To Text or Not to Text?

March 11, 2009 by

Text messaging has changed the way we communicate. I text message people more than I actually talk with them. In fact, my cell phone plan has the lowest amount of talking minutes you can have, plus unlimited text messages.

As texting transforms the relational landscape of our culture, we’re beginning to see how it’s influencing the way the church communicates.

While many churches have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, others are taking it to the next level, incorporating texting polls and Q&A sessions into their weekly services as well as using text messages as a vehicle to communicate announcements and church news throughout the week.

But before you’re quick to start texting, here are some lessons learned that may help you figure out where, when and why you should and shouldn’t use text messaging.

Some reasons why you shouldn’t:

  • Because everyone else is. Let’s be honest, so often we look and see what other churches are doing and instantly think we should do the same. Make sure it’s a good fit for your church and your context.
  • If people in your congregation are technologically behind. If people are barely using your web site, chances are they aren’t ready to receive text messages from you.
  • If you use it as a Band-Aid. Many of us are struggling to manage our communications, and you should only introduce texting as a means to enhance your communications–not to fix any systems that might be broken.

And, some reasons why you should:

  • To lower the barrier between the pulpit and the congregation. If you opt to do texting Q&A sessions in your services, it allows people the opportunity to voice questions or thoughts they might not normally have the opportunity to express.
  • To have direct communication. Texting enables instant, direct communication with people. It’s not dependent on a postage stamp, the printing press and doesn’t run the risk of getting lost an inbox.
  • To take a sermon deeper. Whether you give people the opportunity to ask questions in your services or text them a reminder throughout the week. It’s a great way to keep the conversation going and remind people of things they can apply during the week.

Things to watch for:

  • Get their Permission Opt-in. Don’t go through your church database and add everyone’s mobile numbers to your texting list. Give people the right to opt in and respect the permission they give you to interact with them.
  • Avoid spamming. Don’t spam people with unsolicited messages. Remember most people are paying the dime for each message you send. Only send what’s vital for the church as a whole. Or allow individual ministries like youth groups or college groups to create their own opt-in lists.
  • Don’t replace electronic communication with personal contact. One of the dangers of texting is that it can take away from the relational dynamic of personal contact. Use texting as a means to create community, not to take away from it.

At Park Community Church we primarily use texting in our services to do Q&A, allowing members of our congregation to text in questions during our message, and we’ll take about 5 minutes after each service to answer some of the questions. That portion of our service has actually become so popular that we now podcast recordings from all of the Q&A sessions each week.

We’ve also used to texting to do polls (most recently about people’s level of fear over the current economic situation) and send mass messages for major church events or announcements (examples: start of a new series, service time/location changes, Daylight Savings Time, etc).

There are many great companies out there that help churches with texting technology. Depending on how you want to use texting, you can go for very basic mass-messaging to very in-depth by using surveys and replybacks. At Park, we use Jarbyco for our messaging and have benefited greatly from our partnership and the ongoing support and ideas they give us. Another great option is a new company called TextHub, which is currently offering a free 1-year basic membership to churches.

Whichever way you decide go, remember to be wise stewards of the technology that we have at our disposal and seize the opportunity God has given us to communicate the gospel in creative, innovative ways.

Post By:

Tim Schraeder

Tim Schraeder is the director of communications at Park Community Church in downtown Chicago. With Tim’s lead, Park is innovating new and creative ways to communicate and engage people with the message of the gospel.
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15 Responses to “To Text or Not to Text?”

  • Adam
    March 11, 2009

    We’ve had to forbid texting during our praise team practices. A couple of our singers will text constantly (often to each other) during the practice and not pay attention to the leader. I’m glad to see that it’s being used for good!

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  • Matt Holley
    March 11, 2009

    Nice thoughts Tim. I appreciate the insight. Our church is just starting the texting polls and these cautions are great.

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  • Dawn Nicole Baldwin
    March 11, 2009

    Excellent post, Tim. You’re right on to note that texting isn’t for everyone & the guidelines you listed are dead on.
    Congrats on what will [I’m sure] be your first of many CMS [& other] posts. :)

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  • Millee Massey
    March 11, 2009

    Tim –
    Great post & thanks for making this conversation possible. More and more churches are using different means of technology to communicate with and among members! I agree – my actual calls have decreased and I now have unlimited texting! I am fascinated how Twitter and social media has really taken off in the church industry.
    I’d also encourage you to check out ( This web-based application enhances communication with and among members via tools such as email and text messaging, while centralizing your organization w/ simple membership management features.
    I do agree “God has given us to communicate the gospel in creative, innovative ways.”
    Great post and very insightful- I look forward to learning how other churches are leveraging text messaging & other technologies!

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  • Kendall
    March 11, 2009

    I’m not sure how I feel about this trend. The use of texting during a service can be distracting church goers from the primary purpose…a supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit, especially at the end of the service when most churches have a time of response or prayer time.

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  • spudart
    March 11, 2009

    I love the text Q&A at Park.

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  • stacy
    March 11, 2009

    Texting questions about the service and taking 5 minutes afterward to answer them? That is such an awesome idea! When I attend my mother-in-law’s church, I often think of questions about the service, but the congregation is so big, I would never have a chance to ask them in person.
    Do really “tricky” issues create twitter debates with conflicting interpretations of the scripture? How are deeper discussions of the subject matter handled…message board…additional study groups? I’m intrigued.

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  • Tannerman
    March 11, 2009

    The archiving of the Q&A at Park being pushed into a separate podcast adds a unique listening element throughout the week beyond just hearing the sermon. Also, since it’s grabbed from other service times, it provides a attendee a reason to pull down a church podcast even if they actually attended the sermon live.

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  • Tre Lawrence
    March 11, 2009

    Great post… love the way you talked about the opt-in.

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  • Matt
    September 24, 2009

    Great article. I use texting a couple times each week with my youth group. I like to shoot out a text the morning after youth group with a little ‘thought’ related to the night’s topic.
    We use Very inexpensive, and created by a youth worker.

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  • steve
    March 12, 2010

    You know, I just don’t see any examples of Q&A during the sermon on the mount for people to “take things deeper”. No, if God is truly speaking to you through the Spirit, the last thing you will want to do is start texting, etc. This is just another sign of the apostate church that is allowing the world and its technology to dictate how God is worshiped, or in the case of people texting during church, God is insulted. True Christians have no need and no desire for the world’s toys when they come before the God of the universe.

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    • Kevin Y
      June 23, 2010

      I wonder if air conditioning, sound reinforcement, and electricity are also the ‘world’s toys’? How do I tell the difference?? I can’t recall any of those being used or mentioned during the sermon on the mount? Perhaps it isn’t God who is insulted at all….

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  • Cassidy James
    January 18, 2011

    There’s a new service launching this spring called church@lerts; it’s a simple and more affordable (while still full-featured) text messaging system designed for churches. They’re doing beta testing right now, but I think they accept requests.

    Here’s their main teaser site: and here’s where you can request some more information:

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  • Jake Jones
    February 21, 2011

    We don’t find text messaging to be a distraction and use

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  • doug williams
    April 7, 2011

    Another option is Church Grower,, I admit I am not impartial being part owner of the company. BUT we do provide texting as well as allowing a pastor to record their own message from their phone or computer and send it out to those who are not as tech savy in regards to text messages. As for opt-in’s we provide a form that can be filled out for approval or you can opt-in via text message, so you know you are doing it the right and legal way!

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