Tech Thursday on Friday

OK. So I missed the first tech Thursday post, oops. We will do the first Tech Thursday on Friday this week.

Of course, the big tech news this week is the iPhone becoming available on the Verizon network. So many people are commenting on this. I am going to reserve my comments for a future post. Todd Rhodes had a good post here comparing AT&T’s handling of things the last couple of years to the way the church often has handled things.

Instead of adding to the fray on that topic, I am going to start with the basic since this is my first post in this series.

I am asked to speak from time to time to pastors about productivity and technology use. The first tool I show or talk about is Google. Most of us know the power of Google for searching the web. Many have even heard about some of the other tools that Google offers. The majority of pastors and leaders I talk with are under-utilizing the great resources that Google offers through its calendar suite.

With a simple Gmail account, one has access to the best collaboration and organizational tool available that I have found. A few things make it so great:

  • It’s free!
  • It’s powerful
  • It is compatible across platforms and devices.
  • It is web-based, yet syncs seamlessly with desktop apps and mobile devices for access when the internet is not available.
  • It’s easy to use.
  • The user has complete control.

At Capital City, we use Google calendar to handle everything from our personal calendars to the church master calender and building reservation calendar. We decide who has access to each calendar and what level of access, from read only to full administration.

Each person can have multiple calendars and only share the ones they want with those they want. Each calendar can be custom color coded for easy viewing. The image below is from my Google calendar page. You can see the various calendars I administrate. Some are shared with others and some are not. One is public, the rest are not. At the bottom you can see “Other Calendars”. Below that is the list of calendars that have been shared with me by staff and others. (I am not showing that list because it reveals email addresses.) Those can also be custom color coded for easy viewing. With a simple click you can turn on and off calendars from view in any configuration you need for the moment’s purpose.

Google also gives the ability to embed a calendar on another website. We have done this with our master events calendar, seen below. This is the same calendar listed as “Capital City” above.

As stated, all of this syncs seamlessly. I have these calendars on my laptop and both my mobile devices. I use an app called Calengoo for iPhone/iPad. There is an Android version in Beta. There are other apps for other platforms available that work as well with Google calendar. On my laptop I use iCal. Google calendar will also sync with Outlook using an app plugin provided by Google. For those using Entourage for Mac there is an app plugin for that as well. What is so appealing about this is the ability to access your calendars without logging in to Google. If for some reason you didn’t have access to the internet, you would still have access to your calendar. The reverse is also true, if you didn’t have access to your computer, but had access to the internet you could login from any computer and access your Google calendars. Whichever devices or platform you use, when a change is made on one it syncs all the others as long as they are connected to the internet.

The implementation of this has been huge for our staff. We can make informed calendar decisions from anywhere at anytime. No longer do I have to tell people to call me or I’ll get back to them about meetings or availability: we can set things on the spot. We can plan events and avoid scheduling conflicts with groups and ministries that use our building whether we sitting at our desk or not. When I am away from the building, the staff can know where I am at a glance and I can know where the staff is. We have almost no conflicts that arise in schedule and communication has reached a new level.

Feel free to comment or give any tips you have about calendar syncing and integration. Also feel free to ask any questions regarding our implementation and use of this wonderful resource.

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