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PODCAST 047: Jon Crabtree & Why Churches (Big and Small) need a Mobile App




It’s 2020. Do churches really need a mobile app? Isn’t my website good enough on mobile devices? The answer for many churches today is, unfortunately, yes. Many churches don’t have an effective strategy for how to utilize mobile app, as well as, mobile web, more effectively.

Enter Jon Crabtree into the conversation. Jon works with Subsplash, a company who has helped thousands of churches move their ministry to mobile app and beyond. In episode 047 here, Jon drops some solid strategy for how your church, big or small, can effectively use mobile app in your physical church ministry.

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Guest: Jon Crabtree

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Host: Jeff Reed
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Jeff Reed


Jeff Reed: 00:00 All right, so Episode 47 here at The Church Digital Podcast, we're going to answer a question that I feel plagues many churches out there today. Is my church mobile app worthwhile? Now, the fact that you're asking that question, I'm probably going to say right now the answer is no and first before you all freak out. That's not your mobile apps fault. I think there's an opportunity for many out there in the church to better realize and understand what the purpose of a mobile app is for. If all we're doing is broadcasting weekend experience, weekend environment, weekend content through the mobile app, then yeah, there's better ways to do that or other ways to do that, cheaper ways to do that. Maybe, but there's another opportunity to do something larger with mobile app than what I think we're realizing right now to help us in this conversation. I'm bringing in Jon Crabtree. Jon works with sub splash who arguably has more mobile apps out there than anybody else in the country right now. And John has been with the company a long time and is used to answering questions from people like you and helping people just like you develop their ministry through the mobile space. And so we're going to bring Jon into the conversation specifically addressing and answering this one question. Why does your church, big or small, need a mobile app? Hey everybody, here you go.

Jon Crabtree: 01:21 We really consider ourselves at Subsplash an innovation company. In 2009, we built out the first ever iPhone app for a church. And so that was kind of the birth of the innovation mindset and spent several years just around many different services underneath that and have opened up many others, you know, beyond. So you think about not only just the app itself, but what services are under that media notifications, event delivery, Bible reading, those sorts of things. And then beyond that giving as well, as an element, just the overall engagement piece. And so being an engagement and innovation company, 11 years in mobile, and you know, really in 2009 the app store was about a year old. So we've kind of grown up with them. We were there in its infancy and we are kind of like the kid down the street from the app store, the neighbor that we grew up riding bikes together in a way.

Jon Crabtree: 02:19 So if you can think of that analogy..

Jeff Reed: 02:23 Like the iPhone came out what? '07 and it was all, it was all web based for that first year. Like they didn't, nobody had app stores, nobody had apps and then opened that up in '08. Wow.

Jon Crabtree: 02:36 Yeah, everything was Safari based. And you know, with media here is one of the big pieces is that there was no mobile responsiveness and the web at that. So everything was coming through Safari and you know, the pastor's head was huge cause it didn't actually respond to the phone size. And so that was one of the first problems innovatively that we solved was actually building according to apples. And then later Android's specs around how to present media through an app rather than through a web browser. Would I do for the company is really just I'm an evangelist for obviously for Jesus Christ, but ultimately how can Subsplash help you accomplish your goals of reaching more people and making more and better disciples?

Jon Crabtree: 03:24 So yeah, I'm talking a lot on it.

Jeff Reed: 03:28 So you guys primarily work with churches to figure out how to do this mobile app thing?

Jon Crabtree: 03:33 Churches and ministries as well. We have a lot of broadcast ministries that are seeing some incredible success, through our system as well. And but we also have some nonprofits, some charitable organizations and even some businesses. So, you know that's a smaller subset of, of who we serve, primarily churches and ministries.

Jeff Reed: 03:55 Subsplash is a little larger than some of the others that are out there. Like how many churches are you helping on a regular basis?

Jon Crabtree: 04:01 We now have around 12,000 total total clients, and probably 97% of those are churches and ministries. So some sort of services because we've taken a leap. I mean we, we really believe in a balanced strategy overall, mobile first of course, because if people aren't on a smartphone app, they're on a smart phone, web browser. That's pretty much where they're spending about 80 to 90% of their time total. So we partnered with a guy down in Austin, I think you were once in Austin, Jeff?

Jeff Reed: 04:35 Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jon Crabtree: 04:37 And his name is Steven Teststone and he's really a builder, built out a website, basically provider though. So you build your website through that back in 2006. So he was kind of in it when Squarespace and Wix started too around that same time. And so he had that going for about 11-12 years. And then we kind of merged with him and brought him on board the company. And now he's our, I would say our Director of Product Development, I believe is his official title, but as Steven Teststone don't so, so we offer that side as well. And so there's a whole lot of clients now that are using a variety of different services that we provide.

Jeff Reed: 05:18 So you've got mobile apps, you got, you got, websites, you know, TV apps. I think I've seen where you guys are doing the Roku and the Apple TVs. And how has development on this gone? What do you see like adoption rate with churches? Like are they, are they all about the mobile? Are they transitioning into mobile and web, are they adopting the TV apps? Like what are you kind of seeing in this?

