Church Management Software (ChMS) can inspire creative ways to reach out to and pastor your congregation and visitors, but it’s easy to forget the most essential thing about it: you have to have the names and contact information of the people you want to reach out to. No database of names: no ministry. This is the sometimes forgotten starting point for ChMS.
To get these names often involves the use of connection cards during a church service. Though it’s possible to have the option of giving your name and prayer requests digitally, most churches still rely on some kind of connection card either as a stand-alone piece or a tear-off part of the bulletin. Following are some tips for making the most of them and getting the largest return of them.
Take time in each service to make people aware of them. This means making certain people are sitting down when you announce the connect cards, and 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 team 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, 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 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 also 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 out his or her 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 are the forgotten starting point for ChMS. They may seem like a small ministry tool, but as the Lord so often does, they are a little thing that can be used to accomplish great things.