[CS-FSLUG] Church Management Software

Greg Slade grgaslists at rogers.com
Mon Mar 24 14:16:58 CDT 2008

> ChurchInfo seems to lack some extensibility and also requires a web 
> server which we have, but remotely hosted. We do not currently have 
> broadband access at the church, and while I could setup a local web 
> server, all of our machines are not networked (yet).

There are a number of web-based church management packages out there (I have a list at: http://freegroups.net/groups/cu/www/crs/mpr.html#cms), and the advantage is that it doesn't matter what the server runs on, or what's on the desktop, because it all runs in HTML. (Want to run Linux on the server? Nobody's even going to know. Does the music director want to keep using an old Atari on the desktop, because all the music software is in Atari? Not an issue.)

However, the security geek side of me really doesn't like the idea of storing church data on somebody else's server. Partly because I can't be at their site to check and see how secure they keep it, partly because not every browser (or server, for that matter) uses adequate session encryption, partly because people still tend to use "weak" passwords, partly because encryption is more vulnerable to being cracked than most people realise, and partly because you never know if your ASP is going to goes toes-up and strand you without access to your data.

That said, running an intranet site in the church solves a ton of problems from a security standpoint, and if you're using an intranet, you don't need broadband, unless people in the church really need (rather than just "want") live access to the web. Mail sessions can be handled through a dial-up connection. (And, even if you do choose to upgrade to a broadband connection, by wiring all the offices together, you can concentrate all the traffic through a single broadband connection, and protect that one connection with a really skookum hardware firewall.) 

Of course, if you build an intranet site, that also opens up possibilities like putting up an old computer in the church hall to let people access a locally-stored version of the church web site during coffee hour or whatever.

> I also believe that a more desktop oriented solution would assuage many 
> of the fears and concerns our pastor, secretary, and trustees have about 
> moving away from their spreadsheets and quicken.

I'd like to see a desktop, or small network, solution in Linux, just because these web-based apps tend to be targeted at megachurches, and don't really apply to a small church with maybe 1 or 2 staff. (Why would anybody bother building an intranet server if the only person who accesses the database is the church secretary?)

But, yeah, getting people off of spreadsheets is A Good Thing. Far too many people use Excel to do database functions, just because it's all they know. Even Access would be better for maintaining data integrity, but home-brew solutions invariably lead to more problems down the line, because the person who first developed it moves away, or dies, or whatever, and when something needs to be added that the originator didn't foresee, nobody else knows how to tweak it, because they didn't document it. So I always point people to a specific church management package if there's one available. CHADDB looks promising, but as near as I can tell from the SourceForge page, it's never been completed.


Greg Slade
"To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to
look like a nail."                                   - Abraham H. Maslow

More information about the Christiansource mailing list