What is ChurchSuite
At Freedom Church are now using ChurchSuite as our main communication and organisation tool. Read on as to why and how…
In case you didn’t already know, your My ChurchSuite is a fantastic church member facing platform that is part of the ChurchSuite admin-facing system service. My ChurchSuite is accessible via your web browser and apps on both iOS and Android. It is a brilliant tool designed to be a massive help in the life and activity of our church.
You can manage your contact details and those of your children, you can view the church calendar, view and sign-up for events, manage your serving rota commitments, sign-up to groups, and much, much more!
Those reasons are probably enough for you to get on board, but let's take some time to explore a little more the reasoning and vision behind using it.
Tech isn't going to be the solution to all our administrative or communications woes, but what is certain is that technology has a role in the church. Part of that usefulness is that we can stop worrying about the admin and focus more on people.
What is so great about ChurchSuite is that the functionality is so people-focussed. It’s more than just a database of statistics, charts and graphs.
More than anything ChurchSuite helps people move forward in their journey with us as a local church and with Jesus. Think of a travellator you find at large airports, that even when people chose to stand still and just 'be', My ChurchSuite continues to help people move forward with little fuss or bother.
Now, along with that vision, there are many practical questions, or, if you don’t have all the info, even understandable opposition to it. You might ask:
“What do you mean all my details are online?” “Who else can see our details?” “What about my children, are their details safe?”
Let's answer the question about who can see what on My ChurchSuite as that is quite rightly the most significant concern:
Access to My ChurchSuite is by an email invitation initiated from within ChurchSuite. Leaders can manage which Address Book contacts are granted login access and can choose at what point it's appropriate for newcomers to be issued a login. Also, no children’s contact details are ever visible to others in My ChurchSuite; so while parents can manage their own children's details, their contact details always remain hidden. If an under 18 serves on a rota or is in any group, only the under 18's name is visible to fellow team/group members, but no contact details.
Most of the content of My ChurchSuite doesn’t involve being able to view one another's contact details; instead, the content is personal to the person who is logged in, showing information as it relates to them. There are three exceptions to this - “Rotas”, “Groups" and “Search”. If you serve on a rota or are in a ministry group, your fellow team/group members will be able to see your contact details that you choose to set visible - you might have chosen to share your address, home phone, mobile and email address. It is helpful for at least one means of communication to be visible to others, for example, when you need to be contacted for things like rota swap requests.
The "Search" feature is a searchable contact directory like the old fashioned printed copies we used to make. Only what you have chosen to show will appear in the search results; children's names are never shown and are not searchable. We started using ChurchSuite with a "ground zero" kind of thinking; in other words, only your name was visible. Now over time a lot of you have chosen to share more than that, and that is great!
Other questions we’ve had are: "What if I don't have an email address?"
Login to My ChurchSuite requires an email address and a password that is set when the church member first receives the invitation to login. Those without an email address won’t be able to use My ChurchSuite. However, as we love tech, we wouldn’t want to leave people out in the cold, and we’ll always continue to cater to those who don't or can't "do" technology. My ChurchSuite is designed to be an engagement tool to supplement what we already do; it's not meant to be a replacement. On the other hand, if you do have an email address, we encourage you to use it and try it.
Families who share an email address can still use My ChurchSuite. Each family member is sent a My ChurchSuite email invitation from their contact profile page in the usual way. The email is personalised so that each family member can identify their invite. Each invite has a unique login link so that each family member can set their own personal password, which must be different from that of other family members. In this way, My ChurchSuite can correctly identify which family member is logging in.
"Is there an instruction manual for users?"
We think that most people will find My ChurchSuite intuitive - there's nothing that you can break, and it’s straightforward to navigate and use the features you need. There is a specific Freedom Church User Guide we have created should you need it.
"Isn’t ChurchSuite just to cover us with the new data protection policy that came into force last year?"
We launched ChurchSuite during the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) implementation which, for some people, made it seem that ChurchSuite existed to help with GDPR. Launching My ChurchSuite was, indeed, the perfect opportunity to review and update our church's Data Protection policy.
