church communications technology

Church Mobile App Survey Reveals What Church Members Want in an App

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Up until now, there has been very little research available about how important church members and staff think mobile apps are and what features they would want in a mobile app for their church. So, a month ago OurChurch.Com launched The Ultimate Church Mobile App Survey.

I spent some time analyzing the results and came away with a number of key insights about church mobile apps, which I want to share.

1) I want it all

We asked people how important they thought 15 potential church app features were. The first thing that jumped out at me is that for 14 of the 15 features we asked about, extremely important (a 5/5 importance rating) was the most popular response. Even the least popular feature had 43% of people indicate its importance is a 4 or 5 out of 5. People also suggested 20 additional features we didn’t include in the survey.

Clearly people would like a lot of functionality from their church app. They want it to be able to do everything the church website can do and more.

2) Most popular features

To determine which features are considered most important, I combined the percentage of people who rated each as a 4 or 5 out of 5 in importance. The features are listed below from most popular to least popular. The top feature is different from the others, so I’ll reveal and discuss that next.

  1. News/announcements (89% important or very important, 60% very)
  2. Info about church (76% important or very important, 64% very)
  3. Alerts (75% important or very important, 52% very)
  4. Map to church (73% important or very important, 63% very)
  5. Evangelism tools (62% important or very important, 41% very)
  6. Facebook page (62% important or very important, 37% very)
  7. Sunday bulletin (60% important or very important, 36% very)
  8. Sermon notes (59% important or very important, 38% very)
  9. Social feature (57% important or very important, 38% very)
  10. Church blog (52% important or very important, 29% very)
  11. Twitter (52% important or very important, 26% very)
  12. Connection to YouVersion Live (48% important or very important, 27% very)
  13. Secure donation (43% important or very important, 30% very)
  14. YouTube (43% important or very important, 20% very)

Not surprising, giving people the ability to read news and announcements as well as being able to deliver alert notifications were two of the top 5.

What is surprising to me, though, is how important people seem to think general church info and a map is. I think for the most part church apps are used by members of churches to stay informed and communicate with their church. General info and a map are not needed by church members, so I don’t see much use for those things in a app. If you do, I’d love to hear your reasoning.

Beyond that, the popularity of other features seems in line with popularity in general. More churches have a Facebook page than a blog, and more have a blog than a YouTube channel, which explains their relative popularity.

3) The #1 Most Popular Feature is…

The church mobile app feature that ranked the highest in our server is the ability to pull info from church website rather than updated separately.

A whopping 65% of respondants rated that 5/5 in importance and another 17% gave it 4/5. Clearly church communication staff and volunteers are very busy and more than anything they don’t want to have to spend time ever week putting the same info into an app that they already put into the bulletin and the website and possibly email, Facebook, Twitter and more.

4) Apps Beat Mobile Web

Another thing we were curious to learn about is whether people consider mobile apps to be more or less important than a mobile version of their website. We asked “How important do you think a mobile app is for a church in comparison to having a mobile version of its website?”

58% said both are very important and useful. But of those who thought one was more important than the other apps beat the mobile web by 2 to 1 (20% to 10%). The preference for apps was even stronger – more than 4 to 1 – among respondants from larger churches. Which leads me to my next learning point…

5) The Great App Divide

With so many people rating so many church app features as very important or extremely important, we were curious to see how serious churches were about getting a mobile app and if they thought it was important enough to actually pay for.

At first glance, I was disappointed with the results.

  • Only 31% said their church is motivated or highly motivated to get an app
  • Only 18% would pay more than $500 for an app
  • Only 21% would pay more than $25/mo for an app

But when I looked below the surface and compared smaller churches (< 500 weekly attendance) with larger churches (> 500 weekly attendance) a noticed a big contrast.

While only 2% of respondants from smaller churches described their church as motivated or very motivated to get an app, 51% of respondants from larger churches described their church that way.

There are big gaps between what smaller and larger churches are willing to pay for an app as well. While only 5% of respondants from smaller churches said their church would pay over $500 for the development of an app, 48% from larger churches said their church would.  While only 8% of respondants from smaller churches said their church would pay over $25/mo for an app, 42% of respondants from larger churches said their church would.

Obviously, there are economies of scale here. Larger churches have more money to spend than smaller churches, and larger churches will be able to communicate with more people via their app than smaller churches. It was the biggest of the mega churches that were first to get their own app. And while more churches are getting mobile apps, it’s still primarily very large churches.

6) The Great App Divide Part II

The survey revealed one other reason why larger churches are more serious about getting a mobile app.  We asked, “What percentage of people in your church do you guess would use your church’s app if it had one?” 84% of respondants from larger churches thought at least 10% of their congregation would use an app. But only 49% of respondants from smaller churches thought an app would be used by 10% of their people.

Clearly, larger churches have higher percentage of smartphone users.

The survey was conducted between March 1, 2011 and March 30, 2011.  Results are based on 92 responses.  It was conducted online and not in a scientific manner, therefore results represent only those who participated.

What are your reactions to the survey’s findings?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.