This research aims to study the impact of custom mobile church apps on church development in the mobile era. Church apps, which provide real-time messaging, social networking, real-time remote service, special interest groups, online giving, events and calendar, archive and many more, have become a trendy approach for churches to keep their members connected and engaged. However, there is still much speculation as to how fruitful using a church app is. Our research will explore three questions: (1) How do and can churches creatively engage their members through apps? (2) What are the most effective and/or commonly used features of church apps? (3) What are the impacts of such approach on church development in terms of quantity and quality, e.g. reaching more people, boosting giving, and increasing effectiveness in sharing gospel?
This research draws on the complementary expertise of the researchers. Joy Tong is a visiting assistant professor in the Sociology department, Purdue. She has published articles related to Christianity in the US, Singapore and China. Charlie Hu is a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, Purdue. He is an expert on mobile technology and app design and has published intensively on the technology. For this research, we have tentatively selected a typical evangelical midsized church in the Midwest -- Upper Room Community Church -- as our target, and we will custom-design an app for the church to be popularized among its members. The app will use crowd-sourcing to collect fine-grained usage information of various networking capabilities. Through data analysis, participant observation and interview with its church leaders and members, we expect our research to shed lights on our research questions whether and how well-designed mobile apps can effectively promote church growth.
Keywords: mobile apps, church apps, online social networks, church growth