Reminder: I am NOT a ChMS Expert. Thankfully, quite a few others have contributed to this process, and thanks in advance for others who I hope will step forward to further improve it. I know the following people contributed, directly or indirectly, and I’m sure I left some names out. (Please claim your contribution!)
- Steve Caton
- Jerry Fultz
- Clif Guy
- Steve Hewitt
- Chris Huff
- Joel Lingenfelter
- Kevin McCord
- Nick Nicholaou
Ahead, I’ll be pulling bits and pieces out of the contributions and suggesting a starting point to a process for anyone wanting to select their next (or even first) ChMS. As I’ve already mentioned to a few people, it’s rather scary that there doesn’t seem to exist such a documented process anywhere else; that seems so unlikely, but the search turned up nothing. So, here goes.
When choosing a ChMS, churches want to choose wisely, but how? Are there any objective criteria? What does it cost to have an independent consultant help in the process? Are there any qualified independent consultants? Is it possible to be truly objective in this process? Doesn’t everyone have biases? This series of posts is an attempt to offer some objective criteria that can be used by anyone to take a step in the right direction. It doesn’t preclude hiring a consultant; it simply sets the stage and hopefully helps avoid some [negative] surprises.
It's very easy to be overwhelmed by the nearly 200 named products in the marketplace (and I know there are a few more not even on the list!).
Far too many church, in my opinion, make their ChMS decision on either price, or a features list (probably influenced by a good demo). Few do significant reference checks. Rarely does a church first determine what they are looking for. Can we reverse this process? Can we help a church know the questions to ask to help lead to a more satisfactory solution? Well, that's what I'm trying for here, and again, I'm very thankful for the input of many others.
Let me suggest that the starting point is NOT to look at the products available! Start by looking at the church.
Part 1: Jerry Fultz wisely suggested that the starting point should be at the highest level. Start with the church’s vision and mission.
The words Vision and Mission get tossed around a lot, and have different meanings to different people. Here are my quick descriptions with a couple more tossed in for good measure:
Purpose: Why Do We Exist?
Vision: What Are We Trying To Accomplish?
Mission: How Do We Plan To Accomplish Our Vision?
Core Values: What Is Most Important To Us?
If your church doesn't have a clear and concise vision and mission, then maybe selecting a ChMS shouldn't be a top priority yet. Maybe there's an argument that a good ChMS would help define vision and mission, but I think that's a long-shot.
So here's the hard question: how does a [new] ChMS product help the church accomplish it's vision? That's worth some deep thought, and I don't have any any suggestions on how to make it easy. I will simply suggest that you not go any further in your search until you can come up with a brief (1 or 2 paragraph max, 1 or 2 sentence better) statement of HOW a ChMS solution helps accomplish the church Vision.
Now I'm going to do something awful - I'm going to end this post right here without providing any answers!
Next: Part 2 - Focus on Staff