By Jonathan Howe
In 2011, smartphones were almost a novelty. Just 35% of American adults had one. That number has more than doubled in the past six years, and more than 9 in 10 adults under 30 have a smartphone (via Pew Research). When someone is considering a new phone, the question is no longer “will I get a smartphone?” but “which smartphone will I get?”
Now that this device has become almost attached to us 24-7 (I’ll be the first to admit, I’m tethered to mine), how is the church adapting? Or better yet, how should the church adapt and engage the smartphone? Here are eight ways.
- Live streaming. When the TV became prevalent in the 1950s, churches began television ministries. Many of those still exist but for most churches they are cost prohibitive and provide little return on the investment required. However, live streaming for smartphones can be implemented at a fraction of the cost and often has a greater reach than television ministries.
- Social media. This is an obvious inclusion. The rise of social media coincided with the rise of the smartphone. They go together like peanut butter and jelly or spaghetti and maple syrup. If your church is not active on social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity to engage your members and guests.
- Mobile friendly website. There is no excuse for a church not to have a good, well designed website. Not only should a website contain pertinent information, it should display well on a phone. This is also something to consider when creating graphics. Small text gets even smaller on smartphone screens.
- Text giving. We recently held a video call about giving trends in the church with several hundred leaders across North America. Text giving was the topic that drew the most questions from the audience. It’s the giving trend churches are inquiring about most. As we get more comfortable paying with our phones through Apple Pay, Paypal, and other techniques, text giving will only increase in its use in the church.
- Email newsletters. While email is readily available on a computer, the fact that we’re virtually always connected to email via our smartphones means newsletters are more likely to be seen. The more they are seen and read, the better informed your congregation will be.
- Online or in-app sermon notes. The proliferation of Bible apps has led to a new type of engagement of the Word during a service. My pastor even states, “open or turn on your Bibles” each week when preparing to read from Scripture. My church also posts sermon notes online and in an app, as do many others. While I personally prefer paper note-taking, my 13-year old son types his notes into his Bible app. He stays engaged in the sermon because of his smartphone.
- Church management. App- or cloud-based church management software allows church staff to have information about church events, members, or details at their fingertips regardless of their location. As more and more staff members office in community spaces (coffee shops, restaurants, etc.), this helps them stay connected to needed tools via their smartphones while working off-site.
- Event scheduling and reminders. Digital calendars have all but replaced paper day planners. Setting reminders and adding calendar events via smartphone apps allow you to stay more up-to-date on church events and happenings.
Does your church use any of these already? How else does your church engage members and guests via smartphone?
A question related to item 1. What are some apps or live streaming websites that we can go to, in other words how do we start and where do we get more reliable information? Thanks
Ustream, LiveStream, or Facebook live are your major players. You can also check the providers mentioned here: https://churchtechtoday.com/2016/01/29/10-church-live-streaming-providers-to-consider/
How in the world do spaghetti and maple syrup go together? What strange fetish is this?
It’s a reference to the movie Elf. It was a joke.
I got it and thought it was hilarious, well played!
We’re hitting several and pushing for more!
The biggest question I have is about emailed/hybrid newsletters (hybrid with material on the church website).
Even if you get 80% of the congregation using e-versions (whether on their phones or on a laptop at home), how to you keep connected with that small percentage that not only don’t have email, but don’t even use computers? Although they are literally dying off, but about a fifth of the congregation want hard copy newsletters, as does the pastor–to have a half dozen available for visitors.
Any suggestions? It would be great if my work load wasn’t increased (part timer).
Our church is basically the same, HOWEVER even some of our younger folks want paper copies. It does cause quite a bit more work for us, but if we don’t send paper copies we get a lot of flack. I do know that some churches have gone to printing copies for those who want them, then set them out on a table so folks can drop by and pick up their copy on Sunday mornings or during the week. We also do a weekly handout sheet of announcements (of the same material included in our weekly emails), but oddly most folks who don’t use computers or email also don’t stop to pick one up. It surely is a conundrum, and one, I am afraid, will not be solved any time soon.
Would still like to know what church management – App- or cloud-based church management software you are using. We need a good option.
Check out church office online
You can poll for texted prayer requests from the congregation including the people who would not necessarily know who should be given prayer requests.
We use facebook live. Integrated with the app- “Switcher Studio” on the ipad which allows us to use three iphones live streaming at once and pan from camera to camera. It also takes the sound from the soundboard versus iphone microphones. We are in rural Louisiana (Bunkie) and it works great for us.
Great ideas. But what kind of communications strategy do you adopt when members of your congregation are opting for a simple life style off the net – no Internet, no smart phones, perhaps not even a landline?
The Bible study options are endless on Kindle and Tecarta and affordable, on sale often. Good to share with hungry students and congregants. Also, smartphones can record sound very well with huge capacity. I can share audio in MP4 and make CDs for shut-ins and prospects.
Really great insight. The church should definitely be everywhere and not just within buildings. God bless you!