Are church apps helpful or a waste of time?

Does your church have an app?

They’re supposed to be “the thing” to do when it comes to connecting to your congregation, but I have to wonder — do they really work? Are your members actually using your app to engage during the service? Do they check it throughout the week for updates or announcements?

Maybe it’s time to sit back and evaluate the ways we spend our hours as church communicators. If we are waisting our time doing something. Let’s stop doing that thing. Sound good?

The church app is one of those things that seems like a given at this point. Apps are for everywhere and for everything. If you use an app at your church, when it was first introduced, it was a source of pride that you could tell your congregation to find you in the App Store. But those days are gone. Apps have been around for a decade and now it’s an embarrassment if you don’t have one. Right?

Church Apps fill the same role as any piece of technology. They are designed to serve a purpose and solve a problem. Do church apps still serve a purpose and solve a problem?

Over the last 10 years, for various reasons of travel and church planting, my family has been regular attenders at 5 churches and we’ve been repeat visitors to probably 10 more. Over that time, for those 15 churches, I have downloaded 1 church app. And I’ve used that app twice. (for work I’ve seen many other church apps and e-bulletins, and such, but that’s beside the point.)

Maybe you use your church app all the time. Maybe your congregation loves it. And that’s awesome. The truth of it is though that every problem that the church app is designed to solve is better solved by something else.

The media player in your church app allows your congregation to listen to and watch services. 78% of all video streaming online is watched via YouTube, the multi-billion dollar company. More of your congregation is watching video in YouTube than in your app. I don’t know your church or your congregation. But I’d wager anything that it is true. If last week’s sermon popped up in their subscription feed rather than in your app, how much more likely do you think it is that it will get seen?

Your church app allows you to push messages to your congregation.Assuming your church app performs like any other app. For every 2 people that download the app, 1 of them will say NO to your notifications. But that’s the good news! For every 100 people to whom you send a notification, 3–6 of them will read it. Your mileage may vary of course, but the statistics on the technology of push notifications paint a very clear picture. Push notifications sent from your app do not work.

Maybe you’ve trained your congregation to read them or to check in the app frequently for news, and that’s awesome. But if your announcement is where your congregation already is… facebook (~41 minutes each day), instagram (25–31 minutes each day), twitter (42% of twitter users use it every day). If you announcement is there, it is certainly more likely to be seen.

You need a change of strategy. Instead of providing a place where people come to get stuff from you…. be someone who goes to where they are. The church app relies on your congregation to seek you out (and on a whole, they won’t). But a service like bltn puts your message where your congregation is.

While spending less time than managing your church app, you can publish a mobile bulletin and deliver it to your congregations phones. You can set up a whole week’s worth of announcements on all your social media accounts. And you can put a paper bulletin in the hand of each member of your congregation Sunday morning.

The numbers tell a story, and that story is… you should use bltn at your church.

What are your thoughts? Does your church have use an app? What works well about it? What doesn’t?