In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, places of worship have had to close their doors to help prevent further spread of coronavirus. But with great faith has come great resourcefulness!
Parishes around the country have started offering livestreams of their services, inviting parishioners to worship with them from home.
As much as we’d like to follow the logic from the old adage “if you build it they will come”, as church marketers you know better. Now, if you have a way to share your livestream, the flock will follow.
Learn how to communicate your alternative service options with your parishioners as well as some other tips for keeping the faith alive while social distancing.
💡SimpleTexting Tip: If your church already uses texting, feel free to skip down to step number 3.
Once your church has decided how it’s going to broadcast your service, the next step is deciding how you’ll share it.
To get viewers however, it’s going to take a more than just sending out a link. A little work upfront must be done in order to introduce this new technology to your parish.
Email inboxes are overloaded since most things have gone digital. It may be hard to get people’s attention when their inbox is full of virtual meeting requests for work, school, and more.
With texting, you can break through the noise and separate yourself from the other worrisome topics filling their messages—like a breath of fresh air!
When we say text enable, what we mean is assign you a phone number or short code that can both send and receive text messages just like a mobile phone. However, it’s managed from an online “inbox” that looks a little like this. Here you can chat one-on-one with your members, or send out one message to a large group at once!
Now for the most important part. You need to let your parish know they can receive text updates from you with access instructions to virtual services. You can do this in a few ways, and we suggest taking advantage of all of them for optimum reach!
For example, you could create a keyword that, when texted in, will sign folks up for updates. Add a web form and a mobile sign-up widget to your site so visitors can easily input their number to sign up.
Be sure to share instructions to join any way you can. The more people on your list, the better shot you’ll have at boosting your attendance numbers!
Technology may not be everyone’s forte, so you’ll want to make it as simple as possible for them to access your livestream. You can send out a message to all your subscribers when they sign up explaining to them that you’ll plan to send a reminder text an hour before the service begins.
This text will include the link to access the livestream as well as any specific access instructions. All they have to do is click on the link, and they’re in!
We would also encourage you to schedule a text to go out right when mass begins to secure any latecomers who may have lost track of time.
💡SimpleTexting Tip: Be sure to use our URL shortener when you text out your link. Not only will this save you character space, but you can also see how many people clicked the link once it’s been shortened! You can also create a segment based on who clicked, and send them follow-up information, like discussion prompts based on mass.
Once your texts start to gain some traction you can engage your followers to create a more personalized experience. These bonus steps are great ways to boost engagement and deliver added value to your program.
Text to Vote Poll: Find out what your parishioners want to hear more about. Have a few topics in mind for the week’s homily? Test the waters and send a poll to the parish!
Share photos with MMS: Photos are a great way to bring the church to the people while in-person mass is suspended. With MMS messages you can send rich media such as photos, videos, and GIFs for 3 credits (as opposed to 1 credit SMS messages).
Send photos from the pages of your hymnal book so parishioners can sing along during mass, or photos from the altar with the Easter offerings laid out!
Throughout March we’ve seen several churches send text reminders to parishioners inviting them to join virtual service with great success.
We’ve also seen dioceses and conferences utilize SMS as a way to share resources with their pastors in an effort to better prepare them during this time of distancing and quarantine.
Once your church is text enabled you’re not limited to sharing service-related updates. There are a host of other creative ways you can engage your parish in faith while keeping your distance.
When the quarantine ends and life resumes its new normal, many churches may ask themselves: should the livestreams stop?
While many will be eager to gather together in faith once again, these livestreams have offered an excellent option for the disabled, immunocompromised, and elderly who are unable to attend services regularly. And once travel resumes, folks who spend their summers away may want a way to join their home parish for worship.
As business as usual returns to your church, we urge you to check out digital resources for churches that may help you continue to grow and expand how you spread faith through your community.