Personal invitation is at the core of church outreach. A common challenge is figuring out how to get your congregation on board with inviting friends and family to explore Christianity. A couple of church leaders we work with here at Alpha shared how they’ve approached this challenge and how they’ve developed not only a habit but a culture of invitation.
Here are seven tips to get your church excited and confidently equipped for bringing others to church.
1. Start With the Why.
As Simon Sinek says, if you want people to buy into what you do, they need to believe in why you do it. For your congregation to get excited to invite their friends, they need to understand why the church is providing such outreach opportunities as Alpha or other programs you may use. Make it known that the goal of outreach is to share the gospel and introduce people to Jesus. One of our partner churches offers the example of dedicating time at Sunday services to share stories explaining the impact learning about Christianity can have in people’s lives. Another church we work with dedicates entire Sunday sermons to the topic of invitation.
2. Get Comfortable With No.
Overcoming the congregation’s own fear of rejection can be one of the biggest challenges of developing an invitational culture. “‘If I ask my friend and they say no, what do I say after that?” While this initial rejection can be enough to stop people asking again, talk through with your congregation what a healthy, helpful response is. Train them to say things like, “Maybe next time,” or “We do these programs often, so let me know if you’re ever interested.” The reassurance that a no isn’t the end of the world can offer the courage needed to extend an invitation.
3. Run Relaxed Social Events.
It’s easier to invite people to a fun event than a church service, as think people are more likely to accept an invitation to a night out. Planning a casual, yet entertaining event like a comedy show is a great idea. Many churches will have guest artists or speakers, such as a Christian comedian, who will make a short gospel appeal as part of their set. Make sure to have an outreach announcement so those in attendance receive word about these upcoming opportunities.
4. Don’t Make the Ask Too Big.
Asking guests to simply visit to give the church or small group a try is less intimidating than requiring commitment right off the bat. Setting a smaller time frame or leaving the decision in the hands of the guest so they don’t feel the pressure is important. With the Alpha course, for example, guests can first be invited to a six-week course, then after a few weeks, the option of extending to the full eleven-week program can be offered. People are more likely to sign up when not bombarded by a large ask upfront.
5. Equip Your Congregation.
Any help you can give your members can make the world of a difference because invitation can be a vulnerable experience. One idea is creating an App where resources like podcasts, audio of previous conversations or recommended readings can be found. If developing an app is out of your church’s wheelhouse, simply provide printed materials, offer books or suggest podcasts that can prepare members for conversation and encourage them to take action.
6. Know Your Audience.
Planning outreach to target a specific audience is key. Adapting to appeal to a certain group will have the effect of making the invitation seem more personal and also be more fun to give. A church could cater to its adult audience by hosting a wine and cheese tasting, for example. If the focus is on reaching youth, then it could be fun to plan around a sports game or shared hobby. Having an invitation and event that are personalized will make it more appealing for people to join.
7. Make Your First Night a Launch Night.
First of all, make it as easy on your congregation as possible to invite people to an event. Printing special invites for members to hand out is a great way to spark involvement and get the word out. Make the night entertaining with a bar, live music and a comfortable environment. People are usually always willing just to come to a cool event and meet new people. The event can celebrate the start to an evangelism program, such as Alpha or something else.
There is power in a personal invitation. Try some, or all of these seven tips to make invitation a part of the culture at your church.
Tiffany Self is the director of communications and marketing for Alpha USA. She has served in a variety of capacities in ministry spanning from Christian higher education to leading small groups for adults and teens. Her marketing career of more than 20 years has dovetailed with her desire to see God’s kingdom expand across the globe.