Your church management system (ChMS) is more your church’s phonebook. If you invest some time on the front end, you can leverage its power in a way that helps you minister more effectively. Regardless of whether or not you use Planning Center, PushPay or something else. These six tips will help you maximize the potential of your ChMS.
Tip #1: Deploy features in phases
Your ChMS has many capabilities to support your ministry. Avoid overwhelming your ministry team (or yourself!), by starting with the core areas—things like person profiles, groups, and check-in. Spend time planning how to organize your data structures. What custom fields do you want to capture in people’s profiles? Should you organize groups by campus or ministry first?
Tip #2: Develop a feature roadmap
Roadmaps are so important to church management system rollout! By showing when new features will be rolled out, you can help everyone prepare for change effectively. Plus, roadmaps help your staff buy-in and can generate excitement. When launching a new feature, invite groups of users in for a user trial. This lets them give feedback on the process and gives you the chance to make changes before rolling it out to the rest of the organization.
This roadmap, involving feature phases and dates, can live in a project scope to keep everyone together.
Tip #3: Keep your ChMS data clean
Your church management system can become the single source of truth about your congregation if the data is clean. Things like keeping contact information up to date in person profiles, deactivating person profiles of those no longer attending your church, merging duplicate profiles, and asking small group leaders to update their group rosters can help your data maintain a high level of accuracy over time. Without this maintenance, your database will become unreliable. As soon as that happens, your staff will find other ways to track information and support their ministry. It doesn’t matter if you assign a staff person with this responsibility or recruit volunteers to help. It’s a culture that you want to instill (and reinforce) in your organization.
Tip #4: Train your staff and document FAQs
If you want to get staff to stop using external solutions to track their volunteers and small group members, training is the key. Most problems or frustrations churches have with their ChMS can be solved with education and training. Spend time creating (or finding) training classes, videos, and tip sheets to help them learn to use the ChMS. You want to teach them how to fish. For example, training staff to create a registration form on their own and reviewing it together is a much better use of time than creating registration forms yourself every time.
Tip #5: Raise up power users
Each department tends to leverage particular functions in the ChMS (e.g. check-in for the children’s ministry, registration for the small groups ministry). In order to empower your ministries to go at their pace, nominate a ChMS power user for each department. Spend time developing their skills in those frequently used areas. Slowly they can become your first-line of support for your ChMS. Once you have a solid group of power users, you will have freed up time to invest in custom projects and explore new capabilities.
Tip #6: Plug into Church Management System user communities
One of the best ways to discover new ways to leverage your ChMS is by seeing how other churches are doing it. Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know. You may discover a more elegant way to set up a registration form for childcare, or streamline a process that takes a lot of time. You also have an opportunity to contribute to the community by answering questions posted by other ChMS administrators. If possible, attend the ChMS vendor’s annual user conference, listen to their podcasts, and read their blogs to stay on top of the latest and greatest innovations and best practices. The richer the community, the better these tools can be leveraged for ministry.