Church Management

4 Best Free and Open Source Church Management Software Options

Published by in Church Management

As a church leader, you owe it to your supporters to be as financially responsible with their donations as possible. But is free church management software a realistic way to save budget?

If you’re a church leader, you know how important it is to stretch your budget as far as possible. It’s not just important to make sure that you have enough funding to go around, but you also owe it to your donors to be as responsible with their donations as possible.

One area where you might be thinking about a budget is on the software that you use to run your church operations. Church management software helps church leaders keep track of church members, accept and manage donations, plan church groups and events, and much more. It’s a must-have for churches of all sizes.

And yes, there is such a thing as free church software.

In this article we’ll look at four options for free church management software, listed in alphabetical order: two limited-capacity versions of paid products, along with two open source products that churches can download for free and host and maintain themselves.

In each case, there are advantages and disadvantages which we’ll discuss below.

But first, how did we choose these products?

For the two hosted systems, we used our Top 20 report of the most popular church software on the market based on verified user reviews (read the full methodology here), and picked the two products that offer free versions (not limited-time free trials).

For the two open source options, we performed a Google search for “open source church management software” in May of 2021 and picked the two options that appeared on the first page of the search results.

Let’s take a look.

See all free church management software

This article looks at four free church management software options. See the full list of free church management software tools in Capterra’s software directory.

 

A comparison chart of free and open source church management software, including ChurchTrac, Planning Center, ChurchCRM and ChurchInfo


Free church management software

Free church management software is typically a limited version of a paid church management system. The two options you’ll learn about below offer several core features with limited capacity. These are viable options for very small churches with basic member directory needs and not much else. Vendors typically offer this type of pricing model with the goal of upgrading churches into one of their paid tiers as the church grows with the software.

 

A screenshot of a member profile in ChurchTrac church management software
A member profile in ChurchTrac (Source)

ChurchTrac was founded in 2002 in Florida with hopes of providing software that makes church leaders’ jobs easier at a reasonable price. ChurchTrac includes features for membership management, donations, check-in, worship planning, church accounting, event planning, website management, and more.

Intro to ChurchTrac (Source)

What you get for free: ChurchTrac offers a free plan with membership management for up to 75 individuals, with family management, reports, directories, and tech support.

Cost to upgrade: With the $5/month Standard plan, churches can add online donation management, child check-in, attendance tracking, volunteer scheduling, event management, priority support, and more for up to 75 members.

With the $15/month Plus plan, churches can add everything in Standard plus financial management and accounting, advanced scheduling, worship planning, song library, and more for up to 75 members. Prices increase based on the number of members, and churches can get two months free with an annual commitment.

Have you used ChurchTrac? Leave a review here.

 

A screenshot of the Giving app in Planning Center church management software
Donations management in Planning Center (Source)

Planning Center may have a secular sounding name, but it is 100% designed for churches from the ground up. The software was first developed in California in 2006 by two full-time church leaders scrambling to stay on top of all facets of worship planning, from scheduling volunteers to preparing music by manually updating spreadsheets. Planning Center claims to serve 90 of the 100 largest churches in the country, but also caters to small, neighborhood churches. The software itself is packaged as a collection of apps, from calendar and donations to publishing.

Intro to Planning Center (Source)

What you get for free: Planning Center’s free version includes an unlimited membership database with communication tools, a calendar with unlimited events and up to two meeting rooms, 15 daily check-ins, up to 10 monthly donations, small group planning for up to 25 members, event registration for as many as five attendees, and service planning for up to five administrators.

Cost to upgrade: Users can expand each application to accommodate the size of their congregation. For example, a 10-room calendar, 50 daily check-ins, 100 monthly donations, 125 small group members, 20 event attendees, and service planning for 25 administrators would cost a church $84/month. Publishing plans start at $14/month. All apps are optional and include a 30-day free trial.

Have you used Planning Center? Leave a review here.


Open source church management software

Open source church management software is completely free to download and use. In fact, users can even alter the code themselves to tailor it for their specific needs. So what’s the catch?

Open source church management software, like any open source software, requires the user to host (meaning that you’re responsible for storing the data), maintain, and update the software as necessary.

In other words, if the system crashes at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning and you can’t retrieve your sermon notes, there won’t be a technical support team standing by to help you.

Open source church management software does offer some support, though it typically comes in the form of online documentation or community support forums.

 

A screenshot of the ChurchCRM home screen
The ChurchCRM home screen (Source)

ChurchCRM is built off of the ChurchInfo open source framework. Because it runs on LAMP, you can use it on any device with an internet browser, including tablets and smartphones. ChurchCRM also offers membership management for unlimited members, calendar, donation tracking, volunteer management features, and more. An active developer community is constantly working on new features, and is available for support via chat.

Intro to ChurchCRM (Source)

Support: ChurchCRM offers support via GitHub and Gitter live chat.

Have you used ChurchCRM? Leave a review here.

