CHURCH APP – 11 Reasons NOT To Build An App [2019 UPDATE]

– Almost every day I see a
church ask this question. Should we build a church app? And it’s a fair question. A lot of churches are
building apps nowadays. But here’s the kicker. There’s a growing mountain of evidence that most churches don’t
actually know about. And that data suggests
that building an app for your church is probably a bad idea. So much so, that one of the
fastest growing startups of all-time, Intercom, published an article titled, Browsers, Not Apps, are
the Future of Mobile. Why? Well, keep watching to find out. Because I’m gonna share
all of that new data with you in this video. Well hey there, my name’s Brady Shearer. I’m the CEO of Pro Church Tools, and hey, if you like this video, consider giving it a
thumbs up and subscribing. It’s true, mobile apps can be
incredibly powerful platforms. But before your church
begins building an app, I think it’s important to
take a look at the actual data and statistics concerning mobile apps. Why? Well, because in my experience,
churches that succeed with digital media and
platforms like apps, generally do two things very well. Number one, they make informed
decisions based on data. They don’t just blindly follow the trends. And number two, they
don’t try to do too much. Wanna know whether or not your
church should build an app? Well, let’s begin this conversation by talking about the price of mobile apps and what you as a church should expect. Here are some terrifying
numbers on the cost of developing custom mobile apps. Number one, a VDC survey of
enterprise app developers found mobile apps to cost an average of 140 thousand dollars each. A Clutch survey of app
development companies indicated a median price of more than 171 thousand dollars per app. And A Kinvey survey of CIOs
found the average price to be 270 thousand per app. So, simply stated, if you’re in the market for building a custom app, at the very least you
should expect to spend at least 100 thousand dollars. And, as a side note obviously
these surveys are trustworthy. But every conversation
I’ve had with a developer confirms these findings. Custom apps are crazy expensive. So if someone says they
can build you a custom app for significantly less, be cautious. – Okay Brady, but no church is gonna pay a 100 thousand dollars for an app. – Of course, it goes without saying that most churches could never afford a six-figure custom app. So how are these churches
creating apps at all then? The answer? Templates. Here’s the bottom line. If you see a church with an app, the app was almost certainly created using a pre-made template. And don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying templates are bad. Not at all. And not everything needs to be original and built from scratch. But when the word custom
app is thrown around, it’s easy to assume that
you’re getting an app built from scratch. But that’s just not the case. The bottom line? Custom apps cost six-figures and beyond. Church apps are built using templates. But that’s just part of the story, because in my experience, when a church decides
they want a mobile app there’s one primary factor
that’s often driving this decision whether they know it or not. Their website isn’t doing its job. Consider this, the average mobile app from a church app company costs between 75 and 200 bucks a month. And that is a considerable expense. Especially considering that
the majority of churches have less than 100 people present in their weekend worship services. Heck, 90% of American congregations have a weekly attendance of 350 or fewer. And look, I’m all for
churches investing more money into their digital presence. In fact, I think it’s necessary. But let me ask you this simple question. You’ve got social media,
you’ve got your website, knowing that nine out of
every 10 American churches is 350 people or fewer,
do you really think that we should be spending another 75 to 200 dollars each month on an app? Or, let me say it differently. What can a templated app do that your church’s website cannot? You know, for the longest time, mobile apps could perform functions that most websites couldn’t. But in recent years web coding
languages have progressed and this is no longer the case. In fact, here’s a comparison
list between a church app and a modern church website builder. Both platforms cost about the same. And both are template-based. My church app is built mobile-first. So is the website. My church app allows my congregation to take message notes during the sermon. So does the websites. Okay, well, my church app
allows my congregation to register for events and for ministries. So does the website. Well, my church app integrates directly with our church management system. Well, so does the website. Okay, my church app has
giving built directly into it. So does the website. Now, my church app dynamically
displays video, audio, blog content and sermons. So does the website. And my church app allows me
to send push notifications. Well, sit tight on that one. More on that later. But, here’s the deal. What I’m trying to say is, when a church website does its job, it can do everything a
mobile app can do and more. Because a website can also
be found in search engines. A website can also be used on desktops. A website can also be linked
to directly from social media, and, you never need to download it. Look, I get it, church apps are glamorous. Let’s not kid ourselves there’s
a certain level of status that comes with having an app. Searching the app store and seeing your church’s name come up. That can feel pretty cool. But we’re living through the biggest communication shift in 500 years and navigating this new
digital world is difficult. We need to make smarter decisions. And every decision and
investment your church makes should be able to directly
answer the question, how does this allow us to
better accomplish our mission? Because when it comes to mobile apps, the overlap between an app and
your website is nearly 100%. And knowing this, why would your church pay for two different platforms that are doing the exact same thing? It just isn’t prudent. Now, to this point, we’ve talked about the pricing of mobile apps. We’ve compared the differences between mobile apps and websites. But what about usage? Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, okay, Brady, sure, a website may be able to perform the same
functions of a mobile app, but apps are the future, right? Well, this is where again we need to take a look at the data
that we have available to us to make an informed decision. Because remember, don’t
