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Church Engagement: How to Use Mobile to Connect with Millennials

History often hinges on moments. Think about the split second that Lee Harvey Oswald took in shooting President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. If Oswald flinched—even a little bit—he would have missed Kennedy and the second half of twentieth-century America might have turned out very different.

Moments matter.

In fact, the future of your church hinges on moments—maybe hundreds of them every day. Often, they are the tiny moments you would never expect and largely never find out about.

  • God impresses upon a single mom down the street to get her children involved in church—children who will one day become key leaders in your congregation.
  • God gives a church member an idea for a new ministry that could one day transform the neighborhood.
  • God urges a believer to dig deeper into His Word. He then becomes a passionate Bible teacher for years to come.

Is your church ready for those history-changing moments.

Thanks to the proliferation of mobile technology, you’ve never had more of an opportunity to capitalize on them. A 2015 Pew study said two out of three Americans own a smartphone. Church members and people from your surrounding community can instantly connect with you—whether they’re out on the town, watching a ball game, or enjoying vacation.

A growing number of people expect they can meet needs—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual ones—wherever they are. They need a ride somewhere, they open Uber. They need a bite to eat, they open Yelp. They need to hear from God, they open up their Bible app. These “mobile moments” occur anytime someone opens up their mobile device with the expectation they can get what they want immediately. Google estimates that the global community checks its smartphone 100 billion times every single day. That’s 100 billion potential mobile moments worldwide.

Businesses have caught on to this trend. The competition to capture those 100 billion fleeting moments is fierce to say the least. By 2019, U.S. mobile ad buys are expected to top $65 billion. Ted Shadler writes to business leaders in The Mobile Mind Shift, “If a customer wants information or service in a mobile moment, that is your moment to shine. Be there, and your customers will come to depend on you, deepening their loyalty and providing valuable information that your company can use to further improve the relationship.”

Pastor, mobile moments can be your church’s time to shine, too. Our mobile moments don’t lead to an expanding bottom line. They lead to souls saved, lives transformed, and communities made whole.

How do you build a mobile strategy that seizes the moments that matter?

  • You need an app. You may already have a website. Maybe it’s responsive. But that’s simply not enough anymore. When we’re on our phones, we spend 90 percent of our time in mobile apps, according to the Flurry Analytics Blog. You can’t stay connected to the mobile world of those you serve by simply having a mobile web presence. It’s not how the largest portion of your congregation and your community is using their mobile phones.
    There’s still a place for a full-featured mobile responsive website in your communications strategy. Generally, visitors will check out your website first before coming to your church. But your digital strategy should then move guests to your mobile app.  
  • Keep your app simple. When a mobile moment happens, your app must be prepared to deliver in two to three taps at the most. User experience matters more than anything else. If users can’t get what they want from your app quickly and easily, they’ll delete it. Most will never try it again.
  • Make the mobile conversation a part of all you do. The question, “What does that look like in mobile?” must become the standard in every strategic discussion in your church. When you launch a new ministry, discuss how mobile technology can support the ministry. Planning a fall campaign? Ask, “How do we help people plug into it on a mobile device?” Have a plan to reach a new nearby housing development? Ask, “How can mobile technology help?”
    A mobile-first strategy means that mobile isn’t simply an add-on to your church’s communication plans. It means you literally look to mobile first to solve any communications issues you might have.
  • Lead with mobile giving. You’ll use your app to engage with your congregation on a variety of levels—help them find a small group, watch a worship service, or sign up for your next retreat. Nothing will drive home the mobile experience quite like giving though. Your congregation is already familiar with making financial transactions on their devices. They buy flowers, movie tickets, and books on them already. Make the process of giving smooth and easy, and they’ll come back for the other aspects of your ministry.
  • Find a good partner. Too often church leaders believe that to properly pursue technology, a church has to be large and have lots of resources at their disposal. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You don’t need to hire your own mobile developers to properly execute a mobile strategy. Most of the largest churches in North America partner with other organizations to execute a mobile strategy. Mobile strategy and mobile development will continue to change at a rapid clip. Look for a partner who can help you ride the waves of the future. You want a partner with an army of developers to help your church embrace whatever is around the corner in mobile technology.

The church has a long history of embracing technology to spread the gospel. Paul used the newly-founded Roman Road system on his New Testament missionary journeys. The Reformers used the printing press to distribute Scripture. Billy Graham used television to get his message out further.

Our generation’s challenge is to seize the mobile moments that God has given us to further His gospel to the ends of the earth. Are we ready?

 

Mobile Giving Done Right

Jayson D. Bradley is a writer and pastor in Bellingham, WA. He’s a regular contributor to Relevant Magazine, and his blog JaysonDBradley.com has been voted one of the 25 Christian blogs you should be reading.

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