I have been asked several times recently about incorporating text messaging and twitter comments into church events. Audience participation can be fun and it can provide a way to get feedback during an event or service. Here are several services that I am familiar with that use text messaging and twitter.
This is a new free service that lets you share notes, Bible passages, prayer requests and polls for anyone using a web-enabled mobile device. I’ll share a little about this service in a future post, but this is an awesome way to interact with your congregation. The only drawback is that it does require a web-enabled phone or ipod to use.
This is a text messaging service that lets you take real time polls of your audience. You can embed the results in a powerpoint file or just view the website in full screen mode to see the results as they come in. We have used this several times with good results for youth and for some of our special services. Your audience can send in their answers through SMS text messaging, through the web, or through twitter.
This is another text messaging service that many churches have used. It is powerful and easy to configure. They also do custom work for clients
This has been used at the Catalyst Conference and is a great way to create interaction with the audience using twitter. Paratweet offers powerful moderation features as well to keep unwanted comments from showing up.
Wiffiti is like a whiteboard that shows incoming messages. It can be embedded in a website and you can customize the background images. This is a very graphical solution that would be great to share prayer requests for a large group. I think it works best for a younger audience, but I really like the potential. There are several moderation options and the best part is that it’s free! (thanks to studentministry.org for introducing this service to me)
Now for the disclaimer, just because the tools are available to interact with audience doesn’t mean that you should use them. Technology is a tool that can help connect us or it can become a distraction that divides us. You will need to think through the appropriate use of these services. Some of the free versions lack the ability to moderate the comments, so you can very easily end up with something inappropriate on the screen. You also have to take into account how much time you will have to devote to explaining the use of these services. Unless you are dealing with teens or a tech-savvy crowd, you will have to walk people through how to use each service.