If you want your church to keep current with communications technologies, you need to be prepare to either: a. spend a lot of money or b. keep learning new stuff
I live mostly with option b.
When I moved to working in communications full-time, I had three immediate goals: create a new website, launch live streaming and create a church app. Website – done. You can read about that here. Live streaming – done. We tested the contemporary feed last week and it goes live this week. You can read about that here.
Next on the agenda: the app. The app has a very clear audience in our strategy. Where the website and the mobile website are aimed mostly at those outside the church looking to learn more about the church, the app is specifically aimed at members and regular participants. It is designed to be an easy portal for news, information, and registrations. It even allows people to register their presence in worship and give gifts toward the offering. So, you may ask, “Where is it?” It is very close. But first, let me back up.
Being an option b guy, I got a little sick to my stomach when I talked to some app developers. Not only were the development costs prohibitive, the monthly hosting costs were way out of my budget range. Enter Appy Pie. Appy Pie (www.appypie.com) is a fairly new, diy app building platform. It uses a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) type editor to allow you to basically drag and drop the elements of your app. No coding skills are necessary. However, I do think it is helpful to know a little bit about how apps works and a little sense of what looks good to come up with an app that will work and look good sitting next to all the slick apps in Google Play and the App Store. Developing the app is free. You don’t pay until you want to publish and then, the price is totally reasonable.
They offer online tech support. It can be a little random but overall they are able to help and resolve issues. And of course, given my experience in doing things the cheap way, there were issues. My issue was not with Appy Pie but, this time, with Apple. This is where the “keep learning new stuff” comes in. An essential component of a church app is the ability for people to give via the app. To life-long church people that seems weird. However, for younger folks, it is more natural than writing a check. And, people my age and younger rarely have cash. This became an issue.
I developed the app, set up my developer accounts with Apple and Google and Appy Pie took care of submitting my apps for review. A couple days later, my app was in the Google Play Store. Apple took a bit longer. Their verification process for sellers in the App Store is a little more complicated. I finally got it set up and Appy Pie submitted my app. I waited a couple of weeks and then was notified that they rejected it. Here is what I learned: Apple has a very specific policy about charitable giving inside apps available in the App Store. In other words, it is not allowed. So, back to learning. I couldn’t imagine churches just left this off. A little closer reading and examining other church apps in the App Store and I figured it out. You can have a giving option but it must open outside of the app in Safari. So, with some reworking and some help from Appy Pie, I have resubmitted and am just waiting to see.
In the meantime, if you are an Android person, check out the app in the Google Play Store. Just search for “The U”.
It still needs a little bit of tweaking and we may add a few new features. But feel free to let me know what you think.