Health and Growth

Push Notifications: The Definitive Guide for Churches

Push notifications have recently turned into the MOST effective way to get somoene's attention. In this post, we share everything you need to know.

Push Notifications: The Definitive Guide for Churches
by

The way your church can connect with people is changing right before your … fingertips.

In 2016, mobile Internet usage exceeded desktop computers for the first time. This means that most people in your church and community use their smartphone or tablet to access the Internet, which has enormous ramifications for your church.

Here’s the deal:

If your church doesn’t have a mobile strategy, you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

With the rise in smartphone usage, the decline in email open rates, and general over saturation of communication, your church needs to explore different ways you can get someone’s attention.

Enter push notifications

Churches often overlook push notifications, but they provide an effective communication channel. According to a study by MIDIA Research, more than 50 percent of smartphone users have push notifications enabled on their devices.

Push Notifications: The Definitive Guide for Churches

Since push notifications are enabled on so many devices, if someone downloads your church app, then you can engage with him or her more effectively than social media or email.

Below, I’m going to walk you through 10 tactics you can use to engage your church. But first, let’s quickly define push notifications and talk about how they work.

What is a push notification?

A push notification is a short message an app you’ve downloaded can send you to get your attention.

Here are some examples:

Have a social media app on your mobile phone?

Here’s a message you might receive:

“Jesse just posted for the first time in a while.”

Playing the latest version of Candy Crush?

Then you’re probably familiar with this notification:

“You now have full lives! Tap here to continue your saga.”

Did you download the Starbucks app?

Well, you might get this message when you’re close to one of their stores:

“Hi, Jesse! You are near Starbucks Main St. Currently 50% off on your favorite drink: Latte!”

There are a variety of notifications you can receive (and send) regardless if you’re actively using an app on your phone, and the type of message you’ll receive will depend upon the app you downloaded.

How do push notifications work?

Push notifications are similar to text messages and mobile alerts. But here are two key differences:

  1. You can only receive notifications from apps you’ve downloaded
  2. You can just send notifications to people who’ve downloaded your app

Here’s the great thing about using push notifications for your church: You can use them to lead people to engage with your church in person or online.

Let me show you how.

10 tips on how to use push notifications to engage your church

Now that you have a solid grasp on push notifications, let’s turn our attention to 10 different ways you can use notifications to engage your church.

#1. Lead people to download your app

To send push notifications to your church, you first need to have a church app, and then you need to lead people to download your app.

At Tithe.ly, we provide our churches with a smart link called “App Download Link.”

When someone clicks on this link from their phone, it will automatically know if they are on an Apple or Android device and it will open up to the page where you can download your church’s app from the App Store.

Promoting your church app isn’t something you can do once, and it takes more than faith.

You will have to regularly encourage people to download your app. It can take someone hearing the same message several times before they take action.

Here are four ways you can regularly remind your church to download your app:

  1. Acknowledge it during your weekly church announcements
  2. Include it in your church bulletin or email newsletter
  3. Create a page on your church’s website for people to download your app (e.g., www.yourchurch.com/app)
  4. Promote your app on social media with posts or in your bio

There are more ways you can promote your church app. But these four will be enough to get you started.

When you promote your church app, make sure to remind your congregation to enable notifications. Most of them will since you’re asking for them to download it. But some members of your congregation may need more encouragement.

#2. Create irresistible content

“If you build it, they will come.”

That was the message Kevin Costner's character received in Field of Dreams. It makes for an excellent motivational poster. But it’s terrible advice when it comes to getting people to use your church app.

One key to the long-term success of your app is to create new content.

You can have a slick looking app, and you can promote the daylights out of it. But if you don’t regularly share new content, then you’ll never gain long-term traction.

Eric Bryant, the implementations team lead for Tithe.ly, offers the following advice to create irresistible content:

  • Regularly share content—e.g., sermon notes, weekly bulletin, blog post, podcasts
  • Use RSS feeds to pull new content automatically
  • Balance content for new guests and regular attendees
  • Recruit 1-3 volunteers to help create or curate content
  • Create exclusive content (more on this below)

To Eric’s pithy advice, I also suggest creating a content strategy. This strategy will help you to better manage the content you create for every communication channel your church uses.

When you adding content to your app, you will provide a compelling reason for your users to return.

#3. Provide exclusive content

In your church’s communication calendar, make room to include exclusive content only available in your church app. Providing some type of content only available in your app is one surefire way to increase the number of people who download it.

Here are some ideas you can consider:

  • Create a Spotify Playlist of worship songs your church sings
  • Add a special video message from your pastor or staff every week
  • Provide access to a Bible study or reading plan

Here are a couple of push notification examples from churches who promote exclusive content:

  • “Pastor’s Monday Morning… Hello, Rock Stone! Our word for Monday comes from Jude 1. Remember to be bold and courageous.”
  • “Here’s your quote of the week: ‘I’ve made mistakes, but I’m not my mistakes!’”
  • “June 11th Devotional: No longer I, but Christ. Galatians 2:20. Click to read the full devotional."

