Choosing the right Church Software for your Congregation
Making a choice in favor of the right software for your church is a major decision because many churches have a limited budget. In order to choose the right software package you must have a pretty clear idea about what you want the software to do and how much money are you willing to spend on it. There is a wide variety of software applications, some targeted on one specific functionality, such as video projectors (used to display song lyrics, announcements, scriptures and other media during worship services – also known as “Worship Church Software”), audio file players, multimedia creation tools or database administration tools, others more complex, delivering an entire set of different functionalities to help you run your church as efficiently as possible.
Church Presentation software
Some of these programs are a little difficult to use by the uninitiated as they have a lot of features and operating modes, but the vast majority remain easy to understand and use and have user-friendly interfaces. Probably an easy-to-use program is the best way to go, especially if the person(s) in charge of managing your church is a volunteer or a person that doesn’t have much computer expertise, and so complicated software will only take extra time and effort to be figured out. Still, irrespective of the software product you eventually choose, there will probably come a time when you’ll encounter a problem and you will need an expert’s help with it. So it’s a good idea to choose a product from a company that offers full customer support – make sure they provide an email, phone and contact address.
Another thing to consider when buying a software program is the number of members your congregation has, as some applications are designed to manage a very large number of people (with their associated information) and this will translate into higher prices. If your congregation is small to medium or you don’t plan on using the software extensively and on a daily basis, you don’t need to buy full-featured, expensive programs.
If you are not a Windows user, you must carefully look at the software product of your choice to see if it has MAC or Linux versions, as most of the applications are made only for Windows. You can check our article about “Church Software for Mac” to see the available products.
If you have a small congregation or your budget is limited, than you can opt for a free package. There is a wide variety of free church software applications from which to choose from: audio and video programs, directory management applications, phone book and picture organizers, and many more. The main drawback of free software packages is that they don’t come with as many fanciful features as the ones that cost. The obvious advantage is that the money that you save can be used for other important needs your congregation may have. This type of church software can easily be found on the internet as there are many software developers that put their free applications on websites so that anyone can use it right away. You just download the software that best suits your needs, without having to take a walk to the store. Some of the applications are executables, meaning that you just download the file(s) to a directory of your choice on your computer and, after extracting the files, run the batch file (.bat extension) that installs the application. You don’t have to be worry if you’ve never used a certain program before, because most of the times these applications come with a documentation that explains the installation steps in a detailed manner. For a list of good free church software programs read our featured article.
Church Management software
A special type of church software is church management software. Church management software is very complex and important for any church or congregation and that is why all, in order to choose the best management solution, you must take into account all of your ministry’s needs as well as all the advantages and disadvantages that different packages have to offer. Today there are approximately 60 types of church management software, each offering solutions for diverse types of churches and for what is generally considered most important to manage and follow by church leaders, like for instance: information about church members, visitors, donations, accounting and finances, event scheduling, follow-up, etc.
However, irrespective of the chose program’s type, you must decide which is the best way in which you can access it. There are two main ways in which you can access a church management software: web-based, when the application is hosted on a web domain, or Desktop-based applications, when the software is installed on one or more PCs which may or may not be networked. Both ways have their pros and cons.
When the software is installed on the web, the greatest advantage is that the information is accessible from any computer or laptop connected to the Internet, at any moment in time and by multiple users at the same time. If you choose this solution, you also have to take into consideration the fact that web hosting implies annual costs. Another downside is that sensitive information can be accessed by hackers, and so a protection system against intruders is an additional desired feature (which also costs money). Also, the Internet connection might fail just when you least expect it.
With Desktop-based applications, the software can be accessed only from that particular PC or, sometimes, from another PC connected to the Local Area Network (LAN). This solution does not imply any additional costs, but you might need to store the data on an external support for increased security, in case something happens to your computer.
For a list of the most used software management packages fow Windows XP or Windows 7, read our article.
Church Software Packages