Prayer and spiritual apps are not a new phenomenon in society. Ever since the inception of smartphones, they have been in existence. As early as 2010, there were meditation and mindfulness apps from Silicon Valley. The only setback is that they did not spark particular interest until recently. However, there has been significant growth in these apps and various modifications to meet subscribers’ needs over the years. The number of investors has also increased tremendously since it is apparent that tech investors have discovered the grand opportunity that lies with religious apps.
Technology and Faith
Technology has always played a critical role in helping churches share their message. It all dated to the Reformation when Martin Luther and his colleagues used Gutenberg’s Printing Press to share their news across Germany rapidly. Today, several printing houses, including Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, accomplish much in this sector. With its 700 Club talk show, the Christian Broadcasting Network has since the 1960s impacted many souls across the media network. The news aired by CBN is majorly on the Christian world and the ongoing trends. The media house has programs that focus on spiritual life, family, health, entertainment, and Bible studies, not forgetting animated programs for children. Apart from the 700 Club, it also airs other shows like the Faith Nation and Jerusalem Dateline. Today, it broadcasts in several languages and even has mobile apps to reach millions of viewers. It further uses social media platforms, including youtube, to minister to its viewers. Eternal Word Television Network is another faith-based media house founded by the Catholic nun, Mother Angelica. It offers radio programs, website-based religious teachings, live-stream services, and news.
Currently, it has over 250,000,000 viewers. Other than the media houses, Apps also have their place. According to the Pew Research Center, both Catholicism and Protestantism are declining. The young people who declare that they do not have any religious affiliation make up a quarter of the American population. It is notable that despite this decline, a majority long for a spiritual sense of belonging, which faith-based apps provide. Despite all these, one significant spiritual aspect that requires special consideration is the type of community that such technology fosters. Evidence reveals that technology’s inevitable march into every part of our lives influences how individuals think and interact. According to studies, while individuals have the significant privilege of accessing more information, they have a shorter attention span. This brings about spiritual implications because prayer includes both emotions and the mind. Because of how addicted individuals have grown to their handsets and other technologies, sometimes they should reclaim spiritual freedom by abstaining from social media once in a while to focus on their spiritual growth.
The Rise of Faith-Based Apps
As already mentioned, faith-based apps have been in existence since smartphones hit the market. Initially, most of these apps concentrated on meditation. However, more modifications have come in with the developers creating apps with devotional and prayer points over time. Different users can connect from other parts of the globe through some of the apps, forming a religious community. A decade ago, venture investors in religious apps were countable, and their contributions amounted to about 100,000 dollars. By 2016, the investments received rose to 6 million dollars. In 2021, tech investors gave over 175 million dollars to software companies developing smartphone religious apps. This significant investment comes due to the increasing prospects seen in this field, as now companies can generate profits off Bible readings, prayers, scripture meditation, and daily devotions. The growth of faith-based apps came in when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The closure of churches saw ministers looking for alternative means of reaching out to their congregants. Many ministers have since used Facebook Live or YouTube live streaming to ensure that they continue ministering to their flock. Many people have resorted to spiritual apps to ensure that their religious experience keeps growing with all these happening. This period somehow revealed how much churches could accomplish by going online. Venture capitalists now see an excellent opportunity to extend past the pandemic, where even more companies will develop even greater apps to meet the growing demand.
Revenue Collection Through Faith-Based Apps
Creating an app is one thing, and generating revenue is another point altogether. One way is through the tech investors who put their resources into an app to ensure that it has additional features to attract more users. They can also get involved in the church through various openings in the digital tithing system, virtual bible studies, and software management. The apps have various features that are freely accessible to their users. However, if anyone needs to access additional packages, they attach a subscription fee to it as a means of collecting revenue. If you consider the faith-based apps, it is evident that the individuals who have ascribed to them hold them close to their hearts. They have a community that gives them the spiritual warmth and connection that they desire through them. Most investors seek to place their resources in places where people identify closely. There’s longer retention in these faith communities, hence more potential for growth. This is according to the sentiments shared by Connie Chang in the Wall Street Journal.
Forms of Religious-Based Apps
There are many faith-based apps that many people are using today. Here’s a look at some popular ones, including their prominent features.
This app allows church members across different denominations to give to their churches conveniently regardless of their locations. All you have to do is subscribe to the services for free. However, the church that uses this app has a monthly subscription fee depending on the services it opts to use. In 2020, it contributed $15 million in investments.
Hallow is a Catholic app that millennials of the church created. Their inspiration emerged from their view that existing meditation and mindfulness apps were shallow and not helping their users in their prayer lives. It is helpful for both prayers and meditation. Through it, users can also connect by creating prayer groups. The monthly subscription for Hallow is $9, and you can download sermons and keep your journal. Currently, it has over 1.5 million downloads. In 2020, it received donations amounting to $50 million.
