CIS TOUCH – VERSION 1.13
By: James Hayes
One of the primary objectives of computer use should be to expand our respective ministries. As much as we may revel in the electronic stratosphere, we are accountable to “make the most of every opportunity.” After evaluating 10 megabytes of the CIS TOUCH program and 971 pages of the documentation involved on membership, contributions, and attendance alone – I am convinced we are dealing with a sophisticated product that is more than just another church management system. Rather we may see the beginning of a new era in user-oriented, pastorally-designed systems which will greatly enhance the ministry effectiveness of those churches electing to thrust forward with new technology.
The CIS TOUCH system is a denominationally-produced software package created by the Baptist Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and marketed through Church Information Systems and is also available through Baptist Book Stores across the country.
Fully integrated with WordPerfect 5.1 as the word processor of choice, and the NEWVIEWS accounting package, both of which merit reviews in their own right, CIS TOUCH features PEOPLE (membership), ORGANIZATION (enrollment and attendance), GIVING (contributions), REACHING (inreach and outreach tracking) , and a UTILITY program to support the above functions. Available as additional optional modules, and not covered in this review is the compatible Association Information System
Electronic Order System, a Media/Music library module, Church Art and the Hymnal Helper.
Cindy Nelson, the data processing secretary with the First Baptist Church of Port Charlotte, FL is pleased with the TOUCH system installation. “Our church selected TOUCH because it is versatile enough to meet our needs,” she stated. “The older CIS program was more structured and very limited, in order to minimize errors, yet TOUCH is quality software designed for our times and the increasing ability of all types of people to utilize computers.”
Perhaps one of the most interesting faces of the CIS TOUCH system is the extent to which the user can define the format of the desired output The database construction constitutes a deviation from much
church management software on the market today, but holds great promise for the future. Simply stated, each church can now “have it their way” without “breaking the rules.”
At the Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, VA, Sandra Moore, the church secretary was very pleased-with the versatility of CIS TOUCH. In this 1000 member congregation, still in the process of
installing the new enhanced version, as were all of the references I contacted, she said, “We really like the ease of quick data entry. In preparation for the installation of this system we had allowed our contribution recording to be delayed, yet CIS TOUCH was able to catch up very rapidly. It seems like I was able to post contribution records and create envelope numbers in much less time than previously. The contribution statement allows for limited numbers of designated funds, allowing us to give accurate reports to our members.”
“This system really saves time when we try to prepare our Baptist denominational reports, but the flexibility is so great that any -church could use CIS TOUCH to its benefit,” one user added.
The PEOPLE module is the heart of the CIS TOUCH database. Here after selecting one of four menu options, edit, select report or quick (which are consistent options in each module), the user has opened the
door to a myriad of choices which are easily and understandably selected.
In PEOPLE the edit selection allows you to custom design report parameters according to `all families’, `all people’, or `user- defined’ The select function also permits the operator to choose from report formats previously defined and stored in the system, or to create new reports to meet the always-changing needs of the church.
It-is-here, moving from one menu selection to the next with context-sensitive help screens always available, that CIS TOUCH displays its simplicity and its power. The complexity of this system is masked in
that by going step-by-step in an understandable fashion very sophisticated choices that formerly would have required custom programming to be able to be-made. The pop-up menus provide clear guidance to the operator.
For example, to obtain a report on a specific church group, according to your desires, you first select PEOPLE, then choose the user-defined format from 2 other choices. The next screen available allows you to designate criteria, display, options, keep, or execute. Under display there are nine options you can choose from – all clearly selected by moving the cursor arrow up or down. For your custom report you can
select to appear name, or name and business name, or name and church relationship, or name, church relationship, and small group, or name, church relationship, and date of birth, and age, or name, church
relationship, and family relationship, or name, church relationship, how received, and date received, or name, school grade, sex, birth date, and age, or name, church relationship, marital status, sex, birth
date, and age, or name, church relationship, source, church affiliation. From these nine display options you move on to select from 23 different areas under criteria, each having from 3 to 31 fields related to it. Most of these fields have nine different options from which you can select – all clearly explained by the help screen available merely by pushing F1. To put the icing on the cake you can decide in exactly what order you would like 21 of these items to appear! Then you can keep your custom report designed in less than two
minutes and output it to your choice of disk, display, or printer!!
