Ryan Keller at Church on a Mission in New Orleans does a great job sharing how he increased the percentage of new guests turning in connect cards from 21% to 92% - pretty amazing results! His session at ENGAGE Conference 2020 was so practical and applicable, and hits on a topic most all of us church leaders are dealing with. His outline and structure for his principles made it easy for me to look at the process at my own church through his lens.
His first observation was that getting new guests to fill out cards is like “pulling teeth”. Having worked as a dental assistant, I know a little bit about “pulling teeth” and can see why his analogy fits the difficulty we experience on Sundays. A tooth doesn’t want to come out (people don’t like to give out their contact info), but with some gentle pressure and a pull in an intentional and specific direction, it eventually goes the way we want it to go.
Make Your Connect Card Directions Easy
Ryan’s principles involve both intentional direction (obvious instructions) and a little gentle pressure (asking multiple times and in multiple ways) and maybe that is why he is experiencing such a dramatic success rate.
So, why is it so hard to get people to trust us with their information? I believe we are battling with generations of people who have had to learn to avoid junk mail, cold callers, spam email, sneaky e-newsletters, etc. We have learned to avoid putting our name into the drawing for the brand-new bass boat because instead of catching fish we will be getting phished by people trying to move money from our pockets into their own.
Over the years, I have seen a variety of strategies used at a variety of churches. At the first church I was on staff at, we used the connect cards like attendance – everyone was encouraged to turn in a card, even if they were regular attenders and to just put their name on it to let us know they were here. We had a lot of compliance with that process, but that doesn’t work in every church culture. Another strategy was to create a digital connect card, thinking that in such a digital world, maybe people would rather have the convenience of doing it on their phone (the idea was solid, the results were not). Another strategy was to simply make pens available on the backs of the chairs (this worked a little).
Another time, we had a raffle associated with a marriage series. Every week people were encouraged to turn in a connect card and it would be an entry for the “Big Date Night” giveaway at the end of the month. We definitely got more cards, including from new people. This isn’t necessarily sustainable as a process, but it was interesting that people didn’t just put their name on a card and turn it in – many of them took the opportunity to write down a prayer request as well. It’s almost like they figured as long as they were turning in a card, they might as well use it for something. I know Ryan encourages to offer prayer requests separate from connect cards, but I thought it was worth noticing – that if someone fills out a card there is a subtle desire for it to add value to their lives.
Ryan’s principles are built around making it easy and obvious to turn in a connect card. The first principle was about design, make sure your card grabs people’s attention. You should be able to describe your card and people should easily recognize what you are talking about. For him, it is a big red card. Each church needs to find the look that matches their branding and their voice. It should become a part of the fabric of how you communicate every service, so people know the steps to connect.
Intentional Connect Card Design
He also encourages the design to be intentional. Their connect card is only for connecting. It has contact info and next steps on it. He encourages that other kinds of communication be on their own cards. He held up a prayer card that was separate from a praise card and they all look different from the connect card. Their connect card stands out from all the other kinds of communication. In our church, this would be a substantial change as we only have 1 card on Sunday to keep the clutter down. We have 1 thing that we hand to people as they enter the auditorium (no other papers or programs) and everything they need to know is on that one card in their hand. But what really matters is, are we getting the results we want and if not, it’s worth evaluating a change.
Have A Simple, Repeatable Process
Another principle is about process. They communicate their process on multiple platforms, print, pre-service video, from the stage (twice), etc. They also communicate it in the same way – red card to the red tent. You may not have a red card or a red tent, but you can find a clear directive that works in your church and environment, say it the same way and say it often. Since everyone is different and everyone learns differently, I can see the value in communicating the connect card instructions in a variety of ways to capture a variety of people’s attention.
These principles may be implemented differently depending on what would stand out in your church, where you locate cards and information in your church, what you hand out when people enter, if you have an info area or a special connection spot to get a gift, etc. Take the principles and make them unique to your people, culture and environment. Prayerfully, if we build it (an easy and obvious process) they will come (cards pouring in on Sundays).
Here are the main points from Ryan Keller’s ENGAGE Session, “Getting Connect Cards From New Guests”...
1. Make it Easy and Obvious
2. Make the Design Intentional
3. Have a Process: say it the same way, and say it often
Remember, what really matters is that we are getting results; if we’re not, it’s worth evaluating a change.