How to create a church app

October 5, 2020

Many pastors don’t know why they need a mobile app, yet alone how to create a church app! The fact is that mobile apps of all kinds are designed to improve our lives with convenience and delight. Messaging apps allow us to communicate instantly with friends and family. Mapping apps guide us to where we want to go. Banking apps, health apps, entertainment apps, food delivery apps—all of these mobile tools have a unique and important purpose! 

What about church mobile app? Custom church apps can have a positive impact on your church community by engaging them wherever they are. The average American spends about 5 hours using their mobile devices every day! Using a church app platform, you can create a custom app that puts your content—sermons, devotionals, blog posts, events, podcasts, and more—conveniently into their hands. 

Church apps are powerful tools for church engagement. Over 14,000 churches and organizations use Subsplash as their mobile app provider, and here are just a few of the results they see on our platform:

  • Reaching more people—On average, five times more people use a church’s app than attend the church’s worship services in person.
  • More donations—Most churches see an increase of 7–10% after switching to Subsplash Giving in their mobile app. 
  • More engagement—The average Subsplash app gets over 10,000 app views per month.

Church apps are excellent tools to grow and reach your community. As Pastor Matt Chandler from The Village Church in Flower Mound, TX explained, the role of a church’s mobile app is important because it provides “one more medium to extend our messages about the gospel out to the world.” 

Let’s walk through how to develop a church app.

Choosing a church app builder

The first step in building your church app is selecting a church app builder. Church app builders allow you to create a mobile app with features to help you connect with your church community. 

A quick online search will reveal many different types of church app builders. Some companies offer “free” church apps in order to attract churches to their other services. But how do these free apps compare to paid apps? 

Paid apps vs. free apps

Free apps have limited features—Most free apps are known for skimping on important features such as push notifications or in-app Bibles. We’ll take a deeper look at the most essential church app features later.

Free apps are not available by themselves in the app stores—Most churches expect that their app will be available in the app stores as a standalone app. However, free apps are normally part of a container app—essentially an app within an app. This means your users will have to download the container app and then find your app inside of it, which is tedious and bad for engagement. 

Free apps are meant to serve the church app builder, not you—Free apps are built to promote what is important to the church app builder, not your church. For example, if you get a free app from an online giving provider, your app will be focused on giving. The other features are often non-existent, extremely limited, or must be paid for. 

How to identify the best church app builder

The best church app builder will supply you with top-notch features, world-class support, and an integration with a robust engagement platform. This means your app will seamlessly integrate with other engagement tools such as online giving, a church website, media storage and delivery, live streaming, and in-app messaging. 

Learn more about how to choose the best church app builder

How to build an effective church app

You want to create a custom-branded church app that effectively engages your community. Every time someone opens your app, its content should be so engaging that it draws them back over and over again. Let’s look at some key ingredients you can use to make your new church app a success. 

Include the highest quality app features

Choosing a builder with best-in-class app features is the first step to ensuring your mobile app serves as an effective tool for engaging your church community. Let’s take a look at a few examples. 

Video players—Most church app providers offer a basic video player that is nothing more than an embedded YouTube player. When users watch your videos on these platforms, they might be presented with ads or suggested videos that are less than delightful. Not to mention that sometimes YouTube will remove or block a church’s video. This can occur for many reasons—like if someone complains about the content or if it contains copyrighted music—and often without warning.

The best church app builders, like Subsplash, offer media storage and delivery through a custom video player. They have no ads or suggested videos, and your church maintains complete control over your video content. 

Audio players—People love to listen to sermons and other church audio. Most users expect to be able to continue to listen to church app audio even when they open other apps on their phones. 

However, like apps that rely on YouTube content, most church apps stop playing audio or video once you leave the app or lock your phone screen. Make sure to select a church app provider with audio that keeps playing in the background while you do other things on your mobile device or have your phone screen turned off.

Live streaming—People will love connecting with your church in real time through in-app live streaming. The best church app platforms offer a live streaming solution that broadcasts to your mobile app, website, Facebook Live, and YouTube at the same time. 

Instant messaging—A major source of frustration for many churches is trying to manage the many different messaging services and software that people use to stay connected with each other. It’s much easier when church communication is centralized inside your app! For example, Subsplash Messaging keeps your audience together within your mobile app so they can build meaningful relationships. 

