personal productivitystrategy

7 Reasons Your Church Should Stop Buying Apple Computers and Move to Chromebooks

We’re moving away from Apple laptops for our staff team at our church and moving towards Chromebooks. I know this post might only apply to churches with larger staff teams but I wanted to share some of my learnings as we make this transition,

Chromebooks are essentially a web browser wrapped in an inexpensive laptop.  You turn it on and it opens up directly into the Chrome browser. We realized that our “pastoral type” staff spend most of their time online with email and so why do we need to pay for the rest that an Apple computer does? Our creative team and people responsible for making content will continue to use Macbooks but as we move through new staff and change our computers the majority of our team will end up on Chromebooks in the coming months.

I love Apple products. I have spent a lot of money over the years to help Apple build that massive cash reserve. They make beautiful and functional products. However, for most of 2013 I’ve been personally been using a Chromebook to see if we could move our team over to this product and I’m loving what I’m finding so far! I wanted to personally push the limits of this solution before rolling it out … because I know there will be some resistance.  Here are the reasons we’re making the switch …

  • chromebookBetter Stewardship. // The Chromebook that we’re deploying is $250. [Click here to check it out … and buy one!] This was a significant factor in what drove the decision. The “standard issue” Apple product we had been purchasing was $1,115. I’m not an accountant but I’m pretty sure that is four times more expensive than the Chromebook. Is the Mac better? Sure. Is it 4 times better? No.
  • Cloud Based. // All of our standard software products we use as a church are accessible through the web. We’re heavy users of the entire suite of Google products … because they are bullet proof and cheap to deploy. (Gmail, Calendar and Drive are the most used use in our community.) Our core church database system is also accessible through the browser. The majority of our team spends a large portion of their day in a browser … this decision just migrates them there all the time.
  • Technology Imbalance. // We do a far amount of media creation at Liquid. Some of our team members have some pretty high powered systems for graphics and video. The irony of it was that our creative people could do new (and better!) things if we gave them more powerful tools but we were overspending on the team members who just needed to do email.
  • They got better. // Our first step into the Chromebook world was about 18 months ago when we started using them in our campuses as “information kiosk laptops”. We have a 4-5 at each of our campuses for guests to use to get information about the church, for registering first time families in our children’s ministry and as quick place for team members to check email. These “older” Chromebooks didn’t function well enough as a “full time” machine … they were a bit slow, plasticy feeling, and the keyboard is too small.  The generation of Chromebooks on the market now have solved these issues and made them ready for prime time.
  • Battery Life. // The battery just keeps on going and going. On the days that I’m working out of the office I never need to hunt for a power outlet.  (In fact – I just leave my power cord at home.) This is critically important for our team that is always moving around.
  • Simple Infrastructure. // Updating of the Chromebook Operating System is crazy simple. All you have to do is restart. It automagically keeps the system the most up to date. It’s also super secure … there is so little that could wrong.
  • More than just online. // There are thousands of “apps” that run in offline mode as well.  Although you get the best experience when you are connected to a wifi connection … I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I can get done those odd times that I can’t get online. (Although … you’d be amazing how much free wifi is available if you just look around for it.)

You should try it out. Take the Chromebook Challenge … pick one up and use it for a week to see if it would work for your team.  I think you’ll be surprised! I’d love to hear your feedback! Please leave a comment.

{Geek Talk} But what about … 

Although we envision these Chromebooks just being used for email, documents, spreadsheets, our database and a few other web based solutions I’ve been testing the limits.  I’ve been doing light photo editing through the browser with Pixlr and found that it does most of what I need. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the cloud based video editing solution WeVideo … I’m digging that!  For music I’m back to a lot Pandora. I’m bummed that Netflix doesn’t work on Chrome … but I’ve been watching more Jimmy Fallon clips on Hulu as a result.



