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Tech Efficiency on a Dime

One commitment I made to myself when I agreed to head my church’s audiovisual ministry was not to let it consume me or cause me to neglect my family. That’s easier at some times of the year than others, but I’ve found several online tools that help me get this done, and all but one is free.

We began using Planning Center Online in April 2007 and haven’t looked back. We started with the free 30-day trial, then went with what was then the $9/month plan. Due mainly to the growth of the tech team, we moved up to the $14/month plan last year. Prior to Planning Center, the Music Minister and I e-mailed an Excel file back and forth during the week.

Google Docs’ spreadsheets could be used much easier today if no money is available, but the low cost of Planning Center makes it practically a necessity for communicating and laying out a service plan. I also use Planning Center to schedule the rotation of my Tech Team. Their ability to accept or decline and then later receive e-mail reminders is great.

And there’s a Facebook app, too. DropBox is another invaluable tool I use pretty much on a daily basis. It allows me to work at home (or anywhere else with Internet access). Videos, sermon notes, announcements, etc. can all be saved on my home computer or laptop, and within minutes or seconds, the files will also be on the media PC at church. The 2GB free version of DropBox is sufficient for me.

Once the planning and preparation for Sundays is complete, I can access the media PC from home with Logmein Free to actually set up EasyWorship and anything else that I want to do prior to Sunday. On the IT side of my responsibilities, Logmein is installed on all the church PCs to give me and that team remote access. Other free programs I utilize on a regular basis for tech work are Audacity for sermon recording and editing, Google Docs, Box.net, and Evernote for saving and sharing files, notes, and training material.

There are also a host of free background images and loops for projection. Vimeo and YouTube are good places to start.

Being a volunteer tech leader in a small to medium sized church requires two things week after week: get as much done as possible in the short amount of available time and do it all as cheaply as possible. Each of these tools enables me to accomplish that. And the best part is I don’t have to be away from my home or family to do it.

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