Should You Offer Free Wi-Fi at Church?
Most people today have at least one smart device, using them to stay connected wherever they go. To help make this easier for consumers, many businesses are now granting access to their own Wi-Fi networks so people can continue to use their devices without paying for data.
From coffee shops to hotels to your local fast food joint, consumers have come to expect free Wi-Fi will be available to them wherever they go. And, the want to stay connected doesn’t end when they walk through the doors of your church. While some may want access to the network in order to stay up any emails that come in, many will use it to follow along and supplement your message.
There are pros and cons to offering Wi-Fi access during service, outlined below. However, there are solutions you can put in place to overcome these obstacles, and make it safer to have Wi-Fi available to all who enter your church, should you choose to do so.
- Stay connected to the church. Many churches today have a strong social media presence, and staff and congregation members alike are beginning to live tweet the message, or share images and videos.
- Follow along with the message easily. Attendees can look up related scriptures and readings with a Bible app, or jot down notes and other items they want to remember through notetaking apps. In addition, they’ll be able to easily review any corresponding sermon materials that the church has made available.
- Promote your location through geo-tracking. Location tracking gives a user the ability to check in at your location, letting others know they are a part of your congregation, and subtly inviting their followers to join them.
- Enrich the overall experience someone has at the church. Offering free Wi-Fi is a nice value-add and gives attendees the feeling that the church is an open and welcoming place.
- Without proper protection, someone connected to the Wi-Fi could gain access to private church information, including bank numbers and financials.
- People could use the network to illegally download pirated music, movies, etc.
- People could use the network to download or stream inappropriate content.
- Additional people connected to your network could cause the network to slow and disrupt church business.
- Protect business computers and private church files by creating a separate network for guests. In addition, add another layer of security by password protecting administrative computers. Have a set length of time passwords need to be changed, like every 30 or 60 days, and use a strong password.
- Change the password frequently on your guest network. Some churches will change it every Sunday to help increase the chances that only attendees will have access to the network. This also helps ensure that someone who has never attended the church won’t be able to access and use the network for something the church wouldn’t support, like streaming inappropriate videos.
- Require users to agree to the church’s terms of service before granting them access to your guest network. An Internet usage policy could help dissuade users from using the network for anything illegal.
- Block inappropriate content or websites from being accessed on your network by using a content blocker or content filter. Free and for-cost options are available.
Ultimately, it is up to your organization to decide if making a guest Wi-Fi network available is worth the added risk. If you decide the pros outweigh the cons, speak with a local IT/Security professional to discuss solutions and how you can safely offer free Wi-Fi at your organization.
© 2019 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved.This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.