We all want our church family to participate in the important Kingdom work of inviting people to church and sharing the love of Jesus with them. But, this doesn’t always happen automatically — it takes intentional effort to cultivate a culture of invitation and welcome at your church.
For most people it’s easier to welcome people to church once they arrive, rather than going out of our way understand how to invite people themselves. This is understandable — these days, it can feel pretty intimidating to directly invite people to church. Your congregation might need a little extra encouragement to take a bold step and extend a personal invitation to someone, so we have a few tips to help get them ready.
Tip 1: Ask Them
It may seem obvious, but the first step is asking your church to invite people! It’s easy to get caught up in the regular rhythm of Sunday services and forget to ask your church members what they’re doing to invite others in. If it’s been a while, take a moment to talk with them about it.
A personal invitation is perhaps the best way to invite someone to church because there’s an existing connection for the invitee. People will typically feel much more comfortable attending a new church when they already know someone there. It can help take away the anxiety of having to navigate around on their own, or the fear of sitting by themselves. Plus, when they visit church because of a personal invitation from someone they know, they already have a point person to answer any questions they may have (and someone to soothe any worries or concerns).
That said, you don’t have to go over this with your congregation every Sunday. In fact, doing so might numb your church to the request because they become so accustomed to hearing it week after week. Instead, try to find natural points to work in an appeal every month or two. Remind them why inviting others is important and ask them to consider who they can seek out in their circles — friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.
If you need some help motivating them, why not add in a little humor? Josh and Steve know that working up the courage to extend a personal invitation is tough, but worth it in the end! Their series of video clips are great to use in the lead up to big Sundays when you’re really hoping to get lots of new visitors:
Tip 2: Equip Them
After you ask them, equip them. It’s important to offer regular verbal encouragement and support, but you also need to equip your congregation with tools that will help them bridge the discomfort they may feel about inviting people to church.
Invite cards are a great way to do this.
These handy little cards are designed to hold your church’s basic information, a welcoming message, and friendly graphics or imagery, all for the purpose of giving a potential visitor everything they need to know to find your church and visit. Invite cards come in a variety of shapes too. Consider stocking a table in your church lobby with invite cards that people are free to pick up as needed. Let your congregation know the cards are available, and encourage them to think of who they could offer one to. If they need to work up to actually inviting someone in person, they could always leave a couple of cards at their place of work or a local business.
Encourage them to use social media.
Social media can be another great way to bridge the gap for some of your church members who may not be comfortable enough to invite someone to church in person. Encourage them to share posts from your church, or tag your church in their own posts. This will help their online friends associate them with your church. You never know what kind of simple digital connection will help give someone the courage to seek out a community of believers.
Another idea is to set up a Facebook Event for Easter and then ask your church members to share it with their friends. This is a way to extend an offer to everyone without the pressure of choosing one person directly.
Invite cards and social media are helpful to warm people up to the idea of directly inviting someone to church. If you have the time and resources, you could always do a sermon or short series about why inviting people to church is important. You could also have a class available for people to take if they really want to learn how to be effective inviters.
Tip 3: Get Ready
Now that you’ve explained to your church why inviting is important and you’ve helped equip them to do it, make sure you’re ready for new visitors! Your church members will feel a lot more comfortable inviting people to church if they know their guests will find a warm, welcoming environment. If you haven’t reviewed your guest services policies lately, now’s a great time to do this. Here are a few key things to focus on to give guests a great experience:
A fantastic welcome desk
You welcome desk should be well-marked, easily accessible place visitors can go to get any and all questions answered. Your welcome desk volunteers should be great people readers and well versed in virtually everything about your church. Can they answer questions about how to get more connected at your church? Can they show or direct guests to any part of the building? It helps to have occasional training for your welcome team to keep everyone on the same page, especially if you’re periodically adding in new volunteers.
It’s also a great idea to stock your welcome desk with anything someone might need during your service — think bottled water, tissues, mints, earplugs, pens, notepads, etc.
And have a welcome gift available for people! In fact, when it comes to welcome gifts, consider offering one to both the visitor and the person who invited them as a fun incentive. Here are a few fun options both newcomers and current attendees will enjoy:
Tip 4: Connect With Them
Now that you’re prepared for new visitors, how will you welcome them and show them their presence is valued?
Acknowledge visitors during your service
Welcome guests at the beginning of the service, and take moments to acknowledge them throughout. This shows guests that you’ve thought of them in advance and are happy they’ve visited. You shouldn’t have them stand up or raise their hands; Some people may be comfortable with this, but it could potentially embarrass others. Instead, you could say something like “If you’re visiting today, welcome! We’re so glad you’re here.” This is enough to make them feel welcomed and valued.
You can also invite them to fill out a connection card and drop it off at the welcome desk. Explain that the desk is where they can have any questions answered, find out how to connect further, and receive their free gift. It’s also nice to address guests at other moments in your service that may require participation they’re potentially unsure of or uncomfortable with. For example, during the offering, let them know they’re welcome to give if they’d like but that it’s not required or expected of them. Or if you’re practicing communion, let them know they’re welcome to participate if they are comfortable, but it’s not expected. Simple moments like this will help put guests at ease, especially if they aren’t familiar with church.
Have ways to follow up
Do you have a good follow up plan for contacting new visitors? Once they visit, don’t just leave it up to the person who invited them to follow up. If you make a point to reach out to them, they’ll know they’re valued by your church as a whole. Texts or emails are great options that are easy and quick, but a handwritten note from your pastor or another staff member at church is an especially nice touch.
Do you have a regular welcome lunch for new visitors? Once a month is a great rhythm for this. You can announce it during service and encourage people to come share a meal while learning more about your church. Have your pastor and other staff members available to chat with people and answer any questions.
So, how is your church doing when it comes to encouraging members to invite others to church? It’s okay if you have some room to improve — it’s an ongoing process! Try out some of these tips to cultivate an inviting culture at your church that gets your congregation excited to share your church with others.