Have you ever come across “free” church management software? Imagine that you downloaded a “free” ChMS (or CMS), now what? How well does this type of solution help you manage your church?
Effective church management using this kind of software requires three things:
- Understanding the limitations of the downloaded software.
- Being prepared to back it up.
- Having good security in place.
- Accepting the fact that your new ChMS will have limited access.
The first challenge with free software is truly understanding what “free” means. Occasionally “free” is a demo version that lacks the most important features offered in the paid version. Downloading the software is free but accessing the best attributes of the software, require the purchase of a registration code. Sometimes “free” means getting software that is difficult to use on your own. This essentially requires you to sign up for a support contract. Finally, “free” on the cloud might mean the code is indeed 100% free but hosting and supporting the software costs you money. Let’s face it, “free” is seldom free. Be absolutely sure you know what you’re getting into before you download that free church management software.
Remember, with any church management system, you will import and input your member information into the software. What would happen if you lost all that data? All computers break eventually. Thieves occasionally break into churches steal computers. Even with backups, servers sometimes crash. Lightning strikes and other natural disasters can even destroy your computers systems. You must to make provision for these eventualities if you download free ChMS software. You’ll need either physical backups or online backups of your information. One important step is to insure that your back up is stored off-site. You ought to back up weekly if not daily.
Let’s not forget that the internet itself can be dangerous. Computers linked to the web are susceptible to malware or viruses that come your way. Make doubly sure to have basic protocols in place for protection. For example, never download anything suspicious, regularly use your computers virus tools, and take advantage of third party solutions for malware security. You don’t want to loose the information you’ve so worked hard to gather, so avail yourself and your church of the tools that are available.
Finally, you need to decide who will have access to this “free” church management software. The main constraint of free software is that downloaded ChMS systems are only available on one computer. Anyone who needs to access the software will need to use the same computer. You may have a server that allows multiple devices access, but often that is limited and costs more money. Before you download free church management software, make sure you know who will need to access it and determine how and when such access will take place.
Like any relationship, your relationship with your CMS/ChMS requires your time and attention. Don’t let the idea of “free” software fool you. It won’t take care of itself. It won’t necessarily be easy to use. And, paid or free, no church management software will solve all your problems. Look at all the options and choose the ChMS that works with your budget and addresses most of your church’s unique needs.