While multiple options for communication tools is no new thing, the major shift to remote work in every industry has greatly increased the need for powerful, effective, user-friendly collaborative communication tools. In the church realm, there are multiple situations where different groups of people need to communicate in different capacities. There is staff-to-staff communication (both within their departments and across departments), staff who need to communicate with volunteers as ministry operations are ongoing and changing all the time, and within the congregation you have adult small groups and youth groups and whole-congregation communication.
As we all attempt to navigate social distancing measures and acknowledge the toll disconnectedness has taken on us as a society, utilizing the best available tools for connectivity has become necessary. While they each have pros and cons, these tools have all proven to be incredible catalysts for ministry in a time of great physical, emotional, and spiritual need.
Don’t miss our simple infographic at the end of the post, where we break it down for you visually, so you know exactly which tool we recommend for each meeting scenario.
“Chat, Meet, Call, & Collaborate From Anywhere Without Compromising Privacy & Security”
Microsoft Teams is our favorite tool, hands down. Teams is a robust collaboration platform that boasts a chat feature, discussion boards, planning tools, scheduling features, audio-video conferencing, presentation ability, a phone system, and more, all seamlessly integrated with each other in a user-friendly application. In every category, it offers a top notch solution. Teams is an excellent option for churches especially, because it offers FREE licensing options for non-profit organizations! Enable has been helping churches understand just how much is available to them in all of Microsoft’s Office 365 solutions for almost 20 years, and the benefits of this platform just keep coming. Teams is our #1 recommended option for churches looking for a secure, high-quality collaboration tool, because it is the best tool on the market (we use it ourselves!) and it is the best choice from a budgeting & stewardship perspective. There is an intuitive user-friendly mobile app for Teams that mirrors the desktop application, which offers all of the same features as the desktop app except for screen sharing.
- Pros: File sharing and storing, interactive messaging feature, user-friendly professional audio-video conferencing tools, seamless integration with other Microsoft Office 365 tools including Outlook, OneNote, Planner, etc. Free guest account makes it a great option for engaging volunteers/those outside of the organization, and there are FREE licensing options for churches!
- Cons: In order to schedule meetings you have to be a licensed user, not just a guest. This means your volunteers would need a paid version of the license in order to schedule/host meetings. (However, you can attend all meetings as a guest with a free account).
- In a Church Setting: The best option for staff-led meetings, for both internal meetings and those that include wide audiences (and non-staff attendees)
While Zoom is not a new tool, it is certainly one of the most popular tools to have come out of the quarantine era for free group meetings. Zoom is an audio-video conferencing tool for both individuals and businesses. Its basic plan provides free meetings for up to 100 participants, with a time limit of 40 minutes. In addition to the free version, Zoom offers added features with three other paid plans, broken out by recommended team size and priced by host. Pro is their small team option (1-9 hosts), Business is their small to medium team option (10-99 hosts), and Enterprise is their large team options (100 hosts and up). Click here for Zoom’s full list of plans, pricing, and features.
*UPDATE: Zoom is currently offering non-profit pricing of $75 per year through TechSoup (with a 501c3 requirement). Additionally, RingCentral is a reseller of Zoom, and currently has an offer for non-profits for $7.50 per user per month without a contract. This is a rebranded Zoom service and software but at a non-profit month-to-month rate, which is an excellent deal, especially for churches who aren’t sure about their long-term needs but want a solution for the current climate. You can contact RingCentral for this pricing here.
- Pros: A great free option for one-off meetings, familiar to many people
- Cons: Time and participants limited in the free version, can be a little “clunky” to share/join meetings, no file-storing feature
- In a Church Setting: A good option for meetings that are led by non-staff and include wide audiences
The main difference between Teams and Zoom is that Teams is a multi-faceted tool designed to improve and facilitate team collaboration and productivity, while Zoom is solely an audio-video conferencing tool.
A good option for small group meetings for people who use Google/G-Suite/Gmail already.
- Pros: Many people already have a Gmail account and this means you can log in and get started right away.
- Cons: Meetings for large groups do not scale as well and have “lag.” The sharing and calendar features are not intuitive.
- In a Church Setting: This would be good for non-staff led meetings and studies with smaller audiences administered by people more familiar with Google.
It is safe to say that likely every adult has interacted with Facebook on some level in their life, and for this reason it is a great platform for public communication, specifically live-streaming services using the Facebook Live feature. These videos are stored all in one place, on a user-friendly, familiar interface that makes sharing and interaction very easy. The social nature of Facebook makes it a great way for members to stay connected to the church seamlessly with their regular online life. Pages provide a place for private group message boards, and Facebook allows group video chats hosting up to 50 people at once, making it a good option for small group communication & meetings.
- Pros: Free, large social presence , fairly easy to use.
- Cons: The social aspect makes some users uncomfortable. People who don’t have Facebook already may not want to sign up just to hold a meeting. Limited calendar and sharing options.
- In a Church Setting: An easy option for small meetings for a group that already uses Facebook. Great for live streaming your service to a free platform.
Jitsi is a secure videoconferencing solution. The two main internet conferencing tools are Jitsi Videobridge and Jitsi Meet. Their tools also feature audio, dial-in, recording, and simulcasting capabilities.
- Pros: Jitsi is extremely simple, and completely free.
- Cons: This is ONLY a meeting app… there is no retention, sharing, or other collaboration available.
- In a church setting… A simple, easy, free option for groups of up to 50 to meet for a face to face meeting.
If you have any questions about the best platform for your church or free licensing options, or need help switching tools, Enable would love to help you navigate that! Simply reach out to us at [email protected] to get in touch.