We typically don’t associate churches with an online texting service. Text messages are for marketing, for catching up with loved ones, for sending funny memes. But text messages are just another medium of communication. There’s no reason churches can’t text church members with important reminders, charity drives, and other community events. In fact, doing so can help bring the community together in new ways.
But does SMS marketing really make sense for churches, and if so, why? Let’s explore.
Why Use Church Messaging?
There isn’t a reason. There are many reasons. Consider:
Church communication. Simply put, churches have been using mass communication for a while now. The simple act of getting up on a hill to preach is, itself, a way of leveraging the science of sound and acoustic to bolster the staying power of a message. At the dawn of the printing press era, it meant Bibles could be in every room.
What you send depends on your specific needs. If you’re running a text messaging campaign that only sends out daily tips and advice, SMS will do just fine. But other campaigns may rely on additional media, and for that, a marketing campaign can only turn to MMS.
Church leaders can employ SMS communication to do all sorts of positive things for their community, including:
• Could be considered intrusive without a solid plan
• Bolster church social media, increasing community involvement
• Incentivize first-time guests into becoming second and third-time guests, too
• Prayer requests
•Opt-in options for church raffles, newsletters, and more
•Two-way communications for community members to find support
•Reminders about Bible study times, or invites for Bible study
•Informing people how to put donations on a credit card
•Follow-up messages to maximize engagement
•Promoting a mobile app that boosts church participation
•RSVPs for important church events
•Promoting special events: bake sales, community drives, youth groups, charities, nonprofits, and more
Bolstering church participation. Church leaders can employ SMS communication to do all sorts of positive things for their community, including:
These days, five billion people—that’s billion with a B— regularly use SMS messaging. This is not a technology that has to separate people from their church. Used correctly, it can bolster church participation. It can help a church get back on the same communication level as its attendees. Think about mass text messages not as a marketing gimmick, but as a tool for communicating in the 21st century. From that lens, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
More time for the essential work. Using text messaging and SMS messages, you can also incorporate digital automation. It sounds complicated, but it actually means that your life can become less complicated. Simple automation—from text responses to setting up email signups—can help the community sign up for their own chosen level of communications. Once automated, there’s no extra work required from the church’s end.
Becoming better at marketing. The word “marketing” sounds like a bad thing for churches. You’re not selling a product, after all. However, better marketing habits can bolster the influence of a church, ultimately doing better things in peoples’ lives.
One way text messages can accomplish this is by inviting people within a church to join an email list, such as one created on MailChimp. This immediately gives your church access to a community of subscribers. Anytime you need to send out an important message—a change in schedule, or what we saw with COVID-19 updates—you can turn to this newsletter. You don’t even have to use it to “market” your church. But you can do is take a marketing habit to bolster the way your church interacts with the faithful.
Examples of Church Invitations Through Text
Perhaps the most important item you will send out will be the invitations you send out. Invitations can help you drum up attention for important events, ensuring that these events get the attention they deserve. To help explain, we’ve put together an example of what your text messaging service can send out before a Sunday bake sale:
Sunday, 10 a.m.—join us for a friendly neighborhood bake sale at the corner of West and North streets. Brownies $1, pies $5!
You don’t need to do anything complicated here; with invitations, you only need to raise awareness. Think about what churchgoers will want to know about and what essential information they’ll need to take action if they’re interested.
You can also try using other basic templates for invitations. Feel free to mix in your own sense of creativity and church-appropriateness. Remember your audience, and cater your message to them. Here’s an example of a basic AIDA model template you can use to create church invitations:
• Attention: Try a personal greeting to make the text sound more organic. “Attention all church goers” isn’t appropriate for an invitation. But “Hey there!” sounds like a friend approached you in the parking lot.
• Interest: Interest-gathering question, such as “Have a sweet tooth?”
•Desire: Think about the benefits to the person reading it. “Our bake sale on Sunday features some of the best…”
•Action: Give the essential information, and tell them where to go.
If you Googled “best church management software” and have been surprised at how much it has improved your life, imagine how much more you could get done if you signed up for a church texting service that lets you communicate with an entire community at once. Today’s churchgoer is often on the phone, which means that if you send them a text, you have access to their more immediate attention. Many people want a church to have that kind of role in their life.
Down the line, it’s possible that you may focus on statistics and analytics to improve your outreach, such as open rate. But for the time being, all you have to do is focus on creating your church’s community via SMS. Think of it as a church community builder. Start with something simple, such as prayer requests, to find out how well people respond to it. But just remind them that if they text you, it’s probably best if they don’t text in church.