Church Apps – Passing Fad or Next-Gen Necessity?
The internet has grown up and moved out of the desktop computer. It’s now making it’s new home inside devices that we use while we’re on the go: the modern cellphone. When Steve Jobs unveiled the first-generation iPhone in 2007, he did more than revolutionize the mobile device – he gave us a chance to take everything we love about the computer with us. This paradigm shift has led to the creation of over 400,000 app developer jobs (and counting) that hadn’t existed before the advent of Apples iTunes App Store.
Because of this movement towards on-the-go interaction, I’ve found that we’re living in a very special moment in history. Advancements in technology, medicine, transportation, entertainment and the internet have made our lives dramatically easier (and more awesome) than any generation before us. Even as technology opens us up to connect and interact with people living all over the planet, it’s also causing communities to flourish on a local, more personal level.
This has incredible implications for the body of Christ, especially when churches and ministries are proactive in reaching people wherever they are. When technology can be used to help spread the gospel, it becomes a life-changing mechanism for good, rather than a time-wasting distraction. It seems like technology has been rapidly advancing these past few years, and some amazing opportunities have begun to pop-up for churches and ministries – but are they just passing fads or a sneak-peak into the future or communication?
If you’ve got a smartphone and you’re a christian, you probably have the Bible App loaded on your phone. If you don’t have it on your device, please stop reading this article and go download it (for free) – right now. The Bible App by YouVersion is a perfect example of how a single church engaged with technology (specifically mobile technology) is helping people have easier access to the bible on their mobile devices. A few weeks ago, they hit 50 million installs. 50 MILLION people have the Bible App installed on their mobile devices (and this app was developed by one church)!
Just like building a website is a necessary part of connecting with congregates, all signs are pointing towards churches and ministries having mobile presence as well. From the looks of it, this mobile craze isn’t a fad. According to AllthingsD.com, mobile devices now make up 20% of overall web traffic in the U.S.. Android and iOS devices account for more than 80% of the U.S. smartphone market, and more people are choosing smartphone than other devices when it’s time to upgrade that wonderful two year jail-sentence…er phone contract.
How much time are people spending inside apps on their fancy new smartphones? Around 94 minutes per day (up from 66 minutes in 2010). These numbers make sense. If you’re on-the-go, you’ll use what you have with you to connect to the content you like. Those findings also conclude that people spend an average of 20 more minutes per day inside of apps than browsing the mobile web! That means that when they’re on their devices, they’re engaging with mobile apps more than mobile websites.
But does your church really need an app?
Beyond wanting one because they’re cool (all the hipsters out there are drooling right now), there’s also those finicky issues of cost, features, and usefulness. Will your congregation embrace your church app, or will it only be downloaded by your staff and that nerdy summer intern who says everything is “awesome”.
Before you decide to jump on the app bandwagon, you’ll need to take into account the demographics of your church and your community.
How? Just look around on Sunday morning.
How many people are using smartphones? If they’re not engaging in conversation before/after service, there’s a very high possibility that they’re on their ‘smart device’ playing Temple Run. I mean, that’s what I do if I’m not talking to people. Take a mental inventory and see how many people would really benefit from having your information on their devices. Second, think about how you’re marketing and who you’re marketing your church or ministry to. If you included a scannable QR code on e-mails or mail inserts, would those who receive them have a device capable of downloading your app? You’ll also need to do some research and see which features you’d like to have on your church app. Do you want it to also connect to other ministries, or just showcase your messages and upcoming events?
Like I mentioned earlier, technology is moving full steam ahead, and if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves behind the times when new forms of engaging communication become available. I believe that Christianity and technology can work hand-in-hand to connect the mobile generation with the truth of Christ, but with that will come unique challenges and exciting opportunities. New technology can be scary, but when embraced correctly – it can yield positive eternal results. What do you think, do you feel like mobile apps for churches will be/have been beneficial for church communication?