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Show HN: OneBody Church Directory software I've been hacking on for 7 years (github.com)
1020 points by timmorgan 943 days ago | hide | past | web | 304 comments | favorite

Hard to believe, but I've been working on this Rails app for over 7 years now! It started as a Rails 1.0 app waaayyy back when, and I've managed to bring it along through almost every major Rails version (still working on updating to Rails 4.1), which I'm pretty proud of.

You can see screenshots at http://church.io.

Being specifically church software, it might not find much of an audience here on HN, but still, I'm proud, so wanted to post about it.

Keep inspiring HN!!!

Great job, Tim. Looks really solid. I really think you should team up with someone to offer hosted versions of this to churches (take the WordPress model).

My church uses The City [0] which charges anywhere from $20 to hundreds of dollars a month. It works well but I definitely think there's room for others. Also, Zondervan acquired The City from the developer/Mars Hill (he was an Amazon engineer too IIRC).

I also think it would be huge to let churches connect a Stripe account and add giving via cc.

Anyway, I think this is awesome and I respect your passion. If you ever need help with anything, drop me a line.

[0] http://www.onthecity.org/pricing/

Our church also uses The City and I'd say it's fine but not great. There's a lot of room for another startup in this space - I've considered it more than once.

The problem for me, on a personal level, is that it's very hard to mix business and the church. On the one hand, the technology used in the church generally lags far behind what is available and there are real benefits to the church body by having tailored technology.

On the other hand, sometimes the new tech doesn't fit for cultural reasons. For example, it still feels unsavory to, say, pass a square credit card reader along with the offering plate.

Additionally, one has to be careful not to be in it merely for the money (which becomes harder as the organization scales). At the entrepreneur you're torn between fiduciary duty to your organization/employees/investors and the (greater) responsibility to God and his church.

It's really hard to keep that balance. Jesus did turn over the tables of the money changers, after all.

In an ideal world your employees/investors are aligned with your vision but in practice, it can get really cloudy. (And we haven't even talked about if you're willing to sell to other denominations yet which, presumably, are using your software as tool to spread an ideology you explicitly believe to be false.)

One model I think could work is for software engineers to found a non-profit and essentially raise funding/customer commitments from larger churches in order to build the software that they'll eventually use.

That said, it's hard enough to find engineers who are "good" in the industry at large, much less when you add in the qualification that they have to be so deeply ideologically in agreement with your vision.

As someone who owns a business that sells exclusively to churches (https://simpledonation.com), I know what that uneasiness can feel like -- the seemingly diametrical goals of building a business to return shareholder capital and serving a market need. And also the denominational thing...

I have by no means figured it all out, but it's been an area in which I've sought counseling and grown considerably. A constant fear I have is being seen as a moneychanger or profiteer.

Ultimately, I've chosen to run Simple Donation as a business. There are so many bad examples of software that churches use and I think having a profitable business gives me the best shot at serving those churches well with great software.

Some US states have introduced a new corporate form for businesses which have both financial and social objectives.


Yeah, I believe those started after I formed corporately. Not sure what the extra benefit is for me at this point.

Do you get feedback from organizations on how much of an increase in donations they receive by going online?

I'm curious what the percentage differences are in total donations.

Yeah, at a minimum they see a bump of 5% in online giving.

Some churches use it specifically for 1-time giving w/o logging in and they see a much larger increase for that type.

I ask people to cancel if they don't see ROI in 3 months. Only 2 cancellations in 2 years.

One way to fix this problem is Bitcoin tithing. http://www.yoism.org.au/blog/bitcoin-tithing

In the past, I've polled my customers and asked about both Bitcoin and Dwolla as low-cost tithing avenues.

They are met with blank stares. Doesn't seem like a felt need at this point.

> (And we haven't even talked about if you're willing to sell to other denominations yet which, presumably, are using your software as tool to spread an ideology you explicitly believe to be false.)

Hopefully that wouldn't be an issue, just like it hopefully isn't an issue for a mechanic from denomination A to work on a bus owned by denomination B or a lineman from denomination A to maintain power lines powering a campus of denomination B. There's nothing particularly theological or beliefs-specific about the product other than "Sunday school" and "prayer request," both of which could probably fit the vast majority of organized religions with a simple title change.

Explain that to the lawyers at Hobby Lobby.

Those situations have very little similarity.

This is something I have been pondering for a bit now. As the chair of my church's outreach ministry, I struggle with church communications. The church is a unique community of groups, sub-groups, etc. And the activities are just as varied. There are many activities that need to be communicated and only so many channels available to do so. Not to mention making sure that everyone is connected and "plugged-in."

You touch on some good points on how to monetize and build a for profit company that is theologically sound. I have this idea that I'm considering for my next venture.

The idea is to build a self-funded startup with a mix of talented developers, designers, and product people. The company would not ever take outside investment so that the focus is never on dollars and return. Instead the focus is to build awesome software that makes a difference (inside and outside the church), grow our craft, and enjoy life. Nobody will earn millions, but we'll sure have fun making a living to support our families.

Ah, welcome to a dilemna I've been wrestling for a couple of years. I actually have an idea/product that has started/stopped a few times that's geared for missionaries, pastors, evangelists, etc.

I just need to find someone smart like the OP here to help execute the vision.

Well said.

I actually built an MVP for a "Kickstarter for Missionaries" crowdfunding project a couple years ago. I thought (and still do, to some degree), it could be a good way for churches and missionaries to get steady/predictable support (which has always been a problem for my friends who do it).

But, the same dilemmas exist. Figuring out a business model I was comfortable with seemed hard. And, like you said, the more open you are about other faiths/sects using your platform, the more likely you are to tick off hardline people.

Yes! I completely agree that there is some improvement possible here. There is a sense in which social networks in general have greatly helped the fund-raising process for missionaries.

I don't mean to seem unscrupulous, but the process of raising money for a missionary is not unlike what is done by a sales rep or a realtor: you have to keep yourself at the top of people's minds or the money dries up.

In that regard, software like facebook and even contactually are invaluable.

But, it seems to me, there's even more work to be done around custom platforms.

That said, how are you going to make money? Take 30% off the top? 10%? People (rightly) want to make their money go as directly as possible and so often won't even pay by credit card because you lose 3% in fees.

These platforms do cost money to run and not every church has someone on staff qualified to host an open-source solution. So if someone doesn't create hosted services that are financially viable, everyone loses out.

I also know several genuinely good people who desire to go to seminary but simply aren't able to take 3 years off of work (because they have families etc.). Of course you always have the risk of folks taking advantage of the system, but in the success / genuine / majority case, I feel that a kickstarter for people who want to do domestic ministry is a real need right now.

If anyone is interested in working on (and working through) these kinds of problems, drop me a line. My email is in my profile.

I think by offering a listing fee (maybe refundable if they don't meet their funding goals?) would be a viable/ethical approach here. Flat fees are as fair as it gets. Also, be sure to start with a church that isn't your own; if it doesn't work, it's not like the group of people you see every week (or however often you attend) will look at you any differently.

I'd be interested in working with you on this. I've thought a lot about a product like this and could sell it pretty easily to my existing customer base.

Drop me an email and we can chat (I didn't see your contact info in your profile).

I've been building out a similar MVP with church planting in mind rather than Missionaries, however I've had the thought that Missionaries could utilize the platform as well. I'm working with Several church planters and a Church planting network to validate the idea right now. I'd love to hear more about your findings and see how we might be able to help each other.

Interesting. A complete atheist would be best able to run a church software business dispassionately, but wouldn't grasp the problem domain as well as an adherent of the faith. Perhaps this is a great place for complementary co-founders.

That's not an assumption I'd make, actually (that they wouldn't grasp the problem domain) -- there are plenty of atheists who were born into religious families, but left the religion.

I doubt most of them would be comfortable launching a business that would exclusively support efforts to sustain and spread religion, though; I know I wouldn't.

Agree re. Stripe. YMMV but in Australia when people give to their Church via CC it is tax deductible.

In general, churches in Australia are not tax deductible.

Some of the activities they perform may be, but that requires a relatively complex separation of accounts where one "business" is deductible, but the other is not.

It can be done, but my experience is that most churches don't bother since the administrative burden exceeds the value.

I must admit to being ignorant of the specifics. My brother in law is a pastor, and he mentioned that he tithes/donates by CC because it is tax deductible. He used to teach accounting, so I am sure that he understands the system.

in the US, any giving to the church is tax deductible -- as long as the church documents it. This is why churches often have little envelopes that you can write your name on when giving cash.

Why are you not charging money for this?

At the very least, you should offer a hosted version of this (borrowing the wordpress.com/wordpress.org model would seem the best plan) so that non-technical churches could click a button and just have it magically spin up a website and start billing their card every month.