Jon Crabtree: 05:41 Yeah, the analogy I like to make here is a lot kind of like a, we were just getting to the Superbowl, right? So a lot of football teams talk about a balanced, you know, a balanced team, a good offense and a good defense and all that. We really think of a balanced strategy digitally. And so I think this aligns well with what you talk about a lot, Jeff, is there is a whole lot of opportunity in this day and age to reach people on different types of screens and different types of devices.

Jon Crabtree: 06:13 When you look at the actual usage rates across, so comScore, they are a company that's based on a lot of different places, but their main hub is in the DC area and they do research across 16 different countries worldwide. And they look who's on actual television, who's on smartphones, who's on their desktops or laptop, they combine laptop under the desktop umbrella. But what they've found is pretty remarkable. The UK is some like 86% of total digital time spent on their smartphone and specifically inside apps. The other 14% of that time on their smartphone is in a web browser, like a mobile browser. But then you get to like the US, we're pushing 90%. You get to like Indonesia and Singapore, it's like 96% of the time that they're spending on their phone is in apps. And now that's a wide range. You know, you're talking 50 to a hundred top apps across the world, driven by multi-billion and trillion dollar companies.

Jon Crabtree: 07:17 But what's really fascinating about that is that the churches that have kind of gone all in with us are seeing some pretty incredible results. Like there's a church in Nashville, probably about 6,000 or 7,000 people on a weekend, but they have something like in the last 30 days alone, 26,000 sermon and media plays through all of their different screens. So that's mobile app. They have their web embeds on their website that they do through sub splash. They have their TV apps, a smaller percentage, only about 2% of their total is through the TV. But I think that reflects really, that switch from the television to the mobile device in this day and age, especially in the last five years but they're seeing something like 22,000 app users and those app users on a consistent basis have about 33 different impressions per month on their app.

Jon Crabtree: 08:13 So when it comes to the top churches that are really seeing success, they tend to see like around that and it's cause they're driving people to where people generally are in this day and age, which is on their phone. So a lesser amount on tablets and that's important as well. And then it's still around 25% of total time is on desktop. And so you gotta be able to connect all these things together. So all that to say, I think it was a long answer your question, but it really balanced the digital strategy is what we push in this in this day and age.

Jeff Reed: 08:46 And I could see totally where mobile and then tying in that web. So it's all within the same ecosystem.

Jon Crabtree: 08:51 Like last night my wife asked me what's Tiktok and being in the mobile space. I said, well it's kind of hard to explain but it's literally just a timeline of videos. So you had your Instagram starting out as a timeline of photos and now, but we download it together and it was really interesting cause we downloaded it, not in the app store. We went to their website and the very first thing says is download this on the you know when you click it and it goes to the app store and downloads for you. And so it's very interesting cause there's still a funnel going through the web but then when they want you to actually engage, it's in the app. So it's an interesting trend that's happening across kind of all of the big boys.

Jeff Reed: 09:31 So, yeah. So let's unpack that cause that's, that's a really fun paradigm. So you're, you're a mobile app guide, but some stuff lives in web too, right? Like let's talk this out because somebody out there is listening to right now and they're like, yeah, I don't need a mobile app. I've got a mobile website. That's all I need. What's the balance like when you're developing mobile strategy or when you're talking to a church, like what's the stuff they should be doing in mobile app? What's the stuff that they should be doing in mobile web? Like where is that tension as they're helping to develop a strategy?

Jon Crabtree: 10:03 Yeah, that's a great point because there's, there's kind of a wide range of things that are happening under that question, aren't there? There's, you've got Google who owns and YouTube, which those two forces combined along with some others. I know I'm very generalizing here, but those forces combined really drive where you show up when someone's searching for you. On the web and so you have to have a really nice mobile first and mobile friendly, not even mobile friendly anymore, mobile first website. You have to have that. And what what we see in the church world really is it's become more of your signposts in this day and age and less so your engagement portal, your engagement portal will be on the phone because statistics are saying if you're between the ages of 13 and 64 and I know 90% of statistics are made up, but if you're between the ages of 13 and 64 you're spending no less than 63% of your total, four and a half digital hours per day inside of a smartphone app. The other probably 2020 ish percent to 25 is spent in your basically desktop, laptop, browser environment. And then there's a smaller proportion of tablet apps and tablet web and, and smartphone with essentially the idea being that if you've got to make that website to be really nice to signpost for and that it's mobile first.

Jon Crabtree: 11:36 And so that means mobile responsive. That means you're using all the tags and SEO functionality that a modern website builder gives you, but then when you really want people to spend significant time, like study time, let's say Bible reading plan or maybe lead pastor or the community pastor or someone at the church, if you're dealing with a very large church, you know, usually they have someone who's like the teaching pastor and if that person has develop some sort of 21 day or 40 day curriculum, you want to drive people to your app for that because you can do audio and video better through that. You can generally do, you know, note-taking, cloud-based note taking better through that and even interaction like communication back and forth between the church and that individual. But in order to be searched and found, we got to have some really great stuff on the website too, specifically information that people are generally going to be looking for, which would be, in my mind, who's the leadership?

