Church Mobile Apps and Websites
Determining the best way to expand your church's digital presence

The authors of Mobile Persuasion warn that "developing a mobile 'experience' is fundamentally different from a web experience. The experience is not only 'smaller,' but should also be 'smarter.' They go on to conclude that "being mobile is much less about technology, and much more about culture, connectedness, and fundamental human needs."

As you consider making your digital presence compatible with mobile devices, you will be confronted with the decision of just how to do so. Your first thought might be to quickly develop a mobile app that users can download to their phones to obtain information about your ministry. But this is probably not the best first choice for going mobile.

A mobile app is an expensive proposition, and it will only run on one type of mobile device at a time. For example, if you create an iPhone app, people with Android phones are out of luck. Each app takes several thousand dollars to create, so this may not be the best use of your funds.

Instead, I recommend the first step that any ministry take is to simply ensure that their existing website works well on a mobile device. A mobile website works on all mobile devices and costs about the same as creating an app (see chart below). This may require taking some time thinking through how a mobile version of your website should look and spending some money on designing it. You may want to simplify what people find there. For example, many people using a mobile device to find your site may be looking for an address to plug in to their GPS, so you may want to make that easily available on the mobile version of your site.

Once you have your website working well on mobile, then it is time to consider if you also need an app. A mobile app can provide a very engaging experience for your users and can be an improvement over a mobile website. [This] table offers several comparisons between apps and websites:

Website and App Comparisons

Channel Cost to Build Percentage of Mobile Phones Reached Number of People Per $
Mobile Website $30,000 51% 7,800
Mobile App (iPhone) $30,000 16% 1,254
Mobile App (all platforms) $90,000 48% 1,266

Developing for the mobile environment, at least in 2013, is not a simple task. But just as developing for the computer-based browser has become so much easier in the past few years, I believe that developing for mobile devices will also become much easier. One simple solution for developing for mobile would be to simply become part of a site that already has a mobile interface. For example: YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter already work well on mobile devices, so creating a presence on one or more of these sites will automatically put your organization on mobile devices.

Taken fromMinistry in the Digital Ageby David T. Bourgeois. Copyright(c) 2013 by David T. Bourgeois. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

In March, we reported on seven insights on church digital strategy that David Bourgeois presented in a Christian Leadership Alliance webinar.

For information on the risks and liabilities involved in online activity by your church, check outUntangling the Web, Using Social Media Safely, Defamation in a Digital Age, Best Practices for Technology Usage, andEssential Guide to Copyright Law for Churches.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations

Comments

Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

David Taylor

October 07, 2013  1:24pm

We currently have an app for our church and it didn't cost anywhere near what is stated as the expected price tag. There are companies out there that offer an alternative to the custom designed mobile app option. They are template based and very easy to set up and work with what you need. We use The Church App (www.thechurchapp.org) and they helped us set up the app for under $1k (they do all of the work getting it approved by the appropriate app store) and then we pay a month fee of just over $100. The app is available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Even big churches like Saddleback use The Church App (which also goes by the name Subsplash Consulting). There is no long term contract either - you can drop out or change whenever you need. We are a church of about 500 on a Sunday and after just six months, our app has been downloaded over 450 times - extremely successful venture for us and we've spent less than $2k on it to date. You do have to do the content updates yourself but it is very easy and immediately available - change something and it shows up immediately on the app.

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Scott Burbank

October 04, 2013  11:42am

Thanks for the article. I really like the table with comparisons. Knowing what the 'market price' is for web sites, mobile apps etc is really helpful. One additional option I just discovered at the WFX conference in Dallas. A new company called Kaleo Apps (daleoapps.com) has a product that allows churches to create their own mobile app starting at $99/month. It is a great deal when you compare it to the $30k option and it comes ready for both iOS and Android operating systems. The biz model that Kaleo has created is based on many churches/non-profs all buying the product. So, they have priced it very low and made the value very high. I will be signing up with them ASAP.

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