  1. “automagically” … love that word! and I definitely want a Chromebook MORE than I did before. definitely will check out WeVideo, thanks for the reco! 🙂

    1. Love it! I would love you review of one of these Chromebooks … I trust your technology opinions!

      Thanks for dropping in Aehee!

      – Rich

  2. Hey Rich! Love the movement and stewardship here! Questions: working on a chromebook tends to nescisate using Google’s webbased office products (which I love) in Drive. Do you find that you run into formatting issues when exporting those file to locally installed traditional programs? Also, in such a media heavy organization are there file types that end up being hard to open, review or edit? Just wondering. Being mostly web based myself these are th3 complaints I hear most often.

    1. Hey Shawn!

      I haven’t run into many file comparability problems. Yesterday we had an excel file needs a little work to pull in … but for the most part everything works great on the ChromeOS. The good thing is people can test drive the idea on their own computer by just using Chrome for a week … and see what hiccups they run into.

      For the people who are doing emailing and contacting we don’t anticipate any issues with file types.

      Thanks for commenting!


      1. We are in a rural location. Our internet is by radio signal. Rain, wind, kids gaming online, all deteriorate our signal.

        In Asia, the internet is very fast, inexpensive and accessible. Our problem in Thailand was the poor quality of line coming to our home, but all that has improved since then.

        Keep posting Rich. You have great insights and we all learn from your experience.

  3. Great writeup, Rich. I’ve actually been steering some of my clients away from purchasing Macbook Pros and going towards Chromebooks as well as setting up community desktop computers that reside in shared cubicles for volunteers that come in during the week. Google Docs is now something that every client I work with utilizes and the number of extensions and apps that are available for Chromebooks has increased dramatically.

    1. Eric! Thanks so much for commenting … great hearing from you!

      As you interact with clients … what would say the biggest hesitation towards the Chromebook is?

      – Rich

      1. For churches, the biggest hindrances or complaints I’ve received come from those who have no interest in learning new technology. These are primarily older-minded users who only hop on a computer when they have to, but generally avoid it at all costs. There are also those who really love their Macs and have already made up their minds that anything short of a machine with an Apple logo on it will hinder their productivity (when in fact they really just think it won’t be as cool to use).

        Best thing any church can do is gradually implement Chromebooks by having the more proficient technology users take them for a spin, and let those users become the in-house sales team to get the rest of the staff on board. This ensures that there are users of different proficiency levels on staff, giving those who are less enthusiastic some sort of confidence knowing they have someone to go to with questions.

        Oh, and the number one hindrance I’ve run into with businesses is the lack of trust with cloud computing. These are the companies that rely heavily on maintaining local servers for email, file sharing, printers, etc. and they are the most hesitant to jump ship because their data is highly valuable to them.

  4. Hi Rich!

    Good points here…

    Also add in that Chromebooks are multi-user by nature so you could literally keep a rack of them in an office setting and people can grab and use them as needed and return them to the rack.

    Have you compared to an iPad with a keyboard? The iPad gives you dedicated apps for photo and video editing that are pretty amazing for a tablet, and they have other apps that make them more flexible to the user’s work and personal needs. But they also can use all the Google services too.

    Just a thought…

    1. Great idea about returning them … a coworker of mine was just doing that yesterday. He was jumping from chromebook to chromebook but still getting his work done.

      The iPad with keyboard is fine. I have one of those personally. It’s still twice the cost of Chromebook … and the bluetooth connection to connect the keyboard can be wonky at times. Although … you still get the coolness of having an Apple product! I still think the Chromebook wins out over that for a full time machine … the battery life is better, less expensive, the keyboard is attached, it works on a desk better …

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      – Rich

  5. So what hardware do you use? (There are a few modelois out there – what do you guys use?)

    To be honest, my hesitation is definitely the cloud storage issue, and that if for some reason my Internet goes down, I’m out of files.

    I have been wanting to try it out for a long time – I just have not had the time to spend on it.


    1. Patrick!

      We’ve settled on the Samsung Chromebook. It doesn’t have a model number outside of that. I linked to it a couple times in the article.

