Health and Growth

Automated Text Messages: Why They’re Essential for Your Church

Confused about what automated text messages are and how to use them in your church? Here's a 7-step guide to go from zero to hero with automated text messages in your church.

Automated Text Messages: Why They’re Essential for Your Church
by

Paul Maxwell

Automated text messages are the future of automated church communications.

It might sound like an obscure method of church communications.

A church? Texting with … its members?

Isn’t text messaging what you do with your friends?

We don’t text message businesses, do we?

Actually, we do.

Think of how many times you’ve received a confirmation text from an auto shop, or a confirmation code through an online store, or “Reply Y/N” text from a local office with which we’ve made an appointment?

We already know that they work.

They get opened almost three times as much as successful email campaigns.

We always open texts, and rarely fail to respond to an informational text message.

The idea that sounds odd to us isn’t texting or texting with a business.

It’s the idea of texting with your church that sounds odd.

But that will change over the next 10 years.

Increasingly, churches will adopt text message marketing as a means of communicating with its members. This is why it’s essential to add texting to your church communication strategy.

Below, we will list seven reasons why your church should adopt automated text messages into its communications plan, and also why they are an inevitable part of every church’s communication plan.

Automated Text Message and SMS Autoresponder—Definitions and Examples

But, before we get into these reasons to add automated text messages to your church’s communication plan, we need to define two concepts—automated text message and SMS autoresponder.

An automated text message is a message scheduled to be sent to a group of recipients who opted in for an automated text message from a particular company for a particular situation.

For example, if you give your number to a char mechanic, he will input your number into his database, and when he updates the progress on your car, you will receive updates to your phone according with that progress.

An SMS autoresponder is a simple engine that sends these automated text messages. Their basic form is this—users are invited to opt in through a text message informing them of an easy text-based opt-in response keyword.

For example, an SMS autoresponder invitation will look something like this:

“[Jake’s Car Mechanic]—Respond to this text with “Updates” to receive text updates about the progress of your car.” Send “STOP” to stop receiving texts.”

The difference between an automated text message and an SMS autoresponder is that an automated text message is the automatically triggered text message itself, which plays a part in your larger text message communication strategy, and an SMS autoresponder is the database that stores and deploys those automated text messages and keyword-oriented invitations.

1. Automated text messages are the easiest way to communicate

Social media is an unreliable way to communicate pertinent information.

Email can easily get lost in an endless sea of “Unread” emails.

But text messages always remain read.

The fact that it’s a text conveys a certain level of meaningfulness.

Because people open them, they are a reliable method of communication.

Because they are reliable, they are the easiest way to communicate.

2. Automated text messages give the experience of access without the time cost

As far as the user is concerned, text messages are a much more intimate way of communicating.

But for the church, text messages are just another form of inbox communication that can be queued and batched with other member-management communication software.

In the past, an increase in perceived access has come at the cost of the provider—whether it be a phone call, service, or other real-time, individualized human interaction.

The problem with these features is that they do not scale vertically well, because each experience costs another individual person’s attention in real time.

With an automated text message marketing service, the increased perception in attention fits seamlessly into your current process and can be managed asynchronously by your team.

3. Automated text messages communicate information in real time

Text messages are best used for communicating urgent or semi-urgent information.

Email is an unreliable way to give people necessary information at the last minute.

Phone calls are too labor-intensive, especially if the information needs to be sent to every member.

For this reason, an automated text message marketing service is the only viable solution to reliably and efficiently put information in their inboxes with the highest read-rate.

4. Automated text messages allow you to communicate with real people, not just the corporate body

Automated text messages allow personal communication on the backend.

If one member has a particular query in response to a mass automated text message, your software should enable you to carry on an individualized message with that person.

In fact, the very medium itself invites this kind of individualized interaction.

As stated above, the church needs to be protective of its staff’s most valuable resource—time and attention—and shouldn’t parcel it out too willingly or freely without restraint, since that leaves less resources for other important ministry needs.

However, again, the point is that the experience of access gives members a sense of assurance and availability that mass-email simply doesn’t.

Because of this, regularly utilizing the text message medium as a tool in your church’s communication plan naturally creates a culture of welcoming and warm invitations to connect between members and staff.

When access feels easy, information feels attainable, and therefore social connection is perceived to be a more realistic result of invested relational energy.

People want to feel like the time and energy they invest into their church social groups will yield real belonging.

Receiving automated text messages about information central to the community’s activities makes that belonging feel attainable.

5. Automated text messages help you get better information from members

Text messages are easier to send than emails.

Getting information through email is difficult.

Best case scenario, you include a “Complete This Survey” call-to-action in your email that gets a 10% click-rate.

With text messages, you can include a simple “Reply Y/N” — and, with a 97% open rate, you are almost guaranteed a reply from every member.

6. Automated text messages prepare people for the service

Automated text messages are a great way to get people ready for the church service.

You can use text messages to confirm attendance, check in for service, enable text-to-give tithes, or even get a head count for an event after the service.

Using the text message tool in this way will increase your members’ familiarity with the automated text messaging feature of the church communication strategy, and it will help them to feel connected to the church service in a more intimate way than if they had just shown up with no message.

For example, you could send this message before the service:

“[CHURCH NAME] — We can’t wait to see you at service this morning! Meditate on [BIBLE VERSE] to prepare for the sermon. You can take notes on our church app here: [LINK].”

7. Automated text messages are crucial to growth

Newcomers often ignore emails, announcements, and mailers.

However, if you text them, this is your highest chance of receiving follow-up.

An automated text message gives you the very best chance at church growth with the lowest time and attention cost from your staff.

One easy way to get newcomers’ phone numbers is to offer a free giveaway if users enter their basic information, such as Name, Number, Address, and Reason for attending.

Freemiums can include anything from a book to a gift card to a local restaurant.

This cost-of-acquisition for a new member is very low, especially if you have a recurring giving software for tithing, which should allow you to easily calculate a lifetime giving value for a new member, which ought to be in the thousands.

Over to you

Automated text messages are an inevitable and invaluable aspect of a 21st-century church’s communications plan.

They perform certain tasks and cultivate a member experience that other technology simply can’t—at least, not with the same efficiency and reliability.

Text messaging is the best way to get someone’s attention with the least time and attention cost from you and them.

Church leaders serious about creating a positive visitor experience for newcomers and a better sense of belonging for their members should seriously consider adopting automated text messaging into their church communications plan as soon as possible.

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Automated Text Messages: Why They’re Essential for Your Church