by Marty Lange
Learning how to leverage the power of mobile technology is important in order to be relevant in the lives of today’s youth. [There are] four areas an individual or an organization can explore, get training in, and begin implementing fairly quickly: Social Media, SMS, Media Content, and Apps.
Text messaging is undoubtedly the biggest use of mobile phones worldwide. In January of 2015, 26 billion SMS texts were sent every day.
The “La Voz de la Nueva Generación” survey results indicate a great willingness among those aged 12 to 24 to receive text messages of hope, encouragement and prayer. This is an opportunity for the Church to build on, creating lists of subscribers and sending them micro-messages on a regular basis, or as might be appropriate for events that are happening in the community.
Facebook is making agreements with service providers around the world to offer access to the Internet and Facebook for free.
Through their social media connections, churches and ministries can raise awareness and promote the use of Scripture, apps, music videos, music albums, dramas, Scriptures and publications that can be accessed on phones. Direct links can be embedded in their posts.
Creating content that will be consumed on mobile phones, and especially smartphones, represents a new challenge for the Church. It means focusing less on generating printed materials and putting more time, energy and resources into creating non-print media such as audio recordings, videos and images. It means moving away from passages of text, audios, and videos that take a long time to “consume,” and instead, creating short, easily “consumed” programs instead.
This is a new area for the Church to explore. Apps are an effective way to get young people engaged with the Scriptures and Scripture-based content on their phones. There are many formats that can be used to present the content: games, quizzes, digital songbooks, storybooks, how-to tutorials, sermon series, etc.
Previously, developing apps was a costly endeavor or something that required a programmer. But with the advent of Scripture App Builder and Reading App Builder, it has become quite easy to create apps in a short time. If the planning has been done correctly, putting the resources together into an app can be done quickly.
The Best Time is Now
Without a solid distribution plan in place from the very beginning, even the greatest products can go unused. As the Church begins to develop plans, strategies, content and products for a billion new cellphone owners, it is critical that distribution be considered from the very beginning.
The best time to start doing something is now. Every day, thousands of youth around the world are obtaining their first phone and are eager to start using it. Individuals and businesses are producing content and apps that appeal to these new users, encouraging them to spend their time and money on apps and services. Unfortunately, much of the content that is being offered is of negative value.
The Church also has the opportunity to engage these youth with Scripture and Scripture-based materials. This offers never-before-dreamed-of possibilities to the Church, which values the life-transforming Scriptures, to produce apps and content in the minority languages that draw people into a relationship with Christ.
In order to do that, it means taking a serious look at how we are currently ministering to youth and adults, and being willing to make some changes. It means doing some studies, developing new skills, and investing money in mobile phone strategies. It means taking some risks.
Marty is currently leading the mobile technology initiative for the Scripture engagement team of SIL Americas Area. His focus is on helping churches and indigenous partners to leverage mobile technology to draw people into God’s Word in their heart language. Marty coordinated a partnership initiative to conduct a multi-national survey of indigenous youth to measure how they think about and use cell phone technology. He is developing training in Spanish for those who are interested in learning how to leverage this technology so indigenous believers can produce their own Scripture engagement, mobile strategies and apps, and to equip them to be able to multiply this training through others.