RDS FAITH – CHURCH MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
By: James Hayes
One learns to be slightly skeptical when analyzing software vendors. So when I received the five-pound box full of brightly-colored ring binders, hefty documentation, slick marketing literature, and many user references, I immersed myself in the system expecting to uncover some unpleasantness which would eat away at the favorable first impression. Weeks later, after much reading and reference-checking I emerged pleasantly surprised. RDS FAITH appears to be very much on target in the field of church management systems.
The RDS FAITH system is organized into ten different functional divisions: (1) membership, (2) activities, (3) attendance, (4) financial (including contributions), (5) general ledger, (6) accounts payable, (7) payroll, (8) special systems, (9) word processing, and (10) optional systems.
The membership module provides an extensive data base for each family, tracking over 50 informative items. Dividing the congregation into 8 status groups there is a recording feature for vital dates such as
membership, birthday, anniversaries, etc. The system is user-friendly and provides defaults in many fields for quick data entry of records with partial information. Ask any operator who was to face many records with varying degrees of information and you will learn that creation of short-form records is essential for efficiency. The membership module interfaces with all other aspects of the RDS FAITH system resulting in a shared data base which minimizes duplicate data entry. The interface with the LEX word processor allows staff to send timely messages to selected groups of individuals on just the right occasion. Fewer things are more appreciated in ministry than regular personalized Letters to the membership demonstrating that the pastoral staff cares about the individual. A wide variety of inquiry and printing capabilities provide the means for RDS FAITH systems to be flexibly versatile in the church management environment of today.
As Cassandra Perryman, computer operator at the 6?50 member BEN HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH in Atlanta, Georgia explained, “The AT&T hardware with the UNIX operating system helps us to track families and keep abreast of trends in our church. We are happy with the RDS FAITH System and also like the word processing features. Inquiries and report function smoothly.”
The activities module of the RDS FAITH system tracks up to 999 different activities, identifies the service position of people within each activity, automatically promotes classes, provides for an integrated data base and has a word processing interface for timely follow-up with telephone calls, post cards, letters, or labels. A variety of inquiry and report options are available by person, family, or activity and can be arranged in alphabetical, numeric and activity code order. School, day care centers, and other class oriented programs are supported. Youth, children, and their parents may be grouped together for letter-writing and reports. Ms. Perryman indicated that the activity tracking functions were well utilized in her large church where there is the potential to miss people unintentionally.
The attendance module permits rapid tracking of worship and activity attendance. It has been my experience that this is a critical and oft-neglected indicator of individual situations. In my opinion people
missing 2-3 consecutive worship services should be contacted. In over 70% of these cases there is the need for pastoral follow-up since only a narrow window of time (about 6 weeks) exists to resolve difficulties
before permanent damage to the member-church relationship is likely. With RDS FAITH the unwieldy tracking of thousands of members in worship and activities becomes a manageable reality. The attendance of visitors, guests, singles groups and other non-members is easily possible with RDS and appropriate reports and letters can be generated for the various participants.
A wide variety of statistical attendance information is available for individuals, families, and activities with averages, percentages, present/absent ratios, last attendance date and other selection parameters provided.
The financial system provides for up to 999 separate funds – far in excess of that needed for church applications. In addition, there is an unlimited number of accounts available per fund. Pledged,
unpledged, identified and unidentified revenue are all accommodated. The contribution records interface with the membership data base, and both detail and summary reports are available. Multi-year pledges can
be followed, and a number of reporting options are available. Several user references spoke strongly in favor of the strengths of the RDS FAITH system displayed in the accounting areas.
RDS FAITH is compatible with both cash and accrual methods, can operate at multiple locations, and facilitates be recording and processing of purchase orders and vouchers. A cash requirements report
alerts church management to fiscal needs, and vendor analyses, aged trial balances, account status and 1099 reports are produced with ease.
The payables module interfaces with the rest of the RDS FAITH system, including the general ledger and the sophisticated budgetary options available.
Payroll is a breeze with the RDS FAITH system. The repetitive nature of complex tasks is maximized under computer systems, and the payroll area is especially improved. “The system tracks vacation and sick
leaves accurately, does payroll reports, and computes current advances and deductions,” said Ms. Perryman.
RDS FAITH has a number of special features that are sold together as part of the bundled package. Sermon files help pastors to record key points and illustrations for each message. Hobby- horses can be detected and repetition eliminated. New member prospect and visitation records are stored for easy access. Music records, the pastor’s personal counseling file, a furniture, fixtures, and equipment list, special care files and mailing list database is standard with all systems. Indexing of the pastors’ personal libraries and the church
library can be accomplished to optimize resources and minimize duplication.
