Do you ask guests to fill out a connection card in your church service?

Growing up in the church, we always had those little cards in the pews or seat-backs. I remember because I spent time in every service making little paper airplanes and passing notes written on the cards.

After graduating from paper airplane manufacturing, while visiting some other churches, I noticed they too had a similar card in their seat-backs. I filled them out occasionally. In most cases, I never heard from the church. In some cases, I heard too frequently.

At Watermarke Church where I lead, we do not ask guests to complete a card or provide us with any information. We do offer a gift at our information tables and specifically welcome guests at the top of our service, but we never ask for anything in return. We don’t publicly recognize them or ask that they identify themselves. For what it’s worth, here are a few reasons we don’t ask guests to complete cards:

1. We allow guests to remain anonymous…

… until they are ready to be known. We have many first-time guests areas complete with information and a gift around our church, but we always allow a guest to self-identify rather than be identified. Our vision is to create a church unchurched people love to attend, and in doing so, we’ve learned that most unchurched people who visit our church want to come and see before they come and are known. In the end, allowing for anonymity allows guests to be more comfortable.

I know, a guest could remain anonymous simply by refusing to complete the card, but even the presence of the card sends a message I’m not convinced is healthy for a first-time, unchurched guest.

2. We only ask for things we will effectively use.

A few times a year we conduct a survey in our services. The data we get back it invaluable in helping us evaluated our success against our mission and vision. At times we ask for volunteers and include a sign-up form in the bulletin, but again, this is specific and used effectively.

But with a first-time guest card, I believe we would end up collecting information that we would not use OR even worse, would annoy people as it was used. We desire our services to be so engaging and helpful that a guest will choose to return on their own – no church invitation required.

3. We ask guests to contact us first.

Maybe this is backwards, but in our context, it has worked very well. Rather than send guests all sorts of information and invitations, we have decided to allow guests to ask for what they want. At our information tables, guests can pick up information on all our family and adult environments – if they want. If they have a specific question, our well-trainied Guest Services teams can usually answer on the spot. If not, they have an iPad with them so they can email a staff member in the moment. Guests get only the information they want, and they ask first.

4. We rely on established relationships.

Most every person or family who attends our church for the first time comes with a friend, neighbor, family member, or co-worker. It is rare that a person or family shows up off the street. The relationship between the guest and their friend is an established, powerful connection that is significantly stronger than the guest and the church they just attended. This is a relationship worth leveraging over the connection card any day.

If you use a first time guest card, how has it helped you? I’d love to know. Our strategy might not be right. Leave a comment below, and feel free to share this via email, Twitter, or Facebook so we can engage more people.


Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • David says:

    100% correct? That’s a bit much. At our church (outside of Tampa) our entire congregation fills out a connection card so we simply ask our guest at the top of the service to join in this process. We invite guests to give us only the information they fill comfortable providing and encourage them to indicate any additional information they want to hear about. We have great response to this process and we feel, that once someone makes the effort to attend, they are in fact giving us permission to reach out to them. For us, the card is a part of our culture and a key step in moving people through our assimilation process.

    • Gavin Adams says:

      David, that could be true. Or it could just be true in your situation.

      Here’s what we have learned in our church. People who are skeptical of God and church WILL attend our church (74% of guest consider themselves unchurched). And these same people do not want to be contacted unless they request a contact.

      By asking everyone to fill out a card and providing an exemption for them can make the guests feel like an outsider 5 minutes into the service. For us, it’s just not worth the poor experience (even if it’s only mental) it can create.

      But I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for commenting.

  • Lee Taylor says:

    We have connection cards and info tables. I think it makes it easier for people to connect. It’s right there in their hand. They can remain anonymous if they want. When they are ready, they can just fill out a card and not have to find an info table or wait in line with their kids.

    What is the difference between informing your visitors about your info table versus a connection card?

    • Gavin Adams says:

      Lee, I understand why you provide the cards at the information table. That’s certainly a better solution than most.

      However, I would prefer a personal touch when a person is ready to learn more about our church OR take a next step. In fact, we frequently host a gathering after services called “NEXT” where we allow people to self-select to learn more and take a step to engage.

      Filling out a card is fine, I guess. But we just prefer when they decide to move out of anonymity to provide a personal touch in the moment. Luckily, we have enough volunteers and staff present at our information areas to keep lines at a minimum.

      But…I should also say, to be fair, people often use the “contact us” form on our site or email our general inbox with questions, etc. So that is, in a way, like a contact card.

  • John Coloe says:

    North Point Ministries approach to guests is 100% correct! Requesting that guests identify themselves, fill out and provide information cards, etc. can be uncomfortable, awkward, off-putting, intimidating. Use whatever word you like. It’s also ineffective in most cases.

    When guests are comfortable enough to identify themselves, they will. That’s where the information table, guest services and the “Next” session following services come in. And, again, North Point Ministries does this right.

    So blessed and ever grateful to call North Point my home church.

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