I recently received the following email (only slightly edited for privacy) with a practical ministry question about Connection Cards and how to avoid the time filling out the cards and collecting them more than an awkward break in the service. Following the email, I have some advice, but PLEASE add your comments and practices in the comment section that follows.
Question about Connection Cards
I have a question or two concerning having the whole congregation fill out connection cards during the service time. I know you believe this a very important part of the Sunday morning church service. I have read several church leaders that agree.
I am Director of Administration for our church and have approached our Senior Pastor about doing this. He has been the pastor for 25 years so he is a very experienced pastor. When I first mentioned us possibly doing this he said he could not imagine having a break in the service where pretty much everything comes to a standstill while hundreds of people fill out these cards. He said he would think it would be a real "flow" breaker if you know what I mean...however he cares more about doing what is best for the body of our church than not wanting to try something new. So, he is willing to give this a try but I have a couple of questions that I'd like to ask you so I will have more information to approach him with...
What would you estimate the time to be to complete these cards? Each service would have around 200 people in it....Would you estimate 2 or 3 minutes or something much shorter like 30 seconds?
Also, when other churches do this do they have something going on at the same time or does everything come to a standstill while they are being filled out?
Thanks so much for your question! These are very important concerns.
Before I answer directly about the time it takes, allow me to make some preliminary comments that will set the foundation for the practical application. In some ways this is the church communication equivalent of laying out the orthodoxy of belief as to why do the cards at all and their purpose in the ministry of the church before the orthopraxy of implementation.
A Biblical basis for Connection Cards
Connection Cards are an essential part of shepherding your flock, which is a primary command to who lead in the church:
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.
1 Peter 5:2
Serving as a shepherd requires many skills and great dependence on the Lord, but a foundation for all of our shepherding involves knowing the status of your flock.
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks;
give careful attention to your herds. Prov. 27:23
A theme throughout the prophets as God challenged his people to repent prior to the judgment of captivity, was that the spiritual leaders, the shepherds were not doing their job. Here is one description of this situation:
Israel’s watchmen are blind,
they all lack knowledge;
they are all mute dogs,
they cannot bark;
they lie around and dream,
they love to sleep. Isaiah 56:10
With hundreds of people in the average church service today, it is physically impossible for a pastor or even a group of leaders to personally meet with every visitor or to check with every member to see how they are doing. But with Connection Cards—when presented with genuine care and a desire to connect with visitors and to find out the prayer requests and concerns of everyone attending—far from being a break in the service, they become a tangible witness to the care and love of the church for the people.
With them, you can connect with visitors, find out about needs, be updated on prayer requests and notified of new ones.
Practical issues in collecting connection cards
Now that we've established a basis for the importance of the cards. As with anything else, the response of your people to anything in the service depends greatly on how it is presented by the worship leader. The book on Connection Cards has some extended advice but briefly, here is one idea:
At an early point in the worship service, the leader says something like this:
We want to welcome you to our service! We care about each and every one of you—if you are here for the first time or a long-time member. We care about your questions, your concerns, your needs. At this point in the service, we use our connection card to share that information. We'll play some music and while we are doing that, please take out the card and fill it out. I'm going to take a minute to write out my prayer requests for the week, as you write yours. Hold on to the card and if, at any time during the service if you have a question or comment, write it down. We'll collect them at the end of the service.
Then literally time it to see how long it takes to fill out the basic information you ask for on the card and to write a brief question or comment—much of that will depend on how complex you make the card. I will most likely take under a minute.
You can collect them shortly after this announcement if you collect the offering early in the service, however, another option will get a greater response. In the book I give a much longer explanation of this, but if possible and for the greatest impact, wait until the end of the service to take up the cards and the offering. Prior to the collection, say something like this:
After hearing the message today, if you have a question, a comment, a prayer request, if there is any way we can be of service to you in your search for God or Christian walk, we want to know about it. We'll be taking up the offering in a minute and if you are a visitor—we don't want any money from you—all we want is that connection card!
If you do what I've just suggested—be prepared! You will be amazed at how people pour out their hearts if you give them the time, opportunity, and encouragement to do this. In the book on Connection Cards, there is an entire chapter on how to be prepared for the response you will get. Preparation for a timely response is vital before you make any changes in how you use Connection Cards, because to encourage people to share and not to get a response is heart-breaking.
Finally, far from being an interruption or break in the flow of a service, when used intentionally, joyfully, and backed by prayer, the time encouraging people to fill out Connection Cards can be one of the most valuable shepherding experiences in your church.