Churches use many apps for presenting media, tracking membership, helping with budgets, and even updating their websites. However, some churches also offer a church app primarily for people who attend the church. They contract with a church app provider to make an app that’s branded for their church focused on the needs of people in the pews instead of staff and ministers. These forward-facing church apps help the church communicate with their members, guests, and community. In turn, they offer opportunities for the church’s members and attendees to communicate with the staff.
We tested eight church app services and rated them based on five criteria including:
- Ease of Use – how much expertise and technical skill does the user need?
- Platform Support – will it work on iPhone, iPad, Android and maybe even other mobile devices?
- Setup Process – what’s the setup process like?
- Cost – how much does it cost and can medium or smaller churches afford it?
- Features – does the service offer the kinds of features users will want?
Aware3 is a church app company that focuses around three areas of interaction, which they call connection, communication, and generosity. To that end, they offer ways to connect with the members and the church, two-way communication between people and their staff, and in-app donations.
Potential users can schedule a demonstration where a member of the Aware3 staff will walk the user through the setup process and show them how the backend works. This backend lets users control their app and add or subtract various features.
The app will offer features for the following:
- Push Notifications
- Sermon Notes
- App, Text, and Web Giving
- Live Polls
- People Profiles
You won’t get much of a look at the features from the backside without scheduling a demo. You can, however, download examples from churches that use Aware3 for their church apps. They run on both iOS and Android.
Aware3 charges on a monthly or annual basis giving users the opportunity to save some money if they pay for 12 months in advance. The starter plan starts at $69/month billed annually. A Basic plan costs $99/month and the Standard level costs $199/month. If you want to pay monthly, prices increase to $79, $109, and $219. The Starter package is for smaller churches with less than 150 in attendance. The Basic plan is for larger churches. The Standard costs more because it includes the three features listed below. With the Starter or Basic plans, churches can also add some features for an extra monthly cost as follows:
- Live Polling – $19
- Chat – $39
- Text Engagement – $59
These three are included in the Standard plan.
Custom Church Apps
Custom Church Apps benefits potential users by offering a free 30-day trial. It’s the only service where churches can get an app designed for them and have full access without paying a dime. Churches will need to sign up with a credit card, and they can get started by making a few simple choices. The company will get you started building your app right away.
I setup my church app by answering a few questions and then chose the style and features I wanted. They worked on building the app and contacted me to make sure I didn’t have any special needs.
The service costs $19.95/month with no setup fee if you have simple needs and already have an online giving service. You can add custom forms for things like guests, new members, prayer requests and more.
If you need custom features and want more professional help with the design, then you’ll pay $999 for setup and $49.95/month for smaller churches and up to $129.95 for mega churches over 10,000 members. [Editor’s Note: Custom Church Apps is currently offering $500 off the setup fee to CTT readers. Select “ChurchTechToday” from drop down menu once you enter your email address to sign up.]
The service can integrate Proclaim signals from Faithlife’s worship presentation service. This lets users see content on their phones when you do presentations in church using Proclaim.
Other features include online giving, note taking integration, podcasts for sermons or other media, digital Bible integration, an online store for music and more.
Go Church App
I immediately liked Go Church App because it let me sign up for a free 30-day trial without asking for my credit card information. One of the other app services here requires you sign up with a credit card and then to cancel you have to call in and they don’t even answer the phone. That’s a hassle, so not requiring a credit card at the front end wins Go Church App points. Unfortunately, the sign-up process wasn’t as smooth. I signed up ready to try it out and after signing up they send your login info to your email. After a long wait, I still hadn’t received the information.
Once you do finally get the login information you can begin to test out the design features. Go Church App will help you set up a church app with some useful features like…
- Push Notifications for users so you can contact your members through their smartphone
- Events using Google or Facebook calendars. It also uses Eventbrite.
- In-app giving through your current giving company since Custom Church App doesn’t offer the service itself.
- Link to your church website or other pertinent sites your members might find useful.
- Streaming video or audio of worship services and others integrating to your church’s YouTube account.
- Users can fill out forms for things like first-time guest contact info, event sign-ups or to contact staff members.
- Add PDF files for things like newsletters, sermon notes, Sunday school lessons or anything users might want or need.
- Discussion forums.
- Photo galleries.
- Integration with the YouVersion Bible app.
Go Church App costs $50/month with no sign-up or setup fee. They’ll create an iOS and Android version of your app, which takes about two to three weeks. They charge the same price regardless of attendance. They hope to appeal to medium and smaller churches, but the $50/month price might still keep churches under 100 from signing up. A lot of churches can’t afford $600/year for something they can do on Facebook or with a mobile-friendly version of their church website. However, most of the other app services will charge them more and then charge extra for things like push notifications.
If you need help setting things up, then you can watch their video tutorials and get email-based support or through Facebook messenger. There’s no phone support.
Compared to the other services, the lack of setup fee does make Go Church App more accessible to some smaller churches who can afford the $50/month price. Give it a look and check out the free 30-day trial with no obligation. If you do like what you see, then you will start paying after the first month and they expect a 12-month commitment up front.
Apollo Church App
The Apollo Church App builder has a bit of a slow loading website. Sign up with your email address and phone number and start building the app using their design wizard for free. You can also connect with a professional designer, but that will cost you up front.
