If you aren’t using texting as a way to communicate with your church members and community, you are missing out on one of the most effective forms of communication today. Take a look:
- 85% of Americans and Canadians own a smartphone. (97% own a cell phone of any kind.)
- The open rate of text messages is a whopping 99%!
- 90% of text messages are read within three minutes.
We’ve all fallen prey to signing up for texts in order to get a free smoothie or appetizer, only to be bombarded with a zillion unwanted messages about “the latest deal” from that particular restaurant or store. Nobody wants that experience. And I’m sure you don’t want to be contributing to the onslaught of “spammy” messages.
In my opinion—and I think the numbers back this up—texting is the most effective way to communicate. So how can your church use this communication tool well? Here are three mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: Sending unsolicited messages
One of the easiest mistakes to make—and to avoid—is sending text messages that someone didn’t sign up to receive. Don’t assume that because you have someone’s cellphone number, you have their permission to add them to a texting list. You need to verify that they want to receive text messages before adding them to your text messaging platform. Then you know they’re expecting messages from the church.
You’ll also want to make sure every subscriber knows what to expect when they opt-in to your text communications. How often will you send messages—once or twice a week? A day? Is this an ongoing list or something short-term, like a seasonal devotional? People are more likely to read your text messages if they have a clear understanding of what they’ll be receiving.
Don’t be like the smoothie place that tells you you’ll get a free smoothie for texting, only to send you ten messages per day about another “can’t miss” smoothie deal!
Mistake #2: Sending untargeted and impersonal messages
Have you ever received a text message that you could tell wasn’t meant for you? Typically, these types of messages start with something like, “Last chance…!” or “SALE ENDS tonight!”
In the above examples, the text is talking at you, not to you. And, depending on the content, it may not even be for you. With the sheer number of communications we receive each day, we all find these types of messages frustrating—and as a church leader, you realize how critical relationships are, so of course, you don’t want your messages to sound impersonal or generic.
That’s why it’s important to target your text messages to the right people. Avoid sending a text message to ALL of your members when you really just need to connect with a few people.
Open invitations have their place—but it’s not in text messaging. Instead of sending a message to your whole list asking for volunteers, consider a smaller segment that includes people who’ve previously volunteered or expressed interest in volunteering. Are you inviting all of your members, including single people, to your new marriage class? Probably not. The more targeted your messages are, the more relevant and personal they feel to your subscriber.
Another simple way you can create a personal message is by adding the person’s first name to the text. Here’s an example:
Instead of, “Sign up for VBS! Click here to register: [insert link]”
Say, “Hey Sarah, I would love to have your kids join us for VBS again this year! You can sign them up here: [insert link]”
Which one sounds more inviting to you? Which one sounds like a personal invitation? It’s the second one, right?
Creating personalized messages is where a quality text message platform saves you a ton of time and energy. In the example above, the texting platform has the contact’s name, and they’re part of a list of people who attended last year’s VBS. With a little bit of technology magic, each message is personalized for the person receiving it!
Trust me, even if they know it’s a message you’ve sent many people, it reads like an individual text and makes a personal connection.
Mistake #3: Only sending information-related messages
And, finally, the third mistake churches often make is ONLY sending announcement-style text messages. Sure, asking for volunteers, sending signup links, and communicating information are all reasons you need and want a text list in the first place. But it shouldn’t be the only thing you send out. It shouldn’t even be the majority of what you send.
After all, the content of your text communicates something, too.
If you are only sending texts about what a person needs to do (for you, nonetheless), you are sending the message that this relationship is one-sided. You inadvertently condition people to see your text and wonder, “What does my church want from me now?”
But the real power of text messaging isn’t getting people to see your sign-up link quickly or remembering to show up on time for worship. The real power is connecting with your members and guests and letting them know you care. Instead of another announcement soliciting another one of the church’s needs, try sending a text message that asks how you can help them! Here are some examples:
“Hi Rachael, how can I pray for you today?”
“Good Morning, Marcos! School’s almost out—praying for you and your exams this week!”
“Theresa, thank you for teaching Sunday School this week. Is there anything you need for tomorrow’s lesson?”
Reaching out to your people in small ways throughout the week goes a long way to helping them feel known, noticed, and loved. And, if you want them to actually see your attempts to reach out, text messaging is the way to go. But don’t just use it to communicate your needs as a church leader. Use it as a way to meet the needs of your church and community.