Ingredients of a 21st Century Web Solution for Small Group Ministry

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No matter where I go, everyone is asking the same question:  where can we find a fully-functioning 21st century web solution for groups?

I’ve decided that most web solutions for groups are incomplete.  That is, regardless of whether they can be described as a church management software (a bundled solution that handles database, check-in, financials, reports, etc.) or a stand-alone 3rd party application for small groups that integrates with a church management software (CMS), they typically satisfy only some of the needs of a small group ministry.

In my experience, the most common players are ChurchTeams, FellowshipOne, Shelby, and Arena.  While there are other systems, they seem to play a less significant role.

I’ve used them all.  I like aspects of several of them.  And I’ve discovered that most of them are missing essential ingredients in order to qualify as a 21st century solution.  What are the essential ingredients?

Here are mine:

  1. Allow unconnected people to easily find a group that fits their needs 24/7.  They shouldn’t have to log in (or create a log-in) to see what it available.  They should be able to filter for groups that fit their needs (i.e., they shouldn’t have to choose from a randomly list of every group).
  2. Upon selecting a group, every unconnected person ought to be able to expect contact within 24 hours by phone or email from the group leader.
  3. Once connected, leaders ought to be able to add new members to their rosters, changing the status of prospects to members.  It ought to be easy to do.  There shouldn’t have to be a middleman.
  4. Make it easy for leaders to use the system in order to track attendance, record prayer requests, communicate with their coach, etc.
  5. Community Leaders ought to be able to see at a glance whether leaders are following up on prospects.
  6. A weekly (or monthly) status report ought to be generated to flag any issues.

What do you think?  Does your system do these things?  Have something else on your wishlist?  Have a solution you love? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, ChurchTeams is a regular sponsor here at Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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  1. Libby Myrin on November 2, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Definitely agree with your thoughts! This has been an ongoing area of interest among our ministry leaders at We use FellowshipOne and have integrated it with our LifeGroups website to allow potential members to search, express interest, and connect with LifeGroup Leaders. Our LifeGroup Leaders manage their prospects and members, having the ability to communicate via email. Yet we’ve had challenges with leaders fully utilizing this method, setting up accounts, responding timely, keeping their groups maintained, etc, In addition, once a group is ‘full’, the need for this online tool diminishes. In a perfect world, we’d love to integrate FellowshipOne with Facebook to combine the administrative side with the personal/community feel. 🙂

  2. markchowell on November 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I like the Facebook idea! Perfect! Thanks for jumping in here Libby!


  3. Mike Mack on November 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Mark, I’ve only used ChurchTeams, but I believe it does all that you list in your post, except for #2, which is out of the hands of the system. The group leader does, however, receive an email immediately from ChurchTeams telling him or her that a person has joined the group and a reminder to contact that person within the next 2 days. It also provides the leader’s contact info as well, in case the unconnected person wants to contact the leader first. I’ve enjoyed using this program.

  4. Mike Mack on November 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Oh, and by the way, a leader can easily integrate ChurchTeams with the group’s facebook page. That’s what I did to make communications even better.

  5. markchowell on November 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks Mike! I agree with you for the most part, but feel that even #2 is best managed with built-in internal verification. As the system grows larger, what you expect will need to be inspected (and that can be verified by cc’ing coaches.


  6. markchowell on November 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I haven’t heard this. Will need to check it out!


  7. Amanda Seidler on November 5, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Have you checked out Church Community Builder? Our church has yet to actually begin using the software, but after going through a few demonstrations and doing a bit more research, the software appears to have many, if not all, of the capabilities listed above.

  8. markchowell on November 5, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Thanks for jumping in Amanda! I’ve talked with CCB but not yet found a good example of a church making connecting available 24/7 using a group finder. In my mind that is probably the most important reason to use a web solution. As a result, I’ve categorized CCB as similar to The City. Providing many very helpful advantages…but missing a couple key components for group life.

  9. Ryan Lokkesmoe on November 5, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Church Teams has been a big win for us. It’s much more intuitive than the software we were previously using. It’s simpler for leaders to create their groups, and easier for people to find the right group. The biggest plus for me is the automatic push-out email that goes to leaders the day the group meets. Leaders can post their attendance from this email without even having to enter a password. I now have accurate, reliable attendance data that allows me to evaluate the health of our entire system. The customer service with CT has been excellent, as well.

  10. markchowell on November 5, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Thanks Ryan! I agree. ChurchTeams is a very good solution and as far as I know, the only one that offers the push email to leaders.


  11. Margaret on November 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    great list! I hadn’t heard of a couple of the names before–good to be aware of!

  12. markchowell on November 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks Margaret!

  13. Mike Tanner on November 8, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Our church is using Church Community Builder and at the moment, the 24/7 service is left to the church to create. I know that is a bummer for some churches but here is what we made at our church. It is was pretty easy to do, but again it’s not in the box so to speak you have to have some web junkies make it. CCB provides all the links into their system to make it possible.

  14. markchowell on November 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks Mike! I took a look at your link. Not bad! Tell me, though, how skilled did your web junky have to be to create that finder?

  15. Mike Tanner on November 9, 2012 at 6:00 am

    We went above and beyond so we had a web guy who does that for a living. But in order to “brand” a group finder page as your own and make it look good wouldn’t require that advanced of a person. Our first version was done by a high schooler.

  16. Tim Gibbons on November 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    We are discussing integrating The City as a web solution for not only Small Group Ministry, but as an overall church wide web solution. It works with our current ACS database and it seems to answer the needs listed in the blog post. Appreciate reading about what other ministries are using and seeing what works and doesn’t work for their contexts.

  17. markchowell on November 18, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Does The City offer a way to search for groups that meet the needs of an unconnected person without logging in first (or creating a log in)? Keep me posted on how it goes!