Church Management Software

It’s time to add this page on to my collection/fixed series of content on Church & Technology: Church Management Software.

Whilst my involvement with the church management software has only really taken off this year (2014), a previous pilot project was conducted throughout 2012, when the Church Community Builder (CCB) online system was first considered for use at Clayton Church of Christ. I will not be explaining too much about CCB core functionality, since their website does all the marketing proper. This article is more a commentary on the approach and roll-out we have been taking with CCB @ Clayton.

CCB offers a very extensive range of features. To adopt and implement ALL features is not for every church. At Clayton, the first major function and need that CCB has been used for is in the process management for newcomers and follow-ups. So, if you attend Clayton and you fill in one of the Connection cards, your details as a newcomer will be entered into the system. Naturally, information security is a very important and the church has been very careful over the years to protect the privacy of its members. This culture continues even today with the tools at our disposal – whether the management tools are localised to the office premises or stored online. CCB has demonstrated over the years through the numerous churches that they have supported, that they understand this concern of many churches and ensure that all data is securely protected.

The 2012 pilot saw the group/department structure created in CCB to serve a group of cell groups within the one zone. An initial set of reviews and analysis was formed as a result of the outcomes – the profile of the groups and leaders involved were from the 20/30s age group and more technology-savvy.

Increased adoption and use of CCB features has since expanded into event and facilities management. One of the first events that saw a greater commitment to CCB was its use during the 2012 Open Day events, when we used the form capability to record entries into the iPad raffle/draw. Since then, various events held at church, in particular the Discipleship Conferences of 2013 and 2014 have utilised the CCB forms to manage registrations. I contributed to increasing our rate of adoption by replacing the initial paper-based registrations at arrival for the 2014 Cell Leaders Workshop sessions with online registration on iPad. At the first session held in June, as the first attempt, I created a super simple registration form which simply captured the participant’s name and email detail. For the first session in June I used one iPad to manage registrations, which seem to work given people did not descend or converge all at once. For the second session, given the expected numbers were slightly higher, I grabbed one of the worship team iPads which proved crucial since a higher volume of arrivals did mean the second unit to handle registrations was ideal to avoid bottlenecks.

Throughout 2014 CCB data and department/group structures have been refreshed as part of preparing us to rollout and implement CCB as a church-wide communication tool. Part of the communications and change strategy explored thus far includes and reflects general change management principles:

  • We have to start from the top (Pastoral team) and work our way down the organisation structure, through Zone Leaders first, before we can extend our coverage and reach to Cell Group leaders.
  • Rolling CCB out to every single member of the church is an ideal but will likely face resistance from the least technology-savvy members.
  • I am a big believer that the adoption of any technology/tool needs to driven by the obvious practical benefits – functionally as well in the time savings, convenience and simplicity.
  • In support the last point, demonstrating the practical benefits is important. One good example that was discussed was information required for cell groups when they are rostered on for morning tea service, or even church lunch preparation. Having a central information location within CCB makes sense, and helps to drive adoption of the tool in that cell leaders can go there for easy up-to-date information on various church functions.

I see the need to slowly make available more and more functions of church management and information via CCB as the way to helping stagger the roll-out and increased adoption of the tool.

For the more technology-savvy cell groups, individual members could be given access to the tool and direct communication could be delivered via CCB.

My initial entry into the world of CCB as a church management tool was driven by a volunteer effort early in 2014. Leading on from various discussions, I had spoken with the then newly appointed Discipleship Director of the church and offered to assist with taking the basic cell health check survey tool to the next level. My initial effort was in creating an Excel macro-based dashboard report, following the same structure/model from a work-based implementation. Having successfully demonstrated this and piloted the survey with my cell group, I explained that in order to address the limitations of accessibility in the Excel implementation, we should explore an online implementation/delivery. The moment I started asking and poking in the space of the online/IT subject matter experts within the church, I was directed to the church elder/leader in charge of CCB. The rest is history, as demonstrated by the content of this article.

One of the interesting potentials in moving forwards is that from a general information and content management function, the church has access to Microsoft SharePoint, which is a enterprise-strength content management tool. Unlike CCB, implementing SharePoint for a church would require a complete information architecture blueprint and a bit of development effort to create the custom lists and artefacts. Technically, SharePoint could deliver everything CCB offers plus more. In one sense, I see a parallel here because my consulting firm has been on this very journey – implementing SharePoint within the office environment for the last year or so – and I have had the opportunity to contribute towards that effort during February 2014.

Adoption of Microsoft SharePoint within the church office should only be considered as part of shifting and fully embracing the Microsoft Office 365 suite of products, including Microsoft Exchange and Office Communicator, both of which take the whole email and messaging paradigm to a whole new level. For now, it has been agreed that this is collectively too much change for the church office and pastoral team to endure. However, over time, this strategy may be eventually and slowly pursued.

CCB offers the ability to integrate into a church’s financial system, particularly capital fundraising programs. For Clayton Church, our capital fundraising program was initiated before consideration of CCB, and as such the Clayton Building Fund that financed the demolition and total redesign/rebuild of the current building operates and will continue to operate separately from CCB and any online self-service capability.

One other area that may have more practical and feasible changes of adoption include membership online voting for all appointments which have traditionally been subjected to paper-based election/voting practices. There are a number of specific routine practices where the online CCB capability could be used to realise greater efficiency and information management. Registration at the AGM in November is likely to be targeted given the proven track record we have had in this kind of capability.

CCB branches out further with the range of functions tied to Positions and Needs. These are currently untapped areas of CCB that Clayton Church is yet to explore in-depth. Lack of adoption has prevent these areas from being utilised to support the move to a second Sunday service later this year. Whilst we engaged the church congregation and had the online survey/form available via CCB, the vast majority of responses were captured over a fortnight period using paper-based forms. The required time-frames and need for quick information has meant that this opportunity to promote adoption of CCB has gone unfulfilled.

Other church management tools are no doubt available. CCB appears to be a specific product designed for churches; it fits very well into the natural needs of the church and administration so minimal customisation is required. At the other end of the scale tools like Microsoft SharePoint require a comprehensive customisation and development effort. No matter what the tool, its usefulness is ultimately controlled and determined by the source content – in this way, current focus is being placed by the pastoral team on ensuring the information and teaching of the church is presented in a modern and relevant way to ensuring the church can effectively equip people in their Spiritual journey of encountering God, applying His Word and loving one another within cell groups and beyond.

You can read a more CCB-specific review here.

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