By Kyle Henning

Do You Need a Mobile App for Outreach and Member Engagement?

As more and more churches move to online tithing methods, church apps have become a hot topic. Are mobile church apps the answer to engaging members? Are they effective enough for outreach and member engagement to justify the effort and expense? Do they actually help to increase your giving?

Proponents of mobile church apps cite reports that 50% of the time spent digital engagement occurs is via smartphone apps. There’s a deeper truth, however. 90% of that time is spent only on users’ top five apps — such as Facebook, YouTube, Google Search. What’s more, of the people that download an app, 80% of them never become active users.

Some members absolutely love staying informed and engaging with the church via a church mobile app, but it’s crucial to evaluate the pros and cons of the technology before making the large investment of bringing it to your congregation.

In this post, we’ll cover what church mobile apps can and can’t do, and how you can make the most of one to engage your congregation:

  • When is a 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?

When is a church app not right for your needs?

When considering investing in a mobile church app, the first step in managing expectations is to clarify who you’re building it for. Is it for existing members or are you hoping to attract new congregants with your app?

Church mobile apps aren’t great for finding new congregants.

When was the last time you heard of someone discovering a new church home through a quick search on the App Store? More than likely, no one does this. And studies show that app discovery in general is down, with 51% of smartphone users downloading exactly zero new apps month-by-month.

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.

There are better ways to conduct effective outreach.

For outreach, focus first on other more manageable and effective tools, such as:

  • Optimized church website to reflect your campus’s welcoming atmosphere and provide anything a potential visitor requires. (Because people DO search for a new church home on Google!)
  • Social Media Platforms
  • Community Events
  • Community Service Ministries
  • Neighborhood Campaigns
  • “Bring a Friend” Campaigns

Don’t try to incorporate all of these digital tools in your strategy; that could lead to a stressful balancing act. Instead, pick and choose which platforms would best serve your organization, and employ them accordingly.

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. With the right online giving solution, they can make giving more convenient.

There are a few scenarios where these apps could come in handy:

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 engage new audiences within your congregation, such as younger generations.

You want to offer more convenient ways to get involved

Convenience is a powerful key to engaging members and mobile church apps can facilitate and simplify engagement opportunities, such as:

  • GIVING: 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.
  • EVENT PLANNING: These apps can also handle certain aspects of event planning, such as ticketing and registration.
  • CONTENT AND RESOURCES: Your church mobile app can house resources to help members grow in their faith— including recorded sermons, devotionals, and even bible studies.

Should I create a mobile app for my church?

Creating a church app is a significant investment, so 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?

80% of the congregants who download your church app aren’t going to be truly active users. So 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.

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?

Vision2 has invested in technology that enables an optimized website experience with an embedded giving form that keeps givers on your site to complete their gift. Unlike an app, Vision2 has a proven average of 23% average increase in gifts in the first 12 months of usage.

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.

What features provide the most value?

  • Pull 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. This eliminates the need for duplicating your work across multiple platforms.
  • 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.
  • Have 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.
  • Keep 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.
  • Host an interactive live prayer wall. Allow members to post prayer requests and broadcast them to your entire congregation.
  • 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.
  • Include 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.
  • Allow 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.

Which app builder should I use?

Two key characteristics to look for when investing in a church mobile app:

  • Template-based app builders are significantly more affordable than fully customized options, and should allow you to customize your app to match your church’s familiar branding.
  • Integration with your other software solutions, including your website, your event management software, and your church giving platform should be a high priority.

We’ve found that 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.

Its biggest differentiator from other apps is its use of dynamic content to personalize each user’s experience. They only receive applicable information, such as a notification of a Step 2 class only when they have completed Step 1.

Choosing a solution such as this one will help you get the most out of your mobile church app, engaging current congregants in a way no other app can.

Additional Resources

In summary, while church apps are growing in popularity, they aren’t the best solution for bringing in new congregants. But they can be helpful when engaging existing congregants.

When creating a church app, evaluate your budget and your current website to decide if it’s a worthwhile investment for you.

Looking for the right giving software to back up your mobile app? Check out Vision2 Systems.

Or schedule a demo of Vision2’s comprehensive end-to-end giving and donor management solution.