Most churches are using email now to connect with their members. Sure many were slow on the uptake and there are still some that don’t use it…there are enough churches around to cover all of the technological (or lack thereof) spectrum. We’ve certainly been through a few technolgies and right now we use (or are starting to use at least) Vertical Response  for email, with their 10,000 free emails per month for non-profits . But technology continues to move forward, and the “latest and greatest” used to be cell phone text messaging (SMS, or Short Message Service–did anyone even know what the acronym stood for until reading it here? :-) but of course that’s already being edged out in many places by Twitter  and other social media. We haven’t actually done any text messaging to cell phones that I know of here (and we may bypass this altogether for Twitter, which we’ve only recently begun to semi-officially use Twitter for the Church , although I’ve been using it personally  for a long time), but I’ve done some research on options that I passed along to our Youth department back in January after doing some Googling and talking to some Church IT guys  to see what they were doing. Some of the options are pretty cool, so for reference, here’s the email (slightly edited) I sent to our Youth dept. back in January in case you find it helpful:
These are some text messaging services that may be useful:
- http://texthub.com/  (another church where I know the Church IT guy, I forget which one, is using this)
- http://www.jarbyco.com  (Granger Community Church  has used this, as have a few others)
- http://www.textmarks.com  (Granger is using this some too and we are planning to use it at Lakeview at least among staff if not generally)
- http://www.polleverywhere.com  (this lets you show poll results on the screen that people text in, but I donâ€™t think it does mass textingâ€”Jarbyco can do this too I think, at least where people sendin questions via text message and you can have someone put them up on the screen)
Iâ€™d start there and see where it gets you! Should be cheaper than phone tree most likely, def. cheaper than mailing postcards and youâ€™ll probably get more teen response than from either of those anyway :-) [remember this was an email to the Youth dept.] I would start testing with a small group if youâ€™re going to test multiple services, so you arenâ€™t switching everyone from one system to another just to testâ€¦like set up 4-5 students with one service and see how you like the service and price before putting everyone in.
I later ran into another service worthy of comparison:Â http://www.churchtextingmanager.com/ . I’m sure there are others out there. Other than light testing of Poll Everywhere and TextMarks, I’ve not used any of these services personally or professionally and can’t vouch for any of them, but it’s probably a good list to start your own research!