I am convinced that there is no “one way” to get info to our youth but there are better ways than others. We call students, mail things to homes, use flyers, we have a youth ministry web page, a facebook group, and the list goes on and on…
This can get exhausting but I heard that a person needs seven contacts to really remember something. Whether that is true or not it is a good idea to have your info out there in multiple forms so your audience can have access to it at their ease.
All that said we know most people have a cell phone and that cell phone is on them all the time. The text message alert has been a hugely successful contacting method for our ministry. You can send out group messages with services like the ad based textmarks…a free or pay service (I do not recommend ad based services for youth, you have no control over the ads. I have discontinued my service with them due to the nature of their ads). You could also use a pay only service like Simply Youth Ministry’s Communicate tool, which is a solid service, and you will never have to worry about content because it is 100% from you. While these services are great and come with different perks you still have to pay and in some cases BIG BUCKS but did you know you could do this for FREE? you don’t get all the perks of a service like “Communicate” but it does the job of getting a message to multiple cell phones.
Create a card to give to students asking for:
(If they are not 18 years old it might be a good idea to ask for a parent’s signature so you are not responsible for running up a students cell phone bill.)
Once these cards are filled out and back in your hands just add the info to an address/email program like Microsoft Outlook or Gmail’s contacts. But instead of entering their cell number in the “mobile phone” entry, enter their number in the email entry as an email address. You can find the proper extension for each major carrier below.
For example if my cell number was 815-555-1234 and my carrier was Verizon I would add new contact for “Brandon Early” with the email of “firstname.lastname@example.org” to my address book. After entering all the cards I would create a distribution list called “TEXTING” (or what ever you want to call it) and add all these new entries/subscribers to this list. Now you are set to send out FREE group text messages from your computer. Anything I send to “email@example.com” will come to that cell phone as a text message and if they “reply” it comes to my inbox.
3) KEEP IN MIND…
Remember that text messages are only 160 characters. Be wise with your words and keep the messages (subject and all) under 160 characters (including spaces). Also, it is a good idea to tell your students how often you plan to send messages. The students with unlimited texting will not care but those who pay for each message might be more cautious to sign up. I committed to sending no more than two a week plus any special events or deadlines.
4) HAVE FUN…
Run contests, give away a discount to your winter camp to the first 3 people who respond to your text, pray for students and send them all a messages letting them know, add a comment to this post letting us know how you use group text messages or how you plan on using them.
Here is a list of carrier email address endings, if I am missing one you need just google “email to sms“.
Alltel (10-digit phone number)@message.alltel.com
AT&T (10-digit phone number)@txt.att.net
Boost Mobile (10-digit phone number)@myboostmobile.com
Nextel (10-digit telephone number)@messaging.nextel.com
Sprint (10-digit phone number)@messaging.sprintpcs.com
T-Mobile (10-digit phone number)@tmomail.net
Verizon (10-digit phone number)@vtext.com
Virgin Mobile USA(10-digit phone number)@vmobl.com
For those of you with smart phones you might be saying, “there’s an app for that.” True, you can use an app to do this but you will be giving out your cell phone number to everyone on he list. If you don’t mind that might be a better option for you. You also can send out text messages via Google voice but you are limited in the amount of number you can send at once.