The Argument AGAINST Apps

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 6:50:00 AM Categories: Ministry & Technology
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Apps are all the rage.   Phrases like “Apps are the new website” and [of course] “There’s an app for that” are common in today’s culture.  The proliferation of mobile devices like smart phones, tablets and even phablets (those gigantic cell phones that are almost as big as an iPad mini) has created an onslaught of groups wanting to tap into the app universe.  But are apps the really right move for your church or organization? 

Churchteams, a church management software company (ChMS or CMS) has been in business since 2000.  They have always been a 100% online service provider and have consistently been on the cutting edge of software development for churches.  Yet they have chosen to stay away from Apps altogether. Why?

As I understand it, companies and organizations create apps for several reasons:

·     Customer Service Reason – It’s convenient for customers. It’s easy to click one button and be able to access your church’s entire database.

·     Marketing Reason – Apps help improve SEO (search engine optimization). Having a downloadable software piece on giant software distribution sites like iTunes, Amazon and the Android Marketplace lends credibility to a company’s own website, making it appear higher on search engine results pages.

·     Public Relations Reason – Having an app makes a company or organization appear more progressive and relevant than competitors who don’t have an app.

I’m sure there are other great reasons to have an app, but these three resonate with me. So when I asked Boyd Pelley, Churchteams co-founder and president, why they don't plan to build an app, I was surprised to become convinced by his reasoning.

Boyd gave three compelling reasons why an app might not be the right move for an organization:

·     Responsive Design Does What Apps Do – Responsive design is the term given to the ability of a website to appear correctly on any platform from a desktop PC to a small smart phone screen.  It’s easy to tell if a website doesn’t have responsive design.  Just view it from a smartphone and if the web page doesn’t fit your screen (i.e. the pictures are too big or the fonts too tiny), then it does not have responsive design.  Boyd told me that rather than spending money and development energy on a whole new software platform, they added responsive design to their product.  Since their product is used exclusively through web browsers, they just improved the product’s usability on screens of any size.  Since mobile devices already have the software necessary to utilize their product (web browsers), Boyd and his company saw no need to create a new software application for mobile platforms.

·     Responsive Design Doesn’t Require Constant App Updates – Mobile device operating systems are constantly being upgraded.  Which sometimes translates into the need for ugraded apps.  Since Churchteams doesn’t have an app, they don’t have to spend money and energy keeping it up to date with various mobile operating systems.

·     Saving A Link To Your Home Screen Is A Good App-Substitute – Boyd taught me a neat trick by showing me how to save a web URL to my phone’s home screen.  By saving our church’s Churchteams login link to my phone’s home screen I added a button that looks just like an app.  Boyd pointed out that this little trick is free to customers, but creating an app would translate into higher prices for customers.  I’m a fan of ease and affordability!  Click here for detailed instructions on creating your Churchteams "App" homescreen button.

What started out as a conversation where I wanted to persuade Boyd to create a Churchteams app, ended up with me changing my opinion entirely. 

So what does this have to do with you?  The goal of this article isn’t to say that apps are bad.  I have many apps on my mobile devices and I love them.  An app may indeed be exactly what your organization needs.  However, when your church or your organization begins thinking about creating an app, seriously consider the points for and against the need for an app.  You might end up saving a bunch of money.  In church that means more money for ministry.  In business that means savings for your customer and a better bottom line.

So give it a try with your own website.  Does your site have responsive design?  Would a home screen link to your site work as an adequate app-substitute?

Alan Danielson is the Senior Pastor of New Life Bible Church in Norman, Oklahoma. Previously he served as Central Team Leader for LifeGroups at LifeChurch.tv in Edmond, OK, where he led over a thousand small groups on LifeChurch’s thirteen campuses in six different states. He then founded 3Threat.net to help leaders master three essential leadership skills: vision-casting, creating strategy and fostering relationships. Alan is a popular conference speaker and consults regularly with ministries and leaders on topics relating to small groups and leadership. Learn more from Alan at 3Threat.net.