the texting i’ve seen

To wrap up on the text message / Q&A discussion, I wanted to include the various ways I’ve seen texting used in ministry this year (both in church services and college ministries). (See yesterday’s post for reasons texting is especially impactful, as well as the run-down of the earlier posts.)

The cool thing about all this is that some of these ideas are pretty wild… and I think that’s awesome. We need more wild ideas, connecting with our ministry peeps in more and more creative ways.

This is also a post where I could use your help. For several of these methods, I’m not sure the exact means they’ve used to accomplish the method (you’ll see what I mean). If you know of specific software, web applications, etc., that can help get this done, please put those in the Comments or send ’em to me. (I could just Google some ideas – and you can, too – but I’d be guessing on which applications actually work well.)

So here you go:

Text what’s next. This one’s easy. Obviously, text messaging is great for simply getting a note to someone in the quickest possible way. Big caution, though: don’t overuse this. You should probably only send out-of-the-blue messages to single individuals or to small groups for individual events (“wanna get lunch?,” “don’t forget to bring your application,” etc.). For mass announcements, see the next suggestion.

Message to masses. Beyond the “normal” use of text messages, some ministries have started using texting for ministry-wide, spur-of-the-moment announcements. Think “phone tree,” but with text messages. Participants sign up (either online, on a sign-up card, or via text message), and you send texts as needed. Again, this one can be overused, too; but employed judiciously, this is a great method for occasional contact.

Some examples:

  • According to the guy I spoke to, the college ministry of The Rock Church in San Diego, uses this on a regular basis for completely out-of-the-blue hang-out events (i.e., “We’re playing volleyball in an hour”).
  • Willow Creek‘s Axis ministry uses this for an about-once-a-week reminder of activities. Plus, they might point out random church events that could interest college students.

I know there are web applications out there for this, and think they’re cheap (or maybe free?). Help me out – have you used any?

A new kind of telephone survey. That’s right – you can use text messages for polling an audience. As some guys I met last week pointed out, this is all the rage in college classrooms these days (with a special polling device, not a cell phone). But it was awesome to watch at The Rock as church attendees answered a multiple choice question about tithing with their cell phones – and to watch the results pop up in real-time.

Again, you’ll have to find the application to get this done. Or, you can go semi-low-tech but way-easy by simply having students text answers to an assistant, who can report back the results in a minute or two. It’s still anonymous, hiply-technological polling, so… there you go.

For “Q” press 7. Not only can text messaging allow participants to provide answers to surveys, but it also allows for sending questions. Don’t forget, Q&A via cell phone can be an extremely helpful addition to any ministry that involves the “text message crowd.” And it can take place during your message, giving participants the chance to ask questions as they come to mind.

You can read a full explanation of this method in my recent “People of the Text” post, while “The Q is the Key” gives several reasons why question-and-answer sessions can connect so well to this generation.

Running commentary. This is the wildest one of all, but let it stretch you – and does it surprise you that a super-creative ministry method comes from futurist Len Sweet?

At last week’s Growing Leaders National Leadership Summit, Dr. Sweet described his use of “three-screen teaching.” Check it out:

  • Because he is often teaching via the web or with an awfully big audience, one screen usually puts Dr. Sweet on close-up.
  • On a second screen, he has an assistant post various images, web pages, or other items that he either has at the ready or locates (via Google or whatever) while Dr. Sweet teaches or responds to questions.
  • The third screen? Running notes on the message – delivered from the participants. That’s right, texted (or typed) discussion points, additions, etc., coming from the audience in real-time.

Are you brave? You may have heard that this method is used at some rock concerts. And I think I remember using it – filtered through an “editor” backstage – at Catalyst Conference last year? I know we used texting somehow…

You, too, could go uncensored or censored with the “texting screen”; either way, do you think students or churchgoers might pay special attention if they had an actual role in the message? I know it’s crazy, but it’s great food for thought!

I think Twitter might do the job for the uncensored text notes; otherwise, it’s easy enough for an assistant to post the best texts. Other thoughts on tools for this? Or similar methods?

txt msg ur min. So there you have it. This is one more chance we’ve got to connect specifically to the Millennial Generation, via one of their favorite communication methods. But that’s not the only value of texting; obviously, this option opens up some easy possibilities we’ve never had before.

Any other ministry uses of text messaging you know about?

Written from Alpharetta, Georgia

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