10 Part Recipe for a Church Database People Would Actually Use

Quality management of the information about the people that attend your church is mission critical.  Loss data on someone is a loss relationship.  Mismanagement in this area ends up damaging trust with your people.  One of the ways we serve our people is by handling their information with great care.

I’m generally despondent with the current state of Church Management Software. (ChMS) It seems like every church leader I talk to is unhappy with their database.  I keep running into people who can’t stand working with their system. [A list of a bunch of ChMS systems.]

This has got to change!  We live in an increasingly data driven culture and we need systems that help us leverage data to serve the community around us.

These are 10 things on my wish list of what would make a great ChMS … I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see in the comments!

  • Google Apps Integration // There are 5 million businesses using Google Apps to drive their core collaboration needs.  Tones of churches use this tool set because it’s easy to use, robust and inexpensive.  I’d love to be able to pull up contact information directly inhelp Gmail … and save some emails to the record in the ChMS.
  • Integrated Surveys // When first time guests come to check we send them a survey but we have to send it from a third party system.  I’d love a ChMS that could send customized survey’s directly to our contacts and “blind track” the data back into the system.
  • Actually Mobile // I really want to be able to do everything on my phone and tablet (or phablet?) that I do on my laptop.  It’s 2013 … not 2005.  Pastors’ are on the road all the time … we need them to be able to fully access our system all the time!
  • Event Registration // Churches are constantly registering guests for events … ChMS’s seem to miss this functionality.  We need a system that is super flexible to do events of all kinds … free, charge, freemium … deploy them quickly and make it easy for people to sign up!  (Please?)
  • Elegant HMTL Templates // Right now we export our data to a third party email marketing system because we can’t control the HTML of the emails that our system generates.  I’d love a ChMS that actually allows a series of beautiful templates so our emails can look amazing when they arrive.  (Bonus: Keep the “open and click through data” attached to the persons record.)
  • Integrated TXT Messaging // Allow small group leaders to text people in their group a reminder.  Send out a TXT blast to the parents of students on the youth retreat when they arrive at the camp. Automagically send TXT reminders to volunteers. (“Please reply with a YES if you are still planning on coming tomorrow.”)
  • Infographic Reporting // I know database gurus love spreadsheets. Churches aren’t lead by those type of people.  I’d love a ChMS that allowed us to generate quick infographics on the fly of our data.  (You know … data that people actually look at.)
  • Volunteer Centric Volunteer Scheduling // Have you ever booked a class at the Apple Store?  Why can’t volunteer scheduling by that simple? Imagine if a ChMS made it straightforward for our teams to tell us when they are available and helped them reschedule when needed.
  • Gamification // Databases like this are only as good as the people who tend the data.  What if we could turn on a “game mode” where we’d give points, badges and prizes to our people for actually using the system?
  • Socially Aware // Dear ChMS Designers … there are millions of people who prefer to communicate through facebook, twitter and other social channels.  Please help us leverage those means in our system. (Or at least let us gather data on where our people connect through social media.)

I know I may be dreaming but none of that seems out of the reach with today’s technology. What are your dreams for your Church Database?


  1. Cue Alter Call.

    I’m in. Yes and How!

    I wish there was a way to do without them and accept that we have to run multiple tools for multiple needs. But we all wish there was one that worked!

  2. Thanks for this Rich! I’ve got a couple of ideas to add ::

    – Auto status change based on activity of the individual with parameters laid out by the admin of the db, ie.) moving a visitor to an attendee based on x times attending an environment or event, gifts received etc

    – Auto alerts when regular attenders patterns change (attendance, giving etc)

    -better interface with giving data and email (email mail merge options that include giving data and statement/tax receipt attachment options)

    My wheels are still turning…

  3. Hi Rich,
    This is a great post and so true. I love the chart you have where we can compare current offerings of ChMS systems on the market and I don’t see any checkmarks for Church WIndows — the system we currently use. Did I miss something?

  4. Hi Rich,

    Love this. BTW, Churchteams does 5 of the 10 already and is working on 2 more now. Specifically: Integrated survey, responsive platform, event regis, integrated text, volunteer centric. We’re finishing up work on HTML templates/stats/scheduling for email now and done initial work on Gamifying at least use for staff.

    Thanks for all your work and great ideas!

    We appreciate it.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.