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Modern churches are facing big challenges in keeping members informed and interested.
Some of this is societal – parts of the population are becoming more interested in seeking their own spiritual paths, rather than following older traditions. A 2015 Pew Center study shows that people who attend services weekly is declining by age: 51 percent among the “silent” generation, (born 1928-1945), but only 27 percent of millennials (1981-1989).
At the same time, a growing number of people of all ages are texting regularly, especially the same millennials.
So it’s a perfect time for a church to develop a Text System. Texting can offer easy outreach to congregation members and leadership, and inform everyone on the subscriber list quickly and effectively about church activities, especially when compared to past outreach tools like bulletins or phone trees. Hopefully by using texting well, it can keep existing members engaged and also bring in new members. Though texting can sometimes be considered a quick, simple and generally informal way of interacting with one or many people, it also can be a useful tool to help bring a congregation together in celebrating its faith.
Try these strategies with your text system:
- Lots of reminders. Busy churches are great, especially ones with various ministry and outreach programs. A Text System can remind members to upcoming meetings of different groups. These could include regular info about upcoming activities or meetings, or alerts if a time or location for a regular event has changed. It can also let people know about other special gatherings, such as Vacation Bible Schools. Parents can send the church a text to confirm that their kids will attend, which will help organizers know how many students to expect. The church can also send out information to VBS parents like a link to the registration form or reminders about drop-off and pick-up options. Texting can also help find volunteers for various events, either a mass text to all subscribers or specific personal invitations to people who the church would like to see assist or enroll.
- Find consensus. Texting can be a good way to collect input and make members feel like they have a voice in the goings-on of the institution, rather than top leaders deciding everything and everyone else not being consulted. Your Text System can allow people to vote on everything from what food can be served at the next potluck to their thoughts on themes at a future social event or to cast their votes for leaders like deacons. Youth group members can text suggestions for entertainment at a future event. Depending on the size of the subscriber lists and your outreach budget, people can text their responses to a certain in-box, or you can offer a mobile keyword and a shortcode that they can text to indicate their preferences – “If you would like fish, text CHURCH and the word fish, and if you would like chicken, text CHURCH and the word chicken.”
- Encourage support. Text interaction can take place any time, even during regular services. Imagine if a celebrant asks the whole congregation questions about their faith and commitment and invites them at the end of a sermon to demonstrate it by texting “yes.” Doing so can also constitute a legal opt-in which puts them on the church’s official SMS subscriber lists. Existing members can use this yes/no choice as an easy way to reaffirm their faith and sign up for communication. Newcomers wanting more info about the establishment can be placed on a “contact for more” mailing list. If your church offers Purity Rings or other faith-based tools for teens, you can invite them to text yes or no about their commitment. Choosing either option can put them onto different subscriber lists for different sets of information and future communication. Saying yes to a simple question “Would you like regular Bible readings” can lead to regular texts with a short reading or to a link to more analysis and discussion about a particular passage. This can allow people to study the reading further on their own time, rather than during service time. Allowing people to choose yes or no to so many options can provide church leaders with info about the amount of interest in different programs, provide members with specific info related to their interests, and keep people from getting overwhelmed by too many texts. Texts can also help reinforce a certain message or encourage positive values and actions – members who say “yes” can receive regular notes about the importance of honoring their parents or helping their neighbors. The tone doesn’t have to be heavy-handed, but something positive and inclusive.
A church that considers a Text System can appeal to congregation members already accustomed to this type of interaction. For more information on setting up a Text System for your church, download the complimentary Mobile Marketing Success Kit.