What software works for tracking church membership information?

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I have been using Access to keep track of membership information. I would like to be able to import this into an off-the-shelf piece of software. I've seen various titles out there, but don't know which one is the right one. Is there something out there that would work for a typical CRC Clerk-of-Records?

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Hello, I have been employed at Emmanuel for 11 years. One of the best ideas I have heard, and which i am still implementing, is using Excel for membership tracking. It is a program which I can manipulate in many different ways just by having a column for every little bit of information. For example: one column for each of the following: last name, first name, middle name, birth date, birth month, birth year, baptized or baptized/professing, date of visit and name of elder who visited, and so forth.
Now I can sort by age for class lists, seniors, visitors, and/or baptized members. You add whatever category will work for your situation.

Thanks for the note. I use Access to do the same, plus it allows me to pre-create reports and modify queries. My problem is that if I want to pass the job on to another person, they need to be an Access expert. If there is an off-the-shelf piece of software, more of that functionality is behind the scenes. There are a number of packages out there, but I am not familiar with them.

Hi

I have been using PowerChurch Plus for 5 years and really like it. Not only does it keep track of the membership data, but it intigrates the contributions as well. I am also doing all the accounting on it, generating monthly reports that can be emailed directly to the board members.
Eva

Eva, you and I attend the same beloved Covenant CRC, and we've had considerable discussions around this one! At the risk of 'airing soiled laundry', I do want to respond, augment this important discussion and solicit feedback from others!

I understand PowerChurch is great for accounting etc. but unfortunately none of its stored information can be shared on-line by those who need access when the office is closed. Most Council members do their church work after hours, need the information 'now', and many (but not all) want to be empowered electronically. Also, PowerChurch does not permit flexibility in reporting: we can't even use it in the printing of the Church's Directory nor generate custom reports, and so you end up doing the Church Directory in a word processor. As a result, we now have several sources of church information that constantly need to be reconciled, kept accurate and in sync.

Coming into the mix is 'cloud computing', as with e.g. Google Docs (GD) that our church (and others?) are now using. GD is becoming increasingly important as our 'go-to', secure, on-line information source for local church business. Using it's 'shared folder' feature, it also will be the handy vehicle for succession of Council members and other key church players as they move through the various church roles. Happily gone are those thick Council binders that would get passed from outgoing to incoming Council and committee members, often not kept in very good order, depending on the diligence of the person you were succeeding!

Question: how does PowerChurch and my very favourite off-the-shelf database, FileMaker Pro and it's little sibling Bento, interact with this increasing reliance on 'cloud computing'? Answer: they don't!. Gone is the advantage of PowerChurch, Filemaker Pro and any other stand-alone software application. Hopefully Google soon will develop a relational database that can become the single source of our administrative information. Knowing Google's pace, that may be soon?!

In the meantime, since we've adopted 'cloud computing' as the way of our administrative future, we'll need to make do with the simple tools in the Google Docs 'toolbox': spreadsheet, word processing, presentation applications. Nevertheless, and hopefully soon, we'll see a Google Doc relational database with customizable reporting tools to do our finance reports, printing of church directory, etc., all from a single, accurate information source that resides 'in the clouds' and is accessible securely on-line by those authorized and need to know.

thanks!

I think there may be a review of CRC's and their software. I'll check on Monday with the person who may know and get back to you. We use access at my church also.

We had an intern a couple of years ago who did some research on church and denomination database issues. In her notes, I found reference to these packages, recommended by someone at the Center for Congregations in Indiana:
* ACS (www.acstechnologies.com)
* Logos (www.logoscms.com)
* Shelby (www.shelbyinc.com)

Through the years, I've also heard positive comments about Power Church Plus, as mentioned by a previous poster.

I have no personal experience with any of the above, however I did find a couple of sites that review church software:
* www.churchaccountingsoftwareguide.com
* www.digical.com/cgi-bin/htmlos.cgi/ccmag/index1.htm

HTH,
-- Sharon

Thanks for the feedback. I'll check on these sites and packages.

