Some weeks it seems like I deal with all kinds of solicitation call, e-mails, and junk mail. One Christian organization (whose name I won’t mention) keeps sending me e-mail even though I’ve requested 3 times to be taken off their list. Companies want to know my personal information, what I buy, and in the end usually try to peddle a product. When it comes to visiting a church, I hope that it will be different. I don’t want to feel like a church is pushing Jesus on me to meet some quota or gathering information just to fill their database; I want to know that I and my family are genuinely cared for.
Recently, I’ve been reading Yvon Prehn’s kindle book “Church Connection Cards” (currently free on Amazon), and I’ve been impressed with some of the things she’s had to say. Here are a few of the things she says not to do with connection cards:
Don’t use tear off pieces of paper—these usually are connected to a church bulletin and can be torn off and placed in the offering plate. The main problem is that few visitors want to make a lot of noise tearing off a response card. It automatically feels like you are causing a disturbance, and sometimes people turn around and look at you funny. Another problem is that some, such as those with arthritis, have trouble tearing the cards. A better idea is to have an insert in the church bulletin that people can fill out.
Don’t ask people to fill out a card and then not give them an opportunity to fill it out—This seems to be a common practice. Pastors will ask visitors, or even regular attendees, to fill out a card without a pause in the service to do so. This usually results in a person choosing not to fill out a card, or trying to decide which part of the service to ignore while filling out the card (a song, the sermon, etc.). Some churches have found it helpful to have a specific time in the service where everyone fills out the card together. The pastor might say something like this, “Please take out the connection card from your bulletin, and I’ll give you a couple of minutes to fill it out. If you are a regular attendee, don’t worry about giving us all of your contact information again. Also, any information you give us will be kept confidential and used only by the church staff.” The card might include categories of feedback about the sermon that week, prayer requests, or a place for questions. As the congregation fills out the card, the pastor or announcer fills one out up front too.
Don’t collect the cards before the sermon is heard—Most cards have boxes to check about the sermon or about important decisions people have made after hearing the sermon, yet it is amazing how many times cards are collected before people have a chance to even hear the message. If the cards are usually collected during the offering, consider taking up the offering after the message instead of before.
- Don’t collect the cards unless you intend to follow-up—Not following up with collected cards does more damage than good. It is essential to have a follow-up procedures in place which include who takes care of the information and who follows up with the cards. For example, if a new family comes to the church, make sure the Children’s Director is given their information. Prehn specifically recommends dividing the cards into three categories: red (requires immediate attention), yellow (requires a quick response to a need, but is not an emergency), and green (not as urgent; often reflects database updates such as a new address).
Whether a visitor is single, married with 6 kids, or anywhere in between, it pays to be intentional about how you interact with visitors and how you gather information.
(Also check out "Making Visitors Feel Welcome (Part 1)" and "Making Visitors Feel Welcome (Part 2)" or read more from Sarah Bowler at sarahbowler.com).