What is the purpose of a ChMS? Why do we go to all of this effort and spend the money?
That was the question that kept resonating with me on the drive home from RefreshCache 2009. Jon Edmiston talked a bit about what he called "Deep Metrics" from Arena in the final session, and it was the perfect way to end. On the drive home Daniel and I talked a great deal about what we could do with this kind of information.
If you go all the way back to the first time I talked about church management software (which in turn dramatically shifted the focus of this blog, sorry to those of you that groan with each ChMS post) it included this statement in the opening paragraphs:
"We need to move forward, way forward, to something that will help us minister to our people more effectively as opposed to simply facilitating mailings and contribution tracking."
Does Arena fit the bill? Did we accomplish what we started out to do or did we get sidetracked by other cool features?
In short, I believe we have made great strides towards our goal.
Relationships are one area where Arena has pushed us towards this goal. It provides ways for us to track non-obvious connections between our people and this enables us to interact with our people better. Peers, although we don't have it refined yet to where we want it to be, also provides a way to see who someone might be connected to in our database. These tools help us involve our members more in the task of ministering to people.
Children's Check-In has removed a huge impediment to people coming to HDC, and has allowed them to spend more time engaged with the ministry and less time standing in line. It has also provided us with highly accurate attendance data of what families with children are attending our church and how often.
The small group leader's toolbox has provided a way for us to gather attendance data from small groups, and given small group leaders quick access to up-to-date contact information for the members of their group. Likewise, it has enabled them to keep us up to date on life changes that are happening with their people. It has also given us a central place for leaders to go for training, to download leader notes and commentaries etc.
The geocoding features of arena have given us a way to identify where people live, where they are not, and helped connect people with small groups that are local to where they live.
The shepherding notes give pastors the ability to record contact with church members which makes us more effective when we talk with our people again at a later date. There is room here for improvement, but this is huge.
Volunteer Tracking has assisted us in following up much better on people that volunteer to serve in our ministries. The last time we did a service emphasis we made an attempt to contact every person who signed up (e.g. sent an email, made a phone call, sent a second email). This is a far cry from where we were a year ago when many people signed up and never heard from the church.
I think we have definitely accomplished our goal, but we are far from done. What Jon showed us at RefreshCache were ways to look at the Arena data to see who the plugged in people in the church really are, and more importantly, who appears to be dropping out of that group. He also showed how we can see what kind of visitor retention rate we have.
This ability gives us, at last, a way to look at our people and see where are coming up short as a church. It allows us to begin to take steps to solve the problem of visitor retention, and then see if those solutions are actually helping. It allows us to see who is leaving our church, and hopefully learn from why they are leaving.
Arena gives us the ability to minister to our people more effectively, and that's exactly what we set out to accomplish a little over a year ago. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!