Does the church need an app? (@UrbanFriar) #DigiLit

Warning! This post contains product placement!!
Does a church need an App? More importantly (or at least pertinent to my situation) does an emerging community need an App?
If you want to know what I mean then search for the excellent Swanbank App on your App store; it’sfree to download and easy to navigate. A couple of people in an emerging community that I am associated with are selling the platform for this App to churches here in the UK and I am sure they would love to hear from you if you wanted to explore the possibility. You can get in touch with them here if you are interested
For many inherited forms of church an App would be inconceivable – who, out of their mission field, would download and use a smart phone App? More importantly, who would maintain the web based communication to enable it to be up to date and vibrant? It would be a contextual anomaly, an aberration to their usual models and methods of communicating with each other and to the outsideworld.
And part of me, in fact most of me, says GOOD! Who wants a dad who is pretending to be cool? How many of us have cringed at worship events where the church has clearly tried to be what it isn’t! Being digital and web-friendly is not going to halt the decline in the inherited church. In itself it is neutral, neither good nor bad, but how digital media and technology is (mis)used might make a difference.
So I would hate for a church to think that they needed an App, especially if they had no idea why they needed it!! However, Apps are now so common place, that to have one is not unusual and not to have one might be a missed opportunity. So, as a pioneer, with an emerging community, should we have an App?
It would mean that we could communicate with a vast amount of people very easily, quickly and cheaply (a print run of glossy post cards for one event would cost the same as the one off cost for an App that could be updated regularly). It also gives us an edge, it suggests that we are a Christian community that is not afraid of the (post)modern digital world and that we might relate to the world others live in. And also, if I’m honest, as a pioneer mission leader, it is a bit cool and has a bit of kudos when I meet up with other pioneer types: they ask me ‘how it’s all going?’ and I just tell them to download MY App!!
So why not? Well firstly, it assumes a lot about your mission field and your current circle. Who can afford a Smartphone? And who has a confidence with such technology? Secondly, it can all become just a little bit gimmicky! What’s an App with no substance? (btw that is not the case for Swanbank).I would rather belong to a community that is connecting people with The Divine Other, changing peoples’ lives and transforming the world than I would a community that had an ‘App’. Thirdly, is having an App a great way of distracting me from my (our) true calling? Does it become beautiful icing covering a mouldy cake?
So what do you think? I am already convinced (I think) that we would benefit from an App – but it must be for the right reasons. (as it is for the folk and leadership at Swanbank). So how might an App help your community? what would you have on it? How would you use it? Who would it benefit(bless)?

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