Lots of church leaders have been talking about mobile for at least 8 years. It’s logical; everyone has an Internet-connected device in their pocket now. Even my 90-year-old grandma has an Android phone (a JitterBug).
Most advice you see is about what features you need in your church’s mobile app or how to build a responsive website or the best tools for mobile giving. It can be tough to make sense of it all, especially if you’re trying to figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be.
Based on my experience putting the Bible app in millions of pockets, I believe there are 4 basic stages you must go through to build a killer mobile ministry strategy.
Remember, these are stages, not principles. Start with #1 and conquer it before you worry about #2. Don’t even think about #3 until #1 and #2 are handled. And only then can you build a platform to accomplish #4, but that’s where we should all aspire to be.
Now that you’re thoroughly confused, let’s jump into the stages.
Stage One: A Mobile Responsive Website
Before you think about any other aspect of reaching people on their mobile device, you absolutely must ensure that your website is mobile responsive. That means your website should “look right” on every size device, not only desktops and laptops.
Stage one is fairly simple and straight forward. If you don’t have a large budget for a web designer, don’t worry. Squarespace has some great themes to start with and I’m a huge fan of Weebly.
Here are some simple rules to follow for your mobile website: (1) every page should have locations and times for worship, (2) navigation should be tucked into a collapsible menu, (3) make sure videos are not flash, and (4) there’s not enough room for every ministry to be highlighted so only highlight the necessities.
Stage Two: Engaging on Social Media
Once your website is responsive, the next project you should focus on is engaging your church and community on social media. But “social media” is a broad concept. Let’s narrow that down.
Choose one or two of the following social handles and spend all your time there. Don’t even approach the others.
- Facebook: Create a page for your church and use it to interact with people. Don’t just broadcast. Start a conversation or jump into one that’s already happening.
- Instagram: Create an account for your church and do two things, make pretty pictures that are relevant to your ministry and comment on other people’s pictures.
- Snapchat: Create an account for your church and post stories that help people connect with Jesus.
- Twitter: Create an account for your church and use it to broadcast about Jesus and engage in conversations.
Use each channel as a “church news broadcaster” very sparingly. No one wants their social feed stuffed with church announcements…not even the pastor.
Finally, while your official church accounts will garner some interaction, people on social media prefer to interact with humans over brands. The most successful churches on social media have actively social pastoral staff who engage in conversation and follow-back. (Pastor, don’t be distant on social. Follow your people when they follow you.)
Stage Three: A Mobile App for Tighter Engagement
Building a mobile app is the project-du-jour for churches wanting to engage their church on mobile. I’ll write about goals and understanding mobile audiences in a deeper post another time. Today, let’s just focus on features and distribution.
You’ll need a handful of features to start. Watching sermons, giving, reading the church blog, following a Bible reading plan…these are standard features. The Church App or any other app builder can cover these features.
A good church app will let parents check in their kids, allow members to connect with a pastor or group leader for pastoral care, let people register for events, and let volunteers manage their schedule.
Notice that these are management tools. They let people have more control over how they interact with church life. You could think of these types of features as “church productivity” and mobile apps are strong in that category.
But the final stage takes mobile engagement to the next level: mobile discipleship.
Stage Four: Mobile Discipleship
Every church’s mission statement is a variation of the Great Commission: to make disciples. Your mobile strategy should help you accomplish that mission.
Making disciples is about helping people take next steps in their faith. When someone decides to follow Jesus, we help them become a disciple by walking through the basics of belief, Bible reading, church involvement, etc. These are next steps.
80% of church life is about next steps. When someone decides to volunteer, that is a discipleship-decision that should trigger a next step. The same goes for decisions like following Jesus, becoming a member, getting baptized, starting to tithe, becoming a mentor, joining a small group, becoming a group leader, and so many more.
Being great at making disciples means making it easy for people who have made discipleship-decisions to take next steps. A mobile app that’s designed to help people (1) understand their decision, (2) learn how to act on their decision, and (3) give them clear next-actions will be the “killer app” for your church.
The unicorn stage is reserved for churches who have realized that just giving people next steps isn’t enough. Too many people slip through the cracks without someone coming alongside them to help them actually take those next steps.
Unicorn churches are great at hand-holding in those moments right after someone makes an important decision. You should aim to be the type of church that helps people take next steps in their faith.
(TrainedUp was built to help church leaders be more closely engaged with those people.)