In my last post, I covered what questions to ask to figure out which features you need in church management software. With a list of features in hand, and a rough idea of how much you can spend, it’s time to compare your options.
Of course, the most popular option is ACS Technologies. But if your organization is looking for something else, we’re here to help.
I selected these vendors based on our church management software infographic, which uses metrics such as number of churches using each software, number of members those churches serve, and vendors’ social media presence to rank how popular each solution is.
If you need more — and are willing to pay more — Servant Keeper and Shelby Systems are great picks. If you’re a Catholic organization and have access to tech support, ParishSOFT/Logos is a good choice. If you want to pay less, and don’t need accounting, PowerChurch Software is for you. If you need great customer service, but you don’t need to accept online donations, Church Windows is your best bet.
Here’s an easy-to-read chart comparing the features and cost of each of the top five ACS Technologies alternatives.
And a more in-depth comparison below.
With more than 100 reviews and an average rating of 4.5/5 stars, Servant Keeper appears to be a keeper! Cloud-based, with desktop, mobile, and web apps, Servant Keeper makes it easy for any member of your team to manage your church from anywhere.
Users love the customer support. “I want to thank the Servant Keeper Software support group,” wrote Wendi Lucas, Office Manager at The Shepherd’s Way Church. “I had some major issues but the problems got solved thanks to the VERY Patient help I received!”
Rick Hamrick, Pastor at Youngsville Free Methodist Church wrote, “The staff is always friendly and courteous when we call.”
Karen Heinemann, Office Administrator at First Presbyterian Church, called the customer service “outstanding.” Heinemann also appreciated the user friendliness.
Users found Servant Keeper to be flexible and feature-rich. “In fact, there are many facets of the software we haven’t even used yet,” wrote Hamrick.
Joy Hilliard, Treasurer at Life House Church of God found the guidebooks to be “a tremendous help” in setting Servant Keeper up to optimize its use as a ministry tool. For system preferences, Hilliard wrote, “Wow, so many options to pick, it is great!”
It stores personal information for all members of the congregation, including tracking membership changes for addresses, new dependents, and contributions. It also creates “useful” reports for membership and budgets, according to Jim Laubach, Financial Secretary at St Marks UCC.
The Breeze ChMS blog calls the software “complex.” Which makes sense given how feature-rich and customizable it is, how many of our reviewers needed help setting it up, and how many reviewers have interacted with customer support.
Also, the cost structure is confusing with multiple fees.
$250/one-time, plus a fee if you want to use the cloud-based option, which I highly recommend, plus you pay every time the system is updated and you want the new version, plus you pay a fee for support.
The ratings at Capterra aren’t very friendly, but there are still features here to like, including secure and cloud-based storage, easy-to-access member communication and communication tracking, and participation tracking.
ParishSoft has an especially strong presence in Catholic organizations, with products in nearly every U.S. Catholic diocese and 84 Catholic diocesan offices.
This system tracks financial contributions and pledges for an unlimited number of funds and sub-funds. It automatically post new contributions to LOGOS Accounting (if using) and emails donor statements, letters, and receipts at the same time.
Other features include talent tracking to record members’ skills, hobbies, occupations and more. It uses small groups management to track attendance, create rosters and send emails to group leaders. And its real-time check-in supports barcode, key tag and roster check-in, as well as custom security labels and receipts.
The Payroll system does it all—from account distribution, benefit tracking, taxes, direct deposit, pre-tax and after-tax deductions, and “pay groups” to complete pay cycle processing and check printing.
“First and foremost, it is extremely slow! Tech support at ParishSoft and within the Archdiocese continually try to make this a customer issue (you need more bandwidth, cleaner systems, etc) but that is not the case, I suspect that their servers were simply not adequately prepared to manage the load of all the parishes required to transition to their product,” wrote Danette Morris at St. Augustine Church. Her conclusion: “If you have a choice, explore other options carefully before becoming so invested resource-wise that you can’t back out.”
A “disgruntled customer” at Saint Jude felt that the promises of effective customer support were broken: “We went into this believing that their customer support and ease of use by church members would be reliable. We were sold a bill of goods that are not good.”
It’s unwise to simply refer to a features list when it comes to selecting software. First check with previous reviews and see if the customer service helps “fill in the gaps.” Although there are plenty of features to check off the list–including both pledge and donation management–you may want to skip to the next one if customer service is your top priority.
Highly varying, according to their “Transition guide.” It’s also broken down by features, so a Family Directory for up to 99 families will cost you $500 while payroll for up to 1,999 families costs $925.
One of the best values out there, particularly if you want to make a one-time purchase and never have to worry about church management software as a regular monthly expense again. It isn’t without flaws (where’s the accounting integration?), but for the price, PowerChurch Software is one of the wiser purchases out there.
