There are many options when it comes to a church management system (ChMS).
Standard functionality includes a database in which to enter people’s contact information, assign them to groups, and register them for events. Other key aspects of a ChMS involve children’s check-in, attendance and more.
Another critical item all churches need is the ability to keep accurate financial records.
Maintaining giving records within a ChMS makes perfect sense as that’s where the “people” records are located. However, that’s just one aspect of a church’s financial record keeping.
Keeping track of the church budget, entering vendor invoices, paying bills, handling payroll, tracking asset depreciation, and reconciling bank accounts are vital steps to maintaining the church’s finances.
Some church management systems include accounting functionality within the tool, while others offer the ability to integrate with a separate accounting system. Which is best? That depends on a variety of factors. However, here are a few pros and cons to consider.
Pros of having a combined ChMS and Accounting system:
- Less software for the church to purchase
- One less tool for church staff and volunteers to learn how to use
- No potential for integration issues or data transfer discrepancies
Cons of having a combined ChMS and Accounting system:
- Administrators of the system will have to be diligent regarding user access permissions to ensure the proper individuals have access to view and edit only areas appropriate for their responsibilities.
- The number of vendors who provide a fully integrated system that includes all the “people” functions of a ChMS plus the accounting capabilities is limited.
- Vendors that specialize in one or the other function instead of combining them into a single system may be able to do a more effective job at providing each individual process, rather than trying to do both.
The process that tends to drive people towards a tool that includes both the “people” functions and accounting is recording a church's giving.
However, there is a reasonably simple solution to dealing with giving in two systems:
You can record individual donations within the ChMS, then enter the batch total of giving into the church accounting software to reconcile with the bank deposit. When it’s time to provide giving statements, that information comes from the ChMS. When you need to reconcile deposits, that happens within the accounting system. Many ChMS tools offer the ability to export batch giving data from the ChMS into a CSV file that you can import into the accounting software, thereby reducing data entry.
Either solution can work.
The key is to weigh the pros and cons of either option and decide what will work best for your church.
A good first step is to create a list of what your church needs ChMS and accounting software to do, then compare that to potential vendors. Check out this article for more tips on how to proceed with the software selection process.
Software can be an incredible tool to support the ministry of your church.
Be diligent in the selection process to land on the tool (or tools) that will serve your church best.