Catch the Current
The Bible Appreneur: An Interview with Bobby Gruenewald, Founder of YouVersion
Before it was launched, our goal for the Bible App was 80,000 users by the end of the year. Instead, we had 83,000 in the first three days. Once we saw it take off, we decided to invest a lot of energy into it.
It seems that you are always updating and improving the look, feel and variety of versions and studies at YouVersion. How are these changes and decisions made?
One of the most helpful aspects of the app is the access we have had to analytical tools. These tell us how many people have installed the app, how many times people open it, how long they're spending in God's Word, and which features they are using. This continues to help us improve the tool.
How many versions of the Bible do you offer at YouVersion?
When we first launched we had six versions on the website. The app started with sixteen. Today the app is available on nine mobile device platforms, with nearly 300 versions of the Bible in more than 140 languages. Our team fully supports 14 languages with emails, confirmations, etc. Korean is our second largest language. We plan to be in 30 languages by next year.
How many employees and workers does it take to run YouVersion?
We currently have about 20 full-time staff working on YouVersion. Most are developers. The site utilizes hundreds of active volunteers who put in ten to twenty hours a week on average in tech support and translation. All of those volunteers and many of our staff work remotely from coffee shops and home offices around the world.
What are some of the newest tools you have added?
Any additions or refinements we make are in an effort to help our community engage with Scripture. Lately, we've changed small things on several platforms to make it easier to interact with reading plans, bookmarks, etc. We also rolled out a new version of our website that brings the online experience closer to what people experience in the mobile app. And we're continuing to add new content for reading plans, including additions from Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, and Focus on the Family.
I don't see any ads on YouVersion. How is it funded?
This started as a part of LifeChurch.tv. The church funded it all through our budget until about a year and a half ago. We have now taken on some outside donors who believe in this effort. They are challenging us to take even bigger steps.
What do you do to direct and inspire your staff and teams at YouVersion?
As a leader, I try to get altitude in my perspective and help them catch it. Teams are much more effective when they are reaching towards inspiring goals and successfully accomplishing many smaller projects to reach those goals.
Where do you go from here?
The next milestone will be a half billion users and one billion minutes of usage every day. Currently we are at 1.7 billion minutes of use per month.
You obviously work with a lot of Millennials. What have you learned about them and about putting them to work effectively?
This generation loves big dreams, but they are tired of those that come up short. They need to see how to get there.
What is your primary passion in ministry?
I want to pursue leveraging technology to its fullest to advance the Gospel.
Robert Crosby is an author and Professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University. Read his interview with Bobby Gruenewald, the Founder of YouVersion.com (the Bible App) and related articles at Christianity Today—The New Engagers and The Social Network Gospel.
Robert Crosby is the author of the new book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press). Crosby's column, "Catch the Current," is published every other Tuesday on the Evangelical portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.