ChurchInfo

Rob Mitchell ( http://nakedchurch.wordpress.com ) writes:

I’m helping to do documentation on the ChurchInfo project. It’s still early in its development and needs some other functionalities, but it’s a great start. I wrote a doc on installing ChurchInfo on an Ubuntu LAMP server from bare metal to using the app, including the installation of some support tools. This is a PDF available on the ChurchInfo web site.

ChurchInfo has some really neat functionality — basically it allows you to enter families, individuals, and organize them into groups and add roles. You can upload photos for families and individuals, and it ties in with GoogleMaps API to show geographic coordinates. You can create groups and organize people therein.

Another plus is that the database schema is extensible from within the application. Michael Wilt, who wrote ChurchInfo, is from a church polity that has basically active and inactive members, and that’s the default. In my tradition (Presbyterian) we have several classes of members: communicant, non-communicant, baptized, non-baptized (these last are the kids of member families), active and inactive, and the ChurchInfo interface allows you to add new membership classifications as you desire.

Similarly there are a couple of group classifications built in, but you can add new types of groups and roles to suit your own organizational structure, and this can grow over time as you dictate.

ChurchInfo is 100% open source — it uses PHP middleware to sit between the Apache server and the MySQL database back end. You can install it on Windows if you must, but it’s ideally suited for Linux.

If you don’t want to use an in-house server, it is straightforward to install on your ISP, provided it’s got PHP and MySQL available.

I recommend having PHPMyAdmin as a support tool. This will allow you an easy-to-use method of doing database backups (with PHPMyAdmin you can download the database to a text file already in SQL query format, that will re-create the database schema and populate it.)

The financial portion of Churchinfo allows you to track pledges and contributions, and will print out a report or output to a delimited text file. The latter is probably preferable, as it will allow you to customize a document in your spreadsheet program. I don’t remember if it allows you to designate funds to different accounts or campaigns, one of the functions I’d like to see.

Future enhancements should include a calendar module (there are presently hooks to work with WebCalendar, a PHP project) and an event scheduler, which should include a facility/resource scheduler as well. If you have a good email/workgroup package already that should suffice for you and doesn’t need to be part of your church management system, though being able to tie groups and members and roles together with schedules is helpful.

Bottom line, ChurchInfo is a pretty good little package. It still lacks some of the functionalities of the big commercial packages, but for a free app, it rocks. …Please consider giving it a try — it will cost you nothing. It’s not a full-featured Swiss Army Knife like some commercial packages, but if all you need are the awl, corkscrew, and a couple of regular cutting blades, it just might work for you.