      It’s true … the Internet can go down. But I’ve found service to be more reliable that a local storage system.

      Let me know if you try it.

      How’s the net connection on the field with you guys?

      Thanks for dropping by!

      – Rich

  6. I had a Chromebook & loved it. As a pastor I could easily get by with just the CB. The only exception I needed a diff machine for was to access Logos bible software since somehow it’s not in the cloud yet. That’s the only reason I got rid of mine. However, in hindsight I wish I had kept it. I’d use the fool out of it

    1. Bobby!

      Thanks so much for dropping in and commenting!

      Are there any “Logos Bible Software” alternatives that are in the cloud? What makes them not as good?

      Thanks again!

      – Rich

  7. Hi Rich,

    Interesting thoughts. I currently use iCloud for my iPad and iPhone, how compatible are Chromebooks with those devices?

    Really liking the idea of a cheaper solution.

    1. Jordan,

      Thanks so much for dropping in.

      The Chromebook is literally just a Chrome browser … so you turn it on and Chrome opens up. It runs everything that runs through a browser.

      Apple has yet to release a web based version iWork or iTunes.

      Microsoft Office 360 will work.

      Plus Google’s own “Drive” product will handle all Microsoft formatted files.

      Make sense?

      Thanks for dropping in and commenting!

      – Rich

  8. I’m all-in on this idea. I’ve used a high-end MacBook Pro for the last three years, but I don’t need that much horsepower anymore. I’m moving to a small church and starting seminary, and I’m banking on the Chromebook taking care of my needs.

  9. Rich,

    Offline abilities is one of the big hurdles aside from processing power that makes videos jumpy and buffermania. The fact that you can’t edit all types of G Docs offline yet is an issue. Do you have a list of offline Chrome apps that are worth installing?

    1. Hey Kenny! Thanks so much for dropping over to my little place online and commenting!

      I can totally understand how you feel about the offline stuff. In fact, I felt the same way before making the jump to the Chromebook. I kept wondering about what would happen when I wasn’t in a zone without wifi. But what I’ve found is that it’s not an issue at all. The reality of it is that free and good wifi is available everywhere I go. In fact … I was even on a flight recently where Google did a deal with the airline for 12 free flights of airborne wifi for Chromebook users. That was a nice surprise! The funny thing about that was … I turned off the wifi because I wanted to see how the offline mode worked.

      I’m not sure what you’re saying about the video stuff. I haven’t experienced any gap in performance from my Macbook on online video … but maybe that speaks to the issues I was having with my Mac? 😉

      Thanks again dude … I should do a post on my fave Chromebook apps.

      Have a great day!


      1. I know your original article was 3&1/2 years ago, but some of the Chromebook include a SIM card place. My daughter’s from 2 years ago does, but my mom’s new one does not have that option. If yours does you can use the one from your phone or buy one for it. With some of the unlimited data now you are set even when you don’t have wifi. BTW, Logos has an Android app. I’m not sure if it works on Chromebook.

  10. I think that’s a great set of rhyme ya for the iPad. My wife just got one and her use case is primarily web and email, but the rich app environment means (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) that they’re more flexible machines than Chromebooks. Try Skype on a Chromebook. It’s at least an idea and price is similar.

    1. Oops didn’t proofread. That should read “great set of reasons for”

  11. I love the idea of Chromebook, but as a pastor I use Logos Bible Software and have over a thousand dollars of resources with it. Don’t think that Logos is planning to move to a cloud only format. The lack of compatibility with Logos would keep me from making that move. But, looking at getting one for my daughter.

  12. I really liked the 14 inch HP Chromebook. It is $329. I’ve also used the Samsung 11.6 inch Chromebook, which is ok, but I prefer the larger HP option.

  13. Great article! Congrats on being on “what’s hot” in google+ 🙂 I laughed when I saw that you work at liquid, I went there once to see my family up there, and now they just moved to FL. Great church. Great outreach.

