What are People Looking for in Church Today?

People are seeking connection and community. It just needs to be done in a way that feels natural to them. ‍
The Apollos Project

The expectations for on-demand everything is only increasing: groceries, work, Ted Lasso, sports, church. (Side note: Ted Lasso has taken too long to give us Season 3.) But only one of those things can fill the void deep within each of us.

Nobody comes to church asking for help filling the God-shaped hole in their hearts. But they will come looking for specific things.

Whether attending church or a sporting event—people are seeking connection and community. It just needs to be done in a way that feels natural to them.

As humans, we’re wired for connection. As churches, we’re called to continue gathering people together.  

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another. —Hebrews 10:25

The traditional church model is all about gathering. With centuries of experience, the Church is good at the in-person part. But setting foot onto a church campus feels daunting to an unchurched generation. People want church their way—and that means not always (and sometimes never) stepping into a building.  

Take Gen Z, for example. Over half of Gen Z teens feel motivated to learn more about Jesus. There’s a huge opportunity for digital discipleship here! Churches can meet teens where they are (device in hand, online) and equip parents with tools and resources, too.  

Here are three things attendees are looking for in digital church:

  1. They’re lonely: They want a sense of community.  
  2. They’re struggling: They want help with a challenge in their marriage, parenting, school, relationships, etc.
  3. They’re ready for more: They want deeper relationships and experiences within the church.  

Knowing this, how can you improve your digital church strategy to meet people’s needs?  

  1. Focus on helping people make connections within your church app  
  2. Make it easier for people to receive guidance, find hope, or get help  
  3. Help people make deeper connections within your church  

#1 - Focus on helping people make connections with one another within your church app  

Churches want people to experience “community,” but that’s a really hard step for people to take. Seekers want to know, will I make friends here? How can I get started?  

Two digital church leaders, NewSpring and Crossroads, both use The Daily functionality offered on Apollos to engage people outside of Sundays. The Daily includes three practices core to the church: scripture, gratitude, and prayer. People are invited to share things they’re grateful for, read and journal about scripture, and either request prayer or pray for others.  

We can probably all agree that reading scripture can be daunting—and that being in the Word is essential to people’s faith journey. Churches can guide people through this step and help them feel connected to the community.  

Instead of serving up content to consume, Apollos focuses on community engagement. In the church app, scripture is a social experience. The Read Scripture aspect of The Daily gives people a dose of digital discipleship. Here’s how.  

Each day, a new passage of scripture appears, and users have the option to read it and journal about it. They can also view people’s public journals. By reading journals, people gain insights, explore different interpretations, and even find words for something they couldn’t express themselves. Plus, with ongoing use, attendees become familiar with one another.

Again, this is a low-risk way for people to engage with others in the community. They’re invited to share their thoughts, but doing so is 100% on their terms. And they’re learning more about the way of Jesus in the process. Embracing technology isn’t simply about relevancy—it’s about relationships.

Building relationships is one of the key reasons NewSpring’s pastor writes great scripture journals in their church app, and shares them with the online community. It’s a more personal, relatable way to dig into the Bible.

#2 – Make it easier for people to receive guidance, find hope, or get help  

Let’s shift the focus to Gratitude. For Crossroads, gratitude is the #1 most completed part of their church app.  

We have a couple of theories about why. One is that gratitude is universally acceptable to both believers and skeptics. Second, science and the Bible agree that practicing gratitude is important.

Gratitude is a biblical command: “Give thanks in every situation...”, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  

Science shows that gratitude improves relationships, happiness, physical and psychological health, and reduces depression. Grateful people also sleep better and have better self-esteem.

When people practice gratitude, they feel better. If you read the news, it seems we all need to feel better. Just recently the CDC published a report showing rates of sadness and hopelessness on the rise in teen girls. Practicing gratitude is a small but important way churches can support their attendees.  

Gratitude is an easy place for anyone to begin. Through the church app, people can write a few things they’re thankful for—and either share those with the community or keep them private. You don’t have to write anything to see what others are grateful for. By making gratitude a social experience, people can get a feel for some elements of being in a community group without actually being in a group. It’s a risk-free way of dipping their toes in the water. And as we said before, gratitude has loads of benefits.  

Prayer is also a big part of supporting attendees. Within 72 hours of NewSpring launching the app, they had 1,300 prayers sent to the app. People want to feel cared for, and in-app prayer is just one way to do this.

#3 - Help people make deeper connections within the church

In large churches, it can be hard for attendees to know how to get connected or what their best next step should be. So how can churches guide them to make those deeper connections?

Through Apollos, you can leverage your church’s database to present smart next steps for each person. Apollos integrates with nearly every church data management system (like Rock, for example), so you can deliver personalized discipleship.  

NewSpring offers personalized recommendations on the home screen, based on each person’s journey. These include:  

  • Upcoming events
  • Groups they can join
  • Important milestones not yet completed (reading scripture, being baptized)
  • Stories, news, or highlights based on what is known about you  

For example, if you know that Tina is 32 with kids, she might see parenting articles, kid-related events, and the next Moms group meeting.  

NewSpring’s second screen is The Daily, beginning with gratitude, then scripture, then prayer. The order of these three practices can be adjusted to suit the needs of your church.

All of these connection points within the Apollos church app invite the users to engage in a way that feels comfortable to them.  

Chat with our team to see what Apollos can do for you.  

See what Apollos can do for you