Do you use texting to reach your entire congregation or specific groups? Why do you use texting or why have you decided to not use texting at your church?
I am a BIG believer in using texting. I know from the responses I received to the question above that many of our readers do not think texting would work for their congregations. Some believe their membership is too old or do not text. Others feel it is too costly. So let me share a short testimonial. I won’t go into all of the details but in 2008 my wife and I started an older singles group at a church in Lee’s Summit, MO. We averaged 13-15 on Friday nights. My wife would cook up something for everyone to eat, we would start at 7 pm, and we worked through different Christian relationship books such as “Boundaries”, “Attachments” and “Safe People”, etc. The average age of the people who attended was in their 50’s. In 2009 we set up a texting service and encouraged our group to sign up so that we could send them a reminder text to help them remember our meeting on Friday nights. Of course most didn’t text BUT they COULD receive texts and even for those that had to pay for receiving texts, the cost was pennies if we kept the text to one a week. We had a teenager come in to set up their phones. We then announced this new texting service to the church and had a teenager sign up people in the church lobby after Sunday service.
On Friday night, around 5 pm, I would simply send out a short text to remind our group of our meeting in two hours. We would inform them what we would be having for dinner and remind them the chapter we would be discussing in our book studies. In three months, our group was averaging around 35! I own no other explanation to our growth other than texting. Our people told their friends how to sign up, and in a time when everyone is busy and it is easy to forget, our reminder text a few hours before our meetings had a major impact. This was an older adult group, over 5 years ago, and the cost was well worth the response! And, if you will please check the sidebar, I will share more than just one paragraph from one of our readers. He shared how a church he visited is using text in a MAJOR way throughout the worship service and beyond to impact their congregation and visitor’s ministry!
So what did our readers have to say?
Most of the responses fell into three groups. Those that didn’t want to text for a variety of reasons (didn’t like it, congregation didn’t want it, didn’t know how to use texting, or thought it was too expensive), those that were interested, testing it and moving toward using it, and a few that were using it and loved it. Here is a sampling of what I received:
“For me, two of the greatest wastes of time are texting and social media.”
“If my church used texting, that would not be too effective for people who either do not have a smart phone with internet access or have a prepaid plan.”
“We do not use texting because of the cost at this time.”
“Our District office has never used texting to communicate with our pastors. In my local congregation, texting has also never been utilized. Not sure why.”
“I don’t think it’s a matter of deciding or not deciding – the question really hasn’t come up. And at this point, if there would be additional costs involved – then the decision would currently lean towards no.”
“I do not use text messages to reach our congregation. I rarely use text messages for anything that is not of immediate importance and only to specific people with a specific message. Many of our folks do not have data plan mobile phones and several of those who do would not regard a text message for general communication as a respectful method of contact.”
“We do not use texting. Not sure how to group people together wisely.”
“As a pastor, I think that there is a point where we just become ‘pesty’ if we send too many emails and especially text messages. I use texting for important things, not general information. I feel the same way about receiving texting as I do about calls. I want to give every one I receive my full attention. I can’t do that if every dog in town just feels like barking with the pack!”
“Our youth director uses texting to get messages to our youth. A lot of our adults don’t have cell phones or if they do don’t text.“
“We don’t use texting except for ad hoc groups maintained on staffs’ individual phones. (We should, but that is another discussion.)”
“I text to church members as much as I can. To church secretary, board members, worship team, and sometimes to all in church who have phones that receive text. Unfortunately, that covers only about 60% of our parishioners. The remaining, for one reason or another, don’t text and have no intention of learning how.“
“We have just begun to use broadcast messages to our staff this month. Definitely agree with your statement that it is the most logical use of our communications’ time. We are now structuring a strategy for congregational use.”
“I wanted to let you know that our ChMS (Elexio) does offer unlimited texting to individuals and groups, and we’ve seen great response from our clients.”
“Some groups in our church use texting, mostly the youth group and a younger parenting Life Group. The older generation seems to be the hold out, several do not have a computer, or will not or cannot learn to use one. Our CMS, Church Communication Builder, lends itself beautifully to texting as a means of getting the word out.”
“We text select groups now and are moving toward texting the whole membership. We realized some time ago that email was not working anymore for us.”
“We do not use texting widely, although we have found that to be the best (read ONLY) way to reach our teenagers. Not everyone provides cell phone numbers, but it is moving in that direction. I think we will start to use it more generally, and am interested in the results of your survey, and particularly the comments you get around reservations, precautions, etc.”
“We would like to text, but we are not sure of the software necessary to do this easily and efficiently. An article on the best way to do this would be helpful.”
“I have been in one congregation where text messages and the use of tablets, iPad’s and iPhone’s were the norm. I was a visitor but was asked to go to the information desk before entering their sanctuary “or in this case before their service a coffee cafe.” All they asked for was my cellphone number and my name which I was more than willing to give out. They also asked for permission to touch base with me through the service and asked that I turn off the ringtone for incoming messages and phone calls for the time I was in their services. I gladly complied and they said the vibrate mode was ok to keep on.
So, when I went into their service, even though they were high tech with three professional cameras, large screens on stage showing the speakers in huge video format, etc. the other thing I noticed were the bright light of tablets that were turned on throughout the sanctuary, from phones to computers too. In the pre-service time we were instructed that we would receive text messages of the major points of the service. Sure enough, bulletin information came just prior to when it was needed and no one was disturbed by them. Then for the message, the scripture verse LK 1:1-9 and those who wanted to follow along could see it directly on their devices. Then the pastor shared the sermon, and key graphics, points to remember, and the like were shared. I was amazed how it connected with the youth and young adults and they were tuned in and turned on. There was also the possibility to text a message back to their tech ministry team with questions. Some were answered by the team and others were sent to the pastor, about 10, that were addressed at the end of the service for those who wanted to stay for the talkback session. Took only 15 minutes and more than 2/3rd stayed.
That’s not all, when I was walking out to the parking lot after picking up my grandkids whom I was visiting, I go a text message from the pastor and staff. “We’re glad u worshiped with us today. If we can be of any service to u or yr family, text me ASAP. God bless u and I look forward to yr visiting us again very soon!” I texted back a thank you. Later that afternoon, I received a second text message. “Do you have any prayer concerns or spiritual needs that our ministers could assist u with at this time!” I texted back, “Yes, my 4 yr old grandson is in Houston Children’s Hospital to soon undergo brain surgery to address major secures he is having. Prayer would be welcomed!” You know, they let me know later in the week that he was placed on their prayer list and would be following up. Well, under the circumstances, the link broke there because my daughter had to move with her family out of town. But the connection, the ministry, the prayers, and the interface potential will always be remembered. All this was done by text because they asked for my cellphone and permission upon entering into their place of worship. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I had sickness in my family, and you prayed for me.”