So while you’re riveted thinking about data protection, let us remind you that Data Protection legislation covers more than just our database of information we have about you, it also covers email systems, files on computers, phones, tablets, even paper documents etc.
It's essential that our policy reflects the extent of the data that we hold about you and the purpose for which that data is used. Our policy is available to view online via our website, and via the link which is at the bottom of every email you receive that we send. This policy outlines an overview of who has access to people's data and how that data is maintained. It includes mention of our use of ChurchSuite as well as MailChimp which is our Freedom News email platform. Of course, if you’re not on email, we can always provide you with a printout.
So these are some of the main questions and concerns we’ve had about My ChurchSuite. More of your questions might be answered in the guide previously mentioned.
Trends and fads will come and go, and maybe you might think that ChurchSuite is just another one of those and eventually we’ll gradually stop using it. However, we think it actually connects well as part of the package that enables us to work out our vision going forward by freeing up time spent over admin to time spent with people, ultimately becoming a more discipleship focused church.
So how will it help us in black and white terms:
It will help us reduce unnecessary admin burden on church leaders and admin, by providing a means for you to keep up to date your own family's details.
With the use of something called ‘flows’ within ChurchSuite, this will help us move people on in their discipleship journey by showing them next steps with Jesus - courses, events, groups, giving, serving, podcasts etc. Gradually, fewer people will fall through the cracks of good intent, because of poor record keeping.
Good record keeping enables us to provide a platform for soliciting missing or new information so that leaders and pastors can make better informed, data-driven decisions.
ChurchSuite is a platform that, although it’s so helpful with data, its main strength is to enable our community to develop relationships quickly, including a means for sharing one another's contact details appropriately and safely, while always respecting an individuals' privacy.
Using the ‘flows’ mentioned above will help newcomers connect to the life of the church much more quickly. This is something that, with all good intentions, we’ve tried to be good at, but clearly it’s not been a strength as we’ve struggled to help folks ‘stick’.
My ChurchSuite has already helped us be better at working collaboratively in areas of serving and volunteering. Rota planning has become more streamlined, and those serving know their future serving commitments. There’s still a little way to go with this, in terms of people inputting their unavailability, but rotas are working so much better than ever before and are certainly less of a pain to create!
This platform helps us to record attendance so that we have a more reliable basis for pastoral care. It gives us a data-driven ability to be better pastors in that we can quickly identify those who had been absent for more than a few weeks, and a means of circulating prayer requests and essential church information.
If everyone filled in their contact details entirely, and even used the contact image upload feature, how easy would it be for us to begin to identify each other and put names to faces, especially new people? This simple action can help defeat cliques forming as a little information (such as connecting names to faces) is so helpful in forming new relationships.
If our details are correct, it helps leaders and admins communicate better so that messages are targeted more effectively, rather than filling everyone’s inboxes with irrelevant emails.
As we look to develop our children and youth, My ChurchSuite helps our leaders of under 18s have the most up-to-date safeguarding information about the children in their care, including allergies, medical notes and special needs. In the coming weeks, we will be initiating our under 18s check-in system, something that ChurchSuite provides with ease so that we can be meticulous about safeguarding.
As mentioned earlier ChurchSuite provides a platform that helps us maintain privacy in a way that shows we value data protection, enabling us to use your details responsibly, in accordance with your consent.
We want to grow as a church, and we believe using ChurchSuite well, and implementing all that it has to offer now, gives us a scalable platform, a platform that provides the necessary systems and structures to support the future growth we expect.
Finally, it enables us to be wise stewards of tithes and offerings by using a platform that is inexpensive, intuitive and easy to deploy and use. This is a considerable part of ChurchSuite that we’ll be properly implementing in the coming months.
Our vision is to be a church that welcomes the unchurched - and we think that ChurchSuite enables us to be a church that turns our energies towards caring for people rather than spending time over admin. My ChurchSuite gives us all an opportunity to get to know one another better and so that we can welcome others readily into our family.
(For more helpful information about ChurchSuite please visit: support.churchsuite.com)