Seems a bit silly looking in from the outside that you'd spend seven years building something that's clearly worth selling, then refuse to sell it. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few "church.io hosting" businesses spring up within a week if you don't build that option yourself.

Glory to God! :-) It's just my passion. I really hope someone does build this as a slick hosted service. I don't do well dealing with customers :-)

I like this honesty. Do what you love. If you love writing code and not dealing with business and selling stuff then write code and don't go into business.

PS. Nice app.

It's lovely to see someone make something beautiful and useful for the sake of his own love and passion. We may not share the same love or passion but I admire your spirit.

Doing all of this based in your faith, conviction and altruism is admirable. you have my respect.

Why not just look for a partner? I'm sure you'd have plenty of takers. This thing is ready to start billing tomorrow by the looks of it. Then you would have more freedom to pursue your passions, while someone else deals with the customers for a percentage or whatever.

True... it's even set up to run multiple "sites" off the same instance of the app and database. But I have a day job I love and don't need this to be a commercial thing.

You could at least sign up for gittip or throw a btc/ltc/dodge address up there. I'm sure users who donate will feel just as good as you do when you donate your services. Either way, the app looks great. Keep up the good work.

I am sure you could donate to his church if you wanted too.

Does it come in Synagogue?

Jesus on Rails, Allah in Scala, God in Go.

I've read your other comments on this thread and I've got to tell you that I love your attitude and find you very inspirational! Thanks for showing off this app, it looks great...

I would give it away for free, and sell it. My process would be pretty simple. I would go to Guidestar and download the financials for the last three years(click free preview). If the church is legit, and not a moneymaker for a few select people they would get the software for free.

You are a good man--

reminds me of this quote

> Her smile tilted. “Mark, you don’t pay back your parents. You can’t. The debt you owe them gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It’s a sort of entailment. Or if you don’t have children of the body, it’s left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one.”

- from "A Civil Campagaign"(The Vorkosigan Saga Series) by Lois Bujold

you sir, you have my respect :)

Then can I suggest you find someone who can - otherwise one if us Atheists will host it and make money off your hard work ;-)

Seriously, a simple hosted package, a non-profit org and I think you could find you have built a vehicle for doing some good elsewhere.

I realize you may have been joking, but I wonder how most atheists and other nonreligious people here would feel about selling a product or service targeted specifically at religious people or churches. To me, it feels dirty, like I would be saying, "I know that religions are false and even harmful, but I'm going to milk those less enlightened believers for all they're worth."

What difference would it make? Religious institutions, writers, horse-traders, scuba divers - a market is a market.

If you go into any business harboring that level of disrespect for your customers then you're probably going to fail to provide a product they'll be willing to use. Although there is also an argument to be made for domain experience - if you're going to sell a service to religious groups wouldn't you be more likely to understand the market without having a bias against religion?

There is actually something to be said for not being personally/emotionally invested in the market you're in, it can help you to see things more objectively.

On the other hand, if you're emotionally invested in atheism, in the sense that you actively want to see religion gone (as opposed to just not believing as a personal choice), you're emotionally invested in religion by extension.

I've never heard "emotionally invested in atheism" mean "you actively want to see religion gone". In fact, I find that idea quite disrespectful. That's just as bad as a religious person trying to push their religious ideals onto you.

I know a large number of religious people who would consider themselves "emotionally invested in their religion" but I would never describe any of them as "actively wanting to see all other beliefs gone".


"New Atheism is a social and political movement in favour of atheism and secularism promoted by a collection of modern atheist writers who have advocated the view that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.""

This is actually startlingly true - it would make a lot of sense for someone to steal OP's idea and capitalize on it. I hope, however, that no one does. It's a great thing he's done.

Yeah, capitalizing on such an effort might spoil the fun but...

The code has been licensed under an Affero GPL v3 license so anybody using it in production must release any modifications done. So it's not really stealing the idea or the code, only the business model, which the OP apparently doesn't want to pursue anyway.

A non Affero license (or MIT, BSD, Apache) would have shut him off from his code (I can't decide if those using those licenses are masochists or just extremely kind). With this choice of the license the OP will get fixes and improvements and probably be happy with that. Furthermore he could be hired to do them, regardless of the license.

As an atheist, I would feel great about taking money, house keys, login passwords and encryption keys from religious people, to take care of their pets, servers, possessions and left behind loved ones after the rapture. http://www.aftertherapturepetcare.com/ http://eternal-earthbound-pets.com/

It's the religious people who are looking forward to rapture and armageddon who are the sick dirty ones: http://www.raptureready.com http://www.raptureready.com/faq/faq11.html http://rr-bb.com/showthread.php?73593-Our-God-of-Israel-is-a... http://rr-bb.com/showthread.php?162998-Every-mans-challenge-... http://rr-bb.com/showthread.php?194237-Need-To-Edit-My-quot-...

I have to say we are thinking of different definitions of religious.

Then what exactly is your definition of religious? Does it somehow exclude the hundreds of millions of Christians who believe in the rapture (41% of all Americans, 52% of Americans in the South)? If so, then that's some creative gerrymandering and I'd love to see your rationalization and sources!


By the year 2050, 41% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ definitely (23%) or probably (18%) will have returned to earth.


More Than 40 Percent of Americans Believe the Rapture Is Coming


How Many U.S. Christians Believe Christ's 'Second Coming' Will Happen Soon? More Than You May Think (SURVEY)


Hurry Up And Wait for the Rapture

In the South, a full 52 percent of those polled predicted that JC's return is imminent. Those figures come from a June 2010 poll from the Pew Research Center for People & the Press.


Think Only a Few Fools Believe in the Rapture? Think Again.

In other words, a substantial portion of the American public—more than 4 out of 10—disagrees with the May 21 Rapture freaks only with respect to the date and some of the details of Jesus’ return. Think of that stat the next time you’re assured by some liberal theologian that the arguments of contemporary atheists are directed against targets that no longer exist.

I remember media reporting a survey of children which "discovered" that a full 1/4 of children under the age of 12 had been involved with committing armed robbery in the UK.

There were some methodological flaws including asking children in groups what were their experiences of crime.

Turns out kids like to maintain social standing with over kids through exaggeration.

Who knew.

Yes there are morons out there who think God is personally going to save them first as they will be closest to the altar. But most of my problem with religion is not religion - it's lying and power grabbing and manipulation and deceit and murder and social entrapment and the inertia of crowds.

Religion corrals this behaviour but it's humans not religion that does it. If you want to convert others beware of your own motivations. They won't be different to those of religion. Because you aren't different. And that's my point.

Please don't pursue religious flamewars on HN.

I was definitely joking :-)

I guess it is the difference between selling a bad product with the intent of exploiting people and just selling a good product to a market one has little affinity with.

As an atheist I do not feel contempt or superiority with anyone religious - indeed most religious people I know I respect greatly for their integrity and community minded committment. (Most religious people whom I disrespect I would disrespect if they were atheists too - it is I guess "by their actions you will know them")

Put it a different way - this project looks like an excellent product / saas to sell to the Mosque and Synagogue market as well as Protestant Church market. I expect there are some hard coded assumptions that would need pulling out to a config file, but just as I see common behaviour between religions as decent, honest, community minded and "good" I think the common needs of decent honest community minded organisations seem to be met by this product.

As an atheist I would have no qualms selling this to different markets. I suspect however that the story behind this (7 years, Christian coder) is too good for one market and a disability in the others. Would be interesting to know.

Anyway, good luck and I still suggest partnering with a hustler to build a non-profit org to sell saas on the back of this

"To me, it feels dirty, like I would be saying." It would be quite a few orders of magnitude less immoral than how immoral some of us Athiests consider the institution of church and how they "use" their followers. (For info, look at some of the big church networks and churches)

But I have no moral qualms with it as long as no one is being scammed. If people knowingly want to part with their money, and you're not mis-representing things in order to convince them of it, then no amount of "moral" arguments will make what you're doing dirty or immoral. It's not up to you to make moral judgements about how other people wish to spend/throwaway their money.

> I'm going to milk those less enlightened believers for all they're worth.

Sounds like a job for the Church of Subgenius.

Good for you man. But just realize that sadly, many churches operate as businesses where the pastor and his family just pocket tithes for their lifestyle and build fancy LED signs instead of giving to the poor......

I know a lot of pastors, and none of them have lifestyles that stand out in their communities.

The inner city churches I know all have food banks, clothing banks, free hot meals, or similar programs. The churches I know in Utah set up safe houses for women and children fleeing polygamy.

If you're connected to a church that operates as a business with the pastor taking home the profits, time to find a different church.

