Most cellphone users acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused them to increase — in some cases, significantly increase — the amount of time they spend texting. In fact, almost 80% report that viewing or sending text messages is their No. 1 cellphone activity.
Because text messages have a 98% open rate and are typically read within 15 minutes of receiving them, they can be a great way to communicate with your congregation.
If you think you’ve exhausted every way to benefit from text messaging, here are some ideas you may not have considered.
First-visit welcome texts
Create a personalized text to welcome newcomers. Recruit volunteers to send individual texts on behalf of your church, or use an automated mass texting service.
Be sure to welcome your guests with a text message sent within 24 hours of their initial visit. If individual or personalized texts are sent, provide volunteers with a script and appropriate training on how to answer questions or provide further information that a newcomer might want.
Individual invitations also can be sent for relevant classes or ministries. For example, if a family with young children visits on Sunday, send a welcome text Sunday evening or Monday morning. Later, send a text to invite the children to a Sunday morning class.
Sunday morning sermon summaries
Help your congregants remember the sermon with text summaries. Mid-week, text a Scripture, quote or primary point to jog their memory. Depending on the size of your congregation and your budget, you also may want to send daily devotionals or links to further resources.
Organize COVID precautions via text
Use text messaging to keep parishioners informed of the latest COVID-related closures and service changes. Help enforce safety precautions by scheduling staggered pickup and drop-off times for the nursery or children’s classes to avoid crowds.
You also can arrange for optimal seating for some or all of your elderly or high-risk individuals and easily notify them of the ideal time — perhaps after the general audience is seated — for them to enter the building.
Replace paper products
The pandemic has forced many churches to forgo paper programs, making text messaging a good option. Before each service, send a text that includes service information and announcements.
Those who lead small groups, Sunday school classes, committees and mission organizations within the church can connect and reach out to members through group texts. Share personal prayer requests, needs and encouragement as well as details about upcoming projects, lessons and plans. Also share links to sermon videos, newsletters and ministry materials or share inspirational quotes or funny memes.
Questions, comments and surveys
Encourage audience members to use their cellphones in worship. At the start of the service, ask attendees to text a selfie and send the photo along with a short comment, such as “Wish you were here,” to friends.
Some pastors also accept text questions during or after the message. Use texting like a modern-day suggestion box to ask congregants direct questions and request feedback and comments. Text surveys are also an easy way to collect valuable information about needs and opportunities in your church.
Make it easy for people to give. Text giving offers a convenient way to give without handling physical money, passing a plate or having to access a specific internet location. If your church hasn’t set up a text-giving program, now is definitely the time to do so.
To maintain interest and guard the reputation and integrity of your church, always ask congregants to opt in to church text messaging services. By providing short or long codes that are texted back to a designated number, individuals can choose to receive your texts. In this way, you make sure that only those who want to receive your texts actually receive them.
Generally, the more texts you send and the more people you have signed up, the more money it costs. Therefore, it’s important to review your SMS service provider and contract and make sure that you are receiving the services you need at a price you can afford. It also makes sense to check out free or low-cost mass messaging services for nonprofits.
Texting in churches is beyond a bandwagon at this point. If you are not using texting as a ministry tool, you are missing out. Make texting a priority this year.
Tricia K. Brown is an author, editor and public speaker. Through her ministry, The Girls Get Together, she seeks to encourage women to grow in their relationships with the Lord and each other. Her book, A Year of Yearning: A 12-Month Devotional to Help You Study God's Word More, is available from Amazon.