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Michael Harvey (founder Back to Church Sunday, UK) is offering a Season of Invitation for all congregations of the ELCIC.
Whether you’ve previously hosted a Back to Church Sunday or are new to the initiative, attached you’ll find a Season of Invitation Sundays for 2014 – 2015 Invitation Card Templates (provided free of charge by Michael), and the 12 Steps to Becoming an Inviting Church.
If you decide to embark on a Season of Invitation or host a single Back to Church Sunday, hopefully these materials will get you started to becoming a more inviting congregation.
Making the most of the Season
Season of Invitation is all about encouraging a culture of invitation, and this guide is designed to provide you with some general pointers that can be applied to each one of the Sundays of Invitation, as well as some more specific suggestions for each invitational moment. Our desire is to share from our experience what we believe works well, at the same time recognizing that you are best-placed to judge what will work in your particular context.
Ways to make people feel welcome…
Name tags for the welcome team/greeters. If you decide to make this a name tag Sunday, ensure that members & guests all have name tags. Also ensure that those involved in leading/taking part in the service introduce themselves to the congregation.
Clear and helpful instructions from the front – knowing when to stand and when to sit, page/hymn numbers, communion welcome, etc. is all part of feeling as though you belong.
Refreshments – chatting over a cup of tea/coffee is a great way to make people feel at home. Encourage your church members to introduce themselves to anyone that might be visiting for the first time.
When planning your services, think ‘ordinary with a sparkle’. We should never underestimate the significance of the ‘ordinary’/’familiar’ in enabling invitees to feel as though they belong. At the same time, adding an element of surprise can help challenge people’s pre-conceived ideas about church and faith.
All-age services are a great way to draw children, young people and adults into the church community and to share the basic truths of the Christian faith.
Developing a Culture of Invitation
The key to unlocking the potential in personal invitation is in equipping those that will be inviting with everything they need:
A reminder to be continually praying for those we invite.
Highlight those events that have a particular emphasis and encourage your church members to think about which events would be suitable for whom.
Ensure that the invitation to each service is ready to be handed out at the previous event.
When inviting people from the front, as well as individually, work on the basis that they will be coming back soon and adjust your wording accordingly.
Encourage the ‘invitee’ to become the ‘inviter’. Assume that they will also want to invite their friends to come back to church and equip them accordingly.
Back to Church Sunday & Kids’ Invitation
Take advantage of the ‘Don’t Forget the Children!’ resources from our friends at ‘Lost Sheep’. They have produced free children’s resources for you to download and use. These include:
The story of ‘Cecil the Lost Sheep’ – a PDF Booklet & Power Point Presentation, free to download and print off or show using a video projector as a power point presentation (the booklet has the text of the story).
A “Cecil the Lost Sheep” BTCS Activity Pack. This contains crafts, coloring sheets and more.
Consider contacting your nearest Foodbank, if you are not already involved with one, to make this a time of both donations as well as volunteers to help out.
Profile the work of CLWR.
You could stage your own ‘Come Dine with Me’ dinner party with a selection of guests from around the world (see www.uspg.co.uk for more ideas) highlighting the reality of how little food some people have available to live on each day.
Use a range of visual resources for use in marking the Time of Silence.
You may want to consider interviewing a member from your church, for whom their faith in Jesus has provided great comfort following the loss of a loved one.
Advent and/or Christmas Eve/Day Services
For the adventurous, perhaps a Live Nativity Event on church grounds (or if need be in your local park) to attract families that wouldn’t normally consider celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmas.
Why not organise or join an existing Community Carol Singing Event at a suitable outdoor venue? Singing carols has the potential to attract those for whom Christmas is a particularly busy time from a work perspective.
Possibilities if you don’t use a Sunday in Advent/Christmas:
Christmas Season or Epiphany
Invite people as you continue to celebrate Christmas without the distractions and stresses that lead up to Christmas. Invite people to experience the epiphany celebration and what it means.
Invite people to worship on the Sunday closest to Valentines Day and focus on God’s Love for the world
Also, feel free to add:
Invite people well ahead of time to include worship in their holiday weekend Give them the opportunity to experience what Easter is all about.
If your congregation has an Easter Breakfast make sure to include this as a part of your invitation.
Michael Harvey [email@example.com]continue reading