Churches everywhere are incorporating technology to improve their regular management processes. From using social media to connect with members near-and-far to using online tithing methods, tech tools are making a positive impact.
One technology that’s in the limelight as of late is the church mobile app— a tool that brings engagement directly into members’ smartphones. While definitely a powerful tool for connecting congregations, these apps can’t be the only tool in your outreach strategy.
For example, while 50% of the time spent engaging with digital media is done via smartphone apps, 90% of that time just goes to a user’s top five apps— such as Facebook, YouTube, Google Search— only. Further, of the people that download an app, 80% of them never become active users.
These apps are a great way to connect with church members, but it’s crucial to evaluate the pros and cons of the technology before making the large investment of bringing it to your congregation.
We’re going to discuss church mobile apps through the following points:
- When is a mobile church app not right for your needs?
- When is a church app right for your needs?
- Should I create a mobile app for my church?
We’re going to discuss what church mobile apps can and can’t do, and how you can make the most of using one to engage your congregation. Let’s dive in!
When is a mobile church app not right for your needs?
Church apps can be a powerful engagement tool, but it’s important to understand just who the apps will engage. Manage your expectations when considering investing in a mobile church app first by understanding when this kind of tool may not be right for you and your church.
Church apps aren’t great for finding new congregants.
If you’re looking to reach new members, whether because current attendance is dwindling, you’re expanding to a new campus, or you’re looking to grow for any other reason— there are better outreach methods to use than church mobile apps.
Why? Simply put, new members are very unlikely to discover your app in the App Store and choose to attend because of that.
Consider: When was the last time you discovered a new church home through a quick search on the App Store? More than likely, you’ve never done this. Further, statistically, app discovery in general is down, with 51% of smartphone users downloading exactly zero new apps month-by-month.
When it comes to finding new congregants, there are much better methods of outreach than mobile apps for churches.
What methods of outreach should you use instead?
If you were excited about the possibilities of church mobile apps— don’t despair just yet. These apps are powerful tools, but only after you’ve already built strong relationships with your congregants.
So, before diving into how church mobile apps can help your congregation’s member engagement, work to build those initial relationships with congregants first.
Consider the outreach method that eventually led you to your church home initially. Was it a friendly interaction with a congregant? Or maybe a positive recommendation from a friend?
Create those positive interactions for potential members first discovering your campus. First and foremost, optimize your church’s website to reflect your campus’s welcoming atmosphere and provide all the needed information a potential congregant requires to make that crucial first visit.
Then, consider using other outreach tools to build upon your strategy, such as:
- Social Media Platforms
- Community Events
- Neighborhood Campaigns
- “Bring a Friend” Campaigns
- Email Newsletters
- Church Text Messaging Platforms
Instead of incorporating all of these digital tools in your strategy (which could lead to a stressful balancing act), pick-and-choose which platforms would best serve your organization and employ them accordingly.
Once you’ve built these relationships, you’ll be in a better position to make the most of a church app. Read on to find out more.
When is a church app right for your needs?
Mobile apps for churches can help unite your congregation, keep members in-the-loop, and boost engagement overall. When used for the right purposes and implemented with care, these apps can be an effective tool for your church.
When you want to grow engagement with existing members.
The biggest positive impact apps for churches can have is in strengthening the relationship and commitment of those already in your congregation.
There are a few scenarios where these apps could come in handy:
- Your church is expanding and you want to easily disseminate information and engage new congregants.
- You want to increase church giving by making the process more convenient.
- You want to engage new audiences within your congregation, such as younger generations.
If you’re looking to increase current member engagement by offering convenient ways to get involved, creating a church app might be a great option for you.
Church apps can help you offer more ways to get involved.
There are a few key ways mobile church apps can facilitate, and add convenience, to engagement opportunities.
For example, your church app can provide easy online giving processes by integrating with your church giving software. Learn more about this integration and other essential church giving platform features through this guide.
These apps can also handle certain aspects of event planning, such as ticketing and registration. Further, they can house resources you provide to members to grow in their faith— including recorded sermons, devotionals, and even bible studies.
If this seems like a resource worth investing in for your church, continue reading to learn about creating a mobile app for your church.
Should I create a mobile app for my church?
As you’ll soon notice, creating a church app is a significant investment. It’s important to evaluate whether your organization will truly benefit from this decision, and if so, which app builder will work best for you.