This may sound complicated, not too impressive and far removed from the ministry activity to which you have devoted your life. Please be patient and let me explain. In much less time than it takes to fully
understand what I have written above you can have a list of all of the single adults in your church age 30 to 40 who are non- members and yet have attended Sunday School at least 50% of the time! What a prospect
list for new members and people to lead a ministry you have been praying about. Have you wondered whether or not there are enough members’ children in the early elementary grades able to make that
children’s ministry fly? Or what about the names of the people, appropriately handled, who have pledged support (the system allows for the exclusion of amount, if desired) and might be fed of the Lord to
consider that memorial fund your church is revitalizing. Technology must never take the place of the leading of the Spirit, but why not get all the information we can on the church which is the Bride of Christ?
The PEOPLE report selection has a standard format for mailing labels, church directory, family profile, index cards, and word processing address file which combines handily with the mail merge capability of
WordPerfect 5.1. It is possible to exclude names you do not want on any report, for example, non-residents, as well as to include names on other reports, such as non- members. The choice is yours!
Barbara Clauser, church secretary with the Sharon Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC reported that everything was going great with their installation of CIS TOUCH. In this 1300 member church, the only
wrinkle that was encountered was a change in the format to the church directory. “The information is very fine under CIS TOUCH, but the directory is in a slightly different style to that which our members had become accustomed. The TOUCH folks tried to help, but said that the change would be much better handled through our word processor. TOUCH is a beautiful system.”
This system couples perfectly with our WordPerfect word processor so that we can eliminate duplicate data entry. The interface performs marvelously,” one user added.
Even mailing labels provide easily defined variations. The five choices of execute, destination, page, options, and keep. Below this level it is possible to view, save to disk, or output to printer the mailing label formats- valuable for repeats of the same list as well as verification before printing on expensive label stock. But that’s not all folks. Under the page selection you can designate label width, length, print margins, and font. Under options you can choose one label per family to save postage cost, and can sort by both zip code and carrier route. Layout permits printing on one person per label, sorts by zip, allows for the use of either 1-across, 2-across, or 3- across continuous feed labels, allows for sorting by envelope number,
small group number, carrier route, and even allows an additional text message to be included.
The PEOPLE quick function allows for you to rapidly add new families and new people in families to the TOUCH system. “I like the way the membership portion functions. It seems like I am able to pull together
information from everywhere in order to give our church leadership exactly what they need,” Sandra Moore said.
The ORGANIZATION module of TOUCH allows the user quickly access data on user-defined church organizations. If you are the only church in your area that also has an outreach to those who are in need of grief support – you can now identify these people – and make certain they have the opportunity to be supported by others in the church.
What CIS TOUCH has created here is far more significant than simply a series of data buckets for reporting purposes. There is inherent in the way the database is designed the ability to produce order in any
church exactly according the dictates of the denomination or local church leaders. CIS TOUCH in its ORGANIZATION sub-module forces (gently) the user the think through the way the church is organized
and as an inevitable by-product there will be thought of improvements.
Cindy Nelson said, “we are able to track the number of prospects and the numbers of visits people make. We are able to monitor our organizational structure in order to maximize ministry. For Southern
Baptist churches, tables are already set up to exactly fit the reporting criteria our churches are used to seeing, but no matter what denomination the system can be easily modified by the user to fit their needs.”
ORGANIZATION leads into such areas as activities, answers, enrollment information, and report options. For each group you can accumulate information such as beginning time frame, ending time frame, type of
program, frequency of program, whether or not attendance is to be kept the leader, and the location of the group.
The system has individual membership cards that catch the way we are used to seeing attendance reported – with a card for each person. This makes it very easy to follow participation in programs for any and all
of the organizations the church chooses to follow. In Southern Baptist circles we have five major organizations with other groups falling under these – but the system will record attendance in any way needed. Our church divides most organizations under music, women, men, Sunday School, and discipleship training – with many of these having specialty subgroups that are age- related or combined with life situations, such as marital status,” Cindy Nelson explained.
