I finally started to “get it” during a recent telephone conversation. My posts over the last year or more on the topic of Church Management Software (CMS) have resulted in many inquiries from readers who are making CMS selection decisions. For the most part, these conversations are with church leaders who have narrowed their search for an application down to 2 options. They want my input on why we selected Church Community Builder (CCB) more than 9 years ago. Of course, I’m happy to give it!
Sometimes, though, church leaders ask me about CCB (and most others) not having General Ledger functionality built-in. In some cases, it’s a big concern. They are hung up on the idea that they need an application that does both.
To them, I say, “Why?” They are 2 separate and distinct things. Church Management Software should provide the user with everything they need relative to “people.” I’ve said it before; CMS is for “people processes.” Of course, “giving” is a “people thing.” A person’s giving is very much a part of their spirituality and is an indicator of where they are when it comes to becoming a “fully-devoted follower of Christ.” So, it should most definitely be part of the functionality of any CMS.
But that’s where it ends. All other things “financial” should not be part of a CMS application. There are many other applications out there that do the GL thing very well. We use Aplos Church Accounting Software.
I’m sure there are CMS applications out there that do both, but I have to believe that for them to do both, they probably don’t do either, as well as other applications designed for one function or the other. Let me know if you disagree or have a recommendation for an application that does both well.
I believe that there’s a very clear and defined handoff from where the CMS ends and the GL begins. Keeping track of a person’s giving, be it via cash or check on Sunday morning or online is the CMS application’s responsibility. From there, each week, the collective giving from the church is batched up, and a bank deposit is the result. The bank deposit is recorded in the GL, and bills are paid.
There’s no need for the GL to record who gave what. That’s the responsibility of the CMS. Budgets, asset tracking, bill payment, and financial reporting are all the responsibilities of the GL. Again, there’s no need for overlap.
I wrote at the beginning of this post that this particular call helped me to understand. In this particular case, the church had been using QuickBooks to record giving records. They print annual giving statements from QuickBooks. I had never heard of that before. Convincing this church leader that doing both in the same application wasn’t necessary was very difficult. That’s all they have known up to now.
I hope I was successful. If not, this church leader will be missing out on using the best CMS application out there because it doesn’t “pay the bills.” 🙂