Posts Tagged ‘CMS / ChMS’

GDPR and the Golden Rule

Written by Jonathan Smith on . Posted in Articles

© 2018 by Jonathan E. Smith, all rights reserved
Director of Technology, Faith Ministries
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine
 

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve received numerous emails over the past few months about GDPR and you are sick of hearing about it. Seeing GDPR one more time makes you want to scream. I’m with you. I’ve gotten emails about GDPR from companies I have no record of ever interacting with, and I’m a geek so I keep track.

While traveling around the past few months since GDPR went into effect on May 25, 2018, I’ve been amazed at the number of questions folks are asking about it and the astonishing lack of information there is about it, especially as GDPR relates to churches and ministries. In an attempt to narrow the knowledge gap here is my best effort to tackle the GDPR issue, specifically how it relates to churches and ministries. Please note, I’m not an attorney, I don’t even play one on TV, so while I’ve done my research it is always good to ask your legal counsel to sign off on any plans or changes you may have or plan to implement in response to GDPR.

What is GDPR?
GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. It was passed by the European Union to provide their citizens with more control over their personal data and to determine what those they’ve given their personal data to can do with it. In many ways, it could stand for Golden Data Protection Rule, one with a biblical worldview could sum up GDPR as the Golden Rule of Data, treating others data the same way you want your data treated.

The law also provides a few specific provisions for EU citizens. First, what is considered personal data is defined. Second, EU citizens can request their data be completely removed or can only be used for certain purposes. For example, you can contact me using my data but you cannot send me ads using my data. Third, organizations operating in the EU have to report any data breaches within 72 hours.

Reading what GDPR does you can understand why it was written. It took Equifax weeks to notify the world they had been hacked, GDPR addresses that. Your data on Facebook makes you the product, not the customer and you have no control over what Facebook does with your data, GDPR addresses that.

How does this affect those not in the European Union?
This is the biggest question surrounding GDPR and one the entire planet is struggling to understand. The European Union has 500 million citizens, so they have the ability to push their agenda a bit. The challenge for organizations operating worldwide is the EU has set the strictest of standards, so do you operate with multiple policies concerning data collection and use based on where the individual lives, or do you work off GDPR since that ensures the most people will be covered by your policies. If you don’t fully understand, you aren’t alone.

Some companies in response have stopped operating in the EU until they can figure this out. The issue is they operate in the EU and are storing data for EU citizens. GDPR states how you should do that if you meet both qualifications.

Enforcement
This is where the world of international law gets complicated. While GDPR tells you how you can/should store and use the information of its citizens, it cannot be enforced on organizations that do not have a physical presence in the EU. Let’s take Facebook for example; they have a large, lucrative presence in the EU. They have data centers, offices, etc in the EU. The EU is able to enforce GDPR because Facebook has a physical presence there. In other words, there is a location that can be seized, personnel that can be arrested, and executives that can be taken to court.

For organizations that do not have a physical presence in the EU, this does not apply. There is no office or data center or person they can hold accountable and the EU is not able to enforce its laws on those outside the EU, for example, in North America. That’s how international borders work.

Blah, blah, blah. How does this Impact Churches?
If you’ve skimmed the first part of this, that’s fine but this is the part in which to pay close attention. At its heart, the GDPR legislation is about being a good steward of data. While data can mean many things from name, address, phone number to t-shirt size and food allergies, it is important for us to remember in the church world: data means people and people mean souls. We did not need GDPR to tell us to be good stewards of the people our ministries serve.

The Bible tells us to be good stewards (1 Corinthians 4:2), the Bible also tells us to obey the authority (Romans 13), including governments, placed over us. In this case, it seems the EU is telling those who operate in the EU to do what the Bible says and be good stewards of data.

