What You Need to Know About Mobile for Your Church: Tips from the Experts

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In 2012 20% of traffic to church websites came from mobile devices. In 2014 estimates were closer to 50%.

mobile church

With the popularity of mobile technology on the rise, it is safe to say that the change in the way that people communicate and receive information will ultimately affect your church. Instead of the expectation that your members will come to you at your location and in the way you dictate, members now expect you will come to them wherever they are and in whatever way is best for them.

I’ve interviewed three experts in the church management field on how mobile technology will affect and change the church, and below are their replies.

Q: How do you see mobile technology affecting churches going forward?

Antoine RJ Wright—Mobile Ministry Magazine

A: For the past two years, we’ve globally transitioned from the state where mobile was new/novelty to something that’s become a primary channel for personal and community use. Going forward, I see mobile splintering itself across churches in a few ways.

The first is that churches who don’t think about mobile first when they are looking at communications and marketing activities will be easily seen as missing the boat. For larger/multi-site churches, this will look like not having multiple points of connection (mobile app, SMS, and mobile website). Smaller churches will get a reprieve in the sense that they won’t be looked at as being as overly present in those points of connection, but they will have to be able to use at least one of those really well – and usually that’s going to mean having a website that works great on a mobile.

The second way I see mobile affecting churches going forward will be in how they emphasize and create value for various social connections. We will continue to see groups within churches doing some pretty innovative things with mobile (from creating limited-use social networks, to giving/donations, to even learning how to take a lesson in the pulpit and share it with someone in the street). But the further-reaching effect is how the expectations will change. When the church and its behavior has value, people will want to talk about it. When aspects of living in the community are mobile-friendly, or mobile-accessible, then those things happen organically.

Lastly, I see mobile effecting churches in the respect of making churches better see and hear how the global community is living out this faith. Mobile, either intentionally or not, provokes us to engage the world around us in similar and different modes. From messaging communities like WhatsApp, to multimedia communities such as Instagram and Spotify, mobile has allowed for people to get a taste of what others locally, regionally, and globally get to understand and engage within. To that end, churches that cross-pollinate with global trends may end up being one of those windows or voices worth taking in.

Joe Luedtke—Catholic Tech Talk

A: The next generation of parishioners is growing up online and they’re not doing so on their Windows XP machine, they’re doing so on their Apple or Android phones and tablets.

Tim Wall—Church Office Online

A: From our perspective faith is about building relationships with people and to do that we must communicate on a regular basis. Mobile technology enables communication to occur on many levels, through voice, text, email, and even live video feeds. Mobile technology is increasingly becoming more global, enabling people to collaborate on files, email large files, teleconference on the move, and Skype. Soldiers in combat zones can even see and hear live feeds of important life events, as they occur, on the opposite side of the globe.

Q: What do you think churches should do about mobile?

Antoine RJ Wright—Mobile Ministry Magazine

A: I think churches need to admit that they don’t know mobile. It’s a hard thing, and not something you can just ask someone to come and build for you, or attend a few conferences and then you know what you need to know. Knowing mobile means understanding this unique mix of devices, services, and experiences, lived through these small radios.

Groups such as the Mobile Ministry Forum are a great resource for churches in this respect. The MMF has an on-going mobile ministry class geared to help ministries get up to speed. I also teach a class—geared for organizational leaders alongside the Christian Leadership Alliance and Azusa Pacific University to help leaders and their teams best understand mobile ministry endeavors.

Joe Luedtke—Catholic Tech Talk

A: My quick comment is first and foremost make sure your church website is accessible on a mobile device.

Tim Wall—Church Office Online

A: Churches need to take advantage of this technology. Some tend to view it as removing the human element from life and we see it differently. Our world is more mobile, and to remain connected and continue in relationships with others, we need mobile technology. Churches can maintain contact with church plants, those in the mission field, and those that might have moved to another state and no longer attend, but still want to stay in touch.

More and more we see some incredible communication or video recorded in remote locations where catastrophic events have occurred and churches are then able to mobilize critical aide quickly. None of this would be possible without mobile technology advances.

Q: What are some tips you have for how a church should integrate/use mobile technology to advance its ministry?

Antoine RJ Wright—Mobile Ministry Magazine

A: Experiment. Some of the best things come when you least expect them – and at least in regards to mobile, there’s nothing like experimenting with something like mobile giving, or mobile prayer groups, and just doing it for a few months (three to eight) and see what develops. And if nothing does, that’s fine. You tried something. But, eventually, you do find something that works, and something that your community won’t let go of once it gets rolling.

Ask questions. Find those people locally, regionally, and globally who do mobile ministry and get in their conversations. Whether that’s on the larger stage of the Mobile Ministry Forum and the ChurchITGroup, or even simple local groups on Meetup. Find those folks who are doing mobile *anything* and ask them about mobile for your community.

Get outside. There’s a lot about mobile which can happen within the walls of churches. I used to be dismayed when folks would tell me to turn off my PDA/smartphone and then feign amazement when my notes had more than just what the pastor preached. I learned inside and outside of the walls. Same thing for mobile in churches. Get outside the walls and as a church living in a community, find those places where you can be present that just might happen to have a mobile impact. Maybe it’s providing a Wi-Fi hotspot and coffee hours in the middle of the day. Maybe it’s working with underserved groups using mobiles to teach them how to use computers. Wherever and whenever, mobile allows us to be present with the ministry opportunity, not just preach it. Let’s just get outside.

Joe Luedtke—Catholic Tech Talk

A: Make sure it’s accessible and readable. People aren’t using their phones to read the history of your church or your church’s mission statement. They’re using the mobile devices to get Mass times, contact info, and events.

Tim Wall—Church Office Online

One of our core beliefs at Church Office Online is that technology can help advance the values our clients. We help do that by not only offering current tools such as mass email, mass text, and phone tree technology, but we also help them by showcasing great online tools available for their use.

Tools like Google Drive allow people to store and share documents in the cloud and it enables real-time collaboration on ideas and documents. Signupgenius.com allows churches to organize group and event signups and payments (if needed) quickly. And then there is YouVersion Live that allows a pastor to put verses and notes in a mobile format for the members to see and use during the service.

How about you?

Does your church have experience with using mobile technology to advance your ministry? Share your thoughts and insight in the comments below!

Header by Rachel Wille

Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.

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About the Author

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Leah Readings

Leah Readings is a Software Analyst for Capterra, a company that connects buyers and sellers of business software. She specializes in church management software along with several other software directories. When she’s not helping software buyers, she is, among other things, reading, writing, and spending time with her family and friends.

Comments

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Hi Leah,

At EasyChurchTools.com we also understand that people are moving to mobile version and need quick access to software. To help our users we have now integrated a new SmartPhone specific version of Connect Manage. So, people now connect easily with our software through there SmartPhone.

Thanks,
Ryan.

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Excellent article, Leah. Mobile presents an amazing opportunity for the local church to drive engagement and outreach. We’ve experienced this first hand through the church apps we’ve launched across the US. An important thing we’ve learned along the way is that while having a mobile presence is important, the church should be cautious of launching a stand-alone mobile app that doesn’t “talk” to their other tools, systems, etc. Doing so can create a maintenance nightmare for church administrators and an inconsistent experience for users of the app.

At Aware3 we focus on helping a church launch a branded mobile app that pushes/pulls content from their existing tools (e.g. ChMS, website, video provider, etc.). Doing this creates a branded mobile experience for the church that largely goes on auto-pilot and gives its current and prospective members a “home base” to the church that is accessible anytime/anywhere.

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Thanks for sharing about the truth that the mobile market needs to be catered to…God bless you!

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