From the early days of dial-up internet to the first cell phones commercially offered, communication methods and tools have drastically changed over the last twenty years. For churches, cumbersome analog systems (that’s fancy-talk for pen and paper) were the only option before personal and business computing emerged. Now, the internet has superseded the PC, and with the addition of mobile technology, communication options abound.
Today, people are connected to everything and everyone 24/7 via smartphone. Recent statistics reveal how mobile Internet access has become integral to our lives today:
● According to a 2016 Deloitte research report, “40% of consumers check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning.”
● By 2018, 8–in-10 email users will likely access their email accounts exclusively from their mobile devices
● Within two years, there will be more than three billion smartphones in use.
The mass adoption of smartphones has transformed how people shop, get their news, and communicate. This raises an important question in ministry. How can the Church leverage mobile technology to equip their staff and lay leaders in a mobile-first world?
Many churches have implemented church management software to help manage their members, send email communication, and keep track of events, attendance, and giving. This is software that enables many aspects of running a church to be digitized and organized through the use of a computer; installed and web-based solutions abound.
While having membership information, volunteer schedules, church accounting and donations, small group details, and children’s check-in and class information on a computer is helpful, and now considered a must-have, taking this technology a step further and putting it on a mobile phone elevates church management and communication to a new level.
For churches looking to harness mobile devices and use them to create efficiencies within the church, there are three functions a church app can fulfill to improve workflow and engagement for three distinct groups: attenders, lay leaders, and staff.
While many church apps available out there work well for one group, typically the end-user or attender, they don’t all function well for the leader or staff member.
Here are three distinct functions of an effective church app to consider:
#1 – Church App for Attenders
Many churches are now using technology to spread the Gospel beyond the four walls of the church. You no longer need a million dollar budget and a satellite channel to broadcast your weekly services. With a forward-facing mobile app available for congregational use, attenders can donate through the church app, register for events, offer up podcasts and sermon recordings, as well as showcase church video in YouTube or Vimeo.
For larger churches with events happening all over the facility, custom church apps can be created with the campus map to make it easier for churches to locate and attend a class or event.
While many churches are now offering an online portal, it is time to step it up and offer a mobile first solution. In the recent State of the Plate report, only 21% of millennials were interested in giving on the church website but 49% were interested in giving on a mobile app.
Providing folks an opportunity to give on their phones is a great addition to passing the collection plate, and you can link to the mobile-giving app from an SMS text.
#2 – Church App for Lay Leaders
For small group lay leaders who have been tasked with guiding groups and teaching, putting technology in their hands to help them manage their groups is powerful. Small groups are a great way to foster relationships with other believers and encourage spiritual growth as well as deepen relationships and community. This said, managing small groups can easily devolve into an unwieldy black hole when it comes to tracking participation and engagement.
Some churches ask their small group leaders to keep track of attendance. With a mobile church app that is private with password protection, leaders can access their membership rosters and access groups to keep better attendance. The good news is there are now mobile apps available that empower lay leaders to report attendance and add contact information for new guests that may have attended.
#3 – Church App for Staff
By enabling church leaders and staff to have a password-protected mobile app that connects them to their church database they, in essence, are taking their entire church management system with them wherever they go, meaning they can productively engage with their church members easily and have access to the information they need anytime, anyplace.
A mobile app that syncs with a church’s management software is perhaps one of the best solutions to this problem. If a group leader inputs attendance and notes, this information can and should automatically update the church management system with this information. Later, church staffers are able to run attendance reports from which church leaders can gauge overall small-group engagement levels.
The good news is, today church leaders don’t have to rely on human memory to keep track of all the “sheep” in their flocks. These tools make it simple to track all of the members of your church and assign outreach tasks to the folks on your ministry team. These tasks trigger push notifications on lay leaders’ mobile phones and enable them to see the task along with the phone number, address, Google map, and notes for the assignment.
For a pastor or church leader, being able to access their church database and care for their members by recording visitation and formation within the app, that is then synced with their cloud-based church management system could create efficiencies that leave them with more time for ministry and fewer headaches.
Moving Forward With Tech-Enabled Ministry
The best place to start is with a cloud-based church management solution. There are many on the market, and the good ones will include a dedicated mobile app to help manage attendance, task management, sermons on-the-go, mobile giving, and church maps.
As technology continues to become more pervasive in our culture, it is important that we, the Church, leverage it in creative ways to spread the Gospel. Together, we can empower pastors and church leaders to take their church with them, one mobile device at a time.