Whether they’re sharing a prayer request or coordinating a Bible study group, they can simply message each other directly. In-app messaging offers effortless communication while keeping your content at the forefront of community engagement.

Other customized app features include blogs, notes, bulletins, Bibles, event calendars, and much more. Discover more about the 15 best church app features to include when you build an app for your church. 

Use your church’s branding

While church websites are mainly designed to introduce them to visitors, custom church apps are most commonly used to engage church members. You can make your church’s app look and feel like it belongs to your community by customizing it with your church’s branding. 

Here are some of your church’s basic branding elements to include:

  • Your name and logo
  • Any designs and graphics your church has created
  • Taglines and belief statements
  • Your sermons, videos, and other multimedia
  • Your sermon notes and Bible reading plans

Your church app users will want to feel like they’re engaging with your church, not a generic out-of-the-box church app. Taking the time to make your church app look and feel like your church will help people feel at home and want to use your app over and over again.

Include in-app giving

One of the most useful church app features is in-app giving. People love the convenience of being able to tithe from anywhere and any time through their church’s giving app feature. In fact, more people would prefer to donate to their church online with a card than use cash or checks. Plus, offering a mobile giving solution will bring people back to your app every week and increase their engagement. 

The best online giving for churches will include mobile app giving with text-to-give. Learn more about the benefits of online and mobile giving.

Reach the broadest audience possible

After you build it, your church’s app will have some wonderful content and resources to share with the world. Here are a couple of ways you can reach more people with your app:

Make your app iOS and Android compatible

Believe it or not, some church app providers offer apps that are only compatible with Android, while others only support Apple apps. However, expert data shows that Apple accounts for 59% of mobile users while Android accounts for 41%. This means using an app compatible with only one operating system will automatically cut your app’s reach roughly in half. 

Put your app in the app stores

One of the first places that people search for an app is in the app stores. Be sure that your app provider allows your church app on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. You’ll want to include screenshots of your app and list the benefits that users can expect from downloading it as well. 

It’s important to note that both Google and Apple have different requirements in order to upload your app onto their stores. For example, Apple’s requirements include registering your church with a D-U-N-S number, confirmation of its legal entity status, a church website, and a person with the legal authority to represent your church. 

It’s invaluable to have someone to assist your church with this process. Subsplash offers a dedicated Client Success Manager and onboarding team for your church. They’ll walk with you through each step of the enrollment processes and ensure that your app will pass the app store requirements. 

Share, share, and share some more!

Once your church’s mobile app is live, make sure to share it through all of your communication channels, including:

  • Social media—Share on your church’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Encourage your church members to share the app on their social media too. 
  • Website—Be sure to include a call to action and a link to your app on your website.
  • Newsletters and emails—Sending an email or newsletter? Make sure to introduce your church app and provide them with your app’s download link. Then add a prominent download link to all subsequent emails to help drive adoption.

How to drive app adoption

Along with promoting your app as mentioned above, your church app builder should provide you with resources to help increase the adoption of your app within your church. For example, Subsplash provides their users with customized app resources such as presentation slides, printable color handouts, banner images for your website, and social media graphics. 

Here are five ways you can encourage people to use your app on a daily basis:

  1. Keep your app content up to date. Your ministry can meet the immediate needs of your community by keeping your video, audio, blogs, and calendars updated with the latest information. 
  2. Reminders from the pulpit. Remind people about the benefits of using your app during your church announcements
  3. Remind people to give through the app. With your in-app giving feature, you should regularly remind everyone that they can tithe right through the app!
  4. Ask for feedback. Send out surveys and make sure to include a feedback button on your app to hear what people are saying. You will find many valuable insights into what expectations your church app is meeting as well as what can be improved.
  5. Offer in-person help to download, install, and use the app. Sometimes having a group of volunteers available to personally help people install and use the app can make a big difference. 

Unfortunately, most church app builders leave you on your own to build and increase adoption for your church’s app. Subsplash, however, provides you with a dedicated Client Success Manager to make sure your app is a success. This includes regular checkups to review your app’s performance, provide you with expert engagement strategies, and ensure that your app is providing effective results.

Building an amazing mobile app for your church should be simple. Subsplash is the only church app builder that is dedicated to your success by offering the best-in-class church app features in an easy to manage system, along with world-class support and resources.

Connect with one of our ministry consultants today to discover for yourself why over 14,000 churches and ministries have chosen Subsplash to help them grow and engage their church communities. 

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