Or be an agent for change from within.

Good luck changing the Church of Scientology from within. Or lecturing the Pope about preventing AIDS by distributing free condoms, for that matter.

I believe the current pope has gone on record saying that the Christian world pays more attention to sexual issues than is warranted, when compared to other issues that exist in the world. I'm not a Catholic, but am quite impressed with this guy so far.

You're awfully easy to impress, if only by the slight contrast to how absolutely evil, horrible and immoral the previous pope was.

Not even the current "liberal hippie pope" is having much success changing the Catholic Church from within, so what makes you think anyone who's not its most powerful leader could ever possibly have any success? Anyone claiming they haven't resigned from the Catholic Church in disgrace because they want to remain inside to be an "agent of change" is totally full of it, and guilty of perpetuating the problem.

Does it actually impress you that the current pope wasn't personally the architect and prosecutor of officially covering up and perpetuating all the terrible widespread sexual abuse systematically perpetrated by the Catholic Church, who wrote and enforced the official church policy of protecting priests who rape children, and excommunicating anyone who speaks out about it? http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/aug/17/religion.childp... http://thewe.cc/weplanet/news/europe/vatican/papal_evil.htm

If the pope's desire to cover up sexual abuse is what you mean by "paying more attention to sexual issues than is warranted", can you please justify why you think the Catholic Church should pay less attention to their longstanding issues of raping children and protecting the rapists from prosecution? And why you think it's a good thing that the current pope doesn't think it's such a big deal that requires much attention?

I see you're relatively new to Hacker News and may not have had time to fully grasp our culture. While I value the experience of those who remember usenet newsgroups, this is not usenet and we do not appreciate the same sort of posts as might have been popular there.

Having looked over your comment history, I believe you may need to reread the guidelines at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Take particular note of:

"Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face to face conversation."

"Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them."

Also note that you have already been asked to stop trolling by one of our moderators, dang, at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7644504 .

I think this is a common misconception. While I am sure there are outliers as with any normalized distribution, the mean salary for clergy is about $45k/yr (according to the US BLS).

yes, but you're not counting all those potluck dinners!

Churches, like people, are better understood in concrete instances than in abstract declarations.

In the past decade churches have moved towards explicitly having their books run by non-members. It takes away the temptation of members abusing funds, and makes the people in charge apply the normal amount of oversight on bookkeeping, instead of "he's one of us, he'd never steal."

PS I love the word bookkeeping and would love it even more if the "p" were doubled.

my dad was always fond of the word for someone who works under the main bookkeeper: subbookkeeper

>churches operate as businesses

In truth this seems to be the US mega-churches. Round here the pastors live a decent but modest life. Enough to raise a family not enough to buy a flashy car.

Some do, most don't.


Not that long ago, you participated in an HN poll that showed about 3/4 of the HN population do not believe in God. Yet this particular comment, and several of yours in this post, have been downmodded heavily. That suggests either that the religious types on HN are very well organized, or that even the non-religious types find these comments out of place. I suggest it is the latter.

You complained a few months ago about someone being rude, and said "Religious discrimination is no lesser than racism or sexism." Perhaps you should take your own advice to heart. Somebody here showed a project he's been working on which happens to be religious-focused. The right response is to discuss his software -- not to make discriminatory comments about religion. Notice that nobody has engaged in religious proselytizing in this thread except for you (in deleted comments). Nobody has tried to wedge in any sort of commentary about the truth of Christianity or any other religion except for you. Everybody else knows better.

Here on HN, we prefer for comments to have actual substance -- to say genuinely interesting things. There's a section of the guidelines that's explicit about flamewar topics (religion, politics): only introduce those topics if you have something genuinely new to say. The parent comment, as well as most of yours, are stale and boring. There's nothing genuinely new, nothing profound, nothing insightful, just anger. That may be appropriate for FaceBook, but not for Hacker News. Elevate the conversation.


This comment is unrelated to the topic and unhelpful.


via https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

"Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face to face conversation."

"Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them."

"Please don't bait other users by inviting them to downmod you."

While I don't think he needs to sell it, the hosted option is definitely something to look into. I saw the "Install in the Cloud" option and thought "Oh cool, they'll provision a DO droplet and install this for you!" Unfortunately any church that wants to use this is going to need someone technical enough to handle the installation themselves.

That said, it's open source - so anyone (including me!) is free to set this up.

edit: apparently at least someone is doing this: http://www.powerchurch.com/products/onebody/

  > I saw the "Install in the Cloud" option
  > ...
  > Unfortunately any church that wants to use this is going to need 
  > someone technical enough to handle the installation themselves.
I thought it would be awesome if that button would actually (eventually) result in setting up a droplet and installing the software for me. I think sandstorm[0] is going into that direction.

I guess one tricky part of such infrastructure would be maintenance. Optimally, a user could spin up a "church.io"-drop (or e.g. "smtp/imap stack + $antispam + mailpile"-drop) and never have to care about any updates. providers can offer subscriptions for regular (curated) updates of each "drop".

With such infrastructure in place, the curch-community could click said button, follow through some dialogs, enter a CC and 5 minutes later have their own instance + domain. timmorgan gets paid per install by the infrastructure provider (who profits on the long run through subscription-fees).

I think the concepts of unikernels and clive[1] fit well into this picture, by exposing a more concise resource/environment API to the developer and easing deployment (which would be a nice thing, even without the picture painted above).

[0] https://sandstorm.io/

[1] http://lsub.org/ls/clive.html

I strongly considered building on DigitalOcean API and doing some sort of pre-built image where I transfer it to the customer or something. I'm interested in Sandstorm -- will check it out!

Hey Tim,

Here's the Sandstorm demo: https://demo.sandstorm.io

The Sandstorm easy-port guide: https://github.com/sandstorm-io/sandstorm/wiki/Porting-Guide

And accompanying blog post: https://blog.sandstorm.io/news/2014-05-12-easy-port.html

Hope this helps!


Hey Tim, love your work on this. I started something called The Sunday Assembly - which is church for the not religious (though plenty of religious folk come too) - and we are in the process of building software which is so similar.

I also looked through the current offerings and thought the market was just not well served. It seems like a huge mistake on someone's part.

Do you have anyone using the software yet? I would be interested in finding out if we could. Super great work!

> Seems a bit silly looking in from the outside that you'd spend seven years building something that's clearly worth selling, then refuse to sell it.

Building something that fits your needs and releasing it to others as open source rather than setting up a business to sell it is, if "silly", a common form of silliness without which there wouldn't be much open source software at all.

There's nothing wrong with giving stuff away for free. Many small churches already have budget problems and phobia of change and technology.

But offering a completely optional hosted version is a good idea for churches with more money than technical prowess.

Vatican City the 18th wealthiest nation in the world per capita.

> Vatican City the 18th wealthiest nation in the world per capita.

Per capita stats for the State of Vatican City really don't tell much even about the wealth of the Catholic Church as a church. Its kind of live judging the wealth of the United States by dividing the assets of the federal treasury by the number of people who live in the White House and the US Naval Observatory.

The Vatican in no way represents the average. They're about as far an outlier as you're gonna find. The parent comment mentioned specifically small churches with low budget/tech-phobia as well.

right, but the small churches are franchises just like Taco Bell. They all belong to a bigger church.

"Why are you not charging money for this?"

Just because we're posting in a temple of Mammon doesn't mean everybody has to bow at that altar.

It it bowing at the altar of Mammon to have a career? (An honest question, as I'm not sure what your or Tim's take on that is.) I believe that there's room for being able to make a comfortable income out of something like this, without making the money the priority.

Tim could choose look at it not as "I'm getting rich!", and instead as "This is a way for me to sustainably build something I love and ensure that my users can get reliable updates, because I can do this for my career instead of working at {CompanyX}."

One could likely even charter it as a business where outside a regular salary, the remainder of any profits get donated back (or costs reduced).

It's __certainly__ more trouble than giving it away for free, as you'd need an accountant and worry about taxes. On the other hand, if this is a service that you feel every church deserves good access to if they want it, being able to work full-time on it might make it happen more easily.

As for the churches, I'm sure that many of them pay for services that they feel are worth it. Landscaping, maintenance, etc, are not always something that every church can do in-house, and this service sounds like it falls into the bin of "things people would pay for".

As well he could take the "expand my territory" bent implying that the more funds applied, the more churches could have this, the more churches that have this the better the 'kingdom of God' or whathaveyou

The screenshots look extremely polished. Good work! Is there anything specific that makes this a social network specially for churches? Maybe you should emphasize those points a little bit more? From 3 features listed in main page ("Directory", "Profiles" and "Groups"), only the screenshot for "Groups" contains something that makes me believe this is tailored at churches ("Prayer Request"). As I said you did a good job, just trying to give you constructive criticism :)

Groups is the main one, sure (it has "prayer requests"), but also attendance tracking, sync without outside church management systems, etc.

