E111 - Does Your Church Need An App?


 Joanna: Today's episode we're talking about does your church need an app. And at the end of the episode we're gonna give some news, updates, and announcements on this podcast for moving forward, so stay tuned to the very end of the episode.

James: Jo one of the most popular discussions going on in some of the Facebook groups right now and really for the past couple of years has just been all about church apps and there's very strong opinions on both sides. People really argue that your church needs to have an app to be relevant and millenials will only find you if you have an app and there's other people saying well why do you need an app. If you've got a Web site and I know I fall pretty strongly into one camp but where do you fall in this whole debate.

Joanna: Oh you're strong. I. I'd say generally no. I do not think churches need apps unless you're a really big church. I'm not sure what the value add is of an app. We can talk about that a little bit more today I have sort of a philosophy about a lot of things to do with communication that the app conversation falls under the umbrella of. But tell me you you say you have a strong opinion. So what's your opinion?

James: I'm strongly in the belief that you don't need an app. Yeah I think I think there's enough apps on phones and I think the way that mobile websites, like their ability to be mobile friendly has grown so much that there's ninety nine percent of the things that you would want to display on someone's phone can already be done through the Web site as is. Like an app is really kind of just usually now just a shortcut or a simplified version of what's on your Web site. That just is a little bit faster and a little bit quicker but I mean I just don't need to download another app. I mean our church has an app and I use it usually only for connect group to kind of see what the questions are.

Joanna: And admittedly I never use the app. I only go on our church app when I've been editing something for the church app. I never actually use it and I'm the one who has to maintain it.

James: And the end the argument for me is OK. Well I mean apps still can be very expensive and so is what you're paying for really a value. I mean the things I'm trying to think of the things that I engage with with our church the most. And one would be probably Instagram's Number one I see our church's Instagram almost daily. And secondly I would say just Apple podcasts. If I miss a sermon it's summer right now I've missed a few Sundays I go into Apple podcasts to listen to the sermon so that's what I'm engaging with the most. And I think the last time I went on our church's app was maybe four months ago.

Joanna: It was for your connect group discussion questions?

James: Just discussion questions. Our that group ended in April or May. Yeah. And I was just looking the discussion question like I wasn't on there very long. I didn't really engage with any of the things that are basically costing the Church money to make and run. Now I'm not engaging with it at all.

Joanna: I think the big question is ultimately who are you making an app for. Like what's the point of the app and can can the things you're doing on the app be done just as well or almost as well through another thing i.e. through social media or through the website. Because as you've said there's so many ways now we can access great mobile experiences on our phones. But on the Web sites or on Instagram whatever is now even functionality being built in to you know pay for things they're shopping now that's coming into in-store and there's lots of things even to do with giving that you can probably soon pretty soon integrate into social media. You can do it on Facebook already but it kind of falls for me under this philosophical approach that I have is like don't ask people to start a new behavior meet people where they already have the habits of going every day. And so another example of that for me is to do with we used to use a third party company that kind of had like a market place where you could share needs and abilities so it wasn't so much buying and selling like on Craigslist. It was you know Mrs. Smith broke her leg. Could someone come help mow her lawn or so and so is finished with their you know their lawn furniture does anybody want to take just anyone to pick it up and take it for free. That kind of a thing. And so we had this separate third party program Web site that people to log into to use. I'm not going to mention by name I actually don't even know if it exists anymore. But what we found is that it was we had to train people's behavior to go to that Web site and people weren't using it very much you had to log in yet to remember it even existed you had to remember to think to use it. But when we started doing these groups on Facebook where it was like whether private or public these groups where people could post the exact same kinds of stuff but in a place that people already are in the habit of going every day i.e. Facebook then it suddenly became a hugely impactful ministry tool for our church.

James: And what you're really saying is. The more you divide people's attention and send them to multiple spots for information the less likely you are to continue to engage with them. So if you're selling them to ten different things in order to gather information you're less likely to even get your information out rather than just saying focus. Let's focus on one or two and do those really well. So even back to my sermon notes thing instead of having to go to the app to read his sermon notes why couldn't it just be throughout the week. The church posted on Instagram Stories and all I have to do is go to Instagram Stories and I'm now engaging with the church in one certain place and you can get more information there rather than go to the Instagram page then the Facebook page on the website. Then the app there and the bulletin like there's now six different things.

Joanna: And probably a lot of them are the same content the.

James: Same thing over and over.

Joanna: And that's where I said where I saw it with my opinion on this from the beginning is if you're a church of I don't know less than like let's say 5000 people which is almost every single church. 98 percent of churches less than 5000 people then I think you're spending money probably on something that isn't super value add at this point.

James: And what people can argue as well a lot of that stuff is free but at the end of the day it's taking someone's time to schedule and post all those things.

Joanna: And to communicate it is adding confusion.

