Posts Tagged ‘CMS / ChMS’

Mobile Devices, Apps, & Other Exciting Technologies

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Uncategorized

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

The world of computing is going through more changes, thanks to the cloud and its ability to make data–and access to it–pervasive. Anywhere and everywhere! How does a church or ministry decide what technologies to adopt? The answer is surprisingly Old School.

New & Exciting Technologies
There are so many new ways to access and process data! iPads and Androids are changing everything! Or they at least want to! Between those devices and our smartphones, it doesn’t seem like we need desktop and notebook computers anymore.

There are two issues worthy of addressing here: 1) the hardware, and 2) where our data is located in the cloud.

Hardware
Tablets are terrific tools, but are they the right tools for those jobs we are called to in The Church? For some jobs they are, but for some they aren’t. How can you tell which is correct for your organization?

My perspective is impacted by my degree and subsequent studies in management. That affects how I approach and strategically use technology. I told a member of our team recently that I like to manage as though I were a NASCAR driver: I want maximum RPMs and output, but I need to be equally focused on maintenance and care. With regards to maintenance, different members of the crew need different tools to get their job done (imagine giving the jackman’s jack to the engine tuner, or the engine tuner’s computer to the jackman!). This relates to the hardware options available today.

Depending on someone’s role, they may be best to use a tablet (iPad or Android) rather than having a desktop or notebook computer. This might be true for those who rarely work in accounting or databases, for example. Tablets are terrific for email, browsing, organizing thoughts in preparation to teach or lead a meeting, and so on.

Others, however, can only be efficient with a desktop or notebook computer. This might be true for those who work in accounting or databases, as well as graphic design and audio/video editing. Those roles need full keyboards, mice or trackpads, and monitors (displays in the Apple world). While it’s true that some of this work can be done on a tablet, the process will very likely take a big hit in efficiency. As those who want to hear “Well done” at the end of this earthly journey, good management means balancing efficiency with maintenance and care.

Data Location in The Cloud
The cloud is the vehicle driving us toward more use of tablets and smartphones to do the operational side of ministry. To be fair, some solutions have focused on creating very good and efficient apps to help us do more on those devices. But some solutions, like accounting systems and databases, are so large and intense that apps only access a subset of all that the computer version of the solutions have to offer.

There’s another issue that should be strategized when trusting our data to the cloud. The issue is the safety and availability of our data. The practical issue is whether our data will be available to us when we need it.

Let’s break this into two categories: how the data is available, and the safety of the data.

  • Churches and ministries function most efficiently and safely when certain kinds of data are sharable among members of a group or department. For instance, the children’s or youth department of a church may have multiple team members on staff, and those team members each need to access the same data. Their data needs to be in a shared folder. The administrative or human resource departments may have similar needs, but their data is sensitive and needs to be secure so that only the members of those departments can get to their data.

    It is important that whoever we’re entrusting the hosting of our data to can meet those sharable and security needs. There are some providers that can’t, and thus may not be good candidates to host our data.

  • Not all datacenters are created equal. The key issues are how they protect the data stored within their buildings (physical and technical security), and how redundant the necessary systems are to ensure uptime. The redundancy is the easiest to score. I created the following chart for my book, Church IT: Strategies and Solutions:

Tier
Rating

Redundancy

%
Uptime

Downtime

1

no redundancy (only one source of power, only one internet trunk, only one way to manage HVAC)

99.671%

up to 22.8 hours of downtime annually

2

partial redundancy

99.749%

up to 22 hours of downtime annually

3

full redundancy, a.k.a.
N+1 fault tolerance

99.982%

up to 1.6 hours of downtime annually

4

at least double redundancy, a.k.a. 2N+1 fault tolerance

99.995%

up to 26.3 minutes of downtime annually

I recommend only entrusting your data to a certified Tier 3 or Tier 4 datacenter. Anything less may mean you can’t get to your data when you need or want to. Remember, your busiest day of the week is when many others might schedule maintenance!

There are so many exciting technologies we can use today! Good management means getting optimal output from our team members, and that is dependent on providing them with the right tools based on their role in our organization.

