Do you ever have to schedule conference calls or need to connect with folks far away?  Google chat is a great way to hold meetings when you have people living in different geographical locations.  I use it for a women’s group that meets every couple of months.  This group originally would meet in person once a month while we were in grad school.  We all went our separate ways but still longed for a way to connect.  Since we are now located all over the United States and many have families, it is difficult for us to travel, we started using Google+ Hangouts. 

Google+ Hangouts is a free service and all you have to do is sign up with Google+.  If you already have a Gmail address, you can sign in using your Gmail user ID.  Many folks use Skype but when it comes to group meetings, you have to pay a fee.  With Google+ Hangouts, it’s free and you can chat with up to 9 people for a total of 10 people chatting.  Google+ Hangouts works on computers, tablets and phones.  You can then download the app to mobile devices.  Most of us use our computer but a few who have had problems with microphones on pc’s, use their phone to connect and it works quite well.  I recommend using your headpiece when using your phone to connect, as the sound quality is much better with it.  But don’t drive and Video Chat with your phone, it’s pretty scary to watch someone do that (you know who you are!).  It takes very little time to get the hang of it – most problems have to do with sound, volume, and microphones.  Using Google+Hangouts is also so much fun! You can share documents on the screen (we have shared recipes), you can draw together, wear funny hats (I highly recommend the pirate hat) and masks and share funny sounds as well.  It has certainly helped us form community in a way that we had longed for so many years.

In professional ministry, you can host meetings for national organizations, provide consulting and offer formation.  I have heard of dioceses that are currently using Google+ Hangouts for formation programs.  Folks can be at home and receive instruction from dioceses and institutions and there is no cost, except for an Internet connection or a data package for your phone.  Make sure to monitor your data usage when using your phone, if you are using it regularly.

Google Chat is one of the best options for connecting groups of people for free! watch the Video below to see how it works.  Enjoy!