Written by: Adam McLaughlin, AdamMcLaughlin.net
During the announcements last Sunday, I was really clear that after church we needed people to sign up for the BBQ at the information center. I even threw in a joke about how, as a Canadian, we think BBQ is a metal thing in the backyard, while Americans know that BBQ is a noun, verb and an excuse to watch any football game, even if nobody really cares about it.
My gut response when we had very few sign-ups after church: People don’t listen during announcements. But, oddly enough, I had multiple people come tell me they liked the BBQ joke; actually, more people told me they liked the joke than the number of people who registered at the information center.
I realized that there are ways to get most people to listen during announcements, but often they forget to respond to what they heard.
In the remainder of service, there might be worship, a sermon, a response, a time of prayer, communion or offering: honestly, it’s not surprising that people forget to respond to something you told them in the announcements.
The next week, I thought I’d try something new: I set up a keyword in my Text In Church account with the keyword “BBQ.”
During announcements, instead of saying “Sign up at the information center at the end of service” I simply said “If your family is going to be at the BBQ, text ‘BBQ’ to our text number on the screen.”
We had an incredible amount of RSVP's for the BBQ that Sunday, plus we had the added benefit of being able to schedule a text reminder specifically to the people who had registered. People were able to register right at that moment instead of having to remember to stop by the information center after service!
The next week, we were announcing a conference that had a cost associated with it. We couldn’t simply have people text the keyword and join a group, BUT we could automatically send a link to the event on our website – where they could complete the full registration and make their payment – as the automated confirmation when joining a group.
It looked like this...
1. In announcements, have people text “Conference” to your Text In Church number.
2. As the automated reply to that keyword, say “Thank you for your interest in the conference. Click here to complete registration.”
3. When the person clicks the link, it takes them to the registration page of your website right on their phone! (make sure the registration page and process are both mobile friendly.)
In a practical sense, here’s how to use Text In Church keywords to get an immediate response from your announcements...
Say your church’s texting number out loud
It’s not enough to say “There’s a number on the bottom of the screen. Text us if you’re here for the first time.”
Sometimes, the person operating the screen misjudges how long it takes someone to pull out their phone, open the texting app, type the phone number into the app and send the keyword.
Sometimes there might be an eyesight issue, or the screen operator misses a cue.
All of this is mitigated by saying your text number out loud:
“If you’re here with us for the first time, we’d love to give you some more information about example church. Text the word “Here” to 123-456-7890 and we’ll give you some information about who we are and what we’re doing.”
Use only your Text In Church number
This might seem either really odd or really obvious, but I visited a friend’s church this past Sunday and they are using Text In Church, but also a different 5-number combination for giving, and yet another phone number to text their Pastor questions during the message.
Use a single number as the church’s texting number.
If you use a different service online for giving, then use your Text In Church number with keyword “Give” and have it reply with a link to the online giving system.
Giving people one phone number to text for various reasons means that they can put the number in their phone and always use the same number to reply or interact in any form. The last thing you want is someone texting your giving number trying to sign up for the BBQ or texting the BBQ number trying to give. It creates confusion, which is never good.
Send a confirmation
When someone texts in a keyword, be sure your confirmations are setup to provide that person the information they need about the event.
We used to say: “We’re having a BBQ next Sunday at 6pm. We need everyone whose last name starts with A-M to bring a salad and everyone whose last name starts with N-Z to bring a dessert; show up at Bob’s house at 6pm. Park on the north side of the driveway. Bring a plate and fork; we’ll provide the drinks and cups.”
Now we can say: “Next Sunday at 6pm, Bob is hosting a BBQ at his farm. Text BBQ to 123-456-7890 to let us know you’re coming and to get all the details about where to go and what to bring.”
Once someone has joined the keyword group, we send them either all of the details via text or a link to a page on our website with all the details. This allows your church to send a reminder the day before the event as well, or cancellation details if the weather changes, for example.
By always sending a confirmation, you also will alert someone who doesn’t get a confirmation – Maybe they text “BBQ!!!!!!!!!!!!” Or “Yum, BBQ!” Which we know doesn’t trigger the text keyword. It doesn’t matter how many times we tell our people, we often get emojis, exclamation marks and typos in the submitted keywords.
Simply put, create a pattern where people expect a confirmation, and will bring it up if they don’t get one.
Make your church’s texting number the default call to action for your announcements
It’s great to have plenty of activities going on in your church and community, but if you have to sign up for small groups at the information center, visit the kids hallway to register for VBS, and go on the website for full details about an upcoming concert, then remembering HOW to sign up is going to be as challenging as remembering what’s going on.
For simplicity, make your text number the default for your announcements, then provide more information that way.
If you need someone to stop at the Information center, have them text "Info" or they simply need to show up to a community serve day, have them text "serve."
By simplifying all of the responses to a single action, people will know that if they want more information, they have to text.
At the end of your announcements, mention that if someone needs help texting, or would like to speak to someone about the details, the team at the information center would be happy to help. The response is still to text, but your information center team can have a list of keywords and the details for each event on hand.
Using your automated responses, you can have people visit a website, download your app, watch a video, follow your facebook page, or go to the giving page on your website. It’s helpful to learn all of the ways that Text in Church can be used as your single call to action.
Not just in Sunday service, but in all contexts
Youth service, small groups, and volunteer team meetings are all great opportunities to make use of your Text In Church keywords.
Have your volunteers download a schedule, sign up for planning center, get a link to a training video to watch later, or listen to the podcast of services they were serving.
In youth, use your text number to view an activity document, have your worship team listen to a new song before rehearsal with a YouTube link, or text in anonymous questions that the youth leaders can answer at the end of their worship service. Create a group for parents of youth to let them know what topics you’re discussing each week, and remind them of any upcoming events.
In small groups, text your group leaders their talking points and bible verses the night before their group, send an encouraging message before or after their group thanking them for leading their group, or register to receive a follow-up video on YouTube with more details about that week’s topic.
By having groups outside of your Sunday service use the texting number, it normalizes the process, and gets people used to texting a keyword and anticipating a reply.
While you don’t want everyone in your church to stand up and walk out to the information center to register for events in the middle of your service, it’s also true that most will forget what they need to do to respond to your announcements.
The solution: Use Text In Church to give them a way to respond immediately during your service (you know they’re probably on their phone during announcements anyway…)