“It’s one thing to text a keyword to get a free soda. It’s another thing to text a keyword to make a decision that is one of the most important decisions in your life.”
Challenge: Eagle Brook Church was growing fast and needed a simple, effective way to keep track of new believers.
Solution: Invite new believers to share their decision for Christ by text message.
Result: In the past year, 833 people have texted responses to Eagle Brook’s invitation.
The story of Eagle Brook Church begins in 1948, the year Sam and Ethel Hane first held services as First Baptist Church in a home in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. The seed they planted took root and grew steadily over the next 50 years, prompting a couple of moves and eventually a change of name in 1995.
By 2001, EBC was feeling the push of a thriving congregation that needed more room. The church moved into a bigger space in Lino Lakes in 2005, closing their old doors and assuming the new building would be enough. It wasn’t.
“We thought we were done. We thought that was going to be our new church and our new home for good,” said Brad Hunt, Communications Director. “God had some different plans for us, and in just a few short months we filled up that location, too.”
Eagle Brook had to reopen the old campus. On weekends they’d record the sermon at Lino Lakes, burn it onto a DVD, and then drive it down to White Bear Lake for playback. Membership kept right on growing, and today EBC is a multi-site ministry with six campuses in the Twin Cities area and an average of 22,000 visitors every weekend.
SimpleTexting recently had the opportunity to speak with Brad about how the church has used text messaging to support its No. 1 goal of reaching as many people for Christ as possible. This is Eagle Brook’s success story.
The Challenge: Driving Decisions for Christ
“Everything we do at Eagle Brook focuses on pointing a person toward a relationship with Jesus. That’s our mission, and it just doesn’t change.”
Church growth is a blessing, of course, but with that blessing comes the responsibility of communicating with a rapidly expanding congregation. You might feel excited, overwhelmed, and maybe a bit worried about missing the chance to help every single new believer.
It’s no benefit that new people can be harder to reach because they’re often a bit shy—especially those first-timers, who might feel intimidated by all the unfamiliar faces and decide to hide in the crowd, avoid conversation, or slip into “We’re just visiting” mode. So you’re not just dealing with a growing congregation, you’ve also got some initial communication hurdles to clear.
For Eagle Brook, two questions were front and center: How can we drive decisions for Christ? And how can we be sure to find out, every single time, when someone makes that decision?
A Simple Solution
Eagle Brook saw a huge opportunity in those everywhere, always-on devices that people usually ask you to turn off in church—cellphones. Pastors started slipping quick text message invitations into their sermons. Above, you can see Senior Pastor Bob Merritt at the end of a message, inviting people to text the keyword BELIEVE to SimpleTexting’s short code, 555888.
This tactic provided an easy, low-key, and relevant way for people to share that they’d accepted Christ, and it allowed leadership to reach out with resources and guidance to the 833 people who responded.
“It’s scary to even think of how many of those people wouldn’t have told us about it,” Brad said, “if we didn’t have this really simple, clean opportunity for them to take advantage of when we allow them to pray that prayer.”
If you’re wondering about face-to-face interaction, that option certainly didn’t go away. Eagle Brook continued its practice of inviting new believers to share with church leaders in the lobby after the service. Texting was just an easy alternative—and, as it turned out, a really effective one.
SMS in Action
Want to see how EBC used the text message invitation? Check out the links below. (Good times to start watching are in parentheses.)
- Easter—The above screenshot of Pastor Merritt comes from this 2016 Easter message (37:20)
- Shatterproof: Passing the Test—A message from Pastor John Alexander on faith that endures (33:42). The keyword BELIEVE appears on screen with this exhortation: “If you’re watching online and you’ve made a decision to follow Jesus, we want to celebrate with you!”
- Ground Zero Summer Takeover—Mike Hadley, EBC’s Creative Director, asks kids to text the word LIFE at the end of this summer event for middle schoolers (1:19:40)
- Festival of Festiveness—Pastor Alex Grahmann uses the keyword REV at the end of this message for high school students (26:49)
You’ll notice that EBC has implemented a bit of segmentation by using separate keywords for the middle school and high school crowds, while reserving BELIEVE for the general adult congregation. This is a great way to measure how different kinds of people respond to text messaging within your church.
Here are a couple other cool ways Eagle Brook uses SMS:
Bible reading plans
- EBC found text messaging to be a great onboarding tool for Bible reading plans. 6,800 people subscribed to their first reading list, and their current Romans reading plan is quickly approaching that number, too. Above, Pastor Alexander provides the keyword ROMANS in a message from The New You series (31:41)
- Pastor Jason Strand invites people to donate with the keyword HAITI before getting into his Dangerous Prayers message (1:45)
A note about authenticity
When you’re dealing with a life-changing event like deciding to follow Christ, the last thing you want to do is accidentally cheapen the experience leading up to it. EBC saw the writing on the wall: Too much emphasis on text messaging might drain this decision of its urgency and meaning.
In order to keep the experience authentic and genuine, the church chose to minimize the use of SMS.
“On one specific weekend, we’re never going to offer more than one keyword for a person to text to,” Brad told us. “So, if somebody wants to use the text opportunity to sign people up for serving, then we’ll definitely not do the decision opportunity, because we don’t want to cheapen that in any way.”
Summing It Up
When Jesus spoke to his followers in the Bible, he did it in ways they could relate to. He lit the path to righteousness with parables that were easy to understand, and he put his podium wherever the people were. Today, SMS is one of the most relevant, personal, and popular forms of communication around. Why not take advantage of text messaging? It works for everyone—individuals, businesses, and churches like Eagle Brook.
We hope you found Eagle Brook’s story as inspiring as we did. If you think SMS could help you communicate better with your congregation, contact us today to get started with text messaging for churches.
Has your church already found a way to use text messaging? We’d love to hear about it!
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