I probably should highlight more of that stuff on the site... thanks!

Great work Tim! Can you elaborate more on some things and see if I can use your app to replace some of our current tools?

My church as a whole is actually using http://www.churchcommunitybuilder.com/ as a directory and it's not that fun to use, although some ministries within the church are more effective with it than others.

I lead the digital video & post production team at my church and we are using a mix mash of Church Community Builder, Facebook group, Google mass email thread and an ugly spreadsheet to keep track of our volunteers attendance, schedule them and communicate the serving opportunities each week. How does the attendance tracking work in your app and would it work for something like this to track volunteers and schedule them to serve?

One reason we have not moved off the CCB platform yet is they have a built in way for the church body to easily send online tithes & donations. Do you have any plans to work that in to your app?

On a side note - I know Hillsong NYC is using this site http://get.planningcenteronline.com/ for scheduling & announcements, and https://pushpay.com/ for payments.

Thanks and again, great job with this!

I'm not very familiar with churchcommunitybuilder so I can't say.

As for scheduling volunteer and such, you should definitely check out Planning Center Services app (that's what I work on for my day job) - it is by far the best app for that sort of thing.

OneBody doesn't have any scheduling or giving stuff yet, sorry!

About the only thing OneBody might do for you in your situation would be to help with emailing all your volunteers. You could put them in separate "Groups" (per time, service, whatever) and then email that group at once. Then you could track attendance in that after the fact.

Attendance tracking is a thing? That sounds nightmarish!

It's used primarily by small groups that meet in homes or whatever - that way the church as a whole can engage with anyone who stops attending (sometimes sign of personal/life issues that the church should be there to help with).

Genuinely fascinated by this. Wouldn't the members of the small group notice that someone had stopped turning up and drop them a line?

Or does customer retention go up to corporate like a sort of Comcast "I want to cancel my contract" call?

Well, yes the small group itself should notice and act, but it's also nice to have an overall picture of the health of your small groups and class participation.

We have an "Involvement Minister" who watches churn rate so to speak, so hopefully he can help organize better/different small groups or help improve existing ones.

I don't know every conceivable reason why a church would track attendance, but one reason: churches that use / sing "cover songs" (i.e., not public domain, not original compositions) need to pay licensing for the songs, and one of the variables on how much the licensing costs is the average number of people in attendance.

[EDIT: https://us.ccli.com/licenses-and-services/church-copyright-l... ]

it is difficult. there are a few legitimate reasons and at least one questionable reason i can think of off the top of my head.

attendance tracking would be good for "care" ("hey - it's been a while, is everything ok?"), for decision-making ("we average 35 people at 8am but 400 at 10:30am, what should we do?").

unfortunately, i can also see it used to target "marketing" messages for donations.

At a guess it's probably tracking aggregate attendance, ie: 60 people were at this service. Like page views in google analytics.

That's pretty common in churches. Each Sunday school group will submit a number, and someone will count attendance during the main joined service. The totals will be published in the next week's bulletin, along with total contributions from the week and perhaps year-to-date contributions. Some churches even announce those attendance numbers and compare them to the same week one year ago.

As someone with a lot of experience in the nonprofit space, I should point out that you would be able to take this over to membership groups that aren't specifically churches very easily. There are companies in the space that sell products like this to associations for tens of thousands of dollars.

I realize your goals here are more altruistic in nature, and that's to be greatly respected, but it's certainly worth pointing out.

Very nicely done...http://church.io looks far better than any other option out there.

In this case, I believe you are the inspiration. Keep up the great work!

Even though I'm not religious, this really looks wonderful. I'd be happy to recommend it to church-going coworkers and friends.

Echoing zerokarmaleft, this time you are the inspiration.

I recently had to do some data model changes on a Rails app which I've had running for about 6 years, some notes here:


Church-related IT is an interesting challenge - not a lot of money to be spent, and what money there is usually gets directed towards tracking contributions. I was the IT guy for http://www.alexandriapres.org/ for a few years (mostly running backups and such) and we certainly had a grab bag of solutions to the problems that church.io is solving nicely.

Fellow PCA church sort-of IT guy here. Couldn't resist saying hi!


When I was IT guy at APC I called a bunch of local churches and talked to their IT folks. Was interesting to see all the variety. And of course McClean Pres was the most professional of the bunch, makes sense because they have like 25 people on staff, they have a campus of buildings to maintain, etc.

Tim, you should check out the folks at http://get.planningcenteronline.com, they make RoR hosted church applications and seem like kindred spirits.

Hehe! I work for Planning Center! Our team is absolutely awesome, and the fact that they let me work on this stuff in my spare time is really neat.

Tim, this is a great job! I was particularly interested because I'm working on a platform for uniting communities, including Churches. In fact one of our business developers is part of a megachurch, so we are hoping to have a very large community as a beta partner.

Reach out to me if you'd like to discuss ideas back and forth -- we might be able to help you, and you might be able to help us.

About charging or not charging, I would say this ... even open source projects need resources to attract others to the community, and especially to gain adoption. You still have to do sales in Churches, and market to them. Churches, just like other organizations, are run by people who are averse to just trying anything they come across, and you need to have a good onboarding process.

In any case, if interested, you'll find my email at http://qbix.com/about (I'm Greg on there)

I've been talking to leaders in my church about the need for better organization and communication. I'll definitely check this out for our purposes. Thanks for posting it!

I just wanted to say that I've been following your work for a while now. I find it really fascinating! You've got a really active niche (if you can really even call it that!) and an interesting, polished, open-source project. Also, you seem to really care about design, which is an unfortunate rarity in the FLOSS world.

I agree with the folks saying you should start a SaSS service. Even if it's extremely un-optimized (e.g. you spin up a new EC2 instance per-order), I think many, many churches would be interested. Hosting is a huge liability, time-sink, and all-around pain in the ass, and I think you'd do well enough to at cover your costs (at the very least!)

Well done, sir. I've always thought something like this was needed. Paid products are fine, but why not open source if a person or crew wants to take the time to build it with the polish required to pull it off? Well, you built it and it looks awesome.

Plus it's refreshing to see something seven years in the making and testing posted here. News and speculation are always interesting, but this project has some weight to it. Thanks for posting.

I've been asked last month to rebuild my church website. I'm going to show them this and get their feedback on utilising it, it looks amazing!

OneBody is really more for your "members only" area of the site, not the visitor-focused website. I recommend Wordpress for that :-)

The guy at www.midwesternmac.com has something like that, for Catholic, and also specifically Jesuit organizations.

This is great, not many people stick with something for that long. I will recommend to a friend.

Nice UI and a comprehensive app. Congratulations on a job well done!

My only thought is that small to mid-sized churches may not have a Rails specialist, so a hosted option would probably be very popular.

I highly doubt many large churches have Rails specialists either..

Tim, you built something amazing. It looks beautiful! Thank you.

Awesome tim. I remember seeing this for the first time when I attended the Tulsa Ruby group. The one and only time I went to that particular meetup group ;-P

Steve! Yeah that seems like a long time ago...

Hope you are well!

Very nice. I've been asked for church directory software recommendations more than once, and this is much better than other software I've seen.

Congrats Tim -- you truly are a software evangelist!

Do you have any idea how many churches currently use the software? Are many of them based in Tulsa?

Probably < 10, but it's hard to know. The software (older version) has been open source for a long time and I've had dozens of people interested in it in the past.

I should have installed a tracking pixel or something ;-)

Hello from Malaysia! Thanks for the amazing effort and perseverance! We shall see if my church is interested!

Very nice, not something for me, but I have passed the link onto relatives who are involved in churches.

Beautiful work! Thanks Tim. That's quite a gift to release something like this.

Really awesome work! Looks very polished and thorough.

Very well done. Kudos!

> Being specifically church software, it might not find much of an audience here on HN

After a huge pile of upvotes and comments, do you still want to believe that HN has some kind of anti-Christian bias?

Oh, I didn't mean at all that HN is anti-Christian. I just didn't think that church software (a very specific niche) was all that interesting to the HN crowd. I'm very pleased with all the support!

That's how I read it, FWIW.

OTOH, you can look at it this way - 'self hosted social network for X' is the sort of thing the HN crowd seems to enjoy - and you're just a relatively unusual value of X :)

If you can make money with it, people at HN will love it.