Church & Donor Management Software – ChMS

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2016 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
Ministry Business Services, Inc. President
Reprinted from inSIGHT

Solutions from church and donor management software providers keep improving in their ability to help churches and ministries fulfill their mission! Their features to track and communicate with people, their web and mobile device interfaces, and their powerful database tools make this category of software a big help and valuable asset for today’s ministries in reaching many with The Gospel and discipling them.

Church Software Historical Perspective
In the mid-1980s the number of these programs had grown to 262! Then some merged, some consolidated, and some went out of business, reducing the number to only 34. In the 1990s the Internet made it so easy for those writing solutions to share them that the number of solutions has since more than doubled! Our research this year found 72 solutions focusing on the church and ministry market, of which 39 qualified for this article (requirements include active marketing, minimum growth, and active development of their solution).

We always include new providers (those three years old or less) to give them a chance to build some momentum and compete with ‘the big guys’. It also keeps all of the providers ‘on their toes’ as the up-and-comers sometimes develop new technologies that benefit many churches and ministries in a new way.

Why Church Management Software?
The solution providers on the following pages meet the sophisticated and complex needs of churches and ministries. Tracking more than just names, addresses, and phone numbers, many of these also help build community and track family relationships, spiritual gifts, talents, interests, attendance, nursery security, contributions, fundraising campaigns, volunteerism, small groups, and more.

Church and ministry offices can be stressful workplaces because of the many deadlines that must be met by an administrative staff that is typically smaller in number than what would be found in a similar-sized secular business. Church management software, if well written, can be a soothing balm. If it’s powerful, capable, fast, and stable, the ministry team can rely on it to help them get the most possible work done– efficiently and with minimal stress. And if its abilities are broad enough, every ministry in the church or ministry can focus on just one database, increasing synergy and minimizing cost.

Church Management Software Defined
Some time ago Steve Hewitt, then Editor-in-Chief of Christian Computing Magazine (recently re-branded as MinistryTech Magazine), labeled the software category tailored to meet the needs of churches as Church Management Software, or CMS. More recently some began calling it ChMS to help prevent confusion since there are now so many software categories called ‘CMS’. Parachurch ministries need to track similar data, so we invited those solutions into this article too. Following is a well-researched list of the leading ChMS providers at the time of this writing, with each stating at the top of the feature chart whether their focus is church, parachurch, or both.

Not-for-Profit Accounting
Churches and ministries exist in a unique accounting niche that most software (and even most CPAs!) can’t help with. But many ChMS packages can help in this area.

One of a ministry’s most vulnerable areas is finance. All too often we hear about churches and ministries that have suffered embezzlement by a trusted team member. One of the best protections is an accounting system that has a good audit trail, tracking the detail of every transaction and whose data cannot be altered in any way. For these reasons, some ChMS providers have written their own fully-integrated accounting system.

Some churches and ministries want a ChMS that has a fully-integrated accounting system, and we list the functions they look for in the chart. Others may not care if the ChMS provider has written its own accounting system, and for them it’s good to know that most ChMSes can interface with ‘third-party’ accounting systems such as those in the chart that only provide nonprofit accounting solutions.

Feature Chart
We’ve tried to give you the most comprehensive and quickest format possible of those ChMS database and accounting functions ministry teams request most. We removed features provided by all ChMS providers to help focus on solutions’ distinct feature sets.

The chart lists solutions by the name their providers use to market them rather than by the company name (a change since last year). We included the company name, however, in the section following the chart in which we give information on each provider such as how to reach them, how long they’ve been making their solutions available, how many organizations they currently serve, their support hours, and how often they update their software. All of the information in this article was provided by the software companies.

The chart uses two symbols:

  • The ” 1 ” symbol indicates features ChMS companies provide directly, and
  • The ” 2 ” symbol indicates needs they meet through an outside (third party) source.

Happy Hunting!
Shop wisely. We recommend that you do your due diligence and check with current users of the software you’re interested in. Ask questions like:

  • Does the software do what was promised?
  • Is their support team capable and available?
  • If you were faced with the same decision today, what would you do differently?

