Why is there such a “disconnect” in local churches today-the people sit and the pastor speaks with minimal interaction otherwise. I believe there must be a return to connection in the local New Testament church.
Here at North Pointe Baptist, we have adopted a new means of conversation between those who attend and those who lead in our church. We use, like many other churches, what we call “connection cards.” While I firmly believe in “presenting our bodies a living sacrifice,” the reality is that many of our contemporaries are unfamiliar with the portion of our service that we call the “invitation” or the “altar call.” We must encourage people to respond publicly; we must also encourage people to respond personally. The key is that we hear of their needs, decisions, and questions-these are the open doors of ministry for which we pray!
Opening this conversation with not just the member but the spectator requires a thorough, refined process. (For us, it has demanded months to reach our current procedures.) As you evaluate how to bridge this conversation gap in your local church, please include the following considerations:
- The Formulation
The card should obviously be printed on “CARDstock” in a reasonably-sized font. Be careful to insure that the size of the card comfortably fits inside your offering plate or other means of collection. Side One should include space to indicate all of the vital contact information. This is for the first time visitor and those in your church family who need to update their information. Side Two should include space to list a prayer request, response to the message, interest in salvation, baptism, membership, ministry, etc. This is for everyone in attendance including your members.
- The Verbalization
There are two phases to the introduction of the connection card. The first phase involves the orientation of those who faithfully attend your church. I would recommend introducing it to your leadership team 3 months prior and your congregation 6 weeks prior to launch. Your core leadership and congregation are vital to 100% participation. The second phase is the weekly introduction to visitors and the reminder to regulars. This introduction should occur approximately 8 minutes into the service to both accommodate latecomers and plenty of advance preparation. Emphasize side one to visitors (contact information without seeming “invasive”); emphasize side two to regulars (a sense of where they are at spiritually).
- The Distribution
While there are multiple options, I would highly recommend inserting these cards inside the bulletins you distribute to EVERY teen and adult in the service. You must also make sure that pens are already available at the seat. Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for EVERY person to fill one out WEEKLY.
- The Collection
Each church varies in its schedule, but I would advise moving the collection as close to the end of the service as possible. We currently have the following schedule (always subject to change as we refine it):
Introduction of Connection Cards
Two Minutes to Fill out Card (Have pianist continue to play invitation song. Make sure even those on the platform fill out a card-you too, preacher!)
Ushers Come Forward
Prayer for Offering/Decisions
Collection of Connection Cards
Stand for Closing Song
- The Response
May I challenge you to realize that this is THE key step to validate and encourage a deeper connection between the pew and pulpit. You should follow these guidelines:
Protect confidentiality-you must be careful to only allow certain leadership to have access to these cards.
Respond quickly-by Monday, you must respond in some way to any urgent or important responses (Example: put prayer requests on the prayer list).
Notice trends-exhibit patience and discernment about progress; don’t overreact to immaturity, criticism, or confusion in responses.
Include conversation–in your regular, verbal conversations with attendees, interject appropriate references to items provided on their connection cards. (This elevates the significance of filling them out.)
You may say, “Do these really work?” Just this past week, we had a young couple in our church who had to leave for work right before the invitation. After raising their hands for salvation, they departed without coming forward. Thankfully they had filled out their connection card and left it with a member of our Guest Services team. Two days later, I had the privilege of leading them to Christ because we STILL CONNECTED! Remember as you formulate your version of this process that it is not about the card; it is about seeing the truth and love of Jesus Christ connecting with budding hearts and homes that He is opening.
What else have would you add that is working for you in the “connection” category of ministry?