Inviting someone to church is a simple thing but it can feel like a huge step to take.
How do I approach the subject?
Some of us have developed the habit of avoiding speaking about our church. You might be hesitant to talk about church. You just feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed about it. If you feel that way it is good to ask yourself why.
The thing that often stops us is a fear of what the other person will think. Perhaps we are afraid they will lump us in with all the unfavorable stereotypes about bible-thumping, hard-sell evangelists that we see portrayed in the media. How you make the invitation and what you say after they respond to it can help to keep you out of that group.
One thing we should do is look for opportunities to talk about church. When someone asks about your weekend, tell them something about the church service you attended. This is an easy way to bring up the subject of church. You might follow up with the question, “Are you part of a faith community in the area?” If the answer is “yes,” ask them about it. If the answer is “no” you could say, “You would always be welcome at my church. Would you like to come sometime?”
The idea behind the invitation is a simple one: Going to church is a positive experience for me and I would like to offer that positive experience to you.
I made the invitation, now what?:
It depends on the person’s response. If the answer is positive, figure out when would be the best time to accompany them to church. If the answer is uncertain, you can ask if they have ever been to another church. If they have, then ask them to elaborate about what that experience was like. Or you might ask what they think the church service will be like. They might have some misconceptions about what goes on at church that is keeping them from saying yes. Ask open-ended questions and try to get them to talk. Perhaps when they went to a church service in the past, they were made to feel unwelcome and they don’t want to repeat that experience.
If the answer is negative, you might ask if they have had a bad experience in a church before. If they say they have you can ask if they would like to talk about it. Be ready to listen. Offer caring and sympathetic responses. Show concern for them. Your loving attitude might give them the freedom to open up and talk about a time that was difficult for them.
If they are not interested in coming to church and they make it clear that they don’t want to talk about it then let it go and don’t take it personally. Keep things friendly. Who knows, he or she might change their mind and want to talk later.
Take time to prepare.
Think about the things that you like most about our church and think about how you might explain those things in language that people who don’t go to church will understand. It really is important to do this so that you don’t find yourself struggling to come up with the words when the opportunity arises. In his first letter, Peter writes: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1Pet 3:15.
Keep in mind that a simple invitation can have far-reaching consequences. The church isn’t a social club. It is the family of God. Your invitation might be the first step in a journey that includes healing, forgiveness and eternal life. That is what people are longing for, whether they know it or not.
The words of St. Paul encourage me across the centuries: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. 2Tim 1:6-8. It can be easy to forget that God has given us his Spirit. Sometimes we need to stir up that Spirit and fan into flame the love we have for others. The love that comes from the Spirit. Let that Spirit help us to overcome any embarrassment or timidity and share the great treasure that is inside of each one of us.