In church communications, we are often like Elijah-we expect God to speak through the thunder and storm. But what God often uses is similar to how he ultimately spoke to Elijah—through a still small voice.
The place of connection cards and prayer request cards in your church communication ministry is similar. They appear tiny and unimportant in the great scheme of multi-media communications available, but if you don't use them correctly, your church will probably not connect with visitors as well as you could if you used them.
Yes, there are lots of things churches do and communications churches create that connect with visitors, but helpful as most of them are, they fall short in one area. Churches have visitor centers, visitor pads, friendly people but......
Their short-coming is that all of them require the person to reach out to you.
You can't reach out to many visitors because you won't even know they are there. The ability for people to reach back to you, to share their contact information, their needs and questions is the function of connection cards. The book Connection Cards, connect with visitors, grow your church, pastor your people goes into detail on how to make the most of these essential ministry tool, but this article will give you a good starting overview of their usefulness.
The purpose of these connection and prayer request cards
We don't create these cards to wow people with great graphic design or to give something for kids to scribble on during the church service. They are created to make a connection and connecting people to God and each other is what the church is all about. We must keep this importance in mind, because having people fill out connection cards is often viewed as an unnecessary interruption to the Sunday morning service and recording and dealing with them is often a bother on Monday. In contrast to these attitudes, if used properly, connection cards and prayer request cards can:
- have a HUGE impact on growing your church
- connect people to the life of your church
- care for and address spiritual needs in practical ways
- and help your people grow to spiritual maturity
You must move past looking at these cards as merely ministry routine paperwork and see them as essential tools to grow your church and change lives, if you are to make the most of them.
Why this is so important
If you don't initially connect with visitors or continue to connect with your people, nothing else your church does will have any impact on them. You can have the greatest follow-up program, a life-changing discipleship system, small groups that meet every need, but if a visitor quietly slips in and out and no connection is made, no program you have will touch them.
The feedback you get from these cards is equally important for your congregation. If your people come to church week after week and don't know how to share their hurts; if they want to be part of a ministry but don't know how to connect, if your church needs volunteers and doesn't seem to be getting responses—your church can stall in its growth and your people won't mature in their faith. Connection cards, when used effectively, will solve these problems.
People come to our churches every week-but tragically, depending upon which studies you look at, between 70-90% do not return
Often we don't even know they were there. The pastor or membership committee can't respond to a visitor, tell them about the church, or invite them to an informational event or Bible Study unless they give us contact information. The connection or prayer request card is the primary way to get this information during the church service.
The connection card is also a vital link between the ministries the church has to offer and the people needing them. In addition to the connection with visitors, current church members may be involved in a difficult life situation, but they may not know who to call or how to share their burden. The pastoral staff may be unavailable or occupied with another personal crisis after the service. The member may not know who else to talk to and a critical personal need may remain unmet. The connection card can offer a way to communicate the need or a prayer request to the staff or prayer team outside of the Sunday morning service.
Why they work so well
No matter how secular, cynical, or post-modern our society is today, when a tragedy strikes, either community-wide or personal, people go to church. And in every survey taken over 90% of people say they pray. Sometimes they don't even know why they picked a particular church. Often they don't know what to do when they get there-do they introduce themselves to someone? Who do they go to for questions? Who can provide help? They may have no idea what to do once there to get needs met or questions answered.
But if they are intentionally given a card, asked to give feedback and to share a prayer request,often they will.
Some tips on how to make the most of connection cards
Take time in each service to make people aware of them. This means making certain people are sitting down when you announce them and that they have something to write with. It means that the pastor or worship leader specifically have people pull them out, look at them while the speaker emphasizes how important they are for the church to get to know visitors and respond to questions and needs.
Give people time to fill them out: play a few bars of music, have the worship group or choir sing a song. The point is to give people a quiet moment (and 60 seconds is plenty of time) to actually write something down without other things going on. ***This will be the hardest thing for you to do. Everything inside you will scream that you don't have enough time, that it's a waste of time. IGNORE THOSE VOICES. If you don't give people time to do this, unless they are frequent attenders who want to share a prayer request (and there is nothing wrong with that and they are important), people, especially visitors, probably won't take time to fill out the cards. You will miss the opportunity to connect.
In addition, time it. It usually takes about 60 seconds, if that, to give people all the time they need to fill it the card with basic information. In reality, you have the time.
Take them up with the offering: You will get the largest response if you do this. To ask people to take them to a welcome center, to ask them to put them into a box at the back, or to take them up at any other time will not give you as complete a response as you will get if you take them up with the offering. Also, this gives guests something to put in as the plate is passed and that is an incentive to turn in their card.
Be sure you follow-up immediately and appropriately: Don't put connection cards in a pile on the back of someone's desk to be handled when there is nothing else to do. It is vitally important to screen them, to respond to immediate needs, to record attendance and new and ongoing prayer requests. These connection cards are a vital connection not only to your visitors but to your congregation as a whole. To not respond when someone reaches out to you via a connection card is just as if someone reached our their hand for you to shake and you looked away.
We never know the courage it might have taken to fill out that card, or the pain behind a shared request. Treat them as an important treasure; people are sharing their hearts and lives with you. Don't disappoint people by promising you care and want people to connect and be involved and then not respond when they reach out to you.
Connection cards may seem like a small ministry tool, but as the Lord often does, they are a little thing that can be used to accomplish great things.
The excerpt above is from the book below: Church Connection Cards, connect with visitors, grow your church, pastor your people, little cards, big results!
What’s the second best way to get the cards back — for a church that does not take up an offering?
Hannah Myers says
We have “Bulletin Recycling” boxes at the doors each week for people to drop the covers (to be reused) and anything else in to be recycled. MANY people fill out the cards and drop them in here…just another way to collect them!