This is how I found out about ChurchInfo. Recently we decided that our church membership information must be computerized and as usual I was asked to do the job. However, none of the commercial Church Management Software I came across could fit into our budget. Then I googled to see whether any free and open-source applications are available.
ChurchInfo is a free church management software designed to help churches track members, families, ministerial groups, pledges, and payments and perform many other useful tasks. It meets most of the features offered by commercial ChMs though it falls short of a fancy user interface. It’s originally designed to run in Linux based servers and I will host this in one of those very soon.
However, most of you will be comfortable with running it in a Church Computer powered by a Windows Operating system. In my situation, I wanted to do a test run in my PC before paying for a web hosting service. I used a Windows XP machine for this job – but this method should work on Vista and 7 as well. This is how I did it?
Step 1: Install WAMP
First, we have to create a server like-environment in your Windows-based PC. To do that we must download and install WAMP (an acronym for Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP). Get it here. After downloading run the setup file and install WAMP with default options (warning: I don’t think changing the default installation path is a good idea…) During the installation, you will be asked to provide the path to your default browser.
I recommend pointing the installation wizard to Internet Explorer (usually found under c:\Program Files\Internet Explorer) even if your default browser is something else other than IE. I had trouble creating the database when tried to do it using Chrome.
Once the installation is complete delete the file named “index.php” found under c:/wamp/www Now start WAMP from the start menu or from the desktop shortcut. Click the icon that appears on the system tray. Now select “Start all services” and “Put Online” from the menu that pops up.
[Start all services and put the server online]
Step 2: Create the Database
Now click the system tray icon again and select phpMyAdmin from the popup menu. Internet Explorer opens up launching phpMyAdmin. Now you must create a new database. Look at the screenshot below. Pay attention to the hi-lighted sections. Type “churchinfo” (without inverted commas) in “Create new database” field and hit the “Create” button.
[Creating database “ChurchInfo”]
You should get a screen similar to the one given below. Notice the circled tabs named “Import” and “Privileges”.
[Database created successfully]
Step 3: Import the Database tables
Download churchinfo-1.2.12.zip and extract the files. You get a folder named “ChurchInfo”. Inside this folder, you can find a subfolder named “SQL” containing a file named “Install.sql”. In phpMyAdmin go to the import tab, browse to this file and hit the “Go” button.
[Importing the Database tables]
If the import was successful the Database “ChurchInfo” will be populated with the required tables.
[Importing tables successful]
Step 4: Create a new user
Click the database named “ChurchInfo” from the list of databases provided in the left pane. Let’s create a new user and grant him privileges to manipulate the Database you just created.
Click the Privileges tab and you will get the screen shown below. Once you are there enter a preferred username in the “User name” field under “Login Information”. Select “Local” from “Host” drop-down list. Type a password of your choice in the “Password” and “Retype” fields. For this example, I used “testuser” for user name and “trespass” for the password (avoid the inverted commas). But you can use anything of your choice. Then Under the section “Database for user” select “Grant all privileges on database ChurchInfo”
Finally, under Global privileges select “check all” and hit the “Go” button found at the bottom of the screen. You just created a new user with Administrative privileges.
[Create a new user and grant him administrative privileges]
5. Install ChurchInfo
Place the folder “ChurchInfo” in, c:/wamp/www The folder and it’s content is “read only” by default. Remove this restriction to avoid hassles. Within the folder “ChurchInfo”, you’ll find a directory called “Include” containing a file named “Config.php”. The first statements in this file are the database connection parameters. Example:
$sSERVERNAME = "localhost";
$sUSER = "root";
$sPASSWORD = "password";
$sDATABASE = "churchinfo";
Change these parameters to match the user account you created earlier for the MySQL database (See the screenshot below).
[Change the parameters to match the database login details’]
Step 6. Log into ChurchInfo
Point your browser to http://localhost/churchinfo You should get the screen shown below.
[ChurchInfo login screen]
When you log in for the first time, you have to use Admin for the user name and churchinfoadmin as the password. Once you logged in the system prompts you to change this default password.
[Change the default password]
You should see a welcome screen If updating the password was successful.
[Welcome to ChurchInfo]
That’s it! ChurchInfo is installed and ready to run. I am not going to explain how to use it. It’s not the scope of this article. You should visit the online documentation for usage instructions. If you want to see ChurchInfo in action without even installing click here for a demo (User name: Admin Password: demo admin). Given below is the screen shot of a sample record from the installation I just finished.
Would you run into any errors, please let me know via comments. I will definitely help you.
Warning: If you installed ChurchInfo in a computer connected to the internet it is advisable to run WAMP only when you want to use ChurchInfo. Allowing WAMP to run 24/7 could make your PC a visible target to online attacks. Also make sure that you are using the latest version of WAMP. [Update: A desktop version is also available now]