Health and Growth

Relaunch Your Church App: 11 Decisive Questions to Rescue Amazing Church Tech from Poor Execution

Don't let your church app collect dust. Turn it into the engine that boosts your church through plateau and into the next level.

Relaunch Your Church App: 11 Decisive Questions to Rescue Amazing Church Tech from Poor Execution
by

Paul Maxwell

It became popular around 2012 to get a church app without putting much thought into how to use it.

As a result, many churches spent thousands of dollars on technology that provided little return on investment.

This led to a practice of opting exclusively for mobile-friendly church websites and letting the church app go the way of the dodo.

The tragic irony of this practice is that churches which fail to develop a church app to function alongside its website are on a direct track for becoming technologically obsolete.

Know why?

There’s a significant difference between mobile apps and mobile websites, and understanding how this difference influences the use of technology in your church makes all of the difference in the world.

The church app, like any tool, is only effective when implemented competently with a sound and insightful strategy and purpose for the tool.

Here’s the important point:

You can (and should) use a church app to build church engagement even if you’ve tried before and failed.

Bear with me, because I’m going to show you how to get your church using your church app in a way that is simple, organic, and effective.

Work through this series of questions with your church leadership to figure out how to maximize on the opportunity to boost church growth, while avoiding the common pitfalls churches fall into when they get church apps.

1. Why did our church app fail?

Before you consider launching your church app once again, you must have a conversation with your team to discuss honestly why the app failed.

This meeting doesn’t have to be about pointing fingers. In fact, you ought to refrain from blame. Blame only inflames egos and gets in the way of productive conversations.

Ask your team the following series of questions to catalyze maximal productivity and minimal personal issues:

  • Did we believe any church app myths?
  • Were we clear on our goals for success when we implemented the app?
  • Did we have a clear enough set of reasons for using the app that was both organizationally productive and fitting with our mission as a church?
  • Did we take a long enough time to prepare our communications strategy for the launch?
  • Did we take enough time to meaningfully respond to objections from church members?
  • Did we add enough value to the app to make it worth using?
  • Were we consistent enough about using the app the way we said we would?
  • Did we consistently enough communicate to people the importance of the app for church engagement and growth?

Once you finish this post mortem analysis on your last church app launch attempt, you can begin asking better logistical questions about implementing your next launch.

But this time, you’ll be able to do it with your eyes wide open.

2. What is an acceptable cost for our next church app venture?

Your team must be very clear about what is an acceptable budget for your church. This budget will determine the path you take to building and launching your next church app.

The average app developer charges between $80 and $120 per hour. Tech specialists estimate that an iPhone app can take between 4–6 months to create. At 40 hours per week for six months, billed at $100 per hour, you could easily spend $100,000 on a church app.

Enterprise solutions drop the price dramatically. For a bare-bones app that requires months of back-and-forth with a company, custom requests, and features that may or may not work for a church context, you could pay as little as $1,000 for an app.

The best church app solution is to go with a company like Tithe.ly, who specializes in building church apps that support sermon uploads, sermon notes, church calendars,, event management, kiosk logins, and automated recurring giving.

Tithe.ly will build your church a custom app that bears your church’s unique branding, is filled with your church’s unique content, and can be used internally by administrators and members to communicate with segmented populations within your church.

In other words, an app from Tithe.ly is custom-made for pastors and churches to better do the work of discipleship. It has custom tools that pastors need that most app builders might not know how to create.

The best part:

The Tithe.ly App only costs $59 a month, and it comes with free tithe automating and highly secure payment processing tools.

In the end, you can get a megachurch app without spending megabucks.

3. What are our desired functions and features for the church app?

In order to cast a vision for how you will use your church app, you must identify key functions that it will play in your church.

This will distinguish your church from others who fail in the app launch.

If you decide to get a church app as a vanity purchase, members will see right through your decision and realize that the app has no real utility.

However, if you want to use your app as a tool to make your church more efficient and safe, you should create a list of features that will become essential to the purpose of the app and the life of the church.

For example, features a church would benefit from using an app for are:

  • As a command central for the church schedule
  • As a check-in method to monitor membership attendance
  • As a means for mobile giving with debit cards, credit cards, and ACH

4. What do we want our church app to look like stylistically?

The style of your app will communicate a lot to users and new visitors.

If your app is laggy, bulky, and ugly, full of unstylized text and a confusing user interface, people will delete it immediately (no matter how valuable it is).

Make sure that you have a clear stylistic vision for the app.

  • What color scheme do you want to use?
  • What other apps have beautiful designs you’d like to emulate?
  • Do you want a light theme or a dark theme?
  • What font do you want to use for the body content, headers, and titles?

Make sure that your stylistic vision is highly functional and modern enough to impress people.

