Churches that aspire to take their digital experience to a whole new level may look to mobile apps as a game-changer. This article explores the best features of church apps that you should consider to maximize your church’s digital experiences.
Nearly every church member these days owns a smartphone. Not only do they invest their hard-earned money purchasing the device, but they also devote an inordinate amount of time using them. It has been reported that they invest an average of five (5) to six (6) hours per day using their smartphones!
That report leads to some critical realizations:
1) that figure does not include work-related activities; and
2) the average hours spent per day likely exceeds the actual hours they’d allot for a church service
Even the confines of the churches are not spared from the ubiquity of smartphones. When the congregation delves into the Holy Bible, you can bet there are several people who turn to their phones to open up that KJV Bible app from their home screen.
Who could forget the proud parents who would like to capture their child’s special moment in front of the entire church? They can’t miss that! They take out their phone, tap on the camera, or stream the event live on social media.
As a church leader, you desire church members to have a similar ‘attachment’ to the church as they do with their smartphones. Whether they’re inside the church or not, you would like to leverage the technological power of smartphones.
There’s a lot you can do with these mobile devices for your church’s ministry, and that’s where church apps come in. They’re a great way of connecting people to your church on a whole new level.
Some churches have already invested a considerable chunk of their budget in having experts develop their churches’ apps, complete and customized according to their needs.
If you’re on the fence with this sizable investment, or unsure how to proceed, you need to know a few critical elements and features that a church app possesses.
Five Best Features of Church Apps
“Bigger is better!” is what most online personalities and companies will tell you. These digital creators take advantage of content that subtly appeals to the human senses. They achieve this sensual captivation through their intricate camera angles, well-selected soundtracks, and user interface features. Mobile apps showcase such appeal when they allow the users to partake in these digital experiences on their smartphones.
That same tenet holds in terms of your church apps. Before church apps can touch the spiritual aspect, these digital platforms customized for the church must first catch the attention of the human senses. The church members must be able to see, hear, and feel the church's digital presence through different modes of interaction.
For instance, church apps can integrate exclusive church songs for streaming, combine scripture readings or church leaders’ notes, and even conduct virtual tours of the church. Through such multi-modality features, your church app will not be seen as a one-dimensional mobile application that reminds people, “Hey, it’s time for Church!”
2. Push Notifications
Push notifications can be a helpful tool to engage mobile phone users with the app. The science behind push notifications hinges on the idea that the human brain is wired to respond to almost any stimulus on the smartphone. On that note, the notification bell from your church’s app can subtly remind users of anything about the church (schedules, tithes, or inspiration) or even to use the church’s app.
Having push notifications will also reduce the cost and time of sending SMS or creating separate social media posts for any church-related activities. The church app will do its part as it was programmed to engage with smartphone users through subtle reminders. Finally, church leaders can gauge user interaction with the app through the metrics of open or ignore rates of these notifications.
Several app developers offer their services at an economical budget, only for you to discover that what’s really offered are a selection of template apps. Aside from the archaic graphic interface, it’s easy to see that these apps have extremely elementary functions like viewing and navigating. The worst case often comes in when app developers try to upsell upgrades for every requested change, turning into an endless money pit.
Instead, seek the services of app developers that can cater to your needs. You can customize the church’s mobile app according to how the church’s ‘digital communications ministry’ has planned this platform to be of value for every member. Trying to work within the confines of a pre existing template or mimicking social media apps isn’t the answer.
Consider solutions where you can add those unique features and integrate third-party services if necessary. Finally, customizing the app must reflect the church’s brand and identity even in the digital space. This is one of the main focuses behind Tithe.ly’s Church App platform. The key factor here is that you must be able to tailor the app according to your needs while leaving room for more updates.
This particular feature is a lot more technical than initially imagined. Most apps were designed at the onset for launching purposes (e.g., beta version) only. Not many considerations were given to what will happen when the mobile phone’s operating software updates.
If your church’s app cannot be updated, it will soon lose functionality on the latest running phone software. Depending on the app store platforms’ policies, mobile apps that remain idle in terms of updates may no longer be discoverable or available for users.
Possessing the inherent ability to update your church’s app can symbolize how your church attempts to be relevant to the times. Just imagine five decades ago: the only way for you to attend church was to be present during church services.
Now, churches have digitally adapted to the times and can continue to allow more people to reach them with just a tap of their fingers. Who knows where the digital world will take the church five decades later? The church’s app must be able to do just the same.
5. Fund-raising Awareness
Of course, the church needs funds to survive and thrive. Church’s apps, whether through an inherent platform or a third-party service, must be able to send and receive cash with just a few taps on the phone. If your church isn’t set up to do so already, here’s a great article on how you can leverage digital giving platforms and give your church a boost in tithes.
No more tithe collection books or embarrassing moments when a member only has a dollar bill in the bottom of their coat pocket for their tithes. Additionally, anyone from around the globe can donate to the church through the app, and members can even schedule “auto-donations.”
Going digital will also challenge the church to be more accountable with the cash flow. Both church leaders and members can easily track their donations. Finally, church leaders can immediately report these financial statements to the congregation through the church’s app.
But, do you really need a church app?
It’s easy to postpone the decision or simply conclude that a church app is too expensive to develop correctly. Church members may even question you—is it worth it? This is a valid question.. The reasons for creating a church app have to be feasible, guided by research data, and included in the church’s budget for operations.
Nonetheless, when properly designed, a church app appears beneficial to the entire congregation. This is what technology was always intended to be: a tool to help people. In the same way, we hope that your church’s apps also help you and the Christian community.
If you're ready to take your church's digital experience to the next level, Tithe.ly is the place to go. You can sign up and learn more about in-depth methods and features for your church's mobile apps, as well as learn about other churches' digital experiences.
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Travis Albritton has been serving Christians online for more than 5 years, and has been starting and leading ministries in the southeast United States for more than a decade. His popular podcast, The Practical Christian, has been downloaded more than 300,000 times in 160 countries around the world. He's an Amazon best-selling author, passionate husband and father, and driven disciple on a mission to launch Christians into online ministry.
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