Over the years, churches have gotten better and better at learning to integrate modern technologies into the fabric of their ministries. The majority of churches today have an established website, a social media presence, and even livestream and virtual service options.
Just as with any organization or company, one size does not fit all. Although we know the benefits of using technology to our advantage, it does not mean that every single digital media option out there is the right one for us.
With all of the options available for building a digital presence, it will take some time to truly figure out what best fits your congregation and target audience.
In this blog, we want to discuss the pros and cons of utilizing a popular digital church tool: apps! In a nutshell, apps (or applications) are programs that are used specifically on your mobile device.
The purpose of an app is to create a more streamlined way for your audience to access your content, shop your products, etc. They also mainly take the form of social media, games, lifestyle guides, and other handy tools. The goal of using an app is creating ease.
But how important are apps for churches? Are they actually worth the effort of building and developing? Do they serve your personal needs well?
We want to help you figure out whether building an app for your church will be a help or a hindrance.
1. Curate the conversation
A benefit to having your own mobile app is the ability to take reigns on the conversation. This means that you are able to convey your unique voice, mission, and vision as a church through the application.
Practically, this looks like developing parts of the app that are dedicated to explaining who you are and what your purpose as a church is. Apps are not meant to include pages and pages of information like a web page does, but it is a great way to give your community the cliff notes of what you’re about.
Curating the conversation starts with getting your community used to communicating through the app. Where can they sign up for small groups? The app. Where can they learn about your church’s ministries? The app. Where can they access messages and other videos? The app.
Training your people to communicate through the app takes actually getting them to download it! Once this hurdle is leaped, curating conversation on your app can take place.
Odds are, your church has a decent amount of events that you would like people to attend! Church apps can be a huge benefit to getting the word out about events and creating concise ways for people to sign up for events and set reminders.
Many apps out there give you the option to directly save an event on your Google or Apple calendar directly out of the app. There are always simple ways to link sign-up sheets and interest forms on apps as well.
Another thing you can do is include a church calendar directly on your app to give users a glimpse of the coming weeks in your community. Overall, the capabilities of using event tools on your church app is a huge asset.
3. Kids Ministry Check-In
Another functional and beneficial perk to using a church app is the integration of kids ministry tools, specifically kids check-in.
Churches all over have increased their security and safety for their children’s ministries by requiring parents and guardians to check in their children for church and other events. You can imagine that keeping track of this by hand can be very difficult.
Through a simple app, you can upload profiles of families and their individual children to make checking in your child as simple as scanning a key fob card or finding their name in the system.
Not only is this system secure, it makes things a lot easier for both the children’s ministry leaders and the families of the children.
4. Push Notifications
Most apps out there (specifically Apple) ask you a simple question the moment you open it after download: “would you like to enable push notifications?” If you opt-in for these notifications, you are allowing the app to send you notifications about new app features, news, or other announcements.
Push notifications are a huge benefit if you want to disseminate information to your community quickly and effectively. While it may take someone a few hours to even notice you sent them an email, a push notification is immediate and sends an alert right to the app users phone.
This is very similar to mass texting but comes directly through your app. You can use this feature to remind people about service starting soon, inform about church events, or even as a kind encouragement.
5. Easy Giving
One of the greatest features of church apps by far is mobile giving. Many churches are moving away from passing the offering plate to integrating online giving options such as giving kiosks, websites, and of course apps.
Giving on a church app is probably one of the fastest and easiest ways to give to church. For most apps, you simply launch the app, tap “give”, choose your amount, and enter your credit card information.
Giving through the app gives you, as the church, control over your branding and how your giving page looks to the viewers. Giving online allows ease of access to the giver because you can set up recurring payments, give to specific funds, and save your card information for simple transactions.
One of the biggest perks online giving offers is the ability to give anytime they want and not just when the plate is passed on Sundays. People have cash on them less and less, but almost everyone always has their debit or credit card on them.
For the church bookkeeper, online giving is a dream because you can integrate it with accounting management software. This means it will be way easier to track giving overall and also develop year-end tax statements.
1. Doesn’t Drive Growth
While church apps have a lot of great features for those already involved in the community, church apps are not an evangelical tool.
If curious about church, most people will more than likely opt to do a quick Google or social media search of your church. The odds of them finding your app and taking the time to download it are a bit less likely.
Truth be told, sometimes it can be difficult even to get your existing members to download the app let alone people outside your community!
Church apps, unless they are extremely well done, do not usually include the types of features users look for in an app.
Smartphone users spend about 50% of their time in social and communication apps.
This statistic is something to consider when you think about what your app actually offers users that makes want to to actually use it.
Unfortunately, apps are not meant to be used as a tool for growth or building the church. Its main purpose is to inform current members and offer them features (such as kids check-in and giving) to make their life a bit simpler.
2. Keeping it Updated and Fresh
There is only so much you can do design-wise with your app, which makes keeping it looking fresh a bit of a challenge. When you choose to include an app into your church’s digital repertoire, you are bringing on a whole other digital project.
Not only will you need to make sure your website looks fresh, you will have your app to worry about too. Keeping an app updated can be a headache if you are doing it yourself, which makes the usage of a professional app developer so much more appealing.
Keeping your app looking fresh is a necessity if you don’t want your viewers to get bored of your content, stop using the app, and eventually delete it. The #1 reason people delete their mobile apps is due to lack of use. If your app doesn’t create enough value for constant usage, the user may just end up deleting it.
Another con is that mobile apps, especially those that are template-made, have a ton of restrictions on what you can actually do within the app.
For the most part, textual information works pretty well on mobile apps. However, there are limits on the other types of media you can include.
For example, some app development services, such as those based on templates, limit you on the types of tabs, media, and content you can use in the app. The solution is often a clickable link that actually takes you to a webpage on your mobile web browser. This begs the question: why have a church app if it just takes me to the church website anyway?
The functionality of your app can really be a hindrance when it doesn’t include all the things you need directly in the app. There are exceptions to this shortcoming however. Check out Churchome’s mobile app for a great example of an app that pulls all the stops in terms of functionality.
4. Can Get Pricey
While apps look simple in nature, the actual process of developing an app can get extremely complicated depending on the type of app you choose to use. In order to utilize an app that is truly intuitive, well-made, and well-functioning, you will more than likely need to hire a professional.
As you can imagine, hiring a professional can obviously get extremely expensive. However, it is not usually a one-time expense because there will be constant maintenance needed to refresh the app and make sure things are working properly.
It will take a bit of a commitment to develop an app that is truly professional, functional, and beautiful.
Apps can be time-consuming and expensive, and hard to get people to actively use. This is why your church’s website is far more important to your growth and impact than a mobile app.
At Pro WebFire, we’ve created a smart solution for helping you reach more people by being found online, and where they’re searching on the internet. When you’re ready to take your church to new heights with a custom website, rely on our team to help you light the fires and impact the world.