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The 5 Best Text Messaging Strategies to Boost Engagement at Your Church

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People feel disconnected more than ever in a world where we have the most opportunities and channels to connect with others. Churches have struggled to communicate with regular attendees and their wider community. 

As churches have scrambled to adapt to the constant changes of our digital world, struggling to “do Instagram” right or tweet enough or live stream on Facebook, they have found their messages to be drowned out and lost in the noise. 

Churches don’t see engagement with their weekly services and ministries like they did before, and it’s made us all wonder, what’s the missing piece? Is it personal, direct communication, or human-to-human contact? Engagement will impact your church body as well as the community around you that you seek to reach. And not just communicating from the pulpit, on Facebook, or in your weekly bulletin. 

You need to communicate in the most comfortable way for people today: text messaging

Don’t think so? Check out these stats:

  • Twenty-three billion texts are sent every day. 23 BILLION.
  • 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes. Email open rates are around 20%, and it can take hours and days before it’s opened.
  • 45% of texts are responded to. No other communication method even comes close to this response rate.
  • 91% of phone users keep it within 3 feet of them 24 hours per day.

Now, stop reading and find your phone. Is it within arm’s reach? 

The proof is in the pudding. Texting is the #1 way people communicate; less than a decade ago, churches were not using it! At Text In Church, we have worked with thousands of churches and have seen how these five church texting strategies can boost engagement at your church. 

5 Text Messaging Strategies to Boose Engagement at Your Church

Now that we covered the basics of church texting messaging, here are five proven strategies we recommend to improve your communication, both internally and externally. These church texting strategies will help keep guests returning, boost attendance, retain volunteers, and ultimately build deeper relationships.

Strategy #1: Use church texting to follow up after significant events

Church communication gets kicked into high gear during big events. There’s fancy signage printed and hung up everywhere, the website (hopefully) has some information about it, and your social media accounts are hyping it up. However, what about once the event is over? 

Whether it’s the Christmas season, Lent, or the last crazy month before VBS, it’s a time for preparing. Preparing for the holiday festivities, hosting family or traveling, preparing our hearts as we fast.

As churches, you spend a great deal of time preparing for these worship services. Maybe your worship team prepares some special music. Your sanctuary is likely decorated beautifully. I’m sure the sermon has been planned and practiced for months.

Why?

These are some of the most significant holidays and events for Christians to celebrate. But it’s also because we know that we will host more people at our Christmas and Easter services and VBS than most other services all year long. There will be a massive influx of new people who show up, maybe for the first time.

Maybe they come because it’s part of their family’s tradition.

Maybe their kids have been begging them to do a VBS.

Maybe they have held tightly to their beliefs but have walked away from the church. And during such a significant holiday, being at church feels right.

Maybe they are just looking for a fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to begin again.

In all of your preparations, don’t forget to create a follow-up plan so that when you meet all these wonderful new people, it doesn’t end there. It starts a conversation that leads them toward a relationship with your church and, ultimately, with Christ.

Have your follow-up messages ready to go in advance. Don’t wait until after the event to decide how you will follow up with your guests. Craft your text messages so they are ready for you to use when the time comes.  

Be sure to have connection cards available. Whether paper connection cards or digital ones, there will be A LOT of visitors so distribute and display connection cards for your guests. 

You can also use a connection card online as a registration tool for VBS or as a Plan A Visit tool. This allows you to reach out to these people before the events. That’s HUGE! Make it easy for them to find and fill out. Avoid asking too many questions; get enough information to follow up with them, such as their name, phone number, and email address.

You may be wondering, how can we make a lasting impact on these people?  

You want to ensure people… 

You belong here.

You’re welcome here.

You’re wanted here.

They will feel that over time as they build genuine relationships with people. And how do we do that in a day and age that is pulling at people’s attention from every angle? By building a follow-up system that engages people for an extended amount of time and creates opportunities to connect with them. 

We can’t expect new people to attend church and do all the work. They showed up. They took that vulnerable, awkward first step, and now the ball is in your court!

You know your outreach events and services will impact them. The message of Christmas leaves an impression. It invites them to follow the journey of Christ from the manger, to ministry, to the mystery of Easter. VBS has a considerable impact on children. They go home talking about it and wanting more. So how will you nurture that? How will you continue to shepherd those new people once they leave the walls of your church?

Reach out to them. Text them. Then text them again. And then text them again… you get the point.  

Here are a few follow-up text message examples you could use after an outreach event –

Example 1: Merry Christmas {FIRST_NAME}! Thanks again for joining us for our Christmas service. We hope you have a blessed holiday! ~ [INSERT PASTOR NAME] 

Example 2: Is there anything we can pray about for your family this week?