GDPR requires a few things I would hope churches around the globe are already doing:

  1. If your data is breached, report it within 72 hours. Even without GDPR, every church should have a data breach plan and procedure in place and want to be open and honest when mistakes happen. The church is the last place that should try to cover it up for weeks or months.
  2. If a user wants you to remove them from your database, remove them. Even without GDPR, every church should have a procedure to remove a record from their database if someone does not want any of their information stored within your organization.
  3. If a user wants you to email them prayer requests but nothing else, honor their request. Even without GDPR, you should be able to send folks what they want and not require them to get everything you send out. There is a difference between sending out prayer requests and fundraising requests. Do you allow folks to determine how you use their data?

I’m sure by now some of you are wondering about financial data. What happens when someone gives you money and then wants to be totally removed? In the US you are required to keep a record of financial transactions for 7 years. Even without GDPR, if someone wants to be removed, but they’ve given you money, do you have a procedure to remove them while still keeping the financial record for 7 years and then removing them completely when the 7 years are up?

Most churches don’t have a physical presence in the EU so there isn’t an issue here but what happens if you do have a presence in the EU and someone from the EU gave you money and then wanted to be removed from your database? The principle is to apply donor intent; they don’t want to be in your database so you treat them as if they weren’t there by removing everything you can until you can remove their record entirely.

While there may be several legal and international law issues at play here, I believe the core concept is not a legal one but one of ministry integrity. We should not have needed GDPR to tell us how to care for the data those we minister to have entrusted to us.

FAQ 

  1. We support missionaries or other ministries that operate in the EU and have a physical presence there; do we fall under GDPR?
    • No, the organization you support in the EU that has a physical presence there does fall under GDPR but you as an individual or organization supporting them do not.
  2. Should churches have data access and user rights policies?
    • Yes, even if in a basic format a policy showing who gets access to your data, for what purposes, and how you handle the data you’ve been given is important. It is also important to note how you handle requests for removal from your databases and/or email lists. With everyone talking about GDPR, you may find a guest or two asking if you have any data policies before they give you their children’s allergies when they check their kids in some Sunday.
  3. Should anyone lose sleep over this?
    • No, what we are talking about here is Golden Rule stuff. If you are losing sleep over GDPR then there are probably bigger issues to address in how you handle user data.
  4. Is this really new?
    • No, in 1995 the EU had a privacy policy called Data Protection Directive. It expired when GDPR was enacted. In many ways, GDPR further refines and enhances privacy and data protection provisions that have been around since 1995.
  5. What counts as data?
    • This is harder to answer because there is admittedly some subjectivity here. The obvious name, address, phone number, email address, SSN, picture, etc are pieces of data that can be used to positively identify a person. Recently an EU court ruled that under certain circumstances an IP address can also be considered personal data and is therefore subject to GDPR.
  6. If we take signups and collect data on our website, do we need to make changes for GDPR?
    • Only if you have a physical presence in the EU.

Next Steps 

  1. If your church or ministries do not have a data access and management policy, then get one. Even a basic policy and procedure for how you handle user data and requests is important and shows you’ve thought about it and care about it.
  2. This is not an IT issue nor should this be dumped on the IT team. While IT clearly has a role in data management, they should not be the decision makers. GDPR requires organizations operating in the EU to have a privacy compliance officer. This can be a new employee or a role added to an existing employee. While churches and ministries may not need a privacy compliance officer the concept of having someone constantly checking to make sure you are being good stewards of data and coordinating data stewardship across ministry and church departments and silos is valid.
  3. Get legal counsel. If you operate in the EU or are concerned you might, it would be wise to consult with a licensed attorney with experience in this area. Don’t try to figure it out on your own. The EU is intent on enforcing GDPR and no church or ministry should want to be on their radar.

The Golden Rule comes from Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This applies to how individuals relate to each other in person and online, and to how organizations treat each other and those they serve. Whether we are talking about money, data, time, or talent the Golden Rule is more than just a rule or ideology from long ago; it is the Word of God.


Jonathan Smith is the Director of Technology at Faith Ministries in Lafayette, IN. You can reach Jonathan at jsmith@faithlafayette.org and follow him on Twitter @JonathanESmith.

