Although churches need to track income and expenses like any other organization, they also have specific needs that most accounting software can’t easily handle. Managing donations and tithes and keeping detailed reports of which ministries and projects are funded are crucial to the success and transparency of any church
Because churches aren’t always clear on the employment status of their staff, they can also face penalties by not complying with labor laws. For example, a church can be penalized for failing to withhold payroll taxes from a self-employed worker the IRS later reclassifies as an employee. Penalties can be as much as 3% of the worker’s wages, plus 40% of the employee’s share of FICA taxes.
Finding the right tools to maintain compliance and balance the books can be a challenge with so many hoops to jump through. We reviewed over a dozen church accounting software platforms based on reputation, ease-of-use, features, price, and more. Here are our top picks.
The 6 Best Church Accounting Software of 2020
Best Overall: Aplos
When former CPA and executive pastor Tim Goetz was having trouble finding simple accounting software for nonprofits and churches, he started Aplos Software to build it. Since then, the company has helped more than 40,000 organizations in over 50 countries. We chose it as the best overall because of its reputation, range of features, and excellent customer service.
As a cloud-based platform, Aplos can be used on any computer connected to the internet without needing to download any software. The platform offers a complete solution for church bookkeeping, including importing bank transactions, tracking and paying bills, creating invoices and receiving payments, printing checks, and tracking 1099s.
Aplos also has robust financial reporting, including church financials; donation tracking with giving statements; budgeting reports; and the ability to track funds by project, campaign, or department. The software also makes it easy to create mobile-friendly donation forms for mission trips, special events, or capital campaigns.
Although Aplos can’t process payroll, it integrates with Gusto, one of the top payroll processing and HR platforms. The integration makes it easy to process and track pastoral payroll, housing allowances, and make tax payments.
Aplos offers a subscription for $59 per month which includes two users. Additional users can be added for $10 per month. A $159 per month subscription is also available with advanced accounting features, including fixed-asset tracking, budgets by fund, and managing multiple entities.
Aplos also offers additional discounts to organizations formed in the past year or with less than $50,000 in annual revenue. Each plan comes with a 15-day free trial.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: PowerChurch Software
PowerChurch Software was founded in 1984 with a vision of “helping churches and ministries help others even more.” To date, its flexible and customizable ministry management solutions have helped over 38,000 organizations. We chose it as our runner-up because it offers a few extra features than Aplos but for a higher price.
PowerChurch is a complete church accounting software, membership management, and recordkeeping system for growing churches. It offers a setup assistant for fast and accurate setup and lets users track budgets, print accounts payable, create invoices and accept payments from accounts receivable customers, and generate reports and graphs.
Unlike Aplos, PowerChurch offers integrated payroll processing complete with direct deposits or printed paychecks as part of its standard package — for Aplos, payroll is listed as a popular add-on. Social Security exemptions, pre-tax deductions, and withholding amounts are all calculated automatically, and quarterly payroll returns can be printed or transmitted electronically.
PowerChurch’s desktop-based software is available for a one-time purchase of $395 as a download or $415 for physical disks. It supports unlimited users and installations but only works on Windows computers.
PowerChurch also offers an online version for $39.95 per month that works on any Windows, Mac, and Linux system with an internet connection. The online version supports two users with the option to pay an extra $25 per month for two extra users.
Best Features: ShelbyNext Financials
In 1976, Ernie Hamilton, a minister looking for a better solution to help churches manage their membership and finances, created the first church software under the name of Shelby Systems. By 2012, 54 of the top 100 largest churches in America were using his ShelbyNext Financials software. We chose it for the best features since it’s full-service accounting software that fulfills the financial requirements for governing boards, financial committees, and outside agencies.
ShelbyNext supports popular file download formats available from most banks, making it quick and easy to set up. The accounts payable application lets users pay bills, manage credits from and payments to vendors, and attach invoices. A general ledger also provides a full set of standard and custom reports.