 

A screenshot of the member profile screen in ChurchInfo
A member profile in ChurchInfo (Source)

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 volunteer developers who work to make it as accessible as possible to churches. It is a web-based solution, meaning that you can run it through any internet browser.

ChurchInfo installation walkthrough (Source)

Support: ChurchInfo offers support through a SourceForge discussion group and ticket system, as well as online documentation.

Have you used ChurchInfo? Leave a review here.


Why you should consider paid church management software

Hopefully one of the options we looked at above works out for you and your church. But if a free option isn’t right for you—whether that’s because it doesn’t offer enough functionality, capacity, or support—you should consider paid options.

While it’s always tempting to try and get something for free, the time and energy you spend attempting to make the “free” system work might be costing you more than the modest monthly fee for a paid solution in the long run.

You can use our church management software buyers guide to learn more about the market, then browse our church management software Top 20 report to see top options.
 


Methodology

This article was updated in May of 2021. Free products considered for this article had to be in the 2021 Capterra Top 20 report for church management software and:

  • Offer a free, stand-alone version of the software (not a trial version of the software where you must purchase a product after a limited amount of time).
  • Meet our church management software definition: Church Management software helps churches and other religious organizations track members, manage small groups, and engage with visitors in order to grow the congregation.
  • “Top” free tools had a minimum overall rating of 4.5/5 stars from reviewers on Capterra at the time of publication.

The two open source options appeared on the first page of Google search results in an Incognito search for “open source church management software” in May of 2021.


Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.

About the Author

Andrew Conrad

Andrew Conrad

Senior Content Writer @ Capterra, sharing insights about retail. Published in PSFK, Modern Retail, and the Baltimore Sun. Austin transplant. I love spending time outside with my dog or floating on the Colorado River in my inflatable kayak.

Comments

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Comment by Andrew Conrad on

Hi Abiodun! I would try a few of the options in this article, and if you don’t find one that works for you, check out our Most Popular list (https://www.capterra.com/church-management-software/#infographic). You can rest assured knowing that any product on that list is reliable and supported. There are also options there for Most Affordable and Most User Friendly to fit your needs. Good luck!

Comment by abiodun emmanuel on

i need the best church management software to install

Comment by Grant Ebel on

Bambi, if you are self-hosting on any resonably up-to-date PHP server you can use the Church Admin plugin. That should work even if it’s your own local server too. It is good if you can live with it’s limitations and aren’t using anything else already.
I’ve recently moved us from churchinfo to churchcrm. They have an impressive turn around on bug reports. Thanks for the reference Simon!

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Comment by Bambi Lee Dean on

but Andy, you failed to mention that you must have an upgraded wordpress business account/plan

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Comment by Andy Moyle on

Church Admin is a powerful plugin for churches using WordPress.

It has address lists, member tracking, small groups, classes, children’s ministry, bulk sms and email tools, rotas/schedules, sermon mp3s and calendar – and is completely FREE!

There is an associated smartphone app that churches can subscribe to for £7.50pm and church members can use for free,

Comment by Amber Cross on

Has anyone tried this? https://www.simplesigninonline.com/ It looks like exactly what we would want…I realize it is web-based, so if the Internet wasn’t working, we would have to resort to pencil and paper, but all we need are a couple of tablets and a label printer. And it is pretty affordable, and looks easy to use…I would love to know if anyone has had any experience using it. 🙂

Comment by Simon on

ChurchCRM (http://churchcrm.io/) is a fork of Churchinfo and has a modern responsive UI. have an active development community and you can migrate from churchinfo.

Comment by Paul D. on

I agree with the comment Paul Boudreau posted, stay away from MS products, they will be more costly to license before you even get to the software you’re after. I was excited about RockRMS until I saw that it’s a .NET / Windows platform. Looks like I’ll be installing OneBody, Jethro, and ChurchInfo see which one works best for us.

Comment by David McGUire on

I have a small military chapel community; 100 families. I am primarily focused on scheduling people for a variety of ministries during Sunday worship; music ministry, lectors, ushers, servers, etc. Any ideas of which one would be a good choice?

Comment by jonathan nipa on

what are the posible system requirements for church management

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Comment by Paul Boudreau on

Be careful of any software that is built on Microsoft products that claims to be free. The software might be free but Microsoft will want licensing for MS Server Operating system, .NET languages and SQL server if you want to host it locally on your internal local network. If you host these systems then none of that will be a concern. Also, if you want to run it on your own server keep in mind that any version of Linux will run more efficiently than any version or Windows. The point being that you can go buy a cheap used computer and it will run Linux perfectly fine, but not necessarily windows.

Comment by jamie paris on

I am looking for attendance software that will sync with contact information as well over cross platform(web) . Also needs to be tablet comparable. We have different sections that different people take roll in so they would need to be able to take roll on there own tablet. I need it to show if that person was present in the Sunday school class as well as the service? Do any of these fit in that category?

