YouVersion, a mobile and tablet app that provides free access to the Bible, is continuing to impact the way people interact with scripture — and its developers’ believe that their latest move to integrate a social network into the platform will increase both Bible reading and analysis.
Bobby Gruenewald, innovation pastor of LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma, and the founder of YouVersion, told TheBlaze Tuesday that he believes the new social feature will bring people closer to both God and the Bible.
“We believe that it will move people that might be more casual Bible app users [and] … pull them into being daily users of the app,” Gruenewald said.
So, how does the social component work?
In the most ambitious and significant development since YouVersion first launched back in 2007, users are now able to discuss and analyze scripture with their trusted friends and family – right inside the app.
The feature, offered in Bible App 5, the latest version, is reminiscent of social media streams that are found on both Twitter and Facebook, but there are some distinct differences.
YouVersion limits users to 150 friends in an effort to keep the focus on Bible-themed conversation with trusted associates. Also, updates can be marked as private if a user wishes not to share certain content with the broader network.
“You can form friendships. It’s a mutual deal where both people have to agree they’re friends,” Gruenewald told TheBlaze. “All of those activities become something. You can have a conversation with those trusted people.”
App users can see what their friends are highlighting and bookmarking, can ask questions and engage in important conversations.
Gruenewald said the community feature allows people to experience scripture alongside other believers – something he believes offers “the best of both worlds.”
“We certainly want scripture to be able to be shared in other environments, but if you want to explore scripture — that’s best done with people you know and trust,” Gruenewald said, adding in a press release that scripture experiences with trusted believers is the “very foundation of the church.”
He told TheBlaze that the idea for the social function has been in the works for the past two years, as his team felt that building upon the app’s sharing capabilities would offer much-needed benefits.
YouVersion users are already sharing 250,000 Bible verses per day through SMS, email and social media, so the new social attribute holds the potential to increase that reach exponentially through a relational experience.
Current users can download the latest version of the app or visit Bible.com to access the new social network. Read more about the history of the YouVersion Bible app, which has now been downloaded more than 137 million times, here.