A while back Mark with BigBadCollab gave us a demo of ShadeTree. ShadeTree is a platform being developed that seeks to integrate church members into church life through social networking, spiritual formation, etc.
In some ways ShadeTree could lead to a full blown ChMS at some point, but right now it's really meant to augment what you currently have in place. I was privileged to look "behind the scenes" a bit with a beta church, to see how they are working on using ShadeTree.
Of most interest to us was the Spiritual Formation elements of ShadeTree, and how we can utilize it to help our people easily identify what their next steps are. These steps might be books, sermons, conferences, serving, attending events or whatever else the church establishes. The important thing is the front end survey that helps identify where each individual is, and what resources would be the most beneficial next steps for that individual.
ShadeTree is designed to be fully "skinnable" so that it fits within your website and design philosophies and looks like your church, rather than a generic look. I'm really excited about the platform as a way to give our people access to a path of spiritual formation. This is an area where HDC currently doesn't do a great job, and I really think ShadeTree can help us. The biggest issue will be figuring out Arena integration with the data, but the beautiful thing is that the church working on this with BigBadCollab is an Arena church, so I know they share that desire.
ShadeTree also does social networking. This is where I get less excited. I do believe that the church needs to be involved in social networking, but I don't agree with Mark that the church should be the place where it happens. To me, our people are already on Facebook, we should work to have a great facebook presence and to see how we can best integrate our members church and unchurched lives, allowing their relational networks to see their commitment to Christ. IMHO, if we create our own playground, we lose important opportunities to model our lives to those of our friends who do not know God.
It seems like there are a lot of products that try to integrate the church and social networking, but most of them seem to want to create an isolated sandbox away from "the world" and that isn't an viewpoint I share. That doesn't mean that I'm right though, only time will tell. Perhaps there is a sweet spot of integration between the two that I haven't seen yet.
Technologically ShadeTree is based on the LAMP stack, Linux Apach MySQL PhP, which I absolutely love. The cool thing about this is that all of those products are opensource, and ShadeTree is being developed as an opensource solution. This means that, once available, your church can download and test and even deploy ShadeTree for free. Awesome. If you need help, pay BigBadCollab and they will help you get it all running.
Good guys making good products to further God's kingdom at the lowest possible cost for the churches involved. Awesome stuff all the way around. If I've piqued your interest, click the ShadeTree link at the top and signup for more info when ShadeTree is released.