Text Messaging Vs. Email Marketing: Which Strategy Is Best For Your Church in 2021?

This post on text messaging vs email is written by Laura Pechenik, Demand Generation Marketing Manager at Gloo. 

By Laura Pechenik:

Today, people are increasingly connected while “on the go” via smartphones and other mobile devices. But even as the world becomes more and more connected, people are growing more disconnected from church at an alarming rate.

The onset of the pandemic brought many challenges, such as the inability to greet congregants and shake their hands on Sunday mornings, leaving pastors unsure of how to take the pulse of their congregation’s real, felt needs.

As a result, church leaders continue to seek the best digital technologies to engage congregants and first-time guests in more personal and friendly ways.
And, despite many church leader’s best efforts, they’re still struggling to create a dialogue with their people online.

To achieve maximum online engagement, it’s important to identify the right communications channel—or channels—for your church. Sometimes, text messaging is best. Other times, email is best. Sometimes a powerful duo of both texting and email marketing can achieve the desired result.

For creating online dialogue, both text messaging and email marketing have proved valuable channels for churches.

For decades, email has been the most reliable and steadily performing channel. But with the rise of mobile phones, text messaging is gaining popularity (a recent Pew study says 85% of adults own smartphones, up from 81% in 2019).

We’ll discuss these two communication channels in greater detail below so you can determine which of the two—or perhaps a combination of both—is most appropriate for your church’s strategy.

To achieve maximum online engagement, it’s important to identify the right communications channel—or channels—for your church. - Laura Pechenik Click To Tweet

Text Messaging For Churches

More and more, churches today are using text messaging to communicate with their congregations and first-time guests. But, if you’re unfamiliar with text messaging as an outreach and marketing tool—you aren’t alone.

What is Text Message Marketing (SMS marketing)? By definition, SMS marketing means short message service marketing. This is a marketing technique which uses text messages to communicate offers, updates, and reminders to customers.

Without question—mobile phones have taken over. With a 98% open rate, texting nearly guarantees that your message will reach your people right where they are—on their phone. It’s no wonder why text messaging works so well for church communications strategies.

  • According to Gigaom, 98% of all text messages are opened. In contrast, only 22% of emails are opened. If your church’s  message wants to be heard by nearly all of your people immediately, texting is the most logical way to communicate.
  • On average, it takes 90 minutes to get a response to an email, but only 90 seconds to respond to a text message. For two-way communication, text messaging is the quickest way to answer congregant questions and provide helpful next steps.
  • 90% of all SMS messages are opened and read within 3 minutes of receipt. To contextualize this data, by the time 90% of your people have seen your text message, less than 1% of your people have seen your email.

Email Marketing for Churches

One goal for email marketing is to move your people from spectators to active participants. This leads us to one of the key benefits of email.

Pro Tip: Encourage your people to subscribe to your email list. After all, no algorithm controls your email subscriber list (unlike other cases). This means email marketing is one of the most terrific channels to create connections, build strong relationships, and measure progress (did we mention email has the largest reach compared to all other channels?)

As Carey has said before: “Church leaders: your email list is not controlled by an algorithm. Almost everything else is. As a result, it’s a fantastic way to connect with people.”

Church leaders: your email list is not controlled by an algorithm. Almost everything else is. As a result, it's a fantastic way to connect with people. Click To Tweet

Other advantages of email include:

More control: email allows for churches to have greater control over campaigns based on your people’s interests and demographics, allowing you to personalize marketing messages, leading to increased engagement

Cost-Effective: Email marketing is typically more cost-effective (although cost varies based on the type of campaign) than text messaging. Texting service varies by provider, plan, the cost per message and often, your average weekly attendance. (You can get a quote for your church here.

Customization: Email (versus texting, which only allows for 160 characters) allows for greater customization. send hyperlinks, attachments, images, videos, and more, while highlighting your brand tone and voice clearly through colors, design, and logo.

Back to You

As a church leader, identifying and selecting the right communications channel for your church—and your people—is a key factor in creating effective online dialogue while maximizing engagement. 

Texting may be the most efficient method of communication for some churches, whereas, for others, email may be the best option. However, using texting and email marketing in tandem may give your church the best results when it comes to online dialogue and long-term engagement.

Has your church considered utilizing both texting and email to boost your 2021 strategy?

Has your church considered utilizing both texting and email to boost your 2021 strategy? - Laura Pechenik Click To Tweet

If You Don’t Already Have A Great Text Messaging Solution, Thryve Would Love To Help!

