Your Church: Is There an App for That?

October 19, 2009 by

2009_10_19apps.jpgYou might have heard the old news that Mars Hill in Seattle has developed an iPhone application. As has The Reaction, a movement in Denver. And a couple weeks ago, NOOMA provided me the opportunity to preview one of their iPhone applications–designed to give owners an opportunity to look on with a friend and go through discussion questions together.

A search through the App Store revealed a few more church applications, plenty of church finders and some Christian quote search engines. It seems that the church is getting on board with this whole “app” thing. Even theWashington Post covered the idea of religious applications.

This whole idea has got me feeling conflicted.

The skeptic in me has lots of questions:

  • Are all churches going to fall into the pressure of keeping up with the Joneses and have to direct resources towards this sort of technological development?
  • Should the church ever be taking a stand against increasing complexity in the world to advocate simplicity and focus in life? (Shane Hipps would say yes.)
  • Does developing this communicate that people need to be rich to be fully-involved in your church?
  • Does the world really need an iPhone application in order to connect with Jesus?
  • Will iPhone apps become like web sites where we chuckle at the churches who don’t have one?

Pro-App
And maybe, for your church, you ask these questions and you find this is the best way to accomplish your mission. It’s kind of exciting to think of people shaking their phones to share sermons or having a new point of access to churches. Or to imagine people visiting your church on their phone before they visit your church on the web before they visit your church in real life. (Wow, this world is getting complicated.)

Some of you are reaching out to a technology-driven, attention-span-deprived and hip audience. For a handful of churches out there, your message won’t get across without the latest medium. And perhaps that is the single best point of entry for you to reach the unchurched and strengthen your church.

No-App
But, for other churches, your community doesn’t need that technological point of entry. I would even venture to say that most churches don’t need to cater to the technological early adopters. We hear people, even your average person, lauding the latest gizmos and technology, and we assume we need to connect through those avenues.

But often, as humans, our desire for gadgets and technological connectivity is little more than a proxy for a deeper desire to connect with humanity and purpose. And for most churches, you won’t need an app for that. There are other ways for you to plug your community in to relationships and purpose. Ways that will be much more efficient and effective than the latest technology.

What’s Your Strategy?
At its heart, this isn’t a question about gizmos, gadgets and trinkets. This is a question about strategy and values. It’s easy to skip the part where we say, “Hey, wait a minute. Does this fit in with our strategy? Does this fit in with our values? Or are we just doing this to do it?” Figuring out who you’re trying to reach, what you’re trying to say and how you’re going about it aren’t as fun as using the latest technology, but they can make a big difference in how effective your church is.

For some of you, the newest trend is an irreplaceable avenue to reach your audience. But for others, don’t lose sight of this simple fact: Relevance is about much, much more than technology. It all depends on your strategy.

Post By:

Joshua Cody


Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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21 Responses to “Your Church: Is There an App for That?”

  • Gerardo
    October 19, 2009

    I think GPS could provide another new, tool for local church ministry see
    http://praxishabitus.blogspot.com/2009/02/wired-church-of-future-gps-religion.html


  • RJ Grunewald
    October 19, 2009

    I’m an iPhone developer working on a project aimed at helping churches get iPhone applications on the app store. My goal is to make an affordable option where churches can easily control the content and have an application that is useful for connecting not only with sermons, but events and groups and such.
    It’s still in the early stages but there are some sweet ideas that I have working in the proof-of-concept stage.


  • Steve
    October 19, 2009

    Good thoughts. The Mars Hill app is actually developed by SubSplash. They are building an app similar to what they created for Mars Hill for several other churches. Very creative group with a real focus on putting the gospel in the hands of more people. Even small churches like ours wants to share our messages and music with our community.


  • Eric Granata
    October 19, 2009

    In February I blogged here asking the question, Do churches really need their own iPhone apps?
    In a nutshell, the conclusion that I came to is no. And I still think that way. However, iPhone apps like YouVersion Live are something that I think churches will benefit from. In fact, I was thinking along those lines when I wrote the post linked to above.
    As far as churches having their own, branded, native iPhone apps in the iTunes app store. I see no point. I have not yet seen such an app that does anything that well executed mobile website (check out chapel.org on your iPhone) can’t accomplish. Creating a native app when you can accomplish many of the same things with Safari seems like a waste of resources.


