What’s really great about working in the same industry for nearly 20 years is that every so often a company comes along that really shakes things up and redefines what can be done. One such company is Rock RMS, run by Spark Development Network, a nonprofit organization that built the powerful, open-source Rock RMS software.
Rock RMS is somewhat of a newcomer in the church management software space, having gone through beta and version one release in 2014, then becoming financially independent as Spark Development Network. With more than 1,000 downloads and church plants on up through mega multisite churches hopping on board (such as Willow Creek), it’s hard to not pay attention to what they’re doing.
“We are feature comparable with all the big church management systems,” states Emily Forman for Spark Development Network.
Rock RMS offers personal and family management, group management, contributions, children’s check-in, reporting, content management for your website (CMS), calendar and event registration, connections (aka volunteer management), and even their own app store with plugins.
“Among the ChMS platforms, our powerful workflow engine is our most distinguishing feature,” Jon Edmiston with Spark Development Network. “Rock RMS is really flipping the table on the current ChMS industry. As everything is becoming more closed and more expensive, Rock is creating opportunities. And since it’s a non-profit, no one will ever profit from it. It’s a game-changer for churches.”
Version 5 of Rock RMS is well on its way to release, with a launch date currently set for June 28. Rock RMS’s podcast, RockCast, goes through some of the new features of v5 including:
- Moving from Payflow Pro to NMI gateway, which has reduced PCI requirements.
- Check-in changes
- Family analytics
- Performance improvements
- Theme editor
- New workflow actions
- Lots of little improvements…
Forman contributes, “Our developers have over 30 years of combined experienced in developing church management systems technology.”
Overall, the folks at Rock RMS have had the goal to create something that is scalable for every organization size from start up to mega church. The software is completely free to churches – no string attached. Churches will need to put together a hosting plan – they can host the software internally on their own servers or hire an external host that may require an annual fee; hosting through a company that provides hosting support is also a good option for churches who do not have in-house IT resources. Rock RMS has free guides and extensive documentation on all aspects of their software in order to walk users through exactly what they will need to get set up.
“Our documentation is quite extensive. Our guides are very easy to read and understand, with lots of screenshots and explanations about the ‘why,'” notes Forman. “Every church has specific needs, and one of our goals is accessibility. We also have screen shots to help users, version updates, and community tools online.”
Rock’s model is totally different than any others out there on the market. They don’t offer paid support through Spark or through a customer support team. They do offer vendor partners that offer support (and other services), and have set up Rock to be used without having to purchase support: easy and thorough documentation, community tools, a real-time Slack channel (with 220+ members), and a built-in app store for reasonably priced plug-ins.
Says Frank Grand of Newspring Church, “The biggest improvements we’ve seen since we implemented Rock at NewSpring revolve around automation and flexibility. We’ve freed up hours of staff time. Rock also allows us to create or change ministry processes quickly because of its flexibility. Using past Church Management Systems, we always had to spend a lot of time figuring out if it could do what we wanted to do and if not, we had to compromise on our process or find another system to accomplish a certain task.”
Rock RMS’ API is open so churches can hire their own developers (or Rock’s developers do consult on the side and can help churches). For online giving, they currently partner with SecureGive, Pushpay, Payment Data Systems, and Kindrid. They also have agreements in place with My Well (TransNational). However, only PDS, SecureGive, and Pushpay have actual plug-in integrations to-date.
The software also has some pretty cutting-edge communication features including text communication through an integration with Twilio.
“We are set up as non-profit. Our goal is for it never to sell out. Our board of directors is there to guard our decisions and do what’s best for the global church,” Forman notes, “Additionally, we are not in this to benefit our organization. In fact, we have had buy-out and other lucrative offers from third party companies that we will not entertain because they are not in the best interest of the ‘big-C church’ despite potentially being financially beneficial to Spark.”
Lastly, data ownership is a big issue that churches face, whether they realize it or not.
“Churches are very beholden to the companies that hold their data. How locked in should they be? It’s time to reevaluate. Rock RMS gives churches access to their own data. We notice that it’s very common for financial gateways to not give churches their data – they will cite PCI compliance. But it’s possible through very protective methods not to break PCI codes – there’s something else behind it. We’d love to see companies become more open and provide the data to the organizations it belongs to,” remarks Forman.
Churches can test out a demo of Rock RMS online to get a taste of what the features and user interface is like. Enter “admin” and “admin” as the login credentials.
Rock RMS will host its second annual users conference this summer, August 24-26, in Los Angeles. Last year the company had over 100 people in attendance and expects that number to grow this year.
Simply described, “Rock is the open, innovation toolkit for the modern day church.”