If you’re like most small church leaders, you’ve probably heard about church apps but never thought seriously about investing in one (either with your budget or your time). I get it. It’s just another thing on a long list of never-ending to-dos.
But what if I told you a church app could help increase engagement, community, discipleship, and giving? I see your skeptical eye. And I raise you just one more question: What if I also told you that you could get a church app absolutely free and set it up in just a couple of hours?
At Faithlife, we are constantly building so many new and awesome things that we can barely keep up with telling you about all of them. But, you guessed it: along with our free online community with built-in free newsletters, digital bulletins, event calendars, unlimited subgroups, messaging, video chat, and more, you also get a free church app, which means your church can stay connected to your community anytime, anywhere.
But here’s the really important thing to know about church apps: you have to build them and use them correctly to reap the benefits. In this article, I’m going to walk you through how to build your church app, launch it, and fully integrate it into the life of your church. I promise if you take the time to do this well, you will reap the rewards.
About the Faithlife church app
We do not currently build bespoke apps customized for each church. Rather, we have one app called the Faithlife app, and in that app, users can follow various groups, including your church. Members of your church will need to designate your church as the church they want to see in the Church tab, which will then prioritize your church in the church tab, sermons tab, and feed. We’ll cover more about onboarding your church below.
There are pros and cons to having a consolidated app like this, and ultimately your church will need to decide what’s best for your community. But for a free church app, you’re getting a lot of amazing bells and whistles right out of the box that will suit the needs of most single-site churches quite well.
Building your church app
To start building your church app with Faithlife, simply create or log in to your church group, then click on the Mobile App tab in the Admin panel. This will open to an accordion panel with some basic instructions. Scroll down to the section called “Church Tab Settings” and choose “Display custom content.”
From there you can customize the look and feel of your app, including adding background photos to each section (we have many built-in photos to choose from), changing the section height and style, adding or removing icons, and more. Play around with it a bit until you have the look and feel you like best.
💡 Pro Tip: Download the Faithlife app and keep the church tab open as you make changes so you can see the results in real time.
You’ll see we’ve included many preset options that will take you to built out sections of our platform (like Sermons, Newsletters, the Faithlife Study Bible, and more). However, you may want to include another section that isn’t on the list of presets. All you need to do is choose the “Link” option and provide an external link where users will be sent when they click on that section of your app.
💡 Pro Tip: Make sure you’re sending people to mobile responsive pages. If you don’t have a mobile responsive website, you can easily build one with Faithlife Sites.
Some examples of sections you may want to add in include:
• I’m New
• What We Believe
• Visit Us
• Small Groups
• Kids’ Ministry
• Get Connected
• Membership Classes
• Facebook Group
• Supper Club
• And more . . .
Really, you can add whatever you want as long as you have a link to send them to, but you should probably limit it to a top eight or ten items or so, as any more than that might feel overwhelming.
The app is simple to edit and update as needed. If you have upcoming events like Thanksgiving, Advent, or Christmas services that you’d like to emphasize, simply spin up a landing page on your website (quick to do with Faithlife Sites) where visitors can learn more. Then, in your app, you could add a special panel for that landing page link. Same applies to things like Easter, VBS, and more.
And that’s it! Congrats, you have a church app.
Launching your church app
But as I mentioned earlier, simply having the technology doesn’t matter—you have to know how to use it and properly integrate it into the life of your church to impact lasting positive change. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.
Internal staff alignment
Before you ever roll out new technology to your congregation, it’s essential to get your internal staff aligned and on board first. Anyone in an official role with the church, whether paid or volunteer, should have the app downloaded, know how to use it, be aligned around talking points, and be prepared to answer questions.
So take some time with your team to make sure everyone is on board and knows what to do or say if they’re asked questions at the congregational rollout. Make sure they’ve clicked around and know how to give. And even if some folks on your team aren’t excited about a new app, ensure you won’t have any naysayers griping, complaining, or killing the energy around your app launch. A united front will go a long way in your launch success.
After you’ve got your team onboarded and aligned, you’ll want to do an official launch to your congregation. Here’s where things get interesting because it’s likely you’ll have some in your church who are really excited and immediately adopt the app and others who are either tech challenged or apprehensive about change in general.
The key to launching well is to take about 10 minutes either before or after your regular service (some also do this right inside the service) to introduce the new platform and do a step-by-step walk-through of how to set it up.
When people are guided through the process of downloading the app and setting up giving for the first time, they’re far more likely to successfully onboard than if you simply provide them with a link and ask them to do it on their own time.
Many churches will put together a launch video explaining why the church is adopting an app, and they’ll also create a series of slides to help people walk through the setup. Many churches also include a QR code handout either in the bulletin or just in the seat back. If you’re using the Faithlife app, you’ll find your QR code and other helpful resources right above the app setup in your admin panel. Simply download those resources to use during your launch. Easy peasy.
I’ve written an entire article for Church Tech Today about how to roll out new tech to tech averse and/or skeptical churchgoers. You can check it out here if you’re interested in some additional tips.
Integrating your church app
This last point is vital to your ongoing success with app adoption. You need to truly integrate your new church app into the life of your church.
That means from this day forward, you should treat it like the central hub of communication for your church. Use your groups to post announcements, ask people to open their app to view the bulletin each week, remind folks to use the app to give during the offering time, ask people to add their prayer requests through the app, and ask them to use the app to open up to the passage in Scripture you’ll be preaching on that week.
In other words: make sure you actually use the app for everything it can do to support your ministry (and by doing so, you’ll eliminate any other tools that silo your ministry in unhelpful ways—like having multiple giving platforms or multiple Bible apps).
I promise if and when you start to use the app in this way, your church will get comfortable with it quickly—and start using it to connect outside of your church services too.
There are so many ways you can use your app to foster community and engagement both inside the service and throughout the week. I would encourage you to look at doing a book study or reading plan together, to encourage people to chat and message one another throughout the week, and to run all of your event planning through Faithlife too. Think about discussion questions you could post to dig deeper into sermon applications each week. In fact, you can even add a tab for the church directory so your congregation can easily find contact information for one another on the go.
There are so many benefits to having a church app on the Faithlife platform, but you have to truly make it the hub of your church’s communication for it to actually work. And like all of Faithlife’s products, the app is fully connected to all of our desktop features—so no matter which device people use to connect, they’ll all be able to access the same content with one login anytime, anywhere.
And there you have it—everything you need to get started. I hope you can catch the vision of how a church app could seriously increase engagement and participation in your church. What are you waiting for?