By RaeAnn Slaybaugh
Prior to enlisting One Call Now notification technology (text-messaging en masse) at Seventh-day Adventist Church in Adairsville, Georgia, email was the main channel for keeping members up-to-date on church happenings.
As Elder Woody Davis explains, this approach presented a handful of challenges and limitations.
“People just didn’t get the information quickly,” he explains. “I started looking for something better after we had to cancel church one Saturday due to an ice storm. We let people know by email, but we never knew if they got it.”
When Davis looked into it, the emails weren’t seen for two, three — sometimes four — days. He would hear “Oh, I never saw that” a lot.
But with a text message, he says, they’re usually checking it within a few seconds. And, as Davis points out, even if they don’t respond, they usually see it before they see an email.
Here, he talks about the process and payoffs of embracing a new way of communicating.
How did you build the database of phone numbers to populate your notification technology platform?
Woody Davis: Honestly, I probably did it the hard way because I’m very detail-oriented. When we first started using One Call Now, I used our church directory to cross-check everyone’s cellphone numbers, emails and home phone numbers as I saw them at church. Even landlines were important to collect, since — if someone doesn’t have a cellphone — One Call Now will “read” them the text message on their home phone.
One day, I stood in the foyer and literally added the church as a contact (“Church Alert”) on everybody’s phone, then texted the word “alert” to that contact. From there, I could make sure they’re in our One Call Now database.
Now, as members join our church, they’re bringing me their phones and saying, “I hear you can put me on a text-messaging list.”
How difficult is it to keep that text-messaging database up to date?
Davis: It’s real simple; it’s in an Excel spreadsheet. I just type in the name and number, then click the group for which they want to receive texts.
I have one group that’s called Entire Membership. Then, I have Elders, Deacons, Deaconesses and Pathfinder (my youth group) and Pathfinder Staff.
I save that information and import it into One Call Now.
“Now, as members join our church, they’re bringing me their phones and saying, ‘I hear you can put me on a text-messaging list.'” — Woody Davis
Compared to email, how much time do you save every week using notification technology?
Davis: Oh, a ton, because I can do it from my cellphone if the pastor or anybody calls me up and says, “Hey, can you send out a text for me?” I might cut down what they send me, or reword it — depending on how many characters I can use — and then I send it out en masse. Done.
In the past week, how many times have you used notification technology? For what purposes?
Davis: In a normal week, I use it for my youth group the most — probably four to six texts per week.
I also send two to three texts a week to the entire membership.