Illusory Follies Andrew Flanagan's Blog

12Mar/112

Church Software, First Steps

Trying to do a little brainstorming here for the church software. I did just a little research and found that sure enough there are tons of products out there. The problem I'm seeing is that the interfaces seem a little less than useful and many of them are somewhat pricey. What I'd like is a "roll your own" option for any of these. Don't sell me the service or the product, sell me hosting and management if I can't do it myself.

Some new ideas based on what I found:

Facilities Management: would be nice to add. Isn't really fundamentally different than event planning and scheduling but could provide checklists, reminders, inventory (for consumable products), that sort of thing.

Childcare: Could easily integrate a check-in system for the nursery with all the data that we have.

Background, user meta-information: Useful for programs like Reducing the Risk. Basically, the ability to look at things like when a member has completed some necessary training or certification. Sad that this is needed, but it is.

Financials: After working on the budget committee this year and looking at other software, I believe that this is pretty straightforward. The big deal would be incorporating a tracker for two primary things:

1) Incoming checks and cash. Allow a weekly input where a user's check is recorded (possibly even scanned), the amount is recorded even before it's deposited with the bank. (With newer banks, it might be possible to simply upload check images). It would be very nice if users could check their own contributions online by logging in. Alternatively, any church administrator would have the information available without moving/copying Quickbooks files.

2) Outgoing checks and expense reimbursements. At least at our church we have a fairly small amount of accounts for expense tracking -- this would be easy to import and manage. Granted, this information wouldn't be available immediately in a full-fledged piece of software like Quickbooks, but what we need week-to-week and month-to-month would be adequate. Would provide immediate feedback to accountable parties for expenses that are being made rather than waiting for an end-of-month report.

3) Both of the above lead to budget tracking. With each account, if we have a weekly, monthly, or yearly budget, we can easily track actuals against budgeted amounts.

Anyway -- this is all well and good. It definitely, hugely increases the scope of work.

As a first step, I'm looking at trying to start with

1) Authentication system

2) User management

3) Scheduling system (rotating assignments with exceptions, email reminders, rescheduling/adjusting by admin only)

For our church, this is the most critical need. I'm going to be working on some models and some basic system requirements and we'll see how far I get. There's nothing there yet, but I've set up a new website here: http://steepleproject.org/ The plan will be to start formal documentation there, code repositories, etc.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please leave a comment!