Mobile Web: 5 Veteran Church Communicators Share Their Insights

Mobile Web: 5 Veteran Church Communicators Share Their Insights

June 12, 2019 by

Everything these days is about the mobile experience. That’s why we’re focusing on the mobile web this month on our Courageous Storytellers membership site (not a member? Join today).

What’s working for your church with mobile? What’s having an impact at reaching people on their mobile devices?

We asked five church communicators about getting the mobile web. Here’s what they said:

What’s the Plan?

Beth Beaty, communication specialist for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, Minn.:

We do not have an app at Prince of Peace, but our website and our weekly e-newsletter are both mobile friendly. Our analytics show people are evenly split between desktop and a mobile access of both our website and Facebook.

Having said that, the cry of “let’s get an app” sounds every couple of years and we are looking closer at it this year than we have before. I tend to be a “tell me why” person. I think an app would be fun to have, but I want to know what the people/ministries who want it plan to do with it. And I do mean plan. There are a lot of things an app can do; what do we want people to do with it, who is creating the content and what resources are they going to dedicate to it?

The Front Door is Digital

Jodi Tonarelli, director of weekend experience at The Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, Wis.:

Our website is mobile friendly, but it has limitations because we use a template functionality that allows for some customization, but not complete customization. Anytime we build new pages, or post something in a new look, I ask our team to review how it looks on a mobile device as well as desktop. More than 50% of our web users are on mobile devices, so where we need to make design choices to bend toward one look or another, we focus on mobile looking better or being easier to navigate. We don’t get it right all the time, but when we make a mistake, we want it to be in the vain of trying to serve a mobile user/guest best.

We’ve really bought into the idea circulating now that our “front door” has gone digital. For us, that means we assume guests have checked out our social feeds, website, or online campus, prior to coming in person. For me, that changes what content we should be providing and prioritizing online. I think many churches do a good job of having a button that says something like, “I’m new,” where they offer a flavor to potential guests as to who they are and what they have to offer. That’s an easy place to start if you haven’t already. We’ve also seen research showing page load time determines if people stay on your site and how much they click around, so we minimize our use of video to enhance navigation ability. We also asked many non-staff folks to test drive the site when we re-launched because we wanted it to be easy to navigate. What we discovered is that just because we found it easy to use, didn’t mean non-staff people found it easy to use. It was great free research and it allowed us to make navigation related changes prior to launching the new site.

We have an app that has basics like message content and campus information, but it’s not as fully developed as we’d like it to be. I think we’re looking to transition this to more of a tool for “insiders,” meaning people who consider themselves attenders. We want to use this as our hub for a resource delivery ecosystem, but this is still in development for us currently. We hope to make those changes soon.

Texting Over App

Jeanette Yates, communications director for Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and co-host of the Two Church Girls and a Microphone Podcast:

I love the look of our site on mobile and have added more content accessible through scrolling.  We do not use an app, but are doing more texting in order to reach people both inside our congregation and those in our community.

Game Changer

Linda Hale, senior director of communications at Christ Church in Oak Brook and Downers Grove, Ill.:

We made our site mobile optimized a couple years ago and it was a game changer. We are also actively using texting for opt-in engagement. In addition, our livestream service is watched robustly on mobile.

We do have an app but are in the midst of recreating that and what it actually does for us. When we originally started using an app, we didn’t have a mobile-friendly website and it wasn’t providing the best user experience, so the app was helpful for people to watch our livestream and see information about our sermon series and some other news. Now our website is serving that function properly and we are rethinking how people will use our app, as well as how we can further engage them and make things easier for them by having the information they want at their fingertips in an easier way than web. So we are currently shopping that idea for a better app version.

Our analytics show us that a large percentage of our audience visits our website on a mobile device and many of them watch our livestream services from their phone as well, so having our website optimized for mobile has been essential for engagement for us. This means photos appear in proportion, text flows properly and stacks in an attractive way—creating a much better user experience, which leads to longer time on site and use of site. We are also finding that opt-in texting is working really well for us. A lot of people want to get reminders, messaging, and more via text and appreciate a link right to further reading.

Rotate Digital Plugs

Matt Ehresman, creative media director at First MB Church in Wichita, Kan.:

Our site is mobile friendly and we do have an app. Here’s my biggest “tip” though: We have a list of seven announcements we rotate in our bulletin and email with next steps to engage with us digitally. One week we’ll invite people to follow us on social, the next we’ll talk about our app, and then a push to subscribe to email newsletters, etc. There’s way too much to publish every week, but we intentionally keep our mobile and digital initiatives in front of the congregation to make it easy for them to engage in new ways outside of our weekend services. (The seven are social, podcasts, livestream, email newsletters, YouVersion Live, app, and Spotify.)

More:

For more help with the mobile web, check out this month’s resources from Courageous Storytellers. Church communication is hard. We can help.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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