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Free Software for Small Churches and Church Plants

Posted by Matt Postiff August 3, 2013 on Matt Postiff's Blog under GeneralĀ 
Software Icons

I am thankful that God has permitted us to live in an age where we have the computer as a tool to carry on the work of the ministry. Furthermore, I am thankful that we have at our fingertips a lot of freely available software. Some is produced by commercial entities trying to drive their bottom line, and some is produced by communities of open source developers. I thought I would take a minute to share a few of the key software programs I have used.

Chrome, Firefox, and Adobe Reader

These tools are probably well known to you. Chrome and Firefox are popular alternatives to the Internet Explorer web browser on Windows computers. Adobe is the standard PDF reader program. It is not the most lean, but it works.


Need to talk to and instant message with missionaries across the globe, and do it cheaply? This is the tool for you. It has grown to have a lot of other features, like connecting with facebook. When I travel for the missionary work that I am involved in, I love to have this so I can video call my home and see my wife and children, and even read to them before bedtime.

Mozilla Thunderbird

This email and rss reader program has been mentioned on this blog before. But I use it to aggregate together all seven of my email accounts so I can read them in a single place and store messages in a single database. Perhaps in the future I will describe how I use it to quickly store email messages in predefined folders with a keypress, or how I use it to do an "email merge" so I can write a personal letter to all our church members.

Open Office 4

This open-source, free office productivity suite has a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation program, drawing program. It obviously competes with Microsoft Office. I have used this since back in version 2; the spreadsheet and database were helpful to me at various points. I did have a bad experience with a corrupted database, at which point I moved to Microsoft Access (may it never be!). I use the database for maintaining my list of contacts and church members. Also, I hope sometime to convert my Excel library catalog into a database.


This program is an "FTP client" which means that it understands the File Transfer Protocol" and lets you transfer files back and forth easily with an FTP server such as your webhost. We use this weekly to upload content to our church website, such as sermon audio mp3 files.


Gimp is the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, another open source project that provides functionality like Adobe Photoshop. It does what is called raster grahpics, which basically means pictures and other images made up of a bunch of pixels. It used to be a toy, as the experts say, but it is the real thing today. It does have a bit of a learning curve, but once you learn basic selection tools and how to manipulate layers, you can do a lot with it to develop graphics for fliers and web sites.


If you think Photoshop = Gimp, then you can think of Inkscape = Adobe Illustrator. Inkscape is a vector grahpics program, which means that it represents images with mathematical formulas. Images designed with this tool scale very well to different sizes.


Last but not least is Scribus. It is like Quark Express or PageMaker of old, and can substitute somewhat for Adobe InDesign. Adobe has adopted a new subscription pricing model that will keep many small-time users out of the market for it. In other words, with the new editions, there is not a way to buy it once and forget it for awhile. This makes software like Scribus even more desirable. I picked up Scribus and used it to do the layout of a one-page flier in a couple of hours. I had some experience as a news editor of my high school newspaper with PageMaker on the Macintosh platform, so I am familiar with some of the concepts of desktop publishing. But I believe familiar with Word can learn to navigate around fairly well in this tool. It outputs PDF files so you can share them with your print shop or on the net.

These tools are ideal for a small church or church plant because they don't break the budget. You will probably come to a point when you need to hire help for graphics and printing, but these can get you started. The amount of work that has gone into creating these software packages is incredible--and they freely available. What a blessing.

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