How to Build a Phone Tree

Phone tree diagram

Having a church directory at your fingertips is a good way to communicate to a group of people. But how can you share sensitive information with your entire congregation without making potentially hundreds of calls — one for each member or family?

Setting up a phone tree may be a great alternative. A phone tree is a pre-determined system for informing a group of people by telephone. The phone-tree system can help you spread messages quickly and effectively to a large group of people. Using a custom page in your church directory can give you a plan to reach all your members discreetly, but effectively.

The implementation of a phone tree can serve multiple purposes. You can:

  • Quickly mobilize members to sensitive or urgent situations such as prayer requests or last-minute schedule changes.
  • Notify members of meetings and other important events where attendance may be crucial.
  • Make follow-up calls to event invitations to increase turnout.

You’ll need to think through a few details before you decide that a phone tree is a good tool for your church.

What resources do I need to create a phone tree?

  1. People – A coordinator and a pool of members in your church who are reliable and who can form the infrastructure of the tree
  2. Time – The time the coordinator will spend recruiting and training participants; creating, documenting and distributing the tree 

How do I set up a phone tree?

First, start with determining who will coordinate your phone tree. The person in this role will make a list of all members to reach via the tree system. Be sure to include all the applicable phone numbers that each member may have — mobile, home and work.

Next, the coordinator will determine from the large list, a smaller group of people who would be responsible for calling and alerting other members. For discussion purposes, this smaller group could be called key group leaders.

The key group leaders should be comprised of members that are reliable and receptive to the responsibility of calling members within their group. The importance and significance of completing calls to their assigned member contacts should be communicated clearly up front by the coordinator.

The coordinator would be responsible for assigning member contacts to each key group leader. The coordinator also would create an initial script so that key group leaders know the exact information to convey to their assigned contacts.

Be sure to create a document — much like an organizational tree — that captures all the information. Place the coordinator at the top, then, in the next level below, show your key group leaders. Below each key group leader, list all the member contacts assigned to that key group leader. Be sure to keep this document handy and updated when members move, or when anyone’s contact information changes.

Test the phone tree.

Once you have your people, information and document finalized, test the tree. The coordinator will make calls to the key group leaders to provide the script and the time frame for completing calls. Then, the coordinator can call other member contacts to confirm they received the test message as expected.

You can add as many layers in your tree as you need, depending on the size of your congregation and, if you wish, have a person call no more than 3-4 individuals. But the point is to share the responsibility to keep your entire congregation up to date on matters when discretion and urgency are of the utmost importance.

Including your phone tree document as a custom page in your church directory is a wonderful addition to strengthen the sense of community. This will provide your members with awareness of who will be reaching out to them to relay important messages about their church family.

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Author Bio:

Donna Hammond

Donna Hammond is the marketing production manager for Instant Church Directory. She and her husband John, live outside Nashville, TN. She enjoys cooking, traveling and spoiling her dog, Lexy.

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