The 5 Best Church Texting Solutions for Budget-Minded Congregations
Texting is an incredibly cost effective way to communicate with your congregation. Text messages cost just pennies to send and get significantly better engagement rates than other marketing channels, including email marketing. Although email can be an effective way to reach your audience, only 21% of marketing emails are opened by the recipient. An internal EZ Texting study showed that 98% of people who received text messages from our texting platform read them.
But before you pick the first low-cost texting solution you come across and start sending texts to your contacts, know that not all texting services are created equal. You will need a platform that is reliable, responsive, and easy to use with a robust feature set, friendly customer support, and, yes, a good price. Poorly managed texting solutions have the potential to miscommunicate, which for religious organizations can often result in confusion that goes beyond momentary inconvenience. It can mean folks show up at canceled events, meet at the wrong location, or even worse, deposit food pantry donations at last year’s drop off point.
EZ Texting has been a leader in the church text messaging space for over a decade not only because we offer low-cost testing options, but also because we have been able to help religious organizations quickly adapt to technology and communications trends that affect how their group functions . We’ve helped hundreds of churches and religious organizations better communicate with their members and have the happy customers to prove it.
I'm glad EZ Texting was available when we started doing the food pantry. It was easy to set up and easy to do what we needed to do. We send reminders about when the food pantry is open. We like a level of anonymity, no personal phone number attached.
— Matthew Lin, Pastor - One hope Church
Now, let’s look at some text messaging solutions for churches.
The Top 5 Church Texting Solutions
If you are just getting started with texting for churches, check out our Beginner's Guide to Church Text Messaging and our free Church Text Messaging Playbook which includes 21 message templates you can use to help get started today. Then, check out the following five church texting solutions as you begin to investigate how text marketing may benefit your congregation.
1. EZ Texting
EZ Texting is a leader in the text messaging service space and has helped more than 165,000 customers. Church customers are often surprised by the user-friendly platform. A long list of useful features for churches includes unlimited groups, Teammate Manager, Keywords, drip campaigns, automated reminders, and Two-Way Texting, which allows for secure 1:1 text conversations.
Notable church customers include Saddleback Church (yes, that's Rick Warren's megachurch) and Third Reform Church. Over 450 customers have left reviews on G2 Crowd with an average of 4.5 stars (out of a 5-star total) and over 140 reviewers on Capterra delivered an average of 4.3 stars.
ChurchCast is a multi-channel communications platform designed to provide churches with message capabilities in voice, email, and SMS. ChurchCast is a branch of High Ground Solutions, a company that provides an array of technological tools for Business, Higher Education, EMS, Government, Non-profits, and Ministries. The platform offers things like message translation, Keyword texting, and integrations with the Alertus and Panic Button systems. There are currently no testimonials or case studies for ChurchCast available on their website.
3. Text in Church
Founded in 2013, Text In Church is the newest platform on our list. Two reviews on G2 Crowd averaged to 4.5/5 stars. Features include email capabilities, group management, integrations with Planning Center, and automated workflows. There are several testimonials on their website. Church customers include Fellowship Church, The Table, and Good News Church.
TextMagic is a UK-based business with a unique pay-as-you-go pricing model with no monthly obligations. The company has an average 4.3 of 5 stars on G2Crowd with 27 total reviews. There are no church-related reviews or case studies available on their website. TextMagic features include two-way SMS chat, SMS distribution lists, email to SMS, virtual mobile numbers, and a Zapier SMS integration.
Flocknote is a text messaging email tool created for ministries, churches, and other community organizations. The company has an average 4.6 out of 5 on G2Crowd with 53 reviews. There are no church-related reviews or case studies available on their website. Flocknote is 100% employee owned, believes in ditching advertising and social media for email marketing and mass texting, and growing by customer referrals, not advertising.
10 Ways Churches are Using Text Messaging
1. Sharing Inspirational Bible Passages or Quotes
Daily devotionals, Bible reading, and prayer is likely a priority for your members. Your church can prompt congregants with text messages to make this practice a priority by sharing scripture quotes on a regular basis. You can hand-select verses to use as SMS or image-based Multimedia Message Service (MMS) texts. You may also direct your contacts to 3rd-party programs, by including a link. For example, you may want to direct your contacts to a 3rd party offering like the, "read the Bible in a year" plan. To make it even easier, you can use recurring settings in your mass text message service platform schedule verses you would like sent out next year to get ahead of the game.