  • Michael Buckingham
    October 19, 2009

    Like all things you have to ask yourself that all important question that we so often skip:
    “So what?”
    and
    “Does anyone need this, or care about it other than me?”
    I like Mars Hill’s app, it’s very nice. I don’t see it being very useful though. And this isn’t a church issue, I’ve downloaded plenty of apps that seem cool but then I realize I have no real use for them.
    The same is true for web sites, twitter, facebook, etc. Too often I see churches jumping on these things, spending money and time on them, without a reason much more than “it’s cool” or “it seems like the thing to do.”
    Of course there are apps, like YouVersion, that take exception to this. They were created to solve a problem, they were created as a solution not as a gizmo.
    As for iphone apps, I’m with Eric. Build a good mobile site and I think you could call it a wise, and useful, move.


  • Sean Salter
    October 20, 2009

    Lots of studies show that we as a society and the family unit is spending less and less personal time together. Fathers are spending less time with kids and more time fooling on the computer. Kids spend less time talking with mom and dad and more time texting. Twitter, facebook, iPhones, iPods, blackberries all calling for more of our free time. Add in video games, netflix, etc. When does quality time start?
    I think it would be better if churches focused on the family unit and getting them to spend more face time with each other than making more ways to keep them apart. Our society is on a downward spiral fast and the one place to rescue it is the family unit. But you won’t learn that ag bible school. . .


  • Rick Wilson
    October 20, 2009

    Good discussion. But there are some missing parts.
    First Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Myspace should be better termed generational media. This is the world of Gen X, Gen Y and Millenials. It’s not a fad – ignore this world and we’ll loose them – simple as that.
    I agree that there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. YouVersion Live already does it – put your church stamp on it and off you go.
    This is a sea change in culture and the greatest opportunity that churches and non-profits have ever had. Let’s not debate whether it’s a fad or the right thing to do. Let’s DO IT!! The alternative is unthinkable!


  • Pastor Joe
    October 20, 2009

    I think every church should have an iPhone app, not to keep up with anyone, but rather as one more tool to reach and engage a culture…the Great Commission calls us to go into ALL the world…and I’d argue that the internet and the iTunes app store is the world.
    Its very similar to why a church needs a website – its not for the church, its for the people who are on the internet. It is simply a tool to reach out into the world of ‘internet evangelism’ and share the hope and love of Jesus Christ.
    It’s the same with the iPhone app – with a marketplace of over 50 million users (expected to be over 100 million in 12 months) and 1/3 of all internet traffic in February 2009 coming off mobile phones I think this is one tool we can’t ignore.
    I believe in it so much that my team created a turnkey solution to provide every church / pastor with an inexpensive way to create and manage their own app…
    Contact me if you’d like to review apps in more detail and possibly do a story…when you realize all teh things an app can do (Mars Hills has taken a great step and created an awareness, but even they haven’t even scratched the surface of the possibilities of how we can use technology, specifically the iPhone app to reach the world for Christ)


    • Walter
      April 9, 2012

      Pastor Joe I am very interested in leaning how our ministry could contact you about setting up an app.

      Best,


  • Sean Salter
    October 21, 2009

    I love pastors always thinking about what’s best for the church rather than what’s beat for people, families, or society. I guess that’s what happens when you live off of other people’s incomes.


  • Caryn
    October 26, 2009

    We wanted to help churches communicate via the iPhone, so we developed AppChurch, that just came out in the App Store two weeks ago. For a small monthly subscription, churches can have a presence on the iPhone without the costs of creating their own app. Right now churches can post their sermons and events, and we’re working to expand the AppChurch features in the near future.
    I’m not sure how many unsaved people are installing Christian apps in their phones, but I get excited about the possibility of church members inviting their friends to their church, and having the info right there to show them just what they’re inviting them to.


  • Steve
    October 28, 2009

    iPhone is just a cool phone. No doubt about it. But is creating an app really necessary? Not convinced. Yet.
    Should churches be creating websites that work on mobiles. Absolutely. There is no doubt that mobile is the new black as a communications channel.
    I also think that to communicate to people nobody else is reaching we have to communicate in ways no one else is communicating.
    For me that means if an app is going to help your church reach people no one else is reaching in your area. Go. For. It. If you are doing it coz it is cool. Don’t do it. Use your congregations hard earned money more wisely.