This is really nicely done. My parish seems really fond of phone services like CallingPost; you might be able to do some integration with Twilio to annoy other church people the same way. :)

You might also consider an explicit obit feature, along with explicit features for weddings and baptisms, since those are the big "out of process" services (at least in Catholic churches) that need announcements.

At Twilio, managing the Twilio.org program, I get inquires from churches looking to do just this - sms notifications for events, youth groups, etc.

This is a stellar app Tim, congrats!

Beautiful UI! Let me bring attention to one thing that's a bit tangential - I see that you have a "church directory" function. Please make sure that proper privacy settings are in place and people are prompted to opt in rather than are opted in by default. Especially in this case, registers for places of worship have been historically used to target minorities for their associations, nationalities and beliefs. Not saying this would happen in the US anytime soon, but better safe than sorry in my humble opinion.

This is really nice, I've often wondered about the dearth of such things every time I look at a church website.

In the Catholic churches in my area, the company that prints the paper bulletin appears to also have something to do with the web hosting as well. I think many of them just go with that and slap something up there.

Have you thought about actually using it to build a full-blown SaaS offering that churches can subscribe to? Similar to the WordPress model? There are a ton of Churches who probably would have someone who can set up a website, but not necessarily do the whole Digital Ocean VPS thing. I haven't explored this space, but I'd bet this is one of the nicest looking things like this out there.

Yeah I understand 80%+ of churches probably won't bother to try to install something like this. I'll just be happy if anyone can get some use out of it, as it makes me happy to share.

I would LOVE for someone to offer hosted OneBody -- I just can't do it because I have a day job and really dislike typical customer support. (Love helping other tech people and hackers, but am really bad at being patient with "customers".)

Maybe you could find someone to integrate it into Sandstorm: https://sandstorm.io/

Thanks for letting us know about such a thing!

So, what exactly does Sandstorm do for me? Does it turn web applications into SaaS with individual instances of software per user without the user having to install it on their own hosting themselves? But there's a price to pay for that: each application has to be specifically ported to work with Sandstorm. Right? Where is the catalog of currently ported apps, then?

The idea is that each user has their own Sandstorm instance and can install web apps on it through a web interface, like installing apps on a phone or desktop. Be sure to try the demo -- it takes 30 seconds: https://demo.sandstorm.io

Apps require a little bit of porting, but not much. Sandstorm implements a native-code sandbox, so it can run any tech stack that works on Linux (no need to rewrite in a new language). The main things you have to do to "port" an app are:

* Packaging (gathering dependencies, specifying metadata).

* Removing your authentication/authorization systems and relying on Sandstorm's instead.

* If your app communicates with the outside world or publishes public web content, it has to use the APIs for that, since by default apps are isolated for security reasons.

There's some (work-in-progress) docs about how to port on the wiki: https://github.com/sandstorm-io/sandstorm/wiki

The current catalog is at: https://sandstorm.io/apps/

Generally Sandstorm is meant for apps that deal with a single user's personal data and which act in federation with other users' personal servers. It can also work for data owned by a small group, but generally won't work well for anything that needs multiple machines' worth of resources (we'll support that eventually; it's just not the main focus right now).

Sandstorm is currently in alpha testing, with a first production-quality release expected early next year. We're also running a crowdfunding campaign: http://igg.me/at/sandstorm

Cool! I wasn't aware of Sandstorm... will check it out!

Great work! I've got a RoR church scheduling system I've been hacking on for 4 years off and on (mostly off). In a weird twist of fate, we've used the exact same bootstrap template, although I colored mine purple. Going to have to look into integrating my system into your software, since you've got some abstractions and models that I need but have not yet implemented (families, for one).

That would be awesome!!! I've been thinking about adding some scheduling stuff, so that could be a great pairing!

Excellent, inspiration for me to finish it. I've been working on abstracting/gemifying most of it lately, specifically for integrating it into other projects, so this is perfect. Not yet on Github. Thanks again for making your stuff public.

And that right there is what I love about open source :)

This is the most unlikely but deserving post to spend all day atop HN. Great, great piece of software, deserving market, it's just great. Our company was originally started to serve my co-founders church as well believe it or not (the church was worried that credit card fees were usurious and so he tried to build a solution). I hope you do commercialize it purely because it will spread and serve more people that way - doesn't mean you need to try to make a lot of money on it, but some level of commercializing helps sustain and spread a project like this.

I'm a pastor, and I'm technical, and I think I may just have found the Church Directory software we've been looking for! Thank you!

I myself am not blessed with the gift of faith, and I don't particularly enjoy Rails, but I greatly appreciate your making your very mature passion project available to one and all. Very impressive!

I enjoyed: "It's like a cross between Facebook, Google Groups, and SharePoint, but it's completely free and open source and awesome." I especially like that it's awesome in addition to being completely free and open source, rather than _ just because_ it's free and open source.

> true # everyone can read bible verses!

must be my favourite code comment ever. :)


No love for the Apocrypha though it seems ;-). Not being Catholic, I don't know how much teaching is done out of those books, but this might reach a larger audience if the books to show were configurable.

OneBody is powered by another of my projects http://bible-api.com (https://github.com/seven1m/bible_api), which just needs a little bit of code to return verses from the Apocrypha. If there's interest, I'd be willing to make it happen or show someone where to get started!

Part of the trick is that verses are numbered differently, for example, the Psalms. And Catholic Bibles have more chapters in Daniel and I think Esther. An API that would allow people to match verses across the two types of Bibles would have to have some kind of durable primary key for each verse in addition to its nominal address.

Ahh, I wasn't aware. I imported the World English Bible XML directly. I'll need to investigate more...

do you have the book of mormon available on that api?

I'm guessing you're an LDS? I've always wondered if the church will release an API of sorts.. It would be nice to use for apps and who knows what else. A lot of the URLs on lds.org are quite SES/nicely formatted already, e.g. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1973/10/behold-thy-mo..., and if they just added the option to return it in a different data format like JSON that'd be neat. ;)

Unless something has changed in the last 3 years, which knowing the internal systems of the LDS Church it is highly unlikely anything has changed, there will not be a JSON feed for the Book of Mormon anytime soon. They store all of the scriptures in proprietary XML formats inside of a large XML data store called MarkLogic. Although they could transform them into JSON, I just don't see them making that a priority.

However, I will also note that the Book of Mormon itself is no longer under copyright. The footnotes, indexes and chapter summaries are copyright protected but the book itself is not. So, really, it wouldn't be particularly hard to make a Book of Mormon rest api.

Fair enough. The Java/XML/.. technologies do seem to be the current favourite for all the projects publicly shown at tech.lds.org.

Thanks! The authorization stuff expects that method to be there, so just return true! :-)

This looks very nice. I'm the technology director for a Catholic college prep school and we have been wanting to put up an online alumni directory, but the commercial packages we've seen are too expensive for our small school. I'm thinking your software could be adapted for that purpose, so I will show it to the lady who runs our web site and see if we can use it. Thanks for sharing your work with the world!

Check out http://www.alum.ni/ if you haven't already, built for alumni groups.


Nice app! Good to know there are other Christians here in HN. :P I've always thought about building something similar. Maybe I'll contribute, but my Rails skills is quite lacking (read: non-existant, I'm a C# guy)

Why can't a church use a general purpose social network framework? How are the constraints/feature-needs different for a non-church group?

I'm asking from a place of honest curiously. Could a non-religious community group use this? Could a church get by with a social networking tool built for non-religious groups?

Non-technical people aren't like technical people. They don't look at general-purpose software and think "hey, that's for me!" They look at general-purpose software and think "if that was for me, it would say so on the box."

For this reason, software that is specifically targeted and marketed into a niche/vertical will usually get more traction in that vertical than a general-purpose alternative, even if both have the exact same feature set. (Or even, in many cases, if the general-purpose alternative has more features.) People need that little push of being explicitly told that the software is right for them.

Yes. Why buy a "vehicle" when you specifically need a "pickup truck."

I am a big fan of this comment - nice summary of the issue.

There are plenty of niche social networks out there. I don't see why having one for churches needs special justification.

That being said, being a churchgoer is a very distinct social experience. The types of relationships, the need to moderate at times, the sensitivity of some conversations, etc. It makes a lot of sense to me that you'd have a specialized tool for that experience.

No reason that I can think of!

OneBody was birthed out of a church, so it's niche has always been that. There were no customer research or market position analysis here - just plain ol' scratching an itch!

Looks really nice, congratulations!

I'd second the question in the form of a recommendation. From what I see in the screenshots, it seems like fairly minimal changes would also allow you to also pitch a variant of this as a tool for user groups, non-Christian congregations, and other such communities. Very nice looking tool!

I remember using this years ago to build out a private social network for a fraternal organization. It works very well even for non-monastic purposes!