ShelbyNext’s payroll application provides gross wage computation, calculates taxes, withholds deductions, prints payroll checks, and provides totals for government and management reporting. The software also prints 941 and W-2 forms and stays current with federal, state, and local taxes.
Finally, ShelbyNext Financials provides monthly standard reports along with an easy-to-use custom report builder to help auditors reconcile each sub-ledger to the general ledger. These fully customizable reports are GAAP compliant and fulfill the financial requirements for governing boards, financial committees, internal staff, and outside agencies.
Shelby Systems doesn’t list pricing on their website, but third-party sources indicate that the software runs users $179 per month with a 30-day free trial.
Best Price: FlockBase
Based out of Fort Worth, Texas, since 2006, FlockBase is full-featured church management software for small to mid-sized churches easy enough for a volunteer to use. We chose it as the best price because it offers affordable pricing and a 2-week free trial.
FlockBase is structured around three core offerings: church management, church accounting, and church membership, but also offers features for check-in and online giving. The platform’s accounting features let users track fund balances, process payroll with direct deposit, budget spending, track income and expenses, and print checks for vendors and staff.
All of FlockBase’s features integrate with one another so that membership and contributions all flow seamlessly into the software’s accounting feature. It even offers members the convenience of online giving and text-to-give via credit and debit cards, eChecks, and recurring payments. There's also a mobile app available in the highest-priced tier.
Users looking for more detailed accounting features will probably find FlockBase too limited for their needs. The software doesn’t offer any advanced reporting features similar to the other platforms we reviewed.
FlockBase offers monthly pricing for its online software along with one-time pricing for its desktop software. All plans come with a 14-day free trial.
Cloud Basic Plan
- $16 per month
- Unlimited number of names
- Access from anywhere
- Check register & bank recs
- Financial reports
- Membership & contributions
- Mailing lists & labels
- Two simultaneous users
Cloud Plus Plan
- $29 per month
- All Cloud Basic Plan features
- Payroll & federal withholding
- Print W-2s and 1099s
- Online giving
- Group emails
- Five simultaneous users
Cloud Pro Plan
- $59 per month
- All Cloud Plus Plan features
- Group texts and text-to-give
- Member check-in
- Mobile app
- Automated backup
- Ten simultaneous users
- $119 one-time price
- Membership and contributions
- Mailing lists and labels
- $149 one-time price
- Unlimited number of names
- Check register and bank recs
- Financial reports
- Payroll & federal withholding
- Print W-2s & 1099s
- $229 one-time price
- All Membership and Accounting features
Best for Simple Giving Tracking: Breeze
Launched in 2014, Breeze is a relative newcomer to the church management and accounting space. In that short time, it has grown to a total of 49 employees serving over 8,000 customers. We chose it as the best for simple giving tracking because it makes it easy for churches to manage members, offer online and text giving, run reports, and manage events and volunteers.
Like many of the software programs we reviewed, Breeze is focused on helping churches manage everything from membership and giving to check-ins and communications. Although it lacks payroll or full-fledged accounting, its giving tracking is robust enough for most small ministries.
Breeze lets users track giving, generate reports, offer online and text giving, and send out statements with just a few clicks. A streamlined interface makes it easy to enter gifts, including who paid what and to which fund. Breeze also offers powerful reporting features to give churches insights into their financial health and the generosity of their members. Finally, members can make one-time or recurring gifts using a mobile-friendly form, mobile app, or via text message.
Breeze offers fantastic support to help users get started quickly. The company can transfer all information from previous church management systems or Excel sheets through bulk importing in minutes. Breeze also integrates with QuickBooks for more robust accounting and reporting.
Breeze is available as an online platform for $50 per month for unlimited users, unlimited members, and all their features, including phone and email support, a smartphone app, free data transfers, and free upgrades.
