In the Church Communications group, we frequently get questions about pricing, building and maintaining apps.
Of course, apps are a great solution for some churches, but I’m afraid that other churches are merely reaching for a shiny new toy that is beyond their means and sustainability. In many situations, a well-built mobile website can meet all of their needs without some of the issues that come along with sustaining an app. Let’s look at some pros of both options.
The Attraction of Apps
Let’s be honest… Everyone wants apps because they are very cool and very functional. It’s a one-stop shop.
In one conveniently located, branded, and impressive forum, your church members can find:
- Your church’s geolocation, or the geolocation of any given event or small group meeting
- Notifications, which can come in handy when an announcement must be made regarding the location of the ladies’ tea this Saturday, or when a natural disaster occurs and you need to communicate that your doors are open to those in need
- Tithe and giving through platforms like Tithely or Apple Pay, preventing awkward my-horse-is-bigger-than-your-horse moments while passing the plate in service
- The actual Bible, like word-for-word
- A journal, with sermon notes along the way
Apps are excellent options for churches that have members who will actually use it. If you have the resources, a plan on how to use it, and a strategy to keep it updated and efficient, do it. It’s for your members.
We recommend two different resources for building an app: PushPay or Tithely (affiliate links). Both are excellent giving solutions with different app solutions. Figure out which one is the right one for your church.
But if you’re a one-man communication team with a tiny budget?
Mobile Websites to the Rescue
I know, I know… Mobile webpages are so 2010, but try to keep an open mind.
A mobile website, which is just a formatted version of your existing website, is cheap to create, and more importantly, cheap to maintain. Creating a mobile-friendly website is no more expensive than building a standard one, and it requires no further training for you (which I know is excellent news). If you are a web designer, then you have what you need to begin. And when it comes to customization, the possibilities are endless! You can make that mobile website exactly what you need. However you envisioned an app looking, you can bring that vision to life on a mobile website.
What about accessibility, you ask? Create an easy to remember URL. Then your church members can bookmark any webpage on your phone’s browser for easy navigation—as easy as opening an app.
Sure, a big pull for apps is that you know that you can have everything in “one place”—sermon downloads, music, event notifications. But consider this: If a member is willing to download a new app to their phone, they are probably already using apps like Spotify and Apple’s Podcasts. If your primary benefit to building an app is ease of access to content, a mobile website is your best and cheapest option. How? Add a link to sermon downloads that opens in podcast apps and a link to a playlist that opens in Spotify. Need to notify everyone at once? TextinChurch (affiliate link) is a great option for that.
But my primary concern is you and your well-being, so here’s the best part: less work for you. By sticking with a well-designed, functional mobile website, you won’t have to maintain two separate systems. You’re already maintaining your church’s website, and often apps are going to pull from RSS feeds on your website. So keep it simple, and go mobile web!
Evaluate Your Church’s Needs
Ultimately the reason you are even reading this in the first place is that your church has some gaps in communication, and you are trying to fill them. Establish a figure of how much you are able and willing to spend, your team that will be dedicated to this effort, and sort out exactly which option will meet your needs with the least amount of money and effort. I know that apps are fun and impressive, but being a good steward of your resources (and yourself) is your first responsibility.