Karl Vaters: Free Tech For Small Churches

We are living more of our lives online than ever before. And our online time will increase for some time before it levels off. While there are certainly a lot of downsides to this, there are also huge upsides that every church can take advantage of. With people spending an average of five hours a…

tech for small churches

We are living more of our lives online than ever before. And our online time will increase for some time before it levels off. While there are certainly a lot of downsides to this, there are also huge upsides that every church can take advantage of. With people spending an average of five hours a day on their mobile devices, technology is a helpful tool for churches as they fulfill their mission within their communities. If your church is small and your budget is non-existent, new technology may seem out of reach. But it’s not. There is tech for small churches without spending a penny.

WordPress

Your church needs a website. It’s your most important tool for promoting your ministry. Your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts are important, but none of them matter nearly as much as your website.

As far as potential church members are concerned, if you don’t have a website, your church doesn’t exist. There are a lot of website companies that do great work for a fee. But what if your church has literally no budget for it? WordPress is your answer.

Through WordPress.com, anyone can choose from a wide array of templates and set up a website surprisingly easily. Unfortunately, in exchange for WordPress making the site setup process easy, your website will be www.YourChurchName.WordPress.com.

To get rid of having WordPress in your URL, use WordPress.org. Through them, you can set up a URL that’s simply www.YourChurchName.com (or .church, .org, and so on).

The downside of WordPress.org is that while it is technically free, you need to go elsewere to buy your domain name (about $10 a year) and host your site (about $4 a month). Plus, it’s not as easy to set up as WordPress.com.

The upsides of WordPress.org? You will own the site, you can pick the name, you control it, and you have a lot more options about its design.

YouVersion

The size, scope and versatility of the YouVersion Bible app is breathtaking. In addition to a user-friendly, readable, and searchable Bible in multiple translations, it has a ton of tools to help your congregation keep God’s Word at the center of your church’s life.

You can sign up for a daily devotional that comes with a social media-ready graphic to send out to church members every day. YouVersion is great tech for small churches. There are biblical devotionals on every subject imaginable that church members can study together for a week, a month, or any other period of time.

You can even upload your sermon notes to YouVersion so others can benefit from them. This is just the start. It’s worth taking some time to explore it and discover what it can do for you and your congregation.

Planning Center, Slack, and Trello

These are three planning apps. Planning Center is the only one specifically designed for churches. They have pricing tiers that vary based on your church size, but they also have some great options on their free plan. Our church uses Planning Center to coordinate who’s scheduled for what role on what Sunday, including details like the song set, order of service, and more.

Slack is a great way to keep teams informed of what’s happening when, including customizable ways to declutter your email inbox, create a thread of ongoing conversations between team members, and more.

Trello is a project-based platform that allows team members to assign duties, share results and move projects off from one phase to the next.

Canva and Unsplash

These tech for small churches programs will help bring your church graphics into the 21st century.

Canva is a graphic design program with easy-to-use templates to help you create promotional materials that can be shared and edited with other team members. There are plenty of free graphics, plus premium designs that can be used for as little as $1.

Unsplash is a photo sharing site with great pix from thousands of photographers, including professionals. Use their search bar to enter what kinds of photos you want, and you’ll get a bunch of great options.

Unsplash is what I’ve been using for most of the photos on this blog for the last few months. And every photo is always free.

Mention

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew every time your church was mentioned anywhere online?

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew every time you or your church was mentioned anywhere online? If you’re on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you know when someone has mentioned you because they’ve tagged you. Mention does that for the entire internet.

You can enter up to three search terms on the free version and they will let you know every time that term is mentioned anywhere on the internet. Yes, the entire internet!

Enter your name, your church’s name or an important subject and keep track of the online chatter.

You can also filter out the excess noise by excluding sites you don’t want to hear from, like your own website, other churches with the same name, etc.

Evernote, One Note, and Google Keep

These are helpful note-taking apps that allow you jot something down on one device (like your phone) and retrieve them on another device (like your laptop).

Evernote has been the biggest player in this tech for small churches, but it has become less user-friendly recently, including charging fees for sharing notes on more than two devices. Their corporate problems are also calling the future of the company into question. Google Keep and One Note are getting better and may soon surpass Evernote in usability and customer base.

Google Docs

If you want to write and share text longer than a note, Google Docs is the industry standard. Anyone on your team can use this to create, share, comment on and edit larger text documents together.

Feedly

Feedly is a great way to keep track of subjects you care about or follow writers you want to hear from, without clicking from site to site. It also lets you select and organize these websites into categories of your own choosing. Whenever a pre-chosen website posts a new article, it appears in your stream under your preset category.

You simply go to Feedly at your convenience and scroll through your personalized stream. Click on any title to read the article, or hit the “save” tab to read it later.

Feedly is what I use to monitor over 300 websites so I know what’s happening in areas of interest to me. It takes a minimal amount of time (less than 10 minutes a day for all those websites) and it doesn’t overwhelm my email inbox.

Finally: Apps Help With Efficiency, But They Don’t Do Ministry

A wise use of apps and programs like these can help you organize your church’s tasks more efficiently so you can do ministry more effectively.

Technology is not a substitute for you, your team, the personal touch, or the presence of the Holy Spirit. But tech for small churches is not a substitute for you, your team, the personal touch, or the presence of the Holy Spirit.
 

So, as one final word of advice from a long-time pastor, let me encourage you to use all the tech for small churches we can to do ministry better. Use them to be more efficient. Use them to further your church’s reach.

Use the tools, but never let the tools use you.

 

This article originally appeared here, and is used by the author’s kind permission.

Karl Vaters
Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of NewSmallChurch.com, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors.