up with visitors. This can take a lot of burden off the pastor and other leadership and free up time for outreach and evangelism efforts, for example. Yet, this will only work if there is a good system in place the manage the volunteers. With a tool like Breeze, when the pastor or other leader is informed of a need for follow up, they can immediately, through their smartphone, record that information and assign a volunteer. The volunteer will then be alerted and can mark the visit complete once it is done.
In a world where people increasingly do not carry cash or check, it can be difficult for folks to participate in giving as we have traditionally done it. Giving online through a website or even onsite kiosks are problematic because they don’t fit with how most congregations collect donations, i.e. passing the plate. Giving via text, in a way developed specifically for smart phones, gives people a way to give that also fits with our existing worship patterns. Congregations can, and do, spend more than $50/month on just this one feature through other companies. Having it integrated into your church management system could not only save you money, but it could also make things less complicated and more efficient.
Most congregations have events that may interest people in the community. In a time when you can order pizza via an app and schedule an urgent care visit online, having an online registration system is critical because the clipboard in the narthex is just too limiting. You can advertise your event through Facebook or your website and provide a way for someone to register right from their browser. The biggest benefit is having the names and contact information saved in your system so you can follow up after the event with a letter, email, call, or text. The real challenge of turning events into outreach opportunities is opening paths of communication that help someone start forming a relationship with your congregation.
Any congregation serious about improving their vitality needs to invest in tools to help them. It will take some time to learn a new system, but, like learning to ride a bike, that investment will pay off with increased speed and efficiency. It will not cure all that ails you. All congregations need strategies for intentional disciple making and outreach if they want to reach new people with the good news of Jesus Christ. That said, why not stack the deck in your favor by making the organization, administration, communication, and financial stewardship of your congregation as easy and flexible as possible? We can no longer afford inefficient ways of doing things and we can no longer afford to ignore the advantages available to us through modern tools like Breeze.
If you are interested in learning more about Breeze and get a demonstration of its benefits I am offering a free webinar in June. This opportunity is available to anyone.