Technology has changed just about everything about the way we live. That includes how we go to church.
Once a strictly in-person experience, churches are now building communities online. In the case of Elevation Church, that digital community is massive — and growing every day.
To be clear, Elevation Church has established a powerful physical presence. The organization has 18 locations across three states and Canada, and in 2018, Elevation’s weekly attendance averaged about 26,000 people.
Online, however, the numbers are even more impressive. In 2018, Elevation had 80 million sermon views across all platforms, more than 21 million podcast downloads, 620,000 followers on Instagram and 700,000 followers on Facebook. The population of viewers and fans included people from all 50 states and 114 countries, which is even more impressive when you consider the organization launched just 13 years ago.
There was just one problem: In the course of that exponential growth, Elevation had also outgrown the third-party mobile app it was using to support its online community. It was an off-the-shelf solution for an organization that needed something custom.
We came in to help.
When Elevation Church decided to add a mobile app to its digital experience, it found a third-party provider that specialized in working with churches. The company offered one core product that could be customized to suit the needs of an individual organization — but only to an extent.
There were limits to what the app company could provide, and for an organization as nimble as Elevation, those limitations quickly became a real problem, said Cherish Rush, communications director at Elevation.
The live experience wasn’t functioning properly, and that was a priority for the organization. Making changes or getting updates took too long. Customer service was limited on Saturdays and Sundays — important days for a church. And the app provided limited data, meaning Elevation couldn’t see what was resonating with users and what wasn’t, Cherish explained.
“We were just ready to have more custom capabilities. We wanted to create something we could update whenever we needed to and to build it in way that would work as our online experience continues to grow,” she said.
Elevation isn’t just looking to digitize its core content offerings. Like most brands out there, the organization wants to build engaged digital communities. That requires constant analysis of user data and an agile approach to technology development — neither of which was possible with the mobile application the church was using.
“We want people to have the connection to a local church, and we want the same thing for those people who attend online. They’re not just consuming content. They want the resources to grow in their faith,” she said. “The end game is really letting people build community right where they’re at because we understand that church may just look different in the next 10 or 20 years.”
Elevation has a robust internal development team, with front- and back-end developers on staff. But building a mobile application presented a different challenge — one Elevation wasn’t yet ready to tackle in house. Instead, the organization wanted to bring in an outside expert to custom-build the app. Then, it would hire someone to manage and update the app going forward.
That was the plan. Then, it was time to execute.
And we had a big idea for a better way forward.
Corey Pruitt is the development team lead at Elevation, responsible for managing digital assets for the church. On the mobile app project, he worked side by side with Dualboot Partners throughout the development process.
“I designed the user interface for the app and was able to hand that off to them. And it was a very smooth, collaborative effort,” Corey said. “Our strength was the experience side. Dualboot came in from the technical side, and it was just a really great partnership.”
Elevation had a few key requirements for the new, custom application: It had to provide a better user experience. It had to provide a more robust data set, and it had to integrate with MyElevation, Elevation’s customer relationship management tool, Corey explained.
In addition, the app had to connect to the church’s web platform so the two could share content, without having to produce assets specific to each. So the in-house team at Elevation built an API to facilitate that connection, while the app was under construction, Corey said.
As the process moved into its final stages, Elevation hired a full-time app developer, who was able to learn from Dualboot’s team as the project wrapped.
They were communicating with him on a daily basis, and he started building some of his own features and checking in with their developers. It felt like a breeze. Within a few months, our new developer felt like he had a pretty good grasp on the way things were built.
Central Digital Team Lead
The Elevation Church app went live in February of 2019. The project came in on time and under budget, which has created an opportunity for additional features currently in development.
Overall, the biggest change has been in the live experience, which is now much more stable and reliable, Cherish said.
We were just ready to have more custom capabilities. We wanted to create something we could update whenever we needed to and to build it in way that would work as our online experience continues to grow. Before, we would tell people to watch on YouTube, but now we feel like we can send people to the app and know that they’ll have a good experience
The app and the online platform are connected via the API built by the Elevation team. MyElevation has been integrated, Corey added. And the new application is delivering a better trove of data, which the organization can use in planning content, services and experiences for its community.
I think the Dualboot team did a good job of asking questions and trying to clarify where things could be interpreted differently. They were able to connect the dots on things so that we didn’t have to spell out every detail and pixel for them to get the picture of what we needed. We were able to communicate high-level things, and they were able to fill in the gaps.
Central Digital Team Lead
Now, Elevation is poised to continue building a robust online community, with an app designed to deliver superior performance now and into the future.