8 Ways to Leverage Smartphones in Church

In 2011, smartphones were almost a novelty. Just 35% of American adults had one. That number has more than doubled in the past six years, and more than 9 in 10 adults under 30 have a smartphone (via Pew Research). When someone is considering a new phone, the question is no longer “will I get a smartphone?” but “which smartphone will I get?”

Now that this device has become almost attached to us 24-7 (I’ll be the first to admit, I’m tethered to mine), how is the church adapting? Or better yet, how should the church adapt and engage the smartphone? Here are eight ways.

  1. Live streaming. When the TV became prevalent in the 1950s, churches began television ministries. Many of those still exist but for most churches they are cost prohibitive and provide little return on the investment required. However, live streaming for smartphones can be implemented at a fraction of the cost and often has a greater reach than television ministries.
  2. Social media. This is an obvious inclusion. The rise of social media coincided with the rise of the smartphone. They go together like peanut butter and jelly or spaghetti and maple syrup. If your church is not active on social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity to engage your members and guests.
  3. Mobile friendly website. There is no excuse for a church not to have a good, well designed website. Not only should a website contain pertinent information, it should display well on a phone. This is also something to consider when creating graphics. Small text gets even smaller on smartphone screens.
  4. Text giving. We recently held a video call about giving trends in the church with several hundred leaders across North America. Text giving was the topic that drew the most questions from the audience. It’s the giving trend churches are inquiring about most. As we get more comfortable paying with our phones through Apple Pay, Paypal, and other techniques, text giving will only increase in its use in the church.
  5. Email newsletters. While email is readily available on a computer, the fact that we’re virtually always connected to email via our smartphones means newsletters are more likely to be seen. The more they are seen and read, the better informed your congregation will be.
  6. Online or in-app sermon notes. The proliferation of Bible apps has led to a new type of engagement of the Word during a service. My pastor even states, “open or turn on your Bibles” each week when preparing to read from Scripture. My church also posts sermon notes online and in an app, as do many others. While I personally prefer paper note-taking, my 13-year old son types his notes into his Bible app. He stays engaged in the sermon because of his smartphone.
  7. Church management. App- or cloud-based church management software allows church staff to have information about church events, members, or details at their fingertips regardless of their location. As more and more staff members office in community spaces (coffee shops, restaurants, etc.), this helps them stay connected to needed tools via their smartphones while working off-site.
  8. Event scheduling and reminders. Digital calendars have all but replaced paper day planners. Setting reminders and adding calendar events via smartphone apps allow you to stay more up-to-date on church events and happenings.

Does your church use any of these already? How else does your church engage members and guests via smartphone?

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Jonathan Howe

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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