How many texts have you sent this week? How many did you read? Maybe you planned a lunch with a friend or shot over a quick update to your spouse. You may have received a prayer request from a parishioner or had a staff member reach out with a question.
Whatever the circumstances, sending and receiving texts was likely a part of the way you communicated today—and every day.
American adults ages 35–44 send and receive around 50 texts each day, and 99% of those are read—quickly. 60% of recipients open texts within 1–5 minutes after getting them, and 97% of messages are read within 15 minutes.
The average response time for a text? 90 seconds.
What might this trend toward more, better, faster communication via text mean for your pastorate? By understanding what role texting plays in people’s lives and how it affects their relationship to organizations, brands, and consumer products, we can gain insight into how best to engage your congregation with this medium.
Texting is infiltrating every major industry and relationship we have, and—what’s more—it’s making most of them better.
Events that used to be announced by paper invitations now make themselves known in a “join us for a birthday dinner!” group text. Friends stay in touch more easily. Couples provide ETAs and dinner options after work. Colleagues check off tasks. And teachers check in on students.
As it bridges both personal and professional relationships, texting has become an essential mode of communication that many of us rely on.
“A simple ‘I love you! Thanks for getting up with the baby last night’ can do wonders for my mood,” says Carla Wiking in “How Texting Has Improved my Marriage.” Though she was initially resistant to embracing texting as more than a way to send succinct updates, Wiking now sees it as an important third party in her marriage. For Wiking, texting offers vital connection: “I feel appreciated and thought of, which can be extra nice on long lonely days caring for kids at home.” Because of its connective power, texting can smooth and soften in ways other mediums may not. “We aren't simply better coordinated,” writes Wiking. “We feel more love and appreciation and joy. Who knew a tiny keyboard could do all that?”
Healthier marriages aren’t the only beneficiary of SMS (Short Message Service). Hannah Natanson reports in The Washington Post that texting has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on our healthcare system, lowering communication hurdles and increasing provider availability. Natanson notes that texting allows hospitals and doctors’ offices to gather more accurate patient history, and instant-response crisis text lines provide support for individuals facing acute mental-health crises.
The opportunity to text with medical professionals offers a life-changing difference for many people. Jeffrey Millstein, Anish Agarwal and Lillian Sun—a primary care physician, an ER physician, and a medical student—wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that they “constantly combine hands-on care with digital technology” in their work with patients. Texting is growing to be the most accessible form of communication as “font size can be adjusted for those who are visually impaired, and voice commands through digital assistants such as Siri can be used if vision or finger dexterity are limitations.” All these features, especially when combined with texting’s ability to overcome language barriers via translations apps, make it easier to contact patients of every age, background, and income level.
Even while relationships and businesses benefit from this new touchpoint, people still want more texts. 75 percent of clients say that they would like to receive offers via SMS, but only 30 percent frequent businesses that offer this service. Almost half of those asked respond to a brand’s messages, but only 13 percent of businesses send texts that allow for a response. Overall, people are willing and eager to connect, to a doctor, candle company, or even their local church.
Embrace the Trend
As brands and business assess the perks of texting, they must also learn howto text.
Organizations need to evaluate how they can add value to their customers without being intrusive argues Joseph Anthony, founder and CEO of the marketing agency Hero Collective. The texting exchanges need to be casual and pleasant, ensuring “what they offer is commensurate with what [consumers] may get from [their friends].”
Luke Wilson, chief revenue officer of EZ Texting, agrees. "Because text messages appear on people's mobile phones,” he explains, “they feel more personal than other kinds of marketing."
In short, people want to be able to text with organizations that are important to them. They want to engage with them. They want to hear about opportunities, events, deals, and important updates. But then they want to respond.
While there’s nothing wrong with an occasional announcement, the real connection happens in conversation. And ultimately “personalization should be at the forefront,” says Andrea Giacomini, the CEO of Mitto. “Consumers will expect highly curated and specific-to-them information, such as a new product that coincides with their recent purchase.”
The return is clear: companies are finding that texting increases sales and builds brand loyalty. E-commerce company Shopify has begun texting almost-customers to remind them of items left in their carts. A simple text reminder can recover over one-third of abandoned carts.
Marketers see tremendous potential for texting to play a more prominent role in customer support. As people across demographics grow to prefer texting to phone calls, 68 percent of companies predict that mobile messaging will become a vital component of their consumer marketing over the next few years.
So, texting is great. It helps marriages, hospitals, sales, and customer support. But how can it help the local church?
Simply put, two-way texting is the future of church communications.
Your congregants are already on their phones. As more brands and businesses embrace this medium, more and more people will rely on it to meet their needs. Medical issues, daycare questions, marriage check-ins, and shipping updates are all dealt with easily and immediately.
And your people demand more. They want fewer emails and more texts. They want texts that aren’t just sent from a no-reply account. They want personal, helpful interactions from the businesses they frequent and the organizations they support. And they are eager for your church to join them in their messages.
But texting doesn’t have to tax your pastoral team. Programs like Thryve simplify two-way texting for churches in a way that is fully human and built to work for already-overworked church staff. This technology exists to help you succeed.
Thryve allows you to plan series or send one-off texts—from devotionals to first-time guest experiences. And the best part? Those who receive your church’s texts can easily respond. Prayer requests or inquiries can be assigned to staff members who follow up. This means you’ll never miss a chance to build and deepen those relationships.
Texting gives you, our 21st-century church leaders, a chance to meet your people right where they are. The only question is: what could you offer your congregants via text? Polls for new Bible study material? Solicitations of prayer requests? Encouragement after surgeries? Daily or weekly benedictions? The options are endless because people are desperate for connection, there’s no better place to connect than in a local church body. You and your staff are only limited by your own creativity—and if you need a little help there, check out Thryve’s free download with 90 texts your church needs this year.