One of the goals I have had for myself as the lead pastor of thebridge is to consistantly create a climate in which people feel like they could invite a friend to join us on any Sunday without feeling awkward. I know for me personally, I can move from uncomfortable to angry in a hurry when I am attending a church from the perspective of either a first time guest or as someone who is not a believer. The announcements drag on, some ritual is being done and I have no idea how to follow along, a 10 minute prayer about damnation for the sinners, or sermon that is really hard to relate to.
I believe we have a long ways to go in this but I also believe if you asked those attend thebridge (which we have) if they feel comfortable inviting someone to thebridgethey would say yes. Below are some of my strategies in accomplishing the Open Invite Climate.
- Our strategy has always been to be a church where you can come as you are. I have personally gotten some feedback on my appearance and its irreverence for God by some but I have gotten far more comments that have expressed their enjoyment in that they don’t have to have it all together to come. They can just show up. Some people think I’m being intentional about how I dress and my answer is you better believe I am. I dress to be comfortable. I dress the way God created me and not to please others.
- Make sure everyone will hear something for them! This past Sunday I talked about tithing, giving, and eating God’s portion. I felt really good about how the message was coming together but I had a nagging feeling that if you were a first time guest or not a believer you would leave thinking all that church wants is my money. (In the first week of our series I talked about how this was a myth for us at thebridge) Thus I added a component to the talk and changed the main point of the morning. The main point of the morning is what is the next step of faith God is inviting you into. I was then able to talk about tithing, giving, and possessions and how it could relate to a possible next step for some but then I was able to come back and point out various other next steps so that there was something there for everyone. Why did I do this? By making sure there will always be something for everyone I never have to worry about someone feeling bad about asking a friend to church.
- Another way I am trying to create and open invite culture is by offering events that may or may not have anything to do with our Sunday gatherings. Rather their purpose is to connect those who are already coming and maybe those who have wondered about coming.
- Choosing to be different. By this I mean we intentionally do things that either push the envelope, make people laugh, or get people curious. This could be done by a title of sermon series, a video (which we are trying to do more of), or a prop such as fire, bow & arrows, or cantaloupe.
- Love! We do our best to love people from the moment the exit their vehicle to the time the drive out of the parking lot. Greeting, Food, Coffee, and People who are out talking all aid in this. It has to be authentic though.
- Keeping guests under the radar. We don’t ask our guests to stand up or do anything special that will make them stick. We do get their info but we have everyone fill out info every week so they are just part of the crowd when they give us their info.
- I’m inviting people. If I’m not inviting people why should anyone else?
- We are praying for new people. Often missed in strategies is prayer. We have a long ways to go in this one.
Well I’m sure there are more things that we’ve intentionally done to keep an open invite culture but hopefully the above gives you a window into what we do. I’d love to hear your ideas or about what you have seen work. If you are looking for a resource on this I would suggest the following books by Seth Godin, “Purple Cow” and “Free Prize Inside.”
For those of you who come to thebridge maybe you could capitalize on one or all of the following.
Invite a friend to
- Debt Free Seminar – Jan 28
- Sexy Sundays – Feb 1
- Superbowl Party – Feb 1
- To be a part of a Growth Group – Starting in Feb
- Join us on service project – Every other Saturday