I was set to kickoff our sermon series on Romans this semester, and we realized we wanted a more interactive method for handling questions & answers that we couldn’t get to Live. Since half the room at our University focused church is using YouVersion’s Bible app on their Android or iOS devices, we figured it was a good chance to kick the tires of YouVersion’s Live Events feature.
It’s been around since 2009 or so, but we hadn’t used it.
Does it work?
YouVersion Live Events — What Does It Do?
YouVersion’s Live features give the mobile user a chance to interact with the Bible and your custom content during the service. Launching the Bible app from their phone (iOS, Android, et al), they simply:
- Choose Live
- Search for the church (by name or even zip code)
- Choose the event by name (e.g. Sunday Morning, Dec 15)
Participants can do things like jump to the passage you’re preaching on (in a pre-selected translation), submit questions, respond to a poll, click thru to a web page or video, or even do a quick share to Twitter of that killer sermon point you just made.
How-To Setup the Event
Event setup is from the website only, and it requires you to start by setting up a group:
Group setup involves the name and location of your church, in part to make it easier to find from mobile phones.
Step two is setting up a new event, and you start with title, start and stop times, and how long you want the event visible (maybe it appears 48 hours before the sermon in case people want to read ahead).
The setup screen itself lets you mix & match:
- Bible Reference
- Question (blank question field)
- Poll (multiple-choice with live results)
- Online Giving Link (works through Paypal, and YouVersion says they don’t take a cut)
- Prayer Request
- Audio Link
- Video Link
- General Link
- Share (generically named: but it just gives a quick share option to Twitter or Facebook)
That’s it! Once you’ve setup your event, and the event becomes Published, users can find it on their phone and interact away.
Lots of this has tons of potential. Drag and drop features allow you to build a custom experience each time for those following along with your sermon. At it’s simplest you can provide digital versions of scripture or links that would only be as a paper handout (watch out trees), or on the big screen, which requires people to quickly scratch down your references if they want to remember what you’ve done.
But better yet is using those ubiquitous smartphones as interactive devices: polls or questions or prayer request forms giving people a way to interact in a way that is usually impossible in large groups. The poll questions can even be thrown up on a large screen (via web browser) for instant results in the service. With some creativity, this is a platform that can help encourage better engagement in learning Scripture.
Argh! While I’m excited about the potential, here’s the rub: it’s buggy. I counted more than 10 bugs while trying to setup my event, and ran into “Undefined,” error screens, or missing links several times—something you don’t expect from a publish product that isn’t in Beta.
Tougher still, it needs a good going over with an user experience designer. Examples include being forced to put in an event end time (not all churches work to the minute) or clicking the X to back out of setup screens even after settings are saved successfully, or choosing the Dashboard Tab which launches you unexpectedly out of the question editing interface with no way to get back except the back button. Sure, it’s navigable if you’ve got a easy-going tech savvy person clicking through the setup process. But the church secretary or your older pastor probably aren’t going to cut it here.
The most difficult missing feature is at the beginning of the process: you can’t work together with anyone else. Events are established under Groups, but if you weren’t the one to setup your group (i.e. your church), you can’t ever setup or administrate a event (i.e. Sunday service). It simply doesn’t work. I ran into this early on. My only choice was to create a second group with a similar church name or call the guy in my church who setup the group (I just happened to know who he was: YouVersion didn’t tell me) and ask them if they’ll do the whole event setup instead of you. Even in a smaller church, this is a little bit more of a deal-breaker.
The bummer is that while YouVersion rolled this out almost four years ago, it’s still got a lot of issues for day-to-day church use.
YouVersion Live Events may be your next ticket to an interactive mobile experience for church sermons to come. But with a problematic and buggy interface and with Groups limited to only one user who can create events, it’s not ready for prime time. Nothing is less fun than tech that fails live during a service, and this one may need to stay in the “wouldn’t that be cool if” list until it gets some improvements.