19 Things to Look for in a Church Texting Service
Buying a church texting solution doesn’t need to be complicated.
As a church leader, buying software for your church can be a mix of excitement and dread. On one hand, you are excited about a tool that can make your work easier and help you build more relationships. On the other hand, as a steward of your church’s limited resources, you know that any investment you make needs to get the job done with no surprise costs.
Whether you’re new to church texting, or you’re interested in switching platforms, take a look at this list so you can make sure to buy the best church texting service for your church.
Thryve’s ultimate church texting must haves.
1. Intuitive Interface that Works for You
Software should work for you, not the other way around. That’s why it’s called SaaS! It doesn’t matter how fancy a piece of software is, or how many features it has, if the tool is complex and difficult to use, you’ll never get the most out of it. An intuitive and easy-to-use platform will reduce onboarding time and help you get the most from your investment.
2. Natural Language Processing
Natural Language Processing (or NLP for short) is just that—the ability for a software program to communicate with users, just like users communicate with other humans. NLP is why you don’t need to just say “weather” to Alexa. You can say “What’s the temperature?” “What’s the forecast?” and even “Do I need a jacket?”
This technology is becoming more and more available and is showing up in church text messaging services. The technology isn’t just good for the church members texting in, it’s also great for users like pastors and communication directors. That’s because you won’t need to account for every single way someone might ask for something like directions to your church.
3. Two-way Communication
Texting is great for sending mass broadcasts, but you don’t want your messages to feel like SPAM or mass texts. Also, it can frustrate congregants to text back and feel like their message went to a black hole. It can take a lot of courage to share something with a church or pastor. You want to meet that person’s message with a sincere two-way conversation. The best texting platforms make it easy to send texts via blasts and in one-to-one conversations.
Automation is great because it means you don't always have to be logged onto your text messaging system to make sure people get what they are looking for. Plus, even though people love two-way communication, they also appreciate delightful experiences that seem like magic. You can set up automation tracks for new visitors, prayer requests, devotional series, reminders about upcoming events, invitations to small groups and alerts about new sermon series and more. It’s really up to you how many different tracks you want to set up and how complex you want to make them. Just remember - you never want to use your text message tool to broadcast or send series to people who haven’t opted into receiving messages from you. Even though this means you might send messages to less people, you’ll be communicating with people who are excited to hear from you.
5. A Service that Integrates with Your ChMS
You invest a lot of money into your ChMS. It’s the brain of your digital communication strategy and helps you keep track of tons of different data points on your congregation. That’s why your church text messaging service needs to integrate with your ChMS. At the very least, make sure that any text messaging for churches solution you purchase can receive CSV uploads from your ChMS.
6. Automated Prayer Request & Story Capture
People want to share with you what is going on in their lives—do you have an easy way to capture that? Make sure to choose a texting solution that allows for people to easily text in prayer requests and stories. The best text services are those that give you the ability to automate prayer request capture, assign them to your team, and send a notification once you have prayed for them. As a bonus, look for a texting platform that allows you to add a note of encouragement or helpful next steps.
7. Texting Simulator
It’s stressful to turn on a Series or send a text without knowing how it’s going to look when someone receives it. It can be even harder to imagine what interacting with that message is going to be like for the recipient. Make sure the platform you invest in has a simulator built in so you can visualize your campaigns.
8. Transparent Pricing
The last thing you want when you purchase any piece of software or service is to find out about a bunch of hidden fees. Here’s a list of questions to ask about fees you want to be aware of:
- What is the base subscription cost? This will be a monthly fee.
- What’s the cost per message? If so, is there a certain number included in the base fee?
- Will I need to pay based on the number of contacts in my database?
- What’s the cost if I go over my monthly number of messages?
- What do sent messages cost vs messages received?
- Is pricing based on church size?
- Do I have to pay for multiple users?
- How many keywords do I get and will I need to pay for more?
9. A Dedicated Phone Number
When you purchase a text messaging service for your church, you’ll want to make sure that you get a dedicated phone number. This is important because your people can add the number to their contacts list. It can feel really nice to get a local number for your church, but at the end of the day, you want a number that will work. Local numbers risk being blocked because they can appear as SPAM to some cell providers. What’s most important is that the number you have is YOURS. Not only will your people recognize the number when you text them, but they’ll be able to save your unique church number in their phone and message anytime. Crucial for 2-way conversations, connection, and engagement!
