[CS-FSLUG] Church Management Software

EnzoAeneas enzoaeneas at gmail.com
Tue Mar 25 11:43:09 CDT 2008

Should we create several inter-operating parts?

Should we invest time in features such self-updating (and upgrading)?

2008/3/25 Josiah Ritchie <josiah at ritchietribe.net>:
> On Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 11:12 AM, Ed Hurst <ehurst at asisaid.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Josiah Ritchie wrote:
> >
> > >>
> > >> Whoop love to stay and chat but I got to go plunge the toilet!
> > >
> > > Seems like what Pastors like this need is a full management system that
> > > would install onto a computer that would be different from their office
> > > computer, dedicated to management, ready to be networked if desired...
> >
> > [snip]
> >
> >
> > > In a situation like this, to put such critical information onto a
> regular
> > > old desktop seems insane. You can almost guarantee that the person
> > > maintaining the system doesn't know how to. This is a great risk to the
> > > data. Such a situation means the system needs to be rock-solid
> dependable
> > > with little maintenance required.
> > >
> > > Oh, and before I'd think tech classes in seminary make sense, I'd like
> to
> > > see mission classes, but that's another rant entirely. :-)
> >
> > Amen, Josiah!
> >
> > [snip]
> >
> >
> > I feel like wearing a bullseye today. Let me propose a few questions to
> > be answered, and you can all shout me down if you like:
> >
> :-) I'm up for exploring this. I'll be the circle around the bullseye I
> guess.
> > 1. Whom are we targeting? Whom do we attempt to serve in the Lord's name
> > on this sort of project? How broad can our reach be before we bite off
> > more than we can chew?
> Like Ed mentioned, a lower and an upper limit might make sense. Using the
> traditional membership limits wouldn't seem to be ideal. There is such a
> wide difference between number of contacts and membership. So I'd propose a
> target of 150 contacts to 15000 contacts. Over that and I'd expect that they
> could afford to use one of the web-based services that would be to their
> benefit. If they have outgrown that sort of solution, the assumption is they
> have the techs around to help build something appropriate.
> > 2. How simple can we make it? How close to the reach of non-techs do we
> > dare to place it? Can we at the same time keep it useful to serious techs?
> Making this an appliance might be overly expensive for the options. The
> typical church of this size could probably dig out a donated machine in the
> Pentium 3 or better range to act as a simple LAMP server with scripts to
> assist in its maintenance. Maintenance would include backup to a USB HD.
I like this idea!

> same box could have a single place to store files with the assumption that
> connecting to the network means access to the files (read: no permissions).
> I also think it should be designed using much available software. Ubuntu
> Desktop with as close to a default LAMP install as possible for example.
> This way, if some tech came in, they could easily understand what is going
> on and make modifications if needed (such as exposing Apache to the
> network).
I think that we need to provide configuration dialogs or wizards for
these functions just in case the congregation only has people who know
enough to be dangerous, but do not have the experience to fix their

> I say Ubuntu Desktop because the churches we are targeting will typically
> only have one person entering this data at a time and they will expect a
> graphical interface to a computer. Ubuntu Server may make them run scared
> before they get a chance and it doesn't assume a network is in place to get
> things running.

I lean more towards cross-platform, but this can be done in several
ways. The idea of an appliance may not be a bad idea if we can make it
work out of the box. Software such as VirtualBox runs quite well and
we can preconfigure the virtual machine for it, even customize the
install. Though i have not run it on a Pentium 3...
> I'm thinking we should avoid the idea of this also functioning as a firewall
> or DHCP server. That sort of thing should be relegated to another special
> and separate box.
> > 3. Can we make it versatile enough to run on one PC, but scale upward to
> > serve a large LAN? I personally wonder if it has to be either/or
> > regarding where the database resides.
> I think if were talking about a LAMP environment, this is no problem at all.
> A quick config change and HUP to Apache and it can present itself to the
> network just as easily as it can to only the local machine.
What if we move away from LAMP or they want to use a clean
installation? We need to provide a facility for clean migration
between installations? The restore from backup should work, but we
need to explicitly state this as the method for migration.
> > 4. What itches do we scratch? Do we emphasize free and open source, and
> > not so radically different in function and form? Or do we emphasize
> > something really different, and incidentally open source? Do we have to
> > emphasize anything at all, aside from sheer need?
> My interaction with people on this sort of software would seem to suggest
> that there is a healthy skepticism about free software and a lack of
> understanding about open source. I'd suggest that these hurdles will not be
> fully jumped by simply offering the product and reading through
> documentation about it.
> I'd expect them to desire something that is inexpensive, but supported. Then
> I'd expect them to want to know what it can do compared to their current
> system (be that a rolodex or the LOGOs ChMS) and if it will be easier to
> use. Ease of use seems to be of great interest to many. Perhaps we could do
> informal usability testing and get comments to help build trust in the
> product. Perhaps there is a difference in what will draw them to the product
> and what will take them from interest to implementation. Once we have them
> on a website, perhaps showing off the sorts of information that can be
> gathered from the system would be helpful.

Marketing will be very important. We can email those we know and setup
self-installing demonstrations. Maybe even a virtual machine
(appliance) that just runs it, so that the user's
system is not affected.
> > Anyone got more or better questions?
> How do we get the word out? If it isn't going to be used then it isn't worth
> making or maintaining. How do we find these people we want to serve and even
> more poignant, how do we win their trust that our product is really going to
> enhance their ministry rather than complicate it? This seems to be an uphill
> battle to me. Without a serious commitment to winning the trust, we'll
> likely fail to serve most.
> Well, that's my 2 cents.
> JSR/
> --
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