There are many barriers parishes face in terms of communications. Many rely heavily on the bulletin. Costs can be a challenge to take advantage of the technology that is available to better improve communications. We ran into that same challenge a few years ago at our own parish. The other issue we ran into was important ministry files stored on personal computers or office computers that went down. Like others we sought out a means which would be highly effective to improve our parish communications with little costs, simple to use, secure, flexible for the future, and very efficient. Google Apps (what we’?ve come to call Church Apps) achieves all of that and all for only the cost of a domain name ($10/year). Let me tell you about just some of the features of the Standard Version we use:
- Up to 50 User Accounts that get email, multiple custom calendars that can be shared, online document storage, online chat amongst users, an online suite of software (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations), and more
- An online hosted system so all features can be accessed from a computer with an internet connection. This allows for more flexibility in choosing equipment and no need for costly servers or worry about lost data.
- A website builder is also included but does not have to be used. For most parishes it works very nice. We used the service to enhance our site (http://www.StElizabethAnnSetonPC.org). The site can be maintained by multiple users from any internet connected computer.
- Calendars within user accounts can be embedded in the site creating single entry communication. For example, entries into the Parish Calendar can be made by the person given access to that calendar. Any entry automatically updates on the website. Administrative personnel do not have to know anything about websites but are contributing to updates.
- Individual user ‘?start pages’? that look exactly the same as personal iGoogle pages.
- Mobile access on all smartphon?es
- Plus much more
Set up is very simple and can take just a few hours. I recommend that someone who is savvy with websites and hosting be involved in the initial set up and training. Planning is key and includes:
- Determine your user accounts. We created these by position name and then put the individual’?s name with that account. This allows for simply changing the name on that account if a person leaves.
- Give at least three people ‘?Administ?rative’? level access. This allows for multiple people to assist with password changes if needed and other ‘?admin’? types of tasks.
- Write out all of the calendars you may need and who they should be assigned to. This can be: general parish calendar, Mass schedule, altar servers, readers, choir, ministries, etc. And then embed these into your website.
This is by far one of the best services around and fits perfectly into Catholic Parishes. Check it out today.