Ready to reach more people every day of the week?

Thryve is a new relational texting platform for churches that uses smart language processing technology to make your congregants feel known, heard, connected, and involved.

It can help your church by:

  • Facilitate meaningful interactions through two-way conversations.
  • Provide immediate answers and helpful next steps.
  • Streamline communication with one easy-to-use platform.

Our friendly ministry experts are standing by to give you a free tour of Thryve today. Schedule a call now and learn how Thryve is helping ministries make a real impact.

What about you?

Do you use a text marketing or email marketing platform? If so, do you like it?

Leave a comment below!

Text Messaging Vs. Email Marketing: Which Strategy Is Best For Your Church in 2021?


  1. Celeste Vance on August 15, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    Great idea!

  2. Okiemute OKPURHE-OBIRE on August 10, 2021 at 12:12 am

    Dear Laura,

    I also agree with you on this too.

    God bless your day as we all are looking for ways to join our hands together and make impact in our world and bring the message of Christ Salvation to Mankind.

  3. apkworlds on August 9, 2021 at 5:41 am

    It would be helpful to better understand two-way texting. Sounds like a great idea. We’re still using the billboard approach.

    • Laura Pechenik on August 9, 2021 at 5:27 pm

      Thanks for this comment—you’re not alone in wanting to better understand two-way texting.

      Two-way texting is how Thryve allows your to interact with your church’s guests and visitors by easily organizing and responding to messages—without any additional staff or more work. The plateform uses smart language processing to automates conversations in a personal way—so you don’t end up with an overwhelming inbox of messages to respond to.

      Plus, every incoming message messages get flagged when a question is submitted that Thryve’s technology cannot yet respond to—so no message falls through the cracks. Unlike billboards, you’ll never miss a message—and your message will be read. Of course, we know that for most churches, congregants need more personal responses, so at any time, you can take the reins of any conversation.

      We’d love to show you a demo of Thryve and give you 14 days free! Reach out at thryve.io/demo!

  4. Josiah on August 7, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    Great insight! Text In Church and Mailchimp are a powerful combination!

  5. Tony Kamphuis on August 6, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Is there any research that would give us insight into negative reactions to text messages from institutions? Here in Canada we have political parties jumping into this type of communication and all of the feedback I hear in my circles is full of disdain. “Are there no havens of refuge from people trying to push their view of things on me?” Somehow texting feels more like personal space and I don’t appreciate people invading my personal space uninvited. I recognize the high open rate makes communicators salivate, but is there some organizational reputational risk to be weighed into this?

    • Laura Pechenik on August 9, 2021 at 4:13 pm

      Hi Tony, I think this is a GREAT callout! Unfortunately, “text marketing” has made people feel like they’re being invaded by a mode of communication that is extremely personal.

      As a member of the Thryve Customer Success team myself, I can personally attest to the fact that our team works hard to push against this tide. We come alongside to help churches establish and maintain trust with their people. Thryve is built to facilitate meaningful engagement that feels valuable and encourages spiritual growth. Our tight focus on making the platform is what ensures churches see real engagement with the platform.

  6. Tim Wright on August 5, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    It would be helpful to better understand two-way texting. Sounds like a great idea. We’re still using the billboard approach. I’d love to interact but how does an overworked staff respond to the reply texts? Is there a resource that can help us work that through?

    • Matt on August 6, 2021 at 9:23 am

      Hi Tim – Just a few suggestions with what I have seen and how other churches are overcoming your statement. One of the ways that helped validate the need to re-work priorities was to do this experiment. Now that they validated it was worth the effort, they now have the ability to reshape how they pastor their people and this new usage of a capability was seen as a better pathway for their people to be involved in ministry – it freed up other things that were nice to do but not necessarily a need to do or (more to the point – the way we have always done it might be worth us sunsetting and moving to how our people desire to be connected with.).

      In this arena we need to think threw the lens of how best to equip our people to do ministry and unlock their passion to contribute – vs. clinging to model of how we have decided to do ministry. (their preferences matter).

      Total side note – as I dug into Thryve there is actually a pathway to not have to hire staff due to some of their capabilities that are different vs the other texting platforms. (so the need to hire staff or whatever the barrier might be could help offload the staffing / overworked concern!) We need to constantly evaluate better tools that help us pastor our people.

  7. Victoria Kajengo on August 5, 2021 at 10:50 am

    Matt, that’s awesome. Have learnt something. Thanks Carey for getting our heads on this.

  8. Matt Engel on August 5, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Appreciate the topic. I wanted to share a few observations I have seen on this exact thing with churches all over the US.

