The relationship between Google and the local church has been on-and-off lately. Churches, like lots of other non-profits, have wanted to embrace tools like Gmail and Google Docs for their staff. For a while, Google obliged. Then, in the past year, they excluded places of worship from their non-profit list—mainly because they said the church is discriminating. Now, alas, Google and religious organizations are back on better terms.
Google has lifted the ban on churches meaning you can now connect your church to great tools Google has to offer. Google apps include Gmail, Docs (similar to Microsoft Word & Excel), Calendar and more. For quite some time now, we’ve been using Google Apps here at the CRC and it’s been great. And from that experience, here are some reasons why you might consider moving your church to Google.
- Nothing beats Gmail. If you’re already a Gmail user you know this. The interface is simple. It’s easy to organize. There’s plenty of storage space. You can access it anywhere you’re connected to the internet. And most of all, it’s reliable. I’d bet Gmail will be easier for your staff to use than anything else you could put together. Google Apps let’s you take all that is good about Gmail and use it with your church domains. So you can still have [email protected] only it’s connected to Gmail.
- Collaboration is easier. With the right settings, your team can share documents and spreadsheets. You can even have multiple people working on one document at a time. Plus you can have access to each other’s calendars. Google makes it easy to work as a team and stores all of the files in a central location.
- Keeping a church calendar is simpler. You can keep a master calendar in one place and give multiple people access to updating it. Then you can embed it on your website for members to see. Individual ministries can set up separate calendars for scheduling. These are just a couple of basic ideas. There are many more possibilities.
- Access to other Google products. Within Gmail, you have access to Google Chat instant messaging and video messaging. Plus you can better organize and manage you contacts. Google Sites is included. This allows you to build websites mainly for internal stuff. (It’s not great to use for your main site.) Google Apps will also give you access to Google+ (social media), Picasa (picture sharing) and Checkout (online payment). Almost any Google product can be tied to a Google Apps email address and there’s a marketplace of certified add-ons, too. But there are still some things you won’t have access to. For example, Google just released YouTube live streaming to non-profits accounts. While this could have potentially been a good way to broadcast Sunday sermons, Google did put a restriction on it for religious non-profits who would use it for proselytizing.
- It saves money. Using Google Apps, especially for email, will save you the cost of server space and maintenance time. And if you start embracing Google Docs, there may be less of a need to buy or renew more traditional word processing, spreadsheet and email management software. Google Apps is free (for organizations with 3,000 user accounts or less).
- Migration is fairly easy. Google has tools to help you migrate your old stuff into Google Apps, so you don’t have to worry about things like losing those archived emails.
Let’s be honest. Using Google Apps may not be perfect, but I am guessing it’s a lot easier for the people using it and it’s a more robust system compared to what you might be using now. Best of all, it’s free.
Are you using Google Apps? If so, how do you like it? Any creative ideas you’d pass along to other churches using it or looking to use it?