I got a request from a facebook friend to outline how to use texting for her church. She saw on YouthMinistryIdeas.net that they would offer the service for $10/month. While that’s a good ministry to support, she knew that I use texting with my youth and have reflected on it: “Texting Not Talking” and asked how I did it for free.
Here’s two solutions:
(1) Set up mass-texting on your cell phone.
- In this solution, most newer cell phones allow you to create texting lists or contact groups (iPhone users have app choices). Simply add all your youth to a group, type a text message, and send it to them. If you have unlimited texting from your phone (and honestly, what youth minister doesn’t?), then this is easy to do.
- Advantages: speed of delivery (text-to-text is fastest) and ability to do this away from your computer. Disadvantages: groups limited to 25 people, phone unusable while it texts, should only be used by unlimited texting plans
(2) Set up an email-to-texting service
- Did you know every cell phone is an email address? You can email directly to people’s cell phones. How? You have to know two things:
- Their cell phone number (duh)
- Their cell phone provider (Sprint, ATT, Verizon, etc)
- Then you look up their provider’s email format (all of them are different) and create the email addresses. Here’s a partial list of major carrier numbers, and a full list that is constantly updated, thanks to www.sensiblesoftware.com
- For example, a cell phone number of 555-867-5309 that is on Sprint network would have an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org // Send an email to that and it will come up as a text message (usually from your email address) on the person’s phone.
- Set up a group email and it will text all your youth or church or whoever at one time. More work beforehand but worth it for free text announcements.
- Advantages: higher number of people per email, free, easier on the thumbs, longer messages become multiple texts. Disadvantages: texts in response get sent to the email address, not your cell, there can be a delay (see below).
(3) Notes and Words of Wisdom
- There can be a delay (I’ve had as long as 20 minutes delay getting the text message from an email address), so perhaps not right before church or an event is a good use, but should be helpful!
- The BEST way to set up email-to-texting is have a sign-up sheet where people write their cell numbers AND their providers side-by-side. If you have a tech-savvy person who can test them out (input and email blast) them while at the event, that would be the easiest way to do it.
- Finally, keep doing personal texts. My youth respond much faster when I put their name in the text message so they know I sent it just to them (or did I? Mwa ha ha).
While obviously face-to-face and phone calls are more personal, youth and young people read text messages like a habit so using this format can be even more effective than mailings or voicemails at home. Be smart about how you use social technology and you should be fine.
Any other solutions people can think of? Comment below!(Image Credit: “Texting, All Three” by Susan NYC on Flickr, Creative Commons)