blindly follow trends. Don’t look to the church down the road, or your favorite megachurch. Make informed decisions. Now, here’s the data that we have. As reported by comScore, 50%
of digital media consumption takes place within smartphone apps. Now what does that mean? That means we spend a lot
of time in our mobile apps. And on its own, this singular data point can be very convincing. But like all singular data points, an isolated statistic lacking
context can be misleading. And in this case, it is. Because here’s the sobering truth. While apps are widely used
across all demographics, nine out of every 10 minutes of app usage on smartphones is spent on
a user’s top five apps only. Even more eye-opening, 50% of
all app time on smartphones takes place in an individual’s
single most used app. What are these apps? Well, in order, here were the 10 most popular mobile apps last year. Facebook, YouTube, Facebook
Messenger, Google Search, Google Maps, Instagram,
Snapchat, Google Play, Gmail, and Pandora. So, yes, people spend a lot of time on their smartphone apps. But that time is largely
dedicated to the app giants, not the average church app. It gets worse. Because according to Google itself, six out of every 10 apps
in their Google Play Store have been downloaded a
grand total of zero times. And this is what happens
when a vast majority of the app pie is gobbled
up by the big guys. There’s only a tiny sliver of attention left for everyone else to fight over. The result? 10s of 1000s of apps that
never get a single download. And, on a macro level,
these numbers point toward an important trend. Mobile apps are beginning to decline. About ten years ago Apple announced the release of the
iPhone in the App Store. And since that time, mobile apps have risen to being the
single most important source of digital media in our lives. But that trend is beginning to curb. We’re downloading fewer
apps than ever before. We’re using fewer apps than ever. You might say that all the gold
has already been discovered. And the app gold rush is over. And we don’t stop there. Because according to
comScore’s most recent report, app discovery through the app stores, through word-of-mouth and advertising all saw a decline
compared to their numbers in the previous year. And this across-the-board decline lead comScore to ask the
question in their report, is interest in new apps waning? And get this, one of
comScore’s key takeaways from last year’s app report said this, more signs of having reached peak app are emerging as interest
in new apps begins to wane. It gets worse. Because within the demographic
of those ages 35 and older, only one in four download new apps more often than they delete
or uninstall old ones. And if that’s not bad enough, 51% of smartphone users download
zero new apps every month. Bottom line, most users download
zero new apps every month, and 75% of users over the age of 35 are actually deleting apps faster than they’re downloading new ones. So, we’re actually going backwards. Again, signs that we’ve reached peak app. Now, let me stop for
a moment and say this, because your church has an
existing audience, right? Your congregation. It’s probably unlikely that your church would build an app and
have nobody download it. Despite the discouraging data
that I just shared with you, there’s a reasonable expectation that your church could be an outlier. But, and here’s the kicker, just because a user downloads an app doesn’t mean they’ll actually
become an active user. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, even though a person does download an app, they’ll never become an active user. How do I know? Well, Fortune reported that 75% of people download an app, open it once,
and then never come back. So what does this mean for you? Well, don’t rely on app
download statistics. I mean, who cares if
someone downloads an app if they never actually use it? Because in most cases data suggests that even though a person
may download your app, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever become an active user of it. Let’s get to the real juicy
stuff, push notifications. If there’s one thing that mobile apps even template-based ones can do that your church website still cannot, it’s send push notifications. I mean sure, websites can
send push notifications on desktop, but it’s really
not the same thing, right? And when it comes to
template-based church apps, push notifications are
the singular feature that I’m aware of that exists, that a church website
builder cannot replicate. When a church website does its job, it can do everything a mobile app can do and more except
send push notifications. So, the question is this, is building a platform
that costs your church 75 to 200 dollars each month worth it just for the push notifications? Think about that for a moment. More than 1000 dollars per
year of your church’s budget for just one unique feature
and one unique feature only? Remember, in my experience, churches that succeed with digital
make informed decisions based on data, they don’t just
blindly follow the trends. So, let’s get some help
in our decision making. what does the data tell us about push notifications in mobile apps? Spoiler alert, it’s not great. Again, using comScore’s
industry leading yearly report, less than one in five people say, that they always agree to an app’s request to allow push notifications. And in the 35 plus age demographic, this number drops all
the way to one in 20. So think about your church’s demographic right now for a moment. What’s the average age? For most churches, the biggest
cohort is 35 and older. And in that age group only one in 20, 5% only say they always
allow push notifications. So, basically nobody. Of course, you might be wondering, what about the young people, Brady? Surely, the Millennials
love push notifications? Well, apparently not. Because according to that same report, 71% of Millennials say they get annoyed when they get too many
notifications through apps. So almost three out of
every four young people report that too many push
notifications are annoying. So, here’s the bottom line, push notifications are rarely enabled and the majority of
people find them annoying when they receive too many. But that’s just part of the story, because despite what you may have heard, you can actually send push notifications for free without your own app. So, again, I think the data
paints a pretty clear picture that very few people enable
push notifications and that, that feature alone is definitely not worth the monthly cost of an app, especially knowing that
your church’s website can do everything else an