I keep thinking that since each year all churches in the CRC are asked to collect and pass along the same type of information such as births, deaths, transfers, baptisms, etc., we should be able to put our heads together to come up with a CRC piece of software. It could be web based, or stand alone, and include the fields that all of us have to collect anyway. Instead of each congregation trying to re-invent the same package by customizing some off-the-shelf piece of software, it might be nice if we could find some creative software writer in the denomination to help us put something together.

I don't know Duane. We have this tendency to reinvent the wheel using time and resources. I think most of the current software out there allow you to add your own fields which would help with specific CRC related stuff.

Duane,
Selecting software is work.

You aren't the first person to ask the question about the denomination supplying something. The denomination has looked at this on and off since the mid 1990s. Every time we have looked at it we have decided it is not the best use of our resources. A couple of the challenges that haven't changed over the years are the following:
1) How to create a piece of software that would be attractive to a fair number of our churches.
2) How to support the software, upgrade it, help churches migrate to it, etc.

In the past few years we have had more than one vendor suggest to us that we should purchase software that all of our churches would use (meaning a single database). Those suggestions have two big issues--big dollars, and big brother....

I think that Allen Deters hits the nail on the head when he points out that there is a lot of good software already out there.

It is difficult to know what software to select. It is kind of like having a cold and going to a drug store, there are so many over the counter cold medicines, it is hard to know what you should buy.

This is what I suggest you do to reduce the complexity that choice brings.

1) Decide what it is that the software needs to do for you. You can keep a list of "essentials", "wants", and "potentially desirable" features.

2) Figure out who is going to need to use it and where they are going to be when they use it. For example, as the council clerk--do you want to be able to do this from home? Is there a church administrator that also needs to get to this same software? Will you both ever be in it at the same time? These questions will help you get at things like number of licenses, number of concurrent sessions, on-line (cloud/SaaS) software verses software on a PC or server at church.

3) Take an inventory of what you are working with hardware wise. Will all those that use this be on Windows operating systems, some Macs? What versions of these operating systems? If you might be looking at an on-line solution--do the people who need to use it have internet access in the location(s) that it will be used. This will help you recognize if there will be additional costs associated with any given selection.

4) Try to gauge the level of expertise that you have available to you. How computer savvy are the people who will need to use the software? What other resources might you have available? Perhaps a member of your congregation would be willing to help out in implementing this. Maybe there is a user group you could join. It might be worth considering having a consultant who has done this type of thing before help with the implementation.

5) If you can, find out what other churches that are the size of your church are using. A look in the Yearbook will help you with that. Other churches in your community can also be helpful sources--they don't have to be CRC or RCA--if they are about your size, talking with them might be helpful. They can tell you what kind of expertise it took for them to put in a system, what they wish they had done differently, what is the best thing about their system.

6) With all of the above in mind start looking at some software packages. At this point you are looking for two reasons. First you want to become a little familiar with prices. Second, you might find out that you could really use something that you never thought of. A good site to check is shareware.com--use search for church membership software.

7) Set a budget for the project (add 20% to what you think it is going to be).

8) Find a way to document your discoveries when doing the above steps. Documentation will help you when you start comparing options. It will also help you in three years when you wonder why you made the selection you did. It will also be a starting point when you have to do it again in a number of years--and with technology--you will have to do it again.

That should put you at a better than average starting spot to actually start shopping for software.

If you think about it, it isn't much different than buying a car--you have to know what it has to be used for, how many people have to fit in it, how far and frequently it has to go, who is going to be driving it, and how much money you have to spend. Once you know those things, you are more likely to drive off the lot with the car you need rather than just buying the red one because it looked good.

Thanks for all of the suggestions and comments! There's some great material here to review. I'll post here with what I/we find.

PowerChurch offers an on-line option as do many of church management systems. It may be worth taking a look at PowerChurch On-line rather than waiting on Google to be able to deliver a relational database.

