“Your church has a communication problem”
Not a supposition. Not an assumption, but a point blank statement of reality.
Teddy Ray, a pastor at Kentucky is spot on in his observations about the communication problems churches have. Thanks to the vastly different expectations every member of the congregation has (towards the church), and of course the sheer amount of work involved, he finds that churches are either under-communicating or are not meeting the member’s expectations, despite their efforts.
I am sure you are adapting to technology (like using church texting services) in an effort to overcome it. That’s great. It means you are on the right track. But let me make it simpler for you.
Let me show you how exactly to use texting services, so that they can have maximum impact for your church. No, I shall not talk about ‘5 ways you can use SMS’ – frankly, you can find that everywhere.
Instead, I shall tell you how to wield SMS as a tool to understand the expectations your congregation has towards you and how to use it to have personalized conversations.
I focus on SMS primarily because:
- As a channel of communication, it is personal, quick, and efficient. You can reach every member of your congregation instantly, without taking too much time away from your other duties.
- SMS is still fairly new, and it is the best way to reach the younger members of your congregation. Therefore, it is important to get it right.
How to use SMS to get your congregation involved?
Essentially, with texting services, you have only 3 options. You can either send a broadcast SMS (a text en masse to every member on your list); Or a peer to peer text (rather like a one-on-one conversation) or run a sign up campaign via SMS.
The easiest (and most prevalent) is always the broadcast SMS. One click from you means the message is sent and you can rest easy. You could send them a Scripture for the day or a reminder to attend an event or simply notify them about a change happening in your church.
What are the gaps in using only bulk SMS?
If you are already using only broadcast texts, you will know that while it works, it does not give you the exact results you are hoping for. That is, the congregation still feels a bit disconnected.
Guests/new members don’t have enough context
New guests visit your church everyday and are eager to join. Say, they give their details at the ‘visitor centre and you include them in your contact list along with other members. Now, when you send a bulk SMS to this list with a prayer request for The Masons (just saying), the new guests will definitely be lost.
Yes, sending a scripture message or a thought for the day would make sense. But my point here is that you will have no way to make the distinction between new guests and old members and thus tailor the message to be more relevant to that group.
Pro tip: When you collect new guest information, try to segment them into a new list. This list can get information/updates that motivates them to join your church, while your older list (of congregation members), can get the prayer requests etc.
No way to collect feedback
You are constantly looking to increase attendance for your events. In fact, you probably included SMS as a communication channel for that reason – so that you can send reminders and event notification to increase engagement.
However, you can do more! While sending notification via bulk texts, lets your audience know about the event, it doesn’t allow you to collect feedback from the attendees and non-attendees. Adding a survey link to the SMS will change that. It will enable you to reach your audience quickly, while still learning more from them. So the next event you conduct, will be more tailored to what your audience want.
Pro tip: If you still want to stick only to notifications via bulk SMS, segment your lists again – to attendees and non attendees and tailor follow up messages accordingly.
How can peer to peer texting help?
The underlying problem with bulk SMS is simple – it is lack of participation from the recipients. Think of bulk SMS as an announcement from the pulpit. You reach a large audience in a single announcement. However, to make sure they receive your message (or to clarify their doubts), you talk to them personally after the service.
This one -on-one conversation can be achieved via peer-to-peer texts.
Using peer to peer texts for your congregation would mean you talk to each member separately instead of a mass text. No, it is not as time consuming as you imagine it – because instead of typing out each message separately, you have ready-made templates that you customize for each message.
(I will give you an example in a bit)
How can SMS sign up campaign help?
Let’s go with the above analogy again. You are addressing the congregation from the pulpit. With every service, you welcome new members to your congregation. Also, you request guests to visit the ‘Welcome Center’ to join the team for coffee, if they are interested in knowing more.
Here, you are essentially giving them a call to action. You are encouraging your audience to ‘sign up’ or ‘learn more’. This can be done via sms sign up campaigns too!
Using SMS sign up campaigns for your congregation would mean encouraging your audience to send a keyword eg. ‘FAITH’ to a shortcode eg. ‘55555’. Let us suppose that you want to recruit more volunteers for your church. Then, you can ask the interested parties in your congregation to reach out via the keyword.
Now that you understand the gaps in your existing system, and what more can be done to rectify it, let us look at specific examples
Using church texting services to bring your congregation closer
Let us suppose that your annual fundraising event for your church is coming closer. You want to use SMS to increase attendance and thus raise more funds for your church. Here is an example of how to go about it.
Step 1. Send out a bulk SMS to all the members of your congregation. In that briefly outline the proposed event and call for volunteers. Interested members can text back to the same message, with the keyword ‘Volunteer;.
Step 2. Talk to each sign up via peer-to peer texts to see how exactly they would like to be involved. Eg. “Hi Jane, thanks for signing up to be a volunteer. Would you like to help with the organizing committee or the creative team?“
Step 3. Based on their responses, assign them to a team, segment their contacts in your phone book and send out bulk SMS with relevant texts to each group.
Step 4. Send out updates using bulk SMS to your congregation about the progress to keep them involved.
Step 5. Send reminders and notifications to the guests (attendees) about the upcoming fundraising event.
Step 6. After the event, remember to send a SMS survey to all attendees and volunteers to get their feedback and see what you can do better. This will give you valuable inputs on how you can get more from your next events.
These 6 steps can be tailored for volunteer recruitment, for encouraging guests to become members at your church and even to make the new members feel more welcome and involved. Check out some best practices for church texting to connect with your congregation. If you need a more customized SMS strategy, or want to tackle a unique communication problem for your church, just sign up for a free CallHub account and see how it can help!