The general ledger provides for 7, 10, or 14 digit account codes as well as different financial statement formats to meet the needs of various groups within the church. It can post on past or future accounting periods as well as current, measure actual performance against budget and maintain journals, trial balances, income statements and balance sheets. Dick Webber, President of RDS, has a daughter who is a CPA so 6 audit trails are provided, as well as professional oversight within the family for the accounting system. This extra bit of input seems to have worked very well in the development of a clearly superior financial system.
WORD PROCESSING AND OPTIONAL SYSTEMS
The LEX word processor enhances all of the capabilities of the RDS FAITH system and users commended its versatility and ease of use. Optional spreadsheet and report generator programs allow users to custom-design reports to meet local requirements.
RDS FAITH seems to have major strengths in the areas of training, system flexibility, and customer support. RDS brings church personnel to Oklahoma City to train on the church’s own data. This training was universally praised by all of the user references I contacted. The system can operate on MS-DOS (single- user) or have the multi-user options of XENIX (286, 386-16, 20, or 25 MHz), UNIX, and VSX/VMS. Many different multi-user configurations are available, some at significant dollar savings and efficiency enhancements over Novelle networks.
SELECTION, SUPPORT, AND SERVICE
Jill Holland, Financial Secretary of the 1400 member FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH of Shawnee, Oklahoma indicated that the service of RDS was superb. She said that RDS was very responsive to user needs and had
“no complaints whatsoever.” Several users spoke favorably about the professionalism of RDS and one user noted that they are willing to go the second mile – listening to user requests and producing updates and
modifications in needed areas.
Valarie Amegard, Administrator of the EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT CENTER noted that RDS had been very pleasant and helpful to her day- care canter of 140 students, even though she felt the system
emphasized church needs.
Rena Waddelow, Data Processing Manager for the OKLAHOMA CONFERENCE of the UNITED METHODIST CHURCH applauded the applications in accounting, bookstores, word processing and communications that RDS FAITH has developed for denominational offices. The upgrade problem was promptly corrected. “Dick Webber is a dedicated person and an active Methodist as well,” she emphasized. Bill Smith, Administrator of the 2000 member FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH of Charleston, West Virginia said that their church selected the RDS FAITH system after a committee examined existing systems against church needs. RDS FAITH was selected because it had a church orientation, could accommodate multiple users with the XENIX operating system, and received only good references from current users. Despite the distance from Oklahoma City, RDS FAITH installs a modem at the church location and can pull-up screens and programs remotely for diagnostics and trouble- shooting. The miles shrink with this support provision. “We have confidence in the people at RDS FAITH,” Smith said, continuing, “There is a sense of real dedication in their work.” Smith also indicated that the financial stability of RDS FAITH, and the character of the President, Dick Webber, helped influence their decision.
Eileen Lockhart, Administrative Secretary of the WORD OF LIFE ASSEMBLY OF GOD CHURCH in Springfield, Virginia emphasized that RDS FAITH provides excellent customer support. “We chose RDS FAITH because of cost, XENIX, and due to the superb documentation,” Lockhart stated. “Our Data Processing committee consisted of several Pentagon programmers and they were impressed,” she added. Lockhart concluded, “RDS FAITH is pleasant and easy try work with and provides excellent support”
RDS FAITH is a system that is remarkable in its customer satisfaction, completeness, and versatility.
The system is bundled (sold together as an entire unit) so each user has a fully operational software package. One church testified that they generated accurate financial statements just 2 days following
conversion. This method of distribution insures that the software at each church location is comprehensive and ready to use and protects both the church and the vendor from dragged out, piecemeal installations of an uneven nature which can occur when applications are added over a period of months (or even years!).
Although most users are in Oklahoma, if RDS can maintain its quality – and we have no reason to suspect otherwise – it should encounter widespread distribution among discerning users.
In software, as elsewhere, you get what you pay for – and RDS FAITH begins at $3,495 for a MS-DOS system. All software prices include unlimited training, supports data entry for conversion and the LEX
word processor as well as staff installation and conversion, connection, and peripheral testing.
For one price RDS FAITH is worthy of serious considerations. President Dick Webber has created a professional company consistent with its motto “Computer systems serving people who serve God.” Their
excellence is commended. – For more information, you can contact, RDS Services, Inc. 6801 N. Broadway, Oklahoma City, OK 73116. Or call (405) 840-5177 or (405) 840-3451.
(The above material is a reprint of an issue from Christian Computing Magazine in Belton, MO.)
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