I’ve never been very impressed with technology in most churches. I’m glad they’re coming on board with computers and projectors and media-infused worship. As a business analyst, I’m always on the leading edge of cost-effective technology. And as an ordained minister, I’m always on the lookout for ways that churches can manage leverage technology to better track God’s work and the people’s lives being touched by the faith community. I’ve found the answer to at least part of the equation.
Have you ever wondered — What percentage of our prayers’ is God answering? How successful are our outreach attempts? What are the names of those visitors from last week? Why don’t we have an up to date list of our community business contacts and partners? Who are our supplies vendors? How can we track and resolve business issues like building projects, contract bidding, technical issues, or any project? Why don’t we have a computer system for checking in/out our children from the children’s ministry? Why don’t we have an information system for helping Sunday School/small group leaders see who is/isn’t showing up? Why don’t youth pastor’s have an information system for tracking medical releases and which kid paid for what event?
The possibilities for information systems in the church are pretty similar for that of a regular business or organization. Yet, few churches go beyond church marketed solutions like ACS (church membership) — this program does little more than name, rank, and serial number. Honestly, it makes me cringe.
Churches need an inexpensive way of managing leveraging what IT resources they have to design simple modules to keep track of all their important information. They need an inexpensive Customer Relationship Management toolkit.
Fortunately, SugarCRM is not only inexpensive, but it’s open-source which typically means that updates are well tested by the developer community, and the product evolves faster than a traditional commercially developed software package. They offer a free community edition but for more robust reporting tools the professional edition is $250 a user per year. That’s not expensive for all the work it does.
You can design your own tracking modules, import all your members, log/track prayer requests, events, and projects from start to finish with all the information available for reporting. Let’s say you’re planning an event and need to keep track of registration, vendors, sponsors, financials, tasks, time/labor, and volunteer staff. You can build a simple module and track any event you plan. If you have attendees fill out a survey, you can fill in that information as well and easily produce a full report detailing the vital stats of that event. Imagine doing that for every event each year. How much easier would that make each event? How much less stress would staff be under knowing the status of each item without worry of forgetting? How much easier would it be to plan the next event with the empirical data from the previous efforts?
This is good analytics and every church needs good analytics. God will always be God and He will always provide for those abiding in Him and seeking His will. But let’s be honest, we can use all the analytical help we can get because of how complex our culture and lives have become. SugarCRM does that for cheap.
God said to trust Him with all your heart — but he also said not to ignore wisdom and discernment in our decisions. It’s time to go beyond the name, rank, and serial numbers applications and plug in a robust IT solution to manage all your church’s administrative relationships.
SugarCRM is just one option of many, but for church’s it is a solid solution to most any information system need. You can check it out at http://www.sugarcrm.com.