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What Is Church Software? A Complete Guide For Lead Pastors

Church software is a growing field of tools and resources used by lead pastors and their leadership teams to manage their church’s information and present their message to the world. Using church software to its fullest potential to both keep current members and bring in new members is vital in this information age.

According to this study, small churches with under 100 members are shrinking and mid-sized churches (between 100 and 250 members) are shrinking the most, but megachurches are holding steady. The second takeaway from that study is that, regardless of size, multi-ethnic congregations are not experiencing the same decline as the rest of the churches in America.

How do we turn this decline around? By knowing who is in our church, how much they participate and making it easy for them to join our community of faith. Thankfully, church software provides a clear path toward those goals.

This article is going to be what I have evaluated to be the best church software based on three key areas:

  • Ease-of-use. Many church members are older or disabled, and we need to keep them in mind.
  • Features. Not every church will use every feature, but a growing church develops new needs all the time.
  • Price. Budgets are tight. Our members pinch pennies these days, and our collection plates feel it first.

Here’s what I’ll cover:

What Is Church Software?

Before I write about what software is best, let’s start with the definition of church software, and look at a few of the features that separate it from other types of software. Keep in mind that church software can also be used by other religious organizations and non-profit organizations.

Church software falls into two distinct categories. The first category is management software. Church management software, or ChMS, compiles the information of your members, your finances, or your staff, and enables you to store and retrieve information about them digitally. ChMS, in the right hands, can be used as a complete church management system that can automate many tasks that your church administration once found tedious or difficult.

Church presentation software is the second category and includes the software used to present your church’s message, both in-house and externally. For instance, the software used to put worship lyrics on a screen for the congregation is under this category, but so is the video editing software that you could use to create a video for Youtube.

Of the two categories, more churches will likely use church management software. I have been to many churches that still sing from hymnals (even within the past few months!), but every church has members, finances, and staff. 

Church Software Features

Features you might be looking for in church software are:

  • Mass email or text messaging through SMS
  • Small group calendars
  • In-app tithing and offering
  • Event check-in and volunteer management
  • Keep track of the congregation with a member directory 
  • Individual or group prayer requests
  • Child check-in/check-out
  • Plan services
  • Generate reports for various cases
  • Create tax statements for church members
  • Display worship lyrics
  • Equalize sound
  • Record video and audio
  • Combine various signals for transmission
  • Display music for musicians
  • Create chord charts or transpose music for musicians
  • Edit photographs or videos into packages to be uploaded online

As you can see, church software has so many features that it might feel overwhelming at first. Don’t worry! In the next section, we’ll try to simplify things by looking at how your leaders and volunteers will use church software to run typical church scenarios.

Church Software Use Cases

Here’s some sample use cases you might turn to church software for.

A large snowstorm comes through Saturday evening. The plows have not come through by Sunday morning, and you call the church elders to confirm that it is that way throughout the city. You send the whole church a text to say that in-person service is canceled, but you will stream a message online.

In our next scenario, Christmas comes on a Friday, but that’s your normal day for choir rehearsal. The worship leader and drama director decide to hold a joint run-through on Wednesday evening (the day before your Christmas Eve service). They both schedule their practices through their church apps, and the choir and drama team both show up on time. The Christmas Pageant, by the way, went flawlessly.

On Monday night, you see a report on the news that a child was taken from a church daycare. You know that would never happen in your church because your childcare team uses software that generates a specific code for each child. No one can take the child without that code.

Your cash giving is down by 50% over last year. Normally, this would be cause for worry, but you feel just fine. Giving on your church’s website and app are up by over 200%. It turns out that people just don’t carry cash on them anymore.

You’ve noticed an increase in the quality of music lately, and your worship leader smiles so much more. You ask her what caused this reaction. She shows you the new software that lets her pick a song and send the right parts to each musician and singer, all while handling the transposition for the type of instrument or the range of the singer. As a bonus, it coordinates with the sound booth to give them the proper lyrics.

Church Management Software vs Church Presentation Software

Here is a handy table that will help you decide if you need church management software or church presentation software based on your most desired features.

Church Management SoftwareChurch Presentation Software
Event management toolsVideo editing
Volunteer coordination toolsSong library with lyrics
Financial reporting and trackingImage or slideshow editing
In-app or online giving, contribution managementAudio equalizer or editing
Group coordination toolsPackaging tools for efficient uploading
Churchwide emails and textsMusic editing and transposition
Track attendance
Update contact information
Managing daily operations
Church membership management

The Best Church Software

So, now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s get into why you’re reading this article: the software! Included in these sections will be some links to more in-depth articles concerning the various types of software and their uses.

The best functionality for your church might be in a mobile app you use for new member follow-up or fundraising. For one pastor, assigning administrative tasks for increased workflow might be the highest priority. Another pastor might focus on event registration and the ability to schedule volunteers for outreach missions.

The Best Church Management Software

The “best” church management software will vary from church to church. The needs of a rural church and a city megachurch are so wildly different that I can’t give a one-size-fits-all recommendation. Instead, I will base my notes below on a mid-sized congregation, using the definition above of a mid-sized church having between 100 and 250 members.

Whichever church management solution you ultimately choose, it should be the one that meets your church needs and is the most user-friendly for you, your church leaders, and your church membership.

With that in mind, Elvanto is your one-stop shop for most churches. At $50/month, a mid-sized church should be able to afford it. Elvanto handles finances, member relations, groups, volunteering, events, and basically everything else. At a higher price point, they will also create a custom app for your church. The features may be too much for a smaller church—but pastors in those churches can try these church management software for small churches.

Other specific discussions of different types of management software can be found at the following links:

The Best Church Presentation Software

Once again, “best” depends on you, your congregation, and your needs. In fact, your presentation software can sometimes be specific to the actual equipment you have available to you. Many times in my experience, an upgrade of equipment meant a necessary upgrade of software to control that equipment.

A software solution for worship planning can even be influenced by the acoustics of your auditorium. Still, with a little effort, your worship services can be a breeze. Remember, also, that these communication tools can grow churches of all sizes. Even large churches and church communities will benefit from finding ways to streamline their presentation.

However, we have a great number of articles dedicated to helping you set yourself up for success in the areas of presentation and communication. Find them at these convenient links:

Church Software For You

As a lead pastor, you are a manager of people and a communicator of the Gospel. As you’ve seen in this article, and I hope in the articles linked, church software makes you more effective in those roles. Just being on this website means that you are in a mindset of growth. Let that continue by investing in yourself and your church through the use of these digital tools.

I’m Lexie Schmidt, and comment below if you have anything to add or questions to ask.

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By Alexandria Schmidt

Lexie was born into a family of pastors and other church leaders. She was trained by her grandfather and worked as an assistant youth pastor in a megachurch in her twenties. Now she runs a peer support group and is the Technical Consultant for her current church, MCC Illiana. While she is no longer pastoring, she is staying active in other parts of the ministry.

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