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November 12, 2019
Think about this for a moment: 80% of internet users own a smartphone! That’s right. 80% of folks online have a smartphone — a device that allows them to get online and find information, read books, check email, pay bills, shop, get directions, manage finances, buy coffee, take a cab, and so much more.
February 5, 2017
Think about this for a moment:
80 percent of Internet users own a smartphone!
That’s right, 80% of folks online have a smartphone — a device that allows them to get online and find information, read books, check email, pay bills, shop, get directions, manage finances, buy coffee, take a cab, and so much more.
One might come to the realization that its imperative for your church to connect with people on the go in ways that help them grow spiritually, enable them to stay engaged with your community, and build their faith.
But, where do you get started?
How do you know if you're getting a church app that will accomplish what you're looking to do?
What church apps providers have the features you need?
With so many church app options out there, it’s useful to have a guide that helps you know what to look for in an app. So.. we figured we'd put together a simple guide with answers just for you!
For many, mobile technology has become a basic necessity that’s literally required as a part of day-to-day life. Plenty of people would be absolutely lost without their “phone”.
Church is all about people. A place where real in-person human-to-human interaction is essential.
That said, tech-savvy churches have recognized the importance of developing a mobile strategy that goes beyond their website and social media platforms. A mobile strategy that aims to bring more and more of the true engagement and spiritual development into the palm of people’s hands.
Churches like these see that leveraging smartphone tech through helps to keep congregations engaged, informed, and encouraged.
With that in mind, we thought we’d put together a quick list of top church app features churches should be looking for when evaluating any solution. We hope this information helps as you look to find the perfect app for your church.
The best app for churches should be so easy to manage that it virtually runs itself by integrating everything it can from existing platforms.
Sermons on YouTube of Vimeo? Great, your church app should easily pull those in. Blog posts, bible studies, and devotionals, on your website? Fantastic, your app should pull those in and update automatically. Church calendar on Google calendar or another popular calendar app? Sweet, be sure the church app pulls those in, updates them in real-time, and displays them nicely.
Having a custom church app that functions like this ensures you don’t have to manage more technology and increase the administrative burden on your staff.
Additionally, be sure you have the flexibility to manage content and publish directly within the app if required. An easy to use interface that allows you to change content, update pictures, send push notifications, and more is important. You don’t want to get yourself into a situation where it’s difficult or impossible to make updates to you app content when needed.
Your church brand and style is extremely important! You’ve likely spent time building your brand and the way you visually and stylistically talk to your members and the community you serve. So, it’s only natural to want your custom church app to fit in with your overall brand.
Make sure you can brand your custom church mobile app, put the info you want into it, and have creative control over the final product.
The entire reason for having a church app is to increase and/or improve engagement with your members and community. That’s where push notifications come in!
App engagement goes up by 88% when push notifications are used. Additionally, over 65% of people will return to your app in the first 30 days after installing it when you’re effectively using push notifications.
Have an important meeting, send a push notification to remind people. Want to encourage people to listen to the latest sermon, send a push! Don’t want people to miss important news that you put in your digital bulletin, push notifications to the rescue! Push notifications allow you to remind people — even when they’re not actively using your app.
Apps account for 89% of mobile media time, with the other 11% spent on websites. In addition to that staggering stat, research by Cisco shows that 64% of the world’s Internet traffic was driven by video content in 2014, and will grow to 80% by 2019.
Needless to say, having a custom church app that delivers sermons, bible studies, worship services, and more into the palm of peoples hands is a must. There’s literally nothing more important than getting God’s word in the hearts and minds of your church on a regular and consistent basis.
By doing this you give people the opportunity to engage with the life-giving, bible-based, content you create even when they’re away on travel, sick, or otherwise unable to be in church. You also open up opportunities for those looking for a church, wanting to learn more about God, or living so far away that they can’t attend physically.
There’s good evidence that the act of writing itself helps us remember things better. This is likely because when we write something down (aka, takes notes), research suggests that as far as our brain is concerned, it’s as if we were doing that thing.
