Graphic of a church with emails coming out of it.

Just CC’ing hundreds of people when your church service is cancelled is a recipe for getting your church email account flagged as suspicious, or even worse, cause your custom domain to get blacklisted. This is just one reason why your church needs an email marketing system.

I know, it sounds suspicious for a church to need an email marketing system. Keep in mind what the church’s mission is, and how a local church can leverage online tools to share the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection with their church members, neighbors, and community.

Let’s take a quick look at a few different email marketing systems for your local church, how to get started using them, and discover if they are a good fit for your church.

Email Systems for Churches

First, let me clarify a few necessary housekeeping items, starting with your church’s email system. If your church’s email address ends in @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, or @hotmail.com, then you do not have a church email system.

GIF of Kel from Good Burger blinking.

Unfortunately, until you purchase and register a custom domain, like yourchurchname.com, you will not be able to properly setup and use an email marketing or web platform for your church.

I can see the questions brewing in your mind right now, so let me try and address a few of them.

 

Why do I need a church email system before I setup a church email marketing service?

There are several reasons why. Let me mention 3 right now.

  1. The church email system will restrict sending bulk emails to external recipients.
  2. You’ll need to authorize a church marketing system to send emails on your behalf.
  3. Bulk “marketing” emails have to come from a trusted source.

Each of these reasons is technical and have to do with how email works and interacts through protocols like SMTP, DNS, SPF, DKIM, and many other acronyms.

 

Can’t I just CC (carbon copy) the whole church softball team?

Yes you can! However, to send emails to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people, you’ll need an email marketing service to send bulk emails.

 

Why do I need a custom domain to send bulk email?

The reason is because the CAN-SPAM Act forbids the sender from using false or misleading information. This includes your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address.

That means your email must be accurate and identify the organization who initiated the message. Having an @gmail.com or @yahoo.com email does not identify anyone, in fact anyone could forge an email address like communitychurchofanywhere@gmail.com.

 

Why do I need an email marketing service to send bulk email?

Sending bulk email is also a legislated activity that is governed by, you guessed it, the CAN-SPAM Act. The rules for sending bulk commercial messages requires recipients be given the right to have you stop emailing them.

 

Hopefully I answered a few of your questions. Let me take a few moments to share how your church can setup an email system using a custom domain.

 

What is a Church Email System?

When a church owns a custom domain, you can then move forward with setting up a church email system.

Here are a few options for church email systems that can be purchased at discounted prices for non-profits through TechSoup.

  • Microsoft 365 – An email platform and suite of tools that includes custom email (you@yourchurch.com), and online storage through OneDrive and SharePoint.
  • Google Workspace – An email platform and suite of tools for custom email, calendar, and online storage.
  • Fastmail – A smaller email platform that provides email, calendar, and contacts, however, does not come with other tools.

If your church already has an email system setup, you can now move into setting up an email marketing platform for your church.

Getting an email system setup will require some technical knowledge, and each of these services has support that can help you along the way. Otherwise, you’ll want to pay an IT person to help you get setup.

 

Email Marketing Services for Churches

There are 3 email marketing apps for churches that I recommend checking out. Each are unique in their approach, but all have their advantages and disadvantages.

 

Flocknote

Flocknote contains templates, free images, color options galore, and all of the customization power you need to create a professional email. You can even include polls, videos, event RSVPs, smart buttons, attachments, and more!

Screenshot of Flocknote's website.

I recommend them over other email marketing platform primarily because of their vision and mission of reaching your church members, and the community quickly and easily.

Flocknote also includes other benefits like texting (SMS) marketing, and a church management system, called Flocknote People, where you create signup forms and much more.

Advantages

  • Made for ministry, not just marketing.
  • Text messaging is built-in for those who may not have email.
  • Can schedule messages for later deliver delivery.

Disadvantages

  • Not integrated into 3rd party forms, ChMS, or CMS platforms.
  • Geared towards a Roman Catholic audience.
  • Less features than true email marketing platforms.

