Inviting

by David Hansen, LEAD Director of Communication & Innovation

Many congregations are “welcoming.” In fact, more often than not, congregations go out of their way to describe how “friendly” they are. I suspect that if we were to ask, 90% of US congregations would describe themselves as more friendly than the average congregation.

The thing about being welcoming and being friendly is that they are passive attributes. You either are, or you aren’t.

By contrast, congregations that are thriving tend to be “inviting” congregations, rather than welcoming or friendly.

The act of invitation is active. It requires us to do something – to initiate a change in our relationship with our neighbors.

What does it look like to be an inviting disciple?

Asking

Too often we neglect the power of a simple invitation. “Would you like to go to worship with me this Easter?” “I’m hosting a Bible study on Thursday – can I save you seat?”

A good invitation is specific. General invitations almost never lead to specific plans (“Hey, we should get together sometime”). Invitations become effective when we invite people to a specific event, at a specific time. In our case, a specific event at the church or worship service on a specific date.

The best invitations also involve accompaniment. There is risk in going to a new place. Walking in alone. Not knowing who to talk to. An effective invitation lets people know that they will not be alone – the words “with me” are key.

Honesty

Of all places, it is the church that often struggles with honesty. We want to paint our community in the best possible light – show people the best of who we are.

But, if we invite people without being honest about whom we are, we could wind up disappointing both them and ourselves.

Learning to be invitational includes taking a hard look at ourselves. What is the preaching like, what does the community look like, how is the music, what is the programming, and who is really welcome as a part of the community?

Making Space

As you walk into church on a Sunday morning, ask yourself how the space would feel for a new visitor. Is it easy to find your way around? What is it like meeting new people? Are there signs? How was the parking?

When we step out of our own current experience, we begin to see things that we would otherwise miss. Many of these are things that we can make a difference in, in order to make space for the new visitor.

When pulling into the parking lot, we can park a little farther from the door, leaving closer parking spaces for visitors who arrive after us.

When we sit down in the worship space, we can move toward the front and middle of the row – leaving space on the end of the row and near the back for the visitors who come after us.

We can introduce ourselves to people we haven’t met yet. When we go to get our coffee, we can offer directions to someone who looks a little lost.

Just opening our eyes to the visitor’s experience helps us to become more invitational.

What will you do this week to become an inviting disciple?

6 replies
  1. Mark Thomas Peterson
    Mark Thomas Peterson says:

    David, thank you for this post. I find it insightful and a good way to shift our beings from passive to active.

    I think your ideas are right on track, yet I also feel that what is missing from your piece points to what is missing (or at least such a periphery assumption that makes it more appendix than heart) in many congregations today. That is THE Truth of what we are inviting people into and why it matters. Our invitation isn’t merely to a nice place and activity that makes you feel good, it is an invitation to a feast, THE FEAST. Our invitation is to come and dine on the Lamb of God, and be a participant in the salvation that God is bringing.

    I think of all the other things that are inviting to me on a Sunday morning (if I wasn’t a pastor) and wonder why I’d turn down golf, or a child’s sports practice, or a lazy morning, or a plethora of other things to accept an invitation to a faith community.

    Thank you and I hope this comes accross as conversational. I truly did find your piece insightful as I do with much of what LEAD provides.

    Peace!

    Reply
    • David Hansen
      David Hansen says:

      Pastor Mark –

      Thank you for your feedback and engagement! I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond.

      I couldn’t agree more – knowing what we are inviting people to is an essential piece of the puzzle. I limited myself on this piece for length’s sake, focusing on the “how” instead of the “why” or the “what” – but all of those pieces are important. In fact – as you point out – the Why and the What are probably more important … Thank you for keeping that in front of us.

      Reply
  2. Pr. Kent Krumwiede
    Pr. Kent Krumwiede says:

    Thank you for this post. It is the best description of “Inviting” I have found in addition to Pastor Mark’s comments. May I share this with my councils as our devotion for our next meeting as well as with the Strategic Planning Team?

    Reply
    • chris
      chris says:

      Thank you for your comments, we’re glad you found this helpful. Yes, you certainly may share this post with your council. We are pleased to provide resources that stimulate discussions among leaders.

      Reply
      • revhuebner@gmail.com
        revhuebner@gmail.com says:

        David, thank you for you thought provoking words in this article. Chris had a great idea about sharing this article with his council. I plan to share this with my council too! In fact, I’m going to share this website and article with my network of pastoral friends too!

        Reply

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