10. Great Customer Support
As a church, you’ve got a TON going on! The last thing you want is to wait days to get answers to questions. Texting is simple and you should be able to figure out “most” things (chances are, you send at least 1 text a day already!) however, should something come up, you want to get help when you need it. Make sure you choose a platform that serves churches first and knows the ins and outs of the church space.
11. Playbooks, Templates, and Resources
There are around 380,000 churches in the United States alone—that’s a lot of churches! When you choose a texting solution, chances are the things that you are looking to accomplish have already been accomplished by other churches. Texting templates and playbooks will give you ideas from churches like yours—while saving you time in crafting engaging copy for your texting.
Your church is unique, and the messaging you use is unique to your church. For example, you might call your church’s community groups “life spaces.” You want to make sure that your language fits your church. There is NO reason to fit a round hole into a square peg for this. Make sure your texting solution offers customizable messages for any text you create!
13. Segments and Groups
As churches are experts in communicating, you know that targeting the right audience is half the battle. You want to make sure that any text service you choose allows you to segment your people. If you have a young adults party coming up, you want to make sure you can send a text just to the young adult group!
14. Unlimited Keywords
Keywords enable you to set up automation tracks. For instance, a keyword might be “Verse.” With this keyword, you could ask people to text back “Verse” to be put into a series that sends them a daily Bible verse related to wherever your ministry is currently focused. But what about people who say “Bible Verse” or they send a typo that says “Vers”? You still want those people to get what they want.
Many church texting services charge you based on the number of keywords you use. Some only allow you to have three to five keywords, including the words you might include to cover typos! That seriously limits you when building a series. Look for a service that allows you to have unlimited keywords. That means you’ll be able to cover any mistakes and set up as many automated tracks as you want.
15. Unlimited Team Members
Volunteers are the lifeblood of churches. You need a tool that allows you to invite staff and volunteers to help manage your texting service. Make sure you choose a system that allows you to invite as many people as you need to help manage the platform. Bonus points if you can find a service that doesn’t charge for additional administrators and allows you to change certain user permissions!
16. Personalized BroadcastMessaging
Broadcasts are the ultimate time saver and the most direct and immediate way to communicate with your people, whether it’s your entire congregation, individuals, or groups. When comparing church texting software, broadcasts must allow for personalization so that anyone that receives it reads it as a personal message.
Just like when you send email, look for a texting service that lets you customize the first name of the messages you send.
Bonus feature to look for: Are there ever any groups or individuals you’d like to exclude from your church broadcast? If so, look for a texting platform that allows for this.
17. Insights & Data
Beyond starting and maintaining relationships remotely, another benefit of digital relationship building is getting to see metrics and statistics about how things develop over time. The most powerful texting platforms provide you with a simple dashboard that allows you to visualize monthly activity, including how many people have texted in asking about or interacting with automations, smart keywords, series, stories, and prayer requests. In addition to general activity, your texting insights should give you data on:
- New Users: the number of new people who have interacted with your church.
- New Prayer Requests: the total number requests submitted to your church.
- Total Broadcasts Sent: the amount of broadcast messages sent from your church.
18. Detailed Interaction History
To maintain connection with your congregants and online visitors in an organized fashion, your church needs a texting solution that gives a history of text interactions with your people. Look for features that show you:
- Basic profile information, such as the names, phone numbers, email, addresses, and when the profile was created.
- The entire message history that your church has had with each person with a simple name search.
- The series that they’ve subscribed to.
- Which groups they’re currently in.
- Their current profile status (i.e. active, inactive, unsubscribed, or blocked)
19. Desktop & Mobile Applications
Whether you prefer to text from your computer or manage replies from your mobile device, you need a solution that can allow you to go about your day-to-day business—regardless of where you are—knowing that you’ll be instantly notified when your contacts reply.
Mobile apps ensure that you are instantly notified when someone replies to your broadcast so that you never miss a message. You can also craft responses on the go, send messages to individuals, and prayer requests as done.
The important thing to look for is regardless of device, messages should sync across both platforms so you can pick up where you left off. Plus, your conversation history will also be reflected regardless of which device you used.
Texting solutions can give your church a big bang for your buck. It costs only pennies to send texts that get 5x higher open rates than email (and all other marketing channels by a landslide). People only open 2% of emails, whereas 98% of all sms messages are read.
You need a platform that is easy to use, has a robust feature set, natural language processing, and, yes, affordable and transparent pricing.
We’re a leader in the church texting space, and know what churches want and need most from a provider. If you’re considering texting for your church, try a 30-minute demo of Thryve and we’ll give you 14 days to try the platform for free.