Jon Crabtree: 12:46 What's your statement of belief? What's your theological statement, so to speak? Where are you located? That's often one of the very first things. And, obviously you want giving and media and events showing up on there too. But if you really want people to go deeper throughout the week and you talked a lot about the other 167 hours a week or 166, whatever it is, right? Two hours on Sunday, what about the rest? And for me, it's, if you're going to give people significant opportunities to engage and go deeper that's where the app really comes into play in our minds. And we've seen it, we've seen that engagement and success happen for the clients that we have.

Jeff Reed: 13:32 I love that. Most churches I work with are lucky if they get one hour on Sunday. If you're getting two hours on Sunday, man, your, your preacher's preaching a long sermon or you really love worship. That, that's cool. But that's exactly right. I mean, and that's really the crux of this where I think a lot of the negativity that comes around a mobile app or to desire not to have a mobile app is really a lack of understanding the power of what a mobile app could be or a lack of even expectation of what the church is. Most of the mobile apps that I see and just, and I'm not going to make up stats because 90% of stats on the internet are made up, said, Ronald Reagan on the internet last week. And so as a result of that, but I would say that there's a large percentage of the mobile apps that I see in the market that churches are using are basically just a glorified weekend service where I have access to a message. I have the ability to take notes maybe for the message. Well, I mean, a lot of this stuff with the message, seeing the message, I can see that in a web browser, I can see that in a church online platform, audio only of the message. Okay, great. I can get that on a podcast. Like there's other things that we're doing where we can pull this stuff instead of through the mobile app. And if the, if that's your expectation is then, then yeah, you probably don't need a mobile app, but there's so much more power behind the mobile app. Like you're talking about reading plans or a lot of these other things that they get into that 167 hours a week. That would be other than the one hour on Sunday, which makes for a total of 168 which is great. But once we start to explore that space, you know, the mobile app, I agree with you, it, it starts to have a lot more purpose and some of that stuff, you know, at this time and day where it's not as easy in a mobile web infrastructure as it is in a, in a mobile app. So like, let me ask you this question, just what are some things that you've seen that Subsplash is doing, that's some churches maybe are looking for or even asking about that, really dig into this, reaching people from 167 hours a week, not just the one hour on Sunday?

Jon Crabtree: 15:43 Yeah, that's an awesome question Jeff. And we've been spending a lot of time trying to really dig into where people are right now and why, why they're there. And so we saw that on that same comScore research. It just came out on October 31st last year. And if you go to I think it is some like that. I can, I can shoot an email over to Jeff, but, but basically that what's really cool about that is that 93% of social interaction is happening through a mobile app. And so we spent a really good chunk of 2019 really figuring out when people are communicating with their church and with the people at the church in their small groups, if there's a serving on a weekend, right? If they're in that or they're in a Bible study, how do we get people when they go into their app to do something like, Oh, I'm going to give today because I was just, you know, I'm in here.

Jon Crabtree: 16:40 I saw my paycheck dropped. I'm going to set my gift, or set a recurring gift for the first time, or something like that. Then they see, you know, maybe an announcement that came through because of a notification that pulls them into the app. Well, what if now, you're going in there and you're able to see all the different groups you're a part of and it functionally becomes your check in for the week, you know, between Sundays with your small group or your volunteer group. It becomes a source of quick, easy communication through our new group communication feature. We call it Subsplash messaging. And just continuing to iterate on that to make it something where you can do, you know, encouragement throughout the week, prayer throughout the week, Bible Bible reading plans and really commenting to one another, in that way. But the key is it's living underneath your banner, your own church's banner.

Jon Crabtree: 17:33 Cause the other thing about the digital, as you probably know, Jeff, being an expert in the space with the advent of the digital era and, and just everything that's going on with that, we see a very high uptick in your, the capacity of people's attention to be focused for, you know, a sustained period of time. But if they're in the same place that is your under your banner, it's a different thing than being in a web browser on your churches website, but they can click a tab over and get to something else. You know, within the app, the only thing they're seeing is your, your content, your communication opportunities, chances to engage with you. And so, I don't know if necessarily know if that fully answered the question, but, messaging communication is a big component that we're working on.

Jon Crabtree: 18:23 And the other thing that I'm really excited about, and I told you this a couple of months ago, but it really came from some conversations you and I had maybe two, three years ago, about, you know, how do we connect databases that churches are using and use that information to really present a more personalized experience to the end user. And so we're actually working with Southeast Christian, rural Kentucky and they are on. yeah, they're, they're basically working with us around their particular database base system and ours to be able to do things like as simple as, Hey, I'm the database administrator. I just found out from the group's pastor that this person needs this particular piece of information. I'm going to click, you know, send this notification, type it in, click send, and it's going to show up on the, Southeast, you know, mobile app on that particular person's device.

Jon Crabtree: 19:20 Those are the kind of details that we've really been working on, with them. And there's more to come, but super exciting, super exciting thing.

Jeff Reed: 19:30 That's really exciting. So giving is a major component obviously, of, of church mobile apps and, and there's a lot of traffic towards that. What value does that add, towards Subsplash clients? Like what, what are some things that you're doing in that space on the giving that can even maybe help engagement?

