Tim Schraeder is currently on sabbatical from his role as co-director of the Center for Church Communication to work with a church in Australia for three months.
In 1999, there were 39 million broadband Internet users worldwide; today, 1.2 billion people have broadband access on their smartphones. As many web and technology thought leaders have declared, the future of the web is mobile. Nearly two-thirds of Americans own an app device and a majority of the content accessed on mobile phones is being delivered by apps. With over 35 billion app downloads between Apple’s App Store and Google Play combined, Americans are spending over 80 minutes per day using apps. Whether its thumbing through social media updates, flicking Angry Birds, or learning another language, apps have changed the way we share, learn and engage.
The largest faith-based app is the Bible app, created by LifeChurch.tv’s YouVersion team. Launched in 2008, the Bible app reached over 34 million downloads in November 2011, and hopes to see 500 million downloads by the end of this year. While YouVersion is in a league all its own, many churches have tip-toed into the world of apps as a means of sharing information, sermons and videos. Some of the more popular church apps include those launched by Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Elevation Church and Saddelback. Now Hillsong Church has launched their own mobile app which breaks away from the traditional way churches have designed apps.
Hillsong is widely known for their best-selling worship albums, but their songs are just an echo of what’s happening inside of the vibrant Sydney-based church that has campuses in other major cities around the globe. Hillsong needed a fresh approach to communicating what was happening across their church globally, as well as providing access to great teaching and music resources they’ve come to be known for.
“We wanted to create an app that not only kept our own local church connected to the heartbeat of our vision, but to also encourage people who are serving in their own local churches by giving them a glimpse inside of ours,” said James Leggott, Hillsong’s lead web designer. “It’s our hope that through this app we can help champion the cause of local churches everywhere.”
While many church apps have traditionally been a mobile version of their websites, Hillsong’s app creates a unique user experience reminiscent of the Flipboard app, a popular app which creates a virtual magazine comprised of content from the social media streams you follow. Through tweets, images, and video, the story of what’s happening at Hillsong Church around the globe is curated and delivered through their app, which doesn’t require users to have their own social media accounts to stay connected. Users that do have their own Twitter, Facebook or Instragram accounts, however, are able to “Like,” comment and share content directly through the app.
With many of their key pastors and leaders actively engaged in social media, content for the app is dynamic and in real-time, bringing together the stories of what’s happening in their church around the globe. Content is divided into four primary categories: content from their lead pastors, content from their blog, video teaching, music, and stories from their care and relief efforts.
Most churches do not have the access to in-house talent to create apps, but companies such as The Church App and others are a great resource for churches that are looking to develop an app. While their app was designed by a London-based app developer, Hillsong’s team was very hands-on in the process as James Leggott explains in this blog post from the Hillsong Collected blog.
In the first 24 hours of its launch there were over 10,000 downloads of the Hillsong Church app, and an iPad and Android version will be available soon.
The Hillsong Church app is another great example of how a church is uniquely telling its story, and joins the ranks of other great churches who are leading the way in leveraging new media to connect people with the gospel.
What’s your church’s mobile strategy?