Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Ideas on Web-based Facilities and Online Maintenance Management Solutions for Churches

There is nothing wrong with a church renting out its unused facilities to glean additional income. It is in fact good stewardship. The problem is that with the growing complexity of facility maintenance and planning – so are the tasks of managing such facilities. After returning from a conference on the topic, I’m wondering if there are any open source solutions for churches out there – especially any that would involve the use of a home-brewed super computer?

“The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain

I need to apologize for my lack of bloggage, I know how disturbing long stretches of silence can be for HYCW cult members. For those whose panic has them entertaining the thought of donning black Nike’s and issue the "format c:\" directive – rest assured I’m back with the living having spent this past week at SchoolDude University enjoying valuable professional development and training in utilizing their school maintenance software (a.k.a. school cmms), their preventative maintenance management system, their web help desk software, an online utility management and reporting tool that has some interesting integration possibilities, and of great interest to YOU (at least in how it potentially relates to church websites) their facility scheduling software.

I mention their facilities scheduling software mostly because I would like to see something like this for specifically geared at churches, preferably in the open source arena.

Why? Glad you asked.

Its not that I find unintersting ‘wireless internet maintenance managment systems‘ and ‘web-native budget and capital planning‘ – rather I’m a person who strongly believes that good evangelists are good tent-makers. Meaning while I have no problem with the collection plate being passed my way, I do think that many churches miss the boat on additional revenue by not renting out their unused space to civic organizations such as the Boy Scouts and so on.

Those that do, may not be getting the equitable end of the stick either by not understanding their operating costs and/or by irritating invoicing snafus – or worse by losing profitable rental agreements by angering renters not having the right services (e.g. custodians and such) in place before, during and after an event occurs.

Of course in a perfect World, what I’d really like to see is my ‘Beowulf or Mosix – solving the parking lot problem through simulation‘ proposal implemented to include facilities scheduling – with an invoicing and billing component so volunteer and low-paid church secretaries aren’t overwhelmed by the tasks of becoming facilities maintenance and scheduling managers – especially when they need to post the facility calendar to the Internet and/or the church Intranet.

If you know of such a product that exists as open-source, leave a comment and a thought. I’d like to hear it – I’m sure others would as well.

8 Comments

  1. Have you looked at phpScheduleIt – http://www.php.brickhost.com/faq.php

    Looks like it does the facilities scheduling side of things

  2. I think it is poor stewardsdhip to try to use open-source solutions, especially when much church IT labor is donated. TCO is lower with commercial apps, and support is often free or at minimal cost for some time after purchase.

  3. “TCO is lower with commercial apps” – if you believe the commercial vendors…

    I don’t want to start a Open Source vs commercial flame war, but why spend church members’ donations on software licenses when it’s usually possible to find a free alternative that doesn’t take ages to set up?

  4. mozzis, I think you might be surprised if you look into some of the excellent open source apps out there, particularly in the area of webapps. Some of those free webapps far surpass anything offered commercially, and they can be easy to set up and use.

    I don’t want to start an open-source vs commercial argument either, but you might keep your mind open to OSS and explore some of the options there.

  5. Open source not being good stewardship? I think you are mistaken. While most church IT people are volunteers, it would be a bad assumption to think they are all noobs. While many might be the poorly delusional people that make terrible web sites, there are still many that can make things work.

    I for one love Open Source. I have even contributed to a project here and there in the past. Thats the great part about it. Contributing.

    I think one of the largest hurdles for the church is the same hurdle that we have keeping us behind the ball in general when it comes to tech.

    Besides a couple of Bible Study apps out I see no other real “Church” related app being developed. So, instead of complaining we should maybe contribute. Find an app that does close to what you are looking for and hack it to add what you need. Then supply that to the public and wala, you have contributed or forked the project.

    Well, great site. Cant wait to read more.

    Mike

  6. You may want to look at http://www.eventu.com, which is an asp that integrates the resource scheduling that you are looking for with other back-end functions.

    To touch base on the core of Mozzi’s message, poor stewardship is looking at open source software simply because you like open source software.

    Rather, impact to an church mission is a better criteria to use when making evaluations. If it’s open source, use open source. If it’s commercial, use commercial.

    Unfortunately, it’s very easy to make decisions based upon budget, and not easy to make decisions based upon fuzzy wuzzy notions like mission, so we ended up using some other inhouse non integrated scheduling solution that only the staff can access and use.

    Not that I’m still bitter or anything…..:-)

  7. Thanks, Ricky, for the reference. SourceForge search is down and I was looking for something just like this.
    I also want to throw in my two cents on OSS and such. As the sole Web Servant for our church (www.tklc.org), I have relied heavily on the open collaboration on the net to expand our site, implement new functionality, as well as improve my own education. Since I do technology as a career as well, I am WELL AWARE of how expensive it is to license and maintain support for commercial software. At least with open source, you are not trapped if the vendor closes down or decides to depart dramatically from the release you are comfortable with.
    As for stewardship, what makes better sense that spending the Lord’s resources wisely? Just because sowtware is open source, does not mean it is free. You ALWAYS have the option of paying for it — and you SHOULD make a contribution if you feel it has been worth it.

  8. Well… let me think. I believe that your article it’s very good. I fully agree with you. But I have a problem. I don’t know what is the right help desk tool today. You can find a lot of great products for free (I mean, Open Source) and, in the other hand, you have terrific products like Siebel, Microsoft CRM or GoldMine, from FrontRange Corporation. Ok, with these products I have support, upgrades and more, but a single license cost a fortune! I am doing my research in resources like http://www.helpdesk,com or http://www.helpdesksite.us but I don´t know yet what is the right product for me. Can you help me? Any Idea? Thanks in advance! ;-) . Martin.