The wizard sets things up, but then lets the user make their own choices. It’s easy to change your design, which might not serve users well if the person making the choices has poor design sense. Make sure someone with some taste is picking the colors, fonts, and images to include.
When the app design gets finished, you can choose to publish it to the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store yourself, which takes hours and costly developer accounts with annual subscription fees. You can also let Apollo Church App do the publishing, which comes with their Full-Service option.
When I felt a little overwhelmed by the self-design option, I called their 800 number and got some hold music immediately. Then I had to wait on hold for awhile before speaking to a person about pricing and the process, none of which gets displayed on their website. They did call me back and helped me learn about the features I needed and the costs. The sales rep pointed me to their online PDF that gives the basic details for getting started.
The cost starts at $29/month, but that’s for a pretty basic app. For their “top tier” service, the setup fee will cost you $299 and $99/month. This includes things like online giving, church CMS integration, prayer wall, an HTLM5 version for web browsers plus Android and iOS support, and podcasting support, to name a few things.
The ChurchWise Solutions app service will cost you $45/month if you pay annually or $55/month on a month-to-month subscription. At that price, ChurchWise Solutions will get you all the features they offer on an Android, iPhone, iPad, or browser-based app that works on any mobile browser.
The full-service option means Church Wise will give churches a custom design or a do-it-yourself option. They offer all the bells and whistles including news, signing up for events, prayer requests, sermon podcasts and mobile giving solutions. They even include the Bible app from YouVersion built into the app. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee that includes a $20 donation to a charity if you don’t like your app. They seem to offer a great collection of valuable options.
Users also get FaithEngine, a social networking tool that posts content on your church’s social media accounts for you. It’s professional looking but generic. This tool schedules posts for you, so you can post a bunch of content all at once.
Look at the online training site and it seems like it’s unfinished. There’s a lot of places that say “[No videos found].”
ShareFaith offers a full suite of church-focused services. I first discovered them as a church graphics supplier. They offer a nice collection of church video loops, background graphics, and theme graphics and videos for worship services and church marketing material. They’ve added a slew of other services including websites, giving services, Sunday School, and VBS lessons, worship presentation software, and now church apps.
To subscribe the ShareFaith Church App, you’ll need a ShareFaith Complete Yearly Membership, which costs $71/month billed annually or $80/month billed monthly. The full services include all the items listed above including the online or app giving service. They also do not charge for startup, which can be a big savings compared to the other services.
The app service includes some great features like:
- Streaming video and audio of sermons and sermon notes
- Use AirPlay or Google Play to stream sermons from the app to a TV
- Online and app giving
- Calendar & event planning
- Bulletins and newsletter publishing
- Promos of upcoming events
- Push notifications
The ShareFaith Church App Builder looks simple to use. It’s not as advanced as others, but people without a lot of skill or time will appreciate it. Plus the user can create both an iPhone or iPad app as well as Android apps.
The Church App
Of all the church app builders, The Church App offers the most platform support. Churches can create apps for iPhone, iPad and Android like the others. Add Windows Phone, Kindle and Blackberry to the list as well.
The Church App integrates with SubSplash, the company’s video streaming system, to connect to YouTube and Vimeo for great video presentations inside their apps. In addition, churches can stream their sermons or other audio via the apps. The user can cast the video and audio to a Google Chromecast or Apple TV.
The Church App also integrates Event calendars with links to maps, let people see contact info about the event as well. Send out push notifications about events or other important messages and reminders to users.
Does your church have a really great worship band or choir? Maybe you have a talent group of musicians who produce their own music. Add albums and album artwork to music for listening. The staff can share their blogs from the church website. The app also includes integration of the ESV. Unfortunately, that’s the only translation. When the pastor is preaching, he can add fill-in sermon notes too.
The Church App doesn’t advertise their pricing. You will need to contact the company for custom pricing. If you want to use their multimedia tools, it will cost $20/month. They also offer giving for free, but charge per transaction at about 3% or less.
Contract With Your Own Developer
The last option isn’t necessarily the best or worst of our eight solutions. It depends on the church and the relationships they have with app developers. You might have a programmer in your church who’s talented enough to produce a great iPhone, iPad, and Android app. That’s rare, but not impossible. Even some smaller churches have developers. If you don’t have an app developer, you might have a website developer who can make a great mobile website for your church that users can use on their phones or tablets as if they have an app. On iOS you can add a link to the iPhone’s Home screen and it behaves like an app. Android has a similar feature, although not as easily.
I don’t recommend this option over the above solutions because using a church member means that you don’t control the transaction if they’re volunteering. It’s also difficult if they can’t finish the job competently. However, it might offer the only option for cash-strapped churches who want an app.
So which of the above should you use? They all offer useful features, except for maybe the independent developer option listed last. However, the one that seems to offer the best tools at the best price is Custom Church Apps. Full-disclosure should be offered here, as they are a sponsor, but even if they weren’t they’d still get the nod as the best solution.
People needing the simplest option should consider Sharefaith. They have a comprehensive set of services including websites, worship graphics, online giving and church worship streaming. All of that combined becomes a little expensive, but if you plan to use all of those other services anyway, the church app added to the mix becomes a very cost-effective option.