Many churches are discovering the potential that texting can have on ministry efforts.
While there are several free or inexpensive ways to increase the effectiveness of SMS communication (texting), there also are some specific things you can do to enhance your success and keep people engaged.
Find your texting sweet spot
If people feel like they are being bombarded with text messages, they will very likely ask to be taken off your text messaging list. Statistics show that people open 90% of text messages within three minutes. That number is high largely because spam and other unwanted texts get shut down.
Looking for a benchmark to help decide how often you should text your members? The retail world generally keeps frequency between one and two messages a week. A recent study showed Papa John’s averaging about 1 message per week. Bloomingdales, meanwhile, averages 3.9 text message coupons per week.
The key is to find your sweet spot. Consider between one and three texts per week with fewer than nine in a given month. As you experiment, know that if you start texting people every day, they will be more likely to opt out.
Deliver content people want
When someone determines that the content they are getting is not what they desire, they will unsubscribe. Churches have a wide variety of content — from class reminders to interesting information from the week’s sermon — to deliver. To increase member satisfaction, plan a way for them to choose the content they want to receive.
If you use a service such as Remind.com, it’s easy to set up multiple subscription lists so that people get only the content they desire. You might set up a general announcement group, a sermon group and groups for each Sunday school class. As long as you are clear in your group descriptions, you’ll increase your text communication effectiveness and satisfaction rate.
A word of caution: Setting up multiple texting groups can lead to an overuse of texting by your church. Establish clear parameters for each group so that you don’t end up texting people several times a day.
Keep it short and add links
The key to successful text messaging is having brief messages and dense information. To extend the content, leave room in your text for an external link for more information.
When composing a message, focus on two elements: an engaging phrase or image and the most important information. For example, your Bible study reminder might be: “A talking donkey will make an appearance at Bible study this week. See you Wednesday at 7 p.m.” with a link to your church or more details about the event.
The link you include can let people register for the study or direct them to where they can find a story of a talking donkey in the Bible. If needed, cut the number of characters in the link by using a reputable URL shortener.
Your brand is bigger than information
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You may be tempted to focus your messaging on getting more registrations for an event or sharing service times. That is important, but people aren’t communicating with you just to get registration details. A major part of your brand is inspiration, not information.
Churches need to be intentional about sending content (in all of their channels) that brings people closer to God. As you plan out your text communications for the month, be strategic about making sure several of them focus on helping people grow closer to God. Avoid sticking to advertising events and program reminders.
Send an inspiring Bible verse, a key idea from the most recent sermon, a list of Advent books and studies or Lent and Easter resources.
The power of text messages can transform the effectiveness of your communications. Text messages help people get the most important information quickly. With a couple of tweaks, this tool can increase more than registrations. It can empower the people in your church to grow in their faith and be agents of transformation in their world.
Jeremy Steele is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, California, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book All the Best Questions, at his website: JeremyWords.com.