Just about every church has some form of a connection card. There are a lots of ways to gather information. I’ve seen physical seat-back cards, tear-off’s in the bulletin, digital “cards” on a specialized webpage, text messages, attendance books that get passed down the aisle, and I’m sure there are many other methods out there as well. Whatever your church calls it, and whatever method you use, it’s likely that your Sunday service has some way of attempting to gather information from your visitors. And for many churches, getting people to actually share their information is a struggle.
So with all these different ways to collect information, why isn’t there one sure-fire way to get people’s information?
There are a few reasons, really. First, let’s talk about the main reasons people are reluctant to give out their personal information. Then, let’s talk about how to create a system that works.
Why People Don’t Want to Give You Their Information
In today’s always-online, always-connected, and always-being-advertised-to culture, people are more likely to want to protect their personal information. We’re all tired of getting junk email for things we never signed up for. We’re tired of seeing ads directed at us based on recent searches or pages viewed. So it makes sense that we’re more protective of giving out our contact details.
Add to that a general mistrust of organizations, including the Church. According to Barna, only “about one-third of Americans (36%) strongly believe churches ‘have their best interest at heart.’” So when a guest visits your church for the first-time, they’re understandably hesitant to respond when right away you ask them to give away their full name, address, phone numbers, email address, birthdate, children’s names and birthdays, and how they’d like to get involved. It makes sense that they don’t want to give the church all of that information—and there’s a chance that our over-eagerness to collect their information will cause them to not want to return. So what do we do to in response to our visitors’ hesitancy? How do we show guests we have their best interest at heart?
How to Get People to Give You Their Information
The answer is simple: build trust. Start slow, and start simple. I used to manage our church database, so I understand that you want to get as much information as possible at the start of the relationship. Your intentions are good. It’s simply easier to care for people when you have their information. But asking for a ton of personal information upfront can be a turn off. So, be patient and remember relationships take time to be built. That goes for relationships with your guest too.
Studies show that when it comes to forms, the less information you request, the higher return rate you’ll see. So ask for information slowly, making sure that your “ask” matches the amount of trust you’ve built with your visitor to that point. At each step along the relationship-building process, you can ask for a little bit more information. In your welcome process, be purposeful about what information you request in which scenarios. For example, a connection event meant for new attenders in the church might be a better opportunity to ask for the newcomer’s address, rather than asking for the address during the first interaction they have with your church.
The last thing to think about is how to make the information requesting process as easy as possible (on the guest). You want to make sure your guests are comfortable, informed, and that they know what the next step in the process is. That may mean you rethink, not just the connection card itself, but how you ask people to return the card. Asking a person to get up and turn the card in at a table in the lobby may mean less responses than if you ask them to throw the card in the offering plate as it passes by. But, if you have a great incentive for turning the card in, people might be more likely to make the effort to make it to the table after service, too.
As churches begin to think about building trust with their guests first, and gathering information second, churches will begin to see deeper relationships built with guests and new members.
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