People Driven Software

Jun 18, 2003 09:12 AM EDT

I had the privilege of spending some time with Mark Kitts of People Driven Software during our Technology and Ministry Con-ference in Atlanta. You may have noticed the new full-page ads that have been running concerning People Driven Software. They are a new company, offering an exciting and innovative church management software (CMS) package.

Before I started talking to Mark about what their software could do, I wanted to know more about him and why they felt the need to introduce a new CMS service into the market. Mark shared a bit of his history, and the mission behind the development of People Driven Software.

Even though Mark went to Bible College & Seminary, instead of going straight into ministry, he went to the marketplace and worked at a consulting company with companies like Proctor & Gamble and Fidelity Investments. As he saw how technology helped these companies flourish, he caught a vision for how technology could help ministries thrive as well. During these years, like many others, he was greatly influenced by Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church. This book sparked many ideas about how to use technology in ministry and the opportunity came up to use those ideas in a significant way.

In 1997, Mark left the corporate world and moved to North Carolina to become a church planter. At the same time, he began to write software to help the new church. From the beginning the focus was on the core business of the church, which is winning people to Christ and helping them mature as disciples. He believes this is what makes People Driven Software stand out from other CMS.

The church is now five-and-a-half-years down the road, and running around 900 people each week. While mere software alone cannot be credited for any growth within a church, software can be specifically designed to help churches do a better job of communication and connection, which can certainly contribute to the success of a church accomplishing their mission.

Mark soon realized that the product they had developed was doing a great job of meeting their expectations and helping them accomplish their goals. He knew that other churches could also benefit from this service, so he soon began to allow other churches to use it as well as beta testers. Now just 8 months after launching the company, 70 churches are using People Driven Software and new churches are jumping on board every week.

Mark makes it clear that People Driven Software is designed for churches that have a purpose in reaching lost people and discipleship. It is designed to do much more than just track attendance, membership and contributions. People Driven Software concentrates on communication and connection. Automated e-mail and follow-up is a big part of the program! I was very impressed with the way the program is designed to help keep staff members and volunteers informed. For example, if you track visitors, People Driven Software is designed to accomplish a specific action after each of their initial visits. After the first visit, you might wish to send a follow-up e-mail or letter. After the second visit, someone could make a personal call. After the third visit, you could send a follow-up email or letter that includes an attachment with an explanation of the many ministries your church provides. And, after the fourth visit, you might wish for the person to receive an e-mail or letter with a list of open small groups that they could join. All of these letters and emails are sent at the same time with one push of a button!

Many pastors have great intentions of following up with people like this, but without some help, many times the ball gets dropped. However, with People Driven Software, follow-up is very easy. Staff members or volunteers are automatically sent automated e-mail that informs them of requests for follow-up or involvement in a ministry they lead. Also, when logging in to the system, they are reminded of people they need to contact in order to help people connect in the church’s disciple development process—whether that means getting in a small group, joining a ministry team, accepting Christ, receiving information from the church or being invited to an upcoming event.

Even more than this, in many cases, People Driven Software can do much of the work in the follow up process! For example, if you have a schedule of people that serve as greeters for each service, People Driven Software will remind you that you need to send those serving next weekend a reminder e-mail or letter. Then you can select the Greeter ministry team from a list, write the email message, and People Driven Software will send the e-mail to everyone on the list through Outlook as if you were addressing each person individually. (You can also print letters or post cards and mail them if needed.) The program has some first-rate tools to easily help you create customized e-mails. It’s designed to help create and expand communication within your church.

People Driven Software can provide tracking for your members who have finished specific training, such as the 101, 201, 301 and 401 series. You can use this information as well as other criteria, to connect to selected members to help them get involved with church functions, recruitment, assimilation, etc. The software helps you move people through the ministry processes you’ve designed to help them grow.

People Driven Software is integrated with Microsoft Office. For example, all form letters are created in Microsoft Word and can be based on templates so that you have all the power of Word to format documents with different sizes, fonts, colors and graphics. Spreadsheets are created in Excel using any one of over 100 types of mailing lists. E-mailing is done through Outlook so that you have control of what is sent via your outbox.

The software also sports some revolutionary new technology that no other church software offers. People Driven Software allows you to install a copy of your database on any number of computers so they you can have full access to your data wherever you are and then synchronize your database with other copies of the database! For example, you can work on your laptop entering or viewing data while sipping your coffee at Starbucks. Your church treasurer can be at home entering contribution information and your church staff can be in your office sharing a data file on your network. When you or the church treasurer bring your copy back to the office, you press one button and the database is synchronized with the copy at the office. You get everyone else’s changes and they get yours . . . automatically!

There are several things that impressed me about People Driven Software. First, I loved the ability it had to help with communication. It could create the e-mails and letters you need directly from templates you have set up, combined with data generated from the program. It is easy to send out weekly prayer request reports to those that have committed to this task. The weekly prayer requests can come as a Word doc attachment.

Second, data entry is easy. You can easily set up customized keyboard shortcuts that enable you to enter data quickly. Or, you can even have the database do automatic updates of data, such as when children move up a grade in school on a specific date.

And, finally, I loved the fact that People Driven Software is designed around the principles outlined in the Purpose Driven Church. It is designed to help a church reach people for Christ and help them become fully devoted disciples. A quote from the People Driven Software web site put it this way, “PDS is not just a bucket to hold information. It’s a fire hose enabling you to blast out targeted communiqués via mass email/mail so that the right people are informed at the right time.”

The software normally sells for $1495 but they are offering an introductory price of $999 for established churches and $799 for new churches less than 2 years old. PDS is fully networked and offers a simple church site license with unlimited users for this price. Annual upgrades and support cost $199 per year and you get 90 days free when purchasing.

By Managing Editor of Technology