Guide to Getting Started with Church Texting & List of Top Mass Texting Services for Churches
What’s the best way to reach people in your congregation? How can you increase charitable giving, organize groups of volunteers, remind about events, or send out church announcements?
Email works, but it’s slow––and its response rates are pretty low.
Phone calls are personal, but it takes time to call everyone.
What you need is SMS text messaging for churches.
In this article, I cover:
- What church text alerts and mass texting services for churches are
- Why texting works for engaging parishioners, volunteers, and community members
- How to get started with a church texting service
- 7 ways to use church texting services + free church announcement templates
- The top 5 church texting services you should consider
This article will show you how texting fits into your church communications strategy.
By the end, you’ll know exactly how to get started with church text messaging. You’ll also have a faster, more convenient way to reach your people.
Read on for more.
Why Texting Works for Engaging Parishioners, Volunteers, and Community Members
Text messaging services for churches are powerful communications tools. This kind of mass texting gets you high message open rates, immediate reach, personalized messages, convenience, and targeted engagement.
Below are several reasons why texting can help your church connect with parishioners, volunteers, donors, and community members.
Texts are direct and immediate
Texts work great for quick updates, reminders, and confirmations. They also tend to get opened and read within minutes. This makes them an engaging communication channel compared to email.
Parishioners and volunteers are likely to check texts right away, unlike emails, which often get lost in an overflowing inbox.
So if you have time-sensitive updates, texts are a great option. They’re perfect for last-minute changes to schedules or voicing urgent needs.
Texts have great open and click-through rates (especially compared to email)
Text messages have high open and engagement rates. The open rate for SMS text messages can be as high as 98% compared to around 20% for email.
Additionally, people are almost five times more likely to respond to text messages than emails. And 53% of emails end up in spam folders, compared to only 3% of texts.
What if you’re calling people from an unknown number? Well, 1 in 4 people won’t even answer the phone or listen to your voicemail.
Texts are universally accessible
Compare the advantages and benefits of texts, email, and voice. You’ll find that people often prefer texting because it's more convenient.
Don’t get me wrong. There will always be a need for email and voice as part of your broader church announcement strategy.
Texting is discrete and far less obtrusive than a phone call. And texts are easier to send and receive compared to email. Texting takes the pressure off recipients. They don’t have to set aside time to answer your phone call or sit and compose an email response.
Text messages are also supremely accessible. Some 5.1 billion people use mobile devices globally and nearly every single one of their phones is text-enabled.
This makes it easy to engage with everyone in your church community. You won’t have to worry about what kind of phone or mobile device people have.
Text message marketing vs. email marketing (why you need both + how they can work together)
Now, it's worth noting that text messaging and email marketing both have their place. They're meant to complement each other.
As I've already mentioned, texts are ideal for short, timely messages. Meanwhile, emails allow you to send more in-depth, longer content.
Need to send out a quick, time-sensitive church announcement or alert?
Consider sending a text.
Need to send out a more in-depth announcement or update?
Consider sending an email.
Using email and text together can create an effective announcement strategy that keeps everyone informed and engaged.
Church texting software vs. a group texting app for churches
Church texting software offers tools built specifically for places of worship. This includes features like one-way and two-way texting, mass texting, contact management, text message scheduling, and automation. Church texting services help churches save time and run more effective communication campaigns.
But generic group texting apps don’t offer the same kinds of features.
They don’t allow you to send mass text messages. Nor do they offer robust automation features that lead to time savings.
There are some great group text apps out there that can help your organization connect smaller groups of community members.
But if you need to reach everyone, all at once, then you’ll need a church texting service.
How to Get Started with a Church Texting Service
So, what are the first steps you need to take if you’re considering a church texting service?
Here’s what you need to know to get started with a church text messaging app:
1. Choose a church SMS software
First, you'll want to evaluate all of your texting service options. I list the top 5 church texting services below, but the following are some questions to ask as you evaluate church and nonprofit texting services:
- Who will be using the service?
- What types of messages do you need to send most often?
- What devices will you use to send these messages?
- What kinds of automation or integrations will you need?
Looking to get whole teams texting?
Make sure your church texting service comes with a shared team inbox.
Want to run large-scale SMS campaigns for church announcements, events, and more?
You’ll need texting software that supports mass texting for churches and includes bulk text messaging and text blasts.
Note: MessageDesk offers all of the above functionalities to support all of your church’s texting needs.
2. Create a free account
You should always test a texting tool together with your staff to make sure it meets your needs.
Most church texting apps, like MessageDesk, offer free trials of their software for 7-14 days.
Note: you’re always free to try MessageDesk for 14 days, free.
3. Choose a phone number or text-enable your existing phone system
As you’re trialing different texting tools, you’ll need to set up an official text number for your church.
