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SMS for churches: How it works

Alia Paavola
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In the ever-evolving landscape of religious outreach, churches must find innovative ways to connect with their members. Enter SMS, a dynamic and preferred communication tool that is reshaping the way churches interact with their congregations.

Using SMS marketing empowers churches to connect with their members through mobile devices, facilitating congregation growth, sending timely event reminders, and building community. 

This guide serves as a detailed explainer of SMS marketing for churches. Learn SMS benefits, best practices, use cases, and how to get started.

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<h2 id="Benefits">Benefits of using SMS for churches</h2>

SMS is becoming a popular communication tool for businesses because of its wide range of benefits.  Here are some of the top reasons churches should adopt SMS marketing.

  • Ensure Immediate communication. SMS enables organizations to reach their contacts quickly. The average text message is read within five minutes of receipt, making it a practical and real-time communication method.

  • View conversation history. Unlike phone calls, you can reference a conversation that takes place over SMS at a later date.  This is a benefit for both church leaders and members. Viewing past text conversations can enable church leaders to create more personalized conversations and allow members to reference essential dates and times easily.

  • Ensure your messages are read. Text messages have a 98 percent open rate, which helps your message get seen. Don’t let your messages sit unread in a crowded email inbox or  hope they get seen on your social media page.

  • Facilitate modern and preferred communication. Texting is a preferred communication channel for younger generations. Use this to your church’s advantage to increase youth engagement and event attendance.

  • Enhance engagement. SMS text marketing improves engagement when you send highly personalized messages. Text messages have an average response rate of 45 percent, making them an excellent method for two-way communication.

  • Create cost-effective marketing. SMS marketing is cost-effective at just over one penny per text – much more affordable than paper ads, direct mail, or Google ads.

  • Simplify setup and scaling. With the right platform, setting up a church texting strategy is easy. Extensive training in SMS text messaging is unnecessary, given its familiarity as a channel. This enables easy scalability when incorporating more contacts or staff to manage the system.

<h2 id="Ideas">27 SMS church marketing ideas</h2>

Technology is changing how businesses communicate with their contacts, and it’s no different at churches. Modernizing your communication outreach with SMS marketing can help you overcome barriers to become a church community builder in this new digital landscape.

Here are 27 SMS church marketing ideas to help inspire your next campaign.

Boost attendance 

There are several ways churches can use SMS marketing to improve attendance at mass, educational classes, and community-run events.

  • Promote events. Use SMS marketing to promote church-related or community-run events. This can include Bible study groups, volunteer opportunities, and food drives.

  • Send reminders. Increase attendance by sharing reminders with your congregation. Remind them of service start times, special events, and more via text.

  • Ask members to bring a friend. Encourage your members to bring friends to your events or services.

  • Welcome new members. Make your new members feel at home by welcoming them into the community. Share a welcome message and let them know about any upcoming events. This sets your relationship off on the right foot.

Improve engagement

Help your church improve member engagement between weekly services.

  • Check in with members. Use SMS to check in with members who have been less active in the church community lately. This re-engagement is a great way to show you care while encouraging them to return to the church community. 

  • Encourage questions. Encourage church members to text in questions. This lets them quickly and conveniently gather information from church leaders.

  • Gather feedback. After a sermon or church service, request feedback from those in attendance, then incorporate it. This shows your church members that you care and want to improve.

  • Encourage reflection. Ask your congregation to text in their thoughts or reflections after a sermon. This helps encourage your members to internalize the message.

  • Share educational materials. Use church text messaging to share study materials, questions, or discussion points. This can encourage your members to think critically about different scriptures and better understand the message.

Foster community

Use SMS to build a community and offer support outside of the building.

  • Prayer requests. Encourage your members to text in prayer requests. You can then share those requests with your congregation to connect and provide community support.

  • Share scripture. Send daily or weekly scripture passages. You can tie them into your upcoming sermon and spread the word of God. This helps members keep their faith in mind throughout the busy week.

  • Provide words of encouragement. Connect with church members by sharing messages of encouragement, hope, and faith. You can create different groups within the church to send tailored and personalized messages.

  • Holiday messages. Spread joy and faith around holidays by sharing heartfelt holiday messages with your members.

Boost youth engagement

Texting is a preferred communication channel for younger generations. Use this channel to improve communication and youth participation.

  • Share interactive messages. Use SMS to send interactive messages to youth groups. For example, you could ask them to share something they did this week to embody a sermon or class teachings.

  • Inform parents about activities for children. Keep parents informed on church activities for their young children. This can help improve attendance at Sunday School and other events.

Close communication gaps 

Lessen communication gaps between services by sharing important information by text message. These SMS campaigns help keep the community informed. 

  • Send regular newsletters. Use text messaging to send a regular newsletter to your congregation. This allows you to keep them informed on important church updates and activities. Most SMS marketing platforms allow you to add attachments like PDFs or brochures.

  • Send quick updates. In addition to newsletters, use SMS to inform churchgoers about updates on construction projects, choir practice, Sunday school highlights, leadership changes and events.

  • Share emergency updates. Use text messaging to inform during an emergency. You can share important weather information, road closures, or safety risks with church members.

  • Last-minute changes. Use text messaging to reach church members with last-minute changes or cancellations. SMS messages are read quickly, so communicating last-minute changes helps avoid frustration.

Manage volunteers

Sometimes it’s challenging to find and coordinate volunteers. Text messaging can help with this in several ways:

  • Share opportunities. Get more volunteers for an event by sharing opportunities via SMS. For example, ask volunteers to help pass out printed bulletins or set up for an event. You can also share community service, mission trips, or charity work opportunities.
  • Coordinate with volunteers. Use SMS to coordinate and share logistics with volunteers. You can send them reminders about the opportunity, including where and when to meet.