Jon Crabtree: 19:48 Yeah. When we were talking earlier, Jeff, it's a good point about, what we're working on and a lot of it just comes down to working in parallel to make sure there's a lot of companies out there that might give you a, like a giving app but, and it's like go there to make the gift, but there's nothing really else engagement wise within it that would stir the heart because ultimately when you're making an ask for a tithe and an offering. Biblically, there's a lot that's said about that, but at the same time as a church and as a church leadership, every church has a different way of saying that. Well, when you couch that action of making a gift within every other piece of engagement that they could be doing with you, communicating with you, listening to you, watching you, seeing the events that are coming up and registering for them, reading the Bible, those things start to stir the heart, in a way that, really nothing else can. Are they engaged on mission with you? And so that's where that giving engagement piece really comes in. And so we've been doing a lot of work on, you know, just, just prompting people, allowing them, you know, educating churches to educate their people that Hey, giving online is a great thing, but there is a cost incurred because of how that whole merchant world works. And so, we've got this solution now that you can cover the fee for it for us so that we get the full extent of your gift. And so just things like that where it just fits in with the rest of what you're doing is engagement. And so as a result of that, we really do see just incredible, like two, two and a half, three times the average per person giving through Subsplash giving for churches because it's couched in all of their different engagement places and not just the separate action to be taken. That doesn't have anything to do with anything else you're doing at the church. So

Jeff Reed: 21:47 Very, very cool. There was, I was watching a, I'll give him credit, although I think I had the idea before him, but he'll take it. But Bobby Grunwald from, you know, Life Church, the Innovations guy over there. I was just, I was, the other day I was, was stuck and I was outside of a government TSA office, which is weird cause that's not what you expect to hear on a podcast. But I'm waiting and the sign says we'll be back in 15 minutes at the door and the door's locked and it was 45 minutes and I'm still waiting for the person to come back from 15 minute break and so finally they do come back. But while I was waiting, I was watching, Bobby Grunwald was doing, a live stream and basically just he was talking about just stuff that hits the cutting room floor.

Jeff Reed: 22:28 It's like, man, I would love to have time to do this, but we never really explored it. But now, you know, now that X, Y, Z projects are done, we're starting to pick some of this up. And you know, the live stream audience is like, what, what are you thinking about cutting? What have you cut, what, what are you bringing back? Trying to, you know, get them to say something. And one of the, what he teased it with was there's lots of things that we were doing in the church online realm that would be extremely powerful in the physical realm. We just need to figure out how to do it. Yeah. And he, and he alluded to this one thing and I'm like, I have literally said it on this podcast, so I have it recorded on the record that I said it before he said it.

Jeff Reed: 23:06 And it comes into this idea of I would love to see a church and even if this fits under mobile app, that's cool. I would love to see a church utilize chat in the physical space because we have this thing where we're like, okay, we need to, we multitasking in a virtual environment. You're capable of do more because you're staring at whatever. But I think when you're in that physical environment, you're in that second space anyway. And I think there's an opportunity to utilize that text, that chat as a second input in during a message, even specifically the key people engaged to funnel and secondary information to compliment what the speaker is saying on stage. And so like I've been suggesting to people figure out how to make WhatsApp work, figure out how to make whatever. But like if there's a chat option underneath, Subsplash and then the mobile apps, man, I would love to see churches start to explore with that instead of be like, Hey, turn the phone off and put it away. Your Bible apps already on there. Figure out how to engage with that. You want them doing social media posts in the middle. The trick is really to use that, that mobile app is the window to keep people engaged during that service time. Any thoughts on that?

Jon Crabtree: 24:18 Absolutely. I think that's something that is so underutilized is just how are we bringing that technology into the live space as well. And it's something that the engineers, you know, on a, on that particular team in our company is really looking at is how can this thing be flexible enough that you could use it almost anywhere because people have their phones with them pretty much anywhere.

Jon Crabtree: 24:47 And not only that, but what I love about your podcast and specific, Jeff, cause I've listened to so many is just we are entering an age where the old paradigm of what church is the model is shifting. And a lot of people are talking about the church, you know, churches closing their doors, more churches closing their doors and opening them in this day and age, right? And so, that's not a good thing on the, the life index of the church, right? When you think about it, that's a negative. Birth rates are not good in, for humans. Negative birth church rates are not good for the areas that they're occurring in. And so if we don't change the model, to fit, you know, where our culture is while retaining the core things, Gospel, you know, that's central, retaining the core message, that's what's most important.

Jon Crabtree: 25:44 Beyond that, the model is something that, we start, we need to be, start being very creative and flexible with and so, that's awesome. Jeff, I'll give you credit ahead of time. I didn't know that, but you've got the proof. So whether it's you, Bobby or both.

Jeff Reed: 26:03 I'll take up the town toe to toe. That's okay. He'll probably pretty some email from like 1994 before there were even like mobile phone. I don't know. Ronald Reagan probably said that at some point in the 60s. So what will give Ronald Reagan credit for it all? That's awesome.

