Steve Jobs wasn’t known as a Christian leader, but he sure made an impact on Christianity. Now, we live in a morass of of iPhones, mobile devices, and every iteration of on-the-go computing. Christians have embraced the digital culture for all its worth, trying to redeem every byte, bit, and buzz for Jesus. And now, realizing the ubiquity of mobile devices, churches are making apps.
There’s an App for That Church
Church of the App
If, for some reason, the word “app” mystifies you, here’s the skinny. An “app,” short for “application,” is a program that runs on a mobile device (such as a phone, an iPad, or even a computer). These programs can range from a toddler’s alphabet game, to tips on losing 15 lbs, to a program that provides driving directions to Olive Garden. Apps can be about anything.
That’s why some churches are making apps that are specifically designed for their congregations. If you are a member (and sometimes, even if you’re not), you can download or access the app on your smartphone, and Presto! you’re doing church on the go.
What Are the Apps for?
Unless you’ve tasted of the tempting waters of technology, this whole app thing may seem very mundane and uninspiring to you. But for those of us who are addicted to “crackberries,” whose iPhones are an extension of our left hand, and who have more personal time with our Droid then with our spouse, this makes complete sense.
Because our lifestyle has uncontrollably been swept into the technological current, it only makes sense to develop church apps. Ah, but before you begin muttering verses like “not forsaking the assembling…” take heed. Apps aren’t intended to replace churches or give people a mobile church experience on the lake every Sunday morning. Apps are intended to supplement the church’s mninistry. A brief look at what these apps can do will suffice.
- In a general way, apps help people stay plugged into church life throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Sure, there may be a podcast and a sermon recording provided, but these are intended for people who can’t make it to the service, not for people who want to constantly skip church.
- Parents can stay informed about what kids are learning in Sunday School, including discussion tips for their children. Parents may even be able to check their child in to the nursery using their mobile device.
- Pastor’s blogs make their appearance on the mobile apps, providing quotes meditations, or thoughts for the day.
- Church calendars are a mainstay of many mobile apps, giving people instant access to what’s happening when.
- Church apps often feature Bible reading schedules or daily verses.
- Many church apps give attendees a place to add praises or prayer requests.
- And, yes, apps can even help people give on the go, just in case the offering plate passed them by unprepared on Sunday morning.
Since apps can do just about anything short of flying you to the moon, there is really no limit to what churches can do with their church app. It just takes a tad of creativity and maybe a touch of cash.
Church App: Good or Evil?
There are always those who bemoan every new advance of technology into the sacrosanct realm of spiritual things. Perhaps they have good cause for complaint. Perhaps our culture is so drunk on the power of technology, that we’ve begun to rely on technology instead of God. Perhaps technology is nothing more than a Big Complicated Distraction from God. There is always the risk of technolatry.
Even for those who embrace the opening of new technological vistas in the church, there are some concerns. For example, what do you think of having an app, open to millions of app-happy consumers, seeing (and posting) on your prayer request page? Just password protect it for church-members-only, right? Maybe. But then you have the problem of the man who indiscreetly posted his “prayer request,” which included bit too much information about his ex-wife and the problems they had. Do you really want to hire another secretary to monitor all that? Speaking of which, we can’t neglect the money issue. An inexpensive app can be had for $500, but then there’s the monthly maintenance and hosting fee, which is around $35. This may not sound like a whole lot, but most churches aren’t known for their cash-flushed status.
Besides the security and privacy concerns, there are always the Luddites. Believe it or not, some people don’t own an iPhone, an iPad, or even a smartphone of any kind. (Yes, it’s true.) If the activity of church life is being decentralized from the pews to the cloud, it may leave some of the unprogressives behind.
To Infinity, and the App!
Despite possible downsides, the app trend is not going away. And that could be a good thing. Technology, like any area of life, can be redeemed, not resisted.
At present, fewer than 200 churches have embraced customized apps for their congregation. As expected, these churches are rather mega, and tend to favor the mainline or evangelical streams. More churches are jumping on board, however, as more and more attendees are walking around with smartphones in their pockets. It may not seem big right now, but wait a few years. How many churches had websites in 1990? Now, look at how far church websites have come.
What do you think? Does your church have an app? Plan on getting one? Or do you eschew apps as evil?