I'm not currently a church treasurer, but I still help one or two of them out with money and/or technology queries, and this is a case in point.

Just to be clear, I'm not affiliated with any of the suppliers mentioned here and they're not paying me to advertise them.

Macclesfield & Bollington URC has a caretaker who lives in a property adjacent to the church. They are the first point of contact for various matters, notably lettings, and this is mostly done over the phone rather than by e-mail.

To this end, they have a landline, provided since the dawn of time (well over twenty years, anyway) by BT. As you might expect, the number is on various signage and is well known to dozens of people.

The incoming church treasurer, though, was less than pleased to discover a quarterly bill approaching £250 for this service. £250!

I asked the obvious questions - is there any internet service supplied on this line? No. Call divert or any other fancy business costing extra? Also no. Probably some surcharge for paper bills, but the basic problem is simply one of a long-standing service which isn't benefiting from any of the discounts thrown at new customers. (Also, "business" tariffs tend to cost more - even though this line was at a residential address, the billing was to the church next door and it was the church's name on the paperwork.)

The solution we implemented was pretty simple:

  • Buy a basic mobile phone from Amazon, £15
  • Buy a Sip2Sim SIM card from Andrews & Arnold, less than £10
  • Transfer the existing "landline" telephone number over to A&A and point it at the SIM

That last bullet point is the one that not many people realise is possible, but the good news is that in 2021, phone numbers are just numbers, and using the right supplier you can point them at any device you like.

The number transfer also has the neat side-effect of terminating the service with BT. It took a week to go through, but the number was only out of service for an hour or so before switching across. Don't try this trick on a phone line which also has internet services, or you will cancel those as well by moving the number.

End result, a service with minimal ongoing costs, billed by direct debit once a month. The caretaker is happy with the new system - after all, to them it's just a different handset serving the same purpose of "work phone".

It's a bit early to say how big the savings will be - and it is worth noting that the new system charges by the minute for both incoming and outgoing calls. Having said that, there would need to be around 20 hours of calls per month in both directions before the price approached what was being spent before. That seems quite unlikely, especially with the church buildings currently closed owing to the pandemic.

It's worth taking a look at this sort of thing. Another question worth asking yourself is whether there are one or more phone lines running into your church office - you know, the one which has been empty for nearly a year now? This is probably a very good time to move those numbers over to a service where they can be diverted to other numbers and to mobiles as necessary, and have lower ongoing and call costs. Again, the only thing to watch out for is to avoid terminating a line which is necessary to support broadband - but a three week delay to re-order that from someone cheaper might not matter at the moment.

Updated following discussion on social media - the A&A SIMs use O2's mobile phone network, so do check that sufficient signal exists at your target location(s) before trying this. Not an issue for me in the middle of Macclesfield, but could be a problem if you're more rural.