Share this article with a friend! 

Which is better: Text messaging or push notifications?

Uno the sheep playing a trumpet

It may be tempting to believe that text messages and push notifications (i.e. a popup message from a mobile app) are similarly effective when it comes to church communications. But in practice, not only are they very different, but one is far superior to the other. Here’s the breakdown of text messaging vs. push notifications

Text Messages


  • You first need the person’s cell phone number.
  • It typically has a small cost associated with it (which is actually also a huge hidden benefit. I explain more below).


  • 99% open rate.
  • 90% are opened within 3 minutes of sending.
  • Simple to use (for both sender and receiver).
  • Established technology (everybody already knows how and has capability to do it).
  • Is direct to the person (no middleman).
  • Can be used from any tool (is platform-independent).
  • Most people’s cell phone number never changes. Once you have it, you have a direct way to reach them for a loooonnng time. It’s the most important and powerful contact info to get from your members, period.
  • It’s two-way, making it easy to have conversations and get quick feedback.
  • They work even if the person doesn’t have a data connection to their phone.

Push Notifications

(i.e. a popup notification from a mobile app on the person’s phone)


  • Person has to first download the app (only 5-20% of a church community typically downloads their app).
  • Once downloaded, the person must turn on push notifications for that particular app.
  • Only 50% of those who download it will enable push notifications (this number drops dramatically in the 35+ demographic).
  • This means, even being optimistic, if you have 1000 members, maybe 200 download your app. Of those, maybe 100 will enable push notifications. Meaning you can only reach about 10% of your folks.
  • When people get new phones, they may have to download your app again and enable push notifications again. Many won’t.
  • Has a middleman (the app store/platform) who could decide at any moment they don’t like you and then prevent you from using the channel any longer.
  • Only works if/when a person has an active data connection to their phone.


  • Free to send (once you pay for the app, of course. And this “free” is actually also a negative, see below).
  • Similar open rate as text messages (but only for those who actually download, turn on, and keep on push notifications)

The Winner

It’s not hard to see that, while mobile apps and push notifications have been an interesting novelty and experiment within church communications, they are currently nowhere near as effective as a text message. A church will reach and engage 5-10x as many of their members via text message than they will via push notifications, and with far less work. And that’s why Flocknote has continued to so heavily develop and emphasize text messaging as a tool for ministries and churches.

Finally, one reason text messaging has remained the most superior communication channel, is actually partly because it has a small cost associated with using it. You’ll notice that every single free channel out there (whether it’s push notifications, any social media newsfeed, email, or whatever) eventually becomes so crowded with noise that they no longer work as well. One of the main reasons text messaging remains so effective after all this time is because of that small cost that the industry insists upon (which naturally suppresses spam and noise while encouraging mostly messages that tend to really be worth somebody’s time).

The most affordable texting in the world

Yet despite the small cost, Flocknote still manages to be among the most affordable texting options in the world (quickly paying for itself). We know how helpful and powerful texting can be for churches and ministries, we see it every day. So we’ve done everything we can to keep costs as low as possible so that it remains a plausible option for churches and ministries.

P.S. It’s worth noting, however, that among free channels, email still remains unique because it’s the most direct, unchanging, important free channel that has been established as the key to just about every other online interaction (paying bills, signing up for any other service, accessing banking, personal long form messages, etc.). But, of course, because it’s generally “free,” it also struggles with noise and spam, which is why email open rates ”while better than just about any other channel besides text messaging” still end up around 30-50% for most church email lists. Again, still better than just about any other channel. But it’s because text messaging and email still end up as the most effective channels for churches that Flocknote continues to invest in helping you do them better.