More church invitations: Friends and Family

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Church Invitations

Friendships and Church InvitationsIn the previous article in the series of giving more invitations to church, I focused on prayer.

As I continue to look at various ways to increase the number of personal invitations to church that your church members give, today’s article is focused on the number of personal friends who are unchurched.

Again, the statistics show that a personal invitation from a friend is the best way to get church visitors.

For that to happen, our church members must be in regular and ongoing contact with people who do not go to church.

Trusted Relationships lead to Church Invitations

Are your church members actively engaged in intentional relationships with people who don’t know Christ?

How about you? What is your honest answer to that question?

Active involvement in the life of non-Christians will put you in a place to give a personal invitation to church.

As you regularly attend your church, you’ll see places where a sermon series might connect with the life struggles of your friend.

You’ll hear sermons that will make you think: “I wish my friend could hear this.”

Or you’ll hear some wisdom from a sermon that will allow you to speak the Bible’s wisdom directly into the life of your friend.

If you are actively involved in the life of non-Christians, you’ll begin to see connections between their needs and opportunities to invite them to church.

Even new relationships can provide a context for a church invitation

I regularly visit a park in the late afternoons.  I’ve met another immigrant dad who is always there with his daughter.

While our kids play together, we usually have a conversation.

We are still in the “getting to know you” phase of a friendship, since the only thing in common is our kids playing in the park a few afternoons at a time.

Yet, within the 2nd or 3rd conversation I could tell he was open to an invitation to my church.  We had been talking about church attendance and activities, and it became a recurring theme in our short conversations.

He told me he didn’t attend church regularly.  He expressed his desire that he wanted to start taking his daughter somewhere.  He even mentioned that was casually looking but was nervous about attending a place without any prior contact.

Our conversation led to a natural invitation to church.

A few conversations gathered enough trust to make a safe invitation to church.

Are your church members involved in the life of unchurched people?

Maybe it’s time to invite people to take inventory of their current relationships and intentionally develop new ones.

Herb Miller wrote a short list in Church Effectiveness Nuggets (Vol 8) that can help you lead people to reflect upon their social network:

Either in printed form or oral form, or both, the following paragraphs raise consciousness concerning people the worshippers could invite to worship.

Read the paragraphs slowly at an appropriate time in the worship service, accompanied by meditative background music.

  • Think of family members: spouse, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, inlaws, nephews, and nieces.
  • Think of neighbors: next-door neighbors, elderly persons in the neighborhood, and new families on your block.
  • Think of people at work: supervisors, employees you supervise, secretaries, clerical staff, students you teach, clients, new staff members, and colleagues you see occasionally.
  • Think of friends with whom you dine out: single friends, parents of your child’s friends, old friends from school, and friends of your spouse.
  • Think of casual associates: your dentist, doctor, real estate or life insurance agent, your child’s teacher, merchants, service or luncheon club members, people who belong to clubs or associations or professional groups that you attend, babysitters,sales representatives who call on you, people who graduated from the same university.
  • Think especially of people undergoing personal life stresses of some kind.  These individuals are often ready to hear answers to their problems from within the Christian faith: People who recently divorced, couples with new babies, families that have experienced a recent death, households where someone has lost their job or suffered business reverses.

Use this procedure in morning worship two times a year as a stand-alone part of the worship experience.

The following week, several worshippers will notice the “invisible people” in their circle of acquaintances who do not attend church.

Noticing is the first step toward inviting.

Other ways to help your members think through their list of friends:

 

How to get more faith sharing conversations during your week

Recently, I’ve been coaching church teams on personal evangelism over a 4 month time frame.

Their goal is to increase the number of faith sharing conversations they have throughout the week.

Here is a little test that comes out from coaching:

  • If you were to look back at the last 7 days, how many times did you get to share something about your relationship with Christ with a non-believing friend?
  • If your answer is zero, then what can you do to change that?

Let me share one tip with you.

OneToOneConversation

The starting point for more faith conversations is prayer.

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. – 1 Samuel 3.7

As I read this a few mornings ago, I simply began to think:

  • Who am I praying for to know the Lord?
  • Who am I praying for God to reveal His word?

