Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Inviting People

What is the most effective way to get new people to attend your church?
You already know what it is. The most effective way to get new people to visit your church is to have one of your members invite someone to attend. In the secular world, this is called “word of mouth” advertizing. Let’s ask ourselves who they are most likely to invite? The answer is someone in one of their three most important circles; extended family, friends, and work associates.

Yes, theoretically, they could walk through there neighborhood or the local mall and invite people, but we all know this is unlikely for Episcopalians. In addition, if they are not inviting friends, family and fellow workers, what are the odds they will invite others?

To invite folks, you have to feel good about inviting them. Think of it this way. You see the latest film and you really like it. What do you do? You mention it to your family, friends, and fellow workers. It’s natural. This means that your congregation is more likely to be inviting if your liturgical, program and/or fellowship life imparts significant meaning. This means that Sundays need to be, above all else and brace yourselves, INSPIRATIONAL. This, of course, is a word that seminary professors taught all clergy to abhor, but trust me, laity know what I mean.

It also helps, if you create ways to help folks in knowing when to invite others. The best way to do this, and the most proven way of increasing attendance at your church on a given Sunday, is to hold a “Special Sunday.” I’ll describe this in my next blog. If you can’t wait, buy my book 5 Keys for Church Leaders. Look up The Special Sunday. A properly planned and executed Special Sunday can increase attendance 10 to 100%! The average large evangelical church schedules 20 of these a year, and the average Episcopal Church normally has three of them.

Importantly, to get folks to invite others to your church, church members need to feel good about their own church. Remember, members can be loyal, dedicated and faithful, but still not feel positive about their own congregation. Try this; rate your congregation on a “congregational esteem scale” of at least 7. On this scale, 1 equals “I don’t even know why I attend here any more, let along why I would invite someone else!” 10 equals “Let me tell you about my church. . . pause. . . tears. . . its is the greatest church you will ever attend.”)

How would your folks rate the esteem of your congregation? If you are above 7, they are inviting people already. If it is 5 or below, you can forget about inviting people. First, start making creative changes aimed at raising the esteem. Don’t worry about inviting people with other methods until you make these changes because even if they come, they will not return!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Three Pew Ministry

Several years ago, a fellow Episcopal Priest taught me the “Three Pew Ministry.” I have found this the most effective way to empower congregational members to carry out the hospitality ministry of the church. Here is how I introduced it at the Cathedral.

“Today, we are introducing a new ministry for the Cathedral and all of you are a part of it. It is called the Three Pew Ministry, and if you help carry it out, you will help the Cathedral become much more effective in welcoming guests.

Most of you are sitting in a pew and you have a pew in front of you and one behind. These are the three pews of this ministry. When we come to the passing of the peace, I want you to turn to the people next to you, the people in front of you, and the people behind you and pass the peace to them. If you see someone you do not know, take a moment to introduce yourself to them. Use something like, I am Kevin and I am a member here. I don’t think I’ve met you before.

If you discover that the person you are meeting is a visitor, then, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, you are appointed by God, called by Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