The Best Youth Ministry Group Texting Options


Why do you need the best youth ministry texting option? Because if you ask any teenager what the best way to communicate with them is, and almost across the board they’ll tell you: “Text me.”  If you’re using email to reach teens, you’re missing the mark: because seriously, how often do teens check their email?  But how often do they check their phone? Every time it buzzes (and even when it doesn’t)?

And that’s not just true for teens. Research shows that only about 22% of emails sent are ever even opened, but 98% of text messages are opened and most of them IMMEDIATELY.

Based on the numbers alone, it just makes sense to use text messaging as one of (if not your primary) communication tool: with teens, parents, volunteers…everyone!

So let’s say we’re on the same page now, the question then becomes: How do I do it? What is the best way to mass text teens? What’s the best way to mass text volunteers?

Know this:
– If you’re texting them just via your phone’s address book, you’re doing way too much work.
– If you’re using a service they have to subscribe to from a website, you’re adding an unnecessary step.

– If you’re using an email to text option, you’re using the least reliable method (and it’s actually against the terms of service for pretty much every cell carrier).

You need to use a group texting service. (And yes you will have to pay for it.) But with so many of them out there, which one should you choose? After testing pretty much every option out, I rejected most of them.

[UPDATED NOVEMBER 2013]

Want to skip ahead to our favorite? Click here. 

 

SimplyTXT

REJECTED: SimplyTXT uses email to text technology (or SMTP).  Since email to text messages are the lowest priority on a cell network, during high traffic time your messages can be delayed minutes or hours.  On top of that, mass-texting via email is actually against the terms of service for pretty much every cell carrier.

 

FlockNote

REJECTED: I love FlockNote. I love the company. I love the people that work there.  And if you’re looking for an incredibly simple and streamlined group email tool, FlockNote is the solution.  But FlockNote lacks the premium SMS features other providers offer, so in the search for the best group texting option, it doesn’t make the cut.

 

EZTexting

REJECTED: Uses a combination of SMS and email to text technology, and their pricing for SMS messages (or as they call them, “express messages”) is pretty high.  Plus it lacks many of the features highlighted below.

 

Tatango

REJECTED: Tatango has an amazing set of features (and an impressive client list), but the cost is way too high for most ministry budgets (starting at almost $500/month).

 

[ADDITIONAL REVIEWS COMING SOON: If you’ve got a site/service you’d like us to review, leave it in the comment section below.]

 

The Winner: ProTexting.com

We’ve tried several services and hands down ProTexting is our favorite!

Teens can subscribe to the TXT service on the spot, from their phones, simply by texting our KEYWORD to 82257. On top of that, the web interface is great, and there’s an awesome iPhone app.

Other features I love:

  • Text-To-Win Contests – Teens text your keyword to enter into a drawing/contest. You randomly choose a winner and for the cost of a single prize (like a $25 iTunes card), you’ve not got all of your teens to sign up for text updates!
  • Text Surveys – Poll your teens to find out what movie you should watch for movie night or what weekend is the best for a retreat next fall. Everyone who responds is added to your text group!
  • Text-To-Screen – Trying to brainstorm with a large group, let everyone text in their answers, and they’ll appear on the screen! Or having an open forum night, teens can text in their questions (and you can approve them before they hit the big scrren. Everyone who responds is added to your text group!
  • Organize Contacts into Groups – Group people together in an unlimited number of groups! College students, Freshman, Middle School Parents, Parents who LOVE you!
  • Social Media Integration – Auto-post your outgoing text messages to Facebook or Twitter!
  • QR Codes – Stick a QR code on every flier, postcard and business card…all teens have to do is scan the code to be added to your list!
  • Archives Everything – Group messages, individual messages, incoming and outgoing: ProTexting archives everything. You can even have it send an email copy of messages automatically to your pastor or DRE for full accountability/protection.

Plus it has every other feature you could ever want, including:

  • Free Unlimited Sign Ups
  • Free Unlimited Incoming Text Messages
  • Capture Names and Email Addresses
  • Open Rate / Click Rate Analytics
  • Automatically Sent Birthday Texts
  • 2 Way Texting
  • Change your Mobile Keywords at any time
  • Text Messaging API to integrate with any website or mobile app
  • No Contracts
  • No Set up fees
  • Online Widgets to collect mobile numbers
  • iPhone and Android App
  • And they just added video and picture messaging!

Special deal just for ProjectYM.com fans: Use the coupon code ProjectYM and save 20% off your first month!

Check Out ProTexting.com Today!

(Yes, ProjectYM does get an affiliate commission if you sign up, but I would recommend ProTexting.com even if we didn’t. In fact, if you’d rather not use our affiliate link, you can click here — but you will miss out on the 20% discount.)

Michael Marchand is a Catholic preacher, evangelist, author, speaker and consultant. He spends time each month traveling around the world speaking to teens, young adults, youth ministers and parish leaders. Michael’s is the author of “The E Word” one of the co-creators of one of the biggest Catholic youth ministry blogs on the planet: ProjectYM.com. He’s also on the team for great events like RebuildMyChurch and the Digital Church Conference.


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  • Hannah

    I text my teens and volunteers via my email for free. It’s a little complicated when you first add them, but I’d rather do that than pay for a service. I just email their phone number (no hyphens or anything) at the following domains:

    @message.alltel.com
    @txt.att.net
    @messaging.nextel.com
    @messaging.sprintpcs.com
    @tms.suncom.com
    @tmomail.net
    @voicestream.net
    @vtext.com
    Most of them bounce back, and I keep the one that doesn’t . The text shows up as “From [my name]:” and then the message. I also like this method because I can easily copy their parents’ email in the message so they know I’m communicating with their teen.

