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An App For Your Church?

We recently interviewed Benji Ferguson, Youth Pastor at Carmichael, about an app he developed for his church in Sacramento, California. While this may not be practical for a small church, it can be a huge plus for medium to large churches.

Editor – Pastor Benji, I recently heard that the Carmichael church has developed an smartphone app that members and visitors can use to enhance their interactions with the church. Let’s begin at the top? What made you think about creating an app for Carmichael?

Ferguson – Short answer, an app is cool. But that was just me. What we really wanted was another way to communicate with our church members. The more we can interact and create ways for members to increase their level of discipleship and community buy in the better.

Editor – Ok that makes sense. Give us a couple of examples of how a smartphone phone app can help do this.

Ferguson – After I realized I wanted an app the next question was why? and then how would it be different than the other social media or web content we were putting out? Was it worth extra cost investment? We communicate to our church in several ways, we have a segmented text message service, website, facebook page, weekly e-note/newsletter, and of course the bulletin. Most of the time people still don’t think they are communicated with and for the most part none of those things were disciple making or interactive. What we decided the app should do is help serve that need for our members. We’re hoping to transition our website to be more of a portal for visitors to learn more about our church and it’s mission/vision/ministries. The app on the other hand will be geared more towards our members and helping them connect with God and each other. Important things on our search for an app were that it would have customizable bible reading plans, small group signups and interactions, Event listings as well as details about those events. There are a lot more features but its so early that we are really just waiting to see what the churches needs are before we adjust and add things to the app.

Editor – When did your app go live, and what kind of feedback are you getting?

Ferguson – Our App went live September 8, but we launched it to the church on September 16. Overall the feed back is great! I think we’ve covered most of our bases for people. We’ve had 186 people download it, it’s been launched 753 times and people have had over 6000 interactions within the app. Not bad for under a month. To put in perspective we sent out our e-newsletter out to 700 people last week and had 400 people open it and 62 clicks, so we are getting a much higher interaction from our app. Our website had 4000 views for the month of September, but only about 250 interactions.

Editor – Great! So if another church wants to create an app similar to yours, what’s involved? How much does it cost to create, and are there on-going expenses?

Ferguson – First of all do your research. I did a simple google search for church specific apps, I asked friends and the Facebook community and made some phone calls to pastors I knew using apps for their church. In the end I made a document that had all of the pros and cons of about 5 companies and presented it to our staff and we made a decision. I think costs are pretty competitive from developers for the one we chose they had a basic start up cost and then a tiered monthly fee based on our attendance. We got in on a promotion and got the start up at 50% off so it was $500 and our monthly costs are $59.

Editor – This is helpful. Thank you for sharing your journey with this. Undoubtedly others will find it helpful. We wish you the best as you continue to tweak and develop this new communication tool.

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About Benji Ferguson and Rich DuBose

Benji Ferguson

is Youth Pastor of the Carmichael SDA Church in Sacramento, CA.

Rich DuBose

is director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference

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