We are into the second decade of the 21st century, and mobile has certainly made a name for itself as a significant media and behavioral force. In 2014, we are slated to be hitting another major mobile milestone: one mobile subscription per person living on earth (Tomi Ahonen has reported that it actually happened in May 2014).
Previously, growth areas in mobile have come from metrics such as downloads or views. However, I believe that we can look at some of the characteristics of mobile and find a better metric: influence.
Influence speaks to the effect of a characteristic of mobile on a larger narrative. To see what makes a mobile project—specifically a mobile ministry project—influential in this age where mobile is so pervasive, we’ll look at three characteristics of mobile which shine the most.
1. Mobile is Always Carried
When talking with organizations about their mobile ministry projects, one of the measures of success they use is how often an application is downloaded or a media is viewed/shared. That is suitable but, because mobiles are around us more often than not there are better ways to measure true success.
What I ask those project owners to look at is if the application or its content is something that people will use when direct ministry engagements are over.
In other words, will your project cause someone to pick up their cell phone even when you aren’t asking them to?
The mobile device is always with them. If your project is influential, then it will be too, even when you aren’t.
2. Mobile Captures Social Moments
Another characteristic of mobile is its ability to be present to capture our connected moments. Since the mid-2000s, we’ve seen camera phones thrive, video capabilities improve, video-oriented social networks rise and fall, and even image-based message agents (stickers, etc.) become part of the language which stitches moments together.
We’ve learned how to create conversations around what we share with our mobiles in these moments.
An influential mobile project makes us want to connect with others, and even with movements larger than the individuals we are connecting with.
3. Mobile Offers a Digital Interface
A final characteristic we can look at (there are 9 mobile characteristics) is the ability of the mobile device to give a digital interface to natural-world analogies. A mobile can become a key, opening doors using authenticated Bluetooth connections. A mobile can be your personal trainer; think of apps such as Couch-to-5K, Nike Training Club, Gain Fitness, and several others. Even newly introduced services such as Google Now, Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana which turn cell phones into an active, personal assistant shows how mobiles have evolved to allow us a better engagement into our daily lives.
In many mobile ministry projects, we are often asking people to engage methods, doctrines, or entertainment options. This is an interface that can show them an alternate reality or, better yet, allow them to create one (go from consuming the preaching to creating the life-streams). If your mobile project is influential, what world(s) are people creating after they engage your mobile presence?
A Magic Wand and More to Explore
I once described mobile as a magic wand. It was my way of looking at mobile as a device, service, and experience which created opportunities to reset our expectations as this century moved forward.
Mobile has begun to reach a saturation point – in metrics such as subscriptions, new devices purchased, and even some web/app numbers. But in others, mobile has a long way to go before its influence is felt.
In the influential mobile ministry space, we’ve got plenty of opportunities to explore – these three characteristics point to those areas pretty clearly. And once we start exploring what’s possible in each of those characteristics, the idea of faith and mobility won’t seem as much like faith that has yet to be realized (Hebrews 11:1).