I can think of several people today in the reach of my life who do not yet know the Lord.

Many of you know that prayer precedes personal evangelism.

Yet I encounter more and more people that still feel somewhat clumsy in actually praying for people who don’t know the Lord.

Start with a prayer list

Read here on how to Make a prayer list.

It’s a great exercise as it forces us to pay attention to the number of relationships with non-Christians.

Once you have that list, then pray regularly for them by name.

Here are 10 ways to pray for them:

For example:

  • Give me eyes to see their spiritual thirst.  (See What is Spiritual Thirst?)
  • Give me opportunity to speak with them.
  • Give them a thirst, help me to see it.
  • Help them move another step closer to you.
  • Reveal yourself to them in undeniable ways.

Here is a Evangelismcoach podcast that might give you another possible structure:

What about you?  Who are you praying for today?

As you pray for them by name, obey any guidance the Lord gives you:

  • Is God inviting me to spend a little more time with them?
  • What is the next “do” with them? Call? Coffee? Cookout?

Christmas Party Icebreaker to Start Spiritual Conversations

Christmas Party Icebreaker

Here is a sample Christmas Party icebreaker and conversational guide that is similar to the one found on page 38 of Christmas Party Games from Creative Youth Ideas.

You can use this icebreaker as a Christmas party game for adults, for youth, and for kids.

You can probably find this party game for Christmas everywhere on the Internet but what I like is the discussion applications to help break the ice for some great faith oriented conversations over the eggnog or punch.

Christmas Party IceBreaker

Name of Party Game: Christmas Forward and Backward.

When I played variations of this Christmas Party game during other seasons, I called it Move to the Left or Right.

Energy level of Christmas Party Game: Low, using chairs in a line.

How to play: Move forward or backward depending on the criteria that is called.

If someone is already occupying that chair, sit on their lap.

Example criteria:

  • Move forward if you are wearing green.
  • If you like eggnog, move forward one chair
  • If you plan to go to church on Christmas eve, move back one chair.

The actual resource of Christmas Party Games for Youth (read my review of Christmas Collection from Creative Youth Ideas) suggests 30 different criteria for this Christmas party game.  That should be enough to stir your creativity for more.

Discussion starters

As a talking point, you can talk about moving forward or moving backward in life.

As you think about your relationships this past year, have you moved forward or backwards?

As you think about your spiritual life, have you moved forward or backwards?

Did you reach any goals you may have had at the beginning of the year for your spiritual life?

Then you can ask this an application:

Take a few moments to plan where you want to be spiritually at the end of next year.

  • In relationships?
  • In your education?
  • In your career?
  • In some personal goals?
  • In your relationship to God?

This party game for Christmas can be a great ice breaker to start future conversations later over that bowl of eggnog.

Your guests might volunteer with you 1-1 where they would like to grow spiritually later that year.

Read more about the  resource of Christmas Party Games for Youth.

5 Great Spiritual Conversation Questions

Organic Outreach for Ordinary PeopleWhat are some conversational starter questions that might lead to deep spiritual discussions in your personal evangelism?

Here are 5 as written out in Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally

The following is directly quoted from page 190.


Here are some questions that could move your conversations with nonbelievers to deeper levels of spiritual interaction:

1. What are some joys you are experiencing in this season of your life?

Most people would love to share about the good things in their lives, but they are afraid that others won’t care. Just by asking and listening, you open the door for great interaction. Also, if there are clear signs that God is blessing their life, you could open the door for conversation about the source of all good things.

2. What challenges and struggles are you facing?

People will share their pains and hurts with someone who truly cares about them and takes the time to listen. As they share, you may find that it becomes an opportunity to minister the grace of Jesus. Sharing struggles can also create space for you to pray for or with them.

3. What is your personal history when it comes to faith and God?

This question is not so much about what people believe as it is about their personal histories.

A person might say, “I have no history when it comes to religion,” or “I grew up going to Mass every week and my parents are quite devout,” or “I have always been very spiritual and I still read my horoscope daily and do a lot of meditation.”