Awesome! It is true one could turn off and/or rip out the handful of church-focused features and it would stand as a fairly good member directory and private social network for close knit communities.


This is great! Are you aware of The City (http://onthecity.org)? Many churches pay $100/month or more for their similar, hosted solution.

I help administrate an instance of The City for my church, and it definitely is expensive and cumbersome. This FOSS solution looks like an awesome alternative, but is missing a few features of The City that would be hard to replace, like online giving, and childcare security (check-in, nametags, etc).

Yeah we don't have online giving.

Check-in is being beta tested at my church though, so be on the lookout for that in the next version :-)

Have you got a demo site where somebody who's interested can log in and play around with its features? Two feature questions I can't answer by looking at the screenshots: (1) Does it have a way to highlight "Mass times" (or whatever), or is that just thrown into a general calendar with all the other events? (2) Does it have any way for the pastor to post messages to the front page in a prominent way, or is his user account just another user account?

It looks outstanding -- keeping my eye on it.

I put up a demo several hours after this comment. If you're still interested, you can find this on the http://church.io website.

1. As for service times, the software doesn't really have any calendaring feature at the moment. Besides, that seems like maybe something that would go on the main church website (this is meant more as a private "members only" area).

2. Anyone can post news on the site (or you can restrict to only admins).

This looks simply fantastic. You clearly put a lot of thought into making it accessible to the non-technical user which means you really know the audience.

Kudos to you on taking a passion project and turning it into something wonderful and sharing it with the world!

(I'm also glad to see so much positivity in a thread that could have gotten gunked up. Just because something isn't your thing doesn't mean you can't appreciate a craft)

This is great stuff, how do you "market" it? There are generally not a ton of tech people at smaller churches and then at the larger/mega churches, they have entire teams, which IME, love vendor software vs roll your own.

Yeah I have no clue!! I'm struggling to find good places to announce this or generally make it known.

CITRT (Church IT Roundtable) is a huge community of IT folks which seem to also include some devs, but I really don't know any other good places.

Most of the commercial church software do heavy adword buys and sponsor church magazines and blogs and such. I have no means to do that :(

I just posted it to /r/Christianity for you: http://www.reddit.com/r/Christianity/comments/2bp1k8/onebody...

You could probably talk to the mods and get it as a permalink on the sidebar. Quite a few pastors/bishops/other church leaders hang out there.

Awesome, thanks!!!

You should think of trying to setup at some denominational conventions if you're around a metro area with conference space. Having a simple table with some literature (even if it's just a single black and white sheet) would get it in front of people.

Great advice. I just have to get over my introvert hacker tendencies haha.

Our church has members from age 0 to 80. Some of the oldest members have never used a computer, but we'd want to include their pictures in a photo directory. Does this software support adding pictures on behalf of someone? Can you designate "editors" or some lower-level admin ability for that?

Yes, there is support for Admin users who can manage the entire system, or just part of it, depending on the permissions given.

"You can see lots of screenshots here." - Amazing how many people forget to do that. Good stuff.

This looks very nice. Maybe an Events feature? Maybe a backend admin type thing that can track offerings people are making, and then also a way to make an offering through the site if you can't make it into church that week.

Really nice though, great work!

Great work! I've been watching from the sidelines, and I'm glad you finally had a big public launch! OneBody looks really good from the screenshots.

I started http://www.churchmint.com over 2 years ago, and I have not made any progress for a while now. Seeing your success and all these positive comments though has encouraged me quite a bit. There are still a lot of churches out there that are severely under-served by technology. Kudos to you for using your skills for the kingdom and donating your time to a good cause!

Really cool stuff. My mother's church would benefit from using this kind of software. They are a pretty disorganized.

I like seeing labor of love side projects actually turn into something cool and useful.

Just for your information. There's is a simliar tool from Germany in german: http://www.churchtools.de/

This software looks great. I've actually looked at this before, but for a different reason. This is a space sorely lacking in options.

My amateur radio club has no coherent roster. We've got a couple people volunteering time to take all the application forms at our secretary's house and put them into a spreadsheet. But I also have spent some time looking to setup an open source club membership roster online. I even started working on a flask application, but don't really have the time to bring it to completion.

In my search I found various things revolving around subscription management and a lot of offline club roster type stuff, but nothing that really fit the bill. Most members pay their membership dues in cash, and we'd also like to denote officers of the club.

My goal was that we could add members contact information in directly. If they had an email, then they would be able to use that to login. Alternatively, members could go on the site and register themselves, with a club officer validating and activating their account. Members can update their contact information at any time. Club officers can record membership dues and when the current membership expires. While a nice option, we're not really concerned with an ability to pay online or not.

There should be privacy checkboxes: share my contact information with club members, share my contact information with with ARES (a 3rd party organization the club is affiliated with and most members are also members of).

Finally, members that are authorized should be able to download a roster of members (which is really the whole point).

I'm a complete Rails noob, can anybody help me understand why after installing this my app shows up without any formatting? http://imgur.com/pQ8wOdG

I did notice that there was a Warning regarding different versions of libxml used for Nekogiri:

$ RAILS_ENV=production rake db:migrate WARNING: Nokogiri was built against LibXML version 2.8.0, but has dynamically loaded 2.7.8

Depends on how you installed it... if you're running on your local computer, then it sounds like you're running in "production" mode without first compiling assets with `rake assets:precompile`. (See http://guides.rubyonrails.org/asset_pipeline.html for some more info.)

Or just run it in development mode with `rails server`.

Sorry I didn't mention it, I followed the wiki install which sets up the production environment. Just noticed after seeing your post that there are pretty simple instructions for the development setup, if I just kept looking past the wiki link.

I ran it in development mode first with the only hitch being I needed to re-run the mysql user/table creation with _dev, but once I did that the development started up flawlessly on localhost:3000. I then went back to the apache/production server and suddenly it looks a lot better, but I still have some missing images (FATALs in log for GETing assets still?).

I'm still confused about how to point my rails server to production instead of development, but I'm completely satisfied that it is working perfectly with rails in development mode. Here's a screenshot showing the images missing on my production/apache/passenger setup:


Concerning installing, you might want to try out Omnibus (https://github.com/opscode/omnibus). We've used it successfully to create a full-stack installer for our Rails project, Codem. See https://github.com/madebyhiro/codem-install.

This looks fantastic. Truly a great app here if it works as well as it looks.

If anything, I think you might be targeting too small of an audience with this. While I realize there's no incentive for you to make this change, I could easily see someone forking this and using it for any large-ish group of people united under any purpose, such as a PTA or soccer league.

I know little about this kind of software, but a local church uses this site like it provides similar functionality?: http://www.onthecity.org/

Have you compared your project to this company's offering at all? I'm just wondering if they are even similar.

It looks like the same type of software, give or take a feature or two or my opinion that OneBody looks way better than onthecity.com. The difference is that OneBody (or Church.io) is free and open source. OnTheCity is a SAAS which starts at $85 - $388 (or more) per month depending on the size of the church. This doesn't even include a "setup fee" which for some reason ranges from $99 - $499 (or more) depending on the size of the church.

The site looks really nice and polished. I just passed it along to a coworker who handles most of the IT for his church. I know he has been kicking around the idea of spinning up an online directory and some social networking aspects for a while. You may have just saved him a lot of time!

Wow, this solves _so many problems_ for me! I was dreading having to hack together some ugly CRUD solution for my own church's directory-management needs. Thank you so much for doing a wonderful job working on this over the years, and creating an open source solution to boot!

Very neat. I think that with some slight tweaks this could be very applicable to home owners associations. This model could also be offered as a hosted version like someone else commented.

(not that I really like HOA's all that much)

For what it's worth there is a similar social networking site already out there with a lot of traction: nextdoor.com

One thing I noted, (which I think is really awesome), is how you outline on the main Github page how to contribute and fix bugs. this kind of thing is really helpful in getting people to participate in open source.

Thanks for sharing this. I am going to ask my church if they would be interested in using it. I could easily spin this up on a PaaS and get it up and running. Really neat and original software, kudos man.

What if my church is called a mosque?

The software is definitely Christian church focused because that's where we first built it, but no reason it couldn't be adapted for other uses!

I was more interested in your personal feelings about it, since the license doesn't forbid this scenario. I'm glad you have positive attitude toward it. Great work, Tim, thank you for it! Although I'm personally long lost for any church or shrine, I'm glad that local communities now have one more good tool to cooperate.

Your point is well-made. Language is very important on religious websites. My church used an online directory from a commercial provider which had fairly obvious opinions about the appropriate mix of genders in a family. Their opinion was directly opposite that of our congregations and ultimately we dropped the system in favor of another.