2. Prayer Requests
Gathering and distributing prayer requests via text message is a great way to keep up with the ever-shifting needs of your congregation in real-time. If you have an especially large congregation, you may want to segment your contacts into smaller groups to disseminate these requests. These smaller groups may be divided up by age range, study group, or activity. This allows you to target recipients and ensure messages reach relevant members only.
3. Support & Consolation Messages
When emergencies arise among your community, text messages can be the fastest and most effective way to let others know what is needed and how they can help. By leveraging your bulk text message service, you can connect church members during critical times, such as loss of home or transportation, deaths, financial crises, etc.
4. Congregant Surveys
Many churches have found text message polling to be an engaging way to keep their finger on the pulse of the community. Using text-to-vote polls, church leaders are able to understand what the majority of their members wish to participate in, what they want to study, which types of events they'd benefit most from, and which guest speakers they would most like to hear speak.
5. Event & Announcement Reminders
Event announcements can take up a lot of time during worship services. By using a mass text messaging service, you can trim that time down and devote more time to the service itself. Text reminders can significantly increase event attendance for churches by not only refreshing congregants’ memories of the event itself, but also by making sure they know exactly when and where to show up, and what to bring along.
For example, Craig Zuithoff, the Student Ministry Leader for a group of 400 youth at Third Reform Church, sends event reminders and notifications about twice a week. Because his Monday night group changes location weekly, Zuithoff uses bulk text messaging to make sure his teens know where to go. Read more about the ways the Third Reformed Church is using text messaging in this case study.
6. Canceled Services
Have you been depending on Facebook to alert your members of canceled services? When you do, you’re relying on your congregants to remember to check Facebook, and you’re relying on Facebook’s algorithm to show the message to them. When people show up to a service that has been canceled, you can be sure to hear from frustrated people and potentially face attendance issues as a result. Text messages, on the other hand, are sure to ping recipients with an immediate notification when you have to cancel services at the place they are most likely already looking at - their phone. No other channel offers the speed and engagement of text messaging.
7. Venue Changes
No matter how much planning you do, last-minute contingencies pop up, and adjustments have to be made. This often happens with small group studies, pickup and drop-off locations for youth trips, and outdoor social activities. Make sure these changes get conveyed to attendees with text message alerts so that everyone shows up at the right location.
8. Encouraging Online Giving
Both church administrators and members find that regular giving through your online platform of choice is the most convenient and hassle-free method to collect tithes and offerings. Most of these giving platforms offer setup through a mobile device, so you can send text messages to members with a link to the platform and remind them to set up these automatic payments from their phones. This not only makes giving easier and seamless, but it also frees up the time used to collect offerings during the service itself.
9. Childcare Alerts
In the 2000s, many churches started using paging devices to alert parents if nursery workers needed to contact them during services and small groups. But, these devices are expensive and require upkeep and training to use. Now, however, nearly every parent has a mobile or smartphone with them at all times, so fewer and fewer churches continue using paging devices today. Instead, they’re following the lead of Saddleback Church and others who have opted to use an SMS service, rather than a paging system to provide childcare alerts.
10. Sermon Main Point Reminders
How many of your attendees remember the main points of the sermon days later? Probably not enough. Many churches now use text messages throughout the week to bring a quote back to mind. Midweek reminders are a great way to keep the main serman takeaways top of mind beyond Saturday or Sunday. These texts usually work best if they highlight a single point or idea (not the whole sermon). Some churches also include a "Tweet This" or "Post to Facebook" option to encourage members to share these sermon nuggets on social media.
How Bulk Text Messaging Works for Churches
Now that you know a few ways to use text messaging for your church, let’s go over bulk text messaging and some of the primary terms and features you will use to put your messaging plans into practice.
Short Codes & Keywords
What are short codes and Keywords in regards to text messaging services? Short codes are five or six-digit numbers used to send and receive bulk text messages. For those who are familiar with short codes, you are also probably aware that carriers are doing away with shared short codes, and dedicated short codes can be expensive to acquire and maintain (often +$10,000 per year).
