Brevity. It’s one of the most persistent challenges of text messaging. And when you use SMS for ministry, the challenge of brevity becomes even more daunting. Mobile phone users have developed a sort of shorthand to overcome the 160-character limit in personal text messages (“LOL u r gr8 @ shrt txts”).

Unfortunately this approach isn’t appropriate for ministry. Luckily there are a few language tricks that can keep your messages within the limits of a normal SMS while maintaining your credibility as a church.

Here are five for you to experiment with:

1) Lead with the call to action – Traditionally the call to action is placed at the end or to the side of a document, allowing people to review information before urging them to make a final decision. But with little space to spare, you can often only communicate what’s essential: your call to action. Feel free to send single messages that are just calls to action: (i.e. “Pastor Dave will be preaching on love this weekend. Don’t miss first sermon in series!”). The brevity can also create the effect of urgency, hopefully encouraging more members to act on your call to action.

man texting2) Just the factsSMS ministry marketing isn’t the place for introductions or details. When you only have two sentences (max) to work with, you can only give your members the bare bones of your message. Don’t worry about sounding rude; text users are used to that tone. Much like the first point, the terseness can create a sense of urgency that should hopefully spark more action.

3) Read news headlines – Your messages don’t have to sound like breaking news from The Daily Herald but newspaper headlines have made conciseness an art form. Take a look at headlines and photo cutlines and note which common words (typically extra articles and pronouns) are excluded. Headlines also make great use of descriptive adjectives and action verbs, creating a picture in the fewest words possible.

4) Use links – Have a message that is so important that you can’t risk abbreviating it? Place it somewhere else on the internet and text a link to the message. Maybe in the strictest sense of the word it could be considered “cheating,” but we promise we won’t judge.

TextMarks Square5) Reread, reread, reread – When you read something to yourself over and over again—be it a novel or a text message—you instinctively think of ways to make the writing shorter and more concise. Maybe it’s because the mind gets tired of reading the same words; maybe the extra time allows for more sparks of inspiration. But spending a few more minutes with your messages before sending them or scheduling can be all it takes to turn 170 characters into 140.

No symbols, no dropped vowels, no abbreviations, no “textspeak.” Conciseness in SMS messaging is usually a simple matter of cleaning the clutter from your messages. Try all these tips to see which ones work best for you.

[Editor’s Note: TextMarks is a new CTT site sponsor and offers churches and ministry valuable SMS messaging solutions.]