I have known Robel for a long time, and I am impressed with how the Lord is leading him and making him grow. He was one of the Indigitous Addis live-learning speakers. His talk was about a Church SMS (text) system. At the time, he was just developing the system but now he has finished and deployed it to his church in Hawassa, Ethiopia. He started receiving many requests from churches to use his Church SMS system. I interviewed him via email, and this is his story.
How and when did you start the ChurchSMS idea?
It was a sunny day, and our software team held its daily standup meeting in the morning. After the meeting we started working on our issues for the day… adding new features, fixing bugs and all sorts of things. One of the issues of our sprint (short-term goals) was adding the SMS notification module to a big governmental application we were assigned to develop. Our scrum master (product development coach) asked for a volunteer to take care of the whole SMS integration.
I immediately took the chance and did it successfully within a few days. As a developer you enjoy looking at your code in action; I was fascinated by the performance and simplicity of the module I had written. I soon realized that it could become a good product.
Miheret is an example for me in many ways. I knew him back in high school. He shared with me about the INDIGITOUS-Addis conference. I was inspired by it. During our discussion, Mire told me to get ready for a live-learning speech, and he also gave me an idea about the use of SMS in the churches. What a coincidence! I have experience with the SMS idea, and I know how to turn it into a usable product in the context of the church. That is where ChurchSMS was born. A million thanks to my beloved elder brother Miheret and the movement INDIGITOUS. Opportunities cause new ideas to emerge, and networking allows the idea to mature and get tested.
What is ChurchSMS?
ChurchSMS is a platform with which churches can establish a reliable virtual communication medium with their members on their mobile phones. I believe communication is a very important concept in today’s church. It is said where there is good communication there is a better result, and this is what ChurchSMS provides. It gives churches the chance to fill the gaps of communication and make them more responsive.
The core strength of ChurchSMS is the fact that it is built upon the legacy SMS technology which, as we all know it, is a reliable communication medium at all times. It is two way communication between a church and its members. Churches can send a message to an individual, a group or all of their members to pass an important message. Members can subscribe to the system once, receive church updates continually and interact with available service codes. A good example is being able to know weekly programs of one’s church by sending a message with the key word ‘WE’ (weekly events). Each church will have its own custom service codes.
ChurchSMS has two versions. The first one is a “Stand-alone Package”. This is one that doesn’t require internet connection. This will be installed on a local server inside the church’s network, and it can only be accessed within the local network. It is ideal for churches without internet connectivity. This is the current readily available version which can be implemented right away.
The second one is a “Cloud-Based Package” which will run on the cloud, so that any church anywhere can launch the service through an Internet connection. This version is still under active development and will soon be available at www.churchsms.net.
What are the core features of ChurchSMS?
- Builds contact addresses of all members automatically as members send a ‘Register Me’ message.
- Enables a message to be sent to an individual, a certain group (GroupSMS) or all members (Broadcast) at once.
- Creates different service codes to handle requests from members.
- Manages members by grouping them into small groups.
- Collects data.
What can it be used for?
Offering confirmation messages
Receiving prayer requests and comments
Providing automatic responses for different requests, like weekly programs
Organizing members into different groups and addressing them in their groups
Members’ Opinions about different topics (‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and Quantitative questions are supported)
These are the features in the current version of the ChurchSMS stand-alone package. More features and enhancements will be released continually. I have already started deploying it to local churches, and it has become a successful ministry tool. I will post updates about my progress and new deployments soon.
I personally believe Christian professionals of all disciplines have a lot to contribute to the work of God’s Kingdom in many ways. Especially those of us in the information technology world have high responsibilities to capacitate today’s church to meet the demands of this generation. The collective effort will make the church an all-round and up-to-date entity that can impact generations for Christ. I hope ChurchSMS is one such contribution. One other similar system I am planning to make is an online catalog of churches and spiritual events to ease the search for church whereabouts and events.
Lastly I want to encourage young tech guys like me to never stop dreaming. Dreaming is the first step into a successful journey that hooks your mind and energy on possibilities, not impossibilities, and opportunities, not challenges. One respected person once said, “It is the best time to be a developer”, and I completely agree with him. It has never been easier than these days to gain a global reach with little effort and minimum capital. It would be appropriate to remind you of a wonderful Bible verse at this point, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:19). May God bless you all! Amen.