From Visitor to Thriving Member
The guest information card. Every church has one. It might be a piece of cardstock found in a little pocket in the back of the pew or a QR code printed right in the bulletin. Whatever format, your church’s guest information card is an on ramp for a newcomer to engage in the life of your church. It’s “permission granted” to start a relationship with someone who is just visiting today, but tomorrow might be a regular attender of your church. Careful thought needs to go into the card itself and the communication process that follows it being filled out. Here are some ideas.
Design your guest information card to invite a visitor into a relationship
Welcoming a guest at church is an important moment. We might be tempted to try to wring every ounce of information possible out of a visitor when they first fill out a guest information card. We may want to ask for their names, date of birth, children names and ages, a mailing address, email address, phone number, cell phone number, work phone number, gross income, (ok, I exaggerate… a little). You get the idea.
It’s equally tempting to offer every ministry and resource our church provides from addiction recovery to visitation in one big checkoff list.
Instead of getting every piece of information at the beginning, it’s important to design guest information cards more to benefit the visitor. Therefore, you want to use the card to collect the minimum data needed to initiate a gentle series of communications that invites a newcomer into deeper relationship with your church.
So, what information should you ask for? Let’s start with basic contact information and preferred method of communication. These days most people prefer email. Limit additional requests for information, to perhaps, “how did you hear about our church?” or “are you looking for a church home?” Then offer information on just a few items, like about becoming a Christian, a call or visit from a pastor, and a prayer request. It’s important to keep in mind that every additional question you ask will result in a lower return rate. So be concise, and be purposeful in what you ask for. Then when someone turns in the card, we need to be sure your church has a system or process in place to follow-up.
A small series of welcome-emails invite newcomers to become part of the family
As mentioned, most people prefer email these days. Use the guest information card to add the visitor to a specific email list for newcomers. With a two- or three-part “welcome series” you can introduce newcomers to your church in bite-sized chunks and invite them into a deeper connection with you. Send Welcome Email 1 before the next Sunday. Make it personal, thank them for visiting, and invite them to come again. By sharing a very brief, welcoming message about your church’s mission in the community, you have the opportunity to show how there’s room for them to be a part of it. Email 2 might go out a week later and introduces the pastors and key ministries of the church. Using an infographic might display that information more concisely. A third email could invite the reader to an event especially for newcomers, such as a breakfast or lunch, where they will have opportunity to interact with pastors, deacons, and small group leaders and take their own first steps into becoming a part of your church family.
A number of church communication management systems are out there to help organize your newcomer email list and welcome series. Some systems enable automation and can even determine if an email has been opened and if the reader clicked on any links through to the church website while reading it. Medium and large churches will find these tools very helpful in handling higher volumes. Even smaller churches can benefit from using one of these systems. But this process can be managed through low-to-no cost email management systems like MailChimp, or even manually, like small churches have done with snail-mail and the telephone for decades.
An “engagement email series” opens avenues to belong and to serve
Just as a welcome series widens relationship with information and orientation about your church, an engagement series of two to three parts can provide depth in relationship and paths to practical involvement. Engagement Email 1 might follow-up some kind of newcomer event and suggest small group options and email links to their leaders. Email 2 then invites someone who has attended for a given period of time to volunteer in one of your ministries that might not require full membership to serve. Finally Email 3 could lay out the path to full membership in the church and directly offer a sign-up for the next opportunity. The engagement series puts feet on what the welcome series promised, relationship and involvement.
The guest information card is an on ramp for visitors and newcomers to become part of the life of your church. It should be step one in a carefully crafted series of communications integrated and connected to each other, designed to help a Sunday morning visitor become a thriving member of your church.