None of us do the work we do in communications without great concern for how it actually impacts the people we want to reach. That's why I appreciate it so much when I hear back from any of you on what worked in your church. Following is an email from Rona Heenk, a church communicator in Washington state. Thanks so much to Rona for her encouraging words to me and all of us—what you do DOES make a difference!
PLEASE send me any stories you have of what has worked in your church so I can pass it on to others. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is Rona's story (no editing, all her words):
I wanted to give you some feedback on something unrelated to the webinar, which I thought would be encouraging to you:
Based on the advice in your booklet on Connection Cards, I presented to the senior pastor the idea of a new Connection Card, putting it in the bulletin as an insert, and asking everyone to fill one out each week. He discussed it with the other pastors, and they agreed to the new card, but were reluctant to ask everyone to fill it out, so we continued to do what we were doing, which was to ask visitors to take one out of the chair back and fill it out and turn it in with the offering.
After a few months our response rate hadn't changed--maybe one visitor card turned in per month, and at most one or two prayer requests each week. About half the time we had zero cards turned in. I just kept praying about it, and waiting for a good opportunity to re-visit the idea.
Then, the week after Easter during our staff meeting, I mentioned that we had an attendance that was about 70 over our average attendance, yet NOT ONE visitor filled out a card. Our senior pastor sat up and paid attention, and asked if I had any ideas to improve that.... open door!! I "happened" to have the booklet and your latest article from Christian Computing Magazine with me, and presented the idea again, quoting your statement that basically said, "The Connection Card is the only real link we have to reach out to newcomers, and to be able to respond to questions and needs." That seemed to cement the idea that it was time to try something new, and he put into the minutes that our current way of handling the Connection Cards is NOT working, and suggested to the elders that they come to their meeting the next night prepared to discuss it.
Next thing I knew, they came to me and asked me to make it happen!
So, we began by sending out some email communication to the congregation about what we would be doing, and most of all, WHY. Last Sunday, May 2, we tried it for the first time, and guess what? No one complained, we got lots of responses, including TWO that were filled out by people who were first-time visitors. We got more prayer requests and people asking for information than we usually do, and I got three email addresses I didn't already have on file.
I even had a couple of cards come back with notes of encouragement to me, thanking me! (In the emails I had used a statement something like "Remember what it was like when you were the new person somewhere? The last thing you wanted to do was something that would draw attention to yourself, as if to say 'look at me, I'm a visitor!'" and I think that is what resonated with them.)
Anyway, I thought you'd be encouraged to hear how your communication ideas have been put into action! Feel free to quote me on anything here if you want to. I feel so strongly that we who are in the church need to do everything we can to learn to communicate EFFECTIVELY, and your material is one of the few resources I've ever seen that is up-to-date, thorough, and specifically addresses the unique needs of a church communicator.
For more information about the book mentioned in this article: Connection cards: connect with visitors, grow your church, pastor your people, little cards, big results, click here.