They go by many names, but one of the most common is the “C.E.O.” Also known as the “Christmas, Easter, Only.” Everyone knows that holidays bring in an influx of new church goers, and that’s great! We’re not shaming anyone who isn’t an every-Sunday church-going worshiper. However, as a leader in your faith community, I bet you were wishing you could connect with this audience outside of just religious holidays.
89% of Americans say they believe in God, but on average only 36% of people identify as weekly religious service attendees. Religious organizations around the country are shaking their heads as they try to account for the missing 53% each week. So how can churches around the country begin filling the pews with parishioners eager to get involved in their faith?
We encourage you to look to your cell phones for the answer.
Americans send roughly 26 billion text messages every day. For most teens and adults this means their phone is usually no more than an arm’s length away. While you can do things like scroll social media and answer emails while on your smartphone, virtually every single cell phone can text. And they can do that without a need for data or internet connection. When you’re looking to send something as crucial and widespread as the word of God, you need that degree of reach.
Fostering a relationship with people who are new or on the fence about their faith is a fragile conversation. There is a right and a wrong way to approach the subject, especially through texting. Understanding the guidelines is the first time in getting started.
To make this as easy as possible, here are some hard and fast rules for initiating faith-based conversation via text.
Now that you have a handle on the basic “rules”, let’s dig deeper into how to put them into practice. Specifically, how do you get people involved in your church’s texting program for the first time. There are a few different approaches you can take, but we’ll share the most popular route taken by many of our church partners. The 🔑 is in keywords.
Keywords are a great way to invite people into conversation. Keywords are simply a word or phrase that people can text in to your number or short code to “opt in” to receive your messages. In other words, it’s a way for people to add themselves to your contact list. Advertising your keyword broadly is the best way to ensure you’re attracting as many people as you can.
A great way to do this is to invite your parishioners to take out their phones at the end of mass and text the keyword in right there! This announcement should be made on holidays of course, but there’s also no harm in working it into your announcements weekly! That would look a little something like this:
Before his sermon ends, Pastor Butler at Harvest Valley Church invites anyone who is joining them for the first time to take out their phones and text the word HARVEST to 555888. Whoever runs the text marketing platform at the church will have already set up some auto-responses that will be sent out to each new subscriber. These automatic text messages will serve as a data collection tool that allows you to gain insight into what your new subscribers might be looking for: prayer ideas, an ear to hear their thoughts on religion, more ways to get involved in the church, etc. For each category someone indicates their interest in, they will be added to a separate list that indicates they’d like to receive messages on that subject. Finally, after each mass, the pastor or a member of his team can follow up with each new subscriber thanking them for joining them and offering to have a chat with them via text!
If you’re unfamiliar with text marketing, the most important thing for you to know if that it is regulated by the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) as well as other federal regulations. The main goal here is simply to prevent spam.
As a religious organization, some of these regulations look a little different for you. Mainly because you are not a “for-profit” organization using text marketing for monetary gain. This results in a more flexible policy on who can reach out to who first. The easiest way to demonstrate this is by breaking down the difference between mass texting and one-on-one messaging. Keep in mind both types of texting can, and should, be used together!
We know this can seem a little complicated at first. That’s why our support team is available seven days a week to help you out with any questions you have. If you take anything away from this piece, let it be this:
We mentioned this in passing in the previous section, but we can’t overstate the value texting has as a medium for outreach. When it comes to faith, people manifest their feelings in a lot of different ways. Some are bashful because they think they know too little. Some people are angry because they feel let down by their beliefs. Some people are just downright indifferent. Texting provides just enough anonymity to keep these conversations productive, calm, and judgement free. Not to mention it’s simple and accessible by almost everyone.
95% of texts will be read within 3 minutes of being sent. Unlike emails which can sit in your inbox for days or voicemails which often go unreturned. The time it takes you to invest in sending these outreach texts compared to the potential benefits of connecting with a potential parishioner isn’t even a comparison. Minutes compared to a lifetime of commitment is a pretty spectacular conversion rate in our eyes!
Texting is great for a lot, but at SimpleTexting we’ve seen it do some incredible things for some of our religious partners (see for yourself). Using SMS to connect with first time visitors is just the start of limitless potential!