As a church, we recently moved to a new church management system – Planning Center. We had been on RockRMS (or Rock) for almost 4 years, which offered a lot of flexibility and customization to essentially do whatever you want it to do. We had also chosen it because after talking to some more established churches, they wished they had chosen RockRMS from the start.
But the problem with such an open and customizable system is that it becomes very hard to maintain with a limited staff. Too much flexibility can be a roadblock for an organization’s growth.
A few months ago, I was reflecting and praying about how to do more with less because my assistant “IT guy” took an opportunity to go work for a startup. I knew we needed to backfill their role, but I also felt like it was an opportunity to restructure a few things. During my prayer time, I was led to this verse in 1 Corinthians:
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.1 Corinthians 3:10 (NKJV)
Here were my takeaways after reading this:
- As the chief IT guy at our church, it’s my responsibility to create a solid tech “foundation” for everyone who’s part of the church.
- If I directly decide (read: control) how each person runs their ministry on the tech foundation, I will only make it harder on myself and whoever works with me to support it.
- Is there an opportunity to create a better foundation where people can use the tools easier, faster and with less one-on-one help? YES!
So let me break these down in more detail so you know where I’m coming from with each of these.
1. Create a solid tech foundation for everyone
For a foundation to be solid, it has to support what’s built on top of it. When I first went with RockRMS as our church management system, it could do a lot of cool things. It’s an “open” platform, which means other companies can easily integrate with it. There wasn’t a licensing fee, aside from running servers and making recommended donations to RockRMS itself.
The problem though was that it wasn’t user friendly to non-IT people. They had great videos and great how-to’s, but you had to understand a little bit of IT to get around in the system.
This was a great solution for the IT team, but not for everyone. And with time, that became a major inhibitor in our growth.
2. Too much structure for running a ministry
In our environment at Bethel Austin, we follow the Holy Spirit in everything we do. For some things, we can plan well, and for others, it’s more spontaneous.
If every ministry has to be ran the same way, it takes away from the creative flow of the Creator Himself! Yes, we want consistency. Yes, we want structure. But we also want flexibility for each ministry to use the system how they see fit. The more we got into using RockRMS, the more we realized we were having to find other solutions outside of RockRMS to fit the ministries’ needs.
3. Easier, Faster and More User-Friendly Option
By now you’ve realized we ultimately selected Planning Center as the easier, faster and more user-friendly option. It’s a big player in the church “industry” for church management systems and for good reasons.
The different tools are easy to use with great documentation. And if it’s not clear how something works, I encourage my team to open a ticket with Planning Center. They’ll get a response in less than an hour (and often times less in than 10 minutes).
The IT infrastructure is easier to manage because someone else is worrying about the integrations, maintaining the servers and handling scalability. If it breaks, it’s much easier to put the pressure on a vendor to resolve it instead of the pressure being on yourself (and your limited staff).
The decision has also allowed for the individuals that run their ministries and various team to have more ownership in how it’s run as well. This seems like a no-brainer, but you want to create an empowering environment so people can own their sphere of influence. Yes, it requires you to let loose of the reigns a little, but it also creates a much more cohesive team in the long run.
What happened next?
So with that said, we checked to make sure all of our important vendors and integrations worked with Planning Center, and they did. We put a project timeline in place. Communicated it to the team. And away we went!
The actual migration had its own hiccups and shortfalls, but I’ll save that for another day. Sometimes it helps to hear the reason “why” for a decision before anything else.