The past few months I’ve been working with the smart folks at Focus Ministry to help refine the business direction. They are doing an amazing job building products and managing custom development for churches. Much of their work has been focused on extending or customizing existing church management software such as Fellowship One and Community Church Builder.
As we look to future business opportunities we’ve noticed some momentum in the open source church management software space, specifically with Rock RMS. Developed by a handful of really smart technologists and sponsored by a few innovative churches, Rock is one of the first open source church management systems that has a chance of making headway against some of the big industry players. The initial release included the most common tools needed to manage a church such as person and family management, group management, check-in and contributions.
I thought I’d take a moment to answer a few questions that will arise as churches begin to consider an open source church management as alternative to the commercial options.
What is Open Source?
Open source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Therefore any church IT department can download the Rock RMS, install it on their servers and manage their church on the software with absolutely no licensing fees. Since the code is open churches can modify the software to customize or extend the software however they’d like.
Is Open Source Really Free?
Well, yes and no. While there is no fee required to download and use the software. However you will need to have someone with the expertise to download, host, maintain, manage and support the software. Therefore churches will either need to hire someone with this expertise or outsource it to a firm with the expertise. As with any open sop
How is Open Source Supported?
The developers of Rock are focused on continuing to improve the software so they can’t spend a ton of time answering questions and looking into issues with specific installation. For basic questions about Rock usage there is are online resources plus a great community of rock users and developers where you can ask questions. For more advanced support you’ll need to hire someone with the expertise or contract with one of the Rock partners who can install and maintain your software. Ideally your developer or consultant can resolve any bugs within the code then have that rolled into the next version of Rock.
If you are considering an Open Source Church Management Software such as Rock RMS for your church then I’d start with the online documentation and videos at the Rock RMS web site. Remember, this isn’t backed by a big company that will send a team of sales reps out to your church to sell the software to the lead team. Open Source software just doesn’t work like that. Instead, someone inside the church will need to be the champion and sell the product internally. Of course selling the software will be a bit easier if you have an experienced team such as Focus Ministry behind you to host, support, maintain and manage the software.