Top features your church app must have!
App Builder Appy Pie, January 23: A mobile app can bring a great range of benefits for the church and the community that it serves. A church app enables the church to extend beyond the Sunday mornings and the four walls to communicate with the community it serves irrespective of the timeline and the geographical location. As the congregation engages with the app more and more, and begin sharing their favourite sermons, blog posts, videos, or any other element of the app, it is not surprising to see that the number of app installs might exceed the number of members in the congregation.
If you are interested in reading this post, chances are you have already weighed in on everything else and are sold on the idea of building the app, and we need not remind you of the various advantages that the church app can bring to you. Most of the churches do realise that they need an app, but have trouble getting into it, or figuring out how to go about it.
We have brought together a checklist of top features that your church app must have, in order to help you take the step to finally realize your intent to create the app for your church.
1. Prayer Requests
The prayer request feature is quite an asset to have and lets the people explore the app on their own time, but on top of that, it also encourages people to post to during the Sunday Service, within your youth group, during the volunteer training sessions, or other interactive times. When people are given the opportunity to spend some time on the app during the meeting, they not only explore the app, but also share their prayers for those who need it the most.
2. Mobile Live Streaming
“Mobile makes up more than 25% of YouTube’s global watch time, more than one billion views a day.” So, if you are not live streaming to mobile phones, you are losing out on all those people who could have been watching you on their mobile devices including their smart phones and tablets.
3. Integrating YouVersion
Millions of people are using YouVersion to read their Bible. Hence, within your mobile app, wherever you mention the Scripture, whether it is the church blog, church life verses, sermon topics, or anywhere else, make sure that you link it to the YouVersion app. Incorporating this feature would allow your congregation members to read the Bible a lot better and deeply.
4. Integrating The Social Media
Whenever we come across something we like, it is natural that we would want to share it with our friends and family. It is a good idea to offer the congregation members an opportunity to share what they like on your app through their social media accounts. They could be going through the Sunday bulletin and tweeting out their favourite sections, or sharing the upcoming events, or fundraisers for different causes that your church is associated with.
5. Check-In Application
This feature may be exclusively designed for the key members of the church or for everyone. This feature is a great way to keep a digital record of the members who were in attendance on a particular day or special event. In case you decide to incorporate this feature only for the key members, then an email system may be set up to reach out to those who have not been attending the more critical events in succession. The “Check-Ins” may even be rewarded by triggering a push notification to all those who have used it and offering them, maybe a “Coffee On The Pastor” or other such rewards.
6. Sunday Bulletin Replacement
Replace or bring down the number or size of your Sunday bulletin that you were handing out to all the members of the congregation. You can alternatively offer to notify the members through the app and send out announcements, sermon notes, and event lists through it. A PDF copy may even be sent out to those who ask for it.
7. Mobile Giving
This is an absolute necessity as it has been established time and again that the giving or donations increase manifold when a mobile option is offered. The idea is to time the request for donations in the right way, based on their in-app activities. The members do not have to wait for Sunday to donate and mobile giving offers a safe, secure, and fast method of payment. This, when combined with a well-designed push notification can go a long way in helping raise funds for a cause, an event, or for the aid of the Church itself. This is a great feature for congregation members who have moved away or are temporarily away but would like to contribute to the church or any other cause.
8. Push Notifications
Push notifications or messages have a 97% read rate, which makes this an absolute must! This feature comes in handy especially when there is a need to send out any kind of an alert. Any change of schedule, a service that was cancelled, an impromptu event, sending out reminders can all prove to be a great opportunity to employ a push notification. To employ it in an effective manner, it is important that you send out only segmented push notifications as not every information is relevant to the whole congregation.
9. Daily Devotionals
Everyone has their troubles in their life and are facing their own sets of challenges. The troubles do not wait till Sunday for some kind of respite. In these situations, a devotional message, or an inspiring quote does wonders. Send out a daily devotional to the congregation and reach out, connect with them on a deeper level. Though, you can do this manually, but in case you are short on time and resources, look for online tools to automate the process. There is no dearth of free services that provide messaging that may be automatically updated in the app every day. Find a service you are comfortable with and set it up to rum for you.
