Like that bowl of chips and queso appetizer before the meal, you don’t really need a mobile app.

Of course, you don’t really need a lot of things. We don’t need any Han Solo films, but I’ll be there every time one releases, hoping that it’s better than the last one. You don’t really need an app, either. But if you had one, I hope you’d drive it like you stole it after cheating a smuggler out of it in a card game that no one understands (that’s another Han Solo reference).

It’s not really about whether or not you need an app, but about what you would do with one if you had one. If you’re considering a mobile app, here are a few important things to consider that have made our mobile app at my church really awesome for our people…

Who is the App for?

The most helpful thing we did when we were designing our app is answering this question and stick to it. We decided that our app is for those who already attend our church. Guests probably won’t download it before coming to church, so all of our decisions keep our people who already attend in mind.

Only put content in your app for your target audience and it will help you avoid a cluttered, unpleasant experience for yourselves and your people when using your app. Your app needs to be a 65-year-old man’s classic Mustang, not a minivan for a family of 7.

What are your goals for the App?

Next, make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to do with your app. When we started, we wanted it to be a companion to the weekend experience and a place to watch weekend messages.

We put message notes in a folder called “I’m Here” that also has a button to submit prayer requests, fill out a digital connection card, and find out what country we are praying for that week as a church.

Of course, there are events, giving links, and a link to our live player plus the Bible and a locations tab. But it’s NOT a place to promote things. It’s where you go if you already know about something or want more information. It’s a landing zone, not a billboard. We have to work to keep that goal clear with everything that goes into it.

We are about to add a goal to our app about weekly growth. We want people to have resources for spiritual growth during the week, so we’re adding a resources tab to house kids handouts, blogs, and a new marriage podcast that will only be available in the app. Speaking of that…

Why should anyone care about your App?

You can’t put the same stuff in your app that’s found on your website. You can’t keep your app the same for 2 years either. Then there’s simply no reason to use your app. Because in truth, a good, mobile-friendly website can do pretty much anything an app can do and probably much cheaper (except send notifications).

If you don’t create scarcity for things people want by putting them only in the app, they won’t download or open your app.

If you don’t talk about cool stuff that’s only in your app elsewhere (like social media and stage announcements) and create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), they won’t keep coming back to your app.

You’ve got to keep answering the question Disney forgot to ask before making more Star Wars movies, “Why should they care?” over and over. Don’t release everything at once, space it out so you can constantly say “new, over in our app…!” and keep driving people to it.

Apps aren’t bad, how churches use them is.

But if you put some strategy and intentionality behind them, they can really be a helpful companion to your congregation that keeps them connected and growing in their faith. Find what works in your church and be responsible with your funds, time, and resources, because an app will take a lot of them.

Tell me how wrong or right I am in the comments.

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