Free Apps and Websites Any Pastor Can Use To Organize, Promote and Do More Creative Ministry
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. In fact, with people spending an average of five hours a day on their mobile devices, great tech is essential to help churches fulfill their missions within their communities.
But if your church and budget are small, implementing excellent tech tools is easier said than done.
The good news is there’s a number of great apps and websites available to help churches drive positive change without spending a penny.
Here are just a few I have used:
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 that site, you can set up a URL that’s simply www.yourchurchname.com (or .church, .org, and so on).
The downside? You have to sign up at a separate host site (like BlueHost or HostGator) to buy your domain name for about $10 a year, and it’s not as easy to set up as wordpress.com.
The upsides? You will own the site, control it, and have a lot more options with it. You will also have almost unlimited templates to choose from, including premium templates for a small fee.
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 myriad 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. 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. YouVersion is worth exploring on your own to 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.
This app will help bring your church graphics into the 21st century. Canva is filled with templates and styles that are easy to create and share with other team members. There are plenty of great free graphics, plus premium designs that can be used for as little as $1.
If you’re on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you know when someone has mentioned you or your church because they’ve tagged you. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew every time you or your church was mentioned in other places online?
That’s what Mention does. On the free version, you can enter up to three search terms 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, OneNote, and Google Keep
These are helpful note-taking apps that allow you to take notes on one device (like your phone) and retrieve them on another device (like your laptop).
Evernote has been the biggest player in this space, but it has become less user-friendly recently, including charging fees for sharing notes on more than two devices. Google Keep and OneNote are getting better and may soon surpass Evernote in usability and customer base.
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 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. Feedly 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. Just click on any title to read the article, or hold your finger down for one second on any title you want to read later, and it will be saved for you.
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: Use Online Tools For Efficiency
A wise use of apps and programs like these can make organizing your church’s tasks more efficient. That’s what good technology is for: Letting you do ministry more effectively.
But it’s not a substitute for you, the pastor.
So, as one final word of advice from a long-time pastor, let me encourage you to use all the tools 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.