Best for Large Ministries: ACS Church Accounting
South Carolina-based ACS Technologies has been making church management software since 1978. It now boasts over 50,000 users with sales, development, support, and training offices in select U.S. cities. We chose it as the best for large ministries since it provides a full suite of church-management software, including accounting, mailings, multi-church site management, and growth strategies.
ACS Church Accounting covers most basic church financial tasks, including tracking budgets and spending by fund, department, committee, project, and more. It also offers an easy way to process outgoing funds, print checks, store vendor information, and keep track of invoices. Users can schedule recurring invoices, print checks automatically by due date, print 1099s, and quickly file state and federal tax forms online.
ACS Church Accounting also offers a robust payroll system to address the special needs of churches and pastors, including housing allowances and insurance. Users can customize employee additions and deductions; track vacation, sick time, and worker’s compensation; print W2s & 941s; and set up employee direct deposits.
ACS Church Accounting helps users manage purchase orders, assets and inventory, and accounts receivable with as much detail as top-tier accounting software. Most importantly, however, the company has more programmers and support representatives than any other church software company and serves an average of 700 clients per day. This type of dedicated support is essential for growing ministries who depend on careful financial management and reporting for sustainable growth.
Although ACS does not list pricing on its website, third-party sources indicate that the software starts at $238 per month.
What Is Church Accounting Software?
Church accounting software helps ministries keep their books balanced, track donor contributions, manage the funding of campaigns, and pay vendors or staff.
Because most churches don’t have experienced accountants on staff, they need software that’s easy to use and set up, with the categories and types of transactions churches need to track. Software that offers pre-made reports can also be helpful for presenting a church’s financial picture to church stakeholders.
Why Do Churches Need Accounting Software?
Aside from the convenience of being able to accurately track the health of their ministry, church accounting software can also help an organization stay compliant with all tax requirements.
For instance, a church might pay someone to help with administrative tasks and pay them a set amount without as a freelancer or contractor withholding any taxes. Later on, however, the IRS might consider that individual an employee, forcing the church to pay what they should have been withholding.
Church accounting software can also help ministries maintain transparency with their funding goals. Most software allows donor contributions to be allocated to specific funds so church leadership can accurately track and report on funding goals. This is especially useful if a church is audited and can’t account for how its money has been used.
How Much Do Church Accounting Software Programs Cost?
Most church accounting software is cloud-based and available for a monthly subscription. The convenience of having the platform online eliminates the need for churches to buy the right computer for their software. In most cases, any current computer with internet access will do.
We found that subscription-based church accounting software typically ranges from $16 to $79 per month, with $395 being the high end. Many offer tiered pricing options based on the features a church needs. Higher tiers typically include more advanced finance features like payroll processing and advanced reporting.
How Is Software Different for Churches?
Most accounting software is set up for the needs of businesses and requires some basic knowledge of accounting and bookkeeping. Church accounting software, by contrast, is typically geared toward non-accountants, making it easier to use.
They are also configured to the specific categories and tracking needs unique to churches, including tracking donations and campaign funding. Because most churches don’t consider themselves employers, using a church accounting software can ensure that a ministry is withholding and correctly paying taxes on anyone they pay for services.
How We Chose the Best Church Accounting Software
We looked at over a dozen church accounting software for this review. We first looked at providers who were around for a long time and that are widely used by many ministries. Next, we wanted to make sure the software was easy to use for church staff with little to no accounting experience.
Finally, we made sure to include software that had easy payroll processing or payroll integration to help ministries accurately withhold and pay taxes to employees and staff. It’s not uncommon for churches to discover they owe the IRS money due to a failure to withhold taxes or file tax returns properly.
Most of the software we reviewed also helps churches with their overall day-to-day management, like tracking members, accepting online donations, and checking in members. However, we only focused on the accounting features of these programs for this review.
Payroll Partners. "Six Common Penalties Churches Face for Failure to Comply with Payroll Reporting Requirements." Accessed July 21, 2020.