Big Ideas & 'Best Of'

Reach Your Campus in 160 Characters

OK.  Who besides me has seriously struggled with trying to stay connected with your students?  C’mon, admit it!  There we go!  I see that hand…I see that hand too!  LOL!  In all honesty, having to figure out the best communication techniques for my college campus has been like attempting to slay a dragon with a dull, short sword…I’ve gotten the job done sometimes, but it sure was messy and it certainly wasn’t easy whatsoever.

So, what?  How?  Surely there must be an easier, more consistent way to communicate not only with our current students that are involved in our ministries, but with as many students as possible.  If we’re honest, everyone one of us thought that at one time, email was going to be the ‘cure all to end all’ when it came to communication.  Man, were we wrong.

We’ve all jumped on the ‘My Space’ ship.  Talk about The Titanic!  LOL!  And right now every single one of us are on Facebook and most of us are on Twitter.  But let’s be honest, they still have gaps in the system.  They don’t connect with every one of our students!  There has to be a common denominator, and the sooner we find it, the deeper into our campus communities we will go.

The common denominator that I have found, is texting.  Every single one of my students, and almost 100% of all of the students on my campus have a cell phone.  And the overwhelming majority of them have unlimited texting.  And I’m not talking about having a smart phone with all the bells and whistles.  I’m referring to plain and simple texting.  160 characters.  Boom!  Now, we have a foundation to build on!

A text gets to the students immediately, without them ever having to ‘log in’! So when I have an announcement, looking for prayer requests, etc, I simply send a text!  Such a shame though that since I have almost 150 students involved in the campus ministry that I have to send out almost 150 texts to get the word out.  Talk about time consuming!

Ever feel that way?

There IS a solution!  It’s called Group Texting!  Now sure, some of you have the capabilities of setting up group messages on your smart phones…but there’s a limit!  And there are plenty of web sites offering this type of service…but there’s a price!  I’ve found a way to Group Text…without any limitations on contacts…FREE!  And yes, I did say FREE!  And I do my Group Texting from my laptop!

I use Gmail. Super simple.  And did I mention it’s Free!

Here’s how it works.  The account is actually set up as an email account.  Our user name is connected to our ministry, so our students know who is sending them the message.  Next, I ask my students for their cell phone number and their cell phone provider (IE:  Verizon, Sprint, etc).  Each cell phone provider has an SMS Code that is attached to the cell numbers.  For example, if you have Verizon as your provider, then the SMS Code for your phone is “” or “”. Now all I have to do is add this information into my address book.

Here is where the fun comes in!  When using Gmail, you have the opportunity to set up ‘Groups’.  I had to determine what ‘groups’ I wanted, then all I had to do was add the students into the specific groups.  Here are some examples of the groups that I use:

  1. Core Group
  2. Sometime Attenders
  3. Leaders
  4. Praise Team
  5. Freshmen Class 2011
  6. GUYS Only
  7. GIRLS Only

Now all I have to do is send a message to a specific group and everyone in the group receives the same message at the same time!  And all I had to do was type it once!  Yes, it looks like I’m typing out a typical email, but in reality I’m typing a text.  And I have 2 type my msg so that it looks like a txt.  Remember, I only have 160 characters!

When the students reply back, you receive it in the form of an email.  Imagine sending out a group text to everyone asking for prayer requests, then watching as the replies come back in.  Talk about an instant prayer list!

On my campus, this works and works well!  And I can guarantee it will work on your campus!  If you would like to know more about this, or would like to get this set up for your campus, let me know!  I would love to help you!  This has saved me SO MUCH TIME it’s unbelievable!  If you get this up and running on your campus, please let me know!  Love to hear about it!

Good Luck!  Texting is here to stay.  All we have to do is make it work for us!




  • I’ve used emails for individual texts, but never for a group. This is *brilliant*–thank you!

    • Jim Whaley

      Appreciate the kind words!  It works extremely well for us!  If I can help you or if you have any questions, give me a shout! Good Luck!

  • Great stuff, Jim. Have you done anything with text subscription services? You know, have your students text “H2O” to 12345 to opt in to receiving texts? I’m not exactly sure how to set it up, but it might save time over hand entering phone numbers into gmail.

    • Jim Whaley

      Thanks Anderson!  I have looked at the subscription services…nice idea for sure!  There is a fee for most of them however.  As far as the time element, this really hasn’t been a problem thus far, that’s one of the things we use our student leaders take care of also!

  • Lee Floyd

    Great post – anyone know of an easy way to discover the texting code for different service provider?

    • Jim Whaley

      Lee, give me your email, and I’ll send you my master list!  I got u covered!


      • Ahedger

        my email is can i get that master list so we can use it as well?

      • Lee Floyd

        THANKS Jim!!! lmfloyd1218 at

  • Love the idea. Google must’ve changed some group setting then…I checked about a year ago and the size of groups was limited. We’ve just set up a free service that looks great at

    • Jim Whaley

      Thanks Matt!  I’m not sure about the setting changes in Google.  We’ve used this for 3 years now, and haven’t had a problem! It’s just super simple for us!

  • Paul Worcester

    Great post Jim! If you have a IPhone there is a great app called “Group text” that you simply create a list and fire a text of any length to an unlimited amount of people. Our staff use it with the hundreds of contacts we get on campus and it works great. You can search for it in the app store. It is only about $3 and has saved me hours of time. I also use group text for a text message “Prayer Team” with over 70 of our ministry partners and friends. They provide powerful prayer support as we share the gospel on campus and celebrate with us when students come to faith! If you are in college ministry and you are not texting regularly you are missing out on the primary what students communicate.

    •  Nice. Thanks for the tip. I like the ability to send a group text from a phone…and not limited to having to write an email.

  • Thanks, Jim – amen to the gratitude for the groups tip. I’m always relieved to get a student’s number, because I know they’ll actually see those messages. 🙂

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