You’ve likely heard from many sources that you absolutely need a custom church app, but do you really? The truth might surprise you.
Typically, you’ll hear that custom apps are a must-have from app development companies or marketing services. With so many people keeping their mobile device within inches of their hands at all times, it’s reasonable to believe mobile apps are necessary for church growth.
Believe it or not, you may not need your own church app at all. For many churches, it just doesn’t make sense.
People Already Have Too Many Apps
Take a look at your smartphone and see how many apps you have. This doesn’t include stock apps that come with your device. You likely have email, social media, Christian-related, games, e-reader, weather and other apps.
While the average user uses 25 apps per month or less, 77% of that time was spent just on their three top apps. This means a custom church app isn’t like to make the top app list for most users.
Another study found that users may have up to 80 apps on their devices. It also found that 61% of users don’t want yet another app to communicate specifically with a brand, including churches.
You could spend thousands to create and maintain an app, but it will likely just get lost amidst your members’ other apps. If they use it, it may only be once or twice a month at most. This isn’t worth the investment.
Plus, there is a good chance they won’t even download it. They already have apps that help them to connect with other church members. Unless your church app offers something incredibly innovative, people won’t see it as worthy of downloading when their phones are full of apps already.
It’s Just A Copy Of Your Website
What’s the purpose of your custom church app? Is it just a mobile version of your church website? If so, skip the app completely.
People can simply bookmark your church’s site and check out anything they need to directly on your site. The point of an app is to offer something different. It’s fine to offer some overlap, but a copy of your site won’t interest people enough to download it.
Remember, apps take up space, want to push notifications and they’re something users have to keep updating. A website means one less thing they need to download and maintain on their own device.
It’s Only A Way To Accept Online Tithes
One of the top reasons to have your own church app is to accept online tithes. While an app is a convenient way to do this, you can do the same thing through your website.
Start by ensuring your website has a Giving page to guide members and site visitors on the various ways to give. Ensure you offer a secure online option. Offer a way for givers to log in to save settings and payment details for recurring payments.
Instead of creating your very own app for the sole purpose of tithing, go with a giving app instead. They cost less, are easier to maintain and still make it easy for everyone to give. These apps also offer options such as app giving, text giving and even in-church kiosks.
Apps and online giving providers can also integrate into your church website. No matter what alternative option you choose, they make having a custom church app pointless if it’s mainly for tithing.
A Mobile Website Works Better
At first thought, you’d think people would prefer an app over a website. However, mobile websites look just as good on a phone as an app. The truth is smartphone users are over two times more likely to opt for a mobile-friendly website over an app.
Once again, it’s all about convenience. For them, there’s nothing to download or maintain. They already have a browser app.
Also, your entire audience isn’t mobile. While smartphone usage has trumped desktop usage, especially in terms of search, many of your members still use desktops. Most people don’t use mobile apps on their desktops. They prefer a website.
If you develop a custom church website that’s responsive, it’ll look great no matter what device a person uses. This allows your church to reach a much wider audience with a lower investment.
It’s important to remember that you should only develop a single website. While some churches and brands do create a desktop and a mobile website, it’s much more efficient to have just one site. This means less maintenance for you, no chance of someone accidentally visiting the wrong version and lower costs.
Your Members May Not Be Interested
No matter how excited you might be about having a custom church app, your members might not care. Long before you hire a company to develop your app, check with your members.
If you have a mainly older church family, you may find many of them don’t really use apps at all. They may have a basic smartphone or even just a flip-phone with no data plan at all. This would mean the majority of people using your app wouldn’t be your members. And then, they’d have to discover it via your website or their favorite app store (more on that in a moment).
Take a poll to see what interest there might be. Also, ask about what features your app would need to make it one of their top used apps.
Since you’re creating an app to stay more connected to your members, make sure they want to connect that way. If members say they’re not interested, ask them why. It’s possible making a few tweaks to your website is enough to make an app unnecessary.
Facebook Is Great For Groups
Many churches opt for apps to cater to various ministries. While this is a good idea in theory, there’s a completely free way to do this. Facebook is free for your church and your members. Many of them are probably already on the platform.
Instead of investing in apps, set up different Facebook groups for each ministry. Assign a volunteer to help moderate each group. To keep spam out, make the groups private. Then, users can just download the Facebook app, which is something they already have.
