« July 2008 Archives »


Christian SMS Spam?

7 July, 2008 3:33 PM

A few weeks ago I started receiving SMS text messages from an unidentified phone number urging me to pray for different 'issues' in Australia.

  • The first was to pray 'against' polygamy (there was a news story that day that a small group of Muslims wanted the laws changed to allow it).
  • The second was a call to pray 'against' an 'axe murdering spirit' that had come to Australia and that had last visited us in the 1800's.

OK - so the messages were a little 'odd' but I ignored them. I've got nothing against prayer and while I probably spend a little more time praying 'for' situations than 'against' them (a whole other discussion) I just put it in the 'quirky basket'.

A few days ago I got another message from the same number welcoming me to 'PrayerForce 1 Prayer Ministries'). Their goal is to 'take Australia for Christ'.

I replied asking who was behind this new 'ministry' and how they got my number. They refused to do so but said that they are a group of 'christians prayer warriors' who have gathered numbers from a variety of personal contacts, phone books, internet and church denominations.

My ensuing 'conversation' of messages with the nameless 'Prayerforce 1 Prayer Ministries' representative was frustrating at the least.

I attempted to communicate that I felt unsolicited and anonymous SMS messages were perhaps not the best way to promote their organization. To me they come across as spammy and border on being illegal (here in Australia organizations generally have to ask you for permission before they send emails or SMS marketing messages).

The response to this was a little disturbing but also slightly amusing - they said that they would 'treat ur church as illegal & spammy' and they threatened that as they had been around for 20 years that they could 'nform the people 2b wary of u'.

From what I can tell they've either got my number from an old Baptist Union contact list or perhaps from an old White Pages telephone book. I think I've managed to get off their list for future SMS's but the whole deal has left me feeling quite frustrated and annoyed.

So How Would I Promote a Ministry

I was going to leave this post at that - but perhaps I would not be taking my own blogging advice. I have written many times about how when you critique others that perhaps it'd be more effective if you also proposed some constructive ideas. Let me turn my attention to how I'd advise Prayerforce 1 to promote themselves more effectively. Here's two ideas that come to mind.

1. Permission Based Marketing - I think SMS is a potentially very effective way to run a prayer type ministry. It's a fast and effective medium to get messages out there to large numbers of people. However I'd strongly recommend that they get permission before sending these messages. My understanding of the law is that it is actually the law to do so. I run numerous email lists and am required to have people confirm their subscription twice before I send emails - this is as a protection against spam.

2. Be Personal and Identifiable - A personal name and tone in writing and communication goes a long way. The fact that Prayerforce 1 refuses to tell me who they are (ie who their leaders are) leaves them looking a little suspicious. I'm sure they are great people but this approach simply leaves me feeling wary from the get go. Personal introductions and names would help a lot.