There are many types of technology hardware that your community of faith might be interested including computers, printers, photocopiers, cameras, projectors & screens, and live streaming hardware.
Hardware can be a big investment. But recognizing that there are always improvements happening, so typically you plan for it to last and be relevant for about 3 years.
Do you need a warrantee? This does cost extra when you purchase the hardware. However, if you are dependent on the hardware and can't afford to replace it in less than 3 years than this is a form of insurance for you to consider.
Make sure that you have a backup. of your data This can be done through a physical hard drive that you save information to. Or this can be done in the cloud through Dropbox or Google Drive or other options.
Consider how much needs to be stored on your computer. The more that you store on your computer’s hard drive, the more that your computer has to work. This can cause overheating and impact the lifespan of your computer. It will also slow your computer processing down when you have a lot of programs or data stored on it.
How much functionality do you really need? Do you need a photocopier at all? Don’t buy a photocopier on the busiest season (annual report time). Buy it for your average. When you have a high capacity time frame, it is typically cheaper to use an outsourced company. Learn more at Printing.
There are many features that the average community of faith does not need in their photocopier including stapling, colour printing, and anything over 2000 copies a month. All of these features cost additional money that you don't need.
If you are a Regional or General Council staff, connect with the IT Department at General Council Office at email@example.com
It is more than just the hardware, it is the software and connection to the rest of the network that is important.
Dell provides the standard platform to ensure that you have the right software and capabilities in order to be able to interact with others. This would include Microsoft 365 including Sharepoint with all of the correct setups.
If you are an community of faith or an employee of the United Church of Canada, there is an Employee Purchase Plan with Dell Canada. This includes;
– Up to 30% off PC’s, electronics and accessories
– 5% Dell Advantage rewards
– Exclusive monthly offers
– Free shipping and easy returns
– Affordable financing options
Shop now: www.Dell.ca/MPP or 1-877-297-6974
Member ID #: UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA – 3373936
Insight Technology (other hardware)
The General Council Office's pricing on hardware (including printers, screens, projectors, cameras and other hardware) has been extended to communities of faith.
Please connect with Insight directly for a quote and more information by indicating that you are part of United Church of Canda:
Senior Account Executive
t. 800.467.4448 ext. 8412
Inside Sales Representative
tf. 800.467.4448 ext. 8597
General Council has preferred pricing with Xerox. If interested in getting a quote, please connect with the IT Department at General Council Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Website hosting quality and price can vary significantly. You need to know what you are getting when you have an agreement.
What to Expect with $10 / Month Hosting:
this is the most likely to have viruses. You will need to have an anti-virus protection and some maintenance when/if this happens
this is the most likely to be hacked. You need to be okay that this might be down for a longer period of time and not be dependent on your site being operational at all times
this is usually downgraded by the search engines, meaning that a website hosted by these companies will most likely not show up at the top of a search
this might only have 1 or 2 email addresses
This can still be good for a church website, but you need to understand what you are most likely exposing yourself to.
What to expect with $30+ / Month Hosting:
this should include your virus protection and would have some additional monitoring to protect your site
this should include regular backups of your content, so that you can retrieve all of your information quickly if the site goes down
this should include some sort of notification if there is a problem with the site
this would be higher ranked by the search engines and improve your rankings
this would include multiple emails
this would include some basic maintenance of the site and plugins to ensure that things are updated
This can still be good for a church, even though it is more expensive.
When you are selecting a hosting company, just know what you are at risk of and some of the questions that you might ask when given a price.
1. Start With How You Use Your Website
do you want to be found?
do you want customized emails?
do you want to upload content to the site?
do you need plugins?
2. What Can You Afford?
Does it make sense to pay the extra? If your website is not a strategic site for you church, maybe you can have the lower cost hosting. If you really don't have a budget, do you need hosting of a website at all? A blog could work for updates and information without having any hosting fees.
Internet can be a challenge. Many of our communities of faith are in extremely remote locations where Internet can be sparse or non-existent.
Here are some things to consider when considering your Internet needs & provider options.
The number of cell towers and fibre has continued to grow across the country. In many urban areas there is currently fibre in place which will have the most consistency and speed available.
Not all service providers in the same area have access to the same infrastructure when it comes to fibre.
In rural areas, we are seeing some telecommunication cooperatives helping to connect entire counties. We hope to continue to see this happen.
2. Rural Monopolies / Lack of Access
Often the services providers in a rural context have a monopoly. With them not having to compete, their pricing can be high and they rarely have unlimited Internet plans.
This can result in frequent or at the least seasonal overages.
The workaround: the Internet stick or hubs. You can use the cell phone infrastructure to assist with your Internet. These sticks & hubs are often good enough to allow for live streaming and video conferencing.
It really doesn't have to be as difficult as we keep imagining it to be.
1. Who Is It For?
Is it for people who can't make it on Sunday, but still want to hear the amazing sermon and have a moment some other time in the week for spiritual reflection?
Is it for your Sunday School or other volunteers that didn't get to be part of Sunday morning worship, yet want to have access to what happened at a later date?
Is it for the people who aren't able to commute to the church due to weather, travel, or illness? Are they able to join remotely and feel part of what is happening?
