~by Michael Temple~

According to its latest survey, Pew Research has discovered some pretty compelling evidence that smart phone usage is growing among Americans. Check out these numbers:

· 35 percent of all mobile telephone users own a smart phone.

· 68 percent of all smart phone owners use them daily for email and internet access.

· 25 percent say that they mostly go online rather than using their computer. *

What do numbers like this suggest to those who are interested in using technology to build relationships with others for the Kingdom of God? Here’s my short list:

1. There is a large segment of the population that uses smart phones on a regular basis for tasks that they previously took care of on home or laptop computers.

2. We are becoming more mobile, more connected, and more informed than in any other time in history.

3. We could be connecting with smart phone users more consistently by staying in synch with current technologies that they use on their smart phones.

The technical side of increasing our outreach opportunities with smart phone users can be mind-boggling, but we can also miss the mark of reaching out to others if we do nothing. Here are at least a few steps in the right direction toward connecting with people who use their smart phones as communication devices:

Mobile Web Sites: Is your ministry web site smart phone friendly? Get out your smart phone (or borrow one) and surf on over to your current web site. If it looks cluttered, with tiny letters and more than a few links, it may need an overhaul. Mobile web sites should be clean, simple to navigate, and easy to understand. I won’t mention specific sites, but let’s just say that we have room to grow in this area.

Mobile Apps: Ministries that want to reach people will make it as simple to find and use their resources as possible. Mobile apps can help, and they are getting more economical to produce every day.

SMS Marketing Platforms: Text messaging is already being used by mobile phone users across the generational spectrum. SMS Marketing Platforms allow businesses and ministries to capture contact information and send small messages to its recipients.

Imagine a pastor asking the congregation to pull out their smart phones and text a certain word to a short 7-digit code. They receive an auto-responder message from the pastor, who now has the ability to batch-send prayer requests, devotional thoughts for the day, and links to quality videos that uplift and encourage members throughout the week.

The possibilities of such technology get my blood pumping! Are we utilizing every opportunity that we have to reach people on smart phones? It’s a question that deserves thoughtful consideration.

* Pew Research This research was done in April/May of 2011. The numbers are probably even more compelling now!

Michael Temple is an ordained Seventh-day Adventist pastor serving a congregation in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He and his wife, Roberta,  have three teen children, live on a small farmstead, and both carry iPhones.