Cloud computing definitely opens up opportunities for churches.

For readers that may not be certain what cloud computing is I thought it might be helpful to give a quick overview.

Cloud computing is not brand new but it is taking off in the tech world as a way for small to medium businesses to be able to take advantage of robust technology with less capital investment. Cloud computing can present some great opportunities for churches for the very same reasons.

There are a number of ways that cloud computing has been defined. SaaS (software as a service) is another term that is sometimes used inter-changeably with cloud computing. The difference between this and the "standard" way of computing is that in the SaaS or cloud model you are leasing the software vs buying the software. You are cloud computing when the data and application that you use are housed on servers that you don't have physical access to. A service provider hosts and maintains the equipment and the application.

In general, cloud computing provides a number of advantages.
-- It allows users to access the information whenever it is convenient for them.
-- Typically upgrades are on-going and less cumbersome to apply. Often upgrades are seamless.
-- The backup obligations are put on the provider, rather than on church staff.
-- Hardware becomes less of an issue--it is more about what browsers are supported than whether you are using a PC or a MAC or what version of operating system you are using.
-- Compliance/regulations are often handled better by outsourcing than they are by keeping the data in-house.

When considering cloud computing there are some things to look for:
1) A contract that states that the information (data) belongs to the church and that obligates the company to provide you with the data in csv or text delimited format in the event of the termination of the contract for any reason.

2) A contract that specifies the data backup obligations of the company.

3) Encrypted access. This can be achieved in a variety of ways. The most common is SSL meaning when you access the site you do so via a URL that starts with https:\\ instead of the usual http:\\. Another way encrypted access may be provided is via Citrix--a client that you put on your PC or Mac that allows access into a network.

4) In comparing costs of on-line systems vs. in-house systems I have found that it helpful to
--include all the costs of an in-house system (remember you have to be backing it up)
--map out the costs for 3 years--the first year costs can be significantly different but looking at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year costs will often show you a more accurate comparison.

5) Verify that the security of the provider and the system meet applicable privacy and data security laws. Data that is most critical center around bank account and credit card account numbers as well as social insurance/social security numbers. If you aren't keeping this type of data, and if you don't provide vendors with your mailing lists, your data compliance issues are greatly deminished. If you do keep bank/credit card numbers, ask providers about security compliance. Good things to look for are CICA 5970 certification (Canadian accounting), SAS 70 Type II certification (US accounting) and PCI DSS or PA DSS (these last two apply to credit card transactions).

I've been the LAN Administrator at Brookside CRC for nineteen years. We use Microsoft Office 2003 with the Office 2007 Compatability Pack. We use QuickBooks for the church's financials, payroll, and accounts payable.

For anything else that could be considered a database function, I've put together an integrated system using Access. Since I work as a programmer in my regular job, this was a natural extension of my Brookside responsibilities and perhaps makes our situation a little unusual.

Member and visitor information, for both families and individuals, is central to the system and is available to be used throughout the system. That includes attendance for members and visitors, contributions, denominational reporting, telephone directories, photo directories, council reports, gift and service information, and separate Youth Ministries information. We can expand the functionality however we choose at any time. An example of this is an interface for the church administrator that supports the annual budget creation process.

Each staff member has an interface on their desktop that I call their "Data Mine". They can use it to extract information for themselves using Access's easy built-in filtering and sorting capabilities, eliminating the need for writing a formal report. If they want to spruce things up, they can bring their mined data over to Excel, and make their own "report" with titles, headers, footers, totals, or whatever they want. They always have the option of having me create a formal Access report for ongoing use as well.

We do have a large collection of formal reports available for regular use. The Access report writer allows quick creation of any report we might want to add to the permenant collection or any ad hoc reports that might be needed. Mailing labels are an example of a report that can be done either ad hoc or as a permenant report.

We've also created systems that are independant of membership data. A system for the pastor to keep a history of his sermons is a good example. It allows sermons to be classified by a series they belong to, the scripture passage, Heidelberg Lord's Day, and Belgic Confession, and the date. I mention this system to illustrate that with Access, you can create whatever you need for any purpose.