When people look at your app, they should know that you’ve worked hard to make it valuable so that they can benefit from it as an easy-to-use tool to connect them more richly with the church.

5. What other church apps (or non-church apps) do we want to borrow from in terms of content and style?

We mentioned emulation earlier, but this is an important prompt for your team:

Look through five apps or mobile websites that you’d like to emulate and bring them to the app meeting.

Be prepared to showcase your favorite few apps and share exactly what about their function and style you’d like to emulate and why.

6. Who is the project manager for the church app?

It is vitally important to the success of your app that there is a single point person for overseeing the app—uploading, editing, upkeeping, envisioning, troubleshooting, and writing the communications copy.

This person doesn’t have to perform all of these tasks, but they are responsible for seeing their successful execution whether through direct performance or delegation.

Don’t let the app development process in your church be a direct democracy.

This will make the app project an enormous black hole of time, resources, energy, and relationships.

Many successful Christian organizations and churches have had serious conflict over app development because there are many competing visions for what an app should be, how it should look, and how its purpose should be communicated to the church.

By consolidating oversight of the app development project to a single church leader, you make the project more agile, the board happier, and the users get a more uniform app experience.

7. What are meaningful metrics for a successful launch?

Again, don’t create a church app just for the sake of creating a church app.

Your purpose for creating a church app should clearly manifest itself as clear and measurable goals.

These measurable goals should be assigned metrics which are measured week over week.

The performance of these metrics directly reports the success or failure of the app.

This way, people aren’t guessing whether the app is a success or failure.

There are numbers which say “Success” or “Failure.”

Some examples of metrics you could use are:

  • Weekly member engagement
  • Sermons listened through the app
  • Dollars given through the app
  • Recurring giving plans initiated through the app
  • Appointments scheduled through the app
  • Sermon notes created and shared through the app

8. What is our 3-month communication strategy for the church app release?

You should not communicate with the church about the app until you have a 3-month communication strategy in place.

This strategy should introduce the idea, get buy-in from your membership, communicate a unity of vision by the leadership, and slowly introduce the church app features that will become so necessary to the life of the church that members will be incentivized to use the app.

Three months, on the church calendar, includes 12 opportunities to publicly communicate what the app is, its importance, and its purpose for the church.

Communicate a theological and biblical reason for the church app—namely, that it will enable your church leadership to more excellently share the gospel and disciple Christians under the care of Jesus Christ.

9. What incentives can we give to get people to download and regularly use the app?

It’s very easy to underestimate the power of a giveaway.

Run a giveaway option that enables the first 100 registered users to get a $5 Starbucks gift card.Or, you could offer the first registered users a high-quality leather journaling Bible.

This is a highly compelling way to incentivize members to download the app that just gets it on their phone.

You can have a strategy for how to use the app in church once it gets on their phone, but your first step is to get downloads, followed by an engagement strategy.

If you don’t have a hard push to download the app as part of your launch, this will cut your church app’s success off at the knees.

Focus on one thing a time, and during launch, the download comes first, and the engagement comes second.

10. What are our scripts to call people to download and use the app?

Every week, invite people to download the app in church and offer the incentives offered above.

As a team, you should be using scripts that express your vision for the app the way you have agreed to express it.

But as a tactic for getting people to download the app, never underestimate peoples’ fear of missing out (FOMO) to incentivize them into getting an app.

Run a full court press every week: “We’re all going to be on this app interacting, scheduling, and taking notes. If you’re not on the app, you might not be as fully engaged as your neighbor. Download the app and engage with us!”

11. How will we follow through on keeping this app valuable and necessary for church participation?

Your church will be understanding when you re-launch an app.

As tech develops a lightning speed, it can be hard to do everything perfectly on the first try.

But if you don’t follow through on your second launch, your church will never buy into an other church app idea from your leadership ever again.

So it’s important that after you get people to download, and then engage, that you are consistent in delivering on the necessity of the app through making it a valuable asset for engagement.

If you fail to do this, you lose all credibility with your church when it comes to implementing church tech tools.

Be consistently valuable through your app.

Your church will trust you to do this.

Over to you

Don’t waste this final opportunity to move your church into the 21st century by getting a Tithe.ly app.

Ask these 11 questions with your leadership team.

Be brutally self-honest without blaming.

Stay positive and productive.

Get the Tithe.ly app, and roll out the strategy that these 11 questions will produce.

Author: Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. He lives in Fishers, IN with his beautiful wife and rowdy wheaten terrier.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

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:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

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.

Church Donation Letter Samples

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.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

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]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

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.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

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:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

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.

What’s next?

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?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

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.

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Relaunch Your Church App: 11 Decisive Questions to Rescue Amazing Church Tech from Poor Execution