By RaeAnn slaybaugh
When a church group travels within the United States, cell phone-based notification technology comes in handy in a variety of ways — for last-minute schedule changes, transportation issues, lost people, security concerns, safety announcements (weather threats and so on), and the coordination of daily events (meeting times and locations, important messages/instructions).
What many church leaders don’t consider is that these same capabilities are also useful for international trips. According to Bob Wolfe, senior marketing manager (religious/non-profit markets) for One Call Now [onecallnow.com/religious] in Troy, OH, it’s important to educate both the travelers and their loved ones about communication expectations, capabilities and limitations.
A mission leader might want to indicate how often and under what conditions communication will be likely, Wolfe advises. That leader would also want to highlight potential technical limitations of cellular service in foreign countries, differences in time zones, and perhaps some idea of the general trip itinerary and what a “daily schedule” might look like, he adds.
Using phone and notification technology for group notification (to or from the traveling group) might also supplement other tools, such as Skype or Kik messaging.
By educating travelers and other members of the church community, the leader can give assurances how the group can be reached in emergency and routine situations.
What’s your motivation?
As to the technical capabilities of using a notification service like One Call Now, it’s simple, according to Wolfe: As long as the traveling group can access a country’s international long-distance code, and subsequently dial the One Call Now 800 number, communication back to the home church should be quick and easy.
Conversely, if the church (or even subgroups in the church) would wish to send messages to member of the traveling group, again, dialing into the company’s system will allow those members stateside to send messages to phones anywhere.
A group leader traveling to one or more countries might want to explore the ability to place international calls from anywhere in that country.
An untapped resource
So, the case for using notification technology on international church group trips is clear — but it’s not common. Wolfe has some thoughts about why.
“I’m sure many church groups simply don’t understand that services like these are available to them,” he says. “Or, it’s possible — because of the easy, intuitive capabilities of smartphones these days — that the group members automatically assume that they’ll have universal
connectivity. I have places in my yard where I can’t access 4G on my phone.
“The same kind of understanding of the real-world technical limitations of phones and networks is probably wise,” Wolfe adds. “But, once you’ve got access to our notification hub, you should be able to send messages anywhere.”
Wolfe says he suspects another reason church groups don’t often consider group-oriented emergency notification as part of their planning is because they feel it’s sufficient to maintain communication with a group leader only.
“Churches might elect this communication protocol to cut down on confusion, and because they’d rather the traveling members focus on the trip itself rather than ongoing communication with friends and families back home. This is probably wise from a leadership standpoint,” Wolfe says.
“We just want people to know that regardless of which communication protocol a church and traveling group might choose, if they can reach the 800 number, they can reach just about anyone on their roster. And that gives people peace of mind.”