Your church communications plan might look like it’s from the 90’s if you still rely on the following things to communicate critical information to your church:
- Sunday Announcements
- Church Bulletin
- Weekly Email
This information is easily forgotten, lost, and thrown into the garbage.
One of the best ways to communicate information is through text messages, since they have a 97% open rate.
However, the idea of “text marketing” is rather new, because people are often more disposed to give out their email addresses than their cell phone numbers.
Churches, unlike most businesses, already have peoples’ cell phone numbers.
And, if you are using a church management software like Tithe.ly ChMS, then you are able to track and use those phone numbers to communicate important information.
Your elder board or executive team may not be disposed to include text marketing in your church communication strategy, but if you follow this 10-point strategy, your chances of persuading them to implement this superior technology into your communications philosophy will drastically increase.
So buckle up, and get ready to add one of the most successful marketing tools to your church communications plan: text marketing.
1. Identify pain points in your current church communication strategy
Every church communications plan has pain points.
Sometimes the hardest thing about change is looking in the mirror.
It’s time to take a look at your church communications plan and be honest: What’s ugly? What hurts? What isn’t working? What you need to improve?
First, make as exhaustive list.
This should include everything from mega mistakes to micro errors.
The point is that when you create a system to solve these problems, you will want to build something with a big enough net, and with adaptable enough features, to capture and solve all of these problems.
If you can do this, you will be ready to improve your church communications plan with relevant technology.
2. Write a list of ways text marketing can alleviate those pain points
Text messaging is one of the best communications tools, but it is also the most sensitive to misuse.
So, make sure that as you conceive ways text marketing can alleviate communication pain points, you don’t become overzealous in your plan and rely too heavily on a medium which can easily kill your members’ trust in your communication philosophy.
And yet, because text messages are relevant, direct, short, and action-oriented, you should be able to strategize ways to sparingly use mass text messaging to solve major communication problems in your church.
3. List the cost of not alleviating those pain points
The cost of not alleviating your communications pain points is very real, and very serious.
People don’t get the prayer they are asking for.
Small groups don’t meet at the right time, and people miss out on Christian fellowship for the week.
Volunteers feel overlooked and forgotten.
Generous givers feel that they are not being communicated with clearly, and so they stop giving.
VBS parents don’t know what’s going on, and opt for a church that more clearly communicates and markets the details of its VBS sign-up, drop-off, and pick-up.
If you fail to alleviate your communications pain points, both your members and your church growth strategy will feel the hurt in both the short-term and the long-term.
4. Compile this information into a presentation
Put the pain points, text-solutions, and costs of ignoring paint points into a very brief PowerPoint presentation.
This will clearly present to those who need to approve text marketing in your communications plan why you should implement this new tool and why they are ignoring serious problems if they fail to utilize this tool.
This presentation will also prove to those who may be a bit skeptical that this isn’t some new fad that’s caught your eye.
Putting the information into PowerPoint form will show the executive team that you have thought deeply enough about this issue to exposit the relevant data and present it in a digestible form, which means you understand the problems, options, and potential solutions deeply.
Before you can market anything to your church well, you need to market the idea of good marketing to your executive team.
You won’t always get immediate buy-in from everyone. Every good marketer knows this. Practice this principle with your church executive team as you attempt to implement text marketing into your church communications plan.
5. Use this presentation to persuade your elder board to sign up for a text marketing service
In this presentation, make sure that you have specific text marketing services in mind to use at your church.
Don’t just sell them on the idea of text marketing.
Sell them on a specific service.
Briefly—very briefly—show the pros, cons, pricing, value-add, and features of relevant text marketing options, but only enough to illustrate that your chosen software solution is the correct solution, and that it ought to be chosen as the specific tool which solves the communication pain points most effectively and efficiently.
6. List reasons to use text messages
In your presentation to your executive team, list ways that text marketing can be used to actually pastor your people.
Here are a few examples of pastoral tasks you can perform through text marketing:
Pastors should encourage church members with spiritual exhortation, reminder for church volunteer opportunities, and general spiritual truths that will uplift believers in Christ. The ability to do this through texts is often welcomed (as long as it is somewhat strategically sparing).
Update church members on information about the church and their duties in it that is relevant to them. Build more follow-through with text marketing, reminding people to attend, give, send, and participate in opportunities available to them.
Ask new visitors to download your church app in order to get a free gift after the service. This app will collect their number, which the church can use to let visitors know about opportunities to get involved, as well as integrate them into the collective spiritual culture of the church.
7. Write text message templates that communications staff can utilize for strategic events and purposes
When you provide text message templates for the executive team, you show them that the tool is not merely an idea—there is content on which you could press “Send” immediately if you just insert the right information.
For example: “[CHURCH NAME] — Download the latest sermon here: [LINK]. It’s on [TOPIC] and studies [VERSE].”
Or: “[CHURCH NAME] — Sunday Service is [DATE] at [TIME]. Reply with ‘Bringing X,’ replacing X with your number of guests, to RSVP. Be sure to bring an [OBJECT] if you signed up!”
Use these templates to show your executive committee how easy it is to use text marketing once you have the tools and templates in place.
8. Centralize all your church communications on your website
When you send text messages, and you can’t fit all information in a text, it is better to send a brief text with a link to more comprehensive information or capabilities on your website..
For example: “[CHURCH NAME] — For the latest news at [CHURCH NAME], sign up for our email newsletter here: [LINK].”
Your can also help promote your new service and share this information on your website or on your social media.
9. Launch text message marketing tool at a beta level with church staff
Start using text marketing tools with your executive team and staff to test its features.
If anything needs to change, then you can gather feedback at leadership meetings and implement them before the technology is launched member-wide.
This beta testing phase is crucial to making sure the text tool works well.
The last thing you want to do is implement communications technology you don’t understand on a church-wide level, and having hundreds of people complaining to each other about how they’re getting weird text messages that they don’t want from the church.
With text messages, you want all experiences to be good experiences.
It’s easy to pull this off as long as you have a beta stage and adjust to optimize for maximum functionality.
10. Launch text message communication on the church membership level
This launch will take tact and a soft touch.
Remember that people do want to be texted, but they are very sensitive to their phone number being abused as a communications tool.
Because you want your church members to have a positive experience of receiving text messages from your church, you should have a very strategic plan for when and why you send every single text message.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to limit your text communication to 3 church-wide text messages per week at the maximum.
Then, you can send more text messages to involved members or sub-groups as you segment your church based on small group demographic, volunteer roles, and needs.
The launch can be subtle, and you can mention it one Sunday from the stage. But it doesn’t take more than that.
Over to you
You have a proven 10-step strategy to sell your church executive team on the text marketing tool and start implementing it effectively in your church.
- Identify pain points in your current communication strategy
- Write a list of ways text marketing can alleviate those pain points
- List the cost of not alleviating those pain points
- Compile this information into a presentation
- Use this presentation to persuade your elder board to sign up for a text marketing service
- List reasons to use text messages
- Write text message templates that communications staff can utilize for strategic events and purposes
- Centralize all your church communications on your website
- Launch text message marketing tool at a beta level with church staff
- Launch on text message communication on the church membership level
The rest is up to you. Use this great 10-step strategy to implement an extremely effective marketing tool into your church communications plan as soon as possible. Your church leadership and membership will thank you.
Editor's note: This post was updated on May 11, 2020 to reflect the latest trends.