As an advocate of “Open Software” that is generally of no cost to use, and as a retired minister that tried to illustrate good stewardship of financial resources, I have always endeavoured to use free open sourced software whenever possible. In the past, you might have read my article about “Linux” operating systems to extend the life of older or underpowered computers that the licensed proprietary software vendors have left behind as “obsolescent”. So, in keeping with my frugal and environmental tendencies, I am suggesting that small rural churches can save the $200.00 per year fee that Zoom charges, by trying out the free open source video conferencing software from “Jitsi Meet”.
Personally, I have used Jitsi Meet for church council meetings, and I have found that it is simple to run, user friendly, and loaded with features. It could even be used for collaborative ministry situations to inexpensively connect various churches together.
Here is a brief summary:
- Jitsi Meet does not require that you download any software onto your computer. It works through your browser as you click onto the invitation in your email. Just search for “Jitsi Meet”. Make sure that you use the browser version, and not the downloadable program for corporate servers. Here is the link.
There is also a mobile app should you desire to host or attend a meeting through your smartphone.
- It features no time limits, screen sharing, a whiteboard, assorted or custom backgrounds, calendar integration, meeting recording through Dropbox (you can also record the session if you use a free open source software program called OBS should you not have a Dropbox account. Here is the link, bandwidth adjustment for quality should your internet connection be of poor quality, end to end encryption, a “lobby” to screen participants before entering the conference, options for a password for connection, breakout rooms, YouTube integration, streaming, and phone-in options (although there is a charge for the long distance call if you are on a landline). All of these features are of no cost, and when the meeting is over, there is no software program sitting on your computer that might contain tracking software or malware. Here is a YouTube video link that describes some of the features.
Here is another link that will guide you in getting started with using Jitsi Meet.
In conclusion, give it a try. I think that you will be impressed with it. Moreover, you will help balance that technology budget for your church.
Martin Dawson, retired minister living in Cornwall PEI