ORGANIZATION report output in either: (1) attendance cards for each individual participant, (2) a master enrollment form for each group, (3) checklist for attendance, (4) weekly attendance summary, (5)
monthly attendance summary, (6) enrollment monthly summary, (7) yearly
ORGANIZATION quick can rapidly establish new organizations, enrollment, and record attendance.
Of all of the applications of CIS TOUCH, the REACHING module is perhaps the most exciting. If you have ever had difficulty in your church deciding who needed to be followed up, and by whom – REACHING
is the answer. If you have ever wished for a planned program selected
REACHING is the medicine the doctor ordered.
internal to the church (inreach) or external to the church (outreach). You can designate the ministry type, the start date, the number of weeks the program will operate, the regular follow-up intervals to be expected, and the day on which follow-up is to be accomplished.
REACHING can truly customize and automate one of the most difficult aspect of ministry: making certain that people are neither neglected nor overwhelmed by an improper use of the valuable resource called
time. REACHING has many areas and fields to record situations and outcomes. You can enter contacts, follow-ups, notes, responses to your follow-up contacts, and the team responsible for executing the
REACHING activities. There are role identifiers as well as additional fields to record the wide variety of responses and contacts.
REACHING reports can come in the form of assignment cards, family profile sheets, or index cards. For continuity it is possible to specify previous reports as well so members may be followed in a knowledgeable fashion.
GIVING, the contribution module of TOUCH, provides for proper recording of gifts, commitments (pledges), funds, envelopes, and year-end closing reports.
It is possible for internal security to prevent monetary reports from being edited. Also timely batch reports for each Sunday, a Pledge list a fund list and the generation of envelope numbers according to several optional plans is available.
GIVING select makes it possible to old funds, and also execute, display, determine criteria, select options, and keep various giving reports. Again CIS TOUCH comes through with alternatives that are mind-boggling: there are eight different areas in GIVING which may be selected, each with from two to five fields.
GIVING report displays even more system versatility. There is a master giving report, as well as a summary by fund, a gift distribution report, a pledge distribution report, an analysis of gift report, a quarterly statement report, and an envelope service file.
GIVING permits statements to be rendered with or without pledges, sorting can be accomplished by carrier route to save postage, and it is possible to request either detail or summary statements from the system.
GIVING quick allows the rapid input of gifts, pledges, funds, and envelope reassignment.
Dr. Donald Paine, Pastor of Forest Lake Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, AL said, “The only problem we have had with it is that our members are having an adjustment period getting used to the completely detailed
contribution records the TOUCH system provides. The giving portion of TOUCH works fine and astounds us with its accuracy.”
The UTILITIES portion of TOUCH includes an abbreviation designator, categories, user definitions, default selection, printer drivers for several popular printers and the means to accommodate many others,
ministry leader list, questions, and responses.
The overall TOUCH package comes with a utility MENU function which allows a `hot key’ selection of CIS TOUCH, WordPerfect, UTILITY, NEWVIEWS accounting, MEDIA LIBRARY, and AUTOMATED ORDERING, as well as quick backup, restore, format, and check disk operations. This works fine, but if you have a MENU file on your computer prepare for it to be overwritten during the almost completely automatic installation of CIS TOUCH.
SUPPORT AND TRAINING
All of the users I contacted indicated excellent support and service from the CIS TOUCH organization. Many users indicated the week’s training which comes with the system (expenses not included) to be of
great value. “The documentation is very clear and straightforward,” Sandra Moore said, “It is easy to work with, and very simple. After a week of training in Nashville, I feel very well qualified to operate his CIS TOUCH system.”
The Philadelphia Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL thinks that CIS TOUCH is “wonderful.” After going to Nashville, TN for the week training course there are so many things that I learned to do,” Margaret Crumpton, church secretary of this church described. “There is a very great potential to be realized with this flexible database. My husband and I donated the last computer system to the church and he wrote much of the software – yet we are both overjoyed with the power of the CIS TOUCH system. Just to be able to accurately record Sunday School reports and always have accurate giving records is great!”
