Yes, you read that title correctly.
Smartphones actually can have a place in church and enhance the worship experience. As author Rich Kirkpatrick suggests, when our culture is shifting so dramatically toward smartphone-dependence, we must “find ways to… lead in how they should be utilized.”
So, how can we rightly embrace smartphones – even in church? Pastors can take the lead by encouraging these five smartphone tools.
1) Read Along with Scripture
Perhaps the most obvious tool that smartphones provide is a Bible app. YouVersion, for example, provides worshipers with a simple and convenient way to read and navigate between Bible passages.
Hastily flipping pages and scrutinizing tiny writing become things of the past when you can tap a passage and zoom in for a closer look. Plus, the app can be used to take notes as they contemplate the day’s message.
2) Engage Young Worshippers
Smartphones can actually enable children to interact with Scripture and become active participants in services. For example, in her article, “Why my Smartphone Makes Church Better,” Michelle Torsak notes that wiggly children can scroll through pictures of Jesus and other spiritual renderings as a way to participate in church.
Also, interactive apps for kids, such as Superbook and The Beginner’s Bible, provide Scripture readings and activities, drawing kids closer to God’s Word.
3) Evangelize When the Spirit Moves You
Posting messages, pictures and videos on social media is a mode of self-expression. Pictures of vacations and kids, along with emoji-punctuated statuses, make up a person’s online image, so why shouldn’t part of that image be the worshiper in church?
If people are suddenly inspired by the sermon, why shouldn’t they tweet it or post it on Facebook? If the choir is singing something magical, why not fire up Facebook Live and let others listen, too? Doing so, Kirkpatrick says, effectively shows people the real life, not the “glossy, filtered” life, of church and its worshipers.
4) Preach to an Absent Congregation
When congregants share their inspirations on social media, they assist their pastors in an enormous feat: spreading God’s Word to thousands of people! Just think, in a service of 300 worshipers, what if five tweeted a message from the sermon, and each of them had 500 followers? That means the pastor has reached 2,500 more people. Now, imagine if 50 of those people, each with 500 followers, re-tweeted the message. That’s another 25,000 people!
In his article, “Yes to Smartphones in Church?”, Brian Orme suggests that pastors can even engage their congregation deliberately, by posing a question during the sermon and asking worshipers to answer on Twitter or Facebook. Using smartphones to take the church experience public is a way to open its doors and invite new people to attend.
5) Use Mobile Giving Apps
Fundraising in church comes in a variety of forms. Collections might be for weekly donations, tithes, special events, or third parties. These days, few people carry cash, and checks are becoming antiquated. But, smartphones allow for easy giving through mobile giving apps. Mobile giving has increased dramatically in the last few years, making it all the more important for any fundraising organization to provide this option to donors. If churches encourage worshipers to use a mobile giving app during the offertory, they might just see an increase in overall donations.
Building a bridge between smartphones and churches won’t happen overnight. But, with guidance and reflection, congregations might realize that building that bridge will ultimately help spread God’s Word, connect people to the church’s mission, and motivate them to support church initiatives.