Church & Donor Management Software – ChMS

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2018 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 a 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 more than doubled! Our research this year found 53 solutions focusing on the church and ministry market, of which 35 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 new ways.

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 simple CRM datasets like names, addresses, and phone numbers, many of these also help build community and track traditional and modern 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
Decades ago Steve Hewitt, then Editor-in-Chief of Christian Computing Magazine (recently re-branded as MinistryTech Magazine), labeled this software category tailored to meet the needs of churches as Church Management Software, or CMS. To help prevent confusion since there are now so many software categories called ‘CMS’, it is now referred to as ChMS. 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 in an accounting system is 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. We include the company name 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. We have trusted the software companies; all of the information in this article was provided by them and has not been audited.

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 doing your due diligence and checking 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@acst.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  40
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  400
Support:  9 – 8 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 6 Fri; 24∙7 option
Last Major Release:  11/2017
Updates per Year:  8

FastFund Online
By Araize
Phone:  866.840.7449
Email:  sales@araize.com
Web:  www.araize.com
Company Founded in 1997
Years Marketing ChMS:  21
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1200
Number on Team:  10
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  6/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Aplos
By Aplos
Phone:  888.274.1316
Email:  sales@aplos.com
Web:  www.aplos.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  5400
Number on Team:  44
Support:  8 – 4 Pacific
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

FellowshipOne
By Ministry Brands, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  844.459.8525
Email:  Sales@fellowshipone.com
Web:  www.fellowshipone.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  14
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2000
Number on Team:  43
Support:  7 – 7 Central; Critical 24∙7
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Blackbaud Church Management
By Blackbaud
Phone:  800.468.8996
Email:  solutions@blackbaud.com
Web:  www.blackbaud.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  1
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  10
Number on Team:  500
Support:  8:30 – 8 Eastern; Critical 24∙7
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

FlockBase
By FlockBase Software
Phone:  877.883.5625
Email:  kevin@flockbase.com
Web:  www.flockbase.com
Company Founded in 2007
Years Marketing ChMS:  11
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:
2500
Number on Team:  4
Support:  9 – 5:30 Central
Last Major Release:  1/2018
Updates per Year:  1

Breeze ChMS
By Breeze LLC
Phone:  888.320.6030
Email:  support@breezechms.com
Web:  www.breezechms.com
Company Founded in 2013
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  5441
Number on Team:  33
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Fresh Vine
By Fresh Vine
Phone:  888.708.1905
Email:  contact@freshvine.co
Web:  freshvine.co
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  380
Number on Team:  3
Support:  10 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  3/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

CahabaWorks Church Software
By CahabaCreek Software, a division of 2AB
Phone:  205.621.9649
Email:  sales@cahabacreek.com
Web:  www.cahabacreek.com
Company Founded in 1997
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1489
Number on Team:  10
Support:  9 – 4 Central M-Th; Email 24∙7
Last Major Release:  12/2017
Updates per Year:  4

IconCMO
By Icon Systems
Phone:  800.596.4266
Email:  sales@iconcmo.com
Web:  www.iconcmo.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  26
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:
3000
Number on Team:  9
Support:  8 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

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 ChMS:  38
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6740
Number on Team:  60
Support:  8 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  3/2018
Updates per Year:  3

Iglesia HOY
By JRSoftware
Phone:  52.1.664.2515478
Email:  informacion@iglesiahoy.com
Web:  www.iglesiahoy.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3260
Number on Team:  6
Support:  8 – 6 Pacific
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  4

CDM+
By Suran Systems
Phone:  800.891.4236
Email:  sales@cdmplus.com
Web:  www.cdmplus.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  32
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6500
Number on Team:  24
Support:  8:30 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  9/2018
Updates per Year:  3

MinistryPlatform
By Think Ministry
Phone:  678.404-2467
Email:  sales@thinkministry.com
Web:  www.ministryplatform.com
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  541
Number on Team:  14
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

