There are a number of ways to pursue church growth. There are tips for making facilities more appealing and marketing tools for promoting ministries. There are keywords on Google and mailers for sending to people who move into the neighborhood. Though these can be helpful for name recognition, they don’t take the place of soul winning.
When we planted Saints Community Church in New Orleans during 2011, we tried everything. We sent out a 25,000-piece mailer. We distributed door hangers in the neighborhood where we were meeting. We even had a billboard. We eventually discovered that without personal invitations, none of our marketing mattered.
As we encouraged and empowered people to invite friends and share their faith, our church began to grow — one person at a time. We are not a megachurch by any means, but our multicampus congregation is one of the larger churches in our community.
Evangelism is not easy for many of us. But there are ways to help leaders and congregations grow in their love for the lost and strengthen their skills for inviting people.
Lead By Example
The key to creating culture always requires leadership from the top, and that is certainly true of inviting. It is important for people to hear the leader share personal stories of inviting people. It doesn’t always have to be a perfect story, one that ends with a salvation response. Real stories — however imperfect — can inspire people to invite those they care about as well.
Make Invitation Easy
Give people tangible tools. We have found invite cards related to a series or special Sunday are especially effective. It’s also helpful to have something general available with church information people can hand out at any time. We’ve created screensavers that remind our churchgoers to invite others and social media posts they can share. Get creative, but keep it simple.
It’s also easier to invite on special days when there are other guests. When our friend Dan Hunter was youth pastor at Oaks Church (Assemblies of God) in Red Oak, Texas, the church had an event called One Day, encouraging everyone to bring one friend on one day. The first time we tried this, we had over 100 first-time guests.
For our staff and leaders, there is no higher priority than spending time with unbelievers.
We make a big deal out of baptisms and baby dedications, as well as Easter, Christmas and any special reason to get people in the door.
For our staff and leaders, there is no higher priority than spending time with unbelievers. If one of us receives an invitation to a city meeting that happens to conflict with our staff meeting, the city meeting takes precedence.
One of the ways we demonstrate a heart of caring is by being present. Whether it’s a round of golf or a little league game, birthday parties or bar mitzvahs, we are going. We expect staff members to continually invest in relationships with unbelievers.
During the pandemic, we assembled from our database a list of everyone who had ever visited our church and their contact information. We divided up the list and asked 50 church leaders — staff members, elders, and volunteers — to call each person. We asked people if they were OK and if they needed anything, offered prayer, and invited them to join an online small group.
We asked each person calling to consider hosting a small group. In this way, we added 20 new groups and a lot of hurting people. This isn’t about events, but it is about extending the hand of care at a critical time and sharing the hope of Christ.
The first few years after planting our church, I worked full-time in banking. I often invited co-workers to church. Even years after I left, I would stop by and personally invite friends for special days. I still went to Christmas parties and dropped off a coffee drink if I had a coupon, just to keep in touch.
When the pandemic hit, one friend from the bank began watching our Sunday service on Facebook. She started sharing our videos, commenting, and soon joined a Zoom small group. The first Sunday we met in person, she was there, mask and all. After eight years of inviting, my friend had a crisis and realized she needed God’s help.
Don’t give up if you don’t see results right away. Ask, and keep asking.
Is it awkward? Yes. Do I feel weird every time I send a text message reminding someone to come? Yes. I have to care more about that person’s spiritual condition than my fear.
Follow those promptings from the Holy Spirit, and see what God does when you step out. Share those experiences with your congregation, and make it easier for them to experience the joy of sharing their faith.
Together, you can grow in passion for seeing friends and neighbors find Jesus.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 edition of Influence magazine.