No matter what it is,—Slurpees, pancakes, or software—those four letters make you happy. However, sometimes free isn’t even worth the money you paid for it, and those four letters inevitably morph into other four–lettered words. So how do you find software that is actually functional and worthwhile to help you manage your church without spending any money?
Well, look no further—below I’ve come up with a list of free and open source church management solutions that will have all the functionality that you need. For some of the software options, the free version is only for very small churches with less than 50 members, but there are others as well that are free for any size church. The software options are listed in alphabetical order.
A member profile page in CahabaWorks
CahabaWorks is installed church management software for managing members, groups, contributions, financials, and child check-in. Their standard edition, for small and midsize churches, is free and has no limits on people or total assets tracked, although there is no support offered. It is $350 for the standard edition with support, and there are also different pricing options for their premier version.
Pros: Based on user testimonials, the system has responsive tech support (though only for the first 60 days with the free version), and is a great system for small churches. There are many options and it is very intuitive for managing and tracking finances, as well as being easy to download and install.
Cons: According to users, there is a bit of a learning curve at the beginning. Customer support is responsive, and could solve the learning curve problem, but it does cost an extra fee. There is no Mac version.
An attendance graph in Church Admin for WordPress
Church Admin is a free and open-source WordPress plug-in that includes a full church database with membership directory, email management, bulk SMS, attendance tracking, calendar, facility management, and more.
They also offer a smartphone app for iPhones and Androids, for an extra £7.50/month (about $10) for the church. The app is free for members of the church who are using it, so only the church foots the bill.
Pros: If your church already uses WordPress, this plug-in seems like a no brainer. It has lots of features, is free (except for the smartphone app), and integrates with your WordPress powered website.
Cons: If you don’t use WordPress, or don’t plan to, this plug-in won’t do you any good.
Adding a new family in ChurchInfo
ChurchInfo is a free, open source database that helps your church manage and track members, groups, donations, and payments. It is supported by an open source community of people who volunteer to help in order to make the software accessible to churches. It is a web-based solution, and the system is completely free. It is most useful for small congregations.
Pros: According to user reviews, ChurchInfo is a highly useful tool with a lot of the functionality that more expensive software has, so it is great for churches on a budget.
Cons: The installation process is easy and the system is fairly intuitive, according to reviews, although it may require a bit of technical knowledge at the outset to get set up.
The ChurchCRM home screen
ChurchCRM is 3a because it is a fork built off of the ChurchInfo open source framework. Because it runs on LAMP, you can use it on any device. ChurchCRM has been in development for less than two years, and already has membership management, calendar, finances, fundraisers, Sunday School, and volunteer management features. An active developer community is constantly working on new features, and is available for support via chat.
Pros: ChurchCRM has the stability of ChurchInfo but with more features and a responsive user interface, meaning you can run it on desktop or mobile.
Cons: Like ChurchInfo, you’ll need some technical know how to install and operate ChurchCRM. Unless you have a dedicated techie on site, you’ll probably be better off with a more user-friendly church management tool.
Updating a contact in Apostello
From the makers of OneBody (a free church directory and social network), Apostello is an open source SMS (text messaging) platform with some of the functionality of a church management solution. Church.io is also working on a beta version of Cedar, a presentation software for churches, but in the meantime, Church.io is a great solution for small churches that just need a free and simple way to manage members and groups. The software can also be used for event signups and even provides usage statistics.
Pros: Church.io’s tools are great for small churches, which can probably get by with free event management software and Microsoft Excel while they’re saving up for a more expensive end-to-end solution. It’s also worth mentioning that the Keywords feature, which allows users to respond to texts with just one word and use that to sort responses, is a brilliant addition to open source church software.
Cons: Apostello isn’t quite a church management solution, and even combined with OneBody as a directory solution, it lacks basic event management features like a calendar.
The Excellerate member information screen
Excellerate is a customizable church management system that helps churches of all sizes manage and track members and visitors, manage donations, send bulk emails, schedule volunteers, and more. The pricing goes up the more members that you have, but they offer a free version for up to 50 members. When you get to 100 members it is a one-time payment of $145 and continues scaling up to extremely large congregation sizes.
Pros: According to user reports, Excellerate is very responsive to their customers’ needs. They added a cloud-based version of the software, and it is now available for Mac. They are also always improving and updating, and the system is not complicated to use.
Cons: One downside is that the installed version of the software is not available for Mac, and must be accessed through an app or website.
Adding a prayer request in Rock RMS
Rock RMS is a robust open source church management solution earning tons of positive reviews from its users and providing all the features a small to midsize church needs to get started. In addition to membership, family, and donation management features, Rock RMS boasts a content management system and check-in features. Churches that have contributed to Rock RMS include Lakepointe Church and Willow Creek Community Church, two large churches with internet campuses, suggesting that this software could even be a starting point for larger organizations looking to build more complex software solutions.
To keep the platform going, Rock RMS does ask for a donation of $1.50 per average weekly attendee, per year. So, for example, if you have an average weekly attendance of about 100 people, you are asked to donate about $150/year.
Pros: According to reviewers, Rock RMS has lots of advanced features and a great support community, crucial for open source software.
Cons: Hosting the software does have its costs, and can be difficult for small churches that lack an IT expert. As with any open source software, it’s good to check into the logistics of using Rock RMS before signing up.
Working Church is church membership management software to help you keep track of your members, attendance, events, and donations. It is downloadable software that is installed on your computer, and it is free for up to 25 members, though you’ll need to re-register every few months. After that it is a one-time payment of $47 for the “Lite” version for up to 100 members. They also offer a cloud version that starts at $17/month.
Pros: According to user reviews, customer service is attentive to all needs, it is easy to use, and is designed to help with church accounting, growth, and management.
Cons: Some downsides are that the free version is not accessible from home, as it is not web-based, and that it is only free for a small number of members.