James: There's adding confusion but there's there's always a cost that's the financial side of my brain coming out and this is that if you have six different things it's now taking that person who's doing it six times as long to do to get one bit of information out. So there is cost associated rather than saying we're gonna just stick with one or two platforms as opposed to having to update six or seven constantly, you're basically you are spending money even if all those things are free platforms and they're not like a church app isn't free you're going to spend something on it and it's gonna take someone's time and effort. And I just don't I don't think what you get for it is really truly a value add. Now there's always gonna be an example of one big church doing it really well it has an awesome app but that is far outside the norm.

Joanna: Because they've leaned like for like full force into the strategy of using an app. But I think for a lot of churches it's just like an add on and not sort of used in a robust way and it's just as you said its the cost to carry

James: And yeah you can't, It's like the Michael Jordan example you can't say you can't always compare every basketball player to Michael Jordan. You can't say well here's the best that's what you should be. Not everyone is Michael Jordan. So not every church is going to be the big church with tons of budget and tons of creative people behind making it. The awesome thing it is. And so maybe it's best to just not try to play in that sandbox like maybe if your church is only 500 people a Web site and an Instagram page are enough. Right. Or maybe it's just a Facebook page like would focus on one thing.

Joanna: I think we're trying to like, you know we're ramping or being up on our passion about you know we know people you know in this community that build apps. So we're not saying that they're like total garbage or these these apps are total garbage and a waste of time. We're just saying think more thoughtfully about it. We're trying to free you up from the pressure that like you see you know it's a keeping up with the Joneses kind of thing. But just because you see some big church that you admire doing it doesn't mean that you have to do it.

James: There's the F.O.M.O. associatedt right? There's fear of missing out in that you see other people doing it and that's up there and that's where some of my passion comes from as I see people talking about on Facebook and say you know another church down the road got it. That means we should probably have an app right? Well that's the wrong way to approach whether or not you should have an app. It should come from within not from a comparison. And just because someone else is doing it doesn't mean that you should and it might be maybe actually a the right scenario for them and it might be but it might be wrong for you and I think the smaller the churches the less likely that you're going to need it. Is really, thats the scale.

Joanna: And if only a certain percentage if only 15 percent of the church is ever going to download and engage with it in a meaningful way then the smaller the church the less people that literally is.

James: So if you're talking about a million people then you're talking about a massive number, but if you're talking about a church of 500 that isn't worth it to do it for 30 people.

Joanna: So think about where people are naturally engaging with you and just you know double down on those places. If you're a smaller church, hey if you're a bigger church and you have capacity to experiment with some stuff then go do the thing so the rest of the small guys can learn how to do it. But hey we we wanted to let you guys know before we end this episode that we're we're kind of moving into what we're calling our summer mode. I think we're gonna take a a page out of what I lived in France for a while and the French do this every August. They slow down most people go on vacation a lot of businesses close. We're not closing down but we're slowing down how frequently we do give you episodes so we're going to be going to once a week for a summer schedule for the rest of the summer. As we look towards the fall we were. James you and I were all over the place.

James: Let's talk about that quickly actually. Like where are you going to be Joanna?

Joanna: Yeah I'm going to the global, Ah I'd love to know as anybody else that the Global Leadership Summit in Chicago. I'm doing much of social media stuff there. And so. I will be in Chicago.

James: What the dates for that?

Joanna: It's the, I dont know, you're putting me on the spot. When is it?

James: She's looking it up, giving the play by play.

Joanna: This is real time. I'm there August 7th to 10th.

James: There you go, August 7th 10th. Come find Joanna

Joanna: But event is I think eighth and ninth anyway so I'm there for a few days. And I'd love to meet people if people from this community are going to be at the event or connect to the event at a satellite sight. It'll be great to see you there and yeah I'm going to Bethel heaven come conference in the end of August. A friend of mine is you know the creative director of Bethel live events. So going to go hang out and learn from her team how they do it. So going to hang out backstage basically with their creative people so if you have questions for them then message me and I'll see if I can get the answer for you.

James: Awesome.

Joanna: What are you up to this summer.

James: I will be in New Zealand so if anyone's in New Zealand from August 24th to the beginning of September then you know you can come find me and editor michael out in Mount Cook area/Christ Church.

Joanna: You got to do a meet up in New Zealand

James: So yeah if you're in New Zealand.

James: That's too bad, If your in New Zealand why aren't you bringing me James? What I want to know why why can't I come with your team?

James: So yeah we're gonna be out there filming so again I'm going to be gone for about 13 or 14 days and you're gone overlapping some of those dates as well so we're not gonna be able to do the podcast daily but we are going to be able to do it weekly during this busy August.

Joanna: Yeah and we're trying to get a sense too from you you know we've been doing this podcast since the winter time and we want to learn from you our listeners and learn from what we're getting in our stats around how often do you want this content? Is every day valuable to you? Do you do you think that once a week is enough? We're going to experiment a little bit with the format of that to find out give the people what they want to find out what you want and need and how best to serve you with this content. And so we're going to be doing that as we look at this sort of how we're doing this once a week stuff the rest of the summer and then we'll be on sort of a new rhythm then going back into the fall.