One of the interesting aspects of working in a diocesan office is an awareness of the trends across congregations in various locales. Of course, each congregation is unique in many ways, but we are each part of the same tradition, in the same diocese. Because of that, trends become quickly apparent. One of those emerges just before Labor Day every year when congregations begin to ramp up their engagement with the diocesan offices to plan and promote fall programming.
As you go about the work of planning fall worship, formation opportunities, stewardship campaigns, and more, I know that there is a nagging sensation in the back of many minds:
Who will show up?
Month after month—and then, year after year—our congregants grew accustomed to a relationship with their church that was more distanced than before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the practices many of us lost during this extended season was the art of invitation. What many congregations share with me is that even as we have opened our doors once again, we are each a little reluctant to invite others to join us. And there is only one thing that will change this. Practice.
Invitation requires practice, and the diocese is providing you a grand opportunity to practice in the Good News Festival on Saturday, December 10 at the Town & Country Resort.
Not a fan of inviting people to church? No problem—this isn’t church, but the good news of Jesus will be shared.
Your friends are from other Christian traditions? Great! They’ll get to see the best of Episcopal tradition but can go to their church on Sunday.
Your friends don’t go to church? Don’t worry! This event is about good news, not guilt or fear tactics.
The truth is that the last few years have been tough for many, both in our pews and in our neighborhoods. We all need a reason to celebrate, and the Good News Festival intends to be just that—a celebration. I am inviting you to come celebrate with us, and I am encouraging you to invite others.
The Good News Festival could be an incredible tool for your congregations. Imagine: someone who has never attended your church before is invited to the Festival by a member. They have a great time! What are the chances they’ll be more curious about your church? Interested in attending? Learning about our tradition? It is our hope that those not yet a part of your church would discover it through the Good News Festival.
Here are a few tips to help you invite others. As you practice inviting others to the Good News Festival, you will begin to find it easier, less intimidating, and before you know it, you might even be ready to invite someone to church with you (gasp!). I have six recommendations for you: plan, prepare, be curious, ask, follow through and follow up.
Make a list of those you would like to invite. This may not feel natural to some but for many of us it easier for us to accomplish something if we have a list. If you find the practice intimidating, start with a small number.
Visit TheGoodNewsFestival.com, download, and print as much promotional material as you need based on your list. It is much easier to invite someone to something if you have something in your hand. This will also serve as a physical reminder to your invitee.
Before you invite someone to the Good News Festival, show an interest in their life. Say hi, ask them how they’re doing and follow up on something you know about them. You may even discover something about them that might connect with the themes of the festival—a workshop, the music, a speaker, the marketplace, etc. You’ll now be prepared to invite them the next time you see them.
The next time you see the person, you’re now ready to invite them. Follow up on something you learned about them that might connect with the Festival, hand them a flyer, and let them know that you would like them to join you. Be light. Be casual. Be genuine.
Follow through means, checking in before the Festival to see if your guest is ready to confirm. Offer to go with them. Pick them up if you’re driving. If you are attending with others from your congregation, introduce your guest to others from your church.
The last step is one of the most important. We will all go home the evening of December 10 inspired but likely tired too! If you’re feeling brave, invite your friend to church the next morning. In any case, follow up with your friend afterward. Ask them about their experience. Ask them if they are left with questions or curiosities. You don’t need to have answers to all their questions, but your continued interest in them will make a difference. It demonstrates that you are genuinely seeking the good news of what God is up to in the hearts of all we meet.
If we each used the Good News Festival as an opportunity to rekindle the art of invitation, I wonder what difference it would make in our fall programming a year from now. When we ask the question of each other, “who will show up?” maybe the response will be, “who did we invite?”
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