Most church leaders would love to stay focused on the organization's mission and helping others in the community. The reality, however, is that without adequate numbers of regular attendees, some of those projects wouldn't be possible. If membership isn't growing, neither is the church or the resources it has to do the things it is called to do.
Inviting new people to church can be awkward, though. Members who have grown up in evangelical traditions likely have some experience with church leaders who missed the mark when teaching them how to get their friends to join. The methods presented to them may have been cheesy at best and possibly even hurtful. There are ways to invite people to a church you love, though, that don't necessarily have to make the conversation weird.
When You Know Them Well
Some evangelists treat invitations like a cold-call sales routine. There are many telltale signs of this method:
- Brochure (also known as a tract)
- Business cards
- Follow-up call
People are often turned off by this impersonal approach. It can make others feel as if you are not interested in them as people but just as numbers. Instead, start with people you know well. A benefit of inviting people you know is that you can better gauge whether your church would be beneficial to them and whether they would be open to an invitation.
When They Ask Questions
Your church is likely a large part of your life, so it's natural for it to come up in everyday conversations. When people try to change the subject or seem to lose interest in the topic when you mention it, take the hint. This is not the time to invite them. However, if the person you are talking to asks what church you go to or what you like about it, he or she may be interested in visiting.
When You Offer a Helpful Program
If you find a hair stylist or restaurant you really love, you want to tell everyone about it. You had a good experience, and you want to pass it on to the people you care about. Inviting people to church doesn't have to be any different, particularly if you have a program you know one of your friends would love. For example, your church's ministry partnership with the local food bank offers a great opportunity for anyone who wants to volunteer but is hesitant about going alone the first time. Inviting people to join in projects provides a natural segue to asking them if they want to attend other meetings or services.
When They Express Interest
The best invitations are the ones you don't even have to start. During a conversation, you may be thinking that your friend would really love your church services and trying to figure out a way to issue an invitation that doesn't sound forced when he or she says, "Are you going to church this Sunday? I think I'd like to come with you." These encounters often result in new members who are invested in what your church is doing from the beginning. When it's their idea to attend, they are more likely to come back.
Evangelism doesn't have to be a scary word. If you invite people to church the same natural way you ask them to join you in other activities or recommend other services, there's no need for it to be awkward. You can share your experience with them and let that speak for itself. By actually getting to know people and their needs before you volunteer your faith community as a way to meet them, you are better able to discern the right time to invite them.