Editor's Note: This is one of a continuing series of stories on pastor's tools from Ministry Today magazine's special May/June issue, MinistryToday 21.
What does it take to run a church today? The pastor just starting out in ministry may be surprised by the answer. While it's important to keep kingdom purposes at the forefront, experienced church leaders have found that a pastor's toolkit consists of many instruments that are helpful in doing the work of the ministry today.
We have pooled some of our own talent to answer that question and have asked a number of businesses to give their take on what 21 tools the pastor needs to know are available for meeting today's congregational needs.
Church apps are no longer a fad, but an essential part of ministry in this new mobile era. Fifteen years ago, the big technology question facing most churches was whether or not to invest in a website. Now, with over 90 percent of churches having websites, the landscape has again changed. According to data from comScore, the tipping point happened in January 2014, when mobile devices accounted for 55 percent of all Internet usage. And people are not browsing websites from their phones—92 percent of mobile usage came from mobile apps! Thousands of churches have already built their own church app, and have found it is the best way to stay relevant and connected to their congregations.
Today's church apps don't just put a church's address and events calendar at a congregant's fingertips–the best of them are interactive, truly connecting a pastor to their flock on a daily basis. Look for the following features when trying to choose an app for your church:
Push Notifications. With over 90 percent of all adults now having a cell phone (Pew Internet Project), and almost three-quarters of those being smartphones, the easiest and most affordable way for a church to get out an important message is a push notification. A push notification is automatically delivered to a user, without the need to actually open an application. Push notifications can be used to inform members of emergency church closings, special prayer requests or just reminders of special services.
Sermon Audio and Video. People who can't make it to service can catch up on the pastor's message on the drive into work, making the process easier and faster than ever.
Prayer Wall. Congregants can post prayer requests and receive feedback when people are praying.
Mobile Giving. With Apple and Samsung now entering the mobile payment market, it won't be long before mobile tithing overtakes traditional check and cash tithing. In addition, many churches report that tithing increases with the ease of use of mobile apps.
Are all church apps created equal? Not really. Mobile apps are divided into native apps and non-native apps. Generally, native apps are faster and offer a better user experience. Non-native apps often lack the smooth user interface that most users desire. In just the past few years, there has been a proliferation of companies building apps for churches, but there are a few standouts that make beautiful, native apps:
Subsplash has all the features a church could possibly want in an app. They have designed their apps with an emphasis on those churches with large congregations. Their apps tend to be a bit more customized–with pricing reflecting a more customized experience.
ChurchLink also builds great custom apps for churches with all of the features mentioned, but in addition, offers an affordable (under $30/month), universal solution called The ChurchLink App. Available instantly and with no set-up fee, it is a great solution for small to mid-size congregations.
Unify boasts all of the features above within a well-done native app, with a competitive pricing structure.
No matter what church mobile app solution you choose for your congregation, it's time to get on board and connect your congregation in ways your website can't. Church apps are here to stay.
Tom Bradford is vice president and co-founder of ChurchLink, whose mission is to help small- to medium-size churches grow and connect through the use of mobile technology.
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