Keywords work along with short codes to separate texts coming from individuals that are going to a messaging service into buckets or categories. For instance, (fictitious) Grace Church might put a sign at the welcome center saying, “Text ‘GCUPDATES’ to 858585 to receive church updates and event notifications.” In that example, “GCUPDATES” is the Keyword, and “858585” is the short code. Everyone who texts GCUPDATES to 858585 would be subscribed to updates from Grace Church.
While the “UPDATES” Keyword is commonly used, other churches are getting creative with Keywords to interact with members and visitors.
Saddleback Church, for instance, recently ran a trivia contest before their Easter services, which were held in a sports stadium. Attendees were encouraged to text in codes corresponding to various answers (SB1, SB2, etc.). When they texted in their answer to the various questions, an automated text response encouraged them to sign up for alerts and notifications from the church.
Read the full Saddleback Church case study.
Successful church text messaging includes time spent monitoring data as you go and making adjustments to future campaigns. The best bulk text messaging services include easy-to-use and intuitive reporting features so that you can see what’s working and what isn’t. These reports should give you options to change the types of reports you view, including campaigns, keywords, and contacts, as well as tools to adjust the data date range in view. This image is a sample screenshot from our Reporting interface.
One of the benefits of SMS messaging services is that you can schedule messages to go out at any date and time in the future. So, if you want to send a reminder to attend a service on Sunday morning, you don’t have to be in front of a computer at the time that the text goes out. Use this feature to schedule out important reminders and ensure that messages are sent out at the time and intervals that make the most sense for your congregation.
The EZ Texting platform makes scheduling group texts as easy as clicking on the “Schedule” bar and selecting a date and time!
SMS and MMS
Mass text messaging services offer both SMS and MMS functionality in message campaigns. SMS messages, which are capped at 160 characters, should be used for brief and important information, such as event reminders, service cancellations, and venue updates. MMS texts, which can include up to 1600 characters as well as images or video, can be used to add flavor to other messages, but keep in mind that not all rich media files will reach each contact. MMS texts cost more to send than SMS messages, so make sure to look at the pricing details before you send media rich messages.
Getting Congregants to Opt-in
Keep in mind that bulk text messaging is a permission-based activity. Just because you have someone’s phone number doesn’t mean you have permission to send them mass texts.
The best text message marketing strategies in the world are useless unless your contacts have given you permission to send text messages, otherwise known as “opting in.” Let’s review a few approaches churches are taking to help encourage their congregants to opt-in.
Delivering Sermon Outlines During the Service
One creative way that churches use to get attendees to opt-in to their text messages is to use a text messaging platform to deliver sermon notes during the service. For instance, before the service starts, you can post a message on the screen to “Text ‘SERMONNOTES’ to 313131 to get today’s sermon outline sent to your phone.” When an attendee texts in, an automated follow-up message delivers the sermon outline and asks the recipient if they’d like to get future church updates sent to their phone.
Putting It in the Bulletin
Use your printed bulletin to cross-promote your text messaging service. Devote a section of the bulletin on an ongoing basis to get members and guests to opt-in.
Mentioning Text Services in Emails and Social Posts
If your church is using email or social media to stay in touch with congregants, make sure to occasionally mention your text updates on these platforms.. Once folks have opted in, you can do the reverse andal use text messaging to promote the email and social channels to ensure all your followers see updates regardless where their eyes may be online.
Including Text Mentions in Announcements
Carve out just a short moment during announcements to promote your text updates. Make sure to stress that text messaging is the best way to make sure that you can alert members of last minute changes, cancellations, etc. For example, make a statement like, “We’d love for you to attend the Wednesday night men’s fellowship. Don’t forget to sign up for our text updates to get reminders and updates on events like these. Text ‘GCUPATES’ to 313131 now to subscribe.”
Making Mention In Visitor Packets
If your church hands out visitor packets or gift bags, make sure to include a note touting the benefits of subscribing to text updates. You can even set up a drip campaign to provide more information about your church's programs and philosophy. For example, you may include a note that states, “If you’d like to learn more about our congregation, text ‘NEWVISITOR’ to 313131 and we’ll send info about our activities and beliefs.”
Resource Stewardship: Evaluating the Efficacy and Cost of Text Messaging for Churches
Because resources can be limited and an emphasis is placed on the wise use of funds in churches, investing in a text messaging service is a big decision to which you should give considerable thought. In this section, we'll compare bulk text messaging with other marketing channels which can perform some of the same tasks.
