By Tobin Perry
Joe is the kind of guy your church wants to reach.
He’s young — with a growing family. He’s a type-A leader, who is making a difference in your neighborhood. People like him, trust him, and follow him. Lead him to Christ, and he’ll bring his friends to your church for the next couple of decades.
Joe lives in a mobile world.
He uses his smartphone every day at work to access spreadsheets, check his calendar, and book his airline flights.
During his breaks, he uses that same smartphone to order flowers for his wife and check out the injury report for his hometown football team.
Recent data shows that Joe spends 86 percent of his mobile time on apps — rather than mobile websites.
The business world is spending billions every year to build smartphone apps that reach into Joe’s billfold. They know that 80 percent of consumers prefer to shop using their smartphones (according to Scott Bales’ book, Mobile Ready). They know that more than half of highly mobile people, like Joe, are frustrated when something they want isn’t available on their smartphone (writes the authors of The Mobile Mind Shift).
Joe doesn’t just engage any mobile apps, though; he deletes more than half as many as he downloads.
The truth is, your church may have an app — but chances are, it’s not one that garners Joe’s attention.
So, what kind of church app can engage someone like Joe?
“These ‘mobile moments’ — where people are looking on their smartphones to fulfill a need — aren’t just applicable in the business world. They’re applicable to the church, as well. Most people will have many spiritual ‘mobile moments’ every week.”
It has to be helpful. While aesthetics matter in the mobile world, the ability of an app to meet a real need in Joe’s life trumps everything else.
The authors of The Mobile Mind Shift note that we’ve gone through a massive mobile mind shift as a culture in recent years. When we feel a need for something, we expect we can pull out our mobile devices and fulfill the need almost immediately.
These “mobile moments” — where people are looking on their smartphones to fulfill a need — aren’t just applicable in the business world. They’re applicable to the church, as well. Most people will have many spiritual “mobile moments” every week. God will impress on their hearts to dig into the Bible, listen to a sermon, express generosity, or join a small group.
A church wins the mobile moments — and ultimately becomes useful to the Joes of this world — when it provides the needed help when those moments occur.
It has to be easy to use. Mobile moments are just that: moments. They go as fast as they come. To make the most of the moments you’re given with the Joes of the world, don’t make them have to struggle to fulfill their need. Every second counts. Take too long — or fill their moment with bugs and crashes — and the moment will pass. The moment God has given you to drive Joe into a deeper relationship and commitment to Him will evaporate, maybe never to return again.
The good news about mobile engagement today is that you don’t have to drive it on your own. Great potential partners like Pushpay giving technology and custom apps, can help you engage Joe at a significant level.
God has a history of using the newest technologies to encourage the greatest spreads of the gospel. In the first century, Paul used the freshly built Roman road system of his day to take the good news throughout the empire. Luther and Calvin used Johannes Gutenberg’s new printing press to spread the good news during the Reformation. Billy Graham used 20th-century mass communication to get people to his crusades.
Our time is now with mobile technology. The greatest advances in the gospel throughout the ages have always been on the backs of great technological innovation.
The mobile revolution is arguably the greatest communication transformation since the invention of the printing press.
Will your church seize the moment?
Tobin Perry has written about ministry and church topics for Saddleback Church, Baptist Press, the North American Mission Board and more for almost 20 years. He and his family live in Evansville, Ind.