Feel free to contact any of the providers listed.  They would love to help you in your ministry.  Happy hunting!

CLICK CHART IMAGE TO MAGNIFY

chms-chart

 

List of ChMS Providers in Chart

ACS
by ACS Technologies
Phone: 800.736.7425
Email: solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web: www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing CMS: 39
Ministries Currently Using: 50000
Number on Team: 395
Support: 9a-8p M-Th, 9a-6p Fri Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: 8

Fresh Vine
by Fresh Vine
Phone: 888.708.1905
Email: contact@freshvine.co
Web: https://freshvine.co
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing CMS: 5
Ministries Currently Using: 330
Number on Team: 3
Support: 10a-5p Central
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

AgapeWORKS
by AgapeWORKS
Phone: 760.718.3273 x2
Email: info@agapeworks.org
Web: www.agapeworks.org
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing CMS: 11
Ministries Currently Using: 6188
Number on Team: 5
Support: 9a-5p Pacific
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016|
Updates per Year: 12

Iglesia HOY
by JR Software
Phone: 52+1.664.251.5478
Email: informacion@iglesiahoy.com
Web: www.iglesiahoy.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing CMS: 17
Ministries Currently Using: 2800
Number on Team: 6
Support: 8a-6p Pacific
Last Major Release: 7/1/2015
Updates per Year: 3

Aplos Accounting
by Aplos Software
Phone: 888.274.1316
Email: sales@aplos.com
Web: www.aplos.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing CMS: 5
Ministries Currently Using: 3200
Number on Team: 32
Support: 8a-4p Pacific
Last Major Release: 9/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

Intacct
by Intacct
Phone: 877.437.7765
Email: info@intacct.com
Web: www.intacct.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing CMS: 16
Ministries Currently Using: 1700
Number on Team: 450
Support: 6a-5p Pacific
Last Major Release: 11/1/2016
Updates per Year: 4

Breeze
by Breeze
Phone: 888.320.6030
Email: support@breezechms.com
Web: www.breezechms.com
Company Founded in 2013
Years Marketing CMS: 3
Ministries Currently Using: 1600
Number on Team: 12
Support: 9a-5p Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

MinistryTracker.com
by Ministry Tracker
Phone: 360.450.3542
Email: support@ministrytracker.com
Web: www.ministrytracker.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing CMS: 13
Ministries Currently Using: 2000
Number on Team: 5
Support: 9a-5p Pacific + 24•7 Pager
Last Major Release: 6/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

CahabaWorks
by CahabaCreek Software (2AB, Inc.)
Phone: 205.621.9649
Email: sales@cahabacreek.com
Web: www.cahabacreek.com
Company Founded in 1997
Years Marketing CMS: 11
Ministries Currently Using: 1078
Number on Team: 8
Support: 9a-4p Central
Last Major Release: 3/1/2016
Updates per Year: 3

Parish Data System (PDS)
by ACS Technologies
Phone: 800.736.7425
Email: solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web: www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing CMS: 39
Ministries Currently Using: 50000
Number on Team: 395
Support: 9a-8p M-Th, 9a-6p Fri Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: 8

CCIS Shield CMS
by CCIS Church Management Software
Phone: 800.295.7551
Email: sales@ccissoftware.com
Web: www.ccissoftware.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing CMS: 36
Ministries Currently Using: 6704
Number on Team: 60
Support: 8a-5p Eastern
Last Major Release: 3/1/2016
Updates per Year: 3

ParishSoft ConnectNow
by ParishSoft (Ministry Brands)
Phone: 866.930.4774 x7
Email: info@parishsoft.com
Web: www.parishsoft.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing CMS: 18
Ministries Currently Using: 12000
Number on Team: 78
Support: 8a-8p Eastern
Last Major Release: 8/1/2016
Updates per Year: 4

CDM+
by Suran Systems Inc.
Phone: 877.891.4236
Email: sales@cdmplus.com
Web: www.cdmplus.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing CMS: 30
Ministries Currently Using: 6500
Number on Team: 30
Support: 8:30a-6p Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: 4

