Church Membership Cards

November 10, 2004 by

I love hanging out with pastors. A week ago today I spent several hours with a local pastor here in southern California who planted a church four years ago in Orange County. Our time together had no big agenda other than to connect and learn more about each other’s lives, passions, families, ministries and everything else those subjects bring out. Although our acquaintance was made familiar through mutual friends and circles, I was honored to spend time with this guy. His heart is huge. His mind is brilliant. And his love for people is deep.

Among the many topics we covered, of which I’ll work into more entries later, one of particular interest was the idea of having church membership cards. I should stop now and say if you think this brings us one step closer to the “mark of the beast,” you might as well stop reading and take your apocalypse phobia somewhere else.

Picture it: every regular attender (members) of your church would get a credit card size church membership card. It includes a barcode or magnet strip that works with card reader software/hardware. When the person shows up to church, they swipe their card and continue on in. For visitors or people who don’t want the cards, no problem!

The card also serves as a promo piece because people carry it in their wallet and the card has the church logo, address, service times, etc.

The most important component of this concept is that you’re gathering demographic information from the people who makeup your church. The pastor I met with actually has his congregation fill out a form EVERY week that asks all the demographic questions. He bases his questions around the same info that the city his church is in uses to measure the demographics of the city/county. This way he can make sure his church lines up with the city they are serving. Hello!

If you are not capturing demographic info from your church members already, you should be. Many churches do this in conjunction with their offering envelopes. The point is to understand who it is that makes up your church every week (not once a year).

Once you get in the habit of capturing data, the membership card will make much more sense (if it doesn’t already).

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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9 Responses to “Church Membership Cards”

  • netapostle
    November 10, 2004

    I’ve thought for a long time that church membership cards could be a great thing. Imagine the time you could save taking attendance in your Sunday School program. Besides that, I would expect that most churches don’t actually take attendance in their worship services. They may get a headcount. But with church membership cards and card readers, you could actually know who was in the worship service. Surely that is useful information!

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  • Brian Baute
    November 10, 2004

    But this is like any other affinity card program — you’ve got incentivize it somehow. People won’t bring their card and swipe it out of the goodness of their hearts. I could see the cards as a big hit at child check-in desks (instead of having someone sign in your child you just swipe them in, saving everyone much time and hassle). But what incentive could be offered to adults? Attend 6 out of the next 8 weeks and get a free Thanksgiving turkey?

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  • ThoughtLeader
    November 11, 2004

    I think any attendance tracking efforts only serve to feed leadership insecurity. If people are getting their spiritual and emotional needs met they will come often – if not they will be sporadic. Hence the SMM’s (spiritual mini-movements) identified by Barna where people are going outside the church to get their needs met.

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  • sumisetter
    November 13, 2004

    I have heard of churches who actually use that system to directly withdraw tithe every time they swipe in (opened can and now worms everywhere).
    Brian Baute: Great thinking and then every classroom would have a touch screen monitor with the roster of the names, ages (which would be entered into the system by DOB, so the age will always be up to date), allergies, next feeding, etc. and then the worker/teacher would input when they changed/fed the child. Then as you said for swiping in, the parent would check out the child by swiping out. Maybe merge the paging system with this? You are SO right about the adult incentives. Perhaps a sign of “Swipe in or be wiped out!” would be effective?
    As much as I like this idea, it will not work in my institutional church because of the number of those in the older generation who are not open to such technology. I remember when we started using the overhead projector and then later on Power Point. It was no church potluck!

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  • justjeff
    November 16, 2004

    ThoughtLeader raises a valid point. There is a dynamic to be considered like David’s census which had consequences for the nation. Still, I believe the value of such an affinty program that had to do with providing care for families. The benefit for the “consumer” is that they have a way to be noticed. We take an attendace count each week because numbers reflect people. If individual people are important, we can only care for them when we have a point of contact. That’s what attendace tracking provides – a way to touch and serve people.

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  • cretech
    November 16, 2004

    We have been using bar code readers for kid check in with matched id tags for security. It’s very fast and friendly. We are moving towards “tagging” everyone who “joins” our church. The little key fobs with the logo and bar code are the best. Everyone in town has a discount card from their favorite food store on their key ring. The incentive we have is that 10% of each purchase made in our bookstore or coffee shop by someone with a tag goes to a target mission. Plus they get 10% off the price. We’ve got a way to go before we wand everyone who enters the Worship Center. It makes a guest feel like they need a ticket to get in. Maybe we could teach our folks to raise their cards up during worship and we can swipe the whole room with a laser beam to read the cards. Or better yet put wireless key pads on the back of each chair and ask demographic enhanced trivia questions on the big screens during the message. Like “Ask the Audience” on Millionaire.

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  • Bernie Federmann
    November 16, 2004

    Great idea! I have thought about it for many years. We currently use cards each week that people fill out. Our church is so transient that we would have members cards all over the world but if we all had readers – you could enter a church and get right in. The card could also have information like – membership classes taken, personal gift mix, skills, life history and story. So wherever you went – you would be able to just jump right in. How many 101, 201, 301 or 801 classes do people have to take? A card with more than demographics – life story, gift mix, involvement in former churches. AH MEMBERSHIP CARDS has it privlige.

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  • Brian Baute
    December 2, 2004

    cretech, great point about swiping the whole room at once – and it can be done with RFID tags. A membership card with an RFID tag, and as soon as you walk in the door your presence is detected and recorded without you having to swipe. Again, this would be great for kids. Map the building on GPS software and centcom (central command) knows where every child is at any given time and knows which kids are in attendance. Also knows where the parents are so they can be reached in case of a problem with the child.

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  • Gladys 
    December 3, 2009

    I think church membership is a good idea. It helps you to know who all are your church members. I helps you to connect with your church members. I feel that everyone attending service in churches should apply for a particular church membership card.

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