One of the perennial questions of pastors and church leaders relates to what church management software is best for their church. Church management software is a challenging investment. Many tools try to do too many things in the life of the church–check-ins, donations, slide presentations, group emails, and the list goes on. Usually, the larger they get, the more likely it is that some of the features or the overall service of the platform falters.
My general recommendation is: find the easiest tool that works well in your areas of need, and supplement it with other tech solutions that function better or easier or cheaper. For example, it’s hard to find products that do kid’s check-in and church people management (essentially a CRM for churches) better than the leading church management software packages. But you may discover that there’s a better solution for processing online donations. In this case, it may be advantageous to abandon the church management software donation component (even if you’re forced to pay for it) and use the other giving tool.
Below, I will highlight three common alternatives for church management software in the expensive, middling, and cheap price bands. These would be my go-to recommendations; however, each one of them has serious weaknesses that the church may need to supplement through other resources.
Planning Center ($$$)
Planning Center is the current gold standard for church management software. Their support is impressive and their constant innovation and improvement of their software is evident. Their solutions are designed to scale for various sizes of churches; however, even at the low end, costs may be prohibitive for smaller ministries.
The strongest features of Planning Center are definitely it’s kids check-in tool and service planning interface. The other four paid features (groups, giving, registrations, and resources) are good, but could easily be supplemented with other standalone software components. That said, if you begin scaling out Planning Center, you may discover that you are best served by using their other services in order to consolidate your data.
- Check-ins sets up rapidly
- Quick response to support issues and extensive software documentation
- Excellent design
- Unique approach to service planning
- Doesn’t play well with other software
- Incredibly pricey
There’s a lot to love about Breeze. Unlike Planning Center, which parcels out various components for set rates and forces you to upgrade if you cross data thresholds, Breeze has a fixed price per month ($50) and allows unlimited data. In short, it’s church management software made simple for simple and small/medium-sized churches. They use a single dashboard to clearly present all their features and an easy to use way.
One of the cool features of Breeze is its API, which stands for “Application Program Interface.” If you’ve got programmers in your church, this will make them drool. APIs are the mouths and ears of software. They allow Breeze to receive and send information to other apps. This sounds boring, but it’s actually really cool. This means that you can create custom forms to input people into your database. Or you can tie giving data into Quickbooks with ease.
- Simple pricing with no data limits
- Easy and strong API
- Strong support, including custom training and importing assistance
- Built for small/medium-sized churches
- No service planning feature
- You can find cheaper entry level options
Church Trac ($)
Church Trac has some cheap entry level options (starting at $5/month) and is capable of an incredible variety of tasks. While inexpensive, the lower cost is reflected in the user experience and design. In a lot of ways, the look and feel is similar to 2005 web design. It’s garish and complicated. But it is a tool worth considering if your finances are tight.
- Incredibly cheap
- Broad variety of features
- Poor design quality
- Doesn’t play well with other software
|Features||Planning Center||Breeze||Church Trac|
|Text to Give||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|No Limits on Data||No||Yes||No|
|Plays Well With Other Software||No||Yes||No|
If you can afford it, I would recommend Planning Center for pure quality and robust capabilities. But I would strongly recommend considering Breeze as a cost saver for church plants, revitalizations, or churches with small budgets. Whichever you choose, commit to it and build out your data within it. Plan on a review of your database and usage of the software on an annual basis.
Depending on your church’s needs, you may want to look at some of these platforms:
- FellowshipOne: Their pricing requires a call, and their software is geared toward large churches. If your church is growing beyond 500 or 1,000, FellowshipOne may be a better option to consider.
- Realm: This looks like an interesting cloud-based platform with a robust array of features. Pricing isn’t publicly listed, but some sites indicate the pricing is between $30–200/month depending on the plan the church selects. Like FellowshipOne, this seems to be designed with large churches in mind. Realm absorbed another popular people management tool called “The City” some time ago.
- BAND app: This is an app designed to facilitate group communication, whether for a youth soccer league or for a church small group. It’s a helpful tool that may help fill the communications gap for small group leaders, worship leaders, etc. if your church opts to take a more piecemeal approach to church management software.
- ChurchTeams: This is another full-featured ChMS with loads of features and pricing ranging from $37–197 per month depending on the size of the church. The user interface appears to leave much to be desired.
Didn’t see your favorite ChMS listed? I’d love to see your comments on what’s working well for you. Do you have some additional pros and cons other churches should consider about the solutions I’ve offered above, please post your own pros and cons.