The better our notes, the more likely we are to remember.
And don’t you want your congregation to remember and apply what they’ve learned when listening to a sermon or bible study? Yep, of course you do.
Interactive sermon notes are designed for exactly this purpose. Make sure the church app you deliver to your church has interactive sermon notes that let them fill in the blank, answer question, take ad-hoc notes, save notes to their device for future reference, and enable the ability to share with a friend. Having a built in bible is icing on the cake!
Prayer was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. He drew away by himself to pray, brought his disciples along with him to pray, and tough all of us to make prayer a foundational element of our walk with Jesus.
For ages we’ve all had prayer groups, posted prayers in the weekly bulletin, or used an email list to share prayer requests.
Now, with mobile technology, you can put the offline prayer list in the palm of each and every members hand. A mobile prayer wall allows people to see and pray for others, let people know others are praying for them, as well as request prayers themselves. It’s an amazing thing! Be sure you can include an interactive and live prayer wall in your app.
The Sunday bulletin is a staple of church communication. I’m not sure when it started, but I’d venture to say it’s been in use for fifty years or more. It’s hard to imagine a world without one. But, forms of communication evolve and it’s time to take your bulletin digital.
Here’s something to ponder: a church of 200 spends about $100 to $150 a week on full-color bulletins — that’s a $5,200 a year minimum cost! That’s a lot of capital spent on something that gets thrown away or forgotten at church when people leave.
Start delivering your bulletin through your church app. You’ll likely have to print far fewer paper bulletins and people will have the information with them every single day.
Your calendar is the heart-beat of the church. It might even be the single most used things you create and keep updated. Don’t you think it makes sense to put it in your custom church app so people can pull it up on a moments notice?
Even better, your calendar is in your custom mobile app and you use push notifications to remind people to look at things on the calendar when the time is right! It’s a beautiful thing.
People buy their coffee in an app, take a cab (eg. Uber) using an app, check into their flight with an app, buy their Christmas presents in an app, listen to music in an app, etc etc etc.
I think you get the point.
Make it as easy for people to give to the church as it is to buy a coffee from Starbucks, take an Uber, or buy their groceries. But also be sure you're teaching on tithing in the Bible and using Bible verses about thanksgiving to let your church know you're thankful.
Pulling your blog or website content into your app for easy and quick access is a brilliant idea. The more content you produce and push through the app the better. All of that content gives people a reason to come back into the app on a regular basis.
In fact, if you have an app, a blog in the form of a daily devotional, weekly bible study, small group leaders material, or other things could be a good way to get your congregation into the app regularly.
Every church puts on events. A marriage retreat, kids camp, mission trip, big annual conference, and Financial Peace University are just a short list of things that come to mind right away.
Getting all your events into the church calendar and then putting all the info, including ability to register, in your church app just makes sense.
You know the old saying, what gets measured, gets done.
It’s important to have insight into the things people are engaging with apps for church. App analytics allow you to see what sections people use the most, when they’re active during the week, and how long they’re on. Knowing this information will aid you in making the app better over time so that you can serve your congregation to the best of your ability.
Be sure you can integrate your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram feed, etc. That way, people can engage in conversations right within your app.
Additionally, if someone is enjoying a sermon or podcast, is excited about an event, or wants to share your daily devotional, be sure it’s simple for them to share it with their friends on social media!
Be sure you can integrate the basic info people looking for. Location info, staff info, contact info, ministries, special programs, about your church, kids ministry info, etc.
This info is especially important for people who may be looking into churches or visiting for the first time.
There you have it! 14 features your church app MUST have. Be sure to dig into these items as you research, talk to vendors, and go through the process of selecting the right partner to work with.
Here is a quick list to reference in case you want to print something out:
When you get your app from Tithe.ly, you get all of these essential features — and more.
We’ll build your church app for you, with your input and direction along the way, help train you on how to use the features, and assist you with roll out material and best practices in order to ensure you drive adoption and get the engagement you’re looking for.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.