I was recently entering a grocery store, and someone approached me from the corner of my eye. I had the feeling a torpedo was locked on me. I didn't know him, so I stepped aside to let him pass. He altered course with me. Gulp.

"Do you have a few moments to answer some questions?" he asked. I heard, "I want some information from you."

If not in person lately, you've probably fielded those phone calls. The ones you end quickly by saying "I'm sorry, I'm not interested."

So, why do we expect visitors to fill out our visitor or welcome forms?

Granted, when asked in person it's harder to say "no" than on a call. A card is the easiest to ignore.

Even if it's called out from the pulpit: "I'd like all visitors to fill out the welcome tab and put it in our offering plate." But visitors hear, "Give me your personal info so you'll eternally get on our mailing list and even receive an awkward call from our staff."

I'm not saying to stop with welcome cards, but please be careful with them.

Remember the guy wanting to survey me? If he only wanted one quick answer, I'd probably take the time. Two questions? Maybe. But if he asked a dozen questions and wanted contact information, 99 percent would say, "No thanks."

Recently, I was at a church that had a welcome tab with 19 form requests including name, address, cellphone number, email, and birthdate. No one will offer all that — especially a visitor.

1. Decide what you really need: Trying to figure out if your new advertising worked? Then ask that one question. Or do you honestly want to create a huge marketing list? Tell them that's the use. It's why a privacy policy must be added to all form-bearing websites. No one wants to get on a list that they can't get off easily. And they want to know what they'll get from you.

2. Decide what they'll get in return. People consider information a type of payment. They'll give you info in return for something. If you're not offering much, then don't require much. A name and email is all you need to contact someone in this digital age. Ask them more information once you develop a relationship.

3. Decide if there's a better way. Giving a free gift to visitors? It's a good time to ask for info. Or a better way? A website form asking them to preregister a visit so someone will welcome them and show them around. Or maybe a personalized parking spot near the door.

In this age of privacy concerns, we need to start dealing with visitor information differently. Let it start with your church today.