SoChurch: The Next Generation of Church Software

Recently, my friend John Saddington invited me to consider becoming an advisor to a new software startup call SoChurch. John is one of the most tech-savvy people I know. He is the Creative Web Director of North Point Ministries and the owner of Milk Engine, the Web design firm that built my blog. So when he makes a request, I listen.

SoChurch Screen Shot

Click on the Image Above to See an Exclusive, First-Look Screen Shot

John described the company’s mission and then sent over an introductory packet to review. After reading it, I thought, this is exactly what churches need.

As the CEO of a large company, I know that effective communication is critical. You can’t maintain organizational alignment without it. And if you can’t maintain alignment, you will fail in your mission. Period.

But so often, churches don’t have access to the technology and tools that for-profit organizations have. Many are still printing and mailing newsletters. Some more “advanced” churches are using manually-maintained email distribution lists to communicate. And social media? Forget about it. Most have no idea what to do with that!

SoChurch is the answer. It has the goal of leveraging web technology and making it really, really simple. So simple, in fact, that non-geeks—real people—can use it. It is not something adapted from the corporate world or cobbled together piecemeal from other sources.

Instead, it’s been built from the ground-up with a completely different paradigm based on how local churches really work and how they are different from secular organizations. And it will also scale—meaning it will work with small churches and mega-churches, and everything in between.

I am also pleased to announce that I have come on-board as an official advisor to SoChurch. In fact, I am one of several people—bloggers whose names you will recognize—who will be working together to ensure that it achieves its mission.

The product is still in development, but here are some of the things we envision:

  • Individual church branding
  • Customization, configuration, and control, including worldclass privacy and security
  • Simplified church directory functionality
  • Group, resource, event, and content management tools
  • Twitter and Facebook integration
  • Mobile phone access and syncing
  • Prayer information and reporting, as well as needs and classifieds postings
  • A variety of tools, integration options, and settings to manage the flow of communication

Primarily, it will focus on communication, providing tools for managing events, gathering RSVPs, sending out updates, and hosting multimedia content. I promise, you will be impressed.

I will provide more detail when we get closer to our launch date. In the meantime, you could do us a huge favor by taking this brief survey.

Question: How does your church manage communication both internally and externally? If you use other software, what is missing?
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://www.christopherhopper.com Christopher Hopper

    This looks really interesting, Michael. Currently we use Planning Center Online. Just YESTERDAY our staff decided to look for alternate programs, not because we’re unhappy with PCO, but we try and stay ahead of the curve.

    PCO is really great for internal event communication and scheduling, content management, and volunteer/staff organizing.

    It has no external vehicle so that’s a minus; we use our website for that, as well as a paper-newsletter [sigh], and our churches mutiple Twitter accounts and a FaceBook account. Definitely bulky.

    My biggest gripe is PCO is $100/mos and I could find a lot of other uses for that at the moment; but it’s also a strong program so it’s worth it if that’s our only option.

    Give me the internal functionality of PCO with a classy external communication hub, and make it $49.99/mos and you have me.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      That's great Christopher and we agree with you–price is a big sticking point with other offerings available out there. You won't be dissatisfied with SoChurch's price, I can promise you that much right now!

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      That's great Christopher and we agree with you–price is a big sticking point with other offerings available out there. You won't be dissatisfied with SoChurch's price, I can promise you that much right now!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I think you are going to like what you see with SoChurch.

  • http://synapticlight.com/ Phillip Gibb

    Looking forward to this and championing it at my Church. Just seems so far off: late 2010, how about tomorrow? :)
    At our church the primary form of communication is email, then sms, blog and twitter in the most sparsest of manners.
    So, we definitely need some better, well that is my opinion.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I agree. It's just too much to manage without a unified communications center.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      It's coming sooner rather than later, Phillip. More details will be released about its timing. Follow us on Twitter and the blog to stay up to date. We promise we're not trying to hold out and will be getting this into the hands of churches as soon as possible.

  • http://pandkmcgrath.blogspot.com Karen McGrath

    I run a homeschool group that functions as a church. This software sounds great. Please keep me in the info loop, thanks.

    Karen McGrath

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      Hey Karen, that sounds unique and awesome! I was a homeschooler myself. Michael will keep you updated, and you can also follow SoChurch on Twitter (@sochurch) and Facebook for more frequent updates. Thanks!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Gail and I also homeschooled our kids. I hadn't thought about this application. SoHome!

      • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

        SoHome–I love it!