There are probably multiple calendars including one for each of the ministries or it might be so that you have just one all-inclusive calendar. In case you already maintain an online calendar, it would be a good idea to find a solution that allows the app calendars to update automatically from the existing online calendars. One important thing to remember in this case is to provide an option to the members to add the church event from the app to their personal calendars. These calendars should not just offer information regarding date and time, but also the location, (preferably GPS coordinates), or a map for navigation. Once you integrate this kind of a solution, this should not only offer the congregation members a reminder, but also offer the driving directions, and an estimated time of departure to be able to reach in time. There is a good chance that this would increase the number of attendees in these events bringing the community closer and making the church events popular and successful.
11. Home Groups
Home groups or Bible study groups are an important part of the congregation as they not only help with sharing and receiving knowledge, but also enhance the community feeling among fellow members. When you post the addresses of these group venues along with details like photographs, phone numbers, descriptions or anything else you might see fit to add, it becomes easy for the people to find home groups in their vicinity. The GPG function installed on your phone will show a map depicting the relative positioning of all these groups in context of where you are. The users can then click on the one they like to get directions or contact details and get in touch to enquire further.
12. The Bible
This is quite obvious, isn’t it? Also, this is very easy to implement. Enabling, or incorporating this feature means offering your congregation access to the Bible at all times. There are a number of online portals that offer the digital version of Bible. All you have to do is pick one and make use of web-view to enable this on the mobile solution that you are building.
13. Contact Us
Quite similar to what we mentioned earlier about the home groups, you can also create a comprehensive listing of all the key persons in the church and the staff members organised or listed either by ministries, or in an alphabetical order. The list must include details like addresses, photographs, contact numbers, email addresses, and other such details. The mobile app can integrate with the integral features of the mobile or smart phone like GPS mapping. Location, driving directions, emails, calling etc with a mere click. For churches with large campuses, it is important that you have the capability to provide detailed mapping of the campus. The address alone may not suffice, when you are looking for the administrative block on the campus. It is a necessary to specifically identify a particular location on the Church campus.
14. Public Social Walls
Each of the ministries can have their individual chat walls where they can get together to discuss, share, post, and interact with relevant material. These public social walls have found different uses with different churches including prayer walls, a place where the congregation can post comments on the events they attended, share pictures, post reminders, express appreciation and encouragement etc. Many a times people have reached out to others by way of these public walls to receive an overwhelming response from the community. In case you incorporate this feature, make user registration compulsory before being able to post anything and incorporate a function to block any user who posts inappropriate comments anywhere.
15. Church Blog
If your church has a blog that you have been maintaining, then this feature makes a strong case. This feature is quite easy to integrate into your app and can be accomplished via RSS feed. The feeds would then come directly from the website into your app. The biggest advantage of doing this is that when it is a mobile blog the chances of people reading it are a lot higher than its web counterpart. You can employ push notification to let everyone know whenever you post a new piece so that people know that there is something new that they can engage with.
16. Sharing The App
When you offer people an opportunity to share the app, you are banking on them to share their faith, and people will do so with great enthusiasm. You can even add a short, friendly message with the link to introduce others to what you are sharing.
17. Polls, Surveys, RSVPs
Every establishment, or organization is always looking for ways to improve their working and the experience or services they provide. In doing so, feedback is one of the most important factors. There are a number of free services available online like PollDaddy where you can incorporate polls, surveys, or RSVPs. The biggest advantage of reaching out to the members through the mobile app is that people always carry them. Deploy a push notification asking for immediate or timed feedback.
18. Usage & Engagement Analytics
There is an old saying that has stood the test of time – what gets measured, gets done! Just building an app and maintaining it is not enough. It is important to have measured insights into things that people are engaging with and the in-app activities that are being favoured the most. App analytics allow you to see which sections of your app are the most popular among the members of the congregation, which days of the week are they most active and what kind of time are the members spending on it. When you have all this information at your disposal, it helps you make adjustments and changes in the app to enhance the overall user experience. You can work on the sections that are not getting enough popularity and either do away with them or make them more interesting so that the members of your congregation get only the best!