Realm
by ACS Technologies
Phone: 800.736.7425
Email: solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web: www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing CMS: 39
Ministries Currently Using: 50000
Number on Team: 395
Support: 9a-8p M-Th, 9a-6p Fri Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/27/2016
Updates per Year: 20

Church Membership Directory
by Software for Ministry
Phone: 817.219.1243
Email: mic@softwareforministry.com
Web: www.softwareforministry.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing CMS: 32
Ministries Currently Using: 400
Number on Team: 2
Support: 9a-5p Central
Last Major Release: 2/15/2016
Updates per Year: 3

Rock RMS
by Spark Development Network, Inc.
Phone: 623.777.3377
Email: info@sparkdevnetwork.org
Web: www.rockrms.com
Company Founded in 2012
Years Marketing CMS: 1
Ministries Currently Using: 150
Number on Team: 3
Support: 24•7 via Web or Email
Last Major Release: 8/1/2016
Updates per Year: 2

Church Windows
by Computer Helper Publishing
Phone: 800.533.5227
Email: sales@churchwindows.com
Web: www.churchwindows.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing CMS: 29
Ministries Currently Using: 12000
Number on Team: 28
Support: 9a-6p M-Th, 9a-5p Fri Eastern
Last Major Release: 8/1/2016
Updates per Year: 1

Roll Call
by By the Book
Phone: 815.234.7530
Email: kim@bythebook.com
Web: www.bythebook.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing CMS: 24
Ministries Currently Using: 4806
Number on Team: 6
Support: 8a- 5p M-F, 7a-1p Sun Central
Last Major Release: 12/15/2016
Updates per Year: 1

Church360°
by Concordia Technology Solutions
Phone: 800.325.2399
Email: softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web: www.concordiatechnology.org/
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing CMS: 32
Ministries Currently Using: 1100
Number on Team: 25
Support: 7:30a-5p Central
Last Major Release: 8/1/2016
Updates per Year: 15

Seraphim Software
by Seraphim Software
Phone: 855.681.6160
Email: info@seraphimsoftware.com
Web: www.seraphimsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2012
Years Marketing CMS: 3
Ministries Currently Using: 225
Number on Team: 18
Support: 8a-7p Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/16/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

Churchteams
by Churchteams.com, Inc
Phone: 817.320.4112
Email: info@churchteams.com
Web: https://churchteams.com
Company Founded in 2001
Years Marketing CMS: 9
Ministries Currently Using: 950
Number on Team: 7
Support: 8:30a to 5p Central
Last Major Release: 6/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

Servant Keeper
by Servant PC Resources, Inc
Phone: 800.773.7570
Email: sales@servantpc.com
Web: www.servantpc.com
Company Founded in 1994
Years Marketing CMS: 22
Ministries Currently Using: 35000
Number on Team: 30
Support: 9a-6p Eastern
Last Major Release: 1/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

ChurchTrac Software
by ChurchTrac Software, Inc.
Phone: 877.704.0222
Email: josh@churchtrac.com
Web: https://churchtraconline.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing CMS: 13
Ministries Currently Using: 6800
Number on Team: 6
Support: 8a-6p Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/21/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

Shelby Systems
by Shelby Systems (Ministry Brands)
Phone: 800.877.0222
Email: sales@shelbyinc.com
Web: www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing CMS: 41
Ministries Currently Using: 8700
Number on Team: 84
Support: 7a -6p Central
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: 3

COMS and/or EFA for Windows
by Specialty Software
Phone: 800.568.6350
Email: sales@specialtysoftware.com
Web: www.SpecialtySoftware.com
Company Founded in 1982
Years Marketing CMS: 34
Ministries Currently Using: 6000
Number on Team: 10
Support: 9a-5p Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: 4

Shepherd’s Staff
by Concordia Technology Solutions
Phone: 800.325.2399
Email: softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web: www.concordiatechnology.org/
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing CMS: 32
Ministries Currently Using: 3500
Number on Team: 25
Support: 7:30a-5p Central
Last Major Release: 5/1/2016
Updates per Year: 2

