Church communication gets an upgrade with messaging services like Text In Church. Recipients read most text messages within a few minutes after receiving them, and a large percentage of members, attendees, and guests in your church services use SMS text messaging.
You can find generic text messaging apps with group texts or services that help users communicate via text with a large number of people. However, few of these services cater to the church community including special features designed for the unique church market.
How does Text In Church work and does the service offer enough to warrant paying for texting when you could use cheaper (or free) or just keep using your more traditional tools like email lists or phone trees?
What is Text In Church
Text In Church uses text messaging to communicate with church members and potential members. The service charges churches to quickly send out texts to those who sign up or get added by the church. This enables you to send out announcements about upcoming concerts or a weekend youth lock-in. You can quickly remind people about a new sermon series or ask them to pray for a special need in the church. Replace your phone tree, printed fliers, or even the weekly church bulletin, or you might want to supplement those things.
Pricing of Text In Church
To get started with Text In Church, you'll need to pick between plans paid for monthly or annually. Also, you'll need to select between three levels of service.
The three plans differ by the number of texts and emails you can send per month. The Basic and Pro plans offer technical support via email and online chat while the Premium plan offers phone support. At these prices, I think all three or at least Pro and Premium plans should offer tech support by phone. The prices per month are as follows:
- Basic (500 texts and emails sent/month) – $37/month
- Pro (2,000 texts and 1,500 emails sent/month) – $67/month
- Premium (3,000 texts and 2,500 emails sent/month) – $97/month
If you choose to pay annually, the costs will lower slightly per month as follows:
- Basic (500 texts and emails sent/month) – $30.71/month totaling $444
- Pro (2,000 texts and 1,500 emails sent/month) – $55.61/month totaling $804
- Premium (3,000 texts and 2,500 emails sent/month) – $80.51/month totaling $1,164
Use this link and you'll get a 30-day free trial period when you sign up. During the free trial, you'll get fewer texts than listed above until you start paying.
Getting Started with Text In Church
After you sign up, Text In Church will try to up-sell you on a few extra services. They'll offer to help you get things set up with something they call Kickstart for a one-time fee of $97. That's useful for churches without a tech-savvy person to do the setup manually. They'll have you send a database of your contacts, then their support team will import the contacts and set up your groups (more on groups below). You'll have to pay nearly $300 at a later date for this service, so get it now if you think you'll need it. I passed on this to save money.
Next, they will ask if you want 500 more text messages for an additional $12/month. Do the math. How many members do you have and how many texts do you think you'll send out each month. If you're planning on one per week, then multiply your membership plus guests by five (because some months have five weeks instead of just four). Will 500 be enough or 2,000 for the Pro level and 3,000 for the Premium level?
The third up-sell is training. They call it Church Marketing University. This includes…
- Introductory Church Assessment – helps you find ways to do a better job of reaching people
- Online Courses – learn to market your church
- One-year Subscription – you get access to this for a year
Church Marketing University costs an extra $97.
The manual onboarding process, where you set things up instead of paying Text In Church to do it for you, involves a six-part process. You personalize the account, watch a video introducing the team that will help you use the service, and select a unique phone number that your church members and guests will see when they receive text messages.
One incredibly useful feature called Social Sync will automatically grab social media accounts for your users. When you enter your own phone number to get started as a test number, Social Sync will search for that phone number and your name on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If the number shows up publicly, then the service will connect the social media accounts to the profile.
Text In Church will use your profile to send a test message. Finally, they ask you to watch a video for a chance to win a $100 gift card. The video shows you a little about guest follow strategies.
How to Use Text In Church
Now it's time to add people to your database. Remember that Text In Church will do this for you if you choose Kickstart at sign up. However, if you already have a database on hand, you can add it using an Import People button in the People tab.
Click the button and then choose to import a CSV file of your church's membership database or guest database. That's the quickest way to get a lot of people in your account. They even give users a sample CSV template to download and populate. Review the headings in the provided CSV template to make sure your file matches that format. Sometimes importing a CSV file gets messed up if you don't follow the right format.
This process worked flawlessly with a CSV file I used that had the right headers for each column of the database. You need to leave the page open until it tells you the importer finished. Here's what the individual member page looks like (see below):
Once you get your contacts into Text In Church, go to the Groups tab and set up groups. For example, you will want a Membership group for those who are already members. Then maybe a Guests group for people who visit the church. You could create groups for Sunday school classes or small groups. Add them for ministry groups, like the choir, the youth group, single mothers, or grief recovery groups. Whatever groups your church has, add a group.
The service adds three groups by default…
- First-Time Guests
- Leadership Team
- Members in the Loop
Each group gets a name, description, keyword, and automated reply message. The key word is used for people to join via text message. So I can send a text to the church's Text In Church phone number that they assign in the onboarding step with the keyword and the service will add them to that group.
