In an increasingly busy world, staying connected to a church community can be difficult.
Keeping track of church events such as Bible study meetings, potluck dinners and special guest speakers can be difficult. Finding people to pray with can be a challenge. Sometimes, it even can be impossible to get to Sunday services.
Luckily, there’s an app for that.
Technology has provided a new way for worshippers to express and live out their faith, while giving churches a more convenient way to reach a new digital age. Local churches have developed their own applications, taking advantage of the near total saturation of mobile devices to reach out to members and attract new people.
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With the swipe of a finger, people can see upcoming church activities, hear archived sermons or tune in to a live streaming broadcast of the entire worship service.
“A lot of people use their phones for everything communication wise,” said Johnette Cruz, communications director for Mount Pleasant Christian Church in the Center Grove area. “If you have something at your fingertips that’s user friendly, then that could give them everything they need to know about the church.”
Mobile devices have become as ingrained in society as the car or personal computer.
According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of adults in the U.S. have a smartphone, including 83 percent of people ages 18 to 29. Another 42 percent have a tablet computer.
In 2014, 60 percent of people used their phones to surf the Internet, while 50 percent downloaded apps.
That increase in activity has led to businesses and organizations to offer apps to help customers and users better use their products.
Grace Assembly of God in Whiteland provides details on services, videos and sermons, while also adding an entire digital Bible feature that lets users open every book and study.
Emmanuel Church in Greenwood provides a daily Bible verse for people to consider and recordings of the music used in past services.
“We wanted to find ways to take what we hear on the weekend and help our people continue to connect with it and think about it throughout the week,” said Jennifer Byers, director of operations and communications at Emmanuel Church. “The app was a great way to do that.”
GracePoint Church in New Whiteland released its app last year.
The church has been live-streaming its services for almost eight years and has developed channels on Roku, a streaming service, which lets people see worship services from anywhere in the world on a computer.
But more and more people were requesting for a better way to watch services on their mobile devices, said Stan Glover, associate pastor at GracePoint.
“Outreach — that’s what it’s all about for us,” he said. “It helps us get the word out about the church and about what the pastor believes in and speaks on.”
GracePoint contracted with Subsplash Consulting, which wrote and created the app. Church officials provide graphics and content, such as sermons, connections to live broadcasts and podcasts of their Ephesians Bible study sessions.
Then, the app is put together and offered in Apple’s app and Google Play stores.
“It’s aimed at everybody,” Glover said. “We’ve gotten about 600 who have downloaded the app. A lot of people use the message mP3 player when they walk or work out in the morning.”
Mount Pleasant Christian Church released its app in late February. People can place prayer requests, see calendar events from every ministry within the church and hear Pastor Chris Philbeck. People can tithe directly from their phone and sign up for church classes such as its Journey adult ministry and singles small group in a matter of seconds.
A portal to Mount Pleasant’s online campus takes users to streaming broadcasts of the church’s services.
“We are getting to a place where technology is a really big deal for churches, and we needed to take the next step so that we could keep interacting with other people, either when they’re away from church or to give them better access within the church,” Cruz said.
Working with BlueBridge Churches, a Web developer, Mount Pleasant officials looked at what other churches had done and the features that had worked best for them. BlueBridge took what the church thought worked best and put it together.
Church officials had to work with their own staff to ensure that content was always being updated and that users could get the information they needed. The calendar, in particular, has to be current in order to be the tool that the developers envisioned, Cruz said.
“There are so many things going on with different ministries that we want to make sure everyone knows not just what’s going on in their ministry, but what the rest of the church is doing,” she said.
Mount Pleasant Christian introduced the app to its congregation last March and helped explain what it could do for those already attending the church.
The app isn’t intended to replace participation in the church but will help enhance the way people connect to the community, Cruz said.
“If it’s something that’s really easy to find and easy to figure out, we can benefit the people who don’t know about our church as well as the people who do,” she said. “We also have people all over the world tuning in at 10:45 a.m. on Sundays for our services. This is just another way for someone who is not local to plug into Mount Pleasant and be involved.”