Comprehensive features that suit the demands of most parishes highlight PowerChurch’s power, with many customers telling Capterra that this is one of the best “bang for the buck” values out there. “We wanted an all-in-one package that could do membership, contributions, and accounting and it has worked quite well for our church,” writes Peggy of the Cornerstone Community Church.
Handling membership rolls and scheduling events is also easy, even for first-time users. “It is very user-friendly for membership, event scheduling, and accounting,” writes Kay of Mill Grove UMC. “It’s a perfect fit for our church.”
Easily tracking attendance and church contributions with straightforward integrations to features like event mailing lists makes running the daily schedule of a parish much more intuitive. Integrating with a “CheckIn” feature also helps you ensure that every attendee–and their children–are all accounted for.
It’s not the best tool for accountants, as there is no QuickBooks integration. What’s more, writes the aforementioned Kay, “There could be improvements to the Accounts Receivable module.” If you already use other software for accounting, however, there’s no reason you have to switch over.
Peggy complains that online registration is missing here, but PowerChurch Software excels at tracking events live. If your church is more integrated to the online world, you may want to browse around a little for features like online event registration and online parish registration.
At $395.00 for a one-time purchase of this product, the price is low, straight-forward, and perfect for small parishes and churches. It’s one of the best built-in advantages the software has.
ShelbyNext is the latest version in a line that includes Arena, itself a very popular and well-reviewed church management software. While some users at Capterra have had problems with the transition, there’s no doubt that ShelbyNext offers plenty of flexibility and modern, web-friendly features for churches of all sizes.
This is the most comprehensive alternative to ACS Technologies on the list, offering the most features including everything from accounting to building your own church website through the software.
Accepting donations through web, mobile, texting, and even kiosk means that you can move your church into the digital age with a simple setup. And speaking of mobile, ShelbyNext offers plenty of mobile-capable features like child check-in and events management.
Communicating with your entire congregation through email, voice, and text gives you a chance to reach out to everyone when you have a particularly important message to send out. On more ordinary days, the easy check-ins, room reservation features, and scheduling processes make running the parish much more intuitive.
Ease of use is a concern. Bryan, a Pastor at the Heartland Worship Center, wrote on Capterra that “While it may be a powerful tool in the hands of a Computer Science professional, it is not for tech-savvy church leaders.” Your individual ease-of-use mileage may vary, of course.
You’ll have to procure a subscription of $179.00/month to use this software, which is a good price if you can find a way to use all of its features as your go-to church management software and don’t need separate accounting software.
Friendly customer support is a major benefit of Church Windows, another ACS Technology alternative that offers a flat fee for budget-minded congregations that can’t afford a fancier, subscription-style format. A disadvantage in online giving will make 21st century donation management a challenge.
Customer service! Beth of Life Lutheran Church said, “On the rare occasions I did need to call, the support couldn’t have been better.” Ellie of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church isn’t completely sold, saying, “The tech people are mostly helpful but not 100%. Some have an attitude problem.” But she ads, “My favorite is Rachel. She is extremely helpful, patient and knowledgeable plus thorough. She is a real asset to your organization.” Good job, Rachel.
Other users found the technology to be intuitive: Kristen of Lake Park United Methodist Church says, “Each module of the Church Windows software is so helpful! It is so clean to have all our administrative and financial software in the same system. Each module is so well laid out and readable.”
Ample financial management is a big plus, according to Judy of Salem Baptist Church. “CW software helps you keep all financial records recorded and at your fingertips with a few strokes of the keyboard. The different modules allow you to jump from year to year with ease to find or make any type [of] report.”
It’s a little dated. It’s a problem that it can’t handle online donations, whereas other entries on this list work to make sure it’s easy to donate to your parish. With the world–even the local parish world–headed toward a more digital age of finance, this will only grow as an issue the longer you wait.
It’s also missing another feature that’s become more popular in recent years: child check-in. You’ll recall that Shelby offered a mobile-based check-in that made the process easier. Here, it’s not even present.
The $375.00/one-time fee is great for small churches with an old-school, write-a-check mentality. It’s a good value compared to some solutions, but you’ll have to weigh which features are really your dealbreakers.
Servant Keeper and Shelby Systems offer lots of features and user-friendly design, but you’ll pay for it. ParishSOFT/Logos is designed for Catholic orgs with tech help. PowerChurch Software offers a stripped-down product with no accounting, but a low cost. Church Windows offers exceptional customer service, but doesn’t accept online donations.
What church management software options would you like us to review next? Let us know in the comments!
Header by Rachel Wille
Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.