More churches are going high-tech to connect with 'Smartphone Generation'

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Want to pray? There's an app for that. 

Churches have been going high-tech. Many now have their own smartphone phone applications.

And an Arizona State University researcher says that's both good and bad.

Pastor Jim Helman runs Downtown Phoenix Church.

The small group has no permanent home.

"Rather than try to use one church on Sunday morning, we try to use these spaces that are available in this community throughout the week," said Helman. 

From sharing meeting locations to accepting donations, he uses a custom app to stay in touch with members, most of whom are college students.

"So many people nowadays are more mobile and they're constantly on their phones," said Helman.  

He's part of a growing number of churches now doing so. 

"We have close to 40 'mega churches' in Arizona, and I would say more than half of them have apps," said Dr. Pauline Cheong, a professor at ASU, who has been studying this shift in religion. 

"So it becomes a convenient pathway for people to connect to churches," she explains. 

Sometimes, she says, maybe too easy. 

"Technology is a double-edged sword to in this case for apps it can work both ways. It can be a complement to church life, or it can be a substitute," said Cheong. 

Some churches, like Christ's Church of the Valley, offer full sermons on apps making it possible for someone to never attend a service in person, according to Cheong. 

"And for some people who are traveling and who are not physically able go to church, it becomes a plausible venue, but for others, it could be just 'I'm snacking' on church on the go,'" said Cheong.

A small price for a much larger achievement, attracting and keeping the younger generation. 

"Speak in their language, don't speak in your own language that you're necessarily comfortable with," said Helman. "Listen to the language that they're saying, and for me talking to college students, the language is technology." 

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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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