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.
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.