I enter an appointment in Google Calendar at my office computer, access it on my iPhone, modify it on my Windows PC at home, and always have updated information available to me.
Same with e-mail via Google Mail, documents via Google Docs, and instant messaging via Google Chat. In what is second nature to a 20-something but is still new and exciting to someone who used to carry a Day Timer using paper (!), I can manage my communications wherever I am. I can start an article or sermon at home, store it in the cloud, and then continue to work on it elsewhere, even in an airport.
In a feature that I find particularly useful, I share certain online documents with colleagues and parishioners, so that we can access, edit and retrieve documents in real time and not worry about versioning and e-mail attachments.
Many of you work in exactly this same manner. “Cloud computing,” as they call it, is becoming standard in most enterprises. Other vendors, such as Apple, offer comparable services. Large enterprises have had such capabilities for years, using dedicated network services. But now even small enterprises, like churches and home-based businesses, can access these powerful tools and at little or no expense. Yes, hardware costs, but even gear expenses are declining.
Some yearn for simpler days of paper calendars, mailed letters, and reminders posted on refrigerators. But I commend electronic communications to you. For one thing, it’s the only way to reach young adults and youth. It’s the most efficient and least expensive way to handle day-to-day business, especially with busy folks in enterprises where e-comm is standard.
A church offers other communications, as well, such as the spoken and sung word on Sunday, printed bulletins, telephone calls, personal visits, parking lot chats. Google Apps and Apple’s MobileMe can’t handle everything. But effective electronic communications frees up time for the personal encounter and uses money wisely.
Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus,” and the founder of the Church Wellness Project.