Milestone Church started in 2002 with a handful of dedicated people. Now their events bring in thousands of return and first-time guests. In part, thanks to text messages.
It’s hard to believe that Milestone Church began in a school cafeteria. For over two years, that’s where they held their services! Today, they have two permanent locations and attract over 5,500 guests to their weekend services.
Milestone is led by Pastor Jeff Little, along with a team of over almost 100 staff members. Together, they oversee the day-to-day operations of the ministry and help people begin a relationship with Jesus.
As the Associate Pastor of Student Ministries, Jesse Wagner oversees student growth and development, small groups, and volunteer teams. We spoke to him about how text messages help Milestone reach more students.
As part of their mission, Milestone hosts Elevate—a weekly service for middle schools and high school students to encounter God, connect with others, and align their lives with His mission. Hundreds of students attend Elevate every Wednesday. For many, it’s their first experience at Milestone.
To help them feel welcomed, Jesse created a keyword which captures info about these first-time guests.
As he explains, “When first-time guests come to our youth service, they text the word Elevate to 555888 and it sends them a Google Form for us to capture more info. It’s been super helpful for us. We used to do paper forms, but texting out digital forms has been much better.”
During the sermon, the pastor encourages guests to text in the keyword and displays it on the screen.
The Pew Research Center conducted a nationally representative survey of 4,729 adults to find out why people attend religious services. Two of the most common answers cited for not attending religious services was “I haven’t found a church I like” and “I don’t feel welcomed.”
Milestone is non-denominational, which means they welcome people of all backgrounds to join. Plus, they host a variety of events that make it genuinely exciting to come to know God.
In short, when someone finds a church they like, they want to go back—they just need a little nudge to help work faith into their routine! That’s why Jesse and his team use text reminders to increase attendance.
A week after someone texts in Elevate, they receive this message:
“When we were searching for a platform, the biggest selling point for SimpleTexting was the unlimited keywords. Most of the other services gave us 3 or 5 keywords and we had to purchase more,” says Jesse.
Unlimited keywords mean that Milestone can extend the use of texting beyond just welcoming new students. For example, they ask people to text in the word BAPTISM if they’d like to be baptized. If members want a Spotify playlist curated by Milestone’s team, they can text in SPOTIFY.
A Gallup poll found that church membership is down 20% in the last 20 years. Despite the trend, Milestone has seen tremendous growth thanks to their inspiring messages and use of technology such as SMS.
Over 7,000 contacts have subscribed to Milestone’s texts since they began using SimpleTexting two years ago.
Milestone Church may look very different than it did in 2002, but their goal remains the same: help people build their lives on the foundation of the Bible. As they continue to grow, they will use new ways to connect with people. Text messaging isn’t the only technology Milestone uses as part of its mission. They also have an iOS app, live online services, and an active YouTube channel.
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