Mobile is the future. Mobile is now.

iphone app storeIt’s 2011 and have to say it: we are now in a post-website world.  What I mean by this is that your website is now no longer the primary way that your users will interact with you.  While a website is an essential piece of your overall online strategy, it can no longer be your primary focus online. Instead, the primary way that your users will find you and interact with you will be through social media.

This revelation should not be a surprise to readers of this blog. In fact, most of you know that an important part of any ministry or church’s online strategy includes a variety of web presences – especially social media.  In fact, this blog post is not about the move from a website-centric world to a social media-centric world. This blog post is about the next move.

Consider the following:

When people used to ask me what is going to be the “next big thing” in technology, I would answer “mobile devices are the future.” But that future is here. Mobile is now.

OK, I get it, so what should we do?

Your church or ministry should start planning right now as if everyone in the world had a mobile phone. In fact, depending on who you are trying to reach, I would even suggest that you begin assuming that every one of your users has a smartphone.  What would this mean? Well, to start with, you should be sure you have a mobile version of your website. This does not mean that your website simply works on a mobile device – it is more than that. You want your site to function quickly and cleanly on a small screen.  Yes, I know I said that we are in a post-website world, and I stand by that. But since social media sites are already mobile-friendly, you want to be sure that when the user finally does click on through to your website that they do not end up having difficulty. Some good ideas for making your site mobile friendly can be found here. (Full disclosure: my own website, Lessons From Babel, has not been made mobile friendly yet. I need to take my own advice!)

After a mobile-friendly site, then what? That really depends on your ministry and what you are trying to accomplish. Should you develop a mobile app? What about a text-based evangelism tool? This is not so easy to answer.  At this point I would suggest that you take some time to do some real research on just what sorts of mobile technologies your constituent groups are using (or plan to use) and use that to direct your strategy. One thing I would not suggest you do is simply replicate your website as a mobile app. Mobile devices are used differently than desktop computers and you need to plan for their use to be different.

As you think about planning your mobile strategy, here are some ideas to ponder (adapted from this blog post):

  • the mobile-human relationship is one of the most personal, intensive, and lasting of all relationships. Just think of how you feel about your iPhone…
  • because mobile devices are always with us and always on, they are positioned perfectly to provide persuasive prompts at the right place and the right time.
  • a mobile service must be integrated into a user’s behavior pattern in order to succeed. I can see a church mobile “app” which reminds users of upcoming services, study suggestions, and registers their attendance each Sunday morning.
  • developing a mobile “experience” is fundamentally different from a web experience. The experience is not only “smaller”, but  should also be “smarter”.
  • users who know their activities are being monitored (voluntarily) are more likely to repeat the behaviors that we want them to.
  • mobile devices can be treated as extensions of the way the user sees the world.
  • mobile applications should be dependable, consistently solve user’s problems, and do so effortlessly.
  • mobile devices are personal, so the programs run on them should be able to be personalized.
  • if the mobile app is social, it can better persuade – we use the actions of others to decide on proper behavior for ourselves.
  • being mobile is much less about technology, and much more about culture, connectedness, and fundamental human needs.

I hope this short post has given you some food for thought as you plan your ministry’s next steps into the digital realm. I encourage your church or ministry to plan now for the fact that mobile devices will be the primary way that people interact with you online. Mobile is the future. Mobile is now.

P.S. For those interested in working on a mobile project, consider partnering with me on a small group app I am working on. See this post for details on how you can work with me and sign up information for the mobile project.

The Internet in the greatest communication technology ever invented by man, and it is imperative that those who follow Christ understand how to use it well. My passion is to see technology used by Christ-followers to bring the love of Jesus Christ to the world. I believe the Lord has placed me where I am right now to play a small part in helping make that happen. My focus is to develop resources based on research for those doing ministry online. I worked in the IT industry for 15 years before doors opened and closed leading me to become a professor at Biola University. I completed a PhD in Spring 2006 at the School of Information Systems and Technology at Claremont Graduate University. Later that same year, I started my consulting company, genesys11, a company devoted to helping churches, ministries, and other faith-based institutions move forward in their use of social media, mobile technologies, and the Internet. I live in Brea, California, with my wife Marne, my five sons and one daughter.

2 Responses to “Mobile is the future. Mobile is now.”

  1. Dave, excellent and inspiring article. I've tweeted it and I invite other readers to please tweet about this post! Mobile is NOT off in the future for web ministries – it's now, and we're already behind the curve on this.

    I would only add reference to a few of the most stimulating mobile ministry websites: http://mobileministryforum.org/ http://www.mobileadvance.org/ http://mobileministrymagazine.com/ http://mobilev.pbworks.org.com

    • Dave – yes, we are already behind the curve, but I feel that momentum is now growing and maybe we can get out ahead of it again. There are many ministries really digging into this, such as the ones you mention. Thanks for the tweets!