Imagine a scenario unfolding as you watch. In many ways, it’s familiar. A church receives a phone-call which is fielded by the secretary, the secretary determines that the call is relevant for the pastor and asks if he or she is free to take the call, after determining that the pastor is able to take the call it is transferred to the pastor’s phone. It’s an everyday occurrence, one which happens in churches nearly every day.
Except in this case the call was fielded by the secretary while running an important errand, the pastor was notified of the call via text-message, and it was transferred to the pastor while he or she was at the local coffee shop. In fact, this church doesn’t even have a POTS line at all. Thanks to emerging technologies, their church office is location agnostic.
This is possible due to the emergence of Google Voice (formerly Grand Central) as a viable replacement for a POTS line. Google Voice allows users to direct calls to any number of phones they want (or even to Gmail). When a number is placed to a Google Voice number, any defined phone number for that account which is currently active will ring (and phones can be activated by a schedule). This means that “office” calls can now be pushed to users just like any other data. This, however, only scratches the surface of what Google Voice offers. I addition to call routing Google voice gives users free texting, call recording, conference call capabilities, call transfers, and transcribed voicemail (which is e-mailed to the user’s account). In addition to this, users can both make and receive calls via the Gmail web-interface. Incoming calls are free, outgoing calls will be free through 2011. These features, when combined, can actually free a congregation from actually needing an “office.” The benefits of having an “officeless office” are many. Below is a sampling.
- Heating and cooling bills can be reduced because the building doesn’t need to be heated for one or two people to work.
- Electric Bills can be reduced as office equipment isn’t running.
- The pastor is freed-up to do ministry “out and about” without feeling like he or she is “missing anything” back at the church building.
- The church secretary can work at home, and even remain “at the desk” while running personal or congregational errands.
- Voicemails don’t fall through the cracks, because notifications show up in the email inbox of the secretary, pastor, or both.
- Transferring “office” duties when the secretary is on vacation requires access to the internet, rather than the Church building.
- Calls can be scheduled to immediately go to e-mail after “office hours.”
- Free texting provides a church with a way to reach out people in the congregation without the intrusion of a phone call.
As churches continue to struggle with funding the use of their buildings it may be that having an “officeless office” may free up a struggling congregation with some finances and flexibility to do ministry. It’s a radical step, and even Central isn’t ready to make it just yet, but the possibilities are… intriguing.