Church Community Builder
By Church Community Builder
Phone:  719.266.2888
Email:  marketing@churchcommunitybuilder.com
Web:  www.churchcommunitybuilder.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4400
Number on Team:  110
Support:  6 – 6 Mountain
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

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 ChMS:  40
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9 – 8 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 6 Fri
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  8

Church Windows
By Computer Helper Publishing
Phone:  800.533.5227
Email:  sales@churchwindows.com
Web:  www.churchwindows.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  31
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  12000
Number on Team:  25
Support:  9 – 6 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 5 Fri
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  1

ParishSOFT Family Suite
By ParishSOFT, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  866.930.4774
Email:  parishsoftsales@parishsoft.com
Web:  www.parishsoft.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing ChMS:  20
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  11400
Number on Team:  65
Support:  8:30 – 7 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Church360°
By Concordia Technology Solutions, a division of Concordia Publishing House
Phone:  800.325.2399
Email:  softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web:  www.church360.org
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1250
Number on Team:  25
Support:  7:30 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

PowerChurch
By PowerChurch Software
Phone:  800.486.1800
Email:  info@powerchurch.com
Web:  www.powerchurch.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing ChMS:  34
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  38000
Number on Team:  17
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Churchteams
By Churchteams.com
Phone:  817.405.9750
Email:  support@churchteams.com
Web:  churchteams.com
Company Founded in 2001
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  850
Number on Team:  8
Support:  8:30 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  9/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Realm
By ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  salesteam@acst.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6646
Number on Team:  370
Support:  8 – 8 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  26

ChurchTrac Online
By ChurchTrac Software
Phone:  877.704.0222
Email:  support@churchtrac.com
Web:  www.churchtrac.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  14
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  10200
Number on Team:  7
Support:  8 – 7 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Servant Keeper
By Servant PC Resources
Phone:  800.773.7570
Email:  sales@servantpc.com
Web:  www.servantpc.com
Company Founded in 1994
Years Marketing ChMS:  24
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  35000
Number on Team:  30
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  2/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

COMS and EFA for Windows
By Specialty Software
Phone:  800.568.6350
Email:  sales@SpecialtySoftware.com
Web:  www.specialtysoftware.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing ChMS:  35
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6400
Number on Team:  5
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Shelby Arena
By Shelby Systems, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  11
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  650
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7 – 6 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Cool Life Ministries
By Cool Life CRM
Phone:  800.988.8850
Email:  sales@coollifecrm.com
Web:  www.coollifecrm.com
Company Founded in 2005
Years Marketing ChMS:  2
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  7
Number on Team:  6
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern; Email 24∙7
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

ShelbyNext
By Shelby Systems, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  42
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1600
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7 – 6 Central
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Donarius ChMS
By Nuverb Systems
Phone:  888.479.4636
Email:  question@nuverb.com
Web:  www.donarius.com
Company Founded in 1993
Years Marketing ChMS:  20
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2360
Number on Team:  1
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  6/2018
Updates per Year:  20

Software4Nonprofits
By Cooperstock Software
Phone:  416.423.7722
Email:  info@software4nonprofits.com
Web:  www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 9 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

ELEXIO Community
By ELEXIO, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  888.997.9947, x1
Email:  sales@elexio.com
Web:  www.elexio.com
Company Founded in 2000
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1200
Number on Team:  50
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  24

Software4Nonprofits
By Cooperstock Software
Phone:  416.423.7722
Email:  info@software4nonprofits.com
Web:  www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 9 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

Faithful Steward
By Diakonia
Phone:  800.325.6642
Email:  info@faithfulsteward.com
Web:  www.church-software.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  24
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1086
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  4/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

TouchPoint
By TouchPoint Software, a division of Pursuant
Phone:  901.654.7179
Email:  sales@touchpointsoftware.com
Web:  touchpointsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  554
Number on Team:  15
Support:  8 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  12

 

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.

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.