It’s time we canceled our our church mobile app. Yes, I know for some churches it’s kind of a prestigious thing to have a church mobile app, but in the end we have to let it go. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we didn’t enjoy the app or think that it wasn’t quality. However as any good digital team should, when technology changes it’s always a good time to evaluate how our time and money is being spent.
The Church mobile app business is interesting. Most are based around the idea that all you need to do is provide the graphics (logos, etc.. ) and the media (videos, audio or rss feed) and the app company puts your content into one of their templates and submits the app to Apple and Google. Then all you have to do is promote it to your church and let them know about the mobile app. On the surface it seems simple enough, but as I’ve said before I’m not sure if it’s the best use of resources.
You and your church may be thinking about buying a church mobile app or even canceling your app. I don’t want to persuade you one way or the other, but I do want to give you some insight into our thinking and help you make an educated decision. Here’s a list of reasons why we’re canceling our church mobile app:
Reason Why We’re Canceling our Church Mobile App
- Our Website Caught up with Our App – Play sermon audio? Check. Watch a live stream of the worship service? Check. I could go on, but you get the point. Our website can now do approximately 80% of what our app can do. When we weighed killing our app, the question was how important is that last 20%?
When we started walking through the features that only the app could do, we realized that those features weren’t really game changers for us. Sure they were cool features, but were they worth the time and money the app costs us?
- Too Expensive – Cost was another factor that begin to weigh on us as we looked at our app. Our church model is slightly different than most churches with multiple campuses. Most campus driven churches stream their main campus’s preaching to each of its other campuses. We take a different approach and have campus pastors teaching at each campus. We also give each campus its own regional name so that it feels unique to the community (i.e. The Church at Station Hill, The Church at Avenue South).
So on any given Sunday we have up to 5 different sermons being preached and captured on five different campuses. So if we did an app for each of these campuses we would end up maintaining almost five different apps. You can see how this doesn’t scale for us especially if you have to pay for five apps.
- Responsive Web Is Getting Better – “Responsive web” in the simplest terms means your website responds to whatever screen size is detected. So if your website is presented on an iPhone, then your website will respond by forming to the screen of an iPhone. When responsive design first started out it was great if you had mostly a text based website, however pictures didn’t always scale as well. However responsive web has become so good that you make can make your website feel like a real app.
- Our Website Is Upgrade Proof – iOS 8 just came out! Wait… Is our app up to date? Will it crash? These are the thoughts that go through my mind whenever Google or Apple update their software. The problem isn’t that they upgraded their software, the problem is that we have to wait on the church app company to check and update the software if there are any issues. For example, when Apple introduces the iPhone 6 Plus they’ve now introduced a 5.5 inch screen. The problem with the 5.5 inch screen is that while our app may scale to that size, it wasn’t designed to be that size. So we have to wait for the app company to update the app and graphics to make sure our app looks correct on the iPhone 6 Plus (you also need factor in waiting for Apple to approve the updated app which can take up to a week or two).
However our website doesn’t have that problem. So if Apple introduces a 6.5 inch screen, we’re fine. It doesn’t really matter what Apple or Android does to their software, our website will still work. Plus, if something does break, we can simply push an update to our servers and have it fixed in a matter of minutes.
- Our Web Has Better Numbers – I won’t give out numbers, but we did have plenty of people use our app. However, when you looked at the data the number of people who used the church mobile app was a small fraction of the people who actually used our website.
- You Can’t Google Our App’s Content – While church mobile apps are a little better at providing content on mobile devices, there’s one problem with the content on the church mobile app. Google can’t search it. If I’m going to create content in a digital format for the public, I want it to be found when searched online (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc…). Next to social sharing (Twitter, Facebook), search is a major priority.
Creating a mobile church app can be a big investment and if you got the budget and time, go for it. If you’re not sure, I suggest you focus on developing a great mobile web experience on your website for your congregation first, then look at doing a church mobile app.
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