Like parachute pants, the trend of a standalone church app has fallen out of favor with many church leaders. The busting of this so-called fad is a chance to re-evaluate what a standalone church app can be for your local body. A church app can increase visibility, create accessibility, and promote legacy.
Most people in your church have a smartphone or tablet. Each of these devices are full of apps. These well-designed icons sit on the device’s dock or homepage waiting to be engaged. When your church has its own app, anyone can engage whenever they want—because the app is sitting right there on the device, waiting for them to engage.
As your church member sits at the Department of Motor Vehicles waiting for their number to be called, they pull out their phone and look at their screen. Sitting between their social media app and some puzzle game is your church’s app. That app is a reminder of the mission, the church, the family they belong to.
Churches that are forward-thinking are making great strides in mobile-first websites. This is very important, as Americans are increasingly on the web from their phones and tablets. The question is, with this increase in website functionality, isn’t an app redundant? The answer is a wholehearted no. However phone-friendly your website is, it cannot match an app in user experience.
If I want to listen to last week’s sermon, I could navigate to it online. To do that, I would go to my web browser, type in the church name, navigate to the sermon page, then begin listening. I might listen to the first 10 minutes before my day begins. Tomorrow, when I try to navigate back to that same sermon and continue listening, the website has no memory of where I stopped the day before. I have to scrub the audio to find where I was. However, in a standalone app, it’s two quick and easy steps—not five. Not only that, but the app knows right where I am in my listening. I can pick up the same sermon at any time and begin at the exact point I left off. There is memory and convenience.
Many church apps simply link to the mobile website. Even when that is the case, it’s an app that brought them there. Users know where to go to look for answers. The app is simply another door into your church community.
A pastor spends hours every week in study and prayer to bring a sermon to life. For 30 minutes all that passion and truth is poured out to our people. Then what? For years, that sermon would have faded into the rear view mirror never to be heard of again. But there are some churches that are leveraging their apps to be content-rich reservoirs of truth.
Some of the most used church apps are the ones with rich content. Sermons are searchable by topic and passage. If I am preaching on Matthew 24 this week, I can go and see how Alistair Begg, for example, handled the text 10 years ago. If one of your people is struggling with depression, they might just search depression in the search bar and find a sermon on that very thing. They can download it and listen to it. If they get distracted, they know right where to come to continue the journey.
An app takes the content your church naturally creates each week and gives it legs. It goes on ahead of us. It is not merely a post hidden in our podcast feed. It is not an obscure series tile on our website page. It is searchable, findable, and evergreen.
A church app is not necessary for every church. But a well-executed app can drive engagement, increase connection, and bring true blessings to many within and outside our walls.