Getting Started Guide
Getting the IT side of things right at the very beginning is essential for your church plant – it will make your life easier to have the right infrastructure, a good, easy-to-manage website in place and to have a well-supported email/file-sharing system that will allow your church to grow without hassle. While it’s tempting to look to free open-source options which may initially save money in the short term, you must also consider the hidden costs of doing so – finding suitable support or volunteers able to operate niche systems can come at a high cost or prove an impossible task to maintain long-term.
In this guide we will recommend systems and software that are easy to come by, that are relatively familiar to most people and that are well-supported by both manufacturers and third-party support companies you may engage with.
TT-Exchange is a UK-based charity that connects the charity sector and technology companies to provide large savings to charities on tech items (hardware and software).
We highly recommend that once you have a registered charity number to sign up with TT-Exchange as this will allow you to gain access to charity pricing on a number of technologies very early on. Registration will take no more than five business days.
To sign up to TT Exchange go to click here.
Choosing a domain name
Before you set up a domain name you’ll need to decide what you want it to be. We’d recommend something short and relevant to your church plant. We also recommend going for a .org address rather than .co.uk, .com (which could be expensive), and steer clear of things like .church or .biz.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer, but it depends on how generic a domain name you’re going to use – for example if your church plant is called ‘The Hub’ and there are other charities or companies out there with a similar name, it could be worthwhile registering both thehub.org, thehub.org.uk and/or other domains to avoid confusion with other organisations.
On the other hand, if your church name is, for example Ecclesiastes church, you’re probably safer to just register one or the other.
Setting up your domain
This step should happen early on because you will want to have a domain in place before you can set up things like email, websites etc. We recommend using Godaddy for this service.
Head to this page to begin the process: Godaddy.
This is where you can search for the domain name you want, check availability and proceed to purchase the domain.
When setting up your Godaddy domain you should at the same time sign up for the email service to add an email account with your domain name.
This will aid you in the later step of setting up an Office 365 account.
At this stage, we recommend 2 service providers for email and cloud document storage.
Office 365 provides a more comprehensive and flexible system that is suited for a larger organisation whilst the latter is ideal for smaller start-ups or church plants.
Sign up for Office 365
Now that you’ve got your domain set up, you can sign up for Office 365 and Exchange Online.
To do this go to Office 365 to sign up for a trial, and register with the email address you created in Godaddy.
Qualified non-profit organisations can receive Office 365 Nonprofit as a donation or upgrade to advanced features at a significant discount. To qualify for Office 365 Nonprofit, you must hold recognised charitable status in your country and sign Microsoft’s non-discrimination policy.
You can find out more about Office 365 Nonprofit here.
At this point you can decide whether you want to go for licenses that include the Microsoft Office suite of applications (Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint and Access) or choose the online versions only, or a mixture of both.
Assuming you have already signed up for TT-exchange and had your registration processed, you will be given a validation token from Microsoft that you can use to sign in and download your Office 365 licence.
Once you’re signed up, you’re in and can begin creating users and assigning licenses to staff.
Sign up for G Suite
If you have decided to build your website with Squarespace, there is an automated email integration with G Suite in the settings panel. The process is guided and straight forward.
You can learn more about the set up process here.
However, if you have decided to use a different website builder, G Suite has a useful set up guide that walks you through setting up G Suite with your preferred website building service. You can learn more about it here.
One of the most important steps to take is to search for and engage with some form of local IT support company. We do not have any specific recommendations as to named companies. Based on experience you should do your best to ensure you’re not leveraging the help of someone from within the congregation who’ll do jobs based on best efforts or when time permits, a support contract with a local IT firm based on monthly hours of support protects you and the church and means you can guarantee some form of professional service.
You’ll want to set up your own website, and since all the way back at step 2 you decided upon a catchy and relevant domain name, you now can link that domain name to a website building/hosting service such as Squarespace, or Wix. Both of these services offer template-based website building to get your site up and running quickly, they also offer more bespoke design services if you have a unique vision (and bulging wallet) that you urgently wish to see developed.
We don’t have any specific recommendations as to phone lines. You should decide whether you want to have a landline for the church office, or set up a mobile phone contract with a supplier such as EE, Vodafone for key staff. You may want to do a signal strength survey for the various networks to see which network offers the best coverage for your specific location.
We don’t have any specific recommendations for broadband packages as they usually vary based on your requirements, but be aware that while for a home broadband package you would pay more attention to the download speed of your connection, when you’re a church and you want to get content out to your congregation either on a website or some form of streaming service you should look for a broadband package that gives you 20mb upload speeds as a minimum.
Once you’ve decided what type of connectivity you’re looking for – whether you want a simple office-based setup for the church office or want to plaster the entire church premises in glorious wifi – contact the various broadband providers to get quotes for business broadband, then engage with the local support firm you engaged to put a plan in place to get everything set up and working the way you want.
Now that all of the above is set up, at this point you should be thinking about the types of policies you want to put in place – an acceptable use policy is a key policy to have early on as it defines acceptable behaviour and sets the tone as you mature in your use of technology within the church.