Google: A Free Solution for Small Budgets

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screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-9-10-12-amWorship Planning has become high-tech these days. There are dozens of options of web-based and software-based resources to aid and assist in worship planning and scheduling. Most of these premium resources have monthly subscription fees. For example, some worship leaders have chosen to use pay services such as Planning Center Online to plan and share resources with team members. I think that is a great option for those who have the financial resources to implement that. Large churches typically have a big enough budget to accommodate the monthly fees associated with PCO and similar solutions.

But what if you’re serving at a smaller church with little to no financial resources set aside for this sort of thing?

Google.

Google works.

Google works nicely.

And it’s free.

So here’s how it works.

  1. Get your whole team on email. It’s the 21st century; there’s no reason we should be communicating with carrier pigeons. No seriously, make sure everyone’s connected. Do a workshop if you need to.
  2. Go to Google and sign up for a Google account. I used my own existing email account. You don’t necessarily have to set up a gmail account.
  3. Set up a group. You’ll find “Groups” in the top links of google (possibly in the “more” link).
  4. Go to the members section and MANUALLY add all of your team members (using the email addresses you’ve collected from step 1).

Voila. You’ve created an email based discussion group that can be accessed through email OR by visiting the groups page you created.

What Can You Do With This Group?

  • Upload files to the file section. Each week I add reference mp3s, chord charts, vocal rehearsal tracks, and whatever else my team members need to prepare for rehearsal.
  • Start discussions. Similar to a discussion forum, you can start and reply to topics in your group. I post the weekly line-up and who is scheduled to sing and/or play that week.
  • We also use the discussion forum for “get to know you” question games, silly photo caption contests, “off” requests (by team members), observations from leaders, praise, constructive criticism, prayer requests, daily or weekly devotionals for team members, etc.
  • It’s one of the small ways we build community within the team. Not only do we see each other twice a week, but every team member is constantly connected to the discussion forums.
  • Each team member can also choose the level of email activity they get each day. For instance, you can choose to get every email reply to a topic, or to get one summary with all emails for the day. You can even choose no email activity and participate by visiting the site only, but I encourage our team members to at least select the daily summary email option, since, at times, we make changes to a key or the rotation might change.

We really push pre-practicing. We want all of our team members to be able to sing or play their parts BEFORE Wednesday rehearsal if possible. It only takes a few minutes for our singers to download their tracks and have them in their mp3 players or on a cd. It takes a little bit more for our musicians, but in the end it’s VERY worth it.

Before you go and upload your whole iTunes worship library to Google though, make sure that what you are “sharing” with your team is legal. I’m NOT advocating just ripping mp3s and posting them online. What I would suggest is that you make rehearsal tracks using your own musicians if possible.

I know that Google doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of it’s pricier alternatives, but it’s definitely worth a look if you’re on a zero to low worship budget. My team has consistently gotten better because of the availability of reference material to practice BEFORE our regular rehearsal.

Russ Hutto

Russ serves in Media/Music at House of Joy in Valdosta, GA and blogs at www.russhutto.com.



is the Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church, where he mentors, oversees and helps lead Family and Student worship environments. He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community and at HighestPraise.com.

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