Fork and run sed - such is the beauty of OSS.

I just sent this a non-technical friend whose 'church is called a mosque'. I'm sure he'd be able to figure this out and I'm sure you could too.

No need to be disingenuous.

It's a hypothetical question. Don't be hasty.

From a quick glance, the software - while being marketed as one for churches - isn't really religious. Accounts, profiles, timeline, photos, directories, attendance tracking - that's generic stuff not specific to churches. And verses are - technically - just articles.

From a quick glance it seems it could be fairly easily adapted for use even by non-religious organizations (say, clubs) with mostly basic UI text editing, so possibility of use by mosques seems even more trivial.

You could upgrade it with an internationalization language and convert Christianese to Islamicist language .

Or a temple, synagogue, cathedral, monastery, abbey, tabernacle, or center?

"Church" is just the generic English word for "place of worship".

>>"Church" is just the generic English word for "place of worship".

It definitely is not. I have no idea where you even came up with this.

Heck, there are even groups of Christians who object to the use of the word "church" to mean place of worship.


"Church" definitely is the generic English word for place of (particularly, Christian) worship (or, similarly, for the actual worship services), largely as the result of it being the word used by the religious groups that were dominant throughout the entire evolution of modern English for their places of worship.

Yes, there are certain groups that object to that for etymological reasons because "church" also is the English word for the body of believers, and who don't use the word that way, but that doesn't make it any less a normal (and, in fact, the primary) meaning the word has in English.

Saying that "church" can refer to other religions places of worship is like saying that "coke" can refer to other cost-drinks besides coca-cola.

I've lived in upstate NY, Maine, and Boston my whole life and I've never heard anyone use "church" to refer to any non-Christian place of worship.

I grew up in the south where this is a pretty standard exchange at a restaurant:

"I'd like a coke." "What kind?" "Pepsi"

Right. Thats my point.

Here's an example of it used in the specific (rather than generic) sense for a particular non-Christian place of worship, by the people that run that place of worship, the "Church of Scientology of Sacramento".


>>"Church" definitely is the generic English word for place of (particularly, Christian) worship

Not particularly. Only. As in, the word "church" only refers to Christian places of worship.

Honestly it is pretty bizarre that you and tptacek are claiming otherwise. Maybe we're talking past each other. I just don't know any Muslims who say "I'm going to the church tomorrow," or any Buddhists say "I was at the church yesterday". I also don't know of any Christians who refer to synagogues as "churches."

Now, if you are saying that "church" means any Christian place of worship - as in, people don't differentiate between church and cathedral, which are different things - then yes, I can agree with that. But that's not how I read your comments.

> As in, the word "church" only refers to Christian places of worship.

That's not correct; e.g., the first definition from the full definitions at m-w.com is "a building for public and especially Christian worship".

In practice, there is more to it than that -- its not uncommon to be used generically and inclusively for place of worship, but you'd never (except through ignorance) use it for a specific place of worship except consistently with the usage of the group for whom it is a place of worship. (But the groups who use it specifically for their places of worhsip is also not the same as "Christian" -- it includes many, but not all, Christian groups as well as some, mostly newer, non-Christian groups.)

More relevant to the thread: the use of "church" doesn't seem to be about a place of worship, anyway, its about a body of believers, which is a use of the term which is somewhat less divisive, though still has the same generic for unspecified religions (though "congregation" would probably be better) and specific for some, mostly Christian, religions. So, its not an unreasonable single-word term to use in explaining the function of a generic product, though the complexities of the use and the emotional attachment that goes with naming issues around religion may make it problematic. Though, really, the name ("OneBody") of the product is far more of a specifically Christian reference than the word "church" in its description of purpose.

> Now, if you are saying that "church" means any Christian place of worship - as in, people don't differentiate between church and cathedral, which are different things

Well, this is far off the point of even this subthread, but the set of cathedrals is a proper subset of the set of churches in the way both terms are used by most groups that use the former term at all. That is a cathedral is a church that is also the seat of a bishop. So even outside of the generic sense, its proper to refer to a cathedral as a church.

If both sides of this debate are in some way correct, it's clear that the "church is a Christian term" side of the debate is more correct, so if just getting that on the table and stipulating it to be true ends an unproductive discussion: it is so stipulated.

> the word "church" only refers to Christian places of worship

In general, yes, but...

1. In protestant nomenclature, the Church (capitalization important) is the collection of all believers worldwide and a church (lower case) refers to a particular body of believers. A church may also colloquially refer to the building where a church (body) holds its weekly service, but some denominations use alternate words to purposefully make the distinction: meeting house, worship center, etc. Also, many larger churches in urban areas meet in several buildings simultaneously but still identify in one church. At any rate "church" has at least three distinct meanings in Christian usage alone.

2. There are non-Christian "churches" (again, sometimes colloquially): atheist, universalist, Mormon (might or might not count depending on who you ask), etc. No, Muslims and Buddhists don't "go to church", but many other religious groups do.

I agree, unless specifically qualified otherwise (such as "the church of the giant spaghetti monster" or "church of scientology") I would assume that the word church relates to a Christian place or group or one one of the many off-shoots (and a quick check of a dictionary seems to support that).


> there are even groups of Christians who object to

That proves nothing though. For any X you can find a group calling themselves Christian who strongly object to X, many Christians think they "own" the word and concept of marriage and have the right to define exactly what it means, and so forth...

I don't think any non-Christian in the United States would agree with this.

Not that there's anything wrong with sticking to a particular audience.

One of the largest synagogues in Chicago asks people to contact its "church representative" to place advertising in its bulletin.

You're much more right than I am, though. Certainly, non-Christian faiths in the US don't use the term "church" by default.

In the same sense that "Caucasian" is just the generic English word for "human being", and "heterosexual" is just the generic English word for "acceptable lifestyle".

Quick question: have you thought about porting this to sandstorm.io? Having a one-click "app-like" install would help out many less-technical church folks.

I looked at Sandstorm, but it seems it's in "closed alpha" - how do you recommend I use it?

Only our hosting service is in closed alpha. The source code is all open (https://github.com/sandstorm-io/sandstorm) and there's an easy installer script (though it requires a Linux machine), so you can start hacking any time. :)

I'm sure Kenton, who has commented eksewhere, can send you an invite.

Although targeted at churches, your application is essentially a mini as of isle network, and would thus be a very interesting test case for sandstorm.

Looks great! A few years back I built a hosted product similar to this. It was only focused on groups within a church. This looks like it has a whole lot more to it.

Looks cool. Maybe you should change the name so it's not just focused on churches? Non-"church" denominations and organizations could use it as well.

Or branch out several personalized versions for each faith/denomination.

Yea, maybe I'll try one.

I don't understand what does the software do. It is a "group manager" for churches? Something like Facebook Groups or many others of the same kind?

I really liked the aspect of the app and that it was built, because I really think group management and group data is an issue, but WHY is it a problem when there exists Facebook Groups, email groups and lots of other solutions?

Is church directory a totally different domain? Have I understood everything wrong?

Yeah, I suspect a lot of churches could just get by with Facebook Groups and be happy.

For our church, however, finding/begging people to join Facebook was a problem, and some people have privacy concerns, so having our own private social network has been successful.

We had the same thing at Sunday Assembly. Some folk don't want to have their privacy revealed on FB. Also, it doesn't have great events functionality so that attendees can create their own events.

Looks good. One positive benefit I can see from churches using this is that they won't have to force their members to join Facebook to stay connected.

It looks very, very pretty and user friendly. I can think up ideas, and imagine certain tasks and features, but I can NEVER make an inviting and warm UI.

Surprised about the community response in this thread that is silencing and claiming inappropriateness of criticism. It is strange to see here the glorification of the technological augmentation/support of a most insidious form of marketing -- religion. And this is for a community that slams marketing and advertising as often as it has an opportunity.

Great work! This is really cool! My church currently doesn't have a system like this, but is definitely heading this way.

Any chance to change the license to MIT?

No, sorry. AGPL still allows a company to provide a hosted commercial service (which I encourage), while also ensuring said company doesn't keep improvements to themselves.

You are awesome!

Beautifully done. Thanks for selflessly putting all the code online as an excellent use of RoR.

Hah, I'm using the same admin template for a project that I'm working on right now. :)

What admin template is that, please?

It was refreshing to see something like this on HN. I'll have to look into it. Thanks!

Love it, looks really nice! Can't believe you stuck with it for 7 years! Great job.

This is great work. I agree, the state of church software is absolutely appalling.

I am so impressed with your consistency over the years. Kudos and best of luck.

I think you have done a very nice job with the design and clean user interface.

I haven't dug into it yet, but that UI is really lovely. Really nice work.

