As a church leader, you likely identify with one or both of two widely shared struggles among churches: bringing in new members and getting existing members to attend service regularly. According to a recent Gallup poll, half of Americans are church members, down from 70% in 1999. This means it’s only getting tougher to grow your community.
One way to encourage growth is to offer more personalized outreach. Those who attend your church are looking for community, so they welcome intimate, family-like connections, something traditional communication methods don’t necessarily nurture.
You may already be emailing or distributing paper bulletins to attendees, but they aren’t as great as they used to be in getting people’s attention. Our email inboxes are overcrowded, and print materials get tossed in the trash after a glance.
Instead, reach those in your community directly with church text messaging. Texts are more meaningful and personal than other methods of outreach because next to chatting in person, a text is the next best thing to having a real-time, one-on-one conversation.
Below, we offer five ideas for church growth that you can incorporate with text messaging.
1. Automate follow-up texts after service
To get an attendee’s attention, it’s crucial to reach them on a medium they prefer (and are sure to check almost instantly). Nearly 75% of people reply to texts from businesses within an hour (from family or friends, the response rate shoots up to 85%), and they use their texting app more than anything else on their phones.
Growing service attendance can be done with the help of automated texts that can be targeted to the right people with a relevant message. Here are a few examples.
Send a welcome text after the first visit. Collect phone numbers from guests and schedule a text shortly after their first visit. With texting software, you can easily send the same text to individuals in a group list, personalized with their first names.
Use Keywords to encourage engagement. Connect with your congregation throughout the week by texting daily or weekly Bible verses or messages that relate your sermons. Add members to your subscriber list by having them text a keyword, such as DEVOTIONS. You can advertise the keyword verbally or on screen during service or in print on flyers or posters. Set up an auto-reply confirming that they’ve signed up for your texts and always let them know they can unsubscribe at any time.
2. Increase giving
When you make the giving process convenient for your members, they’re likely to take part again and again. With church text messaging, you can message a link to your church’s giving page to allow members to donate right from their smartphone.
According to NonProfits Source, mobile giving donations increased by 205% in 2017. The trend makes sense given that all of us are attached to our smartphones throughout the day. We deposit checks through our banking apps, scroll through the news on our commutes and check in our social media pages; there’s very little we can’t do. In addition, fewer and fewer adults are carrying cash these days, so texting is a great way to allow members to make donations with a credit or debit card.
You can set up the keyword GIVE, for example, and create an auto-reply message with a link to the giving page.
3. Keep volunteers informed
Increase the number of volunteers at any given event by keeping members in the loop of upcoming opportunities and last-minute openings.
It can be a scramble to get someone to replace another volunteer after a late-notice cancellation. Instead of calling volunteers one at a time, send a group text to your list asking if anyone can step in.
4. Increase event attendance and engagement
Between Bible studies, fundraisers and festivities, your church likely hosts events throughout the year. Texting is an ideal way to announce upcoming events, encourage registration and get attendees to engage throughout.
Texting can be especially helpful during speaking events or other instances where attendees are sitting for a long period. It can be hard to keep their attention! Get the audience to participate by creating an interactive experience. For example, you could allow members to text in questions that you can answer aloud in front of the audience.
5. Better connect with Youth Group members (and members of other small groups)
Grow Youth Group attendance by building relationships and spreading the word via text. Show younger members that you care for them and would love to see them regularly at Youth Group by sending out meeting reminders and stir up motivation by checking in throughout the week, informing them of the agenda for upcoming meetings.
The same goes for other small groups your church hosts, such as childcare and women’s gatherings: anytime you can build relationships with members outside of church time is a great opportunity to make them feel appreciated and part of the community.
Group texts are perfect for event reminders. While you’re sending the same message to an entire group, the message will open in a private message for every recipient. Not only will this save you time by eliminating the need to send individual texts, but it also means that if someone has a question or needs to inform you that they can’t make it that week, only you and the single recipient will see the text conversation.
Get started with church text messaging. You can download our free e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers, to figure out what texting tool to adopt, learn about texting etiquette, understand common use cases and more.