5 Top Churches Leading Digital Tech Innovations in 2020
Some of the most innovative churches doing digital ministries online started years ago, before the global pandemic and the Coronavirus crisis forced churches to take their worship services online. While for many churches, livestreaming their sermons and worship songs is a new and challenging thing, other churches have made use of online tools and social media more intentionally as a part of its church life and outreach into its local community as well as the world. Because, after all, online tools and mobile apps have affected nearly all aspects of life, churches have this great opportunity to connect with people online beyond the constraints of synchronous time and physical space.
Looking at the examples of these church's creativity in using digital technologies, mobile apps, and web platforms, can inspire churches of all sizes to think more creatively about using today's readily-available online technologies and mobilizing the people for being the church in the 21st century. Yes, churches can be tech innovators on the cutting edge.
A List of High-Tech Innovative Churches
Life.Church is most often cited as the most innovative technology-driven church. The digital missions of Life.Church developed digital platforms and apps for its own use as well as for other churches and people to use worldwide. For individuals, over 425 million installs of the YouVersion Bible App has brought the Word of God to mobile devices everywhere, along with Bible App for Kids. For churches, Life.Church generously gives away thousands of free resources, Church Metrics, Develop.Me, and Church Online Platform.
Online church attendance through Life.Church's Church Online Platform continued to increase significantly this past weekend, breaking records for the second consecutive weekend, Life.Church leaders said.
"We saw more than 7 million people attend church services during the March 21-22 weekend, which is up from 4.7 million the weekend before and up from the previous weekend average of a little over 1 million," Rachel Feurborn, the church's public relations manager, said in a news release.
"With more than 15,000 new churches signing up for the tool in the last couple weeks, we expect weekend attendance numbers to continue to climb."
Last week, the Rev. Bobby Gruenewald, the Edmond-based church's pastor-innovation leader, said that the number of churches using the Church Online Platform technology had surged recently as church leaders around the globe responded to the coronavirus pandemic. The tool enables churches to stream their own church services and build community online by using the chat and one-on-one prayer features. Life.Church leaders said the platform is easy to use, and churches can use a smartphone or camera to record their sermon, upload it to a site like YouTube and begin streaming in less than an hour.
2. Crossroads Church
To stay ahead of whatever changes might come, the church employs two full-time market researchers, as well as a sort of research and development division. The “skunkworks” team borrows its name from the corporate-world moniker for a group that operates autonomously and often secretly to pioneer new ideas. Crossroads’ leadership entrusts the skunkworks team, full of young Christian entrepreneurs, with building ideas for the future.
They aren’t supposed to play it safe. These days, for example, the high-tech team is looking into ways Crossroads could use artificial intelligence in ministry and worship. “Their task—figure out a way to put Crossroads out of business,” Tome said. “Anything short of sin is up for grabs.”
Matt Welty, the campus pastor for Crossroads Anywhere, oversees the church’s extensive digital presence. Welty said: “In a culture in which the traditional model of church is becoming less relevant, finding ways for people to grow spiritually and interact with God is probably going to be a path forward for the church. I get excited that there are many people who would not ever walk into a church building, but who would download and app. I’m excited that church is no longer limited to a building.”
The church has developed its Crossroads Anywhere app, with a description of: "This App is designed to help you forge a relationship with God. It’s a blend of challenge and support, connection and contentment. Getting to know God doesn’t have to be a big grand gesture. It can be a simple interaction through your phone and this app can help facilitate that."
Featured in RELEVANT Magazine, "For Judah and Chelsea Smith, Online Church Has Been the New Normal for Years"—
In 2018, Judah and Chelsea Smith had a vision for City Church in Seattle, Washington: a new kind of church experience. This church would feature worship, teaching, community, opportunities to serve — basically everything common to the church as we know it, with one caveat: it’d be online. To the Smiths, this app represented a new kind of virtual experience that would offer church to a new generation more comfortable with digital relationships. They called it Churchome.
The announcement was met with no small degree of skepticism at the time but that was then. Now Churchome’s style of Sunday service has become the norm for almost every church in the country. The coronavirus pandemic has flipped a lot of assumptions about what church can and even should look like on their heads, and whatever you think of Churchome, there’s no denying that it has become an accidental pioneer of our new normal.
What kind of impact has this mobile app had? According to this 2019 CBN News article—
Since its launch last year, the Churchome Global app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times.
The ministry reports 60% of the app users are female (40% are male), with 45% of members under the age of 34. Eighty percent of users are based in the US with all 50 states being represented, while the app is also used in over 200 cities across the globe.
Since its launch, the app has also had over 460,000 prayers that have been prayed on their Pray feed.
4. Hillsong Church
Hillsong Church started in Australia back in 1983 and now has physical locations in 28 countries around the world. As a part of its strategy, the church has launched Hillsong Technology with a vision for "Connecting technology with the everyday needs of the local church." The Hillsong Technology blog shares its learnings with the public, and its team has built 2 products: Verris is an events app created to help attendees engage with events and Brushfire provides online ticketing and registration for churches and ministries around the world.
Also take a listen to this audio interview with Rob Beach on Soul Search (ABC Radio National, in Australia). Here's the description—
"Hillsong Church has made a global name for itself, with its chart-topping worship music and celebrity followers. And, in step with its young demographic, it's also an early adopter of new technology. Rob Beach is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Hillsong Global, and CEO of Hillsong Technology, he knows better than anyone how the church is adopting and adapting to digital technology. He tells Meredith Lake about his own religious journey, and why he thinks Hillsong needs to double as a faith-tech incubator."
3 quotes from this interview that the Hillsong Technology team loved—
- “We just showed up each weekend and more and more people kept coming.”
- “We are always in a space of experimenting and it’s constantly changing.”
- “We want to create an environment where individuals with technology solutions for the Church can flourish.”
5. Christ’s Church of the Valley (and Strategic Partners)
For 13 years, Jon Edmiston led the Creative Technologies team at Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) and developed a leading custom church management system. That platform is called Rock RMS, used by hundreds of churches around the world, and managed by a nonprofit ministry, Spark Development Network. Collaborative teamwork brought this product to life, with a small network of strategic partners and early adopters, like Christ Fellowship, Lake Pointe Church, Life.Church, NewSpring Church, Shepherd Church, Southeast Christian Church, and Willow Creek Community Church. Rock RMS is built by churches for churches.
Rock RMS is a community-supported open source CMS that combines Relationship Management System (RMS) and Church Management System (ChMS) into one. Rock RMS was launched in 2014 and has always had a plurality of churches that form its community and gives feedback and sponsorship that support its technology road map for developing and improving features. Since Rock RMS is open-source and designed for integration with an open API, the possibilities are endless. Basic features include: personal and family profiles, groups, check-in, event registration, engagement pathway and milestones, reports, workflows, data automation, business intelligence, website builder, event calendar, giving, and finances. With great power comes great responsibility, meaning that churches thinking about using Rock RMS will need to have people who are competent in technology administration and management.
Add to this List of Innovative Churches
Of course there are many other churches using digital technologies and making disciples online. Please add a comment to share and add to this list!