It's not so much what's on the card as how you use it. Here's how we use it:
- Database management: This sounds like something dry and administrative, but it's really about stewardship and relationships. An accurate database helps you reduce mailing costs by thousands of dollars. It also helps us know if someone is no longer attending. If they are a member, an Elder calls them to see if everything is okay. If they are not a member, we deactivate them in the database in case they return (i.e., they are not removed but we don't bother them with letters, etc.), but we do not pry by calling. Membership gives us permission to pry!
- Feedback: The card gives a chance for our folks and guests to give us feedback on a variety of issues. All comments are sent to the Board, the Elders and staff leaders. Encouraging comments about the service are passed on to the worship arts team. And potential problems or issues that may need to be addressed are pursued.
- Prayer: The prayer team and Elders get the requests weekly and pray for them. The Elders meet on Wednesday mornings to pray and then they send out notes to let people know they are praying and to encourage them. It's a great way to make personal contact and stay informed on the needs of our congregation.
- Decisions: It's one way of indicating a decision that has been made. This is one of the reasons we usually wait until the end of the service to take the offering. This way we are able to do proper follow-up on decisions.
- Registration : This may be one of the most important uses of our cards. The chances of getting people to register for things like Discovery or Next Step increase tremendously when we have them register on the cards. Follow-up calls help people remember and are still necessary, but most people will get distracted by the time they reach the Commons area (if that's required for registration) or they forget to call someone later (if a call is required). Same goes for many volunteer opportunities.
- Follow-up of Guests: We send a series of four letters describing next steps for newcomers. We can't sent them if people don't sign in. The fact that everyone signs in (including charter members) makes the newcomer feel more comfortable signing in.
- Evaluation: We count the number of folks in small groups over against the number of regular attenders in our database to see how we are doing in helping people find a small group and understand the value of small groups. When we say, for instance, that we have 50% of our folks in small groups, we're not just counting members (the number would be much higher), we're counting anyone who has attended Five Oaks four times or more and is still active in the database.
When I first came to Five Oaks and I explained how we would use Communication Cards, lots of people told me it wouldn't work because people wouldn't use it. But we did make it work by asking everyone every week to sign in, by periodically explaining why and by sending a nasty letter when they didn't.
Okay, we don't send a nasty letter. But we do send a letter if we haven't gotten a card from anyone for several weeks. Over the years we've sent a lot of letters and two people (that we know of) have complained about it, but we believe the value of keeping current outweighs the occasional indignant person. Trust me, the letter is innocuous.