I was asked this question last week and while I had a quick answer off the cuff, I wanted to sit on it a bit and consider whether that was the right answer or not. Certainly, having a web presence makes sense, but does that necessarly mean a mobile website for your church, or to just be easily found if someone is using their mobile device?
Why You Would Have A Mobile Website
Clearly, having a mobile website makes sense if you are (a) a missions organization and you want the widest exposure to your vision and resources, or (b) a faith community that locally serves a significant population of those persons who are likely to be using mobile devices to find you, or find out more about you. These are just two examples, but clearly reasons for being available in a format on a mobile device, with your message specifically geared to the means and attention span of that context.
Why You Would Have a Mobile Application
Another prevailing opinion is that it might serve your ministry better to have a mobile application. Discovery is usually the reason for doing this, but I’d like to propose that you would think better. Applications should not just be reformatted websites, they should utilize the capacities of the mobile device, and offer something that a mobile website, or even your full website and marketing strategies, cannot offer.
A good case for having a mobile application for a ministry is when you produce several types of content which are better served locally instead of being streamed. Youth, sports, and even elderly organizations could also look at creating a suite of games or puzzles which better articulate their lessons and engagement strategies. An application, in a sense, is a place to experiment with the kinds of engagement that can’t happen otherwise.
Why You Wouldn’t Have a Mobile Website or App
There are a few reasons not to have a mobile website or application, and ironically, these actually tend to be sensible reasons. If you don’t have the resources to create and maintain your current website, then probably having a mobile website isn’t the right idea (yet). If you do have a solid plan for creating and/or maintaining your current website, then look at the logs (analytics) to see how many persons are coming to your site via a mobile device. Note where they are coming to. If you can create a mobile website that capitalizes on that, then go for it. If not. Don’t hurt yourself.
If your primary concern is just being findable in a search from a mobile device, then (first) make sure that your current website has the times, location, and main contact information in an easily seen place on your website. Mobile devices load slower, and have smaller screens, this info needs to therefore be one of the first items loaded. Second, you want to make sure that your entries in search engines such as Google Maps/Local are up to date.
If your primary means of engaging your community happens on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, spend your energies making sure that your profiles for social networking services are updated and clean. These services are already mobile friendly.
We talked about this from a mobile app standpoint in a previous article.
Context Matters for This Question
So, as you can see. Its not a simple “yes” or “no” kind of answer. These days, you need to balance the resources you have, versus the realities of the audiences you want to go for.
If you do decide that you need to go with a mobile website or application, look into services such as urmobile, Mobify, ShoutEm, or Ovi Publish to get up to speed faster using your existing web assets.
Remember also that mobile isn’t your laptop. Just because you have a library of sermons, and directories to every person who ever set foot in your church, doesn’t mean that this is what people want to see on their mobile’s much smaller screen. Give the information that’s most important, and then direct them quickly to the person, group, or resource that’s better able to help them fit their needs.