|15 low-cost or free Web-based tools for ministry|
With all the resources available online, it's difficult to know which ones will be most helpful. So we swam the sea of apps and Web-based tools and discovered some fabulous low-cost or free options that we hope will benefit you.
This tool allows you to search the social Web and instantly create a custom page with the latest buzz on any topic. Try searching an upcoming sermon or small group topic and it will bring up all the trending posts from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Delicious and other social media. You can use this as a research tool or to track social mentions about your church.
Animoto lets you combine photos, video clips and music to create videos to upload for presentation or to share on the Web. They also support non-profits and other humanitarian causes with free upgraded access. Plus users have access to HD quality uploads, exports for social sharing, video-style templates, a music library, photo services and plug-ins. You can even edit video from an iPhone or Android.
This is a great directory of quotes cataloged by topic or famous person. Whether you are experiencing writer’s block or looking for content for a presentation, filler, Tweet or Facebook update, this is a useful resource.
Most of us don’t have the time to read everything that interests us as we find it. Clipix lets you bookmark great articles and media you find online. It's well organized like Evernote and visual like Pinterest. It even features a price-drop watch, which is great to use when your church is waiting for an item to go on sale. You can keep your search private or make it public.
5. Flickr Creative Commons
Whether you are looking for illustrations for a blog or for a sermon presentation, Flickr Creative Commons is a great source of free images. Flickr also makes it easy to post pictures of mission trips and other church activities. Flickr upgraded and improved its mobile app in 2012. It is social and will provide backlinks to your website, while Instagram does not.
If you are taking online prayer requests, starting an e-newsletter for your church, doing surveys, collecting donations or registering people for an event, a Wufoo form on your site is the way to go. Wufoo writes the script, meaning you will not have to write a single line of code. The intuitive drag-and-drop form builder with templates makes it easy to create a form to use on your site. Since Wufoo is hosted in the cloud, you install nothing. Watch these tutorial videos to learn more. Wufoo is free for one user and three forms. Upgrade by selecting from a choice of paid plans with features that include more forms, additional users, extra reports, entries and more storage.
7. Google Internet Stats
Google explains it this way: “This Google resource brings together the latest industry facts and insights. These have been collected from a number of third-party sources covering a range of topics from macroscopic economic and media trends to how consumer behavior and technology are changing over time.” In the search box, enter a sermon or small group topic to find a vast array of statistics about that topic. Use these stats to support all your communication efforts.
8. Google Wallet
Google Wallet lets you store your credit and debit cards, loyalty cards and more in Google’s highly secure servers. This mobile app allows your church to accept online donations. You also can use it to pay for online shopping from your computer when you are logged into your account. Google Wallet can be disabled if you lose your phone. Learn more >>
Group/as is a user-submitted grouping tool for Google+ Pages. If your church is on Google+, be sure to add your page to the “Nonprofit” and “Charity” groups.
If it’s difficult for staff to remember the usernames and passwords for your various online accounts, this tool is for you. It consolidates all of your login information into one manager. The password you create for LastPass will be the last one you’ll ever have to remember. LastPass will automatically complete routine online forms so you don’t have to type common fields such as name, address and email. Secure and free, it can be used with any operating system. A paid option is available for mobile access.
11. Outlook.com (previously Hotmail)
Microsoft introduced a new free Web-based email service named Outlook after its existing desktop software. TIME magazine named the new service one of 50 Best Websites of 2012. It might be wise to sign up as soon as possible and reserve your first choice of Outlook email addresses.
The company motto is “the next step in social and business communication.” Present.me allows users to combine PowerPoint shows, slideshows and video to create visually compelling presentations. Your church could easily use it to connect with work teams at mission sites or to present sermons online.
Use Quozio to create memes or images of quotes to upload to Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ or to use for a Bible study. Memes are great for getting attention on social media platforms.
Would your church like to broadcast sermons live? Ustream enables nonprofits to create Web-based “TV” stations easily. Use smartphone or tablet apps to broadcast live anywhere, anytime. Live streaming could enable you to broadcast a sermon to more than one church location or to members who cannot attend worship. Try the free plan first to determine if live streaming is the best technology to extend worship beyond the sanctuary. If so, you will have to upgrade your plan since the free plan allows for limited storage. At that point, consider switching over to Techshop's MyUMClive streaming program which offers discounted pricing to United Methodist churches. Techshop pricing is less than Ustream across the board. Learn more about how to stream worship services and other video hosting services.
Scoop.it is a magazine creation and discovery site. One of many free tools for publishing an online magazine, Scoop.it aims to make creating an online publication easy. A suggestion engine generates topics in which your readers might be interested. Publications made with this tool are searchable. A paid subscription to Scoop.it allows you to use links, videos or interactive maps that print cannot access. Scoop.it may be a great tool for publishing your church newsletter or producing electronic publications for outreach and ministry.