3 Simple Text Messaging Strategies to Reach More People: A Recap from ENGAGE Conference 2020

Tyler is the Co-founder and CEO of Text in Church. The Text in Church team serves over 17,000 church leaders by helping them build relationships and connect with their communities. Tyler believes church communication shouldn’t be difficult and is dedicated to providing simple, effective church  communication tools to help churches build relationships with their community to help people thrive and grow spiritually. In this session, Tyler outlined 3 proven text message strategies to better engage your community and reach more people.

Are you familiar with Crossfit? Greg Glassman is the founder of Crossfit. Greg’s goal behind Crossfit was to help people “Perform the common uncommonly well.” That school of thought is what inspired Tyler’s session at ENGAGE Conference 2020- to help church leaders communicate with and engage your community uncommonly well. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening at most churches. Communication channels have changed over time. People aren’t reading emails like they have in the past. As such, this session will outline three text messaging strategies you can leverage to better engage your community and reach more people.

The key question inspiring this session was, “how do we leverage technology to effectively engage people throughout their faith journey?” In theory, engagement with our churches occurs through the channels that we, as the leaders, value the most. But in reality, people engage in a variety of ways. Tyler outlined three strategies to more effectively communicate across a variety of platforms:

1. The sermon series bump— three simple text messages to increase worship attendance by 10-15%.

2. Guest follow-up plan— combine the best communication methods to create the perfect six-week follow-up plan.

3. Plan a visit— how to use your website to engage with folks before they ever step foot into your church.

 

1. The Sermon Series Bump

Sermon series seem to have quite an impact on attendance; sometimes it increases it and sometimes it has the opposite effect. When people show up for the first week of a sermon series, they are much more likely to return for the following weeks of the series. However, the inverse is also true. If people miss the first week of a sermon series, they are unlikely to return for the remaining weeks of the series. They think, “oh, I’ve missed one so I’ll be lost next week” or “I’ll join in when the next one (sermon series) starts.” Knowing this, there are steps we can take to ensure that we have higher attendance on the first week of a series, therefore resulting in higher attendance across the entire series. And all it takes is 3 simple text messages!

Message 1, send on Wednesday during lunch…

Hi [first name]! Looking forward to our new sermon series this weekend, it should be fun! Make sure to invite your friends! – Pastor John

Why during lunch on a weekday? There is a chance that your people will be at lunch with co-workers and this gives them a reminder to invite their work friends to worship.

Message 2, send on Saturday morning…

So excited for the new sermon series that starts tomorrow! See you at 10am. The coffee will be hot! – Pastor John

Saturday morning has been found to be one of the most effective times to send messages because people are just starting to make their weekend plans.

Message 3, send after service: Despite your best efforts, some people (maybe a lot of people) will still miss. Now, the goal is to eliminate the excuse of not attending subsequent weeks because they missed the first week. After you have posted your sermon somewhere online, send a message like this…

Hey [first name], we just posted the sermon from Sunday. Take a listen! Hope you can join us for week 2 of this powerful series. – Pastor John

Why text messages? Here are just a few reasons…

– 26 billion texts are sent every day.
– 90% of text messages are opened within 3 minutes.
– Overall, text messages have a 98% open rate while email only has about a 20% open rate.
– Text messages have a 45% response rate, while email has only a 6% response rate.
– Utilizing text messages to promote a new sermon series has resulted in a 10-15% bump in worship attendance in a variety of churches!

2. Guest Follow-up Plan

Only about 10% of first-time guests return to church. No matter what percentage of guests return to your church, unless it’s 100%, you can experience growth by strengthening your follow-up plan. Churches tend to make three big mistakes when it comes to guest follow-up:

1. Inconsistent with follow-up. Guests often fall through the cracks. On some weeks, guests receive great follow-up. On other weeks, when things are busy, guests receive little to no follow-up. This inconsistency is felt and can be a huge deterrent to people coming back.

2. Irrelevant follow-up methods. This is when your message falls on deaf ears because it’s sent on a channel that just isn’t relevant anymore. For example, a traditional form letter signed by the pastor doesn’t help build relationships. Everyone knows that it was mass-produced and dropped in the mail. Instead, send text messages, call and leave a voicemail, or write a hand-written note.

3. Insufficient follow-up strategies. This is when the phrase “almost doesn’t count” comes to mind. Your follow-up is short, minimal, and your church becomes a memory. Follow-up should extend beyond the first week of a visit, but many churches will only attempt one follow-up measure. They will send one letter or make one phone call and then move on. People who don’t attend church regularly have a routine of not being at church. One piece of follow-up communication isn’t going to help break that.

Text in Church has provided a FREE 6-week follow-up plan that prescribes a variety of follow-up methods and messages. The strategies don’t include mass-produced newsletters that everyone receives. These are meant to be personal check-ins and invitations.

Guest follow-up, when done correctly, can be a lot of work. Consider putting it on autopilot with automated workflows. Text in Church’s platform has all of these steps set-up in a pre-built workflow that will automatically send texts and emails to guests and reminders to staff to complete follow-up tasks. Remember, automation plus personalization equals effective communication. Technology doesn’t replace human interaction. Instead, technology facilitates human interaction.

3. Plan A Visit

Plan a Visit is how you can leverage your website to engage with people before they ever step foot into your church building. Your website is your digital front door. Almost no one comes to your church who hasn’t first visited your website. 85% of U.S. churches are either declining or plateauing; however, 17 million people who are not regular church-goers visit church websites each year. And, a staggering 80% of new visitors head to a church’s website before stepping into its building. Needless to say, church websites are critically important!

So, how effective is your website at engaging with people who are thinking about coming to your church? Do you have options that make it easy to plan a visit? Do you have tools to capture their name, email address, and phone number? Do you have a plan to communicate with a prospective guest before they ever attend your church?

An effective tool combines these features:

Aesthetics – it is elegantly blended with your website and is personalized to the guest.

Functionality – an intuitive, multi-step webform that is highly optimized for conversions. Ask as few questions as possible. Never ask for information that you will not take action on.

Engagement – allows for multi-channel communication (email, text, etc.) automatically. Will notify staff or volunteers to prepare for a visitor.

Conclusion

As you continue to engage with your members and guests in the most genuine and effective ways possible, remember these proven strategies from Tyler Smith and the team at Text In Church.

 

 

Posted on: April 7, 2020

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