Do You Really Need a Church App? Part 1 of 3

Maybe it’s my proximity to churches who are asking great questions, but one that I hear regularly includes “church app.” Ever since Brady Shearer of Pro Church Tools started talking about Nucleus, a lot of smart people have been asking whether or not churches really need a church app. His answer? Nope. My answer? Also nope—with some caveats.

Since you’re reading this, chances are you have about 10 other tabs open that are all going to say the same thing. Close them all out, because I’m going to give you a pretty-lookin’ summary of their arguments:

So what’s the answer? It seems like everyone has an agenda and I don’t know who to trust!

Hi, I’m KJ and I care about you and your congregation just as much as you do. At Kingdom One, our only agenda is to help the Church grow in a healthy way. Let’s dive into a nuanced take on this topic: do you really need a church app?

Part 1: Examining the Arguments For a Church App

When you read through the Google results, you see lots of articles for and against church apps, so let’s think critically (and quickly) about them!

Church App Argument #1:  People Love Apps

Church App companies are not wrong, people love their smartphones. The Bible App is great, and while you may be on-the-fence about Meta and its products, people spend a lot of time on them! However. Think about your own app usage for a moment. How many apps do you use that aren’t:

  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, the occasional LinkedIn or Twitter to get rid of the badge icon you never turned off)
  • Work (Teams/Slack, Email, Google Drive, Trello/Asana/ToDoist)
  • Entertainment (ESPN, Streaming Audio/Video, The Rose League)
  • Church (Planning Center Services, The Bible App, maybe the Blue Letter Bible app if you’re feeling extra holy)
  • That one puzzle game you like a lot.
  • Boring adulting apps (Healthcare/Insurance, News, Financial Stuff)

Chances are you aren’t using many apps outside of those categories. That’s actually pretty normal! Most users don’t spend a lot of time on more than 10 apps. Are you saying you’re really going to break into that crowded space? 

“Yeah, if our content is worth it to our congregation.”

That’s a great counterpoint, which leads me to our next argument.

Church App Argument #2: Apps Help You Communicate More Effectively

When I was on staff at a local church, we decided to get into the app game. In my mind, a church app (in 2017) offered something that no web browser could: geolocation/geofencing and push notifications. My team and I felt like we had just gotten the coolest looking haircuts and were feeling good about it. Then Apple changed the rules and we almost lost all of it and we were worried that we had just gotten locked into a year-long contract that was pretty expensive. Plus, we had spent a lot of time building new icons/pictures/pdfs to fill our app with and we felt like it was all going down the drain. Gosh, that was awful.

After we navigated through that moment, we came to realize something else. Populating the app was a lot of work! We were an intergenerational church in the Midwest. Our average age was 55. We had to update:

  • a newsletter
  • a print newsletter
  • the website (which included…a separate newsletter)
  • Vimeo & Youtube
  • the app
  • a digital billboard
  • a ChMS
  • printed flyers
  • campus wayfinding
  • social media

And that was just for our adult ministries! That list doesn’t even touch our Kids and Youth ministries! And with the app came those push notifications I was so excited about. After using them a bit, we found that no one was opening the app anymore (which is on trend), even after we got a little pushy with push notifications. 

Part 1: Conclusion

People love the apps they have, but they aren’t really looking for more. Church App companies aren’t lying either—church apps definitely help you communicate more effectively. However, just because you can say something louder doesn’t mean it’s worth saying. And personally, I’d rather not have to keep up with another content platform to try and get people to pay attention to me. On the unique selling point of church apps (geolocation and push notifications), maybe they aren’t that helpful anyways?

We’ll examine the other side of the argument in part 2. Until then, if you need help refining your communication strategy so you don’t have as many content platforms to manage (or so you can write something once and have it hit all the other platforms automatically), Kingdom One has communications experts who are here to help!

In part two, we examine the case for a great website over a church app. Jump in!