  • Kimberly
    October 29, 2009

    Interesting discussion. As a Palm Pre fan, I’m still waiting for any significant church apps to appear for that device.


  • David
    November 10, 2009

    I think that the third question you posed in this post is the most intriguing one. What does this say to those in our culture who cannot afford luxuries such as an iphone? Does it make them feel excluded. I guess my questions reveals that my church and I are part of the no-app crowd.


  • Zach Lorton
    November 11, 2009

    Whether an iPhone app for your church is necessary or not is NOT the question; many of the other ministries that churches get themselves involved in are necessary, but they do it anyway. NOT EVERY CHURCH IS THE SAME. Therefore, not every church will benefit from making an iPhone app available to the public. However, I can totally see where many churches would consider this a viable part of their ministry. My church, New Testament Fellowship Church in Alton and O’Fallon, Illinois, has been making audio and video podcasts available through iTunes for free for about 2 years now, and it has become a great maintainer of momentum for those that are technologically connected. We can easily share the messages with our friends, colleagues, and co-workers without having to feel stupid (most unchurched people wouldn’t fathom that a church would embrace technology, anyway).


  • youngdesign
    November 14, 2009

    I think there is a BIG difference between an iPhone App and a Mobile Website.
    iPhone Apps are limiting because they only serve iPhones… as grand as iPhones are, not everyone has one *gasp*.
    However, a Mobile Website serves anyone who owns a smartphone! Think about that for a second… ANYONE who has a smartphone- give it a year and smartphones will be the majority user.
    I’m helping design the Mobile site for our church and we have a lot of features and potential, it’s created a real buzz in the congregation!


  • Pastor Joe
    December 2, 2009

    You are completely correct in your assertion YoungDesign in saying “There is a big difference between an iPhone app and a mobile website.”
    While not everyone has an iPhone it is to large of a sector to ignore if we want to maximize our reach.
    I think all churches should have both a mobile website and a iPhone app – there are just some things a mobile website can’t do that an iPhone app can and vice versa…
    In my opinion if you choose one and exclude the other, we are in essence saying:
    Not everyone can afford internet access, or a paid subscription to the paper, so I’m only going to advertise in the free newspapers…in doing that we would miss out on a HUGE market.
    iPhone apps are the same way, it’s an exploding market with over 50,000,000 (thats million) registered users and expected to be 100,000,000+ in 12 months.
    Up to this point it has just been to expensive for a church to have their own app, but now the rules have changed. Check out http://www.appmii.com


  • Jeremy
    February 19, 2010

    Hi,
    I greatly appreciate the comments discussed here. I too was of the mindset that Churches need a way to keep people informed of church activities in the ever expanded technological market. I can recall similar discussions when the Internet first came out whether or not Churches should have their own website. Now we are discussion whether churches should have their own Phone apps.
    In an effort to provide churches with a cost effective way to keep people informed of weekly service information through the iPhone without needing to create an entire app for their church, we have developed the NewChurchCenter iPhone app. It is due to become live for download in March, 2010. Basically this tool allows churches to submit their weekly church service information to the NewChurchCenter website which in turn becomes visible on the NewChurchCenter iPhone app. A simple way to not only keep your own congregation informed of weekly service information, but to provide visibility to new members in the area as well.
    I will keep you informed on the response as we begin to take this cause live.


  • Nathan Colgate
    March 2, 2010

    Hey Joshua,
    We run a CMS for churches and decided that the mobile site was the way to go. We rolled out a WebKit/iPhone/Android targeted mobile site for all our churches earlier this year and folks love it. This allowed us to sidestep the AppStore approval process as well as stick to our core comptency (HTML not Objective C).


  • Niel
    April 5, 2013

    I vote a round two to this blog with updated content:) Good post!

    For churches looking for a completely affordable turn-key church app solution check out ChurchLink at http://www.churchlinkapp.com

    Keep up the good work!

    God bless,
    Niel


  • John brown
    May 20, 2013

    There’s a new company that is making church apps that are really cheap and are actually the first example of how a church app could be useful to get people plugged into the church instead of an excuse for them to stay home. They have ways to get connected to community groups and stuff, pretty cool.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on it. Here’s a link to their website: http://www.ampedchurch.com



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