Text messaging has changed the way we communicate. I text message people more than I actually talk with them. In fact, my cell phone plan has the lowest amount of talking minutes you can have, plus unlimited text messages.
As texting transforms the relational landscape of our culture, we’re beginning to see how it’s influencing the way the church communicates.
While many churches have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, others are taking it to the next level, incorporating texting polls and Q&A sessions into their weekly services as well as using text messages as a vehicle to communicate announcements and church news throughout the week.
But before you’re quick to start texting, here are some lessons learned that may help you figure out where, when and why you should and shouldn’t use text messaging.
Some reasons why you shouldn’t:
- Because everyone else is. Let’s be honest, so often we look and see what other churches are doing and instantly think we should do the same. Make sure it’s a good fit for your church and your context.
- If people in your congregation are technologically behind. If people are barely using your web site, chances are they aren’t ready to receive text messages from you.
- If you use it as a Band-Aid. Many of us are struggling to manage our communications, and you should only introduce texting as a means to enhance your communications–not to fix any systems that might be broken.
And, some reasons why you should:
- To lower the barrier between the pulpit and the congregation. If you opt to do texting Q&A sessions in your services, it allows people the opportunity to voice questions or thoughts they might not normally have the opportunity to express.
- To have direct communication. Texting enables instant, direct communication with people. It’s not dependent on a postage stamp, the printing press and doesn’t run the risk of getting lost an inbox.
- To take a sermon deeper. Whether you give people the opportunity to ask questions in your services or text them a reminder throughout the week. It’s a great way to keep the conversation going and remind people of things they can apply during the week.
Things to watch for:
- Get their Permission Opt-in. Don’t go through your church database and add everyone’s mobile numbers to your texting list. Give people the right to opt in and respect the permission they give you to interact with them.
- Avoid spamming. Don’t spam people with unsolicited messages. Remember most people are paying the dime for each message you send. Only send what’s vital for the church as a whole. Or allow individual ministries like youth groups or college groups to create their own opt-in lists.
- Don’t replace electronic communication with personal contact. One of the dangers of texting is that it can take away from the relational dynamic of personal contact. Use texting as a means to create community, not to take away from it.
At Park Community Church we primarily use texting in our services to do Q&A, allowing members of our congregation to text in questions during our message, and we’ll take about 5 minutes after each service to answer some of the questions. That portion of our service has actually become so popular that we now podcast recordings from all of the Q&A sessions each week.
We’ve also used to texting to do polls (most recently about people’s level of fear over the current economic situation) and send mass messages for major church events or announcements (examples: start of a new series, service time/location changes, Daylight Savings Time, etc).
There are many great companies out there that help churches with texting technology. Depending on how you want to use texting, you can go for very basic mass-messaging to very in-depth by using surveys and replybacks. At Park, we use Jarbyco for our messaging and have benefited greatly from our partnership and the ongoing support and ideas they give us. Another great option is a new company called TextHub, which is currently offering a free 1-year basic membership to churches.
Whichever way you decide go, remember to be wise stewards of the technology that we have at our disposal and seize the opportunity God has given us to communicate the gospel in creative, innovative ways.