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/AndrewComings AndrewComings

    This sounds really great. It will be interesting to see if it will be applicable to foreign church plants (support for foreign languages, etc).

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      That's a great question, Andrew. While we won't be offering this to foreign churches right out of the gate, we are building with internationalization in mind and most definitely want to create something that serves the Church worldwide.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      That's a great question, Andrew. While we won't be offering this to foreign churches right out of the gate, we are building with internationalization in mind and most definitely want to create something that serves the Church worldwide.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/nutz4books Vikki

    This is fantastic! I'm sending this link on to my Worship Arts bosses.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      We appreciate you spreading the word, Vikki!

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

    Michael, it is truly an honor to have you as an Advisor to the SoChurch team. Alongside your leadership, we look forward to serving the church in new and exciting ways.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jonathan. It gives me a chance to release my inner-Geek. ;-)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/petereleazar petereleazar

    Michael, something close to my heart is the need for something more integrative. We all have common ground in the economy. Technology could facilitate virtual economic alliances, where skills, capacity and resources are more readily tradeable and where we can see the value of supporting our brother first, as a brother, not just a presbyterian or baptist. That may be vital in the years ahead. I am currently writing on it too (Common Ground), drawing from contemporary and historic models. We cannot simply bypass this issue because the economy always exceeds the local church. Local church members belong to it, are influenced by it and also have their best opportunity for the gospel in the 9 to 5 window. If we can think out of the traditional box we could make a profound impact for the kingdom in "practically" sustaining the souls harvested in the last few decades. The 21st century Goshen may yet prove to be an economic enclave. Sorry if I am saying too much in too few words – I am so passionate about this and think technology like this could satisfy local needs whils complementing kingdom-level needs.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      We couldn't agree with you more, Peter. There is definitely need at the local church level, but we must always remember that we are the Church, Christ's body, worldwide and that is not separated by denomination, geography, or perspective. We very much aim to meet the needs of the Church at large.

  • Daniel Doesburg

    Hi Michael,

    I wonder if you've heard about the web empowered church. For several years the make a free package. A complete website for, in the first place, churches and related.

    Look athttp://www.webempoweredchurch.com

    Daniel

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I have not. Thanks. I will check it out.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/nerrad Darren Ethier

    I'm looking forward to the SoChurch release but inwardly REALLY hoping that there will be ways of connecting SoChurch in with our existing Church Management app (CCB). I love the creativity and increasing options available for communication in the church BUT would love it even better if we saw options for connecting in with the data that we are already committed to. We will be eager to adopt SoChurch IF it doesn't create yet another place where people have to login and where features are duplicated that we are already paying for in existing apps.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/nerrad Darren Ethier

    I'm looking forward to the SoChurch release but inwardly REALLY hoping that there will be ways of connecting SoChurch in with our existing Church Management app (CCB). I love the creativity and increasing options available for communication in the church BUT would love it even better if we saw options for connecting in with the data that we are already committed to. We will be eager to adopt SoChurch IF it doesn't create yet another place where people have to login and where features are duplicated that we are already paying for in existing apps.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      Darren, these are valid concerns that will absolutely be addressed. That said, one of our core missions is reducing the number of technologies people are using and centralizing functionality. The product will also have a powerful API that will allow for integrations such as the one you've referenced.

      We look forward to releasing more information about this as the product nears its release. Thanks for the comment!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ClayofCO ClayofCO

    Great name for a church app. Our small family-run ministry is in the process of launching a small groups movement for mothers that will have international reach. We will use WordPress as a CMS website/blog platform (StudioPress Genesis framework). However, I want to be able to connect moms interactively through their small groups, and church ministries, and with "experts" in several areas of spiritual mothering, which I think is beyond the capabilities of the basic WP site. I have considered Ning.com, but it just leaves me a bit cold for some reason (and now the price is going way up). Could SoChurch be an alternative for that kind of internal groups networking? There would need to be a process to restrict group formation to "certified" group leaders who would approve their group members, and yet the ability for non-member visitors to benefit from content. Maybe you should consider a SoGroups app, too (better grab that domain while it's still available). I look forward to hearing more about SoChurch. Thanks.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I will blog in more detail about the feature set at the launch, but this is great input. Thanks.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      SoChurch will definitely be your answer, Clay! Hang in there for just a little while. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date.

  • http://pastorblog.hickorywithepc.org Ed Eubanks

    Mike, this is an exciting development, and I'm glad to see that you're on board advising them.

