Smart-phone application offers Chattanooga Church members a new way to access information.
A cacophony of beeps, chirps and boops will split the air sometime this morning at the corner of Bonny Oaks Drive and Adamson Circle.
It's Bring Your Cell Phone to Church Sunday at Chattanooga Church, but it's not an invitation for parishioners to tune out the spiritual matters pastor Morty Lloyd will discuss in order to play Angry Birds.
Instead, at one point, members and visitors will be invited to turn on their smart phones and download an application, or app, that will provide at their fingertips a variety of useful information.
"It has some really, really neat features," said Lloyd. "The biggest tangible to our church is it's going to provide a larger sense of community. That's really my goal."
Carlos Pride, lead consultant for locally based Mobile Advertising Services (www.thebizapp.com), said Chattanooga Church is the first area congregation to employ and customize an app using the company's template.
"It allows the church to engage with their congregation," he said, "but instead of just on Sunday, it can engage with them seven days a week."
Pride said statistics show when people receive a text message, 97 percent read it within five minutes.
"They're never without their cell phone," he said.
Lloyd said he's particularly excited about the phone's ability to list prayer requests and the verses contained in the Roman Road to Salvation.
The prayer list, he said, will be updated weekly and allow the names of people who are sick or have other needs to be immediately at hand.
"I hope this will increase the level of commitment to prayer," Lloyd said. "I'm excited about that."
The Roman Road to Salvation, he said, provides a way for people who don't feel equipped or don't know the Bible well enough to lead a friend to Christ.
"It gives them a cheat sheet in their phone with all the [applicable] Scriptures," Lloyd said.
While many people have smart phones today, most others at least have a traditional cell phone. The church's special Sunday has something for them, too.
Traditional cell-phone users, who don't have apps, will be able to text a certain number to join a church text-mail chain that will allow them to receive the identical alerts available to smart-phone users, Lloyd said.
"It'll keep the church more up to date," he said.
Information available on Chattanooga Church's app
* Alerts such as births, deaths and weather-related schedule changes.
* Details on upcoming events involving specific groups.
* Prayer requests.
* Verses contained in the biblical book of Romans that help explain Christian salvation (often called the Roman Road to Salvation).
* Contacts such as the church phone number, email address and map; website link to previously videotaped sermons.
* Instructions on how to get congregation news in other ways and how to share the app with someone else.
Pride said app designers demand $2,000 to $10,000 or more to custom-create an app for specific phones, but his company offers an entry-level app for most smart phones for $395 (plus $59 a month, with no contract). And, he said, either the company or the church can handle weekly updates.
"There are a lot of ways [of] mobile marketing," he said.
Lloyd said the information on the church's customized app was determined by the church staff.
Member Steve Ray, he said, contributed "some really cool" photographs that were incorporated on the information pages.
"We worked hard in the last two weeks to design something specific to our needs," Lloyd said. "[The idea was] to create something usable, practical and beneficial to the user as well as to the church collectively."
Chattanooga Church members were asked to bring their cell phones today but weren't told why. Twenty minutes into the service, he said, he and Ray planned to have a casual session in which they explained to members step by step -- with the help of video projection -- how to get the app on their phone or the text messages sent to their phone.
"It's a seven-day-a-week tool," Lloyd said of the app. "It will help us communicate better as a body and enable us to lead others to Christ. I hope [it helps] create a strong sense of unity and oneness in the body."