For the first time ever, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix may register online.
An alternative to long registration lines at Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings is here at last.
Churches are now able to register their messengers online at the convention's website, www.sbc.net.
The traditional steps in years past — waiting at the counter as a registration volunteer types in various lines of information — is skipped with the online process. Now there will be "express counters" for those whose churches have registered online.
"This is another way to serve our Southern Baptist constituency," said SBC Registration Secretary Jim Wells.
By registering online, the SBC website gives a church a "messenger reference number" form to be printed out and presented by each messenger at the SBC registration booth in exchange for a nametag and ballot.
Online registration began March 1 and will end June 8 — after which registration must be done the traditional way.
"I call it express registration," said Jack Wilkerson, vice president for business and finance with the SBC Executive Committee.
The appropriate church-authorized representative must complete all online registration.
The process includes entering information normally found on the traditional messenger card as follows:
• the church's seven-digit ID number, which is found on the church's Annual Church Profile. To ensure security, a subsequent webpage includes a list of a number of randomly selected churches, in addition to the church matching the ID number. The church simply selects its name from the list and moves to the next step.
"You have to know certain information about the church," Wells said. "You can't guess."
• the name of the church moderator or clerk whose name will appear on the printed form.
• the church's membership, gifts to Southern Baptist causes, and affiliations (local and state).
• the messengers' names and information.
Names can be added, edited, and deleted up to June 8. Each messenger must bring the printed form that shows the messenger's reference number — given on the website — at the registration booth in order to receive a nametag and set of ballots.
Technically, a person is not a messenger until the messenger reference number is presented at the registration booth. But, unlike the traditional method, the person is pre-registered before he or she arrives to the convention.
"It's all helping us be more efficient in what we do," Wilkerson said. "This is part of the ongoing process to serve Southern Baptists and be more efficient and cost-sensitive at the same time."
The traditional registration method also will be available for those churches unable to use Internet access, Wells and Wilkerson noted.