Thursday, October 16, 2008

ChMS - The Summary

There has been a huge sigh of relief now that the database selection process is over. Of course, now the hard work begins. One of the things I've realized as I shared my blog with people is that it's very difficult to follow the process as it spans over such a long time. Here's my attempt at a summary:

In July of 2008 HDC began a search for a new church database. We started with the Church Management Software Finder from capterra. From there our process began, although I did look elsewhere to be sure I didn't miss anything.

My first round comments I called "A Serious Technical Detour"

The next thing I posted was a quick summary of our needs.

I selected 22 solutions for further investigation. I then spent some time on the web learning as much about them as I could. The solutions evaluated in the second round (links are to my posts about them): Church Growth Software, Church Management Solutions, EzRA Church Management, Connect Our People, E-Church Essentials, Five Talent Church, IconCMO, Kingdom Tools, Excellerate, Member Systems, Arena, CDM+, Membership Edge, People Driven Software, Church Office Online, and Member Connect.

The next phase was picking which companies to contact and schedule demos with. I initially chose six, which expanded to eight. The round of six was announced in "And the finalists are..." After that I had some further conversation with People Driven Software.

It was around this time that I started chatting with the folks at Arena and found that I had really missed the boat on what it was and what it could do.

From there I did live demos (on the phone and over the internet) with each of the companies. These demos ranged from one hour to five hours each. Afterwards I recorded my comments on PurposeWare, myFlock, Ascribe, and Church Community Builder.

At the end of the third round we had three solutions that each seemed flexible enough and solid enough to be HDC's choice of database. I talk about each of those in "Three Great Solutions"

One of the first steps to evaluating these three solutions was to ask them each the same 26 questions.

In a small detour, I discussed the idea of integrating accounting with membership and contributions.

In early September I posted a status update on the project and some details of our process.

To help HDC choose between the three finalists, we created a directed demo that would show us how each database handled functions that were important to us. We also created a bogus dataset that we requred each vendor to use so that we had commonality and could notice when things weren't right.

Finally we announced that a company had been chosen. This includes a good summary of the overall process (better than the one here, but without all the links).

Lastly I announced the winner of this whole process, as well as providing my analysis of Connection Power and Fellowship One, the other two finalists.

In 2010 I evaluated MinistryPlatform to add this important new player in the ChMS world to my research. In 2011 I saw a demo of BVCMS and met with David Carroll of, another significant product that you should consider in your research.

On the whole I put hundreds of hours into the selection process, spanning over four months. We are excited to be moving forward, and excited about the ways in which our new database can help us to minister to our people more effectively. I blogged this whole thing to share my work with the church community as a whole, I hope it has been some help in your selection process.


PS - To read "post install" comments about Arena, click here.


Steve Kryger said...

Hi Joel, what a great series! I've just come across it, whilst I'm mid-way through a series of my own (

One company that is quite large that I didn't see on your list is Church Community Builder - I'm wondering why that is? Did you come across it? What did you think?

renewingmind said...

Hi Steve, thanks for reading! If you look about halfway down you'll see CCB listed in the paragraph on live demos.

Todd Beckett said...

Great research, but I didn't see any mention of roll your own solutions based off of Drupal or Mombo. Did you guys consider customizing a standard CMS?

Keith said...

I'm a friend of Todd's... and have a follow-up question. Can you name off the top of your head any church database systems that you can buy off the shelf that would integrate with Drupal?

renewingmind said...


You are correct. I didn't look at roll your own solutions because we didn't have time to make something like that really work for us. It seemed like the churches that had built their own systems had one of two fates: they sold it to a vendor or they scrapped it altogether.

That's not to say that you couldn't make something work based on a free or open source solution, but for _us_ we didn't have the time to wait. We needed a new database and we needed it right away.

We have taken the strong platform that arena built and now are adding onto that with the custom things that we need.

As for integration with drupal, Arena would do that quite well but it has a high cost of entry and is only designed for large churches so it may not be right for your church.

I believe you could integrate myflock with something like drupal, and myflock was rather inexpensive. The churches that use ascribe often seem to integrate it with other CMS systems as well, so it would seem to be another good candidate for that.