Consider the following when deciding whether to create a mobile app for your church:
Is it in my budget?
Hearken back to the statistics presented in the introduction of this piece. If 80% of the congregants who download your church app aren’t going to be truly active users, it’s important to weigh your options— to create an app or not— carefully.
There’s no way around it: Creating a church app is expensive. Creating a fully custom app from scratch is often over $100,000. Very few churches have that kind of budget to spend on an app, especially if there’s a chance it won’t be used actively.
Using a template-based church app builder can significantly lessen the cost, and most church apps you’ve encountered were probably made in such a manner. However, this can still be quite the investment for churches used to cycling their incoming funds back into their communities, often ranging anywhere from $75 to $200 a month.
Evaluate your church’s budget and make sure there’s room in it to create, and maintain, a mobile app before investing. Mobile church apps can be a helpful resource, but not impactful enough to risk your church’s overall financial stability if that can be avoided.
Does it provide value my website doesn’t?
Many functions of a mobile engagement app can be covered with a resource you’re already paying for— your website. Should you build a church app or simply optimize your website?
To be a worthwhile investment, your app needs to provide value in ways your website does not. It needs to either: 1) Provide new engagement opportunities or 2) Make current engagement opportunities more convenient for mobile users.
There are a few different ways a mobile church app can provide value your website doesn’t:
- It pulls in content from your website. This includes blog posts, articles, bible studies, and devotionals. It should make all educational resources available on your website viewable for mobile users as well.
- It elevates messages with interactive features. Interactive sermon notes and a built-in reference bible are helpful resources to provide congregants during live messages, so they can follow along with the teachings.
- It has a built-in media player. This allows members to revisit (or listen for the first time) sermons, podcasts, and any other audio resources you’re providing directly from their smartphone.
- It keeps members up-to-date with push notifications. Send immediate updates to congregants, whether general news or event registration opportunities, so they can take advantage of every opportunity to engage if they so choose.
- It hosts an interactive live prayer wall. Allow members to post prayer requests and broadcast them to your entire congregation.
- It can manage event information and registration. Allow congregants to view all essential event information, as well as register for events and hold their ticketing information, all within your church app.
- It has an in-app digital calendar. Post upcoming dates and deadlines on one comprehensive calendar, available at all times in members’ pockets. Further, use the aforementioned push notifications to send reminders of deadlines.
- It allows in-app mobile giving. Congregants can give directly through your mobile app whenever the inspiration strikes thanks to an integration with your church giving software.
If these features would benefit your church, and your current website isn’t covering them, a mobile church app might be a great resource to add to your church’s digital toolbox. If so, continue reading to learn about what to look for before investing in a church app builder.
Which app builder should I use?
There are a few key characteristics to look out for when investing in a church app builder.
You’ll most likely want a template-based builder, as we’ve seen those solutions are significantly more affordable than fully customized options. A platform that’s template-based but can still be customized to match your church’s familiar branding is preferable.
From there, you’ll want a builder that integrates with your other software solutions, including your website, your event management software, and your church giving platform. Many of the features in the past section require integrations with outside software, so this is definitely an important capability to look for.
For Example: PocketPlatform integrates with basically all church giving solutions, including Vision2’s platform. Further, it offers fully customizable branding and quite a few of the features mentioned in the previous section. Choosing a solution such as this one will help you get the most out of your mobile church app, strengthening relationships with current congregants in no time.
Church apps are growing in popularity, but they’re not equipped to handle all church management processes. While these apps aren’t the best solution for bringing in new congregants, they can be helpful when engaging existing congregants.
When creating a church app, it’s important to evaluate your budget and your current website to decide if it’s a worthwhile investment for you. For more information on bringing your church’s management to the digital sphere, review these additional resources:
- The Smart Buyer’s Guide to Choosing Church Giving Software. Just as it’s important to research mobile church apps before investing, it’s crucial to do your research before choosing your church giving software. Explore this buyer’s guide to begin your search.
- 5 Best Practices for Online Tithing at Your Church. Incorporating online giving in your church can be a major change. Check out these best-practices to make it a seamless and worthwhile transition for your congregation.
- Top 7 Essential Features for Church Giving Platforms. Church giving platforms are tasked with handling an essential piece of your church’s management. Here are 7 must-have features for any giving platform to be up-to-par.