I recommend using an existing landline or business number that your churchgoers are already familiar with. To text-enable an existing phone number, all you’ll need to do is submit a number porting or hosting request.
If you’re just getting started, MessageDesk offers a variety of SMS phone number options. You can use both local 10-digit SMS numbers and toll-free SMS numbers.
Note: Expect anywhere between 1-7 days to text-enable your number after you submit a request for number hosting.
4. Import and segment your contacts into groups
After selecting your text number, you’ll need to import all of your contacts into your text messaging platform.
MessageDesk allows you to import all your contacts using a CSV file or through a Zapier integration. You can also categorize your lists and groups with custom fields and other unique contact information.
5. Pre-save messages with templates, tags, links, and media
Once you upload your contacts to your texting service, you can now compose your messages.
Templates ultimately allow you to create more personalized texts. This means you to optimize your church announcements for deeper engagement with your community.
It’s also possible to pre-save templates for different types of church text message marketing for events and various campaigns.
6. Schedule mass text broadcasts
Composing a broadcast in MessageDesk is simple. All you need to do is create or select the group of contacts you want to send to.
You can then add exclusions and preview your message before you hit send.
7. Set up keyword-based autoresponders for automation
Church texting services like MessageDesk make it easy to automatically send texts. When someone texts your church phone number with a keyword you can reply instantly.
“LEARN,” “HELP,” “DONATE,” “UPDATES,” or “EVENT” are all examples of autoresponder keywords.
You can also set automated texts to send when you or someone on your team is away or unavailable. These “out-of-office texts” aren’t based on a keyword. They’re based on a timeframe that you set.
Here’s an volunteer keyword example:
Interested people then will text VOLUNTEER to your number. They’ll get an automated response with details for signing up for the event and next steps.
8. Use Zapier to integrate your church SMS with the email tools you’re already using
In the texting vs. email distinction I made above, I mentioned how email and text should complement each other.
A service like Zapier can help you connect a church texting service like MessageDesk to email services like ConstantContact or Mailchimp.
This gives you more ways to reach churchgoers and community members.
With Zapier, integrating MessageDesk is easy. You can:
- Add, update, and sync contacts with MessageDesk
- Add a contact to a group in MessageDesk
- Send a text message when an action happens in another app
- Enable easy mobile donations with text-to-give for churches
7 Ways to Use Church Texting Services + Free Church Announcement Templates
The following are some tangible ways your church can use a church texting platform.
I’ve included free church sms text message samples below as well. You can also check out my list of 100+ copy/paste text message templates for more options.
1. Church announcements, prayer requests, and text alerts
Churches can use texting services for announcements by sending updates about activities or events.
For prayer requests, members can text their needs to a church number and these can be shared for communal prayer.
Text alerts also give churches another way to send urgent news, such as sudden event changes or emergencies. Here are some examples:
2. Thank you and follow-up texts after worship services
A thank-you message or follow-up can make people feel appreciated. It can also help you start additional conversations.
Your church can send a summary of the sermon or service, along with anything members should consider during the week. You can also share a brief teaser about an upcoming service or event to build anticipation.
3. Volunteer and staff coordination
Texting is a great way to reach employees and staff and for coordinating internal volunteer activity. In this case, your texts can help people RSVP, and explain details.
4. Encourage parishioners to sign up for religious text messages and daily devotionals
Churches can leverage texting software to inspire parishioners to sign up for religious text messages and daily devotionals. As a general best practice you’ll want to get consent before texting someone and include the proper opt-out language.
5. Mass text message event reminders, invites, and community updates
Need to send reminders or get confirmations? Or maybe you’ve made a last-minute change to the time and location of an event.
Your church can use texting software to send mass text message for event reminders, invites, and community updates. This is also a great way to reduce no-shows.
6. Text-to-give, text-to-donate, and text-to-tithe
Incorporating text messaging into your outreach plan can help you collect donations and tithings. Text-to-give and text-to-donate campaigns make it easy to share links that direct people to online donation forms or outline steps for donating in person.
Note: I’ve put together a guide for how to set up text to give for churches in another article.
7. Text-to-vote, church surveys, and community member feedback
Finally, church SMS text messages are great for collecting feedback. You can also run SMS surveys or polls to get parishioners to cast a vote and send links in your texts.
Top 5 Church Texting Services for 2023
2. Text In Church
MessageDesk is best for:
Churches with staff that need a shared team SMS inbox and large-scale text message broadcasts
MessageDesk isn’t limited to just church-specific use cases. It can help you route, manage and share text messages across your entire organization.
MessageDesk works for both two-way texting and automated texting. You can get started with a free trial after which you’ll pay anywhere from $14/month/staff member.
