I am a self-professed Apple fan boy. When it’s time to upgrade my cell phone, it’s a no-brainer for me — give me the newest iPhone!
Many people aren’t as loyal to a particular brand or platform as I am, so they’re comfortable moving from Apple to Samsung to LG and back again. Their decisions are typically driven by price, features and peer input.
That’s a great way to approach buying a cell phone. It’s a very problematic way to approach choosing a church management system (ChMS). Choosing the right church management system is not as easy as choosing your new phone, but that’s exactly how we see people going through the decision-making process around their next ChMS.
Here are four common decision factors we often see people using the choose their next ChMS (and why they’re problematic):
- “My buddy has this one…” This is probably the top reason we hear people cite when they talk with us. And it’s one of the worst! When you base your ChMS purchase decision around what other churches have done, you’re ignoring your church’s own unique vision and mission. That’s a really critical set of factors to ignore. Every church is unique (or should be), and every church has its own vision, culture, people, and systems. You have to choose a ChMS that aligns best with where those things are today or that’s going to be a good fit for where you want your church to go in the future. That requires much more investigation — and introspection — than just finding out what the church across town is using.
- “It’s the cheapest.…” You’ve probably heard the old cliché ‘you get what you pay for’, right? Clichés become so because they’re true, and this one is no exception. Value and price are completely different conversations, and when we focus exclusively on price we’re missing the more strategic and important elements of the decision. Your ChMS is not your cell phone or copier. It’s the core systems that will be supporting all your ministry efforts for years to come. Why would you want to go with a “cheap” option for that?
- “It’s so cool!” Cool new features, contrary to what the latest marketing efforts will tell you, do not equal quality. Focusing just on the features a ChMS can offer takes away from the strategic approach you need to take when looking for a solution. I know Sunday’s coming and you’ve got a ton of things to do, so it’s tempting to find the tool just helps you get things done. But you have to make sure those task-focused tools all roll up into something more meaningful, something that actually helps you make and grow disciples rather than just check off boxes.
- “It’s what Joe/Jane wanted….” We’ve all been part of conversations where the loudest person in the room wins the day, because everyone else gives in just to end the debate. Oftentimes, I’ve seen this be the finance team who overrules everyone else because no one wants to mess with the money people — and the money people don’t necessarily have the best perspective on a strategic solution because of their focused roles. We all need the money people, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to them, but the local church is called to do so much more than count money and send out giving statements. Those things are necessary, but they’re secondary to stewarding people and growing disciples. Picking a system that makes sense just to the finance team misses that priority.
Don’t minimize the importance of your church management system by picking it based on these criteria. If you do, you’re missing out on so much in terms of what’s possible when a healthy church is supported by the right system.
Confession time: have you used one or more of these criteria to choose your church management system? How did that work out for your church?