Example 3: Hey there! It was great to have your family this summer at VBS. We are kicking off our children’s programs on September 4 and would love to have you join us!

Example 4: Hey there, Judy! We just wanted to let you know we are grateful you joined us this Easter. We hope to see you back next week!

People are worth it, and they need to be reminded that they are wanted. Church doesn’t always feel as open and welcoming as we hope it does to the outside world, so let’s change that one intentional text message at a time after each amazing outreach event.

Strategy #2: Build a culture of prayer among your members through church texting

Prayer is a part of the lives of every Christ-follower. This is something we engage with corporately during our worship services and something I’m sure you encourage your members to be doing every day to enhance their own spiritual lives. But how often do you or the staff at your church engage with personalized prayer for the individuals in your congregation? Unless you can be in relationship with most of your regular attendees, most people won’t share the things they need prayer for in passing after a service.

Ask your people how you can pray for them. This is super simple. Send a text message to your regular attendees or maybe even people you haven’t seen in the last 6 to 12 months. Here’s what that message could say, Hi Sam, how can I be praying for you this week?

We have found that churches that use this specific message get the most replies, and it gives them the ability to minister to people and meet the needs of sick people who are going through financial troubles or need encouragement. 

Pro tip: Rotate between different segments of your congregation to ask this question so everyone doesn’t receive it at the same time, and tailor the message to each group. For example, you could ask college students that question on the first Monday of the month, young families on the second Monday, and the rest of the congregation on the third Monday so your team, or if it’s just you, has the time to respond to people’s needs adequately.

Strategy #3: Increase church attendance with a “Sermon Series Bump”

We hear it from pastors all the time…

“Our worship team does a fantastic job – the music is so powerful!”

“Our greeters are so warm and welcoming. New people never go unnoticed!”

“I prepped for months on that sermon and felt great about it.”

“But…”

There it is. The ever-present “but” that clings to so many churches.

“Our attendance week over week is declining.”

“New guests aren’t coming back.”

“It feels like we are missing the mark.”

We have worked with thousands of pastors who have experienced the same struggle. And while it is crucial to ensure Sunday morning is well prepared for and engaging to guests and members alike, we are fighting more than just music style preferences to keep people in church.

Think about it. Many people who visit your church for the first time have months, years, or maybe even their whole life of NOT going to church on Sunday morning. Even your members committed to your church and its mission have kids, vacations, sickness, a hard week at work, you name it! We are competing with the everyday hustle and bustle of busy family lives.  

That is what inspired utilizing text messaging in a strategy we call the Sermon Series Bump! With the help of pastors all over the country, we developed a method to communicate before and during a new sermon series to boost attendance, and incredible success has come out of it. 

In fact, churches are reporting back a 10-15% bump in weekly attendance! The solution is simple and highly effective.

The philosophy behind the Sermon Series Bump is to get people excited about the new material you will be sharing and, honestly, to keep it at the forefront of their minds.    

But why texting, you might ask? Don’t forget the statistics shared earlier…

  • 26 billion texts are sent each day
  • 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes
  • 45% of texts receive a reply

People are way more likely to open and read a text than answer a phone call, read an email or browse the bulletin. Whether we like it or not, it’s the reality.

The Sermon Series Bump is essentially three intentionally timed and crafted text messages. That’s right, all you need are three simple text messages and a new sermon series, and you can sit back and enjoy church growth!

So, now that you understand the strategy, here’s how it works…

1. The Invitation Message

Send the first text on the Wednesday before your new sermon series will start. Send it around lunchtime so members are reminded to invite their friends when they are with their co-workers. This is a simple reminder that a new sermon series is starting and that you’re excited about it! 

You can start by addressing them by first name to make the message feel personal. Keep the rest of the message simple and straight to the point. Not only is this a good reminder for the upcoming series, but it’s a great talking point for people. Imagine this guy is sitting in his breakroom at work. His phone goes off, and he gets this text. It’s easy for him to say, “Oh, my pastor just texted me about a new series at church. Sounds interesting. You should check it out.” The invite is natural and low pressure – it’s a win for everyone.

2. The Reminder Message

Send the second text on Saturday morning before as a last-minute reminder. Again, keep it simple, just a note of excitement with the time and maybe a note about coffee or donuts. 

This helps keep attending church at the forefront of people’s minds as they make their weekend plans. Pastors are fighting the busyness of life to get people in the door on Sunday mornings, so don’t be afraid to remind them.

