Think your parish doesn’t need an app? Think again

The digital world is changing – and fast:

For a while now, tech pundits have talked about mobile as the future of computing.  Many non-tech-pundits have responded with skepticism.  Sure, there are a lot of people with iPhones.  But the best web browsing experience is with a desktop computer, right?  And besides, why should we spend so much time developing a mobile-friendly website when maintaining our desktop-friendly one already takes more time away from “real ministry” than it should?

Well, a recent Business Insider conference sought to put an end to those questions.  We aren’t just heading into a computing world dominated by mobile devices – it’s already here…

…The number of smartphones being sold has already exceeded the number of PC’s being sold.   That means there are more people with a smartphone than with a computer.  Plus, in 2-3 years the number of tablet sales should exceed PC sales. … And that’s just the beginning.

In just a few years, the number of smartphone sales is set to explode.  This is so much so that Ken Dulaney recently said “Maslow’s needs hierarchy ought to be changed to breathing, food, water and phones”.  (see cached post here)  That’s quite a statement – but considering that in 2010 the United Nations revealed India has more cell phones than toilets, it may not be far off the mark.

So the question is, how does your church address this growing phenomenon?  Do you look at web-technology as a “ministry”?  If not, perhaps you should.  Len Sweet’s recent book, Viral, reveals how the Googler generation (digital natives, or those born AG-After Google!) is poised to revitalize the Church.

Whether you call it evangelism, ministry, or something else entirely, a big part of doing Church is communications.  Communications is becoming more and more important in the secular world, and there’s no reason why the Church should not be a leader in this arena.

This is why we need to rethink website ministries.  The old model was “it doesn’t matter how good your technical staff is – just get a website up.  Something is better than nothing.”  Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold much water with digital natives.  Churches that are growing know that you need a culture of excellence.  We are doing God’s work and our efforts should show that.  Nothing could be further from the truth than with website ministries.

If we are to reach a new generation of people and bring them into the story of God, we must constantly be working to improve our story-telling techniques – and that means knowing what the trends say about how people communicate and will communicate in the future.  If mobile is the future (err, make that the present) – then our ministries should reflect that.

There’s more, including links and graphs here.


  1. yesterday at mass, I amused myself thinking how handy it would be to have a liturgy app — I still occasionally forget to say “and with your spirit”, etc. The church does have up-to-date missalettes, but I put them down from time to time during mass and can’t find my place.

    just kidding, though. I don’t think I would benefit having my face looking down into a glowing screen throughout mass. In fact, I get a feeling of liberation when I turn off my phone as I enter the church (or leave it tied up at home).

    However, I have just recently started praying the liturgy of the hours, and I do so using my iPad.

  2. The best app for a local church would be times.

    Times for masses, confession, and Holy Days of Obligation activities. You have to call the local parish to find out this information as it constantly changes.

    Plus, a donation button. What a simple way to add to the church fund if someone could not make it on Sunday.

  3. I agree that an app for times for Mass, confession, etc., would be the most useful. The one time I ever wished I had a smartphone — or had at least remembered to charge my old flip phone — was on a certain Sunday when my little boy and I had started out too late for our usual 10:30 Mass. I told him we were going to try to find an 11:00 a.m. Mass in our area. We have about a million Catholic churches around, but I didn’t know all the schedules, so I drove to a couple of the churches to see what the schedule was. We finally ended up at an 11:30 Mass. In retrospect, I should have just gone home, and resigned myself to going to the noon Mass, but I was sure I’d find an earlier one. My son, who is six, still talks about “the time Mommy and I drove around to lots of churches.” That said, I sat behind someone a couple of weeks ago who was avidly checking email on a smartphone just before Mass started, and it was distracting. However, it was not as bad as the time I sat behind a father with two children who were alternately playing with, and fighting over, a handheld computer game. The father grabbed it and turned it off seconds before the Consecration, and the kids went crazy. And they were in the second pew. Sigh.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    But the chances are very high that any app your parish makes, or that any individual makes, will be rejected by the Apple folks. It’s not like a webpage, where you just have to make it. It’s more like an article submitted to a magazine — most of them get rejected. But you can submit an article to other magazines, whereas there’s only one or two places to submit an app. If it’s rejected, you’ve wasted time and energy on nothing.

    The advantage to a parish app is that, since parishes have bulletins and webpages, you can at least advertise your app’s existence somewhere other than the store. (Because most apps will never be seen by anyone who doesn’t already know about them.)

  5. I have both iMissal and Divine Office apps on my Android phone, and love them – but not for use in church :-)

    Our parish has a new website that presents in mobile mode for smartphone callers or standard mode for others. Schedules – bulletins – contact numbers are all there.

    Praise the Lord for the wonders of technology!

    God bless.

  6. There is a Mass Times app, which I have on my iPhone, that will find masses based on your current location. It also has the daily readings.

    A local parish will likely not have to develop its own app. In my segment of the non-profit industry, there is a developer who does apps just for that segment. We contracted with them and had our “own” app up and running and available on the appstore within a month of signing the contract. I’m sure somebody will be doing the same thing for parishes..

  7. Catherine says:

    sjay, thank you for mentioning the Masstimes app. I travel a fair amount, and am a big user of the webpage. I have used it in international locations, as well as in the US. If I decided to graduate to a smartphone, that will be the first app I look for!

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