So you want to create an app for your church?
Could mobile devices help you connect with your community?
The amazing world of apps
In 2012, a massive 32 million apps will be downloaded onto personal devices every single day … and that’s conservative.
A huge amount of those apps won’t just be games or recipes, they will be apps exploring the Christian faith. These apps connect people to the Bible, share sermons from churches, and offer sensational tools to engage young people with faith and social justice issues.
In the US, one Bible app has been downloaded by 50 million users and is gaining another 3 million monthly. That’s cool! That’s progress!
While the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics census indicates that people are less likely to categorise themselves by a faith, and mainstream media claims the masses are turning away from the church, faith Apps are proving the reverse.
They meet people where they are at - the bus, the train, iPod, the cafe, and they are encouraging people to re-engage with local Christian communities privately, and even in secret.
One of Melbourne’s largest churches, Crossway, has just launched its own app for iPhone, Ipad and Android, and with great success. Senior Pastor, Dale Stephenson explains why:
The vast majority of the teens and young adults at our church are digital natives. They are very comfortable exploring faith in the online space - it’s second nature to them.
The beauty of Crossway’s new app is it’s not exclusive, it’s available to everyone to explore. It’s for the curious ... people who may want to return to faith but aren't ready to front up to a new church.
What's in most of these apps?
The Crossway App is definitely for the searcher or those not regular to the church. It's simple, it's clear…not too complex. It begs further exploration, and for the curious invites engagement and debate through a Blog section which goes right to the big issues of faith.
‘It’s just a typical part of my world being online. Watching a sermon online or on an App is natural place to be.” (Charley, aged 19).
The Crossway app also include more fundamental information like an events calendar, and an overview of the style of the church and its congregations.
Pastor Stephenson said young migrants were also finding community through faith apps.
“For new migrants who’ve arrived from a country where the Christian faith was forbidden, they now have the freedom to explore that faith and to form a relationship with Jesus unfettered, for the first time.
He said Crossway’s app also detailed support services such as financial or personal counselling, growth groups, youth supports, or opportunities for newcomers to meet in a social setting.
“It’s reaching out to people yet allowing them to make their own decisions about engagement, to email for further information of their own accord, and yet giving them every chance to engage in church life.
How can you create an app for your church?
Here's a few basic questions to consider, if your church is thinking of going mobile.
1. Who do I want my app to appeal to?
- If it's seekers, then they might not get the 'church language', so keep it simple.
- If your app is a way of keeping in touch with your regulars, then feel free to use more 'church language', however, if you just want internal chit chat, maybe just keep that to a blog or Facebook page.
2. What do I put in my app?
- An app is not a website. Websites have become great wealths of information, with multiple pages and uses. Apps are much simpler, bites of information, easily digested in the time it takes to ride the train.
- Ue your app to promote social events, fundraisers, outreach, regular services.
- Clearly describe who you are and what you do.
- An app is your character, your community, your brand, so take your time to get your message right.
3. Who will develop my app?
You'd be surprised. There are SO many app developers out there, there's probably someone in your 'six degrees of separation' who is dabbling in apps and is willing to help. If you don't have any luck there, try searching online for app developers near you. Be honest about your expectations, workshop it as a group, look at the apps you like, and the parts you don't like. Preparing your wish list will help you to create a comprehensive brief.
4. How do I get my app out there?
Friends and fans … your influence groups … If your friends aren't willing to upload it, why on earth should someone who is in no way connected to you. Apps travel by word of mouth, by your recommendation. At the very least, members of your church should upload it, and hopefully share it with friends. There's the beginning of your audience.
If you're interested in taking a look at Crossway’s new app, it can be downloaded via the iTunes store.