Cool Life CRM
by Cool Life CRM, Inc.
Phone: 800.988.8850
Email: sales@coollifecrm.com
Web: www.coollifecrm.com
Company Founded in 2005
Years Marketing CMS: 3
Ministries Currently Using: 34
Number on Team: 6
Support: 8a-6p Eastern
Last Major Release: 3/1/2015
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

Software4Nonprofits
by Cooperstock Software
Phone: 416.423.7722
Email: info@software4nonprofits.com
Web: www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing CMS: 17
Ministries Currently Using: 5600
Number on Team: 2
Support: 9a-9p Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: 12

Donarius ChMS
by Nuverb Systems Inc.
Phone: 888.479.4636
Email: question@nuverb.com
Web: www.donarius.com
Company Founded in 1993
Years Marketing CMS: 18
Ministries Currently Using: 2210
Number on Team: 1
Support: 9a-6p Eastern
Last Major Release: 8/1/2016
Updates per Year: 20

The City
by ACS Technologies
Phone: 800.736.7425
Email: solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web: www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing CMS: 39
Ministries Currently Using: 50000
Number on Team: 395
Support: 9a-8p M-Th, 9a-6p Fri Eastern
Last Major Release: 9/1/2016
Updates per Year: 4

Excellerate Church Management
by Micro System Design
Phone: 888.371.6878
Email: info@excellerate.com
Web: www.excellerate.com
Company Founded in 1989
Years Marketing CMS: 18
Ministries Currently Using: 2396
Number on Team: 3
Support: 9a-5p Central
Last Major Release: 7/27/2016
Updates per Year: 12

TouchPoint Software
by TouchPoint Software LLC
Phone: 208.963.5388
Email: info@touchpointsoftware.com
Web: www.touchpointsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing CMS: 6
Ministries Currently Using: 285
Number on Team: 5
Support: 8a-5p Central + 24•7 via Email
Last Major Release: 10/27/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

 

Faithful Steward
by Diakonia
Phone: 800.325.6642
Email: info@faithfulsteward.com
Web: www.church-software.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing CMS: 22
Ministries Currently Using: 1084
Number on Team: 3
Support: 9a-5p Central
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

UCare
by UCare Technologies PTY LTD
Phone: via Email Only
Email: support@ucarehq.com
Web: www.ucarehq.com
Company Founded in 2011
Years Marketing CMS: 5
Ministries Currently Using: 400
Number on Team: 7
Support: 24•7 via Web or Email
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

 

FellowshipOne
by FellowshipOne (Ministry Brands)
Phone: 844.459.8525
Email: sales@fellowshipone.com
Web: www.fellowshipone.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing CMS: 12
Ministries Currently Using: 4000
Number on Team: 50
Support: 7a-7p Central
Last Major Release: 8/16/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

Web Church Connect
by Web Church Connect
Phone: 877.225.3713
Email: info@webchurchconnect.com
Web: https://wcclite.com
Company Founded in 2011
Years Marketing CMS: 5
Ministries Currently Using: 325
Number on Team: 4
Support: 7a-5p Pacific
Last Major Release: 7/1/2016
Updates per Year: 3 

Financial Edge NXT & Raiser’s Edge NXT
by Blackbaud
Phone: 800.443.9441
Email: solutions@blackbaud.com
Web: www.blackbaud.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing CMS: 20
Ministries Currently Using: 1050
Number on Team: 500
Support: 8a-8p Eastern
Last Major Release: 10/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

Xero
by Xero
Phone: via Email Only
Email: sales@xero.com
Web: www.xero.com
Company Founded in 2006
Years Marketing CMS: 9
Ministries Currently Using: 1000
Number on Team: 1400
Support: 24•7
Last Major Release: 11/1/2016
Updates per Year: Ongoing via Web

FlockBase Church Software
by Owen & Walker Software Solutions
Phone: 877.883.5625
Email: ken@flockbase.com
Web: www.flockbase.com
Company Founded in 2006
Years Marketing CMS: 10
Ministries Currently Using: 3127
Number on Team: 2
Support: 9a-5:30p Central
Last Major Release: 12/1/2015
Updates per Year: 1

 

Nick’s Software Picks

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2016 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

Our team is privileged to have served many hundreds of ministries nationwide as IT strategists, engineers, and consultants. We don’t sell or profit from any of the software we recommend, but in those IT roles we’ve found that some software works better in church and ministry offices than others. It is with that perspective that we make the following recommendations.

