Let’s be clear, inviting someone to church isn’t necessarily the same thing as sharing the gospel with them. And attending a church does not equate to having a transformative relationship with Jesus. There are plenty of people who attend churches all over the world who are not engaged in discipleship and whose spiritual lives are not shaped by the kingdom of God.
That being said, inviting someone to church may be the first step in their journey and the beginning stage of coming to faith in Jesus. If church gatherings create space where people are able to learn the ways of Jesus and engage, interact, and experience God, why wouldn’t we want to encourage people to invite their friends, family, and neighbors to our church gatherings? This is, I think, an aspect of joining God’s mission, especially here in the west, despite the post-Christian world we live in. Our church, the Red Bluff Vineyard, has seen some radical growth (over 1,000% growth) and I think a lot of it is related to some simple things we did that made it easy for everyone to participate!
Here are a few ways you can empower church folks to invite non-church folks to your church gatherings:
(1) Use social media. You may not be the most tech savvy human alive, but you need to realize that social media allows us to connect with literally thousands upon thousands of people that we would never come in contact with! Friends of friends and what have you. You simply cannot neglect this medium if you want to both empower people in your church to invite others and reach people outside of your church community.
For example, creating church events on your Facebook page (assuming you have one!) makes it easy for people to share those events and invite others to them. It’s a win-win type of situation. Posting on Instagram about the events you have coming up is a great way to get people excited and aware of what is going on! Plus, you can schedule posts about anything you’d like to encourage your church with or make people aware of what’s going on.
We have had dozens upon dozens of people come to church events, including normal worship gatherings, because someone invited them on a social media platform. I consistently hear people who have started attending our church inform me that before they came to visit, they had seen at least ten different shared posts from people they know. It works folks. It works. Plus, this is a great way to get other people, especially younger folks, involved (if you can convince them… good luck!).
For those of you who need help with understanding social media, designing graphics, or just plain figuring things out, you should check out Courageous Storytellers for tons of help and get the Over App for a great graphic design solution. And check out the Red Bluff Vineyard Facebook page and Instagram page for examples of what we’re doing.
(2) Provide invitation cards. In the past two years, I’ve had numerous situations where I am minding my own business and then strike up a conversation with someone who then asks me what brought me to the city of Red Bluff. After I tell them about my family moving here to serve and lead a church, it only seems right to invite them to visit us. In fact it almost seems rude not to! Being able to pull out a little invitation that’s the size of business card is really helpful because it has all of the information on it that I can easily forget… things like the service time(s), the location, our website and contact information.
If we believe that people are always one invitation way from encountering God, something I’ve heard Steve Nicholson say, these little cards are absolutely indispensable! So print some up and encourage your church community to get into the habit of carrying them around and giving them to people. And remind them that they do not replace tips for restaurant staff but they are a great addition to generous tips!
(3) Acknowledge those who do invite people. It’s important to remember that what gets praised, gets repeated. So make sure to share stories of people inviting others to church, both the successes and the failures! You can do this in sermons, small groups, on your social media pages, etc. It helps people know that others are participating, even struggling!
While the majority of church growth happens because new people invite new people, the important thing to do is develop ways to celebrate people who invite people toward Jesus!
I hope these help! Of course you’ll want to root all of this in a clear commitment to God’s Mission and the necessity of sharing Jesus with the world, but these are some practical ways to get some traction with people engaging in what I call an “invitational culture.”
Let me know what you’d add to this list and what’s worked for you!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.