Apps have revolutionized the ways we access information, play games, or use various utilities to change and improve our lives. Churches have adopted this rich technology. Alaska churches were not the earliest adopters of apps but have jumped in nevertheless.
In July 2008, over 800 apps were available for the iPhone. As of September, that number had exploded to 1.3 million. A much smaller number of apps are available for Android devices. Alaska churches with apps report the majority of their downloads are for the iPhone app. Using the search term “church” in Apple’s iPhone App store, 2,199 apps are found. Some are Bible apps, but the majority are apps for churches across the U.S.
Early Alaska Church App Adopters
On April 20, 2011, Adam Legg, ChangePoint’s creative arts and communications pastor, showed me the functionality of their just-released app. Adam was excited about this huge step forward. I was astounded at the range of information ChangePoint now provided with this new app, and its potential to expand their ministry far beyond their walls. It offered replays of sermons, an online Bible, blogs, church calendars, schedules and more. Adam showed me app download numbers and hours of use by users.
In the years since, a slowly growing number of Alaska churches have seen potential in releasing apps. Currently, 10 Alaska churches have their own apps. Churches as far south as Juneau and far north as Fairbanks have adopted this exciting technology, but most are Anchorage-area churches.
Another early adopter of this exciting technology was Anchorage’s TrueNorth Church. TrueNorth’s app was designed locally by Michael Blakeny of Acts 1:8 Technology. Blakeny also functions as a youth minister at Grandview Baptist Church. Commenting on the app, TrueNorth’s Pastor Brent Williams shared “Our app enhances our ministry by making the gospel accessible to a culture entrenched in technology. We are a culture on the move. The app allows those inside the church and those not yet a part of the church to stay connected to the weekly teaching and updates of True North Church.” Initially, I was surprised that a smaller, fairly new church like TrueNorth Church had deployed this amazing technology, when most churches, especially large ones, don’t deploy it, citing cost, and concerns this technology is not here to stay. Now I fully understand the wisdom of Williams’ statements.
ACF Church in Eagle River was also an early adopter. The Rev. Brian Cook noted the app’s popularity with ACF military members. “We have a high military population at our church. The app is one of the key ways deployed church members follow ACF Church,” says Cook. “Our app is intended to give people ‘one touch’ access to life at ACF Church.” he added, “one of many ways we use technology to help members engage in our community.”
Anchorage City Church released their app close to two years ago. Melissa Parkhouse, who oversees their app and church website development, was most pragmatic about why City Church deploys an app. “A 2013 study stated that 74 percent of cellphone users in the USA use smartphones, and predicted 2014 would see that number rise to 80 percent. One would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a cellphone these days, so a smartphone app is a simple way for us to connect with people on a platform they are already using,” she said. (http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/study-u-s-smartphone-penetration-is-a…)
Although I approached all 10 Alaska churches offering apps for more information, only the four mentioned above responded to my request. Other churches with apps include Cornerstone Church, Apostolics of Fairbanks, Juneau Apostolic Church, Soldotna Bible Chapel, Abbott Loop Community Church, and Church on the Rock – Homer. Too often churches think sharing this information is hush-hush or highly confidential requiring pastoral or trustee approval before releasing any details. The spread of the Christian gospel is a joyful job, one we all should do without fear of anyone appropriating “proprietary information.” Then too, several churches feel it’s a “prideful thing” to reflect on how well apps help churches grow. Information sharing is a fact of life in science, and should be with churches too.
Church app success stories
Those churches responding to my request for information indicated numerous app success stories.
City Church mentioned that members missing sermons can stay current with them and replay them. They also are excited about their Bible reading plans, recommending them to members. TrueNorth Church noted a story of healing and restoration in a divorced couple through the husband’s listening to sermons via TrueNorth’s app, and of their eventual reconciliation. ChangePoint shared the story of a member who couldn’t recently attend due to recovery from surgery, who watched each missed sermon. Yes, you read that right. She watched. Changepoint’s app gives you the option to listen or watch. Amazing. ACF Church mentioned people outside Alaska also connect with their church and messages finding they meet their needs.
Churches with apps often find their congregation size can double, virtually, through app usage. I’m excited about churches who have adopted this exciting technology. It’s one more example of how churches can grow by offering hand-held connections to their ministry.