The single most important resource for a church is the information it has regarding its members, guests and operations. Key decisions can be made, vision can be cast, and direction can be decided all from analyzing information in your ChMS. At a minimum, a good ChMS should be able to tell you nine important things in order to help your church be effective in ministry.
1) Demographics and Community – You should be able to see where your membership is clustered, where your guests are coming from, and what are the general age groups of people who are attending. This is important because churches tend to attract people who can identify with the church by community, age, and socio-economic status.
2) Growth signals – You should be able to see if attendance is increasing in your worship services, in specific ministries (for example, Children and Student Ministries). You should be able to see if certain age groups are increasing or if specific events are attracting a growing number of people.
3) Attendance patterns – Attendance patterns can indicate that areas are growing significantly, holding steady, or declining. For areas in growth mode, you can identify adjustments that need to be made to accommodate new growth (for example, if you all of a sudden have an attendance increase in preschool, you know you have to recruit and train more volunteers to keep your worker ratios appropriate). Declining attendance can indicate a potential drop-out risk, ineffective or untrained group leaders, or environmental discomfort. Monitoring attendance patterns allows the church staff to quickly identify when to adjust or intervene.
4) Drop trends & risks – for churches that mark or record attendance, you should be able to identify when drop-out or disengagement patterns start. A good ChMS will also let you compare attendance patterns to other key indicators like giving or serving. All of these indicate an individual’s likelihood to stay in relationship with the church. When these patterns begin to change, it could signal the beginning of an individual’s departure from the church. If the church does not record attendance, then it becomes imperative to watch giving trends, disengagement from service and from groups.
5) Group Health – Are your groups growing, discipling and helping people build relationships? A good ChMS will help you identify when groups are in growth mode or in decline. As groups grow in specific communities, you’ll know when it is time to grow new groups. You’ll also be able to quickly identify when a group or groups begin to decline. This could be because of an ineffective leader or a group where one person is dominating the conversation. Either way, it allows staff to intervene and provide help to the group leader. It should also be able to map where your groups are, the demographic of each group and what time of the week they meet. This allows you to effectively plant new groups where they are needed and at times during the week that may be conducive to new group growth.
6) Discipling Success and Barriers – Your ChMS should have data available to you to track the spiritual growth journey of your members. You should be able to see when they became a member, how they became a member and where they are in the journey to becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ. It should allow you to put people in pathways and be able to see how quickly they progress through each pathway. It should also allow you to monitor the time it takes for an individual to complete each step of the journey.
7) Engagement – How many people are coming to events more than one time? What kind of events do they attend? Are people getting involved in groups and building relationships? Are people moving into serving ministries and are they staying in them? These are just a few of the indicators that let you know if people are fully engaged in the ministry of the church. Fully engaged individuals tend to “stick” with the church through good times and difficult times.
8) Giving patterns and trends – church survive on donors. Churches plan to expand or add staff based on giving patterns. At a minimum, your ChMS should be able to provide you with information on people who have increased giving, decreased giving, given a pledge, and the progress on a pledge. New standards include being able to analyze giving by cash, check, online and text giving. You should also be able to analyze giving patterns by age groups or geographical regions served by the church.
9) Financial Health and Stewardship – Your ChMS should also include a sound financial system that records income, expenses, and restricted giving. You should be able to analyze income increase/decrease, expense increase/decrease, and whether certain restricted income and expenditures is being handled correctly. Financial health and the proper handling of church funds is of paramount importance to donors, so the reports and data should be solid indicators that this area of the church is being handled with utmost integrity.