Jon Crabtree: 26:23 Could I add to that too? Life church is such an awesome forward thinking church and not every church can be them, right? Most churches across the world, or a hundred people or less on a weekend, where Subsplash really is trying to come in is, we've an idea of, and it's a bold, hairy audacious goal, but the goal is to equip every church in some way in our lifetime with whatever tool of ours that will solve a problem for them. And the idea behind that too is just making sure that, what I loved at Life Church does is they make so much of their content and their innovation wide open. And so we, we love churches who do that and, you know, and not only that ministries as well and that's, I think a lot of the heart behind us. Yes, we're a company, not a church, but we strive to kind of be along that same line of, how can we equip churches of all sizes in this day and age for that shift?

Jeff Reed: 27:27 Yeah. Well here's the reality, and I've said this publicly before, is that we need companies to do the innovation of today. I truly believe this. I don't think as a general rule, yeah, Life Church is the exception. Cool. As a general rule, churches cannot be innovative. The bleeding edge tax that's involved in doing what we're doing, an individual church cannot do that. I can tell you I've tried multiple times and I have felt the pain point of going to that Financial Director and saying, I need another X number of thousands of dollars to keep the model going. And then the evil stare that comes back because like the organization today that the church is structured as cannot be innovative, they can't feel that bleeding edge. Well the cost that that's involved in that, the ability for organizations like Subsplash to, to step in, to provide some of that innovation and then spread that out across multiple churches, is, is awesome.

Jeff Reed: 28:29 And we need more organizations to step up and be a part of it. One of the other churches that I think are very advanced in the mobile scope is, is this, this idea of a Churchome? Yes. And I don't think their with Subsplash. They've got their own, you know, in house development company and they're actually developing that to one day release it out. I think the others, and they're kind of going in there in their own direction. But one of the things that are really am, am intrigued that here is this idea of, of a centralized church model happening in the mobile app. You know, a lot of times with church, and we talk a lot about this in the podcast, it's, you know, the mobile app drives to a physical campus, a church online is the front door to the physical campus or is maybe a side door to somebody that's already engaged at the physical campus.

Jeff Reed: 29:21 But they really took, a church home and, and, and several others have, have taken a much more aggressive stance in, okay, we're going to create a digital door, digital ministry opportunity for us to engage with people who are nowhere near our church or maybe even to the point of like a Jate Earhart doing, Discord with Love Clan or are some of the others, it's a digital only, expression of the set that there is no physical. When you look at the mobile app, maybe just unpack here for a little bit like what doors opened up when you have that mobile app connection point with people when you're trying to create not a complimentary thing that feeds into a physical but maybe an only thing where it's a digital only expression of worship and anything any thoughts kind of on that?

Jon Crabtree: 30:12 Yeah. You mentioned Churchome and I'm up in the Seattle area and they're in Kirkland right across Lake Washington. So no more than nine or 10 miles separate. And we have a lot of friends over there that we've had conversations with about, Hey, how's this strategy going? What have you guys learned in this transition? Because that was a bold step to take by them. And for me, I always kind of having been just had a soft spot for innovation and people who think different, to use the Apple phrase from back in the early, what was it? Late nineties, early two thousands but really just wanting to figure out what have you guys learned from there? Because I think thought partnership above all else is really important in the church today around how do we advance the kingdom in this new culture, in this new era?

Jon Crabtree: 31:03 So all that to say is one of the things I think that they learned from conversation we have with them is that you, you went that direction and then you found out that even then people were gathering together physically and whether it was at homes or at a coffee shop or whatever. And so it became this digital turning into the physical. And I think that comes down to, there might be some generational differences where even if someone found out about church home through the app, they probably, if they're of a certain generational persuasion, they still feel more comfortable meeting face to face and together. And I think there's something to that cause it's the way the church grew up, right? Home churches, physical meetings, very small home churches and physical meetings. But nonetheless, but I think like you were talking about, Jate and Love Clan, you have people there in gamers who are not comfortable with the face to face, but discord is where they go for community.

Jon Crabtree: 32:03 Well, we need to hit them there. So it's just so fascinating because I don't know if there's a one size fits all strategy, but I think if we're too afraid to take technological innovation risks, we may not come to those learnings that Jate or Churchome have found and be able to get to a place where in the next era, and I'm talking like five, 10, even 20 years down the road, we're not going to know what to do at that point if we don't have people out there on the front lines doing exactly what you're talking about. I'm mid millennials, so I'm 35 born in the mid eighties and so I do still remember a time in my elementary school classrooms where there wasn't a computer yet. And then, you know, third, fourth, fifth grade, they started showing up. And so I'm still bordering that generation where technology. I remember a time with the rotary phone, we'll just put it like that but I mean, my, my nephew who's 21, you know, he does not ever remember a time where a cell phone wasn't nearby, you know, within arms reach. So how are we going to reach people if we don't reach them where they are at this moment?