Having just joined this Network, I have been reading the discussions regarding Church Management software. We use the product called LOGOS II - also we use LOGOS accounting - so the two products intergrate in regards to contributions. We have a third product as well, LOGOS Scheduler - where we schedule all church events and rooms. We are very happy with this software, the ease of use, and the product support. As with all software, it does have its moments, when you think you have done everything right, but the report doesn't come just as you thought. LOGOS II allows you to put in any kind of criteria and it will format a report for you. I would only suggest this software for medium to large churches. Thanks for letting me chime in.

We purchased Servant Keeper in 2007 and have been very happy with it. We can record giving, church membership statistics, elder visits, inactives, spiritual gifts, we can automatically move sunday school rosters to a new grade, etc. However it does take a little education and customization to make the program fit your church's needs, but we haven't begun to maximize the potential of this program. We can also import Quicken information for accounting purposes. If you are on a network, the deacons can have their own computer login and record their offerings, special offerings, etc.

As you can tell we really like the software and have not found anything we can't do with it. Reporting is done with ease (once you know how to report) and everyone is happy with the results.

The main thing is that ALL of our member's information is in one place not in different spreadsheets, and databases. You can export to an Excel database once you extract the information you are looking for. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.

We (Friendship CRC in Byron Center, MI) use PowerChurch. I researched the various options (about 4 years ago) and thought PowerChurch was the best software for our church for the money. We are very happy with it. We use it to print the church directory, for volunteer lists, event/room scheduling, contribution statements, membership reports, etc. We will be upgrading to version 11 this month. Feel free to contact me to schedule a look at how we use it if you want.

salesforce.com is free to non-profits and we use it ifor membership and offering tracking. It falls under "cloud computing" which is mentioned by others. I plan to write an article on it for this network but thought I'd respond to this discussion, too.

By being "in the cloud", it makes it convenient for people working from their homes. You only get 10 free licenses but for us that is enough. The deacons use one login to record the offerings. Then I have the other licenses for myself, an office admin, the pastor, and others. It integrates with Google Apps and GMail, which is a nice feature, too.

You can also very easily export from Salesforce to Excel so you can do mail merges and so on.

I'm hoping to have the article up in a couple weeks but in the meantime, this is a link to the page about their non-profit donation program: http://www.salesforce.com/company/foundation/. You'll see the link to apply for donated licenses on that page.

I've used Salesforce a bit, but not as a church membership tool. Interesting idea, especially given all the plugins in the AppExchange. I look forward to hearing more!

We're a satisfied Servant Keeper subscriber too. Can't say a lot more about it, because I myself don't use it, but it's been the source of many reports over the past few years. We're going to start using a customizeable part of the program to record spiritual gifts soon this month, which will be a great asset as we continue down the path of being/developing a gifts-based ministries effort as part of the Natural Church Development planning we've done.

I highly recommend that anyone take a look at Church Community Builder (CCB). Their website is www.churchcommunitybuilder.com. Their offering incorporates a comprehensive membership database that operates via the web (cloud). Rosewood CRC has been with them for over 7 years. They are headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO

If you would like to search the 45 different companies offering an online solution, please go to
http://www.capterra.com/church-management-software and enter the specific features that are important to your congregation (see filter options on the left side).

Free Church Database Option: I have looked into various church software options a bit but they were way above my price range. I thought about creating my own database, but it is above my expertise and most the Mac database software is pretty expensive.

I just discovered ChurchInfo @ http://www.churchdb.org/. IT IS FREE! I am starting to play around with it. It seems to have some of the functionality of the Servant Keeper / CCB. It has most of the stuff you would want to track (families, individuals, giving, events, attendance, check in / out, etc) and allows some flexibility. I can create new categories for my types of events. It is an internet based data base (MySQL) so you can either store it on your own personal online server (cloud) or store it on one computer. Either way, it allows multiple users with different levels of access. Because it is internet based is is cross-platform (Mac or PC). I am trying with info stored on my Mac right now for some future kid's events.

