National Back to Church Sunday will celebrate its tenth year on September 16, 2018, and more than 30,000 churches are participating. South Bay Bible Church is one of the many committed churches striving to engage their community. Every church is equipping and empowering members to be inviters. Through this effort, many hurting and disconnected people will find a place to belong, serve, and grow.
As Christians, we are called to spread the good news. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
By encouraging others to go back to church, we are following the directive Jesus gave us. However, many hesitate when it comes to inviting someone to church. We’re afraid they will think we are weird, or we may step on someone’s toes. Some think it may just be awkward.
Inviting someone to church is easy. It doesn’t have to be weird or awkward! For too long, we have simply told churchgoers to invite people to church, but we haven’t told them how. Once you know how to invite someone to church, much of your anxiety will disappear. In fact, surveys suggest that 8 out of 10 people said they would be willing to visit a church if they were only invited. So, what’s stopping you?
What Not to Do
Before we jump into how to invite others to church, let’s talk about what not to do. Inviting someone to church isn’t awkward unless you make it awkward. You can avoid any awkwardness by avoiding a couple of things.
First, do not make assumptions.
Just because you have not seen Johnny at your church does not mean he does not attend church. If you approach Johnny with this idea based on your assumptions, you may alienate him rather than make him feel welcomed.
Next, don’t force it.
If someone feels like you’re pushy, or they “have to” go to your church to please you, it won’t be for the right reasons. Also, if you know someone attends a different healthy church, don’t invite them. That’s not who we’re here for. There’s lots of unchurched people. Let’s focus on them.
Finally, do not make inviting others about you.
This invitation should be about Jesus – not your pride or your church’s attendance numbers. When people sense that you are inviting them just so they can be an added number, they won’t want to come. Instead, think of inviting people to church as a way for them to meet Jesus.
Now, let’s look at what you should do when it comes to inviting people back to church.
Choose Your Method
Choosing the wrong form of communication can make inviting feel awkward, so choose the communication method that your friend prefers. If your friend is a big text-er, shoot them a text message.
For some people, face-to-face communication is no big deal. For others, face-to-face is painful. That’s okay. If your friend frequently uses social media, then use social media. The cool thing about this method is it’s easier than ever to attach the church graphic or promo video.
Use the form of communication that makes you and your friend feel the most comfortable.
Evaluate the Nature of the Relationship
Next, you need to evaluate the nature of your relationship with the person you hope to invite to church. For example, if you want to invite your close friends or family members, you will approach them differently than you would a workplace acquaintance.
With those closest to you, think about how you communicate with them regularly, and use the communication language that works best in this relationship.
For example, you may say, “Hey, my church is doing a series that I think you’d enjoy.” You can use this language because you know what piques their interest. This probably wouldn’t work for a stranger because you don’t know their interests.
In some cases, you can simply share how your church has helped you. Then extend the invitation at the end of your story. This allows you to let those you know know what’s happening in your life. This is very powerful.
If you are considering inviting an acquaintance, a simple invite with no pressure is best. For example, “If you ever want to visit my church, let me know, and I will meet you right out front.” You can even post a message on social media such as: “My church is doing a series on how to be successful. If anyone would like to check it out, all are welcome! If you are interested, send me a message, and I’ll meet you at church.”
Make Your Invite Applicable and Relevant
The most effective church invitations are those that are natural. How do you make an invite sound natural? You look for cues. An obvious clue is the person who mentions they’re looking for a church. However, more often than not, it might just be a conversation when someone mentions a personal struggle, a hurting marriage, a difficult teenager, or a recent passing of a loved one. The struggles in life provide you an opportunity to tell about the hope you found in Jesus. The church is the place for hurting people.
Additionally, if your church is doing a sermon series that seems relevant to a conversation you are having with a friend or acquaintance, extend an invitation. For example, at the writing of this blog, South Bay Bible Church is doing a sermon series entitled Success: How to Get Everything You Really Want in Life. It begins on National Back to Church Sunday. In a world bogged down in the quest for success, there are plenty of meaningful and relevant opportunities to extend an invitation to those around you.
What to Do if They Say “Yes”
A “yes” is just beginning. Think about it. There are few things scarier than visiting a new church – especially if you did not grow up in church. As the person who invited this guest, you need to act as a humble, hospitable host. If they have questions about what to expect or what to wear, take time to answer their questions.
Make plans to meet them outside (or in the entrance) of the church. When they arrive, take time to show them around. This will alleviate many fears about knowing where to go and what to do. Also, before and after the church service, introduce them to a couple of your church friends. This will make their visit feel more welcoming, and they will be much more likely to visit again if they meet someone other than yourself.
Finally, while you’ve been praying for God to open their heart to receive your invitation, continue praying they’ll receive God’s invitation.