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3 min read

Important Text Messaging Rules and Guidelines for Churches

Important Text Messaging Rules and Guidelines for Churches

Quick caveat: There are many legalities involved when sending texts, and we are not lawyers. These are simply our recommendations as they align with texting requirements as it stands today. Please check with legal experts to ensure you are complying.

 

Step One: Get Express Written Consent

Under the TCPA or Telephone Consumer Protection Act, you must receive express written consent before sending text. You can obtain express consent via online forms. However, you must explicitly state that enrolling means subscribers agree to receive text messages. Nonprofits such as churches have a unique exception to this rule where individuals can also give verbal consent to the nonprofit that approves them to receive text messages. We recommend this option for well-known or existing church members, but not for newcomers or anyone unknown. It's best to get written consent from everyone. 

Please note: Texting without prior written consent can cost you fines ranging from $500 to $1,500 per incident.

 

Step two: Opt-in confirmation

Once someone has opted in via text or an online form, you need to send an opt-in confirmation text, which must include the following information:

  • Your church's name
  • Your messaging cadence
  • The phrase “Message and data rates apply”
  • STOP/HELP directions
  • Terms & Privacy

You must create the necessary links and follow-up text automations to accompany your opt-in confirmation text so that people can read your terms and fully consent to participating.

All of these requirements can be sent in one message.

mock-up-cell-phone-text-guidelines

"You've agreed to receive automated messages from Anderson SDA Church. Reply STOP to opt-out, HELP for help. Message frequency varies. Message & Data Rates may apply. Terms and Privacy policy found at (terms and privacy link here)"

 

Step tHREE: Text at appropriate times

Texts must be sent between the hours of 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM. Be sure to adhere to the time zone of each phone number that opts in. Noon is the most popular time of day to send texts. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays tend to be the best days to send text for the highest rates of engagement. You may choose to vary the time or day that you send your texts based on the responses you receive.

 

Step Four: Avoid banned language

While it is unlikely churches will be texting any profanities or foul language, these off-limits topics may come up in conversation: sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco. 
There could be a church service that includes wine.

We've had a church host a firearm safety seminar. Some churches may want to discuss sex education with teens, hate speech and bullying in schools, and drug and alcohol abuse or awareness. These topics must all be left out of any text marketing in order to remain compliant. This is why we stress that text marketing cannot be your only marketing tool and works best in conjunction with sophisticated email and social media marketing.

For example, if you want to promote an event where your church addresses topics that fall under the banned language, you might consider writing a blog about it or including it in your church's newsletter and then sending a text encouraging members to check their email in order to read your latest blog post. This gets the message out there in a quick way but avoids using banned language in your text marketing.

 

Step Five: The Inevitable Opt-Out

If someone opts out of your text messaging, the National Do Not Call Registry applies to SMS marketing. It is illegal to text anyone who has opted out of your text communications. Ensure that you are using an SMS system that will automatically remove members from your text database when they opt out. 

At that point, it's over. Do not attempt to win back their hearts. 

While we encourage you to take this incredibly seriously, please note that some people just prefer not to receive texts, and opt-outs are not a slight against your outreach in general. The people who opt out may just prefer to receive their information via social media or email or other ways that you reach them. If they want to hear from you, they will find you on your other platforms. Let go and focus on the subscribers who stay.

 

Rethinking Evangelism®

Our team is passionate about helping churches grow. Our blog talks about ways to build and reinforce your community’s gut feelings about your church – so be sure to follow along for more tips, tricks, and advice. Subscribe so you don’t miss out!

If SMS is something you’re interested in, but you don’t have the capacity to take this on yourself, we’re happy to work directly with your church. Simply contact us to start the conversation.

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