Comment by Mari on

Small church looking for free or very affordable check in/out process for VBS only. I don’t really need anything else. thanks

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Comment by Paul Pardede on

Is there a freeware church management software that also can create rosters? I’ve been looking at RockRMS. Any suggestions?

Comment by Alwyn Barry on

There are two web-based solutions which, as long as you self-host, are totally free. The one we have used in a medium sized church (250) is Jethro-pmm. It not only provides member information, but also for rotas, service schedules, service planning, groups, custom reports, attendance tracking, pastoral records and so much more. It is hugely capable, and even provides facilities for members to maintain their own details. They provide a hosted solution for a charge (see http://easyjethro.com.au/) but you can download and install it on your web host for free (see:https://github.com/tbar0970/jethro-pmm/releases). Few churches will need more features than it provides.

The problem we’ve come across is a lack of integration with our main church website. So we’re looking at another free solution that works with WordPress (we’re actually moving from Joomla to BuddyPress to provide a social network for the church). The plugin church_admin provides a full church database solution which is integrated with WordPress user accounts where needed. It also provides for groups, ministries, attendance tracking, rotas and more besides, though lacks the custom reporting capabilities of Jethro, has more limited Pastoral note keeping, and doesn’t include online service planning. But it’s email and SMS communication capabilities are slightly easier to work with. Read more here … https://wordpress.org/plugins/church-admin/ and here: http://www.churchadminplugin.com/

So, there’s no need to pay huge amounts if you have a little technical know-how!

Comment by Zach Allen on

Churchetto is free and open source, too! There are no maximum user limits, and it doesn’t have a premium/paid version. It’s 100% free no matter the size of your church.

Comment by Don Fulano on

Maybe pointing out the obvious here, but the only truly FREE solution mentioned in the article is ChurchInfo. The rest are more like try-before-you-buy versions, at least if you plan on any growth. I am very thankful for the comments however, because 2 programs mentioned look like they have great potential: RockRMS can be installed on a shared hosting server, and OneBody also looks great once you sort out the method that you will use to host it. Thanks, everybody!

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Comment by JP Medved on

Hi Woody,

We can definitely help, and actually help you filter through options for free:

https://www.capterra.com/church-management-software

Comment by Woody Hoffmann on

Small church looking for web based directory. Can you help? Thanks!

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Comment by Pete Sciacchetano on

– Correction – “Excellerate Church Management” actually offers BOTH Installed or Cloud solutions so you choose what works best for your church!

Comment by Josh Jacobs on

GoTech looks great, but it is not free. The cheapest option is $50/month.

Comment by Rochelle Robinson on

I have been using “Easy Church Membership” for about 3 years. Absolutely free software by rcl software. http://www.rclsoftware.com

Comment by Stella Price on

I’m looking for a free download for a church directory. Where can I find one?

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Comment by Seth McGuinness on

RockRMS – http://www.rockrms.com is coming up to be an awesome tool.

Not affiliated with them, but definitely wanted to point it out as an option.

Comment by Stella Pike on

Hi Leah,

Thanks for sharing, I was digging around to find some low cost but efficient church software, do you have any idea about this company http://www.easychurchtools.com/church-management-software/pricing/, they are really cheap but my main concern is performance, user friendliness and support. Any idea!@

Stella.

Comment by Ben Jacobs on

Hey you should check out a new check in software for churches called GoConnect. GoConnect was built by a small ministry called GoTech Ministries. Our church has been using for over a year and it has drastically helped speed up the flow of check-in and check-out. They even have a really cool teacher roster function that teachers in the classroom can pull up their class roster on their phone or tablet. This allows them to view child info and guardian info (including pictures). It is pretty sweet!

Here is the website for GoConnect: http://www.gotechministries.org/site/m/goconnect.

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Comment by Tim Morgan on

OneBody by Church.IO is open source and completely free web-based software for churches. While not a full-blown Church Management System, OneBody offers basic people database features alongside its extensive social networking and online directory capabilities.

OneBody supports direct data entry from the web, import/export via CSV, or synchronization with external ChMSs via the desktop “UpdateAgent” application.

The software runs on Ruby on Rails and MySQL, so a dedicated server or virtual private server with a cloud services such as Amazon or DigitalOcean is required, along with some I.T. expertise for setting it up.

Let me know if you have any questions! I can be reached at tim@timmorgan.org. Our website is http://church.io.

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Comment by Tim Etherington on

ChurchTrac is not web based but also it can’t be installed on a PC that has the 64-bit version of Office 2010 installed. Also, it won’t run on a Mac either. These are a few cons that should get mentioned.

To run ChurchInfo you have to have a server set up with PHP and mySQL installed on it. So you either stand up a server in house or you pay a hosting service. That’s not too easy for smaller churches without an IT staff to get going.

WorkingChurch CahabaWorks are not Mac compatible either.

AgapeWorks price goes up to $149 PER MONTH for the enhance features, some of which are significant such as bulk emails, calendars, small group management, etc.

ChurchEquip seems to be pretty good overall.

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