So your Boston-area church wants to tap into the younger generation, perhaps persuade them that religion isn’t so antiquated and outmoded. You’d like to demonstrate first-hand that you’re into the same things they are, and you can connect with them on their level. How do you bridge the gap and display your “cool” without betraying your age and your “behind the times” thinking?
How about creating an “app” for their smart phones, to help them discover their faith using today’s technology?
A number of churches have begun doing that. The Catholic archdiocese of Boston, amazingly enough, came out with an iPhone app about a year ago, in December 2010. Nicknamed the “church finder app,” it helps busy Catholics find a local church when they’re on the go. Even more recently, the archdiocese also created another app, written up in February 2011, which serves as a confessional aid—not to replace visits to a Catholic priest, but as a guide to the various sins, complete with prayers of absolution and a statement of forgiveness, for only $1.99 (the price of the app)!
While The Crossing at Boston’s St. Paul’s Cathedral (an Episcopal church outreach to younger generations) doesn’t seem to have an app yet, it is offering podcasts for the 12 Days of Christmas, to help members of their flock stay connected.
Wall Street Journal story.
The online Wall Street Journal reports that custom-made church apps are now a very trendy item. More than 150 churches across the country have customized smartphone and tablet apps to link up with younger or techno-savvy members. According to the WSJ article, the technology not only helps people answer the call to stay religiously attuned at all times, but also helps parents keep abreast of what their kids are studying in Sunday School – or helps teenagers stay involved when they’re away, and provide spiritual guidance in the absence of a close-at-hand pastoral figure.
So far, it’s the large, mainline Protestant and evangelical churches that appear to be jumping on the app bandwagon. At one congregation, Redeemer Church in Utica, NY, their custom app has already been downloaded about 3,700 times.
Pros and cons.
While the app revolution for churches has been an exciting new development, it also comes with concerns about privacy and security, especially for smaller congregations that don’t have staff or resources to keep tabs on what’s going on with their digital outreach. What kind of problems can arise? At one church, a parishioner posted inflammatory comments about his ex-wife on the app “prayer wall.”
Where to get them?
So you want to tap into the app – where do you go to get one for your church? There’s a growing number of companies starting up to respond to this new “market trend.” One of them is “Subsplash,” which developed “The Church App.” This company describes itself as a “bunch of creatives in Seattle” who want to make Biblical teaching more accessible. They even offer to help make apps for any other churches wanting to expand their ministry to the world of mobile communications.
Other companies in the church app business include Yaptap in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Memphis-based Everchurch, which have produced non-customized apps. The parent company of Everchurch, “Speak Creative LLC,” has also developed websites for churches. When it comes to customized apps, however, there are two small firms that seem to be dominating the market: Mobile Roadie LLC and ROAR.
ROAR, named for Biblical references to Jesus as the “lion of Judah,” has been in business since January 2010. Churches usually pay a setup fee between $500 and $750, plus $35 each month for the “hosting” of the app. In general, building custom apps can actually cost tens of thousands of dollars, but ROAR charges the churches less, hoping to make money through partnerships and licensing arrangements with publishing companies that provide worship resources and other content to churches.