How Your Church Can Use QR Codes

How Your Church Can Use QR Codes

August 15, 2011 by

What are QR Codes?
QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes, much like the barcodes that you see in grocery stories or at Wal-Mart. However, they can store more alphanumeric characters that allow you to link to digital content such as SMS, IM, the web or open certain functions on your phone. How do you use a QR code? If you have a smart phone, you would go to your phone’s marketplace and download what is called a “QR code reader”. Once installed, you simply open the QR code reader and look for the scan option. Then, similar to what you see in the photo above, you hold your phone over the QR code to scan it. Like using Foursquare to check-in, companies provide incentives for scanning their barcodes. Below are some incentives:

  • Coupons
  • Discount on products
  • Giveaway items

These incentives are called “calls to action.” Calls to action allow users to complete a certain action that produces a certain result. Your church might use giveaways or offer access to additional information.

QR Codes vs. URLs
Critics of QR codes will ask what’s the difference between typing in a URL versus scanning a QR code?  For URLs, you must first have access to the Internet and a web browser. Then you type a long list of illogical characters excatly right in hopes of getting to the information you want. For QR codes, you complete the entire process of scanning a code in a matter of seconds, no Internet access is required and the information appears. QR codes do not require use of a separate or additional URLs inside of the QR code. Once scanned, the information appears. QR codes serve multiple purposes. They can obtain information for text documents, images, videos, etc. QR codes are more than a mirage of funny-looking barcodes. They significantly increase engagement between companies and their users. Even major airlines like Delta understand this and use QR codes as an alternative to printing paper tickets for check-ins.  It’s just faster.

Talk of the Town
In the same manner people initially questioned Twitter asking “why would I use such a thing,” people question the uses of QR codes, despite that they represent the present day talk of the town. Unlike the days of old, smartphones come a dime a dozen. Most people carry smart phones today because that’s what available in the market. As a result, the same number of people have access to QR code applications and they are usually free. Companies like Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks and others are QR codes to try to increase customer engagement and encourage users to take that “next step” in marketing and promotions on their own.  These next steps sometimes include signing up for newsletters, routing users to complete product-reviews on the web and rating its customer service. Below are some sensible examples of using a QR code:

  • Invite cards, doorhangers & postcards – You can only fit so much information on small print pieces. A QR code gives you the opportunity to offer extra details.
  • Business cards – There is only so much you can say on a business card before it looks filled or crowded. A QR code is a great way to tell additional information about yourself, such as a brief bio or to redirect users to a short clip.
  • Class reunions & get togethers – A friend of mind used QR codes for her class reunion. This is pretty cool use of QR codes because you have not seen some of your classmates in years and a QR code could be a great ice breaker into a memorable conversation. This same concept might be used to enhance any organization meeting or social networking environment.
  • On T-shirts or merchandise – Curiosity sometimes really does kill the cat but it is that curiosity that could lead your users to a discount or a reward.
  • Kids check-in – A QR code could be created on the fly to check kids in and out for your children’s ministry.

Share your thoughts in the comments: What are some other sensible ways the local church could utilize QR codes?

View the results of our poll: What do you think of QR codes?

Photo by Tris Hussey
Post By:

Andre Barnes

Andre' Barnes is the technology director at !mpact Church in Atlanta, Ga. Andre' and !mpact were both featured in a segment on CNN for "Social Networking In The Church."
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27 Responses to “How Your Church Can Use QR Codes”

  • Mark Collier
    August 15, 2011

    Love QR codes! We use them every week on our handouts directing people to our YouVersion notes.

  • Michael Buckingham
    August 15, 2011

    Interesting article. Not sure if there’s really data to support that they increase engagement though. AdAge just posted an article (though they call them 2D barcodes) and points to QR not being real effective.

    I wouldn’t pour a lot of energy/resource into them unless you know those you are trying to connect to will use them, or Apple makes it native to their camera. Also be sure to connect the dots if you do use them. Don’t just dump them to your homepage. Create a landing page that connects directly to that campaign.

    And about not needing Internet access, is that true?

    • Andre' Barnes
      August 15, 2011

      Hey Michael:

      If you are walking down the street or see a sign in your church with a QR code, you can just scan the code to get whatever message is behind it. If the message or characters is a link to a webpage, then yes, you would need internet access; however, it could just be some text telling you about a person or a product.

  • Tom Mathew
    August 15, 2011

    Yup, just confirmed…if you have a straight text embedded in you QR, no internet access is necessary to read it.

    I haven’t used it much myself but think there’s something about it that draws attention compared to a URL or bar code. If I see a bar code I glance over it because it’s become common place. I certainly wouldn’t think to scan it with my phone. However, whenever I come across a QR code my first thought is, “I wonder what it says?”

    • Michael Buckingham
      August 15, 2011

      I think you and I might be curious, but my wife and 19 year old would likely ignore it, and I know my dad would. Still feels like it only reaches a small segment, at least for now. Of course that can certainly work in your favor.

  • Sean
    August 15, 2011

    We are using QR codes on our youth ministry t-shirts. Instead of printing our logo on the back, we’re putting a code linked to a mobile facebook photo album that shows 12 pictures of what it is our ministry is about. That changes t-shirts from a logo and a location to a visual answer to “Who We Are.” (and here’s the link to said album:

    • GaryC
      August 16, 2011

      Sean, That is brilliant! The perfect application of a technology to the right audience. It is also a great use of a Facebook photo album.

