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.