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If I focus hard enough, I can just remember what life in church leadership was like before choosing a church management software system… and I shudder, honestly.

Our organization and management was rife with inefficiencies that sucked up our time and energy; our staff meetings were interminably long, dreary affairs. We spent more time trying to solve scheduling problems than we did in outreach.

If you’re ready to move out of that wilderness, I’ve got you. In this article, I’ll show you the six-step process our church used to choose church management software that solved our managerial bottlenecks. I’ve also created a simple buying guide condensing all that goodness into one handy PDF template...

What is Church Management Software (ChMS)?

Church management software helps pastors manage and organize church operations more effectively. They automate administrative tasks such as tracking membership, scheduling events, managing donations, and communicating with members. 

Josh's Frontline Insight

Josh's Frontline Insight

In the old days, scheduling volunteers required a master’s degree in Excel. Team communication was a mish-mash of text and email, and attendance tracking looked like ushers doing a headcount each week. Heaven forbid the office administrator got sick… then EVERYTHING ground to a halt. Life after implementing a ChMS tool is much more streamlined, with 1000% fewer bottlenecks.

Key Features to Look For in Church Management Software:

As our church began the search for the church management software, we made a clear list of the various features we wanted to have. Ultimately, we wanted a ChMS that would reduce bottlenecks and our administrative workload, thereby freeing up resources for ministry investment and increasing our membership engagement. We also needed something that would streamline internal and external messaging, with a user-friendly interface for our church members.

So, in our search for the right church management software solution, we prioritized the following key features:

Secure Giving

We knew we needed an online giving platform to allow our people to give easily and securely from everywhere. This feature is crucial for maintaining consistent giving, especially in today’s digital age. I recommend you ensure the ChMS you choose includes robust security measures and user-friendly interfaces.

Attendance Tracking

We knew that accurate attendance records yield insights into understanding congregation engagement - which helps us to plan with more accuracy. This feature allows you to track who attends services, joins small groups, and participates in events. Membership management is a part of this as well. New members can easily manage their member profiles, and their member information is easy to maintain via their own customizable records. I recommend you look for ChMS that integrates with check-in systems for children’s ministry as well!

Event Management

For us, we wanted assistance with the administrative side of our church event management. We looked for scheduling, event registration, and volunteer coordination. I recommend looking for a ChMS with that integrates these smoothly.

Donation Tracking

Donations are a critical component, and our church recognized the importance of being able to gather information and insights to better understand giving trends. We needed to ensure our church accounting software would be able to play nicely with the new ChMS as well. I recommend ensuring your ChMS can easily generate accurate financial reporting, as well as integrate smoothly with your church financial management software.

Facility Management

Our church facilities and church property are cared for by a team of volunteers and a part-time employee. Tracking who is using what room/building at what time was a huge headache - we wanted to ensure our ChMS provided support for our property and facility management efforts. I recommend double-checking that the ChMS you’re considering offers support to prevent conflicts and optimizes your space utilization

Child Check-In

As your church grows, and the number of visitors increases, the importance of a reliable check-in/check-out system for children increases with it. I recommend you choose a ChMS with a secure child check-in option - keep an eye on the additional hardware you may need (i.e.: sticker printer, etc)

Volunteer Management

As we surveyed our staff and volunteer leaders, we consistently heard that scheduling and volunteer management were a major bottleneck. So, we prioritized automatic scheduling and availability tracking. I recommend ensuring that your ChMS allows volunteers to block-out their dates of unavailability.

Communication Tools

We wanted our church management software to have a mobile app, to help streamline communication. This was a priority for our church since each of our ministry teams had their own separate messaging and communication channels. Some used Messenger, some had a text group, and some used just email. We wanted to streamline internal communication - while also bringing structure and uniformity to external communication. I recommend you look for a ChMS that integrates well with your current communication platforms.

Additional Reading

Additional Reading

My team and I have prepared an additional article for you, should you need to dig more deeply into the nuts and bolts of church management software. As well, we’ve crafted a high-level, ultimate guide to church management. I hope these are helpful!

– Josh

What You Can Expect to Pay for Church Management Software

One of the great things we discovered is that there is a good deal of pricing options available. Our church utilized a church management system with a free plan that allowed us to pay for the options we wanted to use as we grew. The ChMS we chose allowed us to scale up. That was huge for us.