    As another commenter has mentioned, price can be a big obstacle to seeing churches implement something like this. As a small church pastor, I know that we couldn't afford a price-point at $100 or even $50 a month– and WOULDN'T if we could.

    Perhaps you might consider implementing a variation of the model that the 37Signals guys pioneered, where there is a "sliding scale" of sorts. You could have a bare-bones free version, a very affordable scaled-down version, and then more features as the price scales up.

    Alternatively, you could base the price on membership numbers– and that could be done by self-report (which is far more likely to be done with integrity, I would hope, by church leadership) or by usage statistics from the membership directory option. That way, small-membership churches could still have the benefit of the full-featured services, but could afford to do so (and their smaller size would mean real savings on storage and bandwidth, which would mean that it wouldn't be a charity-only thing to offer a sliding scale).

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      As I commented to @Christopher Hooper, we agree with you, Ed. I can promise you that you won't be dissatisfied with the price and we want to build something that fits all church needs–not just the ones with deep pockets.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Our guys are definitely sensitive to this issue, Ed. I think you will be pleased.

  • http://www.brianjones.ca Brian Jones

    Personally, I am offended by this comment:

    "that non-geeks—real people—can use it"

    Are you saying that geeks are not real people?

    Brian.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Sort of. I am a Geek myself, so that kind of gives me license. ;-)

      • http://www.faithimagined.com alisa hope

        Geeks are so popular nowadays ;)

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      I am sure I can vouch for Michael in saying that he didn't mean to offend with the comment. He meant simply that SoChurch will be a system that anyone can use, even those who are not as technically inclined as geeks (among whom I count myself).

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/kaikunane ThatGuyKC

    Wow! This looks amazing!

    I am close to a few pastors and will definitely be passing this along!!

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      Thanks KC!

      • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/kaikunane ThatGuyKC

        Anytime! I've recently started diving into the Christian/Church blogosphere and I think your new software will have a significant impact.

        Already sent off the recommendation email!

      • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/kaikunane ThatGuyKC

        Anytime! I've recently started diving into the Christian/Church blogosphere and I think your new software will have a significant impact.

        Already sent off the recommendation email!

  • Ben Forsberg

    Michael,
    Thanks for all the positive support. I can guarantee that the expectations of you and your readers will be met and exceeded. Additionally, your influence and insights will be of huge benefit to SoChurch in reaching its vision.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Ben. If the job you do keeping the advisory board informed is any indication, then church leaders are in for a treat.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jakester191 Jake Hillman

    This looks AWESOME! We also use the Planning Center Online, which does have some really great options, especially for worship teams. In my church, we have a constant rotation of worship team members. Through PCO, we can receive upcoming weeks on which we will be playing, the songs we are covering, an access to an entire library of worship music we subscribe to through CCLI. This is something else I would encourage you to consider. It's great having a direct link to our worship music and the songs we are covering in the weeks ahead. We can even access an MP3 of the song so that we can practice at home before worship practice. Another huge initiative that my church is involved in is home groups. Right now we have over 100 homegroups that meet throughout the week. It would be great to have something in the SoChurch software that can bridge those homegroup in some form or another. My best friend is our worship pastor an conducts a lot of admin for our church. I will forward this to him to see what he things and if he has any input.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      Jake, we won't be getting into the worship music storage and such, as that has very specific implications for the direction of the offering. However, we totally agree about homegroups and their communication. This will definitely work incredibly well for churches with a variety and widespread number of micro-communities within the church, whether those are small groups, classes, ministry teams, or the like.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Trey Bailey

    Welcome aboard the hype-train. Woot woot.
    I love that all my blogging-social media-church folk are on board with this product. This is kewl.
    I’ve been reading every post put out there about SoChurch and it all sounds perfect. Will I even need a website anymore?? I mean seriously??

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      Depends on your needs. This could very well replace some church's websites, or complement them. It's built with both use cases in mind. Thanks Trey.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kitpalmer Kit Palmer

    Hey Michael, this looks pretty interesting. Are you familiar with The City <a href="http://(http://www.onthecity.org/)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.onthecity.org/) by Zondervan? It seems very similar. My church, Seacoast <a href="http://(http://www.seacoast.org/)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.seacoast.org/) just rolled this out to its campuses this past month. I'm still trying to get familiar with it, but it shows a lot of potential to create opportunities for people to connect and build community. I'm curious how these two compare.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kitpalmer Kit Palmer

    Hey Michael, this looks pretty interesting. Are you familiar with The City (http://www.onthecity.org/) by Zondervan? It seems very similar. My church, Seacoast (http://www.seacoast.org/) just rolled this out to its campuses this past month. I'm still trying to get familiar with it, but it shows a lot of potential to create opportunities for people to connect and build community. I'm curious how these two compare.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      We try not to use the Z-word around these parts. ;-)

      Yes, I have looked at it; however, I have not explored it in depth. Maybe Ben, Jonathan, or John can comment.

