Seventh-day Adventist world church officers today unveiled standardized membership accounting software for church use worldwide.
Adoption of the Web-based Adventist Church Membership Software, jointly owned by Adventist world church headquarters and the church’s South American Division, is expected to address current variances in accounting for the global Protestant denomination’s estimated 17 million members.
“This is a great opportunity for the church to use the best technology to empower better and more effective ministry,” said Andrew Kuntaraf, director of the Adventist world church’s new office of Adventist Church Membership Software.
Kuntaraf and a global team of Adventist software professionals evaluated 11 possible solutions, ranging from Blackbaud, the leading non-profit enterprise software, to eAdventist, a software package used by the church’s North American Division since 2002. Elements such as flexibility, implementation, maintenance and ease of use were high priority, he said.
Another key feature was privacy, Kuntaraf said. The team also wanted to ensure that the software supported multilingual users. “We can’t expect the local church clerk to have to learn English,” he said.
The Adventist Church Membership Software was developed and first implemented by the church’s South American Division. Every Adventist in South America is currently an entry in the Web-based software. An October 10 Memorandum of Understanding signed by the region’s three top church officers and Adventist world church officials established joint ownership of the software. The move was a “testament” to what church technology officials can accomplish through collaboration, Kuntaraf said.
John Beckett, director of the church’s Office of Global Software and Internet, said one unique feature of the software allows church clerks to flag missing members. “Then if the person is attending another church, the clerk there can update their membership,” he said. Done on paper, a membership transfers can take months or even years.
“In my church, the process for one member went so slowly that we voted him in on profession of faith. He’s probably still a member somewhere else. So now we’ve counted him twice, and it’d be best not to do that,” Beckett said.
Ultimately, church officials want to eliminate such duplications and avoid counting inactive or deceased members.
In recent years, church leaders have called for greater scrutiny of membership rolls in an effort to build membership confidence through accuracy and transparency. Several church divisions have conducted membership audits in response. Many regions combined such audits with projects to reach out to inactive or missing members.
“Somebody once told me, ‘It’s a travesty that the church keeps better track of its money than its members,’” Kuntaraf said. At the time, he was serving as associate director of the office of Seventh-day Adventist Accounting Software. He previously worked to help the church implement a global standard for accounting software.
Now, Kuntaraf hopes to find similar success in unifying the church through standardized membership accounting. But only if the “correct spirit” is used, he says, citing biblical stories in which people were “numbered” for negative reasons, such as pride.
“Membership statistics are great, but it shouldn’t be the driving force. The motivation should be, ‘What can we do to improve our church members’ quality of life and their relationship with the church?’” Kuntaraf said.
He envisions a membership portal, where each member can maintain their address, access resources and manage subscriptions to church periodicals or e-bulletins.
Adventist technology professionals are expected to implement the Adventist Church Membership Software in a pilot division by the end of the year.
“Hopefully, we’ll get most of the divisions on board by 2015,” Kuntaraf said.