This simple chart will give a good overview of general costs and pricing tiers available:

Pricing TierApproximate CostComments
BasicFree to $50 per monthSuitable for small churches with minimal management needs. Often includes basic membership tracking and reporting.
Standard$50 to $200 per monthGood for medium-sized churches requiring more advanced features like online giving, event management, and volunteer coordination.
Premium$200 to $500 per monthDesigned for large churches with extensive requirements such as multi-campus support, detailed analytics, and extensive integration capabilities.
Enterprise$500+ per monthBest for very large or multi-site churches needing the highest level of customization, full integration, and dedicated support services.

10 Industry-Leading Church Management Software Tools

My team and I have throughly vetted, compared, and ranked the industry leading ChMS tools on the market. Here’s our top 10 list:

How to Choose the “Just Right” ChMS for Your Church: Six Steps

As I’ve alluded to already, our leadership team moved through a six-step process to identify, evaluate, and select the best church management software for us. We wanted to make sure that bottlenecks were resolved. Software adoption needed to be high (we have some elderly volunteers!) Staff members also needed to be released to support and encourage ministry in our volunteers.

Step One:  Assess The Church’s Needs

We began by identifying our church’s specific requirements, such as membership tracking, event management, and donation recording.

Step Two: Research and Shortlist ChMS Options

We researched various ChMS solutions online, read reviews, and created a shortlist of the top three systems that fit our needs.

Step 3: Engage Key Leaders for Feedback

We involved our church leaders, volunteers, and staff in the process, gathering their input and preferences to ensure the chosen system would meet everyone’s needs.

Step 4: Arrange Demonstrations and Trials

We scheduled demonstrations with the shortlisted ChMS providers and arranged trials to test the systems’ functionality and ease of use.

Step 5: Make a Decision

After evaluating the feedback from stakeholders and trial results, we chose the ChMS that best aligned with our church’s needs and budget.

Step 6: Plan Implementation

We developed a detailed implementation plan, including webinars and training sessions for staff and volunteers, to ensure a smooth transition to the new system. We were so happy with the customer support our ChMS offered. It was one of the priorities - and we nailed it.

Compare the Top-Ranked ChMS Tools in the Industry

My team and I have spent hundreds of hours reviewing, evaluating, and comparing the industry-leading church management software tools available today. Here’s our comparison table:

Tools Price
Realm Pricing upon request
ChMeetings From $12/month
Breeze ChMS $50/account/month.
Subsplash provides customized pricing upon request.
Excellerate No price details
Touchpoint From $39.60/user/month
Elvanto From $50/month/account
Blackbaud Pricing is available upon request
ChurchTrac No price details
Fellowship One Pricing is available upon request
Preview Image - <h2 class="c-block__title b-summary-table__title c-listicle__title h3" > Compare Software Specs Side by Side</h2>

Compare Software Specs Side by Side

Use our comparison chart to review and evaluate software specs side-by-side.

Compare Software

Church Management Software Evaluation Template

My team and I have developed an evaluation template that’s been very useful in helping the various stakeholders in our churches assess the various church management software options. It’s a simple PDF download:

The Results We’re Seeing

Since walking through the 'how to choose church management software' process, and selecting what we know is the right tool for us, the software features we needed have had a real, tangible impact on the specific needs we identified.

  • Tracking church metrics has been such a useful addition to our framework for decision-making. And, since our implementation of our church’s management software, we have seen a significant decrease in the amount of time and energy our volunteer leaders are spending doing church administration. As a result, we’re seeing higher volunteer engagement as our members engage with the new church management system.
  • Volunteer-heavy ministries especially (worship team, children’s ministry, etc) report a much lower rate of dissatisfaction, and as leadership, we’re seeing a fraction of the amount of calendar/scheduling difficulties with the cloud-based scheduling we have access to now.
  • Our online giving has increased as well, with our online portal becoming a preferred channel for giving. This is more secure, more reliable, and simpler. Reporting is streamlined as well, as our church financial software integrates nicely with our ChMS.

Most importantly, our leadership is more united than ever around the vision and ideas for church growth as we eagerly pursue the mission God has laid out before us. Our board of directors has more data and insights with which to develop their business plan.

It’s an exciting time!

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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.