    We always tell churches – you “hire” capabilities (in this context: email and TXT) to help solve a particular job; i.e. why and what job is emailing solving for at your church (This is out of our Church engagement framework we use with our innovation churches: Attracting people – no, Getting people – not likely, Keeping people – more likely, Growing people – yes and Multiplying people – yes). TXT messaging can be used in the same framework and learning how best it can be leveraged to involve people in ministry at various stages. Additionally we have found it has massive implications when it comes to preferred method of capability by generation (and furthermore churches with multiple sites should see which form of communication “wants to happen at which location”). So as leaders continue to try and support the individual, and the preference of them as the end user not what is “easiest for us as an org”.

    Where churches have gone wrong in the TXT space is they continue to use it like they use email or very “one-directional”- a lot of “spray and pray” (I like to say) vs. using these capabilities to establish opportunities for individuals to “involve themselves in ministry” and be more “bi-directional”. Churches I work with across the US are starting to realize the congregants will quickly “fire” your church from TXT and just continue to not read the email if you use it to SPAM them – i.e. “MENS BREAKFAST ON THURSDAY at 6:30am – don’t miss it!” Well if TXT is only used as this “broadcast motion” without helping facilitate relationship- it will get “fired”. If TXT is used to be bi-directional it will continue to be “hired” by the congregant.

    We should know more about our people in order to better pastor them – and knowing our congregations preferred method of ways to be involved in ministry that also facilitate a bi-directional involvement of them is key to advancing our people.

    A Story from an ATL church (2 locations about 2,00 people) using TXT: the week prior to easter this past year we had a crazy experiment we ran with a church using TXT and it was simply: TXT in the name of a person you are considering inviting to Easter so we can be praying for you and them. This led to the largest TXT message effort and response in the history of their church (and congregant involving themselves in ministry) by simply asking for a name so the church could pray for them. Well we know, people don’t like feeling extracted of value, so we closed the loop with all the people who responded by saying, “will you now join us in praying for the over 1500 responses that came in of names!” It is important churches close the loop with their people quickly and it increases involvement! When this church close the loop they got an additional 400 responses of names!!!! Almost the entire church jumped over a bar of entry into ministry, got involved, by using a capability called TXT to send in a name of someone to be praying for as they were invited to EASTER! (side note – largest attended Easter service of new people, and some amazing stories that came out it if). So as church “hire” communication capabilities they need to know how best to leverage them and to who as they solve particular jobs.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 5, 2021 at 12:25 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to share this!!

  9. Okiemute OKPURHE-OBIRE on August 5, 2021 at 7:43 am

    I think emailing still the best tools for reaching out even though most churches never learned to maintained and managed good data based for church folks in this part of the World.

    Very beneficiary, my relationship with you in the past (2-3) weeks happened through email rather than text messages. We have shared valuable information, experience and survey feedback based on facts we observed from both end of our world and Church Organization too.

  10. Okiemute OKPURHE-OBIRE on August 5, 2021 at 1:04 am

    Dear Carey,

    I totally agree with your summary below that
    Church leaders need to identify and select the right communications channel for the church and her people. A very key factor in creating effective online dialogue while maximizing engagement.

    The Lord may have allowed the outbreaks of Covid19 Pandemic for divine purpose not only to point the Church to existing areas of her weakness over the years but also to open up potential windows for growth through changes especially for future generations of visionary Church leaders.

    Long before now, most Church leaders never bother to explore the many windows Technology have for Church growth and Online World Mission Program. Most especially in Africa, the last (20) months has been very challenging for Pastors and Church Leaders too. The normal Church program and physical Fellowship that create windows for mutually beneficial bonding among the people suddenly disappeared from the Church radials. Online and Virtually empowered Church Prayer time, Sunday School and Discipleship Training Program has come to stay. Most Church Group and Fellowship now have bonding network through “WhatsApp” beside text message and email connection.

    I am very hopeful that the more Church leaders begins to see certain windows of Technology as blessings to reach out to their congregations and unchurched people in the days ahead (Post Pandemic) the better for what the future holds for World Mission Program too.

    • Laura Pechenik on August 9, 2021 at 4:20 pm

      At Thryve, we’re passionate about using technology for the greater growth of the Church. One of the reasons we chose text messaging is because it is the mode of communication where people already are! Instead of driving people to something new, it enables churches to be in the conversations they’re already having. Digital channels like WhatsApp and email offer the same—so we imagine we’ll look into those in the near future!

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