Honestly, it didn't come with a ton of installation instructions on the Mac end of things so it took me a while to figure out how to install it, but once I got it working it seem pretty user friendly. The PC installation process seemed much easier.

Has anyone used the The City by Zondervan?  

After reading an article by Mavis Moon over on the "Church and Web" area, I decided to apply for a non-profit SalesForce license.  I had used SalesForce.com a couple of years ago at my company, so I wassomewhat familiar with it.  I wanted to use what I had already developed in terms of my Access tables so I would not have to re-type everything.  My goal was to have a single location for membership information that multiple users could get to for reports.

I had some excellent assistance from the SalesForce.com tech support team to import my tablesd from Access.  SalesForce has many tools, with extensive abilities.  I have not been able to get too far with querires and reports as I have not been able to devote as much time to it as it appears I will need to.  I will need to watch some of their videos I think to get up to speed.   My first impression though is this is not a simple system to use, and not for someone who does not have some database management experience.

Duane, I'm glad you tried Salesforce and found it do-able, and also had a good experience with their support. 

I'm thinking of making my church setup for Salesforce.com into an App available on the App store. Like you, though, I haven't been able to devote the time to it yet.

Regarding your last sentence about the system not being able to use, I would disagree if you actually mean just to use -- I believe one of Salesforce.com's biggest advantages is how simple it is to use for the average user. Its user interface is very much like other web-based sites such as Amazon or EBay and I've found that users find the navigation intuitive.

However, if you mean that it might not be simple for someone who does not have some database management experience to set it up for their chiurch, I can see where you may be coming from. That would also be true for anyone trying to create something in Access or other database programs -- there is a learning curve involved and database experience would make it much easier to understand. However, that said, I believe Salesforce.com is quite a bit simpler to customize than most other database programs. An awful lot can be done with simple point & clicks. Advanced features do require learning more, though.

I hope you get a chance to delve more into Salesforce.com. I sometimes make people look at me weirdly when I say, "Databases are fun." Maybe you'd agree? :)

Duane,

I have software you may be interested in.  Send me an email and I will send the help file so you can get an idea what features it has.  It uses MS SQL backend.  It was developed for my church, a CRC.  We've been using it for 5 or 6 years.

wdaledb@gmail.com

Shalom

Thanks you for the good works. Please I am sure this software will be helpful to our Church. Please send a copy to us. email : shalommissions@hotmail.com. If there are other useful softwares, pratical materials and website for Church planting, management and Christian leadership, please help us with it.

Thanks you and God bless you.

 

Rev. Mensah

Duane,

Just checking to see if you received my email with help file attachment.

Dale

Dale, Sorry, i thought I sent a note back.  I have your file.  I will be looking it over this week.  To stuffed to read these days!  Thanks!

Is anyone using a church management software that includes online giving?  We currently have Servant Keeper and the deacons are not happy with it.  The directories features are not great as well.  We are looking into new software that "does it all."  Any recommendations?

Debbie,

If you would please send an email directly to me. 

 

wdaledb@gmail.com

 

Thank you 

Dale

I've played around with quite a few of these church membership software programs. Depending on the size of your church, they may or may not be worth it yet. It's true that Excel is user-friendly, but it definitely has its limitations. One of the main limitations is that it isn't very good at preventing errors. Some studies on the topic have showed that over 90 percent of Excel spreadsheets have errors. Computer programs have internal controls that make it less-likely for these errors to occur.

This is just my opinion (and I know some people disagree) but I currently think that Servant Keeper is the best church management software program out there. I'm an accounting guy and Servant Keeper hooks up with my favorite accounting program: Quickbooks.

