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?

You can find out more information about Onseeker Technologies and their Church / Ministry App features and pricing by clicking Here. You can find Frank spending too much time on twitter right HERE.

Erskine is my middle name. I work for a tech startup that makes mobile apps. My wife & daughter are amazing. My favorite spanish word is 'La Bufanda'.

21 Responses to “Church Apps – Passing Fad or Next-Gen Necessity?”

  1. PaulSteinbrueck Jun 8, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Hey Frank, thanks for guest blogging. I agree with you that while mobile apps are popular, the leaders of each church need to ask themselves some fundamental questions to determine whether an app is really a good option for their church. "How many people would use our app?" and "What features would be most helpful?" are good questions to start with.

    "What are the development and ongoing costs?" and "Is that the best way to invest our communications dollars?" are a couple more good questions.

    Another good question to ask is, "Who is going to keep the app information up to date?" Many churches already struggle to keep their website current, so a church should have a person who is willing and able to update the app info on a regular basis.

    • I offer remarkable church apps for $200 setup fee and $45/mo. We have some average sized churches that have "mega-church style" apps. Even apps within the app. One for the children's ministry, youth, men's, ladies' and other ministries. Some churches' apps are quite extensive. We're developing one for a denominational office now.

      We also provide $15/mo apps for musicians; and $35/mo apps for authors–NO setup fee! :)
      We want to push the message of Christ with technology.
      A church is either seen as being on the leading or on the trailing edge of technology. Positioning is quite important when leading people. Eddie Smith: http://NuWayCommunications.com

  2. Thanks Paul! It really does come down to demographics. When a church contacts us about building an app, they've usually done their homework and have realized that a majority of their congregation is on smartphone devices. Since most have Google Analytics tracking their site usage, they can see how many people are attempting to view info from mobile devices – and they've noticed a massive upswing in it (usually resulting in the decision to build an app).

    In terms of the app company I work for, our costs are pretty straight forward for a church or ministry app: $200 set up and $45/mo. The app can scale up to include multi-site churches, and scale down to be for a single ministry of the church.

    I also agree that the churches should assign their 'tech guru' or 'media ninja' the job of keeping it fresh as often as possible. We also built a way for each ministry of the church to have their own login and CMS area to control their own content, but only under the supervision of the main account holder. That way the work can be split up and handed out without making it overwhelming for one person.

    Thanks again for the opportunity!

  3. Hi and what a wonderful read. As a Digital Marketing Evangelist, I have to stay years ahead of the latest curves and changes in Internet and Mobile Marketing. Unfortunately, churches tend to lag behind most technologies…particularly social media and mobile platforms. More than eight thousand churches in America close every year. More than 90% of those churches lack an effective online strategy. Not to mention while 40% of Americans have decreased their giving from more traditional means of giving, online giving has seen a significant increase. The challenge churches are facing is having the time or monies to train in house members how to become more strategic online. While many churches are now realizing the importance of a website (mobile site) and social media, online tools such as analytical data, Online Behavioral Psychology, three screen convergence technologies, informational architecture, mobile campaigns and quick response technologies (to name a few) are high end solutions that must be realized for churches to effectively reach a digital driven society.

  4. For the purposes suggested (connect to ministries, showcase messages and upcoming events) I'd just do a mobile version of our website, which a) already does all that, b) doesn't require a creating a separate application, second set of content and require supporting yet another set of content.
    Don't get me wrong, I think mobile apps have their place, but if we're going to ignite interest we have to communicate a lot better vision for the potential uses.

  5. We just recently got mobile apps for our church. I'm still not 100% sold on them, but it only takes me like 3 minutes a day to update it. It doesn't do anything our website doesn't already do (in fact, it does less), but I'm learning that people would rather access the same information via an app rather than the website, even if the site is mobile friendly. Plus, a ton of people at our church read the Bible on their phone, even when they stand up to do the morning Scripture reading. So I figured if any church has a culture that would benefit from a mobile app, it would be ours.

    I check the usage stats for the apps weekly, and even though the stats aren't always going up, they are being used. So that's cool.

    • "I'm learning that people would rather access the same information via an app rather than the website". Interesting Chris, because a national study says exactly the opposite. http://philanthropy.com/article/Forget-Apps-Young

      In the article titled: "Forget Apps: Young Donors View Web Sites on Smartphones" they report "Focus-group members liked mobile apps but said they didn’t make sense for nonprofits because it’s possible to get information just as easily on a Web site, and the apps work only on specific devices, such as iPhones or Androids."