Thanks mostly to the MIT licensed (and awesome!) AdminLTE template. http://almsaeedstudio.com/AdminLTE/

I really can't thank that guy enough!

This is a really nice looking UI. Thanks, I'll look into using it on some upcoming projects.

Have you are thought about making this project MIT licensed?

Is a good software, I'm sure, but 500 points? Is this some sort of communal self-assurance humble-brag about being accepting of "religious software"? Or does everyone just really love ruby CMSs?

I dunno about you, but in a forum where most of the discussion typically centers around fad-driven, closed source products that pivot every fifteen seconds, I find it kind of refreshing to see us talking about a product that 1) someone's been working on for seven years, 2) is clearly aimed at an established, recognizable audience other than "Bay Area techies", and 3) is open source.

I know you got a lot of downvotes, but made me chuckle with the part about everyone just loving ruby CMSs. :)

Honestly though, I think it's a combination of a few things. First, Christians (and other religious people) are used to being bashed on HN and other similar sites, so I'm sure they (which includes me) would find it cool to see a positive post on religion and upvote it. Second, I'm sure some non-religious people thought it was a good piece of software and good work. And third, I'm sure some non-religious people felt good about themselves for upvoting this (as you mentioned in your comment).

Did you look at it? It's really nice work. That's why I upvoted it. I don't think we have to reach psychoanalysis to see why this is doing so well.

Hey, point taken - agreed, I don't mean to belittle the work in any way. The dedication to stick with a project that long (and do a nice job on it) is something I definitely admire. I haven't run the software or browsed the code, so I can't speak to the technical merits of it, but again , it looks great. And I don't think we should underestimate the enormous amount of time and effort it takes to make something like this.

However, I don't think a little bit of self/community introspection about its popularity would hurt. Might learn an important lesson or two.

Broadly, I haven't figured out when criticism/cynicism (if you want to call it that) is or is not beneficial. You and I would probably concur that modern culture is all to quick to tear down the good and pure with cynic blasts. Yet criticism at even seemingly happy things, like the upvoting of this post, can be beneficial.

We are techies here, we know someone could pack WordPress with a couple of plugins, stamp some theme and call it ChurchPress and it would be way faster, safer and more extensible than this. So yeah, 640 points do seems a bit ridiculous, and is going to reach 1000 without doubt, meaning hn crowd find this article just as relevant as snowden prime revelations.

I disagree and further would be concerned that a comment like this says more about you professionally than it does about the software we're discussing, somewhere in the vein of "Stack Overflow? Weekend Project".

It's important to note that what to put into a project like this (ie, requirements) is at least as important as the technical aspects. Part of the reason for the massive upvotes is the software has most of the right features for the job, which is actually quite rare in this arena.

Yeah, I know right? This is crazy. I surely didn't expect this kind of support! Thanks guys!

What exactly makes it specific to churches and not organizations in general?

It has a handful of Christian church-specific features, such as personal "Testimony", bible verse sharing, attendance tracking, etc. If one were to take those features away, it would work for any close-knit community.

Also, you could then monitor which events people go to, to see which ones lead to the most conversions, then optimise these. I'm really excited by using data to make our Assemblies more effective (though we don't have as clean a metric as baptisms!).

It takes 1GB to run? dude I might have to port this to node

Yeah, with Rails + MySQL, 1GB is best in my experience.

I bet someone could tune it all to run in 512 MB, but for me, the difference in money isn't worth the extra effort.

I'm not really sure how one would "port" a Rails app to a Node app -- the layout of the app and libraries you'd need would be completely different.

I've built several small apps in Node.js and Express, and I have to say, debugging Node.js code is way harder than Ruby.

If you do decide to build something, please let me know! I'd be interested in following your work.

Really slick! I want to get in on the development of this!!

Wow, that looks like some quality stuff. Nice work.

This is great news! Keep up the good work.

Thanks plenty for releasing this!

Impressive. I might use it!

What a cool idea! Great job :)

Nice work, this is awesome.

This. is. awesome.



The majority of the downvotes you received almost certainly came from atheists, given the demographics of HN. You got downvoted because you wrote an uncivil and unproductive comment of a form the guidelines for "Show HN" explicitly ask you not to write; in other words, you got downvoted for writing like a jerk. Don't do that.

For the record, I did not downvote. Curious if you had a bad experience in a church, or in general why the negative sentiment.

No, it's ok.

I expected to be downvoted but I feel what I posted and believe it to be worth noting among the positive clamor.

Yes, I did have bad experiences at church as a kid, I was forced to go, it was not a good place, but more importantly I don't approve of religion in general.

I would likewise make a negative remark if a site promoting multi-level marketing, extremist politics, anti-vaccination, or something of this nature was on the front page of hacker news. I simply don't think these things are good.

Not to be dismissive of your effort... your application is awesome. I don't claim to know everything nor what everyone should do, but this doesn't change my opinion about churches. Sorry for the negative attitude. But I do have it and it is worth pointing out at minimum *some churches do harm in the world.

I'm sorry to hear that. Certainly there are bad churches in the world. But there are many many more churches that are helping meet needs (physical, mental, spiritual) in their communities. I hate that you've only seen negative affects of religion when there is so much good in spirituality and community you didn't see. :-(

Religious "good" is really selfish, mitigating the existential fear and providing "guidance" while society absorbs the negative externalities of decreased critical reasoning, departure from reality and increased sectarian tensions and so forth.

So while communally your project is beneficial, locally and globally it decreases the pace of human development as a whole.

Just doing my part! ;-)


Horrible cause? Bad for society? Terrible argument. From many perspectives, a lot of software could be deemed "bad for society" (i.e. "Facebook wastes time," "Google finds objectionable content," "Twitter encourages shallowness," ...).

Yet we build those and use them because, for the most part, they can be used for good. Just like churches.

From the guidelines (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html ):

"Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face to face conversation."

"Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them."


The sentiment 'religion is bad' is neither civil nor genuinely new/enlightening/informative. Please refrain from making such comments in the future.

Yes. And even if that wasn't in the guidelines: we're in "Show HN", and the "Show HN" guidelines apply, and they're even stricter.

'Religion is bad' is no more or less civil a comment than 'religion is good.'

I agree with the second point, though.

> The sentiment 'religion is bad' is neither civil [...]

That depends on entirely on where you live/your culture. What staticelf said isn't offensive and he shouldn't be made to feel like he cannot express his opinion. Perhaps he addressed it in a blunt way, but there is a genuine concern about how such software will be used to 'monitor' or 'peer pressure' church goers, particularly children, who are ushered into religion. Having a 'social network' so that religion permeates even further into people's lives should be a concern for everybody, religious or otherwise.

My original criticism stands -- what he said was neither civil nor new/insightful. He absolutely should be made to feel that his comment was unwelcome.

Your effort is better. It's even ostensibly on topic. Though I think your concern is overblown. In my experience, the vast majority of church "monitoring" in this way is pretty reasonable, in the "hey, haven't seen you in a while, is everything OK? Can we help?" sense. Complaining about it is kind of like complaining about sports fans having a facebook group -- yeah, it's possible that someone can get upset because you're not showing proper loyalty, but practically speaking that's not how it's used. (Except by cults, who don't need this kind of software to control you anyway.)

> Except by cults, who don't need this kind of software to control you anyway.

Religion is a cult, at least by the dictionary I am using. I don't really understand the entire religion/church environment, but of the few churches I have visited (I'm not religious) I was never asked to 'check in'; they keep no database of their attendees.

You just said you don't understand the market this software addresses. Maybe now's a good time to opt out of the conversation. Lots of other conversations are happening on the site, right now, and it looks like all of them are a better fit for you.

Most of the churches I've been to have not had a formal "check in" process, but they do have a membership process (people can be added to the member list, and are then allowed to vote for church leadership committees and such) and cards for guests to fill out if they want to be contacted.

Childcare (nursery) often has a check-in process specifically relating to who is and isn't allowed to pick up your children.

I'm about as militant an antitheist as you're going to meet (even for the UK) and wish we had something like this to organise e.g. BHA Humanist meets/community.

> What staticelf said isn't offensive

What staticelf said is only slightly nicer than "your work is evil, but it was technically well-executed". How is that not offensive?

Would it not have been more efficient to build a plugin for, say, BuddyPress?

Why not?

Well, only 1% of the software "is Christian". The other 99% has already been created in various forms. I'm not criticising the project, I just don't know why he didn't extend existing software, or even fork something like BuddyPress.

Sometimes it's just fun to build something from scratch and make it awesome.

Also, if I had built OneBody using PHP I certainly would not have lasted this long in keeping it going. Ruby is great language that I really enjoy using every day.

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