app can do and much more. But, here’s the kicker, you don’t need to shell out 75 to 200 bucks each month for a church app to begin leveraging push notifications in your church. In fact, you can do it for free. How? Well, every single one of the most popular communication apps in the world, email, Facebook, Facebook
Messenger, Instagram, etcetera allow you to send push notifications to your contacts and followers for free. And, as an added bonus,
most people already have one or more of these apps installed on their mobile devices already. They’re active users now. And that’s the problem
with building your own app, you’ve got to convince people to actually download the app first, and then you need to convince them to turn on push notifications. Why not just leverage an app
they’re already using for free, where their attention is already existing. Here’s how to do it. Simply ask your followers and contacts to turn on push notifications for your specific account in
the social-communication app of your choice and your church can begin sending push notifications
instantly for free. To summarize. Every major messaging
and communication app that exists allows you to
send push notifications to your followers and contacts for free. You don’t need a mobile app to do it. Now, as if that’s not enough, there’s another important
and, frankly, scary part of the church app discussion
that we need to consider. Because late in 2017, Apple struck fear into the hearts of many churches and template-based app builders when it made the following announcement. Going forward, according
to Guideline 4.2.6, apps created using a
commercialized template or app generation service would be banned from the app store. And not surprisingly this
generated a ton of panic. Press releases were published. Church app companies
scrambled to find solutions. The forums went crazy. People were freaking
out and rightfully so. Now, thankfully, Apple
heard the cries of its users and amended the rule. The rule now reads, apps created from a commercialized template
or app generation service will be rejected unless they’re submitted directly by the provider
of the app’s content. Still not great, but better. And you might be wondering, what does that actually mean and how could Apple have the power to simply reject certain apps? Well, simply put, their
house, their rules. And I should note here that
I had phone conversations with a number of the large
church app company providers, and they shared with me
their plans to work around the new Apple App Store rules before that revision was announced. And this should go without saying, church app providers love churches. They love their customers
and they want to serve them as best as they possibly can. But here’s the sad truth, when your platform is at the mercy of a monopoly-holding colossus like Apple, well, there’s only so much that you can do if Apple decides to one
day just change the rules. And so it’s important to
recognize that with an app, you are operating on rented space. And Apple the landlord
can change the lease terms anytime they want. With a website that space is yours. It belongs to you and there’s no monopoly keeping you from hosting
your website elsewhere if your existing hosting
company changes the rules. Just another reason why a website is so much more important than an app. Finally, there’s one more
thing you need to know about mobile apps versus websites. Because when comparing the
top 500 mobile web properties to the top 500 mobile apps, comScore found that the website audiences were 2.2 times larger
than the app audiences. What does this mean? It simply means that,
again, having a website is still much more important than an app. The audience’s share is bigger. And this doesn’t even take
into account desktop audiences. That’s mobile only. Don’t forget that websites still
have all desktop audiences, audiences that apps cannot reach. And 34% of all digital media time is still spent on desktop computers. To conclude, there are plenty of thoughts and data points to be
mined from this video. But making an investment in a church app is a big decision. And I want to make sure you have as much information as possible to help your church make
the best decision you can. I’ve been working alongside churches for more than seven years now, helping them navigate the
biggest communication shift we’ve seen in 500 years. My observation? The vast majority of
churches will not benefit from a church app. There are more affordable, more efficient, and more accessible platforms available. I know church apps can seem glamorous. And I know how tough it
is to figure out digital and make purchase decisions. And I know, maybe you’re thinking, Brady, what’s the big deal? It’s just an app. Who cares, just go for it. And while I can appreciate that mindset, remember that 90% of churches are 350 people or fewer
in weekly attendance. And the average church app costs between 75 and 200 dollars per month. So the reality is that our churches are working with limited resources. Meaning, for the vast
majority of churches, money being spent on an app is money being taken away from social media and the website. And I cannot tell you how many
churches I have encountered that have prioritized their
app and because of it, their social and web
presence’s have suffered. Because here’s the deal,
most churches can’t do both. You need to choose. You need to prioritize. Because the resources are not unlimited. So my advice is this, continue to invest in your social presence. Continue to invest in your website, because these platforms will
do a considerably better job than a template-based mobile app at accomplishing your church’s mission using these new digital tools
we have available to us. Did you learn something
cool in this video? If so, make sure to subscribe
to this YouTube channel by clicking the subscribe button below. Also, make sure to click the link in the YouTube description
to visit the full post for this video where you’ll
find additional research, and all the citations for this video. And hey, don’t just take it from me, also linked in that post
you’ll find additional reading on why mobile websites are
better than mobile apps from startup giants like Intercom. And now, I’m gonna turn
things over to you. What was the most surprising thing you learned in this video? Was it the data on how few people enable push notifications? Or maybe the cost of what a
real custom app actually is? Or maybe just the revelation that your church’s website can do anything the church app can do and more. Let me know by leaving your answer in the comments on this YouTube video. (upbeat music)

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