One of the biggest frustrations for pastors & church leadership is when people visit and we don't have any information on them. What had been promising as a first-time visit may not materialize into a ministry opportunity because, like Cinderella's glass slipper, we may not even have caught their name.
We all have them. They're the cards in the pew/chair. And when we get frustrated at not getting information from people, we're so quick to say "The cards! they didn't fill out the card!"
Maybe they didn't. And maybe there's a reason they didn't. Let's think about 3 questions on why no one is filling out your visitor cards.
1) Do they even know about the card? - It's so easy to fall into the Christianese customs where we talk among ourselves about things only we know about. When someone is a guest to our church, they're not familiar with our culture, lingo, and where the bathrooms are. When a guest sits down, they may not even be aware of the cards in front of them. Or if they see it, that they're supposed to fill something out. That's why we need to communicate it to them that the cards are there and that we'd love for them to fill it out. You can do that by
-Announcing it from the platform during announcements or welcome
-Personally invite someone to fill one out
If your greeters are doing their job, not only will they be a friendly face and an extension of your church's desire for guests, they'll take the next step of encouraging them to fill out a guest card. Follow that up with reminders from the platform. Our music minister holds up a copy of our card so people can not only hear it but see it.
2) Do they know what to do with the card? - So you've gotten a guest to fill out the card. Now what. They need to know what to do with the card. Maybe your offering is over and there's not a way for them to put it in the plate or basket. Again, we cannot overemphasize the importance of communicating processes to those who are unfamiliar. As your cards are handed out or emphasized, give the next step. And include multiple options for the next step. Here are some ways to take the next step, and make sure people know they have a way they can leave their card.
-Put in the offering plate/basket
-Hand to a staff member or volunteer (hint - this is why name tags or signage are important!)
-Leave in the seat
-Direct to a designated Visitor Center (if your church does a goodie bag for visitors you can swap the bag for their card)
However you do it, make sure it's communicated.
3) Are your cards stocked neatly? - You need to make sure that your cards are adequately stocked with pens/pencils to use. No one is going to fill out a card that's not there. Nor are they going to fill out a card without a way to write. Beyond making sure it's stocked, we have to double check to make sure it's neat. If your seat backs are stuffed full of gum wrappers (double bad if the chewed gum is in the wrapper), crumbled grocery lists, or other trash, it's not a good first impression on a guest. Details matter in our impressions on guests. Likewise, are you throwing out cards that have been used as a kids doodle sheet or a scribble pad? It's a small thing, but what we communicate to our guests is often more unsaid than said.
What has your church been able to do that has helped you in getting contact information for follow up?
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Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.