How Central Church Uses Keywords to Engage and Inform Its Congregation

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Keeping over 2,000 church attendees informed isn’t easy. Here’s how Central Church uses texting to ensure its message is seen and heard.

Company

Central Church is located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Founded in 1883, there are now approximately 2,000 weekly attendees. There’s also a second church located in downtown Sioux Falls that reaches another community.

Challenge

Central Church was using a combination of social media, email marketing and website bulletins to share news with its members. However, with such a large number of followers, it was hard to keep members informed and quickly share relevant information to inquiries.

Results

When SimpleTexting was recommended by another church, Central Church realized our keyword feature was exactly what it needed. The church has since incorporated SMS into its outreach strategy––from volunteering through to event reminders.

Central Church is more than daily services. With a 2,000 strong congregation and youth ministries, the Sioux Falls-based church prioritizes care, education, and international outreach.

Throughout the year the church hosts hundreds of events and volunteer opportunities to keep the local community engaged and involved. With so much going on, the church needs to ensure it’s messages are read.

When the Lead Pastor started seeing other churches use texting as a way to reach members, Central Church knew it was time to incorporate another communication channel into its outreach strategy.

Mike Billeter, Communication Director of Central Church, talked to us about how he uses SimpleTexting to reach its members, share information and increase volunteer turnout.

Using Keywords to Engage Different Congregation Groups

With so many members joining the church for its different services, Central Church began using SMS keywords as an easy way for members to receive relevant text messages. 

The church carefully chose relevant keywords that they publicized across the congregation. When members text the keyword to the church’s number, they would automatically join the contact list for that particular service.

Two-Way Messaging and Auto Responses

When a keyword is set up, the account holder must write an automated reply which will be sent out to anyone who texts in the keyword.

For example, if a family wanted to learn more about baptizing their child, they could text ‘BeBaptized’ to the allocated number. The auto-response would then hold relevant information about how to find out more information on Central Church baptisms.

However, if the family wanted to take it one-step further, they could respond to the automated text message and receive a more detailed answer from a member of the Central Church team.

By utilizing two-way conversations and automatic responses to keywords, Central Church can maintain contact with all members. However, they’re not the only ways the church is using keywords to reach its audience.

Today 8:25 AM
BeBaptized
Hey there! We’re SO excited about your interest in baptisms at Central! To learn more or to get signed up, visit centralsf.org/baptism!

Mass Texting with Keywords

Once keywords have added contacts to a list, the account holder determines how much they want to reach out to subscribers.

If a church member wanted to receive daily prayer reminders, they could text ‘345Prayer’. This would add them to the list of contacts who receive daily text messages reminding them of upcoming prayer times. 

Lists vary in size and in the number of text messages sent by Central Church. Where some may need a continuous chain of text messages, others could be just one, pointing the subscriber in the right direction for more information.

When the church had to go online during COVID, the lead pastor began to host morning prayer services on Facebook Live. 

For those who wanted to be kept updated on prayer times, the church offered a text-in service, subscribing the contact to daily reminders of when to join the Facebook prayer service.

Today 9:12 AM
345Prayer
Thanks for signing up for prayer updates! These texts will remind you when our team will be praying on Facebook Live (facebook.com/centralsf) each day.

Managing Contact Lists With Team Members

With 2,000 members to account for, it’s no surprise that Mike has some help running the communication side of Central Church.

With the church running a variety of additional services, Central Church decided to sign up multiple members of its communication team. 

This ensured they could reach out to their lists as and when necessary. Using Team Members to share the workload allows everyone to keep track of the inbox and reply directly to church members.

One of the key areas this comes into play is the student ministries available at Central Church. By allocating student ministry contact lists to a separate member of the team, Mike can trust communication is being upheld between parents, students and the church.

“The person running the youth ministry uses SimpleTexting to coordinate volunteers and reach out to parents about last minute changes or anything upcoming that they need to be aware of,” Mark explains. 

It also allows the church to send quick reminders ahead of organized trips or events. 
“We just sent out a quick message, like, ‘Hey, don’t forget you signed up to help us for this event!’ It’s a great way to make sure we don’t lose volunteers.”

Today 12:00 PM
SCparent
Thanks for signing up for text alerts from Student Central! We want to make sure you know what’s happening with your kid(s), so be watching for more texts!

The Future of Texting for Central Church

Coordinating a large church requires multiple platforms and software, which is why Central Church was excited to learn how SimpleTexting can be integrated with almost any application.

The church is currently working on an integration between SimpleTexting and Planning Center, which keeps track of attendees and member information. 

This will enable Central Church to keep an up-to-date database of contact information on both platforms.

But what about the SimpleTexting as it’s used in the traditional sense? We asked Mike what becoming text enabled has achieved for the church.

“Honestly, we’re connecting with people. Information is getting in front of those who need it, in a way that other communication strategies couldn’t do. If they’re contacted via text message there’s almost a complete guarantee that they’ll be reached.” 

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