Information about the Online Church Management Software “Church Office Online” that we at City On A Hill will be using

What Church Management Software does City On A Hill Church use? Why did we end up going with www.churchofficeonline.com?

Churches need a way to track membership, visitors, contributions, contact information, a system to send out emails and updates, track birthdays & anniversaries, etc. Some churches are gifted with people who have a golden memory and they keep everything in their head. Other churches use plain paper. Most churches use an in-house computer, where all that data is stored in word and excel files.  Some churches don’t keep any of this information because they are too spiritual, and too busy fighting demons. Some churches, including City On A Hill Church, have started using an online management software.

Initially when City On A Hill Church was planted, we used an “in-house” program, created using Microsoft Access. But, we quickly found ourselves limited. For example, here are just 3 of the many small things we ran across:

  1. No one really had the “most up-to-date list,” because though the computer in the office did have a list of most of the visitors/members, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, & youth leaders had their own lists of names. Unless the leaders updated the church computer weekly (which is hard to do when most of the people are volunteers, not staff), the church computer never really had the up-to-date list of names and attendees.
  2. We limited access to this program only to several key people, because it contained contribution/donations, and most leaders did not have access to this list, which made it useless and unhelpful.
  3. We could not email everyone from this program; therefore, we were forced to keep a separate list of emails.

We decided to go with an online database, and started the task of finding the right program to use. With a database of over 1,000 people and growing, we quickly found that such programs exist, but they were pricy. Here are just some of the programs we looked into:

The City, by Zondervan

Church Community Builder

Fellowship One

Servantpc

ACS Technologies

The first three especially, looked really high tech, and great. But again, for a database of our size, we found out it would cost us between $2,000 and $4,000 a year. These are basically a “Facebook” type of programs, specifically designed for a church. Not only do these programs store data, the program allows communication between leaders and members. Each member must sign on, and they can post comments, register for events, suggest ideas, etc. Since most of our leaders, attendees & members, including the senior pastor, do not read and write well in English, we figured we would be paying tons of money for a program we would not be using. Plus, most of the members that do use a computer and write English use Facebook, and we are able to communicate through Facebook Pages and Groups with one-another for FREE. And in an age when Facebook has taken over and completely dominates the Social Media sites, we figured it would be tough for us to compete with Facebook and ask our members to, in addition to Facebook, log into another program on a daily basis. Most of the members would probably forget and never use it, though we’d be paying for it.

Finally, in our research, we ran across “Church Office Online.” In comparison with other programs, Church Office Online would cost us at least 3 times cheaper (right now, about $79 a month).  Here are some of the reasons why we fell in love with this program, and at the end, decided to go with them:

  1. It allows us to access the database from any computer that has access to the Internet. Those who have been granted access can add new households/individuals, as well as edit household and individual’s info (address, phone numbers, birthdays, etc.).
  2. It allows us to set up unlimited 6 different types of users, with each type of user having access to certain type of information. Here are some of the users we can set up:
    1. Pastor w/ No ability to view contribution info, but he can view Counseling notes
    2. Standard – No contribution and no counseling notes
    3. Finance – for people working in our Accounting department; they do not have access to Counseling, nor Administration
    4. Administrator – he/she can add new users, view contributions, and access all the other info, except the “counseling notes,” which only pastors have access to.
  3. It allows us to upload pictures and easily print off or export reports of Members, Attendees, Kids, and different age brackets, with or without pictures, in PDF, Excel or Word format.
  4. It allows us to generate email addresses either specific to an age bracket, a ministry affiliation, or a member type. For example, if I wanted to send an email to all adults and college students who are official members of City On A Hill, it would take 2 seconds to generate all of their email addresses.
  5. We have access to great Demographic reports (several different pie charts that compare member types, age breakdowns, male to female ration, etc.).
  6. As soon as we log in, on the front screen, we see a list of everyone’s birthday and anniversary that specific month, with easy access to their contact info to call them and congratulate them on their birthday.
  7. There is an online Calendar that everyone has access from every computer, to see events scheduled. This will be our MAIN, working calendar.
  8. There is an opportunity to take and track attendance.
  9. Access to this program is available through iPhone/iPad, and mobile devices.
  10. Members and Attendees who have donated can access their profiles to edit/update their information, as well as view their donations/contribution totals throughout the year.
  11. Each individual can be assigned to an unlimited number of ministries (like Choir, Youth Group, XYZ Cell Group, ABC Campus, etc.), and then, any user can easily access contact info and list of all individuals assigned to a certain ministry, as well as generate email address for each individual in a certain ministry.
  12. We can generate a map that shows us how many people live in each area.
  13. In our short use of this program, I emailed the customer service with some questions. Their response was quick, they were very helpful, and were open to any ideas or input we had to make the program better.

Any drawbacks? Sure. Here are 2:

  1. The system is not very stylish. The individual profiles don’t look as good as Facebook profiles do. But, compared with other similarly priced programs, this was by far the most stylish.
  2. The toughest thing for us about this program is inserting photos. They have to be a very specific resolution for the Reports with pictures to look right. Therefore, we had to create a Publisher document, pull up each picture in that publisher document, save it a specific size and resolution, and then upload it to Church Office Online. It works, but it took sometime to figure out and takes lots of time, before each picture is uploaded. Hopefully in the future, that’ll become easier.

Overall, we are very happy with Church Office Online, and look forward to using it. And, if we find a better program, all data can easily be exported, with a click of a button, therefore, once we enter all that information, it will not be lost and we will not have to reenter it.

Hope this LONG review helps. If you do end up going with Church Office Online, I hope you mention our recommendation.

Our church website address is http://www.cityhill.tv

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