I am a Salesforce Administrator where I work and I am also in sales and marketing. The sales cycle and the church membership cycle are very similar. Please hear my heart I am not trying to reduce the saving, mending, training and sending of disciples to a sales pitch. What I am saying is they can be managed similarly. On top of that you can manage staff, elders, volunteers, giving, campaigns, giving, and anything else you want to report on from one program. And one more important thing, I almost forgot, the first 10 licenses are FREE! And I am not talking about some stripped down demo versions. I am talking about a full-blown enterprise level software. I am interested in working with a couple of churches to develop a process by which we analyize the needs of your congregation and then customize the software to fit those needs. I will provide all of the customization free of charge. All I ask in return is that the senior pastor agree to adopt this system and personally commit to implementing it himself first, and then his staff and volunteers. I have found in order for adoption of this software to work it must start at the top. I am typing this on a iPad and I am sorry for any spelling or grammatical errors.

James, I signed up for and now have a SalesForce account.  It took a while, but I was able to import my Access database up to SalesForce.  My biggest challenge since then is trying to create a report.  There are some fairly typical reports we use including phone directories, membership lists, etc.  Most folks are comfortable using computers these days, but in order for a product to be used, they have to be able to enter data and create reports fairly easily.  So far, I haven't found SF easy to use to create reports, and I spend my days working on or with computers.  If we can set up ways to easily enter and modify data, and create or use these standard reports, I'd be more than happy to take a swing at this.

Duane, I would be more than happy to help you. Have used the only training to understand how reports in SF work? If you haven't that would be good place to start. There are three different styles of reports available in SF. Each style is used to provide different types of information. The second thing I would do is try and find a report in the list of standard reports that most closely fits what you want and then modify in order to report the data you want. If you want lets set a time where we can do a gotomeeting and I will share my screen with you and we can walk through some of this. Please feel free to email me at jmoore@mooresalesllc.com.

Sales Force is being used by some staff at CRC's and is also being used at the denominational offices.  The Church and Web network has some articles and blogs on the subject--enter "Sales Force" in the search. Other churches may find some very useful information on using Sales Force at your church.

We at Terrace CRC are using Churchinfo, currently we only use it to track membership,  small group lists and elder lists and most important printing the church directory with or without photos.

Churchinfo is a free web based solution. It has many features that we are not currently using including:

 

  • group membership
  • contact lists
  • reports on groups and roles
  • Members Directory: Printable directory of all members, grouped by family where assigned
  • Letters and Mailing Labels
  • Birthdays: Members with birthdays in a particular month
  • Family Member Count: Returns each family and the total number of people assigned to them.
  • Membership anniversaries: Members who joined in a particular month
  • Person by Age: Returns any person records with ages between two given ages.
  • Person by properties: Returns person records which are assigned the given property.
  • Person by Role and Gender: Selects person records with the family role and gender specified.
  • Person Count
  • Recent friends: Friends who signed up in previous months
  • Select all members: People who are members
  • Select database users: People who are registered as database users
  • Total By Gender: Total of records matching a given gender.
  • Volunteers: Find volunteers for a particular opportunity
  • Volunteers: Find volunteers for who match two specific opportunity codes
  • Advanced Search: Search by any part of Name, City, State, Zip, or Home Phone.
  • Families to canvass: People in families that are ok to canvass. 

Sorry posted same message twice.

Andrew,

Thanks for the posting on this.  I started testing this out.  I was able to import my old database without too much trouble.  This is still geared more towards a web admin with SQL experience, but I like the idea of having the data managed securely available via the web.  This would allow others who need to see or modify the data access, without it being locked up on a single computer in the church office.

Hello.  I am in ministry at a local church in Medina, Ohio.  I have written a church management application on the web that might suit your needs.  There is a monthly subscription but that is negotiable.  It’s called Grassroots CMS and you can go to this site http://165.236.143.12/ and login with username demo and password demo.  Let me know what you think and maybe we can talk.  The cool thing about my software is that if you want it to do something I can change it custom for your church!

Thanks.  I'll take a look.  I know we are still using a more manual method.  I could send you a screen shot or two of the reports I had been generating, as well as the fields we have found need to get tracked.