Text Messaging vs Church Mobile Apps
As you consider how to stay connected with your congregation, be sure to take into account how many people will actually use the channel. Church mobile apps have some nice features, but consider that only a limited number of people will actually download and use the app.
Keep in mind that all modern mobile phones come equipped with text messaging capabilities out of the box, so members don't have to go to an app store, find the app, download it, and learn how to use it. Some mobile apps include a text alert service as an add-on, but only a small percentage of your attendees will both download the app and set up alerts.
Costs for templated church mobile apps average about $200 for a one-time setup and $50 per month in ongoing fees. Customized mobile apps will easily top $10,000 for setup and will require a considerable investment to maintain.
Text Messaging vs Email
Email has a place to serve in almost any organization's outreach strategy, churches included. Some of your contacts will prefer to use email to keep up with church happenings, rather than other channels. But keep in mind that many of your younger or more tech savvy contacts will opt for text over email, with a growing percentage of older generations preferring text as well.
Emails can get lost in a flood of non-personal inbox correspondence. Most members consider church messages to be more personal in nature and prefer text messaging as their personal communication channel. Read rates are much higher for text over email partly because messages are shorter, so recipients know they will not have to spend a long time reading them.
And, finally, keep in mind that texts are consumed more immediately than email—90% are read in the first three minutes. That means text will be a better channel for time-sensitive alerts such as service cancellations.
Costs for email marketing from MailChimp, one of the industry leaders, can range from free for limited functionality and lists with up to 2,000 recipients to $75 per month for the full feature set and 10,000 contacts. Incrementally, the price steps up to $225 per month for 30,000 contacts, and so forth.
Text Messaging vs Social Media
Social media can be an effective way to spread information to members and grab the attention of new prospective attendees. By posting interesting, relevant, and timely material, you can engage your current fans and get them to share this content with their social circle.
Again, keep in mind that only a small percentage of your contacts will see your organic (posts with content that you create) posts on Facebook and Twitter. While you can boost these posts by paying for advertising, you don't really know who and how many will see them. You will be at the mercy of the algorithm of whichever social platform you choose to use. You will also have to hope that your members will use these social channels with great regularity in order to see updates and other last-minute changes.
So, like email, social media has a place in church outreach. But text messaging can serve a different purpose and be a better channel for messages which are more urgent and immediate in nature. In some ways, you can think of text messaging like the old Fedex slogan, "When it absolutely, positively has to be there…". When you absolutely, positively have to be in touch with your congregation right now, you can rely on text messaging to deliver.
Although there is no financial cost associated with organic posts on social media, time and resources must be spent to properly deploy messages. Each social platform has a unique interface, not to mention image specifications. Depending on the size of your congregation, you may have members across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok and reaching all of them at once means posting across these platforms. Finally, boosted or promoted social posts can cost anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars, depending on the size of your following.
How to Find the Right Text Messaging Platform for Your Church
We've been helping churches grow and maintain close ties with their members for over a decade. So, we've talked with a lot of church leaders to understand what they need most out of a bulk text messaging service. Here are a couple of considerations to look for as you try to find the best texting service for your church.
Make Sure It's Easy to Use
Bulk text messaging is not a complicated process. So the interface of the text messaging platform shouldn't be complicated or hard to use. Over the years, we've worked to make sending mass texts as easy as possible through innovation, user testing, and analytical research. As a church administrator, you have enough to do already. Trying to master an unnecessarily difficult application shouldn't be something you need to add to your plate.
Make Sure They Work with Other Churches
As you know, churches are different from all other types of organizations. They continually work with sensitive subjects and passionate people, while carefully staying in line with non-profit legal guidelines. Make sure that your provider understands the factors which will impact your texting outreach. One easy way to find out if a platform regularly works with churches is to look for church text messaging case studies on their website. Another way is to ask if the platform offers pre-set templates for church messages.
If you'd like to see if our platform is easy to use and take a peek at our church text messaging templates, you can start a free trial today. Our sign-up process is simple, even for those who do not consider themselves tech or digitally savvy. Most church trials take less than five minutes to set up, a testimony to their ease.
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