  14. Hi,

    I do not carry my Mac Book Pro around. I do however carry my ACER Chromebook around. I am still learning how to use the Chromebook. I think we have blessed with many choices, but I am tired of the Apple choices. I am a graphic designer and I have not figured out how to use the Chromebook as a computer artist. I will get there though as I know Google would not have left us out of their system.

    Good luck to your church staff!
    Alice J. Washington

    1. Alice!

      Thanks for dropping in and commenting.

      I would think that your type of work might be a bit limited on the Chromebook. I’ve been using PXLR as a Photoshop alternative … it’s good for basic stuff. But I’d love to see what someone with some real art skills could do with it! 😉

      Have a great day!

      – Rich

    1. Our entire organization just “went Google” moving from MS Exchange to Google Apps for Business. Yet I am hesitant to recommend Chromebooks to our thousands of staff until I can find parental controls and pornography blocking that is as effective as Covenant Eyes or Safe Eyes (both of which are not cloud based). Pornography is an secret epidemic in our churches and ministries (and the larger culture) and I want to be sure to help protect others when recommending a new type of computer.

  15. Hi,

    After reading your list of reasons for leaving a conventional computer and going to a web-based solution I was wondering what you say about the problematic of leaving all the information you ever do on your Chromebook into the hands of a power-hungry corporation such as google. Aren’t some stuff church staff do too risky of having in a cloud-based saving-system? Just wondering. I thought that might be a huge issue when leaving off-line products that have a hard drive incorporated and going to an on-line solution with only a cloud-based hard drive possibility to save documents, etc.

    Nice post, though.



    1. Dominic!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

      I can understand the concerns or fears about being cloud based. In fact, I’ve run into a lot of people with a similar concern. What I don’t understand is that so much of the data you use to run your church is in the cloud already. Your banking information is in the cloud. Your email is leaving your organization and being stored in the cloud. Why the concern about leveraging cloud technologies more fully?

      Again … I get it … people are sometime nervous about adopting “new” technologies. I want to encourage the church to leverage what’s best to push our mission forward.

      Thanks again for dropping by and taking the time to comment!

      – Rich

  16. Netflix works on the Chromebooks. For some time the ARM version (the one for $250) didn’t, but that was fixed recently. Maybe you just need to try again.

  17. Rich
    Excellent article!!!!

    In my personal life I have been moving away from Apple and re-embracing Google. So far, so good.

    As a pastor for a multi-site church, in which we have set up an Apple-based infrastructure, I have oversight responsibility for live feeds and post-production video editing.

    What is the Chrome OS answer to solutions as basic as iMovie and GarageBand?


    1. Love it! Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

      WeVideo is a good basic video editing solution that is cloud based … I’ve been happy with for basic video editing. I like that it posts stuff to various video services.

      A great way to test it out … is try to live just in the Chrome browser for a week … and see what snags you run into!

      – Rich

  18. I’m actually typing this comment up from my Chromebook 🙂 I didn’t think I would use it as much as I have. I downloaded the Chrome RDP app and use it to remote into my work/home laptop. This way I don’t lose any of the functionality of working on my main PC. The remoting was surprisingly responsive (even when working over 3G at the park with my kids in tow). Very easy to setup too (install the app on your main PC, add a PIN, viola) Nothing to setup at the router level either…just great. I would recommend going for the 3G version if available though. Nothing like getting 100MB of data per month for 2 years for free along with the 100GB of drive space. It’s not a lot (especially when RDP’ing), but it’s nice to have in a bind.
    Anyway, can’t recommend them enough.
    Good luck to you.

    1. I’ll need to take a look at the remote desktoping … I’ve seen a little bit of that but haven’t explored it extensively.

      What is the system that you are remotely logging into … and what are you doing on it that you can’t on the Chromebook natively?

      Thanks so much for taking the time to drop in and comment!

