An interview with Servant Keeper: How churches can communicate effectively.

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with Bill Newman at ServantPC (the people who bring you Servant Keeper ChMS). I have been talking to many of the ChMS providers about how they allow churches to communicate with their congregations and to see if they provide texting.  Of course Servant Keeper has included texting through their “Servant Keeper Notify” service, but Bill brought some important points about the importance of a church targeting the communications. I thought I would turn our conversation in an interview for you to enjoy!

Are churches really spamming their people?

To a degree, yes.   If we’re communicating with someone about something that is not very relevant to them, or that they have not specifically requested communication about, it will be viewed as an annoyance.  It’s okay for your mother-in-law to annoy you with email forwards because she’ll still be your mother-in-law.  It’s very costly for businesses and organizations, churches included, to annoy their customers or members.

For most churches, when it comes to conversations about communication, the word “blast” comes up way too much.  Need to do a fundraiser? “Let’s blast out a mailing to everyone who ever gave us their address.”   Need a last minute nursery worker? “Let’s send an email blast to everyone in the church to let them know we need a substitute nursery worker. “ (This, by the way, doesn’t make visitors feel secure in our children’s ministry.)  Sometimes we spam people in the middle of the service with church announcements that only pertain to a small segment of people.

Is there ever a time to send a bulk email or mass message?

Servant Keeper: There are appropriate times for mass messaging the entire church body.  The rule of thumb for all of this is: “send a message to someone if it is relevant to them”. For example, if we cancel services because of weather, pretty much everyone should know about it, and as quickly as possible.

But what’s the big deal if churches just send every communication to everyone?  After all, aren’t they just making sure people don’t “fall through the cracks”?

Actually, we will be ensuring that people do “fall through the cracks”.

First, whether we like it or not, as churches we need to realize that any time we send a message to our church members it is a “marketing” event.  Many church leaders want to reject the word “marketing”.  However marketing is simply the activity of making people aware of something.  As a church, we’re sending a message because we want certain people to be aware of something.

Second, we should realize that it is a privilege to have someone’s attention, even for a moment.  When we realize it’s a privilege, we will not take advantage or disrespect that privilege. We will only send messages to people when it is relevant.  However, if everyone gets every email the church ever sends they often go through several stages of response:

  1. Stage one: They feel excited, special and “in the know”.  It’s nice to be getting email from the church and to know about stuff that is relevant to them.
  2. Stage two: They feel a little irritated. They are getting all these other emails from the church that have nothing to do with them.   They may start to get upset every time they see an email from the church and may have serious regrets about giving the church their email address.
  3. Stage three:  Now they simply hit delete any time they see an email from the church. They throw out anything that comes in the mail without opening it.  Or they may end up simply  “trained” to ignore those emails or worse, they unsubscribe from your list.

Call it spam, call it marketing, or use whatever words you like.  At the end of the day, once people ignore, delete, or unsubscribe from your emails, you’ve lost them.  Now they will not get the messages that are relevant to them, even the important ones.

So what should churches do?  How can they communicate effectively?

We simply need to make sure our messaging is targeted to the appropriate audience.

For example, if we need a last minute nursery worker, we should only email, text, or call those nursery workers who are willing and have the proper clearance to serve in that ministry.   If we need to have a special meeting after church for Sunday school teachers then we should email, text, or call only the Sunday school teachers.  If we need to let parents of preschoolers know about important changes to drop-off and pick-up procedures, we should only send that message to people dropping off and picking up preschoolers.

It is a lot easier to effectively communicate like this if you have some sort of church management software that integrates with communication tools for delivering messages.  This is one of the reasons we developed SK Notify for Servant Keeper.  With this tool I can easily have an up to date group of nursery workers available to me on any computer or mobile device, and I can send them a text, email or voice message at any time.

If I’m the nursery coordinator, this makes my life very easy. It prevents the church from spamming the entire congregation every time we need to let nursery workers know about something.  In the same manner, the youth pastor could text the teens to meet him/her at McDonalds for an impromptu Bible study.  The pastor could email the elders with an update about the building fund.  The women’s ministry coordinator could send a voice message to all the women about the upcoming brunch.

So what you’re saying is churches need to target their communication so it’s relevant to the recipients.

Exactly.  This is how we demonstrate respect while keeping people informed and retaining the privilege to communicate with them.

For more information about Servant Keeper and all of the services provided by ServantPC, visit or contact them by phone at 800-773-7570