This might be a bit late to this party here, but there is another great system worth checking out called Fresh Vine. It has been purposed to be very intuitive and easy to use for managing your church. Their site is http://FreshVine.co/ - it's worth a look.

Hello everyone!

I'm also a little late to this discussion, but I wanted to mention another product that is very relevant to the topic. I have personally been involved in the development of a new, unique web app designed specifically for Reformed churches. It is called Church Social (http://churchsocialapp.com). 

This software is just becoming available, and we have about 10 Canadian and United Reformed Churches already using it. Here is a brief introduction, please let me know if you have any questions!

Church Social aims to help Reformed congregations in three main ways:

1. Membership Management

Church Social makes tracking your membership information a simple task. No more struggling with Excel or an old database, just enter your data and watch the software automatically generate detailed member statistics.

Church Social tracks members, families, wards, office bearers, birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, communicant members and much more.

2. Member Communication

Church Social creates a secure, private online member community for your congregation. Members can login and access your member photo directory, a birthday/anniversary/events calendar, a bulletin archive, schedules, photo galleries, and more.

There is also an bulk email tool that allows members to send messages to other members in the congregation, specific wards or custom groups (like bible studies).

3. Public Websites

Finally, Church Social offers beautifully designed church websites are easy to keep up-to-date. Share the responsibility of editing your website with other members—no more relying on one web developer to make all the site changes.

Also, all our of website are "responsive", meaning that they work great on phones and tablets, as well as desktop computers.

I've been reading the comments regarding church record documentation.  We have a few that are computer guru's but for many that at some point now or in the future may need to use this program we are looking for a program which seems to be fairly user friendly and yet allow us to keep good records.

Does anyone know of a Church Management System that meets these criteria:

1. Web-based.
2. Allows members to log in (e.g. update profile, giving, email preferences, volunteer signup, etc).
3. Allows members to log in with existing Facebook/Gmail/etc accounts.

I've found a few that meet criteria 1 and 2, but none that meet criteria 3.

Without login via Facebook/Gmail/etc it seems like it would be hard to get members to actually use the system. Nobody wants another login/password to remember.

Any solutions you know of? Or am I making too much of that 3rd criteria?

Hi Tim,

I'm the creator of Church Social, and the biggest challenge I see with social logins is tying their social account to an existing account within the church's database. What unique identifier would you use to make this connection? An email address seems like a logicial choice, but there are some challenges here:

1. What happens if no email address has been set for this member in the church administration software?
2. What happens if they use a different email address for their social account than what is set in the church administration software?
3. What's stopping somone from creating a fake social account, just to gain access to another members church account?

Typically social logins are used when an account does not yet exist. However, with church administration software an account must exist already since the memebrship information must be recorded whether a user chooses to login online or not.

With Church Social, the process goes like this:

1. Congregation is setup with an account
2. Adminstration imports member data (typically from an existing Access database or some other software)
3. Welcome emails are sent to member accounts that have an email address set already, allowing them to login immediately
4. A notice is posted in the bulletin that Sunday inviting members (who did not recieve a weclome email) to provide an email address
5. Adminstration updates accounts with new email addresses and sends subsequent welcome emails

This process works pretty well, although I will admit it does take a little effort when a congregation is first "getting going".

I'm no expert on these social login systems, but I believe they work by matching email addresses (as you mentioned). So they'll only work if you the church has an email on file for you, and it's the same email as your social login provider (e.g. Facebook, Gmail). So those are requirements, but ones that most members already meet.

As for your #3 (creating a fake social account to gain access to a church) that would be impossible because of email validation. As part of the account creation process on Facebook, for example, I need to verify that I am the rightful owner of that email address by clicking the verification link that's emailed to me. So I can't create a Facebook account using an email address that I don't own.

Social login is becoming very common, especially with tools like JanRain, Gigya, OneAll, etc. making it easier to implement. And I think it's as secure as your Gmail/Facebook account.

 

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