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?
Hmmm. Are you saying that churches can get free corporate accounts? Many pastors I know simply use personal accounts and so use all of the services for free anyway. What benefits are there to getting a corporate account? Where would you go to sign up for it?
That's right Paul, non-profits get the business account for free. Sign up information is here: http://www.google.com/nonprofits/.
In general it's good to keep personal and professional accounts seperate. I'm sure someone much smarter than me could give you all the legal reasons to do it. Google Apps for Business gives you more administrative control over what people can and can't do with their church email account and helps you have more access to employees data. Here's some more info: http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/details.html
As an active Google Apps user, I was happy to see this posting. Unfortunately, the non-profit program remains unavailable to organizations outside of the US, according to the eligability requirements found here (http://www.google.com/nonprofits/eligibility.html).
Until the non-profit program is opened up to organizations outside of the US, non-US churches may wish to consider using either the free version of Google Apps or paying for the business edition. Differences between the free and business editions are doucmented here (http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/group/index.html). The free edition is likely sufficient for most churches.
This is GREAT news! We have Google Apps at the free level for our church, and it's GREAT! Here's some of the ways we use it (just adding some examples to ways already mentioned!)
- Shared calendars. Our entire calendar is embedded on the church website, but individual ministry leaders have access to their calendar to update events for their ministry. The great thing is that once updated, the changes are immediately visible online, there is no additional step at the church office to keep the website up-to-date.
- Google Docs. This is excellent for sharing documents when more than one person needs to have access or update something, and everyone sees the changes immediately. For example, our Worship Director maintains a monthly schedule that includes everything from each week's song choices to who is serving that week. Our Secretary may access it anytime to update it with the Pastor's scripture and sermon titles, and viewing the information for creating the bulletins. You can set the sharing settings for any single document or group of documents so you know who has access.
- Email addresses with our domain name. All staff have an email address with @crossroadscrc.com. We use the same naming convention for all addresses, so that everyone knows they can reach someone using the formula firstname.lastname @ _________.com.
I work in ministry part-time and in my other part-time job, I use google docs at a for-profit company, so I'm using it literally every day somewhere. Highly recommended. :)
I was really glad to hear Google Apps were free again to non-profits. In case others would like more details, some time ago I wrote an article about setting it up.
Here's a story Christianity Today just posted about this.
Google's terms of service for non-profits may present interesting problems for Christian services not in thrall to the Zeitgeist:
- My organization does not discriminate on any unlawful basis in either hiring/employment practices or in the administration of programs and services.- My organization does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in hiring/employment practices. In Google's terms of service, the latter requirement was once part of the former. No longer. Google not only doesn't allow organizations to "unlawfully" discriminate based on sexuality (the former requirement), but now can't discriminate in any way whatsoever regarding specifically one's sexuality. It's interesting that this is the sole area where Google is asserting requirements beyond the law. Technically, this certainly seems to allow for hiring homosexuals who are celibate. Indeed, it would require that no policy of preference for heterosexuals is in play. Personally, I suspect that Google would frown on any "celibacy" clause, however. Churches already using Google Apps aggressively might want to consider the implications if Google rescinded licensing for Apps based on any finding they might assert. The worst case scenario would be for churches with liberal account policies, because reverting to a business use of Apps would become prohibitively expensive where there are high user counts. In short, the more dependent a church becomes on this asset, the more catastrophic the consequences if Google phones this in. There's a certain sense of "rope-a-dope" to this. If a denomination maintains that homosexuality is disordered, I have little doubt that activists will one day raise public red flags, such that the Googles of the world will feel pressure to act. And it won't much matter whether they call in their non-profit grants of use, or merely change the terms so that churches exercising integrity will be forced to revert to business use. Personally, I don't think this is a matter of if, but of when.
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