    • Montie
      September 7, 2011

      Could you post a picture of the t-shirt? I am curious…Thanks

  • Andre' Barnes
    August 15, 2011

    Hey Michael:

    QR codes are still catching on. I believe with any new technology the question is probably not “Does it work?” but “How do I make it work for me?”. This is why I mentioned Twitter in the post.

    • Michael Buckingham
      August 15, 2011

      Oh, I think the church does need to ask “does it work?” Too many times the church spends money on technology for technology sake. We need to be aware of the technology, researching it, but we shouldn’t jump on every hot tech blindly.

      The stories that I’ve heard of QR codes just don’t have enough results, use, stickiness to pour a lot of resources into them, for now. They’re kinda neat, but when I see a story in AdAge talking about a 4% interaction rate it’s hard to recommend that fully.

      So yes as Communication Directors, Consultants, etc. we need to be aware and exploring but slower to leap.

      • Andre' Barnes
        August 15, 2011

        Hey Michael:

        I agree with everything that you have mentioned. However, asking the question “How do I make it work for me?” does not eliminate the question “Does it work?”. The former is doing the research first as well before spending money and time on any new technology. Furthermore, the truth about technology too is what works for me might not work for you. Therefore, before any church or organization uses any kind of new technology see if it really fits the church’s DNA and is the best fit for the church’s community.

    • Jordan FLores
      September 4, 2013

      How can I actually utilize this for weekly check-in/out with our kids church? What are you linking to? are there free services? any info would be awesome! thanks

  • Janet
    August 15, 2011

    Good article, Andre. It’s worth nothing that if the QR Code is a link to a website or landing page, it MUST be mobile-compatible. Nothing is more frustrating than being taken to a site on a smartphone that is not mobile-friendly. And besides, where’s the excitement in going to the home page of a website? Take me to a more specific product/service page.

    Thx for posting.

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    August 15, 2011

    Hehehe, love the debate and discussion. Personally, I’m pretty skeptical of QR codes–what about the rest of us without smartphones?!–but they are an emerging technology and it’s important for churches to be asking these questions. That’s why we had Dre write about it.

    A little bit of frustration and education. Love it. Thanks Dre.

  • Jama Burch
    August 15, 2011

    Each week we put a live event on the YouVersion Bible App that follows along with the message points and scripture. We have quite a few people using the app. Don’t worry, we still print the message outline for non-techies.

    This week we put a QR code linking directly to the live event so new attendees didn’t have to download the app and then look for the live event.

    Worked for us.

  • Paul Steinbrueck
    August 16, 2011

    I love QR codes & think they present a number of great opportunities. I agree that they do not have mass appeal as of yet, but there is also very little cost to using them. A few months ago I wrote this post…

    QR Codes: 10 Ways Churches Can Use Them

  • Jon Rogers
    August 16, 2011

    I agree that QR Codes are still catching on and starting to show up EVERYWHERE. I think its still a hard sell until smartphones recognize them through the camera app or something more native to the phone itself.

    With the question of whether or not they are effective, I just came across that gives you the ability to easily create and then track the QR codes so you have a better idea if your particular audience is using them or not.

    I think time will tell.

  • Hal Mayer
    August 16, 2011

    I love QR codes. I don’t use them to send people tour website- because a mobile optimized site- why? We use them to go to a video that promotes our church or an event. We have had over 100 watches in 2 weeks on our current video. We put them on our invite cards and mailers and programs etc. One thing you might want to do- we send our QR code to and then redirect it to the video. This means the QR code can be redirected with any series and we can change on the fly. They cost nothing- they intrigue- so people click. That’s my 2.5 cents worth

  • Zachariah Franklin
    August 27, 2011

    I am a QR code fan for sure. Has anyone used them for their kids ministry check in? I am curious how this would work?

    Thanks for any info!


  • Kelsey Johnson
    September 7, 2011

    We posted a QR code just outside the Sanctuary entrance at our church. It’s linked up to an RSS feed of our Sunday morning orders of worship so that anyone wanting to view the order of worship on their smartphone can scan and go, without having to waste a paper copy.

  • Lisa Jones
    September 19, 2011

    Thanks so much for the info. I’ve been wanting to find out more about QR codes and this provided a great overview.

  • David Turner
    February 9, 2012

    We just started using QR codes so people can download our bulletin and sermon notes onto their phones as they enter the sanctuary. It took me about 15 minutes and NO money to setup a system for doing it in our church. I made a quick “how to” video on how to do it yourself. Here’s the link…

  • Matthew Sandahl
    February 10, 2012

    We use qr codes on youth handouts. Few people had smart phones as little as a year ago. But theres been such a huge boost lately that I think Ill take these suggestions and offer our bulletin through qr code as an alternative to the hard copy. We need to get people onto our website anyways! thanks for the ideas!

  • Jeffery Boes
    March 26, 2012

    Does anyone know if QR codes can be printed in newspapers, or do they have to be higher resolution? We were thinking of putting one in a newspaper ad (a coupon, really), and I am wondering about the size and resolution required.

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