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If you are part of a small church or even run one, there's many ways that you can leverage technology to save money, be more efficient and provide consistent service at the church. This is part one of a two part blog post focusing on telephones and telephone service to help your church. This first part provides tips to using Google Voice at your church.

Google Voice enables your small church to have a office number that is answered during business hours, even if you don't have an office that is staffed during all those times. When you sign up for Google Voice, you choose a local phone number to be your main office number (or you can port an existing number) and specify the phone numbers that the main number should forward to. This is the selling point with Google Voice: having only one phone number, but behind the scenes it rings all your phones (cell, office, home, or anywhere) at the same time. You can also customize a schedule for when certain phones ring, or if the number forwards to voicemail. When an individual leaves a voicemail it gets emailed and texted to you along with a computer transcript of the call.

For instance, if your church secretary works part time from home in the mornings, you could setup a Google Voice phone number that would forward to the secretary's home phone number from eight to noon and forwards to voicemail, another staff or pastor for the afternoon. Those in the church would only have to know one phone number, and in the background the staff can control who it is sent too, and when. If staff changes, just change the forward number and all the church members can continue to call the same number.

A youth pastor (or anyone) can use Google Voice to ring their office phone, cell phone, and even home phone all at the same time. This would help if he or she is out on the road or meeting at someone's house they can still receive calls like they were sitting at their desk.

Another couple of useful features include:

  • Recording phone calls which allows you to listen to the call later, just like a voice mail.
  • Calls can be transfer discreetly between phones without the caller knowing. If you answer at your desk and need to go to a meeting, press star(*) which will ring your other phones, then pickup your cell phone and continue the call.
  • Since the caller only knows the one Google Voice number, your other numbers stay unknown. If you're reluctant to give out your cell phone number than might calm your worries knowing that no one has to know the number.
  • You can even embed a widget on your website so people can enter their phone and call you without cost to them, or having to dial a number.
  • You can send text messages and forward voicemails by email from the web interface.

Google Voice is free for consumers. As of a less than a month ago Google Voice is now part of Google Apps, so if you church uses Google Apps you can join!

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