No matter what answer they give, you end up learning something about their journey that may allow you to move the conversation to a deeper level.

4. What do you believe about God?

With this question, we move into more personal convictions and beliefs.

Again, no matter how they answer, remember that you are learning and already going deeper than a typical conversation.

Some Christians feel pressured to correct “wrong thinking” or “errant theology” in their conversations with nonbelievers. Try not to do this.

Just listen and learn where they are; then you’ll gain a sense of where they still need to go on their journey toward Jesus.

5.  What is your perception of Christians?

Or put a different way, “What is your perception of Christianity or of the Christian church?” It takes courage to ask this question, listen, and not get defensive. But I have found that it can be an open door to deeper conversations.


Taken from Harney, Kevin G. (2009-09-29). Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally (pp. 191-192).   Order your copy from Amazon by clicking the affiliate link and Amazon will pitch me a few pennies.

Sharing your faith with no results

Why do some people express great interest in the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet they never cross the line of faith and discipleship?

Perhaps you’ve spent time sharing your faith (maybe a few years) by

  • Developing authentic relationships with non-believers
  • Faith sharing conversations over dinner
  • Answering difficult questions

Yet, they never seem to get the faith you share with them.

Years of faith sharing with little results

Some of you probably have encountered this.

I know I have.

There are people in my life that no matter how much I share my faith, they remain apart from Christ.

As an evangelist, that’s hard.

I remember one person with whom I shared my faith with for four years.  Nothing.

Apostle Paul shared his faith with the same person for two years!

At the end of Acts 23, the apostle Paul was sent to Felix, the governor. Felix had Paul guarded in Herod’s palace (Acts 23: 35) until he had the chance to hear Paul himself (Acts 24).

After the hearing, Felix gave Paul some “freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs” (24:23)

Felix had some level of spiritual curiosity, and some working knowledge about the followers of Jesus (Acts 24:22), even if it was only on a political level as the movement of Christianity spread.

Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. (v24)

Paul and Felix discussed Jesus and what it means to follow Jesus.

 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

I can imagine that Felix even experienced the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in some of those conversations.  Even if there were some hidden motives for hearing Paul (like bribery – v. 26), Felix still got to hear of Jesus and the implications of being a disciple of Christ.

These faith sharing conversations went on for the next two years (v.27).

Even though Paul was a prisoner, it’s hard not to imagine that a friendship developed, or at least a level of mutual respect between these two men as Paul shared his faith.

We can speculate some of the relationship dynamics that changed over the course of the next two years.

Two years of faith sharing, no immediate fruit

I can imagine (and this is santicified imagination) Paul doing the following

  • Praying for Felix on a regular basis.
  • Asking God for how to talk with Felix.
  • Waiting for God to open the heart of Felix to respond.
  • Frustration when Felix cuts the conversation short when it gets personal.
  • Rejoicing when questions were answered to the satisfaction of Felix
  • Celebrating the apparent progress Felix was making on the journey to faith.

Yet Felix was appointed somewhere else and was no longer in Paul’s life.  The end of the road together had come.

Two years, Felix and Paul talked about Christianity, salvation, following Jesus, etc, yet Felix still walked away without having surrendered his life to Christ.  I would imagine author Luke would have reported on Felix’s conversion if it had happened.

Sharing faith without results?

Perhaps you are in a similar situation of sharing your faith with someone who seems to have spiritual curiosity, but just won’t surrender.

Like Felix, they keep cutting the faith conversation short when it gets personal.

They simply avoid the hard questions of surrender.

What can we do?

1.  Don’t give up.

Keep praying for your friend.

Keep spending time with them.

Enjoy life together.

Keep sharing your faith and answering their questions.  They are on a spiritual journey

They are your friend, not your evangelistic project, so keep the relationship authentic.

2.  Trust God’s sovereignty.

I’ve heard testimony from people who have come to faith 15 years after I shared with them.

Remember the friend I shared my faith with for nearly 4 years without success?

Fifteen years later, she tells me she became a Christian.  Those seeds I planted produced a harvest.

God can keep the story going, even if you are no longer in the picture.