Software comes in three general categories: operating systems, applications, and games. Although games are the most fun, in this article we will only look at operating systems and applications.

Workstation Operating Systems
Operating system software (often called the OS) is what helps computers know what to do with the commands they receive from users and programs. Desktop and notebook OSes today are mostly from Apple or Microsoft.

Our current Windows OS preference is Windows 10 Pro. Win10 is consumes fewer computer resources (processor, RAM, etc) than its predecessors, but to run it well we recommend buying the fastest processor you can afford with at least 4Gb of RAM. We also recommend avoiding Home and Student editions in office environments, and Microsoft agrees.

Our current Mac OS recommendation is 10.11, El Capitan, but that will likely change this Fall when Apple releases Sierra.

Network Operating Systems
The discussion of Linux vs Novell NetWare vs Microsoft Windows Server has been settled, and Microsoft has won the NOS (Network OS) wars. Our current recommendation is Windows Server 2012r2, but that may change once we’ve seen and evaluated the final release of Windows Server 2016 (due out this Fall).

Hypervisors
Hypervisors turn computers we’ve historically called servers into hosts for many virtual servers. Though it sounds complex, it’s actually simple once seen.

Some of the reasons this new category of software has gained so much acceptance in corporate America are:

  • The computer’s processor chip is the most expensive component in the computer. Most servers’ processors only use 5% – 10% of their processing capacity after they’ve started, and so this very expensive component usually goes mostly unused. By installing a hypervisor and then hosting virtual servers on top of it, you are able to get more use out of your physical server computers, achieving a much higher return on your investment.
  • Windows Servers function best–most reliably–when they only run one service, like Exchange, for instance. That means in a Windows network you’re best to have many servers, which can be expensive if they’re physical servers. Using hypervisor technology reduces your cost significantly because you’re able to run many virtual servers on one host, and the only additional cost to configuring a host is that it may need more RAM.
  • In most church and ministry networks, the version of hypervisor software needed is completely free!

Hypervisor software is the latest battle focus for IT domination, which is good for consumers. The company that invented the technology for the PC platform is VMware, and their software is currently the best—no contest. Microsoft, Citrix, and others are also in the marketplace, so that may change someday. But for now, VMware is the software to go with. You can download it for free at www.vmware.com.

Network Utilities
The simplest tool for distributing standardized workstations across a network is still Symantec’s Ghost. It allows you to create an image of a workstation hard drive, store it, and then distribute it to other similar workstations; in effect, cloning them.

Our favorite network back-up software is from Veeam. There’s no better protection available today to help protect the valuable data on a Windows network—virtualized or physical.

The best anti-malware for churches and ministries is Thirtyseven4 (www.thirtyseven4.com). It is capable, works on Windows and Mac computers and servers, and it is affordably priced for churches and ministries.

And speaking of protection, we recommend purchasing uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) with software that communicates with each server. This kind of protection keeps the server and those logged in to it aware of any power changes that could impact the network. The best is PowerChute, which ships for free with American Power Conversion’s Smart UPSes.

Applications
The programs we use to get our work done (I refer to this category as productivity software) can come in separate modules or in suites.

Microsoft Office 2016 dominates the productivity software field.

Word Processor & Layout
Church word processing is highly layout and mail-merge oriented, as opposed to simple document processing. If your team uses Microsoft Word, then you probably augment the layout function with a light desktop publisher like Microsoft Publisher (Windows only). The most capable and preferred desktop publisher suite, however, is Creative Cloud from Adobe. Creative Cloud includes many powerful tools like InDesign, PhotoShop, LightRoom, and Acrobat that can take your publications—print and online—to the next level.