- Supports 10-digit local and toll-free SMS phone numbers
- Shared staff SMS inbox
- Text message broadcasts for mass texting
- Text message templates, tags, MMS, and links
- Scheduled and automated text messages
- Keyword-based text message autoresponders
- Call forwarding and voicemails to any number
- Desktop, tablet, and mobile apps
- Supports high-volume carrier-verified A2P 10DLC text messaging
- Built-in opt-in and opt-out tools for TCPA compliance
What users say:
2. Text In Church
Text In Church is best for:
Churches that need a texting service solution that works on the go (using their iOS and Android apps)
Text In Church overview:
Text In Church works with both two-way and mass texting. It allow attendees to receive the most important updates you want to share without the annoying group messages.
Text In Church comes with a free 14-day trial (credit card details required). Plans start at $37/month with a limit of one local phone number and 500 texts/month.
Text In Church features:
- Local phone numbers
- 10DLC compliant
- Dedicated connection points like prayer requests, volunteers, or life groups
- Unlimited email sending
- Keyword auto-responder
- Message scheduling
- Done-for-you templates
- Automated workflows
- QR code generator
- URL link shortener
What users say:
Clearstream is best for:
New churches, as you can request to use the tool for free for one year
Clearstream is a church texting platform that allows you to create separate accounts. These are known as subaccounts. They live under your main account while you can keep all payments under one monthly plan.
This is perfect for ministries that need to further break down subscribers, keywords, inboxes, users, long code, etc.
Clearstream offers a free 14-day trial (credit card details required). There’s also a free plan limited to 50 credits while paid plans start at $29/month for 1,250 credits.
- Mass texting
- Video texting
- Text-to-join keywords
- Automated workflows
- Live polls
- Dedicated short codes
- A2P 10DLC numbers
What users say:
Flocknote is best for:
Churches that need email capabilities alongside texting.
Flocknote comes with a built-in payment-processing solution, Fund It. You can use it to let churchgoers safely give back to their church or another cause. Flocknote also allows you to send out notes in any language you’d like.
To test out Flocknote, you can get a free account that’s limited to 40 church members. Pricing scales as your number of members increases and can get expensive for larger churches. For reference, if you’ve got anywhere around 51-70 recipients, you’ll be paying $15 every month.
- Text messaging
- Signup forms
- Content library
- Unlimited emails, texts, groups, and admins
- Built-in payment-processing solution
- Church database
What users say:
Thithe.ly is best for:
Churches that need a robust solution to monitor donations
Thithe.ly is primarily a giving solution. It comes with additional products like complete church management software and a text and email messaging module. This means you can use Thithe.ly for everything from fundraising to event organization.
However, expect costs to be quite high.
Thithe.ly is free to set up, however, the catch is you’ll pay based on the donations you receive as follows:
- 2.9% + 0.30 per transaction
- ACH/Bank: 1% + 30¢
- AMEX: 3.5% + 30¢
Extra modules can help you create a website or your own church app. Some extra tools for messaging do come at an extra cost. The entire suite of apps costs $119/month with a $149 setup fee.
- iOS and Android mobile giving apps
- Online giving and mobile kiosks
- Check scanning and remote deposits
- Cash and check gift recording
- Event registration and management
- Recurring giving
- Debit, Credit, ACH payments
- QuickBooks integration
- Daily deposit of funds to your bank
What users say:
Frequently Asked Church Text Messaging Questions
Below are a list of frequently asked questions related to church text messaging.
Is a church texting service expensive?
Church texting service costs can vary. Pricing depends on the provider, the features offered, and the number of text messages you plan to send. Some providers offer tiered pricing or special packages for nonprofits, churches, and charitable organizations.
Do any texting softwares offer free text to give for churches?
Completely free mass text messaging for churches is uncommon. Many church text messaging platforms charge a flat monthly fee, a fee per text message, or a combination of the two. This all depends on the costs associated with sending messages, maintaining secure systems, providing customer support, and so forth.
How can our church collect mobile numbers for this service?
You can grow your text list by collecting phone numbers. You can do this during membership registration, special events, or through digital platforms like your church's website or social media. Always ensure consent is obtained before adding someone to your lists.
Are church texting services secure?
Reputable service providers should comply with industry-standard data security protocols to protect your church and congregants' information.
Do we need technical skills to use a church text messaging service?
Most church texting services are user-friendly and provide customer support and tutorials to help you use the platform effectively.
What are the legal considerations for using a church text messaging service?
Churches need to adhere to relevant regulations for sending mass text messages. These regulations include obtaining express consent from recipients and providing an easy method to opt out, like texting STOP.
Final thoughts and next steps
A church text messaging platform can revolutionize your donor, community, and volunteer communications and help you increase engagement.
Ready to start texting your church community? MessageDesk is here to help with smarter, simpler text messaging solutions.
Feel free to meet with one of our messaging experts for an intro call.