(Image: YouVersion via Facebook)
With the recent release of the Bible App 5 that has already been installed, beginning with the original application, on 136 million devices, it's clear that its maker, YouVersion, remains on track to engage more people with the Bible than ever before. The updated app lets people share Scripture with friends in an online community.
"For the last five and a half years the features we've had inside the app have been primarily to help someone individually connect with the Bible," Bobby Gruenewald, innovation pastor of LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma, told The Christian Post recently. "This new release, the Bible App 5, actually introduces a new set of features that allow you to form relationships with people that you know and trust, and then have conversation about Scripture and the activity that you are doing with the Bible with those people.
"It really moves it from being just an individual experience to giving people the opportunity to experience it with others. We think it is a really important step forward in engagement and understanding of Scripture," Gruenewald said.
He explained that although it is not a requirement to use the Bible app, users can go and find people that are known and trusted by them who are also Bible app users and add them as a friend.
"That's similar to what you would do on Facebook or other social media networks, except the relationships have to be mutually agreed upon," Gruenewald said.
He continued, "As you and your set of friends engage in Scripture by bookmarking something or highlighting something, or writing a note, you are able to see that activity of your friends, and for each of those things you can have a comment stream or discussion on it.
"You can also 'like' the content that your friend shared, similar to what you would see in social networking except the difference is that everything is focused on Scripture," he added. "It's not what you had for breakfast.
"It's really a Bible-focused type of engagement that is real unique and something we think is really going to dramatically increase the amount of time and the frequency that people spend in God's Word."
YouVersion has grown to 30 full-time employees and budgeted for more than $6 million this year, according to Gruenewald. The money comes through LifeChurch.tv as well as donors outside of the church. The pastor said that the organization is really blessed and most of the funds go toward growth.
"We want to move this forward in a way that will engage people and reach more people than it is currently," he said. "We are pretty aggressive in wanting to see this generation become the most Bible-engaged generation in history and because of that we feel like there is a lot to be done."
Gruenewald said that in his own use of the app, as he begins to add friends, he sees that interaction with friends has been really effective at increasing the time they are spending in God's Word. "It's very obvious because you can see that people have gone from maybe highlighting a passage once every couple weeks to two times a day or more than that," he highlighted. "I think there are some strong advantages to people experiencing God's Word in the context of community."
The app has been well received, he noted.
"We've been blown away with the response. Any time you make a significant change, and this is really the most significant change that we've made since we've started, you always expect a mixture of feedback on it, and we were surprised how positively it was received from our community. The response has been overwhelmingly positive from people who have downloaded and installed the update and begin to use some of the features."
On the Web: http://www.youversion.com/