How to get your visitors to fill out visitors cards


What if you could get 80% of your visitors to fill out visitors cards every week?

Nelson Searcy at The Journey in New York City is doing it every week. If you do what they do, you will get the results they get.

(Aside: there is a tendency to want to reinvent the wheel. Many are more ramped up about being original and unique than they are about being effective. The law of sowing and reaping--Galatians 6.7--says if you do what successful organizations do you will get the results that successful organizations get.)

By the time you are finished with this article, you will want to click over to Amazon and purchase Nelson Searcy's fine book on assimilation called Fusion. This article is going to summarize one facet of the book: how to get visitors to fill out visitors cards.

Think of the importance of this. If you can get visitors' information, you can follow up and move them toward Christ and discipleship. Without this information, a great opportunity is lost. Here is a summary of The Journey's proven system to get 80% of their visitors to fill out visitors cards.


Getting visitors cards starts before the service begins. The Journey has a four step process. They see that every visitor is. . .

  • Greeted: welcomed with a smile
  • Directed: simply and politely shown where they need to go
  • Treated: shown respect, and happily surprised with comfort food/drink. If you feed them they will come. I knew of one fast growing church that served Krispy Kreme donuts and Starbucks coffee every week. Now there is a church growth strategy you can sink your teeth into!
  • Seated: led to a comfortable, appropriate seat

Here is a secret to church growth that The Journey knows, and every growing church knows: there is no secret to church growth. There is no one secret. Everything matters. Success is in the details. It is in execution of the details every single week.

The Communication Card

One of the things I love about the book Fusion is it is incredibly specific, practical and detailed. Not a lot of pontificating about the theory of this and that. What you will find is specific, implementable details about every phase of the assimilation process. Here is an example from page 69:

The Communication Card is just that--a card that enables you to have a dialogue of sorts with everyone who attends your church on a given Sunday. Measuring about a third of a page, the Communication Card is printed on heavy paper stock and inserted into the program. [There is an example in the book.] Don't stick it in the back of the chairs or the pews. Put it in the program and put the program in the hands of each guest who comes through the door. This is the best way to insure that no one is overlooked. Here is a tip: also pass out pens with your program. Remove all stumbling blocks.

Nelson Searcy goes on to explain the key to making the commitment card work: everyone fills it out. They make a big deal of this in the membership class and explain that if visitors see others around them filling out the Communication Card, they are likely to do so as well. If the people around them do not fill out the Communication Card, they won't either. The first key to making the Communication Card work is to train your own people to fill it out every week.

The Gift

The third key The Journey uses to encourage people to fill out visitor's cards is the gift. In their case, they give everyone who fills out a card a copy of Lee Strobel's book The Case for Faith. Nelson Searcy points out that this book works well for them as New Yorkers tend to be a little skeptical and are hungry for intelligent answers to questions regarding the faith. He suggests in other contexts, Andy Stanley's book,How Good is Good Enough, might work well. The key thing is, they give a substantive gift to every visitor every week.

(By the way, this is not the only gift they give them. If the visitors fill out a visitors card, they receive in the mail a metro card that will pay their subway ticket back to church next week.)

I can hear your response: "We can't afford to do that!!! Those books are $11.39 each, even if I purchase in bulk. Do you know many visitors we have? Do you have any idea how much that would cost?"

You might expect me to respond with words about the human soul and these are people who matter to God and Jesus gave His blood and so forth. I am not going to go there. Not that it is not all true, but I think you know that. I want to respond in a different way.

I am going to predict that treating your visitors right is a money-making endeavor for you. I am predicting that you will have more money at the end of the year if you do this, not less.

Here is my rationale. There is a predictable ratio between the number of people who show up at your church and the number of dollars they give. This number tends to stay constant. If you double your attendance you will likely double your giving.

In the Double Your Church book I talk about the magnet factor and the Velcro factor--the number of visitors and the ratio of visitors to those joining. In my research, most churches have plenty of visitors. The difference between growing churches and non-growing churches is not the number of visitors but whether or not those visitors join. Growing churches do only slightly better in terms of the ratio of visitors each week. They do about twice as well at getting these visitors to stick around.

Imagine that taking the steps in Nelson Searcy's book enabled you to double the number of people joining your church. How much would they give? I predict that number will be ten times the cost of the books you buy for all your guests. You can afford to do this.

I suspect for most of you, this whole discussion comes across as more than a little crass and unspiritual. I agree. I think giving gifts because we want to reach people for Christ is a better motive. But, don't tell me you can't afford it.

While I am on this somewhat distasteful line of thought, let me say one more thing. This same principle can be applied to advertising. There is more non-sense per square inch on the subject of church advertising than just about anything I know. Here is how it goes. We ask, "How many people came to church because of friends, programming, the pastor, or advertising." Consistently, the numbers on advertising are very low. So, we conclude that advertising doesn't work. But we never ask this question: did we even do any advertising? Discovering that no one came to a church because of advertising in a church that did no advertising is not a great revelation.

There are churches that attract people with advertising. I talked to one pastor once that told me 90% of their visitors came from advertising. They did a lot of advertising. And, here is the rub: it was all free. That is, it was paid for with money they would not have had if they had not done the advertising.

Jesus talked to us about being shrewd. I think this is what he meant.

What to do with visitors names after we get them

Nelson Searcy has a whole section on this, and I encourage you to read the book. But, let me add one thing to his list: see that every visitor gets at least three invitations to do something fun with a group of church members in the next three weeks. Have multiple groups call and invite the visitors to enjoy an evening or card playing, or dinner and a movie, or lunch on Sunday. Have multiple groups giving Friday nights to Jesus and inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. At The Journey, they call this a Play Group.

How do you do that? Lead by example. The pastor and staff must embody the vision.

The Bible says, "make the most of every opportunity." One of the great opportunities of every church is in the number of guests that they have visiting every week. Nelson Searcy will teach you how to get their names, get them to come back, and make disciples of them.

100% of your growth comes from visitors. Take care of them. 100% of the people you eventually make into disciples will start their journey as visitors of your church. Take good care of them. Jesus spoke of that too, didn't He? "Take care of my sheep."