Spreadsheet
The best spreadsheet available is Microsoft Excel. The formula, charting, pivot table, and diagnostic functions are powerful and easy to use. And Excel spreadsheets and charts paste easily into Word documents. Excel can also link to databases (using pivot tables), providing real-time diagnostic charting to help make good management decisions.

Presentation
This software lets you put together lessons, sermons, classes, and more in outline form. Those outlines can be presented as attractive slide shows that can be projected through monitors or projectors with attention-getting graphics and animation. The best app in this area is Microsoft’s PowerPoint.

The two greatest benefits are:

  1. Reduced preparation time since the software works in outline form; and
  2. Enhanced delivery of your message because it involves more senses and can be graphically memorable.

Email, Calendars, & Task Management
Outlook and Exchange are the combination of choice for this category. Exchange is the email server, and Outlook is the client that presents Exchange’s contents to the user. Beginning with Office 2011, Outlook is included in Office for Mac, allowing better collaboration among all team members!

Database
Most ministries are best to buy a ministry or church management system (ChMS) that is designed to serve the needs of ministries rather than to buy a database engine and develop a database of their own. There are many good ChMS providers listed in this journal. But don’t try to buy a database engine and develop your own; it takes too much time and is too hard on the staff.

Bible Study Tools & Libraries
There are many good tools to help in this area. My favorite two are Logos for study and prep (www.logos.com), and YouVersion—free!—for devotions and reading on the go (runs on any SmartPhone). YouVersion can even be incorporated into your live events! See www.youversion.com.

Brainstorming / Note Taking Tool
A great tool for brainstorming and note taking is iThoughtsX. It runs on any platform and is terrific for meetings, workshops, sermon preparation, and more.

Electronic Wallets
There are many electronic wallet solutions available today. My favorite is eWallet from SPB. The data is stored on my devices rather than on someone’s server (those servers are big hacking targets), and each of my devices synchronize changes made with each other. Great security and convenience!

Happy Shopping!
Churches and ministries qualify for steep discounts for many of these solutions! If you’re a church or ministry, never pay retail without first checking with others or the manufacturers to make certain you’re not overspending.

The Challenge of Today’s Family Structures in ChMSes

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2015 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

There’s no doubt that family structures have changed dramatically in the last forty years. ChMS databases are struggling to cope with those changes, and that makes ministry more challenging because most ChMSes impose traditional family structures on today’s family structures. A change must be made! Here are some thoughts that may help.

Our Culture Has Changed
Up through the 1960s and into the 1970s, most family structures were more traditional than they are today. Divorce was rare and even scandalous! Blended families tended to happen more because of widows and widowers getting married than for any other reason, and the percentage of those occurrences was low enough to not challenge the thinking of database structures.

But that has definitely changed! 2015 U.S. Census Bureau statistics show what we all see around us: intact traditional families are in significant decline, and children raised by a parent who has never been wed or is divorced is significantly increasing. This is true in The Church too, something we couldn’t imagine forty years ago! The result is that when ChMS databases insist on using traditional family structures, serving children and their parents in churches with large children’s ministries becomes operationally very challenging.

Most ChMS Databases Don’t Cope Well
Most ChMSes are built around the traditional family structure (two parents of differing genders who have their children in the home together) with methods to connect people beyond those traditional immediate family roles (grandparents, etc). So a person’s database record wants to put them in one of those traditional roles and may look something like this:

Any relationships outside of that family structure are treated as somewhat unusual, and merely accommodated. But consider, for example, a child of divorced and remarried parents who each have custody. Maybe the shared custody is of the third child from the first family, and Dad’s new family also has two more kids with the child’s StepMom. It might look like this:

Which family should you put the child in? What if both parents are involved in the same church, and the child might come to church with either one? And what if you use your ChMS’s security check-in solution? It all gets very complicated.

A Thought on How They Can Change
This is a situation I see many churches wrestle with when they’re looking for a new ChMS solution. It struck me in a recent consultation that the answer might be to change the database structure so that each record is of an individual with links to other records in the database, and each link ‘type’ would carry with it appropriate business rules and functionality. Maybe it would look a little like this:

I don’t pretend to be a a programmer, and I don’t know what the programming implications of this different type of structure are. But if ChMS databases are to be relevant in today’s complex family structures, a change of this magnitude seems necessary.