Jeff Reed: 33:25 You know, it's, it's interesting. And this is coming from a guy that used to edit audio with a razor blade. I literally learned in college how to do that. So, I'm past the millennial. Let's just say it that way. I'm 42. I was almost graduated from college before I bought my first cell phone, which is funny cause my daughter who's like 11 is like, daddy, everybody else has a cell phone or like dang it kid, I didn't, so you're not, I'm that Dad. She has an iPad but not a cell phone. So it's a thing. All right, so, but here's the thing, when it comes to Jate, like, and just getting into this, people have this concept and perception and innovation always has, has people that are pro and con it. And you know, with this podcast that we ran recently with Jate, you know, talked about this, honestly, like from, from a listener side. And I don't talk a lot about stats, but it was the second largest podcasts that we've launched to date.

Jeff Reed: 34:23 It was just a lot of people really, you know, caught in on this and you know, and I'm looking at the stats and I'm like, this is awesome. I'm celebrating. This is great. I even messaged Jate, I'm like, Hey, congratulations man, your podcast like took off. It's the second largest that we've done to date on this. And he gives me like an LOL back on, on Facebook messenger and then start sending me, you know, I'm not saying it's hate mail, but it's people who are, who have found him on, on Facebook and are sending him, like, you're not a church. And just like starting, you know, to rip this guy. And I'm like, Jate, I'm so sorry bro. Like, you know how, send them to me, you don't need to take this. Let me take it, let me help, let me, you know, I started to like, you know, bow up a little bit.

Jeff Reed: 35:09 You know, dude, I'm 40 like, you know, take your shots at me. Not some kid that's doing this, that being said, there's always this, you know, risk when you do, especially in this. And I think this is one of the things really in church online and digital technologies, where you're messing with people's traditions. And I think that's really why the church is so far behind, when it comes to innovation because it's somebody's tradition. It's somebody's history. It's somebody's past that you're now messing with. And while businesses are like, screw the past, I'm all about making the money for today, let's be innovative. Let's be the only people out there that are doing this thing. You know, the church body really struggles to let go and to focus more on ahead because so much of the model of today with the attenders and arguably consumers is, you know, don't move my cheese or to paraphrase the Tom Rainer book, don't move my podium.

Jeff Reed: 36:12 Like you're not allowed to mess with tradition, not allowed to move with past. It's almost, I was on a podcast once and Tom's like, it's like major league baseball where you can't change the way some rule is because Babe Ruth didn't deal with that in like 1914 and it's like, you know, 2020 now, bro. Like do things different to be more effective. And so a lot of what you guys are doing, and I've, John, I've loved our conversations and the Subsplash conversations because it's, Hey, you know, this would be really cool if you could do this for the church. Churches would love this. The church can't afford to do this on their own. But I'm willing to bet if you pitch this idea at like 15 churches, somebody else's is going to love that, you know? And even seeing some of the stuff you're doing now with the church in Louisville and that's, that's just awesome. That's good stuff.

Jon Crabtree: 37:02 Part of what's so exciting about what I do is, my dad actually you mentioned Thom Rainer. He studied under Thom Rainer at Southern seminary, and got his PhD in theology when I was kind of late middle school through basically, end of high school. So when my dad was there, so this is you think late nineties, early two thousands. And his whole, work in his PhD was literally the church growth movement and how from let's say the forties to the nineties, the church grew. Well, the fact of the matter is it was like, and my dad keeps talking about this because he continues to read, you know, books from top thought leaders, but he's like, what worked in the forties to the nineties. We're in a totally different era that in this day and age, and I think the Lord has brought people up, you know, who are very steadfastly devoted to him, but also he's brought them up with the skills and mindsets of technological innovation, innovating models, design thinking. How do we design the church for the 21st century? Ultimately, again, there are ways that in scripture, I think, you know, the Lord has instituted what needs to happen at church, but the question is, can we model it? Can we put the pieces around, move them around to make the model fit more where we are in this day and age? Cause we're not in the forties to the nineties anymore.

Jeff Reed: 38:28 Yeah. So often we're, we're holding onto this idea of this church growth model. I hadn't heard that it had stopped in the 90s. I didn't know that was a thing. But I know that cause I know people are still clinging to it. I mean, even one of the churches that I work with, multiple churches that I work with, Christmas was rough and in a lot of churches across America, numbers were down. And even the fact that I'm saying numbers are down, it's numbers are down. When you're looking at the church service attendance, which is a horrible stat to look at because it doesn't evaluate what your church is 168 hours a week, it evaluates that one hour on Sunday, which was down in many of the churches that I know but that's arguably because engagement and attendance over all is down.

Jeff Reed: 39:23 And so it's moving away from the church growth model and understanding there has to be something new and different. One of the churches that I'm working with, and this has nothing to do with mobile app, but everything to do with the future of the church. So, but what are the churches that I'm working with? Like it's long and hard conversations towards a discipleship, the cycle disciple-making evangelism, learning how to serve a community and engage in a community and move away from creating environments where we're staff and pastors are responsible for creating environments and instead moving the staff and the pastors too. I'm responsible for creating disciple makers and stop doing a checklist where consumers will come in and see a service and then go out for another two to three weeks before they come back again for another tent pole, a shot of adrenaline, spiritual adrenaline to get them through.