Learn more at flocknote.com.

 

Faithlife

Faithlife is a full-featured and complete church platform that consists of dozens of different services and apps all integrated into one web based system.

Screenshot of Faithlife's website.

Faithlife does allow you to connect your custom email domain to their messaging system, however, it requires contacting their support team to do so, which is unfortunate, in my opinion. However, once setup, you can send emails to you congregation and others.

Something to be aware of is there does not appear to be a method for people to subscribe and unsubscribe from an email list. This can put your organization at risk for being out of compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act. You’ll want to be careful, as you do not want your domain to get blacklisted.

Advantages

  • Built for churches and ministries.
  • Integration with other apps like Biblia, Proclaim, and Logos.
  • Some features are available on the free plan.

Disadvantages

  • Feels fragmented with so many different apps.
  • Full features only available under the Faithlife Equip plan.
  • Still unclear if it meets CAN-SPAM Act requirements.

Learn more at faithlife.com.

 

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is an email marking service that allows you to email hundreds or thousands of people at once. Mailchimp is free for under 2000 recipients and discounts are available for Non-profits.

Screenshot of Mailchimp's website.

The primary reason I recommend using Mailchimp is because it is free to use for under 2000 recipients. And secondary is because they are the largest platform, they have compatibility and integration with many other church management systems.

Advantages

  • Very popular email marketing system that integrates with everything.
  • Free to use for less than 2000 recipients.
  • Easy to use and adopt for any size church.

Disadvantages

  • Made for marketing, not churches.
  • Expensive for larger churches with lists of thousands.
  • There is a steep learning curve and will likely require help with setup.

Learn more at mailchimp.com.

 

How to Use Email Marketing Software or Your Church

There are lots of ways for a church to leverage your email marketing app. I am sure you can think of specific examples, but for now, here are 3 of the most common ways to use it for your church.

 

1) Event Notifications and Registrations

Sending notifications over email is a much better method for communicating upcoming events. Unlike social media, just about every age group uses email, and in order to sign up for a social media account, you need an email address.

According to SendGrid, Facebook posts only reach an average of 6.4% of your total followers. Email, however, boasts an impressive 18% global open rate, with 74% of people choosing email as their preferred communication method.

The point is that just posting your upcoming events on social media will not reach your target audience of church members, visitors, and people in the community. Using an email marketing platform will let everyone join, and leave, event announcements for your church.

You’ll also be able to provide a way for people to register to those events through your website when you send the link directly to your email list. Forget about people saying “Interested” or “Going” on Facebook, which doesn’t assure you of who is actually attending, who paid (if it’s necessary), or collect any registration information. 🤦🏽‍♂️

GIF of Facebook event choices.

2) Prayer Chain or Lists

Church prayer lists (sometimes called prayer chains) are a key ministry within the body of Christ. They are used for the purposes of letting others know the prayer needs of those who are asking for prayer. Much could be said about prayer lists both good and bad, but that’s not what I am here to discuss.

If your church has a prayer chain or list, allowing people to join or unsubscribe from it will help maintain the list and keep sensitive emails addressed to those who want to receive them.

It is much easier to maintain the list, and give multiple staff members the ability the send those prayer requests, when using a bulk email marketing platform like the ones mentioned above.

 

3) Newsletters and Announcements

Every church has regular announcements for things like service cancellations, ministry updates, and financial reports for church members.

Sending out regular announcements or a monthly newsletter through email to the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of subscribers is quite easy to do when you use an email marketing platform.

Last minute announcements like rescheduling or cancelling in-person services due to inclement weather making services only be available via livestream, are quickly done using email. Using a service like Flocknote, that same announcement can also be made through text message.

 

Closing

Email marketing for churches does not have to be cumbersome or difficult. Once you’re setup with the right tools, email is arguably one of the best ways to communicate with your congregation, and subscribers.