Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chromebook As a Tool for Churches

Because of the flexibility and the price of a Chromebook it makes for an ideal tool that could be utilized by churches if they have the imagination.  I would imagine that churches would be drawn to the $250 price tag while they would probably shy away from the change in thinking that would have to happen in order to make the use of a Chromebook in their situation.  I would like to put forth a few potential uses that I can see for churches that would like to add Chromebooks to their ministry tool kits.  As with all tools there are certain things that the Chromebook is well suited to and there are certain things that it is not well suited to.  Churches should consider their own ministry needs and their congregational identity when they assess how a tool will fit into their ministry.

A Note About Management:
One of the things that makes the Chromebook an ideal tool for ministry is the way that a deployment of many Chromebooks can be easily managed.  Google offers a web-based management console where a company, school, or church can manage a deployment of Chromebooks in any size.  This tool makes it easy to install or block apps over many Chromebooks, view the usage of your deployment, configure network access for many Chromebooks.  If you are looking at using Chromebooks in your ministry I would highly recommend that you check out the management console.

Potential Uses for Churches:

Tutoring Programs - When I was younger, my mom ran a tutoring program at our church for local inner city kids.  As a part of this program, a bunch of people donated their old computers and we had a suite of academic DOS programs and games that the students could play with their tutor during a period of the tutoring night.  The Chromebook is an excellent tool for younger students to learn on.  The ability for each of the students to create a Google account means they will have all of their individual apps on any Chromebook (or on any computer with a Chrome browser for that matter).  If your church wants to invest even more in local youth you could give a Chromebook to some local inner city kids or even have a checkout system for students so they can check out a Chromebook to work at home.  The price tag means that if a Chromebook gets lost, stolen, or broken it is not the cost of a full computer to replace it.

Church Staff - As I have mentioned previously, I am a huge fan of the Google Apps Suite.  Google Apps for business are an easy and incredibly powerful way to manage your domain and increase productivity.  Google apps allow easy sharing of documents, collaboration and easy storage of everything online.  The way of doing things with Google apps takes some getting used to if you use traditional desktop computing apps, but with a little bit of training and encouragement Google apps can change the way a church runs.  A Chromebook can be a natural extension of the Google apps suite.  The Chromebook can be given to staff members as an additional computing device alongside a desktop computer, or could even be the primary computing device for certain staff positions.  The close Google apps integration can keep the staff connected and collaborating on the go.  If a church wanted to go with a slightly more radical model they could give each of their staff members a Chromebook and have a couple of communal computers for those tasks that require a more traditional computer.  This could be accompanied with a more open model of church offices where there is a lot of open working space and some conference rooms.  In this environment staff could be portable and just find a place to plop down and work.

Volunteers - The price point of the Chromebook also could allow it as a tool that could even be given to volunteers as a tool to accomplish their work for the church.  This is not that much different from the way that a Chromebook could be used with the church staff, but a Chromebook could be a way to honor volunteers by giving them a tool to help them do the work that they do for the church.  This is nice because it can empower volunteers to be more productive and it won't break the bank for the church.  Obviously, this wouldn't work for all volunteers at a church but it could be a way to honor and empower a few key volunteers.

Internet Classes - This might be a nice ministry opportunity for the older members of a congregation and the community around.  Most older people are aware that their grandchildren and in many cases their children live and communicate on the internet.  A Chromebook provides a very simple interface to the web and with a little bit of instruction it could be a good way for older people to stay in touch with their younger family members.

Worship - The Chromebook as a tool in worship is a little bit more out there.  For those churches that are interested in trying new things in worship it could provide some very interesting opportunities.  For instance, you could set up a station where people can tweet their prayer requests.  This could even be tied in to a projection system and tweeted prayers could then be broadcast on the screen for members of the congregation to pray.  This also is a cool way that the congregation can connect to the greater world.  If you are not comfortable with the twitter integration you could do a modern twist on the more traditional prayer station where you have a google form where a person can submit their prayer request.  Theoretically, a Chromebook could be used at any place in a service where paper is used.  It is obviously not practical for all of these applications, but it could be an interesting way to incorporate technology into the service and in the right setting it could be very effective.

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