People can also join groups with a link on your church's website. Go to the Digital Connect Card tab under Groups. This lets people sign up from the website instead of via a text message. That's great for people who only want to get messages via email instead of their cell phone.
Under groups, you'll also see tabs for…
- Group Overview – seen above
- Digital Connect Card – the sign up on your website method described above
- Automated Workflows – automates how you follow up with people who join your database and your various groups with many supplied by the company or create your own
- Message History – shows past messages sent out
- Members – shows the entries for each member of the group you're viewing
The other tabs in the Text In Church control center lets users change settings, get help, or log out of the account.
Sending messages using Text In Church starts in the Messages tab. You'll see an inbox of messages sent to you, the administrator. It also shows the New Message button above the tabs along the left. Click it to start a new message to one of your groups.
The page to create a new message organizes the steps to make it incredibly simple.
- Select which group to send out the message to.
- Choose between an email or SMS text message.
- Write your message and use the database fields to personalize it with something like “Hi FIRST NAME” where the First Name is a field that grabs from the database so that the member will receive the text with their name instead of it being generic.
- Tell the service to either Send Later or Send Now by choosing one of those two buttons in the last box. Picking Send Later lets you schedule it for a date and time.
Standout Features in Text In Church
Integrations with Church Management Services and More
A lot of churches use other services and Text In Church works with those services. Head over to the Settings tab and pick Integrations. From their connect your account with accounts from…
- Planning Center – A church management solution that helps you facilitate check in for attendance and children's groups, giving, and more.
- Church Community Builder – Another church management solution that handles the same kinds of things as Planning Center.
- MailChimp – An email marketing tool that lets users send email newsletters, ads, or informational messages.
- Zapier – Connects to other apps like ToDoist, Evernote, Survey Monkey, and Constant Contact to name a few.
- Social media services via Social Profile Sync – Syncs up your membership database with social media services by searching for the email address, name, and phone number in publicly available information.
Syncing Social Media Accounts
I asked how Social Media Sync worked because it seemed odd that they found my information without me entering it. Here's what Tyler Smith from Text In Church replied…
“It's a pretty cool feature that can be a huge time saver during data entry. We simply run a search on the email address or cell phone number for any public data available on the major social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. It's not always successful, but when there is a match it can grab the person's name, profile image, and links to their social profile pages.”
When I saw it in action, I got a little worried but then I realized it's not doing anything nefarious. They search for information that's publicly available to anyone who knows how to use Google. They just do it automatically. That makes your church database more usable. People who don't want this information available can make it private on their social media accounts.
The above integrations will help users not only communicate more effectively but also track membership attendance, giving, and communication. However, if you don't use one of the above services, I still think Text In Church can help you. You won't get as much out of it, but you still get a lot.
As a pastor, I love that I can ask people to sign in to my church's database with nothing more than a simple text message from their phone. It's non-threatening and easy. It also saves money on guest cards. We just ordered a new stack of cards for over $100 from a printer at a discount since the owner of the print shop comes to our church. We wanted high quality, glossy cards that looked great in four-color. But we could spend that money on an informational flyer and gifts for guests or to offset the monthly cost of the Text In Church service.
Zapier Connects to Other Apps
If you use apps like Evernote, Trello, Survey Monkey, and more you can connect your database and information to these apps. It saves time so you don't have to keep adding people information to these other services or to your Text In Church database.
Trello is a useful workgroup service that includes chat and hosting of files and more. You can connect this with Text In Church. A group in Text In Church can get added to Trello. Then they can connect with one another in that chat group.
I'm excited about getting started with Text In Church for my church. We're cleaning up our church database for a directory. Once we finish that, we're probably going to subscribe to the Pro Monthly service. We have about 125 regular attendees so we're not a big church. But I believe this has the potential to help us grow since we're going to get better interaction with members and guests.
The reasons I like Text In Church are as follows:
- The easy strategy for engaging with guests to follow up with them almost immediately.
- Easy setup process if you have a good database of member phone numbers and email addresses.
- The simple process of sending out messages.
- The messages look personalized.
- Quick follow up with guests and new members.
- Digital Card check-in for tracking members and guests.
- Integration with other services or apps.
Text In Church offers a three-part strategy for engaging guests. You'll see the video in the setup phase of your one month trial. Do yourself a favor and sign up for that useful strategy. It involves getting the person's contact information and then following up at key times after their first visit to your church. The first one is almost instantly after they sign up.
To get people to sign up, we will do the same as we do for guest cards filled out. We'll promise to make a $5 donation to our local food pantry if they return the card or in this case, send that text. Churches using this strategy say they get more engagement because people hear this and don't want to keep that charity from getting a donation from our church.
My only complaint is the price. $37/month for only 500 text messages a month is higher than we're paying now for another service. However, you get more than a texting service. You get a tool for follow up that potentially integrates with your church management solution–and it's easy to use.
To sum it up, Text In Church has a robust service that they designed with churches in mind. I'm likely going to make the switch.