Wait! 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Build A Church App

So you want to build a church app? Before you do, here are 3 reasons why you might want to reconsider.

October 10th, 2016

Churches all around the world are feeling the pressure to have a church app. But for 99% of churches, an app makes no sense at all. You think you need an app to deliver content — sermons, audio, articles, events signup or giving options. But you don’t need an app for that. Here are 3 reasons not to build an app.

  • “It takes about 6 clicks to install a native app, and with each click, you lose about 20% of your users.” (Source)
  • “60% of apps in the Google Play app store have never been downloaded.” (Source)
  • “The average user downloads less than 3 apps per month. Half of US smartphone users download zero apps per month.” (Source)
  • “Users spend 80% of their time using just 5 apps.” (Source)
  • “80% of users who download an app fail to become active users.” (Source)

1. HTML5

One of the reasons apps became so popular so quickly is because you could do things in an app that you couldn’t do in a regular internet browser. But with the advent of HTML5, all the customizations and features available on apps could be added to your website. Basically, what made apps unique was their experience; but now that experience isn’t unique anymore.

2. The Future Is Without Apps

People are starting to predict that apps won’t exist in the next decade or so. Rainmaker.fm, a company that has been a leader in digital marketing for more than a decade, recently came out with a podcast in which they argue that the future is without apps. And whether or not they’re correct, the truth is that apps just aren’t novel like they used to be.

3. Your Church Website Is An App

Ask yourself this question: What can people do on your app that they can’t do on your website? Because here’s the thing, your church already has an app – it’s called your website. It can be accessed from anyone’s phone internet browser. And if your app doesn’t offer something significant to your church that your website isn’t already offering, it’s simply not worth it.

All that being said, I came up with a few cool ideas that your church could build into its app –because apps do excel in several ways over internet browsers. Most notably, your apps go where you go.

  • Leverage the geolocation of people using your app. Send welcome notifications when people roll into your church parking lot.
  • Allow relatives to check their kids into kids ministry using the app.
  • At the very least, build the giving function of your church into your app. If your app’s giving function is just a link to your website, that is a massive sign that your app isn’t fulfilling its purpose.

Conclusion

So there you have it: 3 reasons why I think your church shouldn’t build an app. Forget the app. Just make sure your website is awesome. If you need help improving your website, download our free guide The Secret Ingredient of the World’s Best Websites.

Does your church have an app? I’d love to hear from you, so post your answer in the comments below.

  • Brady, good reasons on why a church should not have an app. I will add another reason: As you mentioned, most churches want an app to deliver content. In addition, many churches struggle to keep content up-to-date on their website. If an app doesn’t automatically pull content from the church website, that means there will be more work for the church in order to keep the content current on their app.

    • Great point, Mark. Just more work for already overworked employees.

      • Chris Rivera

        Amen.

  • Derek Maloy

    I believe a church’s app should be a tool in their tool belt – not the end all be all.

    With that said, I have to disagree that a church shouldn’t have an app.

    Where I do agree with you, if your app does not make people’s lives easier or do something your website doesn’t do… Then you’re 100% correct; they’re not worth it.

    ______________

    Here are a few things we’re doing at West Ridge that is offering tremendous value to our church throughout the week and on Sunday mornings.

    1. Message Notes – Instead of investing $1,000s in printing our Pastor’s weekly outline (plus saving a TON of time working with printers on a weekly basis) we put his outline in the app and invest more ministry dollars in print items that have a longer shelf life than one weekend.

    2. Giving – Right about half of our monthly giving comes in online – the app has played a BIG role in that.

    3. Group Questions – Equipping our Groups Leaders is critical for us as we come alongside them and help them lead and shepherd the flock, and we’ve built a lot of credibility with our leaders that the Group Questions will be there and be useful for them on a weekly basis.

    Here’s the thing, yes – you can get to any of the things I listed above on our website. However, on a Sunday morning, we see it as a priority to put the most valuable items, that are a part of our Sunday experience (Giving, Message Notes, Group Questions), right in front of our church in one spot… the app.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/west-ridge-church/id611031932?mt=8

    • Derek, this is actually some of the conversation I had with Stephen from Church on the Move. Instead of investing in an app though for these usess, they’ve created an all-in-one central hub for there church at cotm.info. No one needs to download anything, they simply visit that single URL. I think that’s a brilliant solution and no app needs to be developed.

      • Jason Westbrook

        Curious question then is why do they still have an app? How do others like myself convince their church the app is not a better solution than a web app. Also can you do notifications with a web app like a native app? Very interesting and wrapping my ideas around it.

        • Roxanne Wiedemann

          Hey Jason – thanks for the questions. 🙂 Sharing some of the stats that are listed in this article is definitely a great way to begin explaining why an app might not be a great fit for your church.

          As for push notifications – we actually talked about this in an episode of #AskBrady. You can find it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCifqYR5Y-Q – the question is at the 16 minute mark.

          Hope that helps!

