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QR codes & smartphones make for smart ministry

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Recently the news has focused on how the use of smartphones has given a wake-up call to politicians as the phones have been instrumental changing politics in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. But smartphones are not only toppling powerful dictators. Recently they also have been reported to have deposed another unchallenged king of the mountain: the personal computer.

Technology researchers reported that smartphone shipments surpassed PC shipments in the past quarter. Now some ministry leaders are getting the call to create smart phone outreach using mobile websites and bar code scanners. New Quick Response (QR) barcode technology is revolutionizing communications, and many churches are deciding it is wise for ministers to incorporate the smart phone into their outreach planning.


A QR code is a matrix barcode that can be read by smartphone cameras with QR scanner apps installed. An estimated 40 percent of all smartphone owners have downloaded a barcode scanning app. Mobile technology experts report that during the last six months of 2010 QR code scanning increased 1,200 percent across North America.

QR codes are popping up everywhere, from your local grocery store to electronic billboards in Times Square. This new generation of bar codes is more powerful and flexible than previous ones. QR codes can hold more than 200 times the data of a regular barcode. The codes were originally created in 1994 by a subsidiary of Toyota for the purpose of tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing. Now they are being used to quickly get information into people’s hands.

Marketers use QR codes for a variety of functions, ranging from directing the phone to a simple website to saving contact information. QR codes can send an e-mail or text message to a predetermined address. The codes also can prompt users to save event information in their phone’s calendar.

It’s not just businesses that are clicking with QR codes. Churches are starting to wise up about smart phones. One church in Oklahoma, for example, Edmond’s First Baptist Church, is using the technology to send messages to mobile-savvy people in their community.

“We used QR codes extensively in a recent outreach to our community to raise awareness about our new 11:05 a.m. service. We included the codes in all our print material, banners, and in newspaper advertisements” said Kevin Pruitt, an associate pastor of the church. “People can scan the QR and the code jumps their cell phone right to our mobile page. We also created stencil versions of our QR code using spray chalk to put them on the college campus sidewalks. It was exciting: Students were scanning the codes almost as fast as we were spraying them onto the sidewalks.”

Here are a few ways your church could use QR codes:

— Engage visitors: Link visitors to a YouTube video giving them a virtual tour or highlighting different activities or small groups.

— Promote events: Drive people to a mobile website that gives more information about your upcoming event and the opportunity to register right on their phones.

— Outreach: Link people to a mobile website page that highlights the church’s outreach efforts in the community or gives them access to helpful resources from your church.

— Stay connected: Allow people to opt-in to regular informational updates — whether text message updates or a link for them to “like” your Facebook fan page.

— Evangelism: Print media, outdoor advertisements and theater advertisements can point seekers to mobile websites, videos and hotlines where they can explore the Gospel.

As you think of new and creative ways to utilize QR codes, keep in mind these best practices to ensure success and engagement:

— Help people understand what they are looking at and how to use it. “Scan this code with your phone for more info.”

— Make sure that you link to a mobile-enabled website. Mobile-enabled sites provide a much better customer experience and prevent people from having to pull, pinch and scroll a website that was designed for a desktop computer and is difficult to view on a phone.

— Promote your QR code in many different places: bulletins, posters, flyers, websites, stickers, etc.

— Make sure there is good mobile service coverage. A creative campaign can be wasted in an area with poor cell signal.

— Test your QR code before you launch. Besides ensuring it does what you intend, make sure it can be easily scanned by your audience. For instance, if you put the QR code up on a projection screen, make sure it can be read from where people will be viewing the screen.

— Lastly, use a QR generator that creates easily scanned codes. Some services generate codes that can only be read by their specific scanner. Codes that can’t be read by most scanners will cause frustration for your audience.

Here are a few free resources below to help you get started using QR codes for your church or ministry today:

Free QR code generators:

— Deliver http://delivr.com/qr-code-generator

— Zing http://www.zxing.appspot.com/generator/

— Kaywa http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

— Keremerkanhttp://keremerkan.net/qr-code-and-2d-code-generator/

— Google http://goo.gl

Free QR code readers for your phone:

— BeeTagg http://beetagg.com

— ScanLife http://scanlife.com

— i-nigma http://i-nigma.com
Chad Jenkins is a partner in BlueWave Mobile (www.BlueWaveMobile.com) and lives in Edmond, Okla. Chris Forbes (www.ChrisForbes.org) is co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits.”

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  • Chad Jenkins & Chris Forbes