Local Church Management Software or Online CMS – What’s The Difference?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 7:50:00 AM Categories: Ministry & Technology
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When selecting church management software (ChMS or CMS), you will often have to choose between “enterprise” software, or software-as-a-product (SAAP) and software-as-a-service (SAAS). SAAP church management software is software your church buys and installs on your own servers. SAAS church management software is software that you “rent” and is hosted in “the cloud” and accessed via the internet.

So what are the differences between these two types of software? Here are several key distinctions:

Adoption Rate/Learning Curve – Because SAAS church management software products like Churchteams, Church Community Builder, Fellowship One and The City are housed in “the cloud”, they are available from any computer or any device—any time, anywhere. Because most people are familiar with using the Internet to find what they need, SAAS ChMS products tend to have high adoption rates, with a lower learning curve.  Conversely, SAAP products are typically only available on local machines housed by your organization.  They also often require specialized training with a steeper learning curve.

Price/Cash Flow – The pricing models of SAAP and SAAS church management softwares are distinct.  SAAP ChMS pricing tends to follow this model: buy the software or license, pay for software maintenance, and purchase customization/services. SAAS pricing tends to follow this model: monthly fee gets you all services and upgrades. Because you are purchasing software at the SAAP level (rather than renting, as in the SAAS model), your initial costs will be much higher. But for SaaS offerings, that cost is spread over several years, rather than being frontloaded into the first year. You might be thinking that SAAP is cheaper over the long haul, but that’s simply not true.  With SAAP ChMS you need to eventually purchase upgrades or new versions which add to your total cost.  SAAS is almost always the better financial option.

Ease of installation/ease of upgrade – For a typical SAAS church management software, the database software itself is installed and ready to run the instant you sign the contract. Obviously data conversion, setup, and training has to occur in order to use the software, but installation is a non-issue. Related to that, upgrades are pushed out automatically to all users, which means upgrades occur and with little fanfare and no effort on the part of the user organization. Conversely, SAAP ChMS has to be downloaded (or sometimes even mailed to you) and installed.  This takes time and uses your own hard-drive or server space.  Furthermore, upgrading SAAP software poses the same problems.

Seamless IntegrationSAAS church management software vendors can scale indefinitely to meet customer demand. In other words, as your church grows and changes, so does the SAAS ChMS. Churchteams is a SAAS provider that offers easy customization capabilities to meet your church’s specific needs.  

So which is right for your church? Ultimately, of course, that depends on your needs and your resources. But understanding your needs, and the benefits and drawbacks of each system, will help you make a decision that is right for you.

Alan Danielson is the Senior Pastor of New Life Bible Church in Norman, Oklahoma. Previously he served as Central Team Leader for LifeGroups at LifeChurch.tv in Edmond, OK, where he led over a thousand small groups on LifeChurch’s thirteen campuses in six different states. He then founded 3Threat.net to help leaders master three essential leadership skills: vision-casting, creating strategy and fostering relationships. Alan is a popular conference speaker and consults regularly with ministries and leaders on topics relating to small groups and leadership. Learn more from Alan at 3Threat.net.