Does modern communication have a place in the house of God? The team behind a Ghanaian-made app faithfully thinks so.
Priests are constantly sermonising about modern communication tools so it appears odd that a Ghanaian startup is hoping to sell technological solutions to the church.
Asoriba, which translates as 'church member' (or loosely as child of the church) is a platform that hopes to turn that on its head.
The platform was birthed two years ago, at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), where many other young Ghanaian techpreneurs (entrepreneurs in technology) have been trained.
At the end of the programme at MEST, students are expected to identify potential partners among their course mates and form a company. The team behind Asoriba, just like the proverbial cornerstone were the ones left without a team. So, they came together, began brainstorming and realised that one thing they had in common was that they were practising Christians and they had parents who were involved in church administration. So, they brought together their coding skills and their passion for the faith.
“Asoriba is two things. If you are a church leader, Asoriba is an online church management portal to keep and manage member data, track church finances and also communicate with members.
If you are a church member, Asoriba is a tool with which you use to join a Christian community within your church and [with other] Christians generally,” says Jesse Johnson, a co-founder and chief technology officer (mobile) for Asoriba at the launch of the platform at the end of January 2017.
Can tech win souls?
Asoriba is essentially to win more souls for Christ. It is taking the church and using technology to help the church do what the church is supposed to do; to reach out to lost souls and continue to grow a vibrant Christian community; [including to] help churches raise funds.
Technology is one aspect of society that you can’t ignore...It presents opportunities and challenges for churches and we as a company are trying to take advantage of technology to help the church,” says Johnson.
There is certainly no shortage of customers for Asoriba. Christianity is ubiquitous and big business in Ghana; every street has a church and street preachers abound. According to the last population census in 2010, 71 percent of Ghanaians identify as Christians. The situation is similar in many parts of the continent as well.
According to the company, it has over 1,000 churches who have signed up for the service with over 70,000 individual users so far.
Church administrators can also monitor the church attendance of their members, send devotional and well wishes to members on special occasions (such as birthdays) and grow their ministry. Church members can give tithe (a tenth of one's income), donate to a special project by the church and receive online pastoral care and counselling.
“The problems that existed in ministry in the 1950s are not the same as today. [That is why we say] winning souls through technology. The church should not be left out of technology. The word of God is still the same, it is the medium [of dissemination] that is changing,” says Nana Agyeman-Prempeh, another of the four founders of Asoriba.
At the end of last year, the company decided to add a public forum to the platform so that users can interact with other Christians, share songs, devotionals and have a conversation about modern life and the faith. On the platform, instead of Like (as used on Facebook), when users read an interesting post, they would ‘Amen’ it instead.
Asoriba in every fellowship
The startup has big plans for the future according to Jesse Johnson.
“Asoriba should be a household name. Currently, WhatsApp is a household. People say ‘WhatsApp you’, [like it is a verb]. We want Asoriba to get there especially among Christians. So, that when people say Asoriba, they know it is that mobile app where the Christians are and do their church stuff.
For church administrators, we want Asoriba to be like Microsoft Word. You can’t really do without Microsoft Word if you’re in any sort of serious business. So, we want to make it such that you really can’t do without Asoriba. We want Asoriba to be so ubiquitous that it is hard to not be on Asoriba because you get so much from it.”