Let’s be very, very clear:
Mass texting is the way every church will communicate with its congregation in 10 years.
No more phone chains.
No more mass emails.
No more printed signs on the door.
Text messages are opened at an unparalleled rate.
Church text messaging software is finally mature enough to be a common church communications asset.
Mass texting is simply the most reliable, secure, and effective way to communicate with your church members as a whole, or according to individual segments within your church, like children’s ministry or small groups.
But before we understand why churches should adopt text messaging and how best to use it, we must begin by understanding what it is.
Let’s jump into mass text messaging so that your church can get started with the single best way to communicate with a large group of people.
1. What mass texting is
Mass text messaging is when you send a single text message to a large number of people.
This does not include sending a single text message from one phone to a large list of numbers.
What’s the problem with that?
It will create a text message “group” so that every single person who responds will send a text to every single other person.
Ninety-nine percent of people don’t want to be stuck in a text group like that.
Instead, mass texting uses a software service to collect contact numbers gained consensually from church members, and using that software to send individual texts to each of those people without having to manually send a new text to each person.
In other words, mass texting is the use of text message software to send a single text message with a single click to a list of contacts without creating a text message “group.”
Most mass texting services will assign your church an individualized phone number from which to perform all your texting message communications.
Your members can safely save this number as “[CHURCH NAME] Communications.”
2. How to get people to give you their numbers
People are generally more protective of their phone numbers than their emails, because it is harder to block phone numbers and because text messaging is a more intimate form of communication.
So, in order to collect numbers from members of your church, simply give them a reason to enter their number.
This will split your church into two groups of people:
Those who want to give their church their mobile number, and those who are suspicious of giving their church their mobile number.
For those who want to give you their phone number, make sure to give your members multiple avenues and opportunities to opt-in to your church texting.
This could take the form of:
- An online signup form
- An information-collection kiosk (as simple as an iPad)
- A “Text your name to [NUMBER] to receive text message communication from our church”
- During church announcements
Each of these methods of data collection are legitimate avenues of collecting mobile phone data with the consent of users.
For the second kind of users—the skeptics—offer a free book or gift card as an incentive to give you their number.
This may cost your church some money up front, but the lifetime value of earning the text message marketing trust of skeptical members will pay off in dividends when they become trusting, giving members.
3. What you should include in every mass text message
Every mass text should include three things:
- The name of your church
- A basic piece of information
- A call to action
Let’s take at these in detail.
1. The name of your church
You should include the name of your church in a mass text message, because while it may be clear to you that “Come to our BBQ this Sunday!” refers to your church BBQ, all the members who haven’t saved your number (and new subscribers) won’t know who the text is from.
Including your church name at the very beginning of every text is critical for ensuring clarity and mitigating against the frustration of wondering “Who is this from?”
2. A basic piece of information
You should include a basic piece of information, because if you simply say, “Click this link for more info!” you have reduced the effectiveness of text communications to the effectiveness of email (more below), which has a lower open rate than text messages. This is because by only including a “Click for info” link in your text message, rather than including the crucial information in the body of the text itself, you have required your readers to open two things to get information, rather than one, which diminishes the effectiveness of the medium.
3. A call to action
You should include a call to action, because if the information you sent is crucial enough to send over text, then the response of your congregants will help you as a church to better understand how your church has received and processed this information.
A call to action can be as simple as “Click this link” or “Will you attend the BBQ this Sunday? — Reply Y/N” to this text.
So, in full, your mass text which includes all three necessary components should look like this:
- “[CHURCH NAME] — BBQ after church this Sunday at 1pm! $5 per person, covers all food and games. Kids free. Reply Y/N + number in party to RSVP!”
This text is jam-packed with info (time, price, etc), a clear source of the text ([CHURCH NAME]), and a clear call to action (Reply Y/N + number in party).
With a 97% open rate on texts, your RSVP rate should be at least 3 times what you could have hoped through email.
4. Why mass texting is better than email
Mass texting is better than email for the simple fact that its open rate is three times higher than email.
People often dismiss email and let generic communication emails from churches and businesses get lost in the backlog of “general information.”
This is why Google created an entire tab called “Promotions” in Gmail—because corporate and commercial communications became ignorable.
Text messages are harder to acquire, but easier and more effective to use.
Churches have a natural excuse to get text messages from people—people want to get involved and attend every Sunday.
Make sure to make your mass texting service a natural part of that involvement.
5. How to use mass church texting
Use mass texting sparingly, but purposefully.
As a general rule, mass texting best practice states this:
- Send one text before service (Saturday evening or Sunday morning) to remind people to attend
- Send one text after service (Sunday evening or Monday morning) to remind people where they can access the sermon and/or give to the church
- Send one text about a special event happening at church which will have the widest interest among members.
Anything more than this, and you are testing the limits of trust among those who opted into your church’s texting service platform.
6. How to handle people who don’t want to receive mass texting
It’s normal for people to feel a bit squeamish about receiving a “mass text.”
Don’t get defensive.
Don’t feel hurt.
Don’t be suspicious of that person.
Personal information—especially text alerts that can easily interrupt family time—should be guarded and used appropriately.
It’s natural for some people to prefer to have this information over email.
If someone asks to be taken off of a mass church texting list, politely oblige their request, and inform them that they can get the same information through your email communications service. Provide them for the link to subscribe to that service, and tell them that they can resubscribe at any time by texting [TRIGGER WORD] to your number.
7. How to incorporate mass text messaging into your broader church communications strategy
Don’t make mass church texting the cornerstone of your church communications strategy.
Text messaging is a simple tool that is meant to communicate the 3 elements mentioned above—source, key information, and a call to action.
But there are more sophisticated forms of data that your church members are going to want to access and engage in deeper ways.
For example, you can’t manage a church calendar over text messaging.
You can’t manage all your registrations through text messaging.
And you can’t manage small groups and volunteers through text messaging.
There are better solutions for these multi-layered communications needs—for example, a church app, which can send push notifications like text messages with more sophisticated “swipe” capabilities that bring your members into a their more desired complex interface.
Your church should have an email list for weekly big-picture and event-based communications.
Your church should have a church app for its sermon database, calendar management, and announcement hub.
Your church should make brief, whole-congregation-relevant comments from the stage.
But mass churchtexting is an organic, intimate way to stay in touch with your congregation week by week that includes the ability for reader response that actively involves them in the life of your church.
Over to you
All these communication methods should utilize audience segments so that you can communicate with sub-populations within your church about the particularities of their relevant church involvement—such as volunteers, small groups, bible studies, Sunday School, and giving.
But mass church texting will increase over the next 10 years become a pillar of your church communications strategy that you won’t be able to ignore.
Editor's note: This post was updated on May 11, 2020 to reflect the latest trends.