Is it for the people who don't feel comfortable in a church or don't worship in a traditional manner? Is this a first way to be exposed to the community of faith?
Is it to connect with another community of faith or another gathering? Are you worshipping with another community of faith? Are you communicating back and forth?
2. How Do You Create Community?
Live streaming is often not just one way communication. When you are worshipping via livestream with another community of faith, there is interaction. And with people tuning in from home or remotely, there might be chats happening on the side. At one community of faith doing livestream, someone is always monitoring the chat boxes for prayer requests and texting them to the minister as the service is happening. At another gathering, the opening prayer is said in one location, the readings done in another, the sermon in a third, and singing is everywhere.
3. Is It Sustainable?
Who are the people that volunteer for this work? Can they keep up with this? Is this a passion for them?
Does this start to change into a new community that is participating financially? Is there stewardship through the livestream interaction
Once you figure out some of these initial questions, you can start looking at your technical requirements.
Software can be a differentiator for a community of faith. There is the old adage that we need to 'work smarter, not harder', and this is what technology allows us to do.
Typical software that a church would have include:
Operating Software: This is the basic software that allows your computer to do basic functions.
Accounting Software: There is specialized software for bookkeeping and accounting.
Anti Virus Software: This is more and more important with all of the online activity and access to your information.
What Software Do You Need?
When thinking about what software that you are going invest in, you should answer the following questions:
1. What are the business functions that your computer needs to do?
What are the tasks that you and your team need to be able to do? List them and start thinking about what tasks might be able to take advantage of a software program.
2. Can one software provide more than one of these functions?
Software programs are now being created to perform multiple functions. For instance, a website might also be able to have an email database.
If you have a long list of functions that need to be performed, sometimes it is better to investigate programs that do more than one so that this information is integrated. For example, if you have an e-newsletter it might be interesting for the same program to track donations.
3. How many people need this?
Only the people that are performing a specific function need access to the programming that allows for this. For instance, you don't need an accounting software on everyone's computers.
4. How do you want to access this software?
- SaaS (Software as a service) is software that you pay a monthly or annual fee to have access to. It can be downloaded to your computer or it can be in the Cloud and the information can be held elsewhere on a server.
- Desktop is when you download or upload the software directly on to your computer. Oftentimes, this means that your computer is storing this program and the information in the program, which means that others don't have access to this information but it also means that this data is lost if something happens to the computer.
- Private network is when your entire (larger) network has a program that is providing a function for more than 1 computer.
5. What is available for a church?
Techsoup Canada provides discounts and donations from many software companies to nonprofits, charities, and communities of faith.
Nationally, The United Church of Canada has already saved over $200,000 on technology products through this program.
Examples of donated software include:
Microsoft Office and Microsoft 365
Accounting software such as QuickBooks
Contact Relationship Management and Fundraising Tools
Project Management Tools
Marketing and Design Tools
Google Non Profit including free Google AdWords, Business Solutions, and upgraded YouTube
Catalogue of Donated Software
If you want to see all of the categories, jump to the catalogue here.
Visit TechSoup Canada’s website to register and find out how the donations program works for faith-based organizations.
Using video conferencing is a great way to communicate with people across the country and you can build a great connection with someone without ever meeting them face to face.
1. High Speed Internet Access Not Necessary
You might not need as much bandwidth as you think. Many video conferencing services are automatically connected with a teleconferencing solution, recognizing that not everyone will be at home in front of their computers. Sound is the most important part of communication, so if you continue to connect by phone to prevent the Internet getting in the way of your audio, then even in a remote location you don't have to be as concerned with your bandwidth throughout the conversation. If you get kicked out online, you are still communicating on the phone. Yet when your Internet is working, everyone still benefits from getting to see you and therefore feel like they know you better.
2. Rain or Shine
Video conferencing is great in those gloomy nights where no one wants to be on the road. Consider having this as an option for your board meetings, council meetings, and maybe even worship services.
3. Distance Doesn't Matter
Feeling disconnected? Video conferencing can help you gather with others across the country without the 6 hour drive! You could have a regular gathering of like-minded leaders, or your colleagues around Canada.
4. Record Great Conversations
Video conferencing is great for everyone who is there, but it is also great for everyone who isn't. By recording your conversations you can capture stories, keep people updated on the status of things, and there are many other ideas of how this can be useful.
5. Clusters & Networks
Video conferencing is a great tool to help you in developing your clusters and networks, especially for rural ministries in large geographical clusters and for networks that might span the country.
Zoom: This is our favourite platform for conversations and relationship building. It focuses on the video of the people on the phone, anyone can share their screens, people can dial in from any country, you can record it, and there is a free version to start you off. Plus only the moderator needs a username & password.
AdobeConnect: We find it is great for meetings that you are taking notes, sharing ideas and chatting at the same time.
Skype: This is a great option for conversations and something that has a high adoption rate, but everyone needs to have a username/password.
GoToMeeting: This is great for large webinars and some online chat. Often this is screen sharing focused but has similar options to what is available by others.
Glip: This is part of RingCentral's suite of telecommunications solutions and is similar to Zoom.