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The Truth About Open Source Church Management Software (ChMS)
At ChurchTrac we ❤️ open source software!
What is open source software?
To simplify Wikipedia's Definition, it's software that's "free" for anyone to use (you'll see why we put free in quotations in a bit). Not only is it free to use, but if you're a savvy programmer you can customize that software and make it your own.
Don't want to spend $100 for Microsoft Word? Try OpenOffice.
Can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars for a Church Presentation Software like ProPresenter? Try Open LP.
For every software type out there, there is a good chance that there is an open source option available. That being said, open source isn't necessarily the best solution when it comes to church management software (ChMS).
2 Types of Open Source
When it comes to open source church management software, there are two ways to have it:
On Premise Application- With this type you can only access the software from that specific computer. There is no cloud and you must always make backups of your data to insure you don't lose everything in the event your computer dies. This method is not ideal for churches that want to have multiple users using the application since it can only be accessed by one computer. If your ministry is small and seasonal, this may suit your needs.
Self Hosted Web Application- With self hosted, you are your own "cloud". You download the software application and install it on your own server. This server can be a physical server you own or a server you rent from somebody like Amazon or Microsoft.
Let's talk more about self-hosted
There are 2 things you need to operate your own self-hosted church management software:
-A programmer who knows what they're doing- This person needs to actually know the ins and outs of working with a database and provisioning servers to run the software to make that happen. They also have to be willing to commit the time needed in order to support the application as updates come out (if they do at all).
-A server- This server can either be your own physical server or one you rent off-site. Off site is the better option if your church doesn't have its own server since they are expensive to buy outright.
If you have these two things, we would like to congratulate you! Very few churches have these two things. Because you have these two things you should totally use an open source software right?
Not so fast...
Even if you have the right people and resources, it doesn't mean your church could benefit from an open source ChMS. It all comes back to time and money.
How much time is it going to take for your people to learn this software without having a solid customer support team and documentation to help them?
How much time is it going to take for your programmer to implement the software and manage/support it?
How much is it going to cost you to host it on a server?
The answer to those questions often ends up being TOO MUCH. Between the cost of hosting your own software program and man hours it takes for a highly skilled person to implement it and keep it running, most churches end up spending more time and money trying to go open source as opposed to using a ChMS like ChurchTrac. Server hosting alone will cost you a minimum of $5 a month. That's how much ChurchTrac starts at monthly!
But I thought ChurchTrac loves's open source software?
Just because open source church management software isn't really a good option for most churches doesn't mean we're against open source software. Part of the reason ChurchTrac is the most affordable ChMS is because we want to be a blessing to churches...not a burden. To continue those blessings, we have already made a list of Our favorite open source software programs to help your ministry thrive without having to drop the big bucks. We've loved using them in our church and we think you will too! ?