Using QR Codes in Church

I’ve mentioned before about how at Journey, we’re always looking for ways to leverage technology in new and unique ways. One way we do that is by adding QR codes to our bulletin. A QR (or Quick Reference) code is a square bar code that can be used in several different ways – it can link to a URL, give you an email or phone number, or just give you a body of text.

I was helping another pastor figure it out and showing how we use it at Journey and I thought, perhaps others would be interested in how we use them. So, here’s how you can easily use QR codes at your church:

First, a couple of notes:

  • So far at Journey, we’ve only used QR codes to link to URLs back on our website. We haven’t had a need to use them for anything else yet (emphasis on yet – I’m sure the day will come!)
  • A word about our bulletin: In our bulletin, space is at a premium. We keep the bulletin short and the information concise. It’s not possible for everything that could be announced or included to be included. We’re always pointing people to the website because that’s where they can find out everything they need to know. If we can help them get there faster by using a well placed QR code, that’s what we’ll do!

Now, here’s how we do it:

  1. Prepare your link. Since space is limited in the bulletin and the more information contained in the QR code, the more intricate it is, it makes sense to keep it simple. I use a URL shortener for this. There are a lot of options and if you’re already using a certain one, use it. However, I would urge you to consider http://bit.ly if for none other reason than if you create an account and log in before shortening your URL, it will track how many times it was used. You can measure your effectiveness very easily! When you use it, it will change a long link with lots of information, such as http://www.journeywired.org/index.php?page=get-into-the-word into http://bit.ly/eZIfRq. Yes, it looks very random, but it’s short and no one will really see it.
  2. Find a QR Generator. There are lots of them out there and I’m sure some are better than others. I use http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ because it’s simple and it works. Simply paste your shortened URL into the generator and it creates it. Too keep it from getting too big, I change the size to small, but if you have more space available, you can use different sizes. I recommend against creating a large graphic and shrinking it in your document, because a QR code generated at a larger size has more “dots” compared to one generated at a smaller size. When you reduce the size in a document, those “dots” are reduced and the quality is compromised. Depending on how high-quality your printer or copier, you could end up with a useless bunch of dots on your page. When in doubt, generate a small size and make it larger on the page, not vice versa. [EDIT 3/9/11 – After posting this, I discovered that Bit.ly will create QR codes on its own. However, it lacks the ability to resize them. If they’re too big for your use, use Kaywa. Otherwise, skip it and use the Bit.ly code.]
  3. Grab it and use it. Once you’ve generated your graphic, simply right-click (Win) or apple-click (Mac) and copy or save your new code. I paste it into the bulletin next to the item it’s related to. To help people know what to do with it, I place a note next to the first one they encounter saying to “Scan with your smart phone for more info.” The technology is still pretty new here in America (Japan, however, has been using it for a long time) so not everyone knows what to do with it. Help them out! Technology is useless if no one will use it.

That’s all there is to it! There are lots of other ways to use QR codes in your church and the more familiar your congregation (and you!) get used to them, the more possibilities there are:

  • Include one on your business cards as a link to your church website, your online contact information or your blog.
  • Include them on posters and fliers as a link to bonus information or so they can sign up for an event right there.
  • Have an event happening off-site? Include a QR code with a link to directions next to the address of the event.
  • Link to online scripture references in your message notes or to places where they can learn more or explore on their own.

Have you seen QR codes used in a unique way (in church or not)? Share it in the comments! I’d love to hear new and exciting ways to use the technology!

About Matthew Starner

Matthew Starner is pastor of Journey of Faith Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they help people take their next step on their journey with Jesus.

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: 5 Ways to Use Technology at Church

  2. We just started using QR codes so people can download our bulletin and sermon notes onto their phones as they enter the sanctuary. It took me about 15 minutes and NO money to setup a system for doing it in our church. I made a quick “how to” video on how to do it yourself. Here’s the link…http://youtu.be/iFtRkgyxObY

    • Fantastic! I love seeing churches getting up to speed with technology! How has moving the bulletin and sermon notes to digital formats been received by the congregation? 

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  4. Pingback: 5 ways to use technology at church | Musicademy

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