Since 1993, Icon Systems has been providing churches quality church management software (CMS). Nearly 3000 churches across the nation have enjoyed their CMS product Revelations. Recently, the president of Icon Systems, Bob Gifford, gave me a demonstration of their latest product BeAtChurch, their new Internet-based CMS product. I was impressed! BeAtChurch is simply a fantastic Internet-based CMS system that provides all of the major features of a networked-based CMS system. There are some special features that I will explain later, but first let me address why you might wish to consider an Internet-based CMS system.
Why should you consider using an Internet-based CMS system? Because it is easy, time saving and cost saving! Simple. For many churches the cost of learning new operating systems in order to take advantage of the latest features of their CMS program is costly and frustrating. You have to install applications and consistently make sure you have the latest updates. You have to make accurate backups and ensure that your backups are secure (which means you need to have a way to keep a copy off-site). And, if you want to share access with multiple staff members, you need to set up and maintain a network. And, for some, off-site access is simply impossible or adds to the cost of getting the system you desire. Another problem is that people move. Finding someone who can figure out all the operating procedures such as the network design, periodic backup procedures, user authorizations, plus learning the applications themselves can be a daunting task.
With an Internet-based system, you do not have to worry about having a specific operating system. BeAtChurch will work with Windows, Linux, Unix or Macintosh OS X (Mozilla 1.3), as long as you use one of the recommended browsers.. You do not have to worry about doing backups (at least not in the case of BeAtChurch). You will be able to access your information from anywhere you have access to the Internet. That means you can even access from home or on the road. It also means that volunteers who might be entering data or doing other work for the church can access from their homes.
So what can BeAtChurch do for your church?
BeAtChurch is a full-featured CMS system. Some of their main features;
• Households and Member Tracking
• Special Events (Birthdays, Bap tisms, Confirmations, Marriages, etc.)
• Groups and Talents
• Mass E-mails
• General Attendance Tracking
• Pledge and Contribution Tracking
• Church Mailings
• Archiving of Members
And, if you use either of the CMS products (Revelations or BeAtChurch) you get a free web site for your church (you pay for the registration of your domain name) and 10 free e-mail addresses.
As with all things new and innovating, it is hard to describe the look and feel of using BeAtChurch. The feature that I found amazing was the speed at which BeAtChurch ran. Because of the menu system and design, you would not believe you were using an Internet database application. BeAtChurch has more of a Windows look and feel than that of a browser. It was specifically designed to be easy to use, and to be fast. Icon Systems accomplished both their goals. They do not use dropdown menus, and since they do not use a system that involves redrawing screens, there are no back arrows. Instead, your menus come in menu rows. Select an item from the first menu, and another menu bar will appear directly below the first, offering items related to what you selected. In many cases, making a selection here will open a third or even a fourth menu bar across the top of the window before you get to the specific data window where you can access, enter or edit data. Even though BeAtChurch is an Internet-based system, it was designed to work as a Windows-based system and NOT browser-based.
You really have to check out a demo of BeAtChurch to believe how fast it will run over the Net. Many of the features are simply hard to describe, but add to that the ease of use. For example, since the program doesn’t redraw the screen each time you move forward or backwards, you can move away from one screen (say entering contributions) to a membership screen and when you return to contributions, it will be on the same record as where you left it!
Since it is Internet-based, it takes advantages of other Internet services. For example, you can easily pull up a Yahoo map of a member’s address.
Want to print reports? Printing HTML reports from any browser can be a pretty iffy process as far as alignment is concerned. So BeAtChurch gives you the ability to port your reports over to PDF format for you to view and print as needed. This provides print accuracy right down to the pixel level.
To save you the hassle of maintaining backups, BeAtChurch backs up your data everyday, and keeps a monthly copy going back an entire year. And, for extra protection, they keep their backups at another secure site.
BeAtChurch is working on some exciting new features that should be available very soon. Individual members will be able to visit a web site and see specific information that is generated from the data within BeAtChurch. For example, individuals could visit a web site, enter their secure user name and password, and view their giving records in text or graph mode, print their own contribution statement as well as view their household and family information. If changes are required, they simply press an Email button and send a request to the church office.
During the demo, I took several pages of notes. The interesting thing as I looked over my notes the next day was that I constantly noted how fast and smooth the program operated. It is really hard to believe that I was using an Internet-based database system. Icon Systems has done an incredible job of meeting their goals of ease and speed.
BeAtChurch is something you should check out. The future of Internet-based database applications has arrived. Visit their site at http://www.beatchurch.net/ and run through their demo. To run a demo (or to run BeAtChurch) all you need is an Internet connection (phone dialup will work) and one of the following browsers; Netscape 7.0 or greater, Internet Explorer 6.0 or greater, or Mozilla 1.2.1 or greater.
Pricing depends on the size of your church, but will range from $22 a month to $47 a month. Check them out online at www.BeAtChurch.net, or give them a call at 800-596-4266.