Jeff Reed: 40:20 And instead, Hey, let's a staff be responsible for training people in discipleship so that they're capable to go out there and train other people and witness to others and to create that disciple making movement that's not driven by the one hour on Sunday. Yeah, I won't drop a bunch of stats because we've been making fun of stats all days, but there's a ton of valid stats that Ronald Reagan from the 60s stats here towards, creating disciple-making movements and how that's how people today are looking for spiritual guidance. That's what they're looking for. Organizational evangelism is going away quickly. Yeah. The world does not care what we as a church think the world thinks, cares what people think. And it's our job to get our engagers, our listeners, our audience, our members, the Christians who are underneath us to become that new messenger out. Mobile app is so much a tool towards that.

Jon Crabtree: 41:22 I was going to say that with that. what's one of the questions I often ask executive teams at churches is, do you know how many people are in your database? You know, whatever. Every church has some database of record tracking, you know, who's been there at least in the past at some point and maybe where they're from and do they have a family and you know, is the whole family there and all that. I say, how many people are actually in there? And, and then I follow up with how many people actually show up on a Sunday. and oftentimes those numbers are wildly different, much more people in the database, like five, six, seven, 10x as many people in a database as people actually show up on the weekend. I mean, part of that is like people move to different places, and out of the region or maybe they moved churches. You never know what happens. But the final question I ask is, how are you, how are you still communicating with that huge chunk of people that aren't showing up every Sunday?

Jon Crabtree: 42:27 And this is the way to do it is. But, then I always say, you know, and, and it makes my managers a little bit uncomfortable here, but I always tell churches, don't do mobile apps if you're not going to do it well or right because you end up shooting yourself in the foot. You have pretty much one shot at like developing that trust. It's really hard if you do it improperly or incorrectly, I should say. If it's not quality, if it doesn't match the user experience that they expect of like those top 50 apps, that they probably have at least five to 10 of them on their phone because we're, again, competing with billion and trillion dollar companies that have some of the best engineering years in the world. And so the question is, does your provider that you're working with on the mobile app or is the custom company that you're working with because you decided to go that route, do they have the infrastructure and support needed for it, you know, because you probably don't have fully fleshed out IT. Like let's say, Microsoft has or any, any company in the Forbes Fortune 500. Excuse me. But then more importantly, like what does the user experience and what do they feel if you're just putting in like, a web video or something like that in as your media solution, chances are people will just go to that outside media solution instead of your app because they can do other things there too. Do you really want your people on WhatsApp or Facebook messenger as like their primary communications point with your church? It's a question. They're free platforms. They, they have some good things about them. The question is, is like, do you want to send people to your platform or to another platform and do you want them spread out amongst five, six, 10 platforms, you know, for here's for doing payments and finance and giving.

Jon Crabtree: 44:28 And here's like where you go from media, but actually you go to, or Vimeo for media, but you go to, you know, SoundCloud or Apple podcasts or Spotify. And so you're sending them to all these other places. If you can do it well with a really good user experience, you'll see that kind of, you know, three, four, five times as many app users. Cause people even who don't get there except every three weeks they'll still have the app and you'll still be able to get to them and they'll still be able to get to you in those two to three weeks that they missed. So I had a guy call me out on Facebook, Joe Radosevich, I'll drop the name because now he writes for The Church Digital. He called me out and I was like, be part of the solution, come onboard.

Jeff Reed: 45:08 But he called me out for this. He said, Jeff, I love the stuff that you're creating and you're doing. I'm a small town pastor and he said at as the church, he's at 55, 66, under a hundred and he says to me, not that numbers matter, but in context of where I'm going, 80% of churches in America are under 200. I think you alluded to that stat earlier and that may be a Ronald Reagan stat. I don't know, but I think it's legit. It's legit. And so the, I think the average sized church in America is 71, 63, that's under 100. Once again. So it's okay. And so here's my question for you. Talk to that sub 200 person church. How can they utilize a mobile app? You want to get a mobile app tool in every church in America, 80% are under 200. Why should they be using Subsplash? Why should they be using mobile app?

Jon Crabtree: 46:05 Number of reasons. And I'll talk about the product in general and where it really starts to match that type of user experience. People expect if they go into, you know, any of these top apps, across all of our services. We have a high view of user experience design and we have a couple of people who've been in it pretty much since '08, '09. And so when you start putting those, that kind of expertise in there, but really it comes down to engagement. Like yes, the app, but what does your website look like? Do you have someone on staff who is proficient in, marketing in this day and age and getting just information out to the congregation? Let's not even talk about the rest of that small community.

Jon Crabtree: 46:54 Let's just talk about your congregants. Do you have people who are proficient and skilled in this technological age? And I think where some splash comes in as opposed to some of those other mobile app companies is that, when you partner with us. Yes, you get an app, but we can provide your website that's tied in like we were talking about earlier so to where you know, people who move into your community are going to find you because you're gonna pop up the search engine score because your website gets, basically, you know, through the snap pages by Subsplash website builder, there's just, it's built according to the latest Google search engine rules. So now your search engine score pops up, you start moving up that list. The question is, as a 200 person church, do you still need an overall digital strategy?

