By: Josh Henry, Managing Partner
In my years of working with churches to help with their IT and communication needs, I have come across some great resources. For many years, the options available to help churches from an IT standpoint where very costly. Not only where they expensive to purchase and deploy, but they also had a huge administrative and maintenance cost as a person to manage the resource was necessary.
Now, with many changes in the industry, there are some great technological resources available for a fraction of the costs that was previously required.
Google Apps offers a great suite of tools that a church of any size can implement and utilize. A FREE version is offered for up to 50 users which I have found to be just about everything you would need to operate your organization.
The main feature of Google Apps is the all inclusive package, all organized by your organizations domain. All of the tools can be setup and accessed through your organizations unique URL. For example, your domain is www.yourchurch.org. This is now the address for each app. Here is some detail:
email – mail.yourchurch.org
docs – docs.yourchurch.org
calendar – calendar.yourchurch.org
and so on …
Each app can be setup on a sub-domain to make it easy to find and access for those individuals you have setup. Here is some more detail for each application and potential uses.
Google Email – mail.yourchurch.org
Google Apps provides the ability to serve as your email server. What’s great is that you don’t have to use the generic @gmail domain. Your email addresses (for up to 50 people in the free edition) can be setup firstname.lastname@example.org. The email can be accessed through a custom sub-domain (mail.yourchurch.org) or it can be accessed through an email client like Outlook.
This address is also the user’s identity for the remainder of the applications. When sharing information across your organization, each user is identified by this credential.
Google Calendar – calendar.yourchurch.org
Need a shared calendar for your organization? Google’s calendar app can work across many uses. You could setup and share calendars for each staff member or leader and also create a main church event calendar which could be shared among the members or posted on your website. Updating, editing and keeping people informed is SIMPLE!
Google Documents – docs.yourchurch.org
Are you working with teams or committees? Need to share spreadsheets or other documents? Google documents offers the ability to collaborate on documents in a seamless, integrated environment. No longer will you have to share files via email and worry about which version of the document you are using.
You simply create a document, setup who you’d like to share the document with and begin your work. This is a great tool for event registration spreadsheets where multiple people are accessing the document to update. Edits can be viewed in real time, and you can even chat with each other via Google Talk within the app.
Google Sites – sites.yourchurch.org
This is a part of the app with great potential. Sites has great potential but does require a lot of setup and forward thinking. This can be used internally for project collaboration and even externally as your organizations website (although I would not recommend this as its design capability is lacking).
A great potential would be for event registration. A site could be developed, linked from your organizations website for an upcoming event. A form can be embedded in the site which would automatically input the information into the spreadsheet mentioned above. Now you can see the integration.
All of the items mentioned above are offered by Google for free. What a great resource to help your church develop and operate more effectively. We are developing an online example for you to access and see how Google Apps could benefit your church.
Here’s an idea. I know for many, the IT world is scary and seems overwhelming. Let me suggest this, send me an email and I’ll carve out a few minutes to show you the potential of Google Apps for your church. We’ll even help getting it setup and implemented for your church.
It’s time for your church to start taking advantage of these types of resources to by more effective!