      Thanks.

      • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/tyronebcookin tyronebcookin

        I think The City was originally developed by some geeks at Mars Hill in Seattle then sold to said Z word after much interest was shown.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/kitpalmer Kit Palmer

        Sorry for the "offensive" language and inadvertently putting in a plug for the "other guys" product! Hope this doesn't jeopardize myhttp://booksneeze.com status :)

        On a positive note, here's an opportunity for you to talk about how SoChurch is better!

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

          Ha! Don’t tell anyone, but I even have some of their books in my library!

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      Kit, we are quite familiar with The City. I'll leave your imagination to how it might compare at this juncture and just tell you that our offering will be meeting the needs of many more churches than The City can with their current model. Stay tuned!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kitpalmer Kit Palmer

    Hey Michael, this looks pretty interesting. Are you familiar with The City <a href="http://(http://www.onthecity.org/)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.onthecity.org/) by Zondervan? It seems very similar. My church, Seacoast <a href="http://(http://www.seacoast.org/)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.seacoast.org/) just rolled this out to its campuses this past month. I'm still trying to get familiar with it, but it shows a lot of potential to create opportunities for people to connect and build community. I'm curious how these two compare.

  • http://www.4u2live.net Peter Eleazar

    Thanks Jonathon. The challenge is to balance local church authority against the realities of transcendent economic realities. Many say business networks, "have been tried before, will never work" and one church implemented something that is strictly self-serving, but is as self-defeating. We need to think global and act local (or is it vice versa?). As a business segment manager for a large bank I did research on contemporary networks and found that it can work, but the sweet spot is subtle, culturally sensitive and generally ambiguous. Think laterally or you will miss the opportunity to achieve an eternally significant outcome. Ephesians refers to the commonwealth of God, which expresses it well.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      These are great thoughts and comments, Peter. Thank you.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Peter G

    Will there be a SoMosque as well?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bloemberg Jacob Bloemberg

    We so need this! Away with traditional church management! There are over a thousand international churches (mine is in Hanoi, Vietnam) that needs something simple, flexible and social. We need to be able to use international phone numbers, addresses, enter nationality, estimated length of stay in the city (not assume people don't leave your church, they all do). Please go global with this software, not just American only! I'll sign up the day you release it…

    (I'm also lead facilitator of global int'l church network)

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jonathancottrell jonathancottrell

      Jacob, we definitely have the international Church in mind. While we will not be supporting international churches right out of the gate, this is in our plans.

      If you're interested in talking about how this could be used for the global international church network you're a part of, contact me at jc [at] sochurch [dot] com. Thanks for the comment, Jacob!

  • http://web.me.com/jeffferguson Jeff Ferguson

    I am very interested in this. Our church is currently looking at Fellowship Tech. We are still looking around at different options. I have been researching and noticed that ChurchCruch advertises Fellowship Tech, where John Saddington blogs at. This is definitely not a knock or anything. I am just wondering if this means that SoChurch is different than Fellowship Tech, the same, or is it meant to work alongside something like Fellowship Tech. Interested in you answer.

    Thanks!

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  • http://www.mackrillmedia.com Jud Mackrill

    This will be really exciting for smaller congregations that do not have the resources for full time technical personnel. Simple = Good. Looking forward to seeing this launch.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/yaseen.a.bangash Yaseen Abbas Bangash

    Same question aeries here why can i buy this software what’s new feature you added which are not in other software’s.
    http://www.www.Sweepstakesninja.comwww.abcfastdirectory.comwww.blackjackstrategypro.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/yaseen.a.bangash Yaseen Abbas Bangash

    Technology change daily but its hard to say where it’s end.
    http://www.www.Sweepstakesninja.comwww.abcfastdirectory.comwww.blackjackstrategypro.com

  • Awaistariq55

    Great stuff i think second generation would be even better could be same as   Church software  

  • Awaistariq

    It looks really great! I think just need to have some thing like   Church software to manage in the way user wants.