Want to get people engaged in church? Encourage them to interact. Texting during church should be welcomed, not shunned.
Once upon a time the church worship service was a passive affair. You’d sit there and listen. It was rude to do anything else, and questions weren’t exactly encouraged.
Times have changed.
Of course that’s a broad generalization. Church is supposed to be interactive. Prayer, worship and encouragement have always been part of the service, and that has always required the congregation to do more than sit and listen.
But sometimes we get stuck and think passively listening to a sermon is the only right way. That admonition isn’t in the Bible. We have more freedom.
That’s a good thing, because people have a hard time sitting still these days. Rather than pine for the glory days, let’s engage people and encourage them to interact where they’re at. 22% of college students are texting during religious services anyway. Let’s get them doing something more productive.
So how do you engage people with texting during the service?
1. Welcome Devices
The first step is to welcome instead of shun devices. Encourage people to use their phones appropriately. You don’t know if someone is checking their email or following along in YouVersion, so don’t shame all device users.
Instead, encourage people to use their devices but turn their ringers off. Clamp down on the distractions without discouraging legitimate use.
— David L Hansen (@rev_david) April 16, 2015
2. Welcome Responses
Asking questions during a sermon can be a good way to engage people. But don’t just ask questions—welcome responses as well.
With text-to-screen services, you can ask a question and your congregation can respond via text message. You can put those answers up on the screen, whether it’s a word cloud of responses or a poll.
Get real interaction going with your congregation.
Can it be a little scary for the preacher? Yup. It requires some in-the-moment adjustment as well, and that’s not for everybody. But by taking questions and engaging with people you’re presenting your message more dynamically. It’s more likely people will follow along, remember what you said and less likely they’ll tune out or completely forget.
3. Welcome Prayer
Prayer requests are often reduced to the little prayer card during the service, placed in the offering plate and forgotten about. While the prayers of your congregation are helpful, it hardly feels interactive.
Your church can encourage prayer requests via text message during the service. It’s another way to keep the interaction going, it can cut down on the paper and data entry, and you can give an immediate response. An auto-reply can thank people and reassure them that someone is praying for them.
It’s a minor adjustment from the old prayer card, but it can be more familiar for younger people who are accustomed to doing everything on their phone. They might be more likely to participate because you’re using a method that works for them.
Texting during church is a potential distraction (for the person using the phone… if the ringer is off, no one else should be focusing on what the other people in the pews are doing). But you don’t know if people are checked out and texting their friends (doh!) or following along and tweeting sermon quotes (yes!).
So rather than wring your hands or shame the innocent, encourage everyone to pick up their phone and be involved in the service.