Glorify is a London-based app that stands among the top-rated faith-based apps like Hallow that focuses on giving its users a consistent religious experience. It has raised investments amounting to $40 million. It offers its users several features to monitor their spiritual growth. It also has a place for kids to get their children’s stories. You can further access a wide selection of music to guide you through your meditation session. Its members pay a monthly subscription fee of $7.
Abide is an app for Christian meditation while there is no place for a physical congregation. It has experienced a surge in demand from those seeking a spiritual outlet. Abide is a company that offers audio prayer content and biblical meditation. The app is a 2014 product of previous Google employees. The company claims it has seen a 45 percent rise in users since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, with users spending over 52 percent of their time on the app. Abide earns money by charging a 39.99 dollars annual subscription fee for premium content. It claims it has been thriving since raising initial funding from some few wealthy individuals and hasn’t been required to seek venture cash.
The company creates “radio-drama”-style entertainment, with actresses such as Blair Underwood and Kristen Bell voicing biblical figures. The app also has a social networking feature that allows users to form and join “prayer groups,” where they may submit an answer to prayer requests. During the covid-19 pandemic, Pray.com worked with churches to develop radio stations, channels, and podcasts or sermons for their organizations on the internet. Its downloads increased by 955% during this period. Greylock Partners and TPG Growth are among the venture capital firms invested in Pray.com.
Emerging platforms such as virtual and augmented reality challenge the everyday church experience. The Robloxian Christians is an online organization run by a college student who began his outreach on the Roblox Corp. video game platform at 11 years old. In one of his statements, Daniel Herron echoed the thought that the young people know very well that the church is more than the building; it is a community. Since 2006, the Robloxian Christians have grown to 35 000 members worldwide, and they have increased church services attendance since the commencement of the pandemic, with about 500-700 people attending on a regular Sunday.
Bobby Gruenewald is an innovation leader and pastor of Life Church in Oklahoma was a pioneer in digital churches and now venture capitalists are headhunting him. Life. Church began as a cinderblock ministry in a garage and has grown to be one of the nation’s largest digital churches, with 70 000 people attending weekly online sessions. Gruenewald also founded YouVersion, a popular bible app. Upon its foundation in 2007, it had 83,000downloads. However, in 2020, it had over 500 million downloads. The Bible software, on the other hand, remains a church ministry. Donations get used to fund ongoing research and development. For venture capitalists, there is no return on investment.
The first profit-making companies that developed religious apps did not intend it for a money-making platform. Instapray never even had a business plan when a Polish US immigrant entrepreneur created it in 2014. He was in the United States to acquire an MBA at Stanford University. His aim for creating Instapray was to build a secure, friendly online community devoid of the enormous negativity that pervades most of the internet.” When billionaire investor Peter Thiel invested in Instapray, many interpreted it as indicating his oddity. Or it could be a sign that Thiel, who formerly lauded Jesus as “the very first political atheist,” was more devout than most people assumed. While most apps originated from ministries initially, the same does not apply in the current breed of apps. While they seek to meet people’s spiritual needs, they are also money-making platforms. Glorify CEO testified to this sentiment in a statement to TechCrunch. He said, “I’ve come at it from a lot of different angles, and one is very much on an emotional level and my own beliefs around faith. Then the other is: It’s the most incredible commercial opportunity.” Recent religious applications are also attempting to extend into social networking platforms, giving loyal users more opportunities to connect with others and more great reasons to keep on the app.
Investors are interested in the prospect.
“I felt like I grasped it right away,” said James Corden, the British star of CBS’s The Late Late Show, who got approached to invest in Glorify during a celebrity dinner party in Los Angeles. “I grew up in a religious home, and I recognized that Ed was creating a community, not just an app.”
According to Hallow’s numerous positive evaluations, this praying app is a powerful force. Many other app users feel the same way. The amount of downloads is not a good indicator of how successful a prayer app is. Spirituality focuses on examining the outcome of good intentions. It’s a beautiful thing if any software encourages individuals to become more humble, just, patient, and sensitive to the needy. However, contributing to a genuine community is almost certainly required. According to market standards, if a community is what people desire, they’ll pay for it. Whereas Bible reading, scripture meditation, and prayer will always be free, smartphone apps that assist people in accomplishing such things in 2022 can make a lot of money. The future presents an excellent opening for tech investors. With such an opportunity, as more apps come up, they are likely to have even more features, considering the availability of funds to invent more tools. Many app users also attest that this technological advancement brings them closer to the church.