Friday Church Planting Resource: Google Apps
Free is one of a church planters favorite words. Today’s resource Google Apps is completely free for church planters. Google Apps offers communication, collaboration and publishing tools, including email accounts on your church’s domain. (email@example.com) Here is what you get specifically:
- Gmail. Setup up custom email accounts using your church’s domain. Google Apps provides and easy interface to set up user accounts. It also allows you to setup groups (ex.- firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also set up a catchall email account. So if you have a Chris on staff and someone emails email@example.com, you will still get the email.
- Google Calendar. Google calendar is handy calendaring program. Calendars can be set up as public calendars and even embedded on websites. Group calendars can be set up and access given to specific people. You can also share your personal calendars so everyone on staff knows where you are and when. Google calendar syncs with most of the popular calendaring software on your computer or mobile phone.
- Google Docs. Google Docs is quickly becoming a competitor to office suites like Microsoft Office. It’s not quite a replacement yet (in my opinion), but for a mobile staff it is invaluable. You can share documents and collaborate, even editing them simultaneously. Google Docs now also lets you upload files for storage in the cloud. Docs includes: Documents (like Word), Spreadsheets (like Excel), Presentations (like Powerpoint), Forms and Drawing.
- Google Chat. This is Google’s IM client
Setting up Google Apps may be a little intimidating for the technically challenged. You begin the process on the Google Apps sign up page. You will need to have access to your domain’s administrative controls. You’ll find this with the domain registrar (the site you bought your domain from). If you haven’t purchased one yet, I recommend GoDaddy. Their user interface is easy and their customer service is excellent. Setting up Google Apps requires you to add a Cname record and change MX records. It’s sounds techy, but its really not that big of a deal. Google provides you with instructions on how to change the MX records for most of the major domain registrars. If you can’t figure out how to change the Cname records, do a search within your domain registrars site or search Google as a whole.
There are several vendors who will charge you around $100 to set up Google Apps for you. You can do it yourself. The whole process takes under an hour the first time you do it.
Once you have set up Google Apps, you will need to set up user accounts. Google has a tutorial for that built into the dashboard for Google Apps, or you can get instructions here.
If you have your 501c3 status (more on that in a future legal Wednesday), you are eligible to upgrade to the Education edition of Google Apps. The Education edition give you access to free support, more email storage, better security and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Not bad for free. To upgrade, begin the process here.
Google Apps is one of my favorite resources for church planters. Even if your web design company offers to provide email, I would suggest using Google Apps. It is simply the best product on the market and its free.