Serpents & Doves

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2015 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

Jesus made an interesting statement in Matthew 10:16b, “…be as shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (NASB). I believe these words of His are good guidelines for Christians to apply in every aspect of doing business. We are to be shrewd, yet innocent.

The word translated as shrewd sometimes means being prudent, sensible, and practically wise.[1] Jesus gave this counsel to his disciples, and it may also have had the sense of acting with prudence regarding to their own safety. Being innocent, on the other hand, means to be pure.[2] In other words, negotiate wisely; but always honor the Lord by loving those with whom you negotiate. Be willing to ask, and to do so in such a way as to bring the other person closer to Jesus– or at least in a way that doesn’t drive the other person further from Jesus.

What does all of this have to do with computers? Let’s see.

Off-The-Shelf Software
Some software, such as off-the-shelf productivity suites, offer very little over which to negotiate an improved position. Open for discussion, however, are:

  • If you’re actually buying software in a store, don’t be afraid to make a “counter-offer”– a price lower than that posted on the package. If the salesperson won’t reduce the price, ask that another program or some supplies be added at no extra charge. While you may hear, “No” fairly often, you’ll be surprised at how often you hear, “Yes”!
  • If available, always ask for charity pricing! Many software providers offer SKUs that steeply discount their solutions for charities.

Vertical Market Software
Software that isn’t normally sold over the counter by a local retailer is often called vertical market software. Vertical market software usually has a narrow market niche, thus its name. Church, school, and donor management software are examples of vertical market software. When buying any of these, open for discussion are:

  • Ask for a full-system demonstration. Automated online demos don’t always tell the true story. If there isn’t a representative in your area, maybe they can do one live over the Internet via WebEx or some similar system. Perhaps this could also be accomplished by asking for an extended trial period to help you determine whether the system will meet your needs. Most will be willing to give you at least a thirty day, no questions asked window within which to return the software if you’re not satisfied.
  • One of the greatest causes in church, school, or donor management software dissatisfaction is due to poor implementation and a lack of understanding how to use the program. Require the seller to include implementation guidance and training in your package. You may be required to do it over the Internet, but try to get someone onsite if possible (that’s always the most effective way). This is a major investment for your ministry, so even though it may have a cost attached, it’ll be worth it.
  • Insist on getting documentation that details the formats and/ or tables of the software’s data. Requiring this as a provision of your license agreement up front may save you a lot of grief and frustration if you decide to change systems a few years down the road. If a publisher is unwilling to grant this request, they may not be one with whom you want to do business. Remember, it’s your data.

Hardware
Though hardware profit margins are fairly thin, computer prices are almost always open for negotiation. When buying a computer, consider asking for the following:

  • Suggest a lower price for the system, maybe 5% – 10% lower. Most hardware, if it can be purchased, is at least a little outdated (manufacturers are always working one or two generations beyond what is currently available), so asking for discounts is often something they’ll agree to.
  • Always ask to upgrade the memory (RAM) beyond that offered in base models. You’ll never be sorry with more memory. And if the price is fixed, maybe this is an area for negotiating a compromise.
  • Ask for a large capacity USB flash drive to be included with the system. If one already comes with it, ask that a full-featured software package be thrown in rather than the “software-lite” packages usually included.
  • The system should come with an operating system and will probably have some software “bundled” with it. Look over the software, and ask to exchange any of the pieces if you prefer different products. For instance, if the system comes with Norton Anti-Virus software, but you prefer Sophos, ask that the two be exchanged. The retailer will often accommodate such a request.

The Greatest of These Is Love
Remember when negotiating to love your neighbor. There is nothing wrong with knowing what you want and asking for it. And certainly there is nothing wrong with challenging the profit margin of the seller by asking for more than is normally offered for the same price. But there is everything wrong with negotiating in a demeaning manner. Remember to love and respect those with whom you are negotiating. Jesus died for them. Be wise, yet innocent.

[1] Vine, W.E., Page 222, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, page 222.

[2] Vincent, M.R., Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume I. McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company. page 40.