As one drives around the many old New England towns it is a very common sight to see church signs with the phrase “All Are Welcome” in very prominent positions. Many times I have heard people say, “Our doors are always open and our sign tells people, “All Are Welcome”. We’ve invited them, but nobody seems to come. We’ve done our part.”
But is that really true – have they done their part? In New England, the vast majority of people have no church affiliation, so they don’t tend to randomly visit churches. And most people tend to look at churches much like they look at various country clubs, social clubs or other organizations. You have to be invited by someone personally before you visit. The reality is that the phrase “All Are Welcome” is an invitation that no one takes seriously. So is it really a valid invitation? Have the church members really done their part?
As people we are often reluctant to try a new restaurant or a new activity or go to a different kind of concert until we are invited by a friend or they are recommended to us by someone we trust. By nature we are more comfortable doing what we know. So why should we expect anything different when it comes to church. Most people are not going to visit unless they are personally invited.
But then people are most likely to accept an invitation if it is to an activity or program that provides them some sense of comfort and understanding or sparks a personal interest. Often times the formal church service is too intimidating and foreign to someone who has not been a part of a church – strange music, unfamiliar traditions or boring routines. So the church needs to provide different venues or activities to which members can invite people that provide some degree of comfort or familiarity – a discussion group, a play group for mothers of young children, a book club, a non-threatening bible study or maybe a group focusing on a special need like loss or divorce.
These are called “points of entry”. The more points of entry that a faith community has, the more opportunity there is to engage people who are unchurched. Here at Journey Church on the Common, that has to be one of our main strategies if we are going to connect people to Jesus. We need to create new points of entry beyond our Sunday morning service to which you can invite people. One such new opportunity is the Alpha program which will start Tuesday, October 4th. Check out our website www.journeychurchonthecommon.org. We will be talking more about this Sunday and in the coming weeks.
So in today’s world for there to be a valid invitation to those who do not attend church, a faith community has to do two things:
- Members need to be personally inviting friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances to various events and praying individually for these people will be invaluable.
- The faith community has to offer a variety of friendly and comfortable venues to which people can be invited.