Let me emphasize this: Don’t be afraid to remind people about church! It’s not annoying or pushy. It’s being genuinely invested in the spiritual growth of your community. The world has no problem fighting for people’s attention; we must get comfortable asking and reminding more often.

3. The Follow-up Message

Finally, send the third text the Tuesday after the first Sunday of the new sermon series in case they missed Sunday and remind them what’s coming next week. 

Speaking in a sermon series can be great because it generates buzz around multiple Sunday messages, but it can also be challenging when someone misses the first sermon and decides to just “catch the next series.” 

Include the link to your last sermon so they can feel prepared for the next week, and encourage them to show up. This gives them access to the information since they missed it and eliminates the fear or excuse that missing the first week should keep them from coming for the remainder of the sermon series.

Strategy #4: Use church texting as a follow-up tool for new guests

We’ve found that it takes at least six weeks of using various communication methods to follow up with guests sufficiently. It’s comprehensive and focused on relationship building. Sufficient guest follow-up is investing in that person and doing your best to build a relationship with them. 

Effective follow-up means genuinely connecting with your guests. Our culture has more ways to communicate than ever, but sometimes that can mean many messages and noise. To break through that noise and meaningfully connect with your church guests, you need to plan how you will communicate with them.

Once you have a good, relevant, and consistent strategy, you can utilize text messaging to ensure that your messages are read and most likely responded. Texting IS the way people communicate with their family and friends. At the root of church, there’s community. Use the method people are most comfortable with to build that long-lasting relationship with them. 

Utilize a system like Text In Church to personalize each and every message, have two-way texting conversations (not from your personal cell number – hooray!), and even schedule text messages ahead of time, so no one ever slips through the cracks!

Strategy #5: Retain and build relationships with volunteers with church texting

Not only are your volunteers a critical part of making church run on Sunday mornings, but they can be the hands and feet in making personal connections with those in your community.

Investing in your volunteers and having a series of messages to send them is vital. This starts when they are brand new volunteers, carries on through their ministry time at your church, and even as someone transitions out of a volunteer space. See it as a place to not only equip new volunteers but encourage them and let them know you are here to support them.

Let’s think through some ways we can do this kind of follow-up. Imagine we’ve asked folks interested in being part of a hospitality team to text SERVE to the number on the screen, and they did that. They will get a text message back saying, Hi Jenna, thanks for signing up to serve! I’m so excited to have you join the team. I’ll send you an email with more details.  

That’s simple. Now, let’s also send a reminder.

Hey Jenna, just a reminder, we’ll meet at 9 a.m. Sunday morning to prepare for worship. See you there. 

This is a great way to start conversations with people. Now, they can text back to ask questions. Or confirm and say, Awesome, looking forward to it

For the third text, we’re going to validate them. We’re going to say, Jenna, I’m so thankful to have you on the hospitality team. ~ Pastor Joe. And notice it says, Jenna there. You should personalize most of your messages and say “Hi Judy,” “Hey Steve,” “Hey Tyler” – I’m so thankful to have you on the hospitality team. ~ Pastor Joe. 

Then, let’s encourage them… Wow! Thanks so much for all you do to make our worship awesome each Sunday. You’re the best! ~ Pastor Joe. Simple, right? But such an effective way to make your volunteers feel special and appreciated. Thank you’s go a long way.

The messages I just shared with you are part of one workflow you can add to your Text In Church account specifically for volunteers when they sign up to serve. 

By making your volunteers feel valued, appreciated, and needed, they will feel more connected to your congregation and eager to help. This can be communicated easily and certainly through your church texting strategy!

Church Texting Connects and Impacts

Church texting is a huge step in the right direction for churches to create a member communication plan and first-time guest follow-up plan that is relevant, comprehensive, and effective. 

Text Messaging is the preferred communication method for most people and truly makes your church more accessible to members and guests alike. Utilizing a church texting strategy can impact your church communication plan in five significant ways-

  • Create long-term impact after big events
  • Build a culture of prayer among your members 
  • Increase church attendance with the Sermon Series Bump
  • Follow-up with new guests
  • Retain and build relationships with volunteers

If you want to take the guesswork out of what to send, who to send it to, and when to send it, consider looking into church communication software like Text In Church. It’s like having an employee that works 24/7 for you and ensures the right message goes to the right person at the right time. 

Learn more about church texting 5 Innovative Ways Your Church Can Use Text Messaging To Connect and Disciple 

Rachel Pedersen
Rachel Pedersenhttps://textinchurch.com/
Rachel is a Marketing Manager at Text In Church where we help church leaders connect and engage with their people so they can spend less time managing tools and more time doing what got them into ministry in the first place.

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