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"What the heck have I gotten myself into?" I was a fresh-faced, brand-new volunteer leader at Elora Road Christian Fellowship, and feeling very overwhelmed and insecure. As a church, we hadn't yet learned about what church software was, and how it could smooth out the tangles of our management. So, I wrestled my way through the minefield of spreadsheets, surveys, and forms I had to fill out for my team.

Today, decades later, that experience seems so far away. Church software is a steadily growing industry of tools and resources used by lead pastors and their leadership teams. As I have seen countless times in many churches over the years the best church software tools do three things well:

  • Ease-of-use. Your volunteers are a cross-section of a wide spectrum of technical familiarity. Choose something that even the least tech-savvy volunteer can pick up!
  • Features. Not every church will use every feature, but a growing church develops new needs all the time.
  • Price. Budgets are tight. Our members look for stewardship and transparency - and we look to earn that trust.

Benefits of Church Software

Church software offers several major benefits to churches and their leadership teams. Properly implemented, it centralizes communication and reduces confusion around volunteer scheduling. Financial tracking also shifts from ad hoc methods to integrated tools, ensuring accurate and organized financial management. Ultimately, church software helps church leaders do their work better.

Key Takeaways

Navigating Chaos: The right church software is different for each church, and depends on your church's needs profile.

Two Categories: First, management software deals with internal administration. Second, presentation software helps with broadcasting your church's message.

The Results: Good church software streamlines and simplifies everything: communication, volunteer scheduling, financial management, and more.

What's the Deal with 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.

Category #1: Management Software

Church management software, or ChMS compiles the information of your members, your church financial management, 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. Note: we've created a thoroughly vetted list of our recommendations for the best ChMS options currently available.

Category #2: Presentation Software

Church presentation software 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, but every church has members, finances, and staff. 

Game-Changing 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 financial reports
  • 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.

Ask not what you can do for your church software. Ask what your church software can do for you.

Joshua gordon

ChMS in Action:

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

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) On Monday night, you see a report on the news that a child has gone missing from a 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.

4) 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.

50 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.

Management Software vs 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 Cream of the Software Crop Is...

The best of the best, for you and your church, depends heavily on the specific needs of your specific congregation. 

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 Management Software

The “best” management tools 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.

10 Our 'Best of the Best' Church Management Software Shortlist

Again, the right church management software for your church may look different than what worked best for us in planting New Life Fellowship. Pick the one that will be best for you and your team. Here’s our take on the industry-leaders today:

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

The Best Presentation Software

Once again, “best” depends on you, your congregation, and your needs. 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:

What's the Right Software For You

As pastors, we lead and manage people, and communicate the Gospel. Software tools makes you more effective in those roles. Continue investing in yourself and your church through the use of these digital tools.

To that end, my team and I have created a primer on choosing management software you and your team will love. The article is thorough, clear, and practical (with some sweet downloads, too.)

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Joshua Gordon
By Joshua Gordon

Joshua Gordon is a lay-pastor, author, and editor of TheLeadPastor.com. Over the last two decades, Josh has worked closely with pastors and other christian leaders, helping them to sharpen and elevate their messages. Today, Joshua pastors at New Life Fellowship, a thriving church he helped plant in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.