We often think of smartphones and texting as more of a phenomenon among teenagers and young adults, but more and more of the whole population is jumping on the bandwagon.  According to this study from the Pew Internet Project, 90% of American adults have a cell phone, 58% specifically have a smartphone, and 79% use text messaging.  More and more churches are realizing this and are using text messaging to help engage their church members.

Here are 3 of the main ways that churches are utilizing text messaging.

Large Group of Happy People standing together.

  1. Event Details

These days it seems everyone is in a rush.  From jobs to family events to church activities, people have so much going on that sometimes things can get lost in the shuffle.  We need reminders!  I for one know firsthand how useful it is when my church sends me updates and reminders of events.  If I can’t remember what time the praise team rehearsal is, for example, all I have to do is check the text alert that the worship pastor sent out.

  1. Weather-Related Cancellations

It can be very frustrating to show up to church on a snowy Sunday morning only to find that service has been canceled.  Or if an outdoor event is planned but the forecast turns out to be predicting rain, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out if the event is still going to be held.  Such issues are easily solved with a simple text message: “All services are canceled this morning due to the snow!” or “Rain or shine, the church barbecue is still on for this afternoon!”

  1. Ministry Needs

There are always plenty of needs in a church.  Maybe there is a shortage of children’s ministry workers.  Maybe a church member is sick and needs some people to help make her meals until she gets back on her feet.  Or perhaps a family just bought a house and needs help moving.  Sending out a quick text message makes the congregation aware of such needs so that members can step up and serve.

 

These are some of the most common ways that churches use text messaging, but as text messages become more a part of everyone’s life, churches are finding this way of communication more and more useful.  Texting questions to get live feedback during a sermon?  Giving out the sermon outline via text message?  Sending out prayer requests, announcements, Bible verses—the possibilities are endless.

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In my previous blog post, I argued that adults need to reach youth at their level, and that texting is one way to communicate using a method that is relevant to them.  Whether you are a youth pastor/leader, a YMCA mentor, or a soccer coach—anyone who has a position of leadership among youth knows how difficult it can be to get them involved and engaged.

Young people can be absentminded.  They can be dramatic.  Silly.  Downright foolish.  And they sometimes are not highly motivated.  Here are some ways that you can use text messaging to help them be more active, to increase youth engagement.

Texting Increase Youth Engagement

1. Use text alerts to remind them of events.

Sometimes young people are disengaged simply because they forget things.  They often don’t write dates down, and events can easily slip their minds.  Sending out text alerts as reminders of event dates, times, and other details is a useful way to help ensure that more youth show up.  Your youth are much more likely to read a text message than a paper publication or an email newsletter, and sending out these reminders keeps the details of your events on their phones for easy reference.

2. Use text alerts to keep them accountable.

If you are a youth pastor, you may know the frustration of young people forgetting to read their Bible study assignment through the week.  Or if you are a piano teacher, you understand that your students don’t always (or don’t ever) practice through the week like they should.  Anyone dealing with youth knows that they more than likely won’t do what they are supposed to do or what they are assigned to do before you see them next.  Sending them text alerts such as, “Don’t forget to practice your Mozart!” or “Read through chapters 1-2 before our next meeting!” can help remedy this problem.

3. Use text alerts to make them aware of opportunities.

Youth aren’t born with an inherent instinct to pursue opportunities.  They don’t always know that they have to make their own way in life; they seem to sometimes live under the impression that life will just hand them opportunities on a silver platter.  Sending them text alerts that notify about potential opportunities can help encourage them to take advantage of situations that arise in life.  With a high school classroom, for example, a teacher might send out a text alert letting students know about an internship opening.  A youth pastor might send a text alert about a service opportunity—perhaps an elderly person at church needs to have the leaves raked from their yard.

 

Through these ways and more, adults can utilize text messages to increase youth engagement.  Don’t be out of touch!  Technology is not the enemy; if you learn how to utilize it well, it can be very effective.

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According to this article, youth ages 12-17 are texting 20% more messages daily than they were just 6 years ago, in 2009.  Youth texting behaviors have increased from a median of 50 messages per day in 2009 to 60 messages per day now.  That’s about 1,800 text messages per month!  That’s the median… The article describes how the AVERAGE amount of texts sent by teens per month is 3,417.  That’s a lot of texting!!

Youth Texting

In all honesty, these findings are not all that shocking.  Anybody who is even slightly socially aware can tell that texting is becoming a more and more prominent means of communication–especially among youth.  We often wonder how to reach the youth of our culture, how to get them engaged, or how to make an impact on them and develop them into leaders.  We can start by communicating on their level.

If 75% of teenagers report that they are active texters, it seems obvious that adults who want to influence them should join in the frenzy.  Granted, texting can be a source of a lot of drama and headaches, but it can also be a great tool when used correctly!  Young people need people older than them to show them how to live.  They need examples to follow.  They need mentors.