With a single app, members keep up with your church, their ministry group and their friends and family. This would make Facebook a much higher priority app than a church app.
If you have tight budget or you’re a smaller church, free is always a great option. Try out Facebook groups first. If your members start requesting an app, then you may want to start considering a custom church app.
It’s Something Extra To Maintain
One of the top reasons churches don’t have their own website is because it’s so time-consuming to maintain. Keep one thing in mind – a mobile app is something extra to maintain.
If you’re thinking of going with an app over a website, you’ll have approximately the same amount of work to maintain the app. You still have to keep it updated with fresh content. You’ll need to ensure it’s compatible with new operating systems and devices that are released.
You still need to market the app to ensure people can even find it. As you can see, you won’t save any time by going with an app over a website.
If you’re want to do both, you’re looking at twice the workload. Odds are, you probably don’t want to invest that much time.
Custom Apps Aren’t Cheap
Other churches have custom apps, so they can’t cost that much, right? Wrong! Custom church apps are insanely expensive. This is mainly because of creating the app’s features, prepping different versions for various app stores, ensuring compatibility with different platforms/devices and keeping it up to date.
Depending on the type of app, you’ll spend anywhere from $10,000 to $500,000. A basic offline app is the lower end of the price range and you’ll usually need to hire an offshore developer.
If you want an app with some online aspects and socializing, expect to pay between $10,000 and $80,000. For more advanced on-demand and social networking style apps, costs start at around $40,000 and rise to prices pushing $800,000.
Your church probably doesn’t have tens or hundreds of thousands to invest in a custom app that may or may not even be used. Of course, you also have to remember that you probably won’t be working with a company that deals mainly with churches. So, the app might not even be what your church needs.
Apps Aren’t As Easy To Find As Websites
You go to Google or your favorite search engine, enter a keyword and find the right site. This is how people also find your church website. They may look for a specific topic, a location, a type of denomination or any other criteria.
The point is people are constantly using search engines to find what they need. How often do you hear someone say “I’ll find my new church in the App Store or Google Play Store”? You don’t.
This is because people typically use a search engine. If they are searching for a mobile app, they’re going to see the ones who are most popular and highly rated first. So, larger churches that have marketed their apps and invested hundreds of thousands are likely to show before yours.
Unless someone knows the exact name of your app, the odds of someone finding it organically are slim to none. The odds of someone finding your church website are much higher since every page on your site is a new chance to be found.
Template Apps Are Fine To Use
After hearing how much custom church apps cost, you’re probably wondering how so many churches can afford them. The keyword is “custom.” This means the app is made completely from scratch.
Most church apps are built from templates. These are significantly cheaper. Think of local weather and news apps. Many of them look eerily similar. This is because a local station doesn’t have the budget for a costly custom app so they opt for templates.
Template apps allow you to connect with members, provide podcasts and sermons, list the latest blog content, show a calendar of events, accept online tithes and much more. The only downside is it’ll look much like every other church app that’s not custom made.
Of course, there is one other issue – Apple doesn’t really like apps made from templates. It’s kind of silly, but Apple sees them as low quality or scams. Sadly, many church apps in the App Store were scams, which is part of the reason for banning template apps. For non-profits with little to no budget, these aren’t low quality. They’re affordable ways to reach a bigger audience.
There are ways around Apple’s ban on template-based apps. Working with reputable template app companies will ensure your app passes Apple’s rules.
Notifications Aren’t A Priority
Every app seems to want to send you notifications. A custom church app would want to do the same thing in order to remind users to keep using the app.
The only issue is people turn off push notifications for most apps. They may even turn them off on their most-used apps, such as social media. Otherwise, they only keep notifications on for their favorite or most important apps, such as weather or email.
Too many notifications keep a person’s device constantly making noise or vibrating. This runs down the battery quickly. If they’re not receiving notifications, will they remember your app?
Users May Never Come Back
Finally, a custom church app might seem like a good idea until you realize people downloaded it, used it once and never interacted with it again. This actually holds true for template apps too.
If you’re not constantly offering new content and reasons to return, it’ll be a forgotten app that eventually gets discarded. This means you’ll invest money and time into something users rarely if ever use. With websites being more effective, it makes sense to put the time and money into your site instead.
Are you ready to opt for a church website over an app? We’ve got you covered. Contact us today to learn more about how we help create custom church websites to engage your members and reach a wider audience.