      And on the subject of learning about a nonprofit or church, mobile apps didn't even get a mention. "About 65 percent of respondents said they liked to learn about a nonprofit through its Web site, compared with 55 percent who said they turned to social networks, e-mail newsletters (47 percent), print (18 percent), and face-to-face conversations (17 percent)."

  6. For 90% of what churches put in their apps, they aren't necessary and would be better served with a mobile website. When the community can actually take advantage of the unique features of a mobile (for example, take a picture of event and upload it to the church's social network), this is something that could be facilitated with a mobile *service* not simply an app. If you are doing something more specalized, for example, creating a children's game based one part on open-licensed Biblical texts, custom artwork from one of the community/church's members, and has some facility for discussion and feedback, then an app makes sense.

    But, as was said above, many folks don't have an online strategy, let alone a digital one that can take advantage of mobile in such a way to make such an immersive experience in an app.

    *disclaimer: I run the magazine/website Mobile Ministry Magazine and havebeen publishing since 2005 on this very subject; I am definitely biased w/a chunk of info many groups/companies are just coming into. Am always open to connect/consult.

  7. A good app not only has to bring benefits – it has to cause no harm. Bad software is created without the discussion of these issues between the software owner and developers.

    • PaulSteinbrueck May 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Thanks for reading the post. In the future, please post your comments with your name rather than targeted keywords, so I know your comment is genuine and not simply a link building campaign.

  8. No, I think church apps for android are really important these days because people are more busy.

  9. Great article! We've been looking around at a bunch of church apps in hopes that we don't "find ourselves behind the times", but it seems like most of the companies that make church apps out there are either poorly designed, really expensive, or don't really do anything to get people plugged into the church.

    Although, we did find one that we really like, it's called Amped Church apps. Kinda cool, helps people find community groups and stuff. Haven't gotten much further than that though. Have you heard anything about them? http://www.ampedchurch.com

  10. I agree with your point that the internet has improved our lives, helping us take informed decisions in buying and selling goods. Churches can reach out to the faithful with the help of mobile apps at any point of time. Thanks for sharing this well-written article.

  11. It is good to see that many mobile app development companies are emerging out with developing Chruch apps as their basis. These kinds of app would be great help for those who wanted to be connected with their community people.

  12. It does come down to demographics now. I usually got many contacts per year to building a app. But the thing is that they really rely on the point that majority of congregation is on smart phones. And lot of people now has account on Google analytics, which help them to track their site statistics. So they can have a figure of how many persons are actually viewing their info from mobile devices only. If they got a massive traffic then, point comes to building app for mobiles. Remember it should be for all major OS.
    Our company work for church apps. It cost high but our quality is quite good. It costs you around $50/month. If you also want a church app or you have contact then refer Papatech.
    We can give you the same app like Amphed church apps. Visit the amped church site. Really including people, now buildings are going techy. It will be good for future.

  13. nice write up boss… we had got contracts from n ay churches of bangalore india. Now everything is going tech so why not the church. we are techapps- a company provide apps for mobiles. The amped church apps is made by our partners only. These apps costs very high but really cool. It's like one time investment. If any reader is reading my comment then contact me on this website for church apps I am having android device. So first thing for me is the email management. I directly gone to the google play store and searched email client apps. It gives me lot of apps. Now i was opening one by one and checking their installs and reading the comments. After the study of one hour i Was left with none.searched on google and found many articles on it. But your article directly stated the best apps. You are right aquamail and k9 are best.

  14. Hi Paul….. what a wonderful read. I am really impress with your article. Amazing really….. It is good to see that many mobile app development companies are emerging out with developing Chruch apps as their basis. These kinds of app would be great help for those who wanted to be connected with their community people. I agree with your point that the internet has improved our lives, helping us take informed decisions in buying and selling goods. Churches can reach out to the faithful with the help of mobile apps at any point of time. Thanks for sharing this well-written article.

  15. Nice post and being an App developer I would say it’s an excellent subject. And yes it’s quite interesting for users. I really appreciate you. Cheers!

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I changed the name & link in your comment. We appreciate comments, but please use your real name in the "name" field so it does not appear spammy. Thanks!

  16. It is excellent to see that many cellular app growth organizations are growing out with creating Chruch applications as their foundation. These types of app would be excellent help for those who desired to be linked with their group individuals.

  17. Church App — this is really a new app i have ever see.. i will try it
    thanks for sharing.. :)