Ryan Keller Church on a Mission

Ryan Keller is the Lead Pastor at Church on a Mission in Louisiana and a certified CMU Coach who specializes in guest experience implementation.... read more

Guest Post from Ryan Keller | Lead Pastor at Church on a Mission | CMU Member and Certified Coach

We all desire to see our church grow, and new people coming through the doors is the first step of growing. Have you ever been so excited to see new people come through the door, only to find that they didn’t fill out a connect card and now you have no way to follow up with them and get them plugged in?  Why is it like pulling teeth to get new visitors to fill out a connect card? Is it the way we do things or is it a cultural thing?

A little over a year ago we were a really small church. We averaged 24-28 people on a Sunday. I started understanding that metrics was a big deal in figuring out where our weaknesses were, so I enrolled in CMU (Church Marketing University) and after 3 months of implementing systems we were seeing 20 new people per month, on average.

That was great, but I was counting a different kind of metric. Since we were small, I could count the number of new people and compare it to how many welcome cards were filled out.  For example, I could see we had 10 new people on a Sunday, but only 2 would fill out the connect card. And after 3 months of gathering data like this, I realized there was a 21% chance that a new person would fill out a connect card when they came for the first time. That number sucked, and we had to get it up if we wanted a chance to follow up with all of these new people and get them plugged in.

We made some changes that I will share below, and that number went from 21% to 92%. Now, there is a 92% chance a new person will fill out a connect card when they walk through our doors. We have also been able to see a 67% return rate on new people the last 6 months, which has resulted in our church growing from 24-28 to over 100. As a matter of fact, we are launching a second service in 3 weeks in order to continue to grow.

Connect cards aren’t the only thing we need to make new visitors feel welcome, but getting them to fill out the card gives us a chance to follow up and get them plugged in. So let me share a few tweaks we made that resulted in the jump from 21% to 92%.

  1. We made our systems EASY AND OBVIOUS

I want to start by explaining this. We learned that any system we do in church should be EASY and OBVIOUS to people. If something is not easy and obvious, then there is a good chance that system is struggling.  I have seen some churches make it so difficult to become a member and I ask myself, “If Jesus makes it simple to get to Heaven, then why do we make it so difficult to become a member?”

So the question begs: at your church, are your systems EASY and OBVIOUS?

We realized our connect cards were not being filled out because our process was not easy and obvious to new people.  This is key- you cannot think of the process from YOUR perspective because you know exactly what’s expected. You HAVE to think from the NEW person’s perspective. Is it easy and obvious for THEM? That is the question. So I would start off by asking that question before you move forward, and honestly evaluating your system to see if it is easy and obvious for new people to fill out a card.

  1. We designed our connect card to STAND OUT

The design of your connect card matters.  If it looks bland, then it will get lost in the mix of resources that new people get on Sundays.  It has to stand out.

We made the decision to make our connect card pop, so we made it postcard size. On one side it is bright red with the words “Welcome Home.” The other side contains spaces for them to give us this information: Name/Spouse Name, Address, Email, Phone Number, DOB, Children, and How You Heard About Church on a Mission.

Bottom line: make it stand out.  Our new visitors get quite a few resources when they come to church, so we made sure our connect card was more eye-catching than any of them. 

  1. We improved THE PROCESS

Rather than hoping people remember to fill the cards out on their own, we make an effort to get this information from new visitors during several parts of our service:

—When new people walk in the door, a welcome volunteer gives them a “service guide.”  In our service guide is a letter from my wife and I, current series information, and a place to take notes, as well as a connect card, prayer card, praise card, and tithe envelope.  Inside the service guide, there is a place that can’t be missed that says, “Fill out the red “Welcome home” card and take it to the red tent for a free gift.” So, we not only provide them with the card, but we immediately begin making the process obvious to our guests.  (We do not ask everyone to fill out a connect card every week as I am not a fan of that model.)

—We noticed new people typically show up early to church, even 15 minutes early sometimes. So we made PRE-SERVICE Video Announcements that explain a few general things, one of them being THE PROCESS of our connect card. These announcement videos play before our 5 minute countdown begins.

–New visitors are told that if they fill out the RED card and bring it to the RED tent they will get a gift. The gift is a branded coffee mug, candy, and next steps cards.

—We welcome people from the stage after our first song. During this welcome, which is normally done by me, I make sure to have a connect card in my hand.  Our script looks something like this:

“Thank you so much for coming to Church on a Mission today, we just want to welcome everyone! And if it is your first time here you should have received a service guide when you walked through the doors. In that service guide is a RED WELCOME HOME card looks just like this (show card). Please take a few seconds to fill this card out and AFTER service you can take this RED card to the RED tent. We will have a free gift for you saying thanks for coming and if you love coffee, you will love the gift so fill out that card and take it to the red tent after service”

Notice how easy and obvious this is!  They take the RED card to the RED tent after service, and that RED tent is literally in their way to get out the door. So now it’s easy because of the red connection and it’s obvious because they literally have to walk around the red tent in order to leave.

—After the sermon, our youth pastor wraps up the service. He takes an offering where he says, “If it is your first time, this is not for you.  All we want from you is that red welcome home card! Take it to the red tent when we dismiss.” 

—Well-trained volunteers are crucial to this process. Volunteers need to know that if someone tries to hand them a connect card they are NOT to take it but to show them where it goes, that way the guest makes it to the red tent and gets their gift and next steps cards. We also train our VIP volunteers to ask the new people they connected for the card with after service, but not in a pushy way. For example, we have a fantastic volunteer named Trey who is on our VIP team. New visitors are given the chance to turn on their hazards and get front row parking at our church, then a VIP host walks them upstairs to show them where to go. So Trey met this lady, walked her up and remembered connecting with her. After service as she was passing the red tent I heard him say, “Hey it was so great having you today, did you get a chance to fill out that red welcome home card?” I watched her say, “OH YEAH” and grab it out of her purse. She almost forgot, but because he asked for it she remembered and we got her information!

As you can see, we have many things we do to ensure they fill out their cards because we want that chance to follow up with them!  We couldn’t be happier with the results- we have seen 67% of people the last 6 months come back!

I really think it comes down to the EASY and OBVIOUS perspective. We have them fill out a RED card and take it to a RED tent. We give them a free gift for doing so. We mention it 3 times in service between the Pre-service VA’s, Welcome, and Dismissal. And our volunteers are trained to get the information as visitors pass the red tent.

This works for us, and I hope that you’ve found some ideas you can implement to get more cards filled out, so you can follow up and get them coming back! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away.

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Ryan Keller is a Pastor and Certified CMU Coach who specializes in guest experience implementation. Email him at ryan.keller@churchonamission.org to get connected!

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