Welcoming or inviting?

Most churches say they’re welcoming and they are, but I expect many church-goers have been to a church at some point and didn’t feel welcomed. It wasn’t so much that they were made to feel unwelcome, but rather that no-one spoke to them after they had been greeted at the door and no-one personally invited them to the post-service refreshments which were mentioned in the notices. Not many churches, however, describe themselves as inviting. I don’t mean inviting in the sense of attractive, but inviting in the sense of being invitational.

Some work has been done around this by ‘The National Weekend of Invitation’. It seems that, when asked, 70% of church-goers can think of someone to invite to a service, but 80-90% say they have no intention of inviting anyone, mainly because of fear – fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of altering the relationship with the person. I don’t know if there has been any research on this, but my suspicion is that a significant number of church-goers who were not brought up in the tradition of going to church are there because someone invited them. Perhaps that’s your experience; it’s certainly mine. Some bold folk will walk through the doors of a church having never been before, but they are few and far between.

With our churches being closed at the moment, you might be wondering why I’m writing about inviting people to church. I touched on this on Sunday when I said that lockdown enables us to be invitational by sharing links and posts to our online services and S Club (children’s church) on our YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo21bHRALHEg-S9rB8rOo-Q/videos) in ways that we perhaps wouldn’t be normally. Perhaps the ‘distance’ and not necessarily knowing the person’s reaction and the outcome embolden us. Recent research commissioned by Tear Fund has discovered that almost a quarter of UK adults say they have watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown, showing that those not usually interested in church are being drawn in.

If you’ve been sharing links to our services, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider doing so. More importantly, though, when we are worshipping again in our buildings and someone asks you about church, even if it appears to be in a joking way, be bold and ask them if they would like to come and see for themselves. After all, they may feel they’ve been waiting long enough for an invitation and that is their way of letting you know they are interested. Remember, a constant refrain of the Bible is “Do not be afraid. I am with you” and all Jesus ever did was to invite people to come and see.

Published by Angie Allport

Methodist minister

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