Why Your Church Needs Mobile Apps – Now!

MobileVsPC

For a while now, tech pundits have talked about mobile as the future of computing.  Many non-tech-pundits have responded with skepticism.  Sure, there are a lot of people with iPhones.  But the best web browsing experience is with a desktop computer, right?  And besides, why should we spend so much time developing a mobile-friendly website when maintaining our desktop-friendly one already takes more time away from “real ministry” than it should?

Well, a recent Business Insider conference sought to put an end to those questions.  We aren’t just heading into a computing world dominated by mobile devices – it’s already here.

MobileVsPC

[Image via BusinessInsider.com]

As the above Powerpoint slide shows, the number of smartphones being sold has already exceeded the number of PC’s being sold.   That means there are more people with a smartphone than with a computer.  Plus, in 2-3 years the number of tablet sales should exceed PC sales. … And that’s just the beginning.

Check out this later slide from the presentation:

dumbphoneVSsmartphones

In just a few years, the number of smartphone sales is set to explode.  This is so much so that Ken Dulaney recently said “Maslow’s needs hierarchy ought to be changed to breathing, food, water and phones”.  (see cached post here)  That’s quite a statement – but considering that in 2010 the United Nations revealed India has more cell phones than toilets, it may not be far off the mark.

So the question is, how does your church address this growing phenomenon?  Do you look at web-technology as a “ministry”?  If not, perhaps you should.  Len Sweet’s recent book, Viral, reveals how the Googler generation (digital natives, or those born AG-After Google!) is poised to revitalize the Church.

Whether you call it evangelism, ministry, or something else entirely, a big part of doing Church is communications.  Communications is becoming more and more important in the secular world, and there’s no reason why the Church should not be a leader in this arena.

This is why we need to rethink website ministries.  The old model was “it doesn’t matter how good your technical staff is – just get a website up.  Something is better than nothing.”  Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold much water with digital natives.  Churches that are growing know that you need a culture of excellence.  We are doing God’s work and our efforts should show that.  Nothing could be further from the truth than with website ministries.

If we are to reach a new generation of people and bring them into the story of God, we must constantly be working to improve our story-telling techniques – and that means knowing what the trends say about how people communicate and will communicate in the future.  If mobile is the future (err, make that the present) – then our ministries should reflect that.

Already we see that large churches have full-time staff devoted to website ministries.  It may never be practical to have such positions in smaller churches.  But, the effective Church leader will need to broaden their skills to include such technology.  Perhaps seminaries will soon teach courses on website ministries.

Chris Ruddell

I'm an Associate Pastor in the United Methodist Church and I serve as a trustee for Saint Paul School of Theology, with campuses in Kansas City, MO and Oklahoma City, OK. I'm also the author and creator of Church Tech Blog, at www.churchtechblog.org and the founder of Church Phone Apps at www.churchphoneapps.com

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  1. says

    No, no, no, and no.
    By and large, churches *don’t* need mobile apps. They need to be present within mobile computing streams, but very seldom does that need to be an app.

    I’ll take the issue with the graphics you’ve posted. First, the amount on mobiles solid point to a computing paradigm that’s different than PC (at the moment vs sitting down) – what part of church culture or communications needs to address that? Location, events, reading, ??? If that can be answered, then go mobile or with whatever other computing paradigm best fits the need.

    Second graphic – it points to sales, not use. 70+% of mobiles *in use* and *sold* are not smartphones – building apps means you are (a) going to address smartphone and non-smartphone folks and (b) addressing folks that have connectivity to download it (P2P, internet, etc.). Going mobile means you have to take that into consideration, and very rarely you will do that with apps if you are looking to get to the most of your usage base.

    An app is not a [mobile/communications/evangelism/etc] strategy. Address the communication context and you always address where people are, whether mobile or otherwise.

  2. says

    Everything is pointing towards an increase use of apps in business and by churches. You have to go where the people are, and the people are on their smartphones! Churches need mobile apps just like they need a website. There are some things only a website can do, but there are some things only a mobile app can do.

    Most people don’t visit their church website everyday, but they would probably check out the church app everyday. It’s just a way to communicate daily with the church members.

  3. Coker says

    The Great Commission was brought about through Jesus. He told His disciples go out and spread the Gospel (good news). That means that the Church, made up of believers, are to be very sociable. We should use any means and method (in an acceptable way), in presenting the Gospel to non-believers. If Wycliffe Bible Translators did not use today’s technology in translating the Bible, they would still be using 3×5 cards. The church today should have websites and mobile apps to help spread the Gospel.

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