Church software is any type of computer software specifically designed for use by a church. There are administrative packages tailored to handle membership databases and finances, and also worship presentation programs to generate images for video projectors.
Worship presentation software
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A worship presentation program is a specialised presentation program designed for displaying images (primarily song lyrics) during some forms of Christian worship. Some programs also include other features to help plan the service or schedule participants.
Churches adopting a contemporary worship style often project song lyrics for congregational singing. Originally, overhead projectors were most frequently used, but video projectors have become commonplace as they increased in performance and decreased in price.
A resulting need was for a software package to produce the images for display. Originally, general purpose presentation programs such as PowerPoint were used, but these were found to be of limited value, primarily because of the need to display lyrics of a selection from a large number of songs.
Worship presentation programs were developed by a number of vendors to solve this problem. A common feature is a database which stores the song lyrics and enables them to be easily retrieved and projected. This may keep records for copyright licensing. Other features in current programs include the ability to display bible texts (often from a number of translations) and PowerPoint slides (often used for notices and sermon illustrations), as well as use graphics or video clips as a background. Another common feature is the ability to play DVDs or show live video from a camera.
Although these software packages may be used by the person leading the service or speaking, larger churches generally have a computer operator to control what is projected.
There are many programs available both commercially and as shareware including EasyWorship, SongPro and Worship, Inc. for Windows, as well as MediaShout, ProPresenter, and Proclaim for both Macintosh and Windows. Free cross-platform alternatives, which operate on both of these systems as well as Linux, include OpenLP.
Church management software
Church management software is a specialized software that assists churches and other religious organizations in organization and automation of daily operations. These packages typically assist in the management of membership and mailings, fundraising, events, and report generation. Churches use the packages to reduce the cost of operations and track the growth in their congregations. The growth in the church management software business coincides with the growing trend of using computers for religious activity.
Larger systems allow multi-user access, with security options to protect confidentiality. Flexible features to keep and report information on attendance and pastoral visits can help church staff to make sure that no members are overlooked. Using a purpose-made package guards against relying on the knowledge of a specific individual to maintain a bespoke database. However, different church management applications vary significantly from one another, and what works well for one church may not fit the needs of another.
Christian Computing Magazine publishes an annual overview of commercial church management programs every October. The magazine's website also includes a table summarising the features of alternative products, and this is updated as new versions are released. However, this list is not comprehensive; it only covers a subset of commercial applications.
Free open source church management systems are also available; these are not listed by the above survey. An example of a free open source application for church management is the ChurchInfo project, hosted on SourceForge.
Other alternatives include online products, some of which also facilitate collaborative planning of church services.
- "Church Related Software Index". Computer Aided Ministry Society (CAMsoc). Archived from the original on 2009-11-03.
- Worship open source software listed at Ohloh
- "Software manages while pastors minister.". Church Central. Retrieved 2012-04-27. "Church Management Software (ChMS) allows a congregation to keep tabs on information related to activities of the church. It uses a database to store information and typically includes a set of programs or modules to manipulate the stored data."
- "Software solutions for growing churches". Church Central. July 5, 2005. Retrieved 2012-04-27. "With more than 7,000 members and an office staff of 75, Asbury United Methodist Church of Tulsa, Okla., relies on church management software to help run the administrative side of the church."
- "What can church management software do?". Church Central. 21 February 2005. Retrieved 2012-04-27.
- David Gonzalez (July 24, 1994). "The Computer Age Bids Religious World to Enter". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-04. "Specially-designed software for church management, to track contributions and membership, can be used by savvy pastors to minister to their congregants, said Pat Faudree, a spokeswoman for Shelby Systems, which is a leading church management software company."
- Jennifer Schuchmann (March 1, 2002). Your Church magazine (Christianity Today). p. 54.
- Nancy Armstrong; Brent Bill (March 1, 2002). "Church Management Software: How to choose the package that's right for you". Church Solutions magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-08-02.
- Steve Hewitt, Annual Church Management Software (ChMS) Overview, Christian Computing Magazine, October 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
- Church Management Software (ChMS) Feature Chart, Christian Computing Magazine website. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
- "ChurchInfo open source church database". ChurchInfo Team. December 21, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-21.