There was also universal consensus on the quality of the documentation. A review of the manual, although perhaps a bit frustrating for the sophisticated user errs, I think, on the better side of complete explanations for everything. The 310 page Tutorial Manual in addition to the 661 page Reference Manual is complete in
Judy Price with the 3500 member 6000 enrollment First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, OK provided the only cloud in an otherwise bright sky. “We tried TOUCH, but will not be using it,” she said, adding, “it
was just not fast enough for our very large church.” When I asked what system they tried to run TOUCH on, they did not know. Contacting a representative of TOUCH they stated that larger churches should
operate TOUCH using the Xenix multi-user operating system. They were aware of the problems that Broken Arrow had, and had instructed them that the their church may have been too large to try to run the DOS (single-user) version of TOUCH.
Oddly enough another church, the Forest Lake Baptist Church mentioned earlier reported great success using CIS TOUCH with the 8088 (XT) configuration – one that is not normally recommended for fast
operation. Dr. Donald Paine, the Pastor of this church was very happy with CIS TOUCH. “I am very pleased with it” he said. Dr. Paine said, “In the applications we have operational the TOUCH system has proven
to be a great time-saver.”
Steven Edds, the Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church in Sheridan, AR, said, “We really like the TOUCH system and find it very easy to work with. Many churches we talked with said they had tried other systems and recommended we call CIS TOUCH. The CIS representative was very helpful in responding to us and explaining what we could expect from this advanced system. We already have the PEOPLE sub-module
installed and will install GIVING next.”
The CIS TOUCH system is certainly a lot of software. Ten megabytes of program is huge compared to many other packages. The size must be considered when you acquire or upgrade your hard drive for this system.
What do you get for ten megabytes? A lot of program, that’s what. You get a database orientation that allows you to completely choose what you want. You can become the programmer without ever knowing anything about programming. You get a series of pull-down screens, pop-up menus, hot keys, menus, and context-sensitive help screens that are clearly superior. Since the release of this program is so new, you
will probably also get a few “bugs” as well. I found a minor one, that even if never corrected, would not impair the overall operation of the system. From the references about the caring nature of the CIS TOUCH
people, I believe that any glitches found will be promptly removed.
You also get a targeted approach. CIS did not have to develop an excellent word processor and they integrated their software with WordPerfect. Their computer clip-art is apparently from COMMUNICATION RESOURCES. The operation of NEWVIEWS accounting should be interesting.
Simply because of the many versatile tasks that CIS TOUCH accomplishes, it brings much more to the church than just an software system. It really brings a level of organization, discipline, and consistency to the local church operation as well as a supported priority that the church do the work of ministry.
At this point I recommend that any of our mega-churches test TOUCH on 386 or 486 equipment to insure that the processing times are realistic. As churches of other denominations begin to use CIS TOUCH, I am certain that standard tables will be formulated for them as well, but this is not a difficult task anyhow. I hope that CIS TOUCH will not rest on their laurels, but will pursue their product development to the utmost. If they do, CIS TOUCH could prove to be a major vehicle for the advancement of the gospel well into the 21st century.
CIS TOUCH is priced at $525 for the People sub-module, $850 for the People Enhanced sub-module (which is greatly to be preferred), $575 for the GIVING sub-module, and $450 for the REACHING sub-module. Multiple user configurations are also available using the Xenix operating system.
There are many bundled configurations with hardware and software, and certain discounts available. The Media/Music Library is $300 and requires the MS-DOS ICOBOL Runtime package for another $300. CIS
Newviews Accounting is $895. WordPerfect is available at a bundled savings. Please request the most recent pricing from Church Information System, 127 Ninth Avenue, Nashville, TN 37234, (615) 251-2247.
“We are moving from an environment where the average church clerical worker had little familiarity with computer systems and desired for the software to protect itself against errors, to a more relaxed era
where most of our church secretaries have had some exposure to computers and can, perhaps for the first time, really begin to use this tool that God has given us,” Cindy Nelson said. Cindy – I could not agree with you more. CIS TOUCH could lead the way into this new era.
(The above material is a reprint from an issue of Christian Computing Magazine in Belton, MO.)
Christian Information Network