Big Brother church – tracking your giving reports…

“Fellowship One is a web-based church management software system that allows a church of any size, from new church plants to multi-site mega churches, to be more effective in ministry, more efficient in administration, and more engaged with their communities. Fellowship One provides a unique 360-degree, single view of the involvement and needs of the families in your church so that you can personalize their care.”

The story: Fellowship One was started by a team of developers hired by a mega church pastored by Ed Young.   They then started a business leasing their software to other mega churches and they made a ton of money.  After a while they sold the program for a ‘bazillion’ dollars to the conglomerate Active Network, who has also purchased software in almost every industry from food distrubution, sports management, to manufacturing and supply.  Many customers have said that the quality of the service and the applications has dropped significantly since the acquisition.

What it does: pretty much anything, if you can figure out how to use it.  Fellowship One was designed to handle enormously complex ministries.  It can connect to a churches automatic door locking system and provide the kind of key-card access that you usually see when you visit an oil company or a government building.  Fellowship One can give the NSA a run for its money when it comes to tracking members, both physically and any information about them.  With everything from social networking scraping to geocoding the church staff can pretty much learn anything about you once you “check-in”. A good question though, is do visitors of mega churches really want their facebook statuses showing up on the desk of some church office geek?

Price: $1,000 – $15,000+ per year

Typical Customer: Mega Church – those tracking over 10,000 people

Number of Churches: 2,000

Purchase Model: As a web based program Fellowship One is leased by the customer, after they have paid a very hefty “setup” fee.  The monthly price of any modules usually is based on the number of people the church is tracking, with smaller churches paying less.  However, there is almost no way a small church can afford to spend thousands of dollars year after year for a program that they may not even figure out how to use.  Fellowship One provides a lot of different software programs which they sell as add on services.  Any churches that are not mega churches may be shocked at the cost of utilizing all of these services, however, they are good church software functions if you are trying to manage a ministry that reaches 50,000 – 100,000 people.

Pros: The great thing about Fellowship One church software is that it is web based.

Cons: The bad thing is that it costs way more money than any non-mega church can and should spend on church software.  The other bad thing about Fellowship One is that in order for a church to really use it, they need to have a heavily staffed I.T. department.  With a continuous stream of new “rollouts”, feature changes, and bugs, most church secretaries and administrators are going to be very frustrated trying to just do their job on a daily basis.

At the end of the day: Fellowship One is good church software SaaS for Mega churches for whom money is really no object, and who have double digits in I.T. staffing.

Real Customer Reviews

Review from Capterra:

Pros: This software is very feature rich and capable.  It has resolved some of our immediate needs with check-in for kids, contributions, and mobile app for access to our data base as well as our small groups. When you read my cons please don’t think I would not choose F1 again.  I am just highly displeased with how they set expectations and how they train.

Cons: They do a very poor job of setting expectations.  While the system is capable of a lot of features…good luck figuring them out.  They are very limiting on what they will show you during implementation of the product.  We also paid for the certification training and even that is limited to what information they will release to you.  It seems that their attitude is “You need to figure it out”.  They do host a one hour weekly call for Q&A, but that’s still not satisfactory to us.  I can’t even send an all church email out!!  Something that should be the simplest process is cryptic at best to figure out. If something isn’t working you have to submit a trouble ticket.  There is no customer service line.  They should have a customer service line for those who have paid the $700 fee for training and certification.

Overall: I would recommend F1 but with high caution.  Make sure you have a point person that is highly computer literate.   Be very patient… I gave 5 stars to “Meets our needs” on the premise that eventually when we get all our questions answered – it will meet our needs.  That’s why we chose F1.

Review from Capterra:

Pros: It is a powerful database that offers many options.

Cons: Because of the great functionality, it can be quite frustrating to learn. We felt the training very poor and overwhelming, never mastering the system. It’s a fragmented system that is often being upgraded. Therefore, we are constantly relearning it. Also,the reports are often changed or replaced. Once we find a report we like, it’s replaced with a new one. It is VERY difficult to figure out the fields you need and it takes a lot of time to come up with a new one.  Customer service is almost NONEXISTENT. Imagine waiting on hold over 20 minutes. When someone answers, they usually have the excuse that they don’t really work in that area, they are just helping out because they are unusually busy right now (almost every time we call). Then they cannot answer your question, but will put a ticket in for you and someone will get back to you. Rarely does someone get back to you. If they do, they give you a stock answer they got from a list, as the answer does not answer your question.

Overall: Unfortunately, the perfect CMS system does not seem to exist.  We are not pleased with this system and are using bits and pieces from other systems right now that work better, while looking into a replacement system.  I would not recommend this system unless you have Tech savvy people working on your staff.  The typical church secretary will be pulling her hair out trying to spit out any kind of report.”




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