The church announcements are an art of communications. We constantly need to find a new effective way of church announcements in order to share the precious stories of congregational life. The invention of Gutenberg printing press, one of the most influential innovations in the second millennium, has helped the churches communicate better via the paper form of Sunday bulletins. What is the best way of church announcements in the third millennium accompanied by the advent of the smartphones?
97% of Americans are now cellphone users and more than 80% of them are owning smartphones
The vast majority of Americans – 97% – now own a cellphone of some kind. More than 80% of them own smartphones according to the Pew research. Individuals spend about 4 hours a day with their smartphones and 2+ hours daily on Social Media/Messaging, which should be a new platform for the church announcements. Ironically, many individuals tend to separate their Social Media from their religious practices, the Messaging (Short Message Service, “SMS” hereafter) is an ideal platform for church announcements.
The SMS has a function of sending various types of messages, including texts, images, files, locations, URLs, etc. to an individual or a group. The group chatting has been my choice for a communication platform for Sunday announcements. It is possible to send the url of the web page containing the Sunday bulletins to the congregants so that they can view them anytime anywhere. In addition, I could share an individual announcement with a corresponding image or video. If there were events, I could share the detail information with the online registration. Since the non-smartphones can receive the text messages, church announcements can reach to the 99% of the congregation.
WhatsApp’s one way broadcasting channel as a tool of church announcements
The one biggest drawback of using the group chatting, as the platform of the church announcements, was that anybody in the group could post a chat. In the beginning, it acted positively and boosted the effectiveness of the community participation. Many-to-many messaging, however, soon become impossible to use since the church announcements disappear from the active smartphone screen simply because there are other chats after it. I had to use a different communication platform like Flock (www.flock.com) or Slack (www.slack.com), which is great but requires a training cycle. That’s why I use it only with staffs and ministry teams.
My quest on a simple but effective group chatting service to be used for church announcements was complete with an announcement of a one-way broadcast communication stream by WhatsApp, which is currently serving more than 1.5 billion users and supports sending and receiving a variety of media: text, photos, videos, document, and location, as well as voice calls. Now it is adding the feature to do a one-way group chatting.
Since most of SMS applications require a user to provide a phone number to join groups, it was difficult to use the platform with new comers or visitors, who don’t want to release their cell phone numbers. It is now possible to invite people into a group via email addresses. There is a new feature in WhatsApp to select admins and to allow them to change a setting wherein only they are able to send messages to the group. In other words, the church can set their smallgroup leaders, as an example, as admin and to enable them to originate text messages in the group chatting.
I strongly recommend WhatsApp’s one-way broadcasting channel for a new effective way of church announcements. The app has been a proven solid SMS platform beside it is free.