Pastor Mike Dennis runs his church with faith, devotion, and Bento 2
Pastor, Morocco Church,
Running a church can get complex. There are services to schedule, parties to plan, fundraisers to run, and potential parishioners to woo. It's a lot to keep track of, and that's why Pastor Mike Dennis of Morocco Church in Temperance, MI, uses Bento 2 to manage it all.
"We were managing all our events and keeping track our members manually, just using iCal and Address Book," says Dennis. "Bento integrates all our data from both applications and lets us organize virtually every aspect of our church. It's the best database solution for us, a straightforward organizational tool that makes a big difference in how we operate."
Letting Bento Handle the Details
Dennis began with Address Book. The pastor tracked all his parishioners, logging names, address, and phone numbers with his iMac. He used iCal to coordinate church events and plan Sunday sermons. He made notes and composed sermons with Pages, corresponded with Mail, and logged expenses in a Numbers database. "I also had a lot of paper notes and calendars floating around," he says. "All of it was separate and I was looking for a way to tie it together."
Morocco Church needed a database. "We needed to move more things to the computer and we didn't want to enter in all our data again," he says. "With Bento, the ability to merge contacts and calendar events from Address Book and iCal was a huge plus. I downloaded Bento and started working with it right away." The pastor started simply, accessing his contacts and iCal events with a few mouse clicks. From there he expanded the database, customizing it to meet the church's needs.
Using Smart Collections for Quick Organization
"At times it can be difficult to work with church management software because of the relationships that you get in a church," he says. "Extended families attend our church—mothers, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles—any volunteer or staff member should be able to see those relationships when they sit down at the church's iMac." That means lots of collections and smart collections that are capable of organizing contacts to show family relationships. "With Bento 2, it's very easy to update your smart collections by running a simple search," says Dennis. "Just one click and any new records that meet the search criteria will go into the smart collection."
Dennis pulled iCal events into the database and soon had a central cache for all of the church's information. "Everything is centralized, and that's a huge improvement," he says, "but Bento is easy enough to understand that I decided to see how far I could push it." The pastor linked word processing documents and Keynote presentations to his database, giving him an easy way to access all the info he needs for a sermon or special event. He logged info about past events, noting what worked and what could be improved in the future. "I've discovered many ways to use Bento to improve the way things run at the church," says Dennis.
The next step involves tracking attendance. "We should be able to track our trends," says Dennis. "Has someone been gone one Sunday, or suddenly disappeared? If so, we can make a note to follow up with them. I can also track average attendance throughout the year and see what we can do to improve it."
Bento is Volunteer-Friendly
Dennis runs and maintains Bento 2 on the church's 24-inch iMac with the help of a small staff of volunteers. "Bento is very user friendly," he says. "That's extremely important when you're working with a new application. Our volunteers have never seen Bento, but it has an inviting user interface, so they can work on it right away."
Doing Double Duty at Home
Bento 2 has also helped Dennis out at home. The pastor and his family have two pure-bred Irish red and white setters and they plan to breed the relatively rare dogs in the future. He'll use Bento 2 to log litters and track puppies. "I already have a database set up with information about our dogs. I have photos of them, their weights, information from vet visits. When we decided to breed them, I'll have a record of every puppy." Those records will include information about pedigree, dog show awards, certificates, and owners. And if Dennis gets any more dogs from another breeder, he'll be able to enter information about their heritage as well.
"I would recommend Bento to anyone who has a basic database need," says Dennis. "Just the fact that it integrates with Address Book and iCal is fantastic. And when you want to take it further, there are countless features to help you get there. Bento is easy to install, easy to maintain, and easy to customize."