6 Reasons Why Email Beats Social Media for Church Communications

I’ve heard too many people say that “email is dead.” They celebrate the early results of every hot up-and-coming social network. People get taken in by the vanity numbers of these networks and lose focus on their most important digital communication tool. Email continues to outperform social media because of its ability to connect and engage with people. Here are just a handful of reasons why email beats social media for church communications:

  • Numbers Don’t Lie // There are 3 times as many active email accounts in the world than Facebook and Twitter accounts combined. In fact, all the messages on Facebook and Twitter make up just 0.2% of the number of emails sent each day (and that’s not including spam messages!). People are more likely to have an email account and send/receive way more messages through email than social media. [ref]
  • More Personal // When was the last time you were on a social network and said, “Email me about this”? Why did you do that? When you want to move the conversation to a deeper level, you do it via email. If you were going to reach out to a lawyer or a banker electronically about an issue, what would you reflexively use: Email or social media? You want to be where people are having their most personal conversations … their email inboxes, not their private messages on Facebook!
  • More Responsive // There are a number of studies that show customer acquisition is growing by leaps and bounds via email. I read a study that shows it has quadrupled in the last 2 years! [ref] Businesses are finding email an increasingly effective channel to motivate customers. As church leaders, we need to watch these trends and apply them to what we’re doing. Email is what businesses use when they want to move potential clients to loyal customers. We need to use it to move people to action in our ministries.
  • It’s the Digital Hub // Even the most “social” of the social networks tie their strategies to emails. When someone posts something on your Facebook wall, you get an email. When someone “favorites” a post on Twitter, you get an email. When someone comments on your YouTube video, you get an email. Why is that? Because social networks know regular contact with people via email is what drives long-term engagement.
  • You Own Your Email List // Friendster died: How valuable was the list of people on there? MySpace went away: Does it matter how many fans you had on it now? Facebook made changes and the value of your list went way down. [I wrote about the changes at Facebook before.] Instead of investing in building your “fans and followers” on those networks, invest in building your email list. You will always be able to send email to these people. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to connect with the people on those social networks, as they change or become defunct in the future.
  • Extended Conversations // Social media networks tend toward short, viral hits as the sign of success, such as a “gotcha tweet” that gets RT’d hundreds of times or a 2-minute video with millions of hits. Discipleship is about an extended conversation with people, not a quick hit. You can string together a conversation over a series of emails. Social media needs to hit immediately to have impact. Email is a conversational medium that favors what we are attempting to do in the local church.

Now, don’t get me wrong … I’m still a fan of social media. I think a well-executed plan on these networks can help your church push its mission forward. But you need to start with a robust email strategy first. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

14 Fast Facts about Email as a Communications Tool

  • 44% of email recipients made at least 1 purchase last year because of a promotional email. (Convince & Convert)
  • 33% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. (Convince & Convert)
  • Subject lines fewer than 10 characters long had an open rate of 58%. (Adestra)
  • Personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened. (Adestra)
  • 64% of people say they open an email because of the subject line. (Chadwick Martin Bailey)
  • 7 in 10 people say they made use of a coupon or discount from a marketing email in the previous week. (Blue Kangaroo)
  • 56% of businesses say they plan to increase their use of email marketing in the next year. (The Small and Midsize Business Email Marketing Survey 2013)
  • 27% of consumers were more likely to say their favorite companies should invest in more email. (ExactTarget)
  • 1 in 2 marketers use animated gifs in their email campaigns. (Experian)
  • 40% of business-to-business marketers rated the leads generated by email marketing as high quality. (Software Advice)
  • For every $1 spent, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment. (Experian)
  • 82% of consumers open emails from companies. (Litmus)
  • 64% of decision-makers read their email via mobile devices. (TopRank)
  • By 2016, 4.3 billion people will have an email address. (The Radicati Group)


  1. I like your reminder that Facebook can disappear in a few years just like Friendster (what???) and MySpace (ancient) did. And before all of those was SixDegrees in the late 90s.

  2. Great post! It is easy to forget how important email is. It drives me nuts as a user but l, still, I use it. And, so does everyone else. Now, how about the really old tech, actual mail?

    1. Will!

      Thanks for dropping by… I’m a fan of direct mail. Mail is mostly bad news and bills… So when your church sends something it’s seen as super positive!


  3. Great article. My church had a leadership retreat this week, and one of our ministries wanted to know how to increase their open rate. Forwardint this to them!

    1. Thanks for dropping in Tyler!

      I don’t know about “ugly” … but “underwritten” emails and look like they were written directly to a person rather than a flyer seem to perform better!

      – Rich

  4. Hi Rich. Greatly appreciate the article here. However, for us here in Canada, a new legislation regarding Email lists has come into affect; whereby those in our email list need to be “opt-in” only. quite interesting days we are in.

  5. The last time I would’ve asked anyone to email me rather than PM me would’ve been…I’m thinking never, but maybe some time before FB Messenger supported attachments? Moot point now, though.

    I have no idea how you figure email is more personal. Yes, it’s used for interacting with business professionals (bankers & lawyers? shouldn’t that be phone? Real estate, though…), but that’s precisely what makes it LESS personal. Facebook is for personal messages. Email is for that boring grownup stuff I don’t want to deal with.

    I can contact all my friends by either Facebook or Twitter. I know email addresses for maybe a half dozen of them.

    “When someone does X on network Y you get an email. Why is that?”

    Because most people don’t know where the notification settings are to turn off the stupid ****ing annoying emails.

    And those stats you posted about sales and money are just weird. Churches aren’t (and certainly shouldn’t be!) selling products.

    1. Mackenzie … always great to have a hearty disagreement!

      My premise is the email is often overlooked … it’s still an incredibly powerful tool.

      As for not “selling products” … I’m pretty sure we have the greatest message ever to spread and we should be using whatever tools we can do to so!

      – Rich

  6. Great post and reminder overall. I agree, and you can always hear me saying, ” Email is still the killer app.”

    But to be nit-picky about it, emails > social media sometimes, not always.

    I think it really depends on the actual specific objective, environment, etc.

    What am I talking about? For example: Especially at public events and when you’re communicating real time updates (think conferences, VBS, retreats, etc) twitter and/or texting (or getting people to subscribe to your twitter account via texting (without a need for a Twitter account)) is the clear winner.

    Or when you’re distributing reference documents, doing so over a Facebook Group is probably more efficient, universally available, and more collaborative.

    Your case is definitely on-point. Just don’t want everyone reading this post to drop the case for social in one fell swoop (since you’re so convincing Rich!).

    And I believe things like Facebook Live will mature to the point where we tune in for broadcasts (kind of like webinars, but better). Something that email can’t ever accomplish (but probably good for notifying, reminding, etc!).

    Lastly, I might offer that direct messaging on social platforms might outperform email for certain demographics and groups. Since people are on FB or Twitter or Insta or SnapChat more than they are on email, reaching them where they’re already on, is probably more effective. The issue on the publishing side is the efficiency of being able to bulk-direct-message through these platforms.

    Hope this adds some color to the conversation you’ve started, Rich. Great stuff!

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.