Text Message Services for Churches

Texting and church don't seem like they would go together well at all. After all, you want your parishioners to be present and engaged with the message for the week, not fiddling with Facebook. Ringtones interrupting the sermon, a child watching a video during communion, these all take attention away from the main goal of attending church: getting oneself right with God.

However, text messaging can be highly effective in helping your church with the problems that plague all religious organizations and ministries. Keeping your congregation engaged, growing connections with youth, and making your messaging relevant and meaningful for the entire week are the three areas where ministry leadership consistently struggles. 

But by strategically using text messaging targeted to specific groups of people, you can address all of these issues. Read on to learn how religious text messages from Appointible can revolutionize your ministry.

How it works

Text messaging, or SMS, is easy to set up. You don’t even have to be a tech wizard! But you have to get your subscribers’ permission to send them texts as well as their cellphone numbers! The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) mandates this under law. To be compliant with legal and ethical SMS practices, keyword opt-ins are the easiest way to obtain permission. When someone texts your keyword, they should receive an automated response like:

“Southside Church: Thank you for joining our subscriber list. We promise only to send important messages. Reply “STOP” at any time to opt-out.”

Other ways to gather subscribers are through a website popup, a web form, a QR code, or a paper contact card. Simply gather parishioners’ phone numbers, confirm that you have their written consent, and you’re all set to begin sending messages.

How your church can use SMS marketing

Once you have your text message database set up, it’s time to begin using it to communicate with your congregation. There will be some bumps in the road as everyone figures this new medium out, but you’ll soon wonder how you ever did without it. Here are some of the best ways churches have found to use SMS to engage with parishioners.  

1. Send daily bible verses straight to your members’ mobile phones

Set a message plan for the week and send messages daily. These can be scripture readings to reinforce your sermon’s message, applications of the sermon in daily life, or even messages praising church members for living God’s word. Doing this will help keep parishioners focused for the week, and then on Saturday, you can send a preview of the following week. 

2. Share schedule and location changes

How do you typically notify your congregation of weather or illness-related closures? What about changing the meeting place for Bible study or youth group? If it’s by phone or email, chances are that the message won’t get through. 90% of adults report that they never answer their phones, and not everyone checks their email frequently. But over 90% of text messages are opened within 3 minutes. So the next time a meeting changes location or Sunday School is canceled, send a text. That way, chances are greater that everyone will get the update as soon as possible. 

3. Send messages about upcoming events

Outside of church services and Bible study, a great way to engage new and old parishioners alike is with targeted events. A family funfair, a new congregants barbeque, even English classes and volunteer tutoring are all events that can energize your church. But only if people actually show up. 

Nowadays, everyone is scheduled down to the second, and things can get overlooked. Make sure to send reminders about special events well in advance. You can even integrate texting with the church’s calendar and send it out at the beginning of the month so everyone knows what special events are coming up. They can express interest right then, so you can get an estimated headcount and then target your later reminders to the people who were interested. Try it and watch attendance soar!  

4. Connect with youth

Kids and teens as young as elementary school regularly use texting to communicate with their friends. Your youth staff can start to bridge the digital divide by communicating with young people on their level. Whether it’s to share details about a teens-only event or coordinate the details of a children’s service, use texts. The kids will have a written reminder on their phones, and your staff won’t have to worry about the finer details getting lost in translation. 

5. Collect feedback and suggestions

Does your church have a suggestion box? Do you need a quick way to bounce ideas off leadership or your congregants? Transform that old-school paper and pen suggestion box into a digital one. Having a dedicated line for text message suggestions will make them easy to keep track of. Being able to share ideas and thoughts with your adult and youth leaders, or even the whole church, will save valuable time.  

6. Solicit volunteers  

Encourage your congregants to donate their time to church and outreach activities. Do you need chaperones for a youth service activity? How about people serving meals at a soup kitchen or writing holiday cards to prisoners? A call for volunteers will remind people that there is love in service, and their presence is both needed and wanted. And, you just might remind them of an event they had forgotten about! 

7. Prayer requests

Opening up digital prayer requests is a good way to encourage your members to share their trials. From the joy of a new baby to the loss of a loved one, knowing their struggles are heard helps people feel like they matter. Reinforce the feeling of a family by offering prayers for anyone who is overwhelmed. 

8. Donate money or goods

Does your church practice tithing? Set up a keyword for donations that will go right into the church’s bank account. Instead of passing a collection plate, allow text contributions. It follows social distancing and COVID safety protocols. Do you need certain items for the food pantry or holiday gifts for this year’s adopted family? Put out a call to the entire congregation or to certain groups and watch the help come pouring in.

Other ways to use text messaging effectively include: 

  • Holding a Bible trivia contest among your Confirmation class

  • Sharing notes for the weekly Bible study

  • Communicating with other local pastors

  • Scheduling readers, altar servers, and organists for upcoming services

  • Providing updates on mission trips or local outreach and service activities

  • Wish members a happy birthday, happy anniversary, or happy adoption day 

These ideas are merely a starting point for using text messaging for your church. What else can you think of?

Spread the word

Not the word of God, just the word about your new SMS service! People will only use the service if they know about it. Some ways to advertise your SMS system include: 

  • Announcing it during services

  • Including keywords and QR codes on signs in the building

  • Inserts in the weekly bulletin

  • Forms or notices on your website

Get started

If you’ve decided that text messaging is a good fit for your church, then do your research. There are a lot of services out there, so pick the one that best fits your needs. Getting started with Appointible is easy! Just sign up for our 30-day free trial and get $10 in free credits. The free trial is just that – free. No credit card is required until the trial period is over. If, after 30 days, you decide Appointible isn’t for your church, simply walk away – no questions asked. There are never any obligations or contracts, and you can cancel or change your plan at any time.

The most important thing you’ll need to do to begin texting is choosing a phone number to use. The best option for churches is to get a local 10-digit number (a 10DLC number) or to text-enable the phone number you already have. If your congregation skews older, or you have lots of long-time parishioners, then definitely keep your existing number. Enabling text messaging doesn’t impact your ability to make and receive phone calls; all SMS messages are routed through Appointible’s servers.

If you have a lot of staff or volunteers who handle specific responsibilities, each of them can have a unique number with specific user controls. So, you can direct messages to the relevant person, and nobody gets overwhelmed answering messages that aren’t their area of specialty.

Final thoughts

Since the pandemic started, all religious services have been struggling. Some have been in crisis for far longer than that. Adding text messaging to your outreach methods seems counterintuitive. Yet churches that embrace the future and new technology will end up being the ones to thrive. Bring life and engagement back to your church. Let your message reach out beyond the pews and lift everyone up.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions? We have answers! Here are some common responses that may be helpful.

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