  • Chris Rivera

    I attend the Life.Church location in Keller, Texas. Life.Church just revamped their app, and it’s spectacular. My favorite piece of the app is the “Weekly Guide”. It’s basically a replacement for the paper “Talk Notes” they provide. I actually don’t take the printed version and just use the app. It has campus specific information on events, and even has what songs are planned for worship that weekend. If I want to invite people, I can directly from the app. PLUS, If I need to fill out the “Communication Card” for any reason, I can do so from the app instead of the printed version. Anyway, there you go. It’s awesome.

    All that to say, I agree with you. This is an exception. I work for a website design agency that has done a lot of work with the local church. We’ve always recommended shifting effort and finances to a killer website thats responsive that to an app.

    Thanks for all you do Brady and the rest of the Pro Church Tools team!

    -Chris

    • Monica Shannon
      • Chris Rivera

        HAHA. I know right. 🙂

    • Chris, I’m not surprised that Life.Church has an awesome app. I mentioned this in a comment below, but Church on the Move does something similar. But instead of an app, they have a simple landing page at cotm.info. Online connect card, digital bulletin, and without the requirement of anyone to download an app onto their phone. I’d love to see more churches go in this direction.

      • Chris Rivera

        Yep! I totally agree. That’s an awesome one. A friend of mine is on staff at a church in Paradise, Texas… they have something similar. I like this concept a lot! http://gfcfamily.com/info/

  • Dan Norman

    I have had this discussion with our pastor a few times. For us and use of any type of tech, is simply the ability to do it well. We struggle now just keeping up the website and keeping it current. An app would simply add to the workload. The things Derek mentioned you can use 3rd party apps that people are possibly already using that is either inexpensive or free. YouVersion Bible app has an events feature that you can use to provide announcements and sermon notes. We use a 3rd party service that allows people to text a gift to a number assigned to the church.

    All that said I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have an app. But, I believe the reality is that unless it is a large church (500+), it will be a lot of time and cost to provide and keep updated.

    • Apps CAN be great (as mentioned at the end of the video), but most out-of-the-box solutions are redundant like you said, Dan. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation!

  • Joe Bragg

    Thank you for all you guys do, I have learned a ton from Pro Church Tools that has been super beneficial to what we are seeking to do.

    One problem with building your online giving option into the app is that you are looking at a substantial charge from either apple or google. I was bummed when I found that out… it’s like 30% of your total… We go through share faith and that is a 3% charge but has to link through a special online giving site.

    We use the app for more in house communication and seek to make the website more geared towards visitors. Yes they are very similar but the app allows us to make the website more gear toward those not currently attending our church. (I got a lot of ideas from your blog post on the 77 best church websites of 2016)… Thanks again for all you do!!

    • Thanks for the comment, Joe! And thanks for being a part of Pro Church Nation.

  • Dave Brown

    Apple’s developer agreement actually prohibits functionality that would allow donors to give within the context of an iTunes app. They will only allow links to a web site that would facilitate generosity.

    • Another plus for a site like cotm.info, that functions like an app, but allows for giving natively.

  • Jesse Skinner

    What platform is cotm.info created on?

    • Custom built by the COTM team. I’m not sure if it’s Rails or something like that, but I was told that it is built to act like an application, not just a website.

  • rejavanation

    I would have to disagree with the is article for a few reasons. While it is true, HTML 5 add a lot of functionality to websites and with more and more websites providing responsive designs so that they look much better on mobile/tablet screens, the fact of the matter is that most people do not want to log into a website from their phone. Consider the one instance where an app is most convenient is banking. Every bank has a website, but a Banking APP let you take a picture of your check for instant deposits, use your mobile phone as a pay station, allows you to check your balance and receive alerts, push notifications when your account has been access etc…While a banking website can allow you to sit at your desk and focus on more extensive account forensics, a mobile app let’s you do then quickly and conveniently, which is why, donuts to dollars, most people have a banking app on their phone. In the case of church, why is an app so convenient? Consider a built in mobile player that allows you to stream sermons from your phone, build playlists that you can then listen in your car. Sermons on the go and they are playable on multiple platforms like google home/mini (the internet of everything makes you issue about app goings out of existence a perspective, not a fact). Push notifications is another exclusive app issue that really allows for notification messages to push to cell phones to warn of inclement weather, a missing child out of day care, specific groups can receive message within the church concerning issues that can be responded to quickly and quietly. One of the app features I love is the ability to take notes within the app on sermons and for those phones that support multi screens, having the bible program open as my church app (which I designed) allows me to do. Not to mention analystics within the app that can improve the church going experience.I think website certainly can be improved, but as long as websites are allowed to be designed by anyone without complying with W3C standards, app design still requires a certain level of standardization that makes it less likely to be buggy and render incorrectly if it is coming from an APP store. Finally, the storefront for APPs tends to keep app designing honest. Anyone can go to a url, but apps are rated and reviewed before download so there is a greater level of trust. No, I think aa church app is necessary, but there are ways of obtaining one that shouldn’t break the church’s budget.

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