As smartphones grow in popularity, churches of all denominations are discovering a simple tool to bring their messages to people’s hands. Mobile apps are an easy and nonintrusive platform for spreading information quickly. People can download a church’s mobile app for free on their smartphones and watch video sermons, listen to podcasts or read worship blogs wherever they are. The result is that thousands of people around the globe can instantly connect to a church and its message.
Mobile apps have become so successful that they are now an integral part of thousands of churches’ outreach programs, says Chris Sharpe, marketing lead of Subsplash, a mobile-app company specializing in church-related apps. In 2009, Sharpe and a partner volunteered to build an app for Seattle-based nondenominational megachurch Mars Hill. It was one of the first apps of its kind. The results surpassed everyone’s expectations. Today, hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded the app and launched it more than 1 million times, Sharpe says.
Mars Hill’s lead development and technology director Seth Faxon says he quickly realized they had a game-changing tool on their hands. “It’s an interesting shift of what you can do as a church,” he said. “… Paul in his day had pen and paper and wrote letters to churches; now-a-days it’s technology.”
There are two main reasons why a worship-based mobile app is so successful, say church officials who use one. First, the app fits into a larger trend among worship communities to take their message to where the people are, Faxon explains. More and more, that means reaching people through their phones. “Mobile apps send a message that we speak the same language as people who use technology,” he says.
Second, mobile apps can be a natural extension of a church’s mission to reach as many people as possible, says Mathias Grehn, the pastor of Vision Church in Miami. “The worldwide reach [of mobile apps] is immense,” he believes. Grehn launched his church’s app in early 2011. It features weekly video sermons and a search tool that allows users to find sermons by theme or keyword, such as “hope” or ”love.”
Vision Church is not a megachurch, but the app has given Grehn an audience on that scale. About 150 people attend his service in person each Sunday, but Grehn says 10,000 people in