Whether we like it or not, this is the way of the world right now.  Adults have to be willing to adapt and to reach the youth at their level.  We have to be understanding and empathetic.  The enormity of the amount of text messaging done by youth opens up a whole new world of issues that we must be willing to address and tackle.  Many of these teenagers don’t know how to deal with the issues; we must be the guiding hand that helps them along.

But how can we help them if we don’t understand how they communicate?

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Text Alerts for Families_jpg

Growing up, I was part of a large family—five siblings, plus my mom and dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  As I got older, my family has only grown.  Several siblings got married and had kids, and recently I have gotten married and have added my in-laws to my ever-growing list of family members.  Now just our immediate family gatherings consist of 20 or more people.

I LOVE having a big family.  I love the laughs and the chaos and the craziness.  There is always something going on, someone to spend time with.

One problem with having such a large family is communication.  You can imagine the confusion of trying to communicate with so many different people.  Especially events such as family reunions, vacations, holidays, and other special times can be very chaotic and messy.  The arrival of texting and of smartphones have made this kind of communication much easier.  If we had been able to easily send out mass text messages 10 or 15 years ago, things would have been a lot less complicated.  Using text alerts for families would be very useful!

Let’s say, for example, I am planning a large family reunion and am expecting 50 people from all across the country to come.  It would be such a huge hassle to try to get in touch with everybody to get them on the same page in terms of plans and itineraries.  Paper itineraries work fine, but people forget things and plans often change. How easy would it be to just add everyone to a group and send them all mass texts with the click of a button?

“Hey everyone!  Glad you all could make it!  At 7:00 we are eating dinner at the Mexican restaurant off of 30th Street, for whoever wants to join.  Don’t forget to bring something to the potluck picnic tomorrow at 6:00 at Glenwood Park!”

“Come pick up your Johnson Family Reunion T-shirts from Tina.”

“We are having a board game night at the Levinson campground in one hour.”

What a useful and simple way to utilize technology to help keep family close!

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smart-person

According this article, one expert is actually saying that texting might actually be making us smarter!  He says that kids these days read and write more than we give them credit for; in fact, they are constantly reading and writing as they look down at their phones and exercise their thumbs at impressive speeds.  While I don’t think that I necessarily agree with his assessment about the literacy benefits of texting, it is true that texting has some benefits!  Two of the greatest benefits that I have found of using text messages are convenience and easy reference.

Convenience

Personally, I often find text messages to be INFINTELY more convenient than phone calls and even emails.  I would much rather that people text me than leave a voicemail.  When I receive a text, I can check it and respond to it whenever I am available.  I don’t have to go through all the hassle of accessing my voicemail to determine the importance of the message—I can quickly skim it and decide whether or not it needs my immediate attention.  These days even email can be inconvenient as I receive so many emails (and have multiple email accounts) that I have to sort through and organize to determine which ones are actually important.

Easy Reference

One thing I LOVE about text messages is that it is easy for me to refer back to them.  If I forget what time the church picnic is, for example, I can easily go into my messages and find the text alert message that the church sent me last week explaining the details.  This is better than voicemails, which I sometimes delete without thinking and then later forget about.  It is also better than emails, which are not quite as easily accessible as text messages—especially for those who don’t have smartphones.

 

Of course, the value of in-person conversations and phone calls will never be replaced, but more and more people are finding text messages to be a significant means of communication.  While I’m not sure if texting is actually making us “smarter,” it definitely has its positive uses and benefits!

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Text messages are all the rage these days.  Text message usage is on the rise!  I appreciate receiving text messages from my dentist reminding me of my upcoming appointment, or receiving text messages from my university informing me of cancellations due to weather.  Now even sports teams are jumping on the bandwagon!  Many NBA teams, NHL teams, and college sports departments have begun selling some of their tickets using text messages.

Sports teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Capitals and Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons, and Arizona Coyotes are partnering with text messaging services to sell tickets in an innovative way.  Fans register to be sent text messages with ticket offers before a game.  If fans want to purchase tickets to a particular game, they can simply reply to the ticket offer message, specifying how many tickets they want to buy.

When fans register to be sent the ticket offers, they provide their payment information, so as soon as the fans specify how many tickets they want to buy, their card can be charged.  Their digital tickets can then be sent to them instantly to be scanned on a mobile phone or tablet, or to print off a computer.  This method of purchasing tickets is not only beneficial to the customers because of its convenience, it can also be beneficial to the sports teams and departments, helping to put a curb on customer service problems.

Although this method of selling tickets is still in the testing stage, it has seen early success.  It is yet another sign of modern times, where technology and convenience dominate.  I predict that in 5 years or so (or maybe less!), this might even become the norm.  More and more companies and organizations are seeing the potential of using text messages to maximize their services.  They are seeing the signs, and they are adapting.

(Information from http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2015/01/19/Facilities/ReplyBuy.aspx)

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