Collect more donations

Help your church crush its fundraising goals and get the word out about donation needs.

  • Announce fundraising initiatives. Tell your members about ongoing initiatives like food drives, toy drives, or donation goals via text message.

  • Request donations. In addition to announcing fundraising initiatives, you can request donations via SMS.

  • Share updates on fundraising goals. Keep churchgoers in the know about your fundraising goals by sharing updates on the progress.

Grow membership 

Use SMS marketing to promote your church and service offerings. This is a great way to get new members to keep coming back.

  • Promote your church. Use text message marketing to promote your church offerings, including events and ways to get more involved.

  • Share testimonials. Don’t be afraid to share testimonials or stories from happy churchgoers. This is especially true with newer members who may be testing out a few different churches in their area.

  • Text-to-join campaigns. Set up a text-to-join campaign that allows community members or website visitors to text in a keyword to get more information about your church or an invite to the next church service.

<h2 id="Examples">10 examples of church SMS marketing campaigns</h2>

Here are ten examples of church SMS campaigns to engage, invite, and inform members.

Service reminders

Use an SMS reminder to share information about an upcoming worship service. The following example provides the church's date and time to offer mass for its congregation.

A church service reminder text example.

Event reminders

Don’t just use reminders to inform about service times. You can also share reminders about church events like a game night, picnic, or volunteer opportunities. The church shares a reminder about a youth program in the following example:

A church event text reminder.


Use SMS to check in with a patron who hasn’t attended church events in a while. These re-engagement campaigns show you care and can encourage people to come back.

A check-in text message example for churches.

Volunteer requests

This example shows how a church can request volunteers for an event. You can direct people to sign up on a Google Document or at the next worship.

A church volunteer text message example

Prayer requests

Solicit prayer requests from your congregation. Send a mass text requesting any prayer request. The following example is a simple way to phrase a prayer request.

A prayer request text message example

Prayer train

In addition to asking for prayer requests, you can send out some of the ones you receive to your community. This can provide a prayer train and get more community members involved in praying for members. 

A prayer train text message example

Reflection encouragement

In this example, a church asks about a particular sermon. It encourages attendees to internalize the sermon and consider how it applies to their lives. 

A reflection encouragement SMS example for churches

Scripture messages

Spread the word of God by sharing scripture verses via text. This can help churchgoers feel more connected to their faith.

An example of sharing scripture via SMS

Last-minute changes

Inform church eventgoers of a change. In the following example, the church moved its event indoors because of inclement weather.

An urgent alert text message example for churches

Christmas messages

Wish your congregation a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter with a thoughtful message. These campaigns can help people feel welcome and connected to their church.

A Christmas or holiday text message example.

<h2 id="Tips">8 SMS church marketing best practices and tips</h2>

Follow these best practices to improve your church's SMS outreach and communication.

1. Get consent to text. To comply with the regulation that governs text messaging, you must get permission to text your contacts. This is called an SMS opt-in. You can collect opt-ins in person, via email, or online with a form.

2. Honor opt-outs. Your church must provide an easy way for members to opt out of your texting program anytime. This is required by law. Most SMS platforms will automatically unsubscribe contacts that reply with words like STOP, END, or UNSUBSCRIBE.

3. Register your phone number. Register your texting phone number as soon as possible when signing up for an SMS marketing software. One of the recent rule changes requires businesses to get approval for their texting use case and opt-in procedures before they can text contacts. This rule change is to protect customers and prevent spam texting.

4. Segment your contact list. Your congregation is likely filled with families and members in different stages of life. This means that they will have different needs and messages that resonate. As a result, you want to segment your contact list to help provide personalized experiences.

5. Get a plan in place for inbound messages. Before launching an SMS campaign, ensure you have a strategy to handle replies and inbound messages. This means understanding who will reply to messages and when. It could also mean setting up an auto-reply that tells members when to expect a reply.

6. Keep messages simple. Don’t overcomplicate your messages. Keep them short and to the point to avoid confusion.

7. Keep timing in mind. Pay attention to text message timing. The optimal timing will largely depend on your use case and goals. It’s a good idea to determine when your congregation reads and engages with any given message.

8. Message frequency matters. You want to ensure you reach out to your congregation regularly but not so frequently that they unsubscribe.

Get more SMS marketing best practices.

<h2 id="Get">How to get started with church SMS marketing</h2>

Your church can start with SMS marketing in just a few easy steps.

1. Establish an SMS marketing strategy. Before anything else, build your SMS marketing strategy to determine what goals you want to achieve.

Get Textline’s 12-step guide on creating a winning SMS marketing strategy for a more detailed explanation.  

SMS marketing guide

2. Choose your SMS software. Next, select an SMS marketing software provider. To help you narrow your search, decide what features, pricing structure, and integrations you need. Consider the SMS platform’s reputation, scalability, and customer support methods. 

SMS platforms like Textline help churches communicate with their congregations because it supports two-way texting and sending mass texts.

3. Create your SMS contact list. The third step is to create a list of contacts you can contact by SMS. You must get explicit consent to text them. This SMS opt-in is required by law.

4. Craft your messages. The next step is to create the content for your text message. You’ll want to decide whether to send an SMS or MMS. Make sure to proofread and personalize your messages.

5. Start texting. Now you’re ready to send your first marketing text to your church contacts. You can track results and adjust your content based on your findings.

Elevate your church communication with Textline

Text messaging can modernize, personalize, and enhance communication with your congregation, using the power of text messages to connect and build your faith community.

Textline is a top-rated SMS platform for churches. It has features to easily manage a texting strategy, including mass texting, two-way SMS, and a universal inbox.

Request a demo of Textline today and see firsthand how it can improve church communication.

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