Not everyone has an iPhone or an Android phone. (Although this is true, and it’s the number one response I get from people who don’t see value in smart phone apps, I think it’s very short sighted.) But let’s look at what we can do to leverage any phone using SMS, better known as text messages.
Why text messages?
1. Every phone can send and receive text messages; and,
2. Students are breaking records every month sending them. In fact, students today spend more time texting than they spend speaking on the phone.
“Dumb phones,” or those phones that don’t easily access the Internet, aren’t really that dumb at all. They have a ton of potential that is not being harnessed. Here are some ideas for your church or ministry to utilize every phone that walks through or around its doors, and many of these are FREE. Of course, this list is not exhaustive but will get you started.
1. Make your talks/sermons interactive
Sure, it may sound weird to have everyone in a room get out their cell phones and turn them on instead of off. It may sound even weirder to ask them to text questions, comments, or answers to questions to a number during your program. This is a great way to break down walls and get people interacting in new ways. The best part is that you don’t have to give out your number if you don’t want to. Simply set up a Google Voice number and give that out for people to text. This way your phone isn’t flooded, and you can keep track with everything on your computer. It also happens to be a great free service that does mass text messages as well.
2. Let parents know what you’re teaching their kids
Students aren’t the only ones that text. Remind parents what you are teaching and how they can interact with their child around that information. It builds trust in your leadership and equips the parent to better connect with their teenager. Again, give out your Google Voice number and mass text for free to all of your parents. Ya gotta love Google!
3. Let kids check in ahead of time
If students have to check in to your ministry, let them do it ahead of time with a text message using either Twitter or just a regular text message. You can check out how one ministry is doing this here using Twitter and SMS. Doesn’t matter how you are checking them in, this is a nice tip and creative way to use text messages.
4. Raise money on the spot for a mission trip or cause
There are many companies that help non-profits raise money using text messages. In fact, my company is even getting into this market starting in 2011. This, of course, is not a free service but is a very effective way for your church or ministry to harness the power of giving and text messages all at the same time. When setting this up, make sure to watch out for hidden fees and pay schedules. Other than that, make sure your key word is memorable and tied to your vision.
5. Reminders of important events or last minute changes
This one can get you in the most trouble if you don’t plan well. That being said, this can be a very effective tool when giving out important information. Most people don’t check e-mail every hour, and some are still checking it only once a week. Text messages, on the other hand, are like phone calls from the President. When a phone buzzes or dings, it is looked at almost every time. Be wise when sending out unexpected information.
6. Update your Facebook status
Why is this important? Simply because we all know Facebook is where everyone goes after they leave church. To be able to do this, you first have to activate Mobile inside of Facebook for your account. Once that is activated, you can do a lot more than just add a status update, for example, update your Facebook page for your ministry or church.
These are just a few examples of what all the “dumb phones” can do besides make a phone call. Be a smart pastor and use every tool at your disposal, even if you don’t have a smart phone.
What are some other ways that you have used text messages in your ministry or church?