      – Rich

      1. I use FlashBuilder and ColdFusion builder for my coding which aren’t available via a browser or as a Chrome app. I remote into my Win7 laptop (it’s kind of a beast so it’s easier to remote into the laptop from the Chromebook than drag it out from my home office).

  19. Does anyone know if a Chromebook can be used in church to present slides and videos. We’re starting a new church and just need to get slides and videos on the screen for now. Software like ProPresenter is overkill for where we are. -Thanks!

    1. Barry,

      In the Google Docs suite there is a “presentations” option … kinda of like their version of powerpoint. It works well for straight forward presentations.

      Let me know if you use it … I’d love to hear about your learnings.

      – Rich

  20. Hey Rich. I just came across this article and would love to know what your church uses for kids check in and new families on the Chromebooks. The laptops we use are soooo slow and always having issues. Thanks for posting this and everything else. I really enjoy learning from and being made to think about what we’re doing here in Philly.

    1. Jeremy!

      We don’t use Chromebooks for our check in … we use Fellowship One for our ChMS which requires a Windows PC for this process. We are currently using this computer: It’s pretty sweet.


  21. I have a confession to make… I’m a total Apple snob! However, I have been thinking about converting to the Chromebook for a while now. So, I found this post very helpful. I did have a couple of questions for you coming out of it though…

    In the past I had a bad experience with an Android phone. I actually really enjoyed the OS and felt that it was very comparable to Apple’s… Just different. I just had bad hardware… A bad phone. So, I hesitate to purchase anything outside of an iPhone again. Do you use an iPhone and/or an iPad and what has your experience been using those along side of your Chromebook?

    Also, I love Evernote! Do you use Evernote and how does that work with Chromebook? I’ve not read very many good things about it.

    Again, thanks for the post. I will test drive my MacBook as a Chromebook for a week like you suggested. What’s the worst that could happen? 😉

  22. completely agree with all of this uncle rich!

    not sure if it was covered but you can download a “user switcher” extension for your chrome browser to trick Netflix into thinking you are running windows or iOS, which will then make it work, maybe shouldn’t tell the staff that part though 😉

  23. Quick question as I consider making the chromebook a part of our kids ministry set up. Does your church run check in software with this computer? We have always wanted a cheap alternative to mac computers, and we need a laptop to be able to run windows-based applications for Fellowship One. Are there a lot of compatibility issues to navigate when you make this switch?

    1. Jordan,

      Thanks for reaching out and for working to make your kids environments so great! The most creative people work in kids ministry!

      Chromebooks won’t run the F1 check in software. Bummer – right? We run F1 as well and have dedicated PCs just for that. Chromebooks are literally just a chrome web browser wrapped in plastic. So it needs to run stuff that runs on the web only … no installing of software.

      Thanks again!

      – Rich

  24. Rich,

    Great review. You are a fine writer! I am enjoying my chromebook but have one problem that even to this date (Feb 2015) they still don’t seem to have an answer for. There are a few decent web-based Bible apps that can be used, but I take mission trips to Africa regularly. On the long, long flights I usually don’t have wifi. Also in my hotels in remote places in Africa I usually don’t have it. This means that my chromebook is fine for writing articles, which I do a lot, but when I want to look up Scriptures, and copy and paste, I am helpless. Do you know of any Bible software programs that would load on a chromebook and work offline? I have searched all over the web and haven’t found any. This seems to be one of the few weaknesses left on chromebooks that is still not addressed.

  25. We just moved to 2 Chromebooks for our children’s ministry check-in computers. They replaced 10 year old windows machines and they have been wonderful. There has been no learning curve for users and everyone loves them. And they are cheap, single purpose machines. Definitely agree that every ministry should look at them before making their next computer purchase.

  26. I wish schools would heed this advice as well! Though not for Apple computers (I think most schools use PC) but for iPads which schools seem to be crazy about. Chromebooks would be much better investments than iPads, I think.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.