This blog post comes from Michael Lukaszewski’s presentation at Engage Conference. Michael is a former church planter, youth pastor, and church consultant. Today, Michael leads ChurchFuel.com. In this session, Michael outlines a simple strategy to develop an inviting culture in your church.
Church Fuel helps churches increase their congregational engagement, answering the question, “Pastor, what do you want people in your church to do?” Congregational engagement typically falls into one of three categories: giving, volunteering, and inviting. This session focused on equipping your church to invite others. Specifically, it answered the question, “What do you do when your people won’t invite?”
Michael outlined three components of creating an inviting culture:
1. Don’t just prepare for guests. Publically prepare.
When you make changes to your church, environment, culture, or website to make your church more guest-friendly, teach your church about why you are making changes. For example, if you wanted to refresh your lobby to make it more guest friendly, resist the temptation to just go do the work. Instead, spend time informing the church on why the lobby needs refreshed, who the refreshed lobby will benefit/serve, and for what it will be used. Changes to the website can be similarly communicated. Emphasize to your church that your website is like the church’s digital front-door where new people can go to find information on the church. If you want to read more on making some of these changes and casting vision for your church about the why, check out a blog post we did all about obsessing over your first time guests. Adding a “Plan Your Visit” button to the home page can help your church members share information about your church with guests. Any time you make a change to be more guest-friendly, emphasize the “why” behind the “what.”
As church leaders, we have to realize that we may not be as welcoming to guests as we think we are. Churches routinely state that the friendliness of their church is one of their strengths. That usually means that we are friendly among the people we see every week. Have you ever been to someone else’s family reunion? Those families are friendly and warm towards one another, but guests can have a somewhat awkward experience. Church leaders often don’t know what it’s like to be a guest in their own church. They are part of the family. The best strategy to understand guest experience is to ask a guest. Church Fuel has a “Secret Shopper Evaluation” to assist you in getting guest feedback.
2. Equip your church with relevant tools
We’re good at asking people to do things, but we’re bad at equipping them to do it. Awareness is the enemy of action. We don’t need church members to be aware of the fact that we want them to be inviting, we need them to actually invite. What kinds of tools work to motivate church members to invite?
• Printed invitation cards-- promote new sermon series, service emphasis, or youth group. Give the cards to your church members and teach them how to use them.
• Pre-written social media posts-- Make inviting others easy for your people. Create a page on your website that ends with “/invite” where you upload graphics and pre-written posts for your people to use. Make sure that all of your shareable posts aren’t just announcements. For example, create a post of restaurants where kids eat free on Sundays, tag the restaurants in your post, and encourage your people to share it.
• Teach “The Three Nots”-- Teach your church members that when they hear someone use one of these “not” phrases to shift the conversation to an invitation to church: “I’m not from here,” something is “not going well,” or something was “not expected.”
3. Give support with marketing and advertising.
Churches don’t market in the traditional sense, but some business marketing principles are similar to successfully promoting our churches. What our churches have to offer is so important that we should bring best business practices to our efforts. As church members see your church striving to promote the church in the community, an inviting culture starts to grow.
It is said that it can take up to 5 years to change the culture of a place. So, if invitation is not part of your church culture, be ready to play the long game. It’s okay that your church won’t pivot that direction after a couple of weeks. Be diligent and gracious with your people, continuing to cast vision as to why this is so important. And remember these three things Michael recommends:
1. Publicly Prepare for Guests
2. Equip Your Church with Relevant Tools
3. Give Support with Marketing and Advertising