At first, I wouldn’t get bogged down in this step.

Instead, focus on regularly sharing the content your church already creates if you’re not doing this already.

#4. Engage absentees

Are members of your church on vacation or a business trip?

Do you have shut-ins who are unable to attend your worship service?

Do you want to prompt your church to share the sermon online?

Need help engaging your church members during the summer months with push notifications?

You can use push notifications to let people know the video of your service is available or you can prompt them to join your live stream.

For example, you can send a message like this:

  • “Miss the worship service? The video is now available online! Click here.”
  • “Can’t make it to the worship service? Join the live stream in 15 minutes!”
  • “What a powerful message! Share it with your family and friends online.”
  • “Podcast is posted! Yesterday we concluded our ‘Second Chances’ series with the story of Peter."

In your content strategy, make sure to share notifications on Sunday for absent members or to encourage people to watch or listen to the sermon again and share it with their family and friends.

#5. Prompt your church to invite others

According to Dr. Thom Rainer, “Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited.”

Ninety-six percent.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

To encourage your church to invite their friends, neighbors, or coworkers to your church’s worship service or special event, consider using a push notification.

For your worship service, use this type of message sparingly unless you’re running a short-term challenge. If you schedule these messages every week, you’ll run the risk of them falling on deaf ears before too long.

#6. Promote events

Do you have an event you need to promote?

Are you encouraging people to get involved in your small group ministry?

Is there a new Bible Study you’re starting?

Send your church a push notification to encourage them to register for your event or class. You can also include a link for them to learn more information if you have it available on your church’s website.

#7. Encourage people to give

Many people choose to donate on Sundays.

But data we’ve collected reveals that most people prefer to give throughout the week!

At times, you can use push notifications to encourage mobile giving in your church.

If you’re concerned people won’t give with their mobile device. Don’t be.

Here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Most people in the United States own a smartphone
  2. Smartphone users use their phone to shop and give
  3. Smartphone users spend a ton of time on apps

With Tithe.ly, people who download your church app can receive a simple push notification to encourage them to give or to participate in a capital campaign or fundraiser you’re coordinating.

You can also use this list of giving scriptures in the Bible for different verses about generosity you can share in your notifications.

#8. Share stores

Do you have encouraging news you can share with your church?

If you think about it for a moment, I bet you can come up with a ton of good news to share. Think about the answer to these questions:

  • Did someone recently commit their life to Jesus?
  • Can you celebrate recent baptisms?
  • Did your church recently have a baby dedication or infant baptism?
  • Has your church supported a new missionary, ministry, or church plant?
  • Was someone delivered from an addiction, anxiety, or a financial mess?

In a notification talking a story, you won’t be able to share everything. But that’s not the point. Include a link to a blog post you wrote or a video you shot for people to learn more.

#9. Promote discipleship and service

You can use push notifications to nudge your church to read the Bible, pray, or serve their neighbor.

For example, you can:

  • Remind people about your church-wide Bible reading plan
  • Encourage your congregation to invite their neighbors over for dinner or coffee
  • Provide specific prayer for your church
  • Recommend resources on the Christian life
  • Prompt people to do something kind for someone else
  • Challenge your congregation to ask their neighbors if they can pray for them

As you read this list of suggestions, identify ways you can encourage your congregation to live and love like Jesus.

#10. Use Interactive Sermon Notes

Feel like people in your congregation are staring at their phone during your sermon?

Well, instead of asking them to turn off their phones, you can encourage them to, dare I say, use their phone in church.

At Tithe.ly, you can create interactive sermon notes only accessible in your app. With your sermon notes, your congregation or visitors can use their phone to follow along during your sermon, take notes, and answer questions.

Know the best part?

Providing sermon notes in your app provide you with an opportunity to naturally promote your church app every week, boost engagement, and send a push notification to your church afterward.

As a suggestion, you could say something like this at the beginning of your sermon:

“If you open our app, you can follow along in the notes, take your notes, or you can look at the notes on the screen behind me.”

After your sermon, you can send a push notification to your church about the sermon included with a link back to the sermon notes.

Over to you

Not happy with the number of people who use your app?

Interested in boosting engagement with your app?

Regardless of where you find yourself today, you can work through these 10 ideas to encourage more people to use your app:

  1. Lead people to download your app
  2. Create irresistible content
  3. Provide exclusive content
  4. Engage absentees
  5. Prompt your church to invite others
  6. Promote events
  7. Encourage people to give
  8. Share stories
  9. Promote discipleship and service
  10. Use Interactive Sermon Notes

Commit to making a plan and working your plan for at least six weeks.

By the end of this time, you should have observed a significant uptick in the number of people who use your church’s app, as well as an increase in activity in your church.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

Blog

Push Notifications: The Definitive Guide for Churches