Jon Crabtree: 47:46 And we actually partner with, with churches not only to provide a product but a service of a kind of a client success. It's actually what we call it, Client Success Manager, who we'll actually walk along and they've got, they've got a unique experience because, they work in technology or have had a technology or marketing role before, but they've also worked at a church or ministry. So, we have a mutual friend, you know, from one of the churches that you were at, who's now at Subsplash, and that's his role. He's been a worship pastor in Miami. He's been a worship pastor out here in the Seattle area and he's also worked in technology and marketing. And now he's helping churches, of all different sizes, you know, 200 person church, even up to larger churches, to not only give them a product, but really think about how are you guys doing church today and does it match the current era, the current culture?

Jon Crabtree: 48:48 Does it match what people expect? So, I'd say even beyond the product, the service that is provided, the consulting is a big piece. So make sure whoever you're working with that you've got good consulting on that end, especially if you're a smaller church, cause you probably don't have as many resources as the larger church to really get expertise in that way. On the product side, there's gotta be something that differentiates your product from, from a competitive non-church product, right? So I'll just start with meaty. Here's an example. the cool thing about YouTube for churches is the searchability and the fact that Google owns it. So your search engine score, if you do it right on your website, it's going to make you very visible to people who don't know about you. The question is, once they know you, do you want them going there and actually being in the YouTube environment because you start getting, they start getting things that they're not just going to YouTube for you. And so they're getting served up things by YouTube that are, you know, that aren't, that have nothing to do with you as a church. Now on the other end, if you want them to go deeper with you and they're already invested. What's cool about this Subsplash media delivery service is that if you're in the app, you can start on the video, but let's say you need to hop in the car, you just click switch to audio, pulls up right from where you left off, pop your headphones in or hit CarPlay and boom, you're off and running and still staying engaged and so those kinds of things that aren't really available anywhere else. If your church app doesn't have those, it probably won't be as compelling to, to use or utilize.

Jeff Reed: 50:34 With Joe, the guy who called me out with his small church, 50, 60 people. Like he's the only pastor. He's the only staff person. And and so he speaks technology, which is why I like him and I've got him on board with us doing blogging and some other things, but to The Church Digital, just continuing to kind of target that sub 200 church, but he's the only person on his staff. And so as vendors reaching out to be able to help and provide some of that wisdom for a small church, you definitely want to find somebody that speaks to that. And I can tell you with Subsplash, just in my own, my own personal experience with them over the years, they are phenomenal with this.

Jeff Reed: 51:14 As I was sitting here and I want to throw a couple more things at you. I actually was thinking of a situation that I'm in right now that I'm like, Hey, there are other churches that are struggling with this and I don't know that you provide this, but this would be a great idea that would help churches down the road. What we're looking at here, with one of the churches that I'm with is this idea of a discipleship pathway. The whole like the process that it takes to become a member or to, you know, learn about the church to get connected into groups. A purpose driven church. They call it 101, 201 301, 401, like all that mess. We're in the process of trying to redo that with the church that I attend, Christ Journey, here in Miami. And with that, what we're trying to do is flip the classroom so that we're not watching or listening to some guy lecture for an hour in the thing, but instead were watching them, you know, on a mobile app or something online.

Jeff Reed: 52:15 We're taking an assessment test, which is fed in, and then we're coming in into the classroom not to listen to a lecture, but more to ask questions to model, to demo kind of what we've learned. And so to make it much more interactive instead of just sit and listen, I would think there's probably a way that you could piece that together with Subsplash. But I would love to see something where that was more structured, with the assessments with, video consumption, even inner activity, asking questions through the mobile app. So I'm just sending people to the Christ Journey mobile app in that they're taking the process instead of this hodgepodge different thing that's all over the place. That to me would be a big win, within the app thing. So just a thought.

Jon Crabtree: 53:01 Stay tuned. There's a lot coming in that direction.

Jeff Reed: 53:05 I won't take credit for that one, cause it sounds like you're working on it. That's cool.

Jon Crabtree: 53:11 Well, here's the great thing about the church right now is I really have seen, you know, across the church, just a, just a new waves, exciting innovation, people being kind of on similar wavelengths in their thinking.

New Speaker: 53:31 Hey John, thanks for jumping on the podcast here and glad to have you on, where can people find you or to get connected with Subsplash? What's a good next step for them? Yeah, you can find me, at So you can always email me your thoughts on this. You know, this episode even, I'm happy to chat with you and is our website and we're also on all the different, places as @subsplash. So, you know, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, you name it.

New Speaker: 54:04 Awesome. Hey, well John, thanks for joining us. For John, this is Jeff with The Church Digital. Thanks for being here and we'll see you next time at the podcast. Have a good day.

PODCAST 046: Matt Welty & Creating Community via Mobile App
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About Author

Jeff Reed
Jeff Reed

With about 20 years experience serving the church in the digital/technological realm, Jeff loves working with churches. As passionate about Discipleship as he is Technology, Jeff uses his passion to help Churches develop technology systems to bring people far from God closer to him. Oh, and he loves Digital Church & Church Online.

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