Partner Spotlight: Abundant Life Church

 In Blog, Resources

Meet Ryan and our friends at Abundant Life Church

Abundant Life Church is a having a large impact in a small community! Back in the 80’s this church was planted in a community outside of Washington D.C. Many in their congregation work in and around the Capitol and the church that they have built is one that is a safe place for people to bring their doubts, questions, and curiosity. Their focus is on creating an environment for people to explore and experience connection with God. This has lead to significant growth over the years.

People in the community visited, and many have become believers and been baptized. Almost 900 people, in fact. That number is significant anywhere, but especially for Stephens City, a town of 4,000 people in a county of around 8,000 people. On an average Sunday, there are around 1,200 people in service. Not many churches average a weekly attendance equivalent to 30% of the town’s population. Ryan joined the church and has served as the Worship and Spiritual Life Pastor for the past six years.

This wonderful growth led to some challenges for the church. Many of their church members were young in the Lord, needing guidance as they grew into their relationship with God and the church.

“The growth exposed a weakness in our infrastructure as a church,” Ryan explained. “We didn’t have an effective way to disciple new members. We also didn’t have a strong volunteer base or small groups to plug in the influx of new people.”

New, young Christians weren’t the only challenge Abundant Life faced. Being located just outside Washington D.C. makes their church full of commuters.  People worked long hours and commuting back and forth made it difficult to engage people during the week.

“Our congregation is diverse. I mean, you’ve got people who work in all branches of government; from FBI to CIA to the Department of Transportation. They’re in their car almost 3 hours a day driving back and forth. Makes attending a small group on Wednesday nights difficult.”

On top of it all, the technology they were using was outdated and needed improvement. Their website wasn’t mobile responsive, and they didn’t have a mobile app. Ryan understood that the church’s website was a great tool to help first-time visitors connect, but after that, people were not using the site over and over again. Once the website was fixed, Ryan decided to launch a mobile app.

“It just made sense. It’s where most people are communicating and looking for information. Our church staff knew that if we were going to connect with people, it had to be through mobile.”

They have had great success with their app and there are a few principles that helped them accomplish their goal of increasing connection and discipleship.

Begin with a plan

At Abundant Life, they knew that they were growing rapidly and wanted to maintain the same level of connection that you have when you are a smaller church. That meant that communication and connection needed to be improved to keep up with the growth. Also, they knew that they were seeing lots of people come to Christ, so that meant there were new believers in need of discipleship. By identifying the goals for the app, it helped them create a plan that was consistent with those aims that they could also measure the success of.

It’s for Them First

A mobile app is for the users and should make their life better, solve a problem they have, or provide some easily identifiable value. The app that Abundant Life built did just that!  Ryan instinctively knew that the people in his church weren’t going to make the effort to connect first, so the church made it easy by reaching out to connect with them. One of the main reasons someone becomes part of a church is for connection. Because of the intense schedules of many people in the church, connection was difficult. With the app, it was much less so.

Start Small and Build

It can be easy to want to do it all but they had a clear plan of what they wanted to accomplish. If you start with too many features and options it can be unclear of what people should do in the app, or they can become overwhelmed. They started with a devotional in the app. This was great because it drew people back, making it a habit. Next, they began adding video clips and other discipleship content, then eventually focused on getting people connected to small groups. With each step, they deepened engagement and got closer to their goal.

Engagement Takes Many Forms

There isn’t just one way to connect with a church and they knew that. Some people will want to access sermons, devotions, serving opportunities, or even giving. Abundant Life provided a variety of great content that added real value to people’s lives. They reinforced the sermon preached through simple devotions. They asked thought provoking follow up questions. The key? Church members could choose when and where they wanted to access the content. We live in an on-demand world. The reality is that people have increasingly developed an expectation that they can connect when they want to and on their own terms. The mobile app made this possible for people at Abundant Life.

So how did it go? I’ll let Ryan answer that in his own words:

“We knew we had to reach people on a spiritual and community level, but it had to be accessible. As a result, we’ve seen 200 people join small groups. We’ve had more than 100 people engage with the “Encouragement” button alone. Of course, we want to see more growth. But we’re grateful for what God has done so far.“

Ryan began by focusing on a small set of problems and trying to find ways to solve them by adding value to the people of his church. What are the top three problems that your church is facing?