    • Hannah –

      That’s an option that would work for small groups, but when you’re group grows you’re going to face several limitations, including:

      1. Adding large numbers of teens at once is very difficult/time consuming.
      2. No way for teens to add themselves or to sign up for only specific updates.
      3. Mass-texting via email is actually against the terms of service for pretty much every cell carrier, so they could decide to block you at anytime (especially if your list gets too big or you send too many messages).
      4. Timing is not reliable – email to SMS messages are the lowest priority on a cell network, so during high traffic time your messages can be delayed minutes or hours. I actually used a email-to-text service a few years back and sent out a message to meet me after school at a nearby ice cream place, and the message got delayed and a bunch of teens got it the next morning and ended up waiting for me at the ice cream place on the wrong day.
    • Matthew Warner

      Hannah – Flocknote.com could help you out now and has a free plan for up to 40 members. Will save you a lot of hassle and give you a lot more features! Very creative solution though! :-)

  • Jim

    I’d really like to find a texting service that allows multiple user accounts so I could give our volunteers a means of texting individual teens while maintaining transparency (admin user can see all conversations). The only thing I can find that fits the bill is SYM’s SimplyTXT, but that has other limitations I’m not excited about. Do you know of any others that include this functionality?

    • Jim – The ProTXT option from MinistryTracker.com allows you to do that. I’m looking around to see if I can find any other companies.

  • I absolutely LOVE your resources! As a parent volunteer turned Ministry Leader I am looking for everything I can get my hands on to automate our system. Currently our ministry is small, but my hopes are to grow the group significantly during the next three years. Ministrytracker.com is the direction I want to go; but I have limited resources (teeny-tiny budget) and I don’t want to spend more than necessary on admin costs at this time.

    Oh, what I would do for five minutes of your time? I’ve listened to your podcasts, I just attended Frank Mercandante’s New Minister Institute in Chicago (Cultivation Ministries – I’m in the burbs of Chicago), I can’t wait for ProjectYM but in the mean time – I need resources for selecting the best tools to manage our ministry – do you have any additional suggestions?

    • Paula –

      Thanks! I’d love to chat with you for a few minutes if it’d be helpful for you. Skype, phone, Google Hangout, whatever works for you. I’ll shoot you an email to setup a time.

      Or…I’ll actually be in the Chicago area in a couple of weeks, I’d love to grab coffee while I’m in town.

      As far as resources, not sure what you’re looking for. Fill me in on what you’re trying to do, and I’d be happy to help!

  • Jared Anderson

    I use Remind101 to send mass texts. It’s a free service, you create a subscription code for the teens to text (they can also subscribe via email) to a number assigned to you, and you can schedule for texts to be sent or send them immediately. It is one-sided communication (they have to email or call my extension if they have questions) and you don’t see their phone numbers, just their names.

  • I just recommended Flocknote to our pastor because it can do both email and text and phone (for all our age demographics) What sms features does Flocknote not have? I want to know if we will miss them if we go that route…

    • Michael Marchand

      Veronica – Flocknote does not have premium SMS features. Things like text-to-win, text-in polls, text-to-screen, two-way texting, autoresponders, automatic birthday texts, etc.

      • Matthew Warner

        Update: Flocknote’s latest version actually does have a lot more texting capability than before. It has text-to-join and now captures all replies to texts for you. So it can be used for getting feedback (even live feedback), asking questions, and could easily be used for text-to-win type scenarios, etc, too.

        It even now has a FREE plan for up to 40 members – which is fully featured and includes unlimited text messages and emails. I hope you’ll give it a try! Hope that helps!

  • Eric Gargus

    Thanks for the info, but I will be sticking with what my students and parents love, and what is failsafe with no delay in texts sent every in the past almost 2 years with them– and that is SimplyText from Simply Youth Ministry. Simply the best– and I don’t get paid or gain any benefit from saying that.

  • Eric

    Signed up for ProTexting last month, and it’s been a great fit for our parish! Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Michael Marchand

      Eric – You’re welcome! Glad it’s working out for you guys!

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  • Val Sutton

    I would like a service where anyone can text in to the whole group (a group I create, plugging numbers in), but it gets “approved” by an admin (ie., me) before it goes out. Anyone have a suggestion?

  • Joseph Guite

    Can you review YS Group TXT? (http://ysgrouptxt.com/) Thanks!

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  • We use an app written by a local software developer. Prices seem cheaper than ProTexting and you can have all the keywords you want on your own custom phone number with a local area code. Our students have memorized the number and codes and share them with friends. Works great in multisite. http://www.msgtek.com

  • Chris

    Try Remind. It’s free and protects you as a youth minister from needing to store the teens’ numbers in your phone.

  • Katie Parks Skerpon

    Ok, so we have been using SYMT for about 4 1/2 years. We’ve liked the integration of our email and text lists (we ask those who don’t want to received texts to just not put a mobile #). We don’t do anything super fancy, but it’s worked well and with 2 keywords it’s been $50 a month, which seemed pretty standard.

    BUT, our parish is finally going to Constant Contact church-wide (going to an e-bulletin instead of paper is the impetus). I know that we’ll be asked to look at if we still need SYMT and I would be more than happy to use CC for our emails. BUT we still need something for text. We really just need basic mass texting.

    Suggestions?

    • Michael Marchand

      Katie –

      For a basic texting tool, I’d go with Flocknote. Super simple and easy to use. Plus it’s really affordable (and actually free for 40 contacts or less).

      Check out http://tryflocknote.com for a free trial (and a $30 credit if you get more than 40 contacts).

    • Still loving app.msgtek.com