September 13, 2016 With social media platforms all the rage for churches to dive into these days, it’s easy to forget about another way to communicating and engaging with your church members and visitors: The humble txt message. Why txt? Most of us aware that email can be a hit and miss tool when it comes to communicating with our church members and the broader community. While it still has a place, it is getting harder to get emails through spam filters, and the torrent of legitimate emails many of us receive each day. Social media has a real place in a church communications strategy, but to use it well requires one or more people who really understand it and have the time and facilities to commit to making it work. But with an SMS – people are on their phones constantly, and there is a high ‘read’ factor with SMS’s – much more than email. Most of us have our phones on us 24/7 and have an automatic ‘check’ response when we hear our txt tone. And with a txt you never hear of the excuse ‘I didn’t get your text. Let me check my spam folder’. How? (web to txt companies) So how do churches do ministry via txt? This is will involve using a web-to-txt service. This is a web-based interface that allows you to create a database of mobile numbers (with their owners permission of course), and then to create segmented groups (kids, youth, bible study group members, etc) in order to send information to them. Most companies only charge per txt message sent, which can range from 4.7c to 10c per txt. Many of the solutions also offer you a dedicated incoming mobile number which you can use for a wide range of ministry purposes from live questions during church or another event, to a service to visitors (see below for more ideas). If you church uses a Church Management System like Elvanto, Jethro, CCB, etc you are likely to be able to connect that system directly to your SMS facility to enable you to txt directly from your CMS. Some companies that provide these services in Australia are: https://www.smsbroadcast.com.au/ https://www.bulksms.com.au/ https://smsexpress.com.au/ http://www.160.com.au/ http://www.textoutsms.com.au/ But there’s many more you can find with a search. They will all have different features and pricing structures, so some thought and research is the key. What can you do with txt messages in ministry? The main reason for using SMSing in a church environment is to increase or enhance engagement with people – whether that is your church members, visitors or the general community. Visitors can txt ‘NEW’ to a set number and get an auto response back with a link to a mobile-friendly page on the website just for them. Reminder of roster duties (using link) to your church members. As an alternative to emails which are often ignored or not received. As a natural and more intuitive communication channel with teens and young adults. Follow up of visitors – younger visitors would often prefer this over an email or personal visit in the first instance. Txt daily or weekly bible readings to a group or team or whole congregation – invite questions back. Txt quotes from sermon – link to audio on web site. Txt encouraging scripture quotes. Create txt campaigns for community leading up to an outreach event using a dedicated inbound number. Live txting of questions during sermons or other events. This requires someone monitoring the inbound number on a website, and filtering questions that then go to the stage monitors. This worked well at the Next Level conference in August. Prayer requests sent to the inbound number. I’m sure there’s loads more ideas you can come up with. Using texting in our church environment can be a very cost effective communication channel that cuts through where email and even social media doesn’t. It can be personal, have a one-off feel, and can encourage helpful conversations. Also helps us to be succinct and to the point!