How to kill clutter and improve communication with 3x3 cards

March 24th, 2016

Print collateral is the marketing term given to the related media used to support a promotional campaign. The problem was that when I walked around my church, Peachtree, I saw clutter not collateral. Dozens of activities, ministries and events all want simultaneous promotion. But if I allow every request, the result is piles of paper everywhere that junk up the church campus and not only fail to achieve their individual goals, but send a collective message: confusion about what’s most important.

For example, here’s what a typical countertop space used to look like at my church, Peachtree — on a good day.

How to solve this problem? I devised a little innovation to kill the print clutter and improve communication at our church: small 3×3 cards. Each card is a unique look at various ministries and events, while a single image, brief copy, target URL and common trim size and card stock marries them into a single presentation family.

I had wooden holders created to present them at various locations around campus:

Some cards highlight events but many of them are what I call “identity” cards — simple descriptions of core, ongoing ministry activities.

The goal is for people to be attracted to pick up a card and learn about a ministry. The brief copy and a URL invite them to stick it in their pocket and go online later for more details.

Judging by how quickly they’ve been disappearing, so far it’s a success!

If you want to try something similar in your church, here are some details:

Notes about how to make the 3x3 card

  • The square design differentiates it from a business card but is still small enough to put in your pocket 
  • The card is 80 lb cover stock, which is sturdy enough to function as a single piece but not overly important or expensive 
  • Each card features a prominent logotype or image representing a ministry or event 
  • The back of each card contains a single Why statement, such as “IRONMEN is …” or Student Ministries is…” and a URL for more info. 
  • The goal is to give people an easy, attractive reminder to pick up and take with them. 
  • The simple copy and URL helps re-trigger the person’s interest when they find it in their pocket wallet or purse later. 
  • The URL drives traffic to the website with an opportunity to watch a video, read more and immediately take action, such as sign up or make a calendar commitment to attend an event. 

My team and I spent a long time on a good card holder. We wanted something simple yet elegant, that would look right in various places on campus. For us, that meant wood. We had several prototypes created before we landed on the final design.

Notes about the card holder

  • The 2 card by 3 card grid gives enough slots for several ministries without being too large or cumbersome. 
  • The thin framing makes it light and easily adaptable to many settings. 
  • The angled card base both holds plenty of cards and invites people to pick one up.

Notes about usage

  • Each ministry has a “generic” Why card, which we use to represent what the ministry is and why a newcomer should join, such as the IRONMEN card above. Then, at strategic times throughout the year, we’ll make event-specific cards for each ministry, such as the annual IRONMEN Big Breakfast every spring — hopefully a maximum of two or three event cards per ministry. 
  • Ideally, every ministry has opportunities to be featured as a ministry, and opportunities to be featured for its signature event(s). 
  • My goal is to always have at least half of the cards in distribution be “identity” cards and not “event” cards. This is part of my larger communication goal for the church: to shift from an event-driven approach to a values-driven approach. The reason for this is that I believe the primary appeal of a ministry is the ministry itself — if done right — rather than its events and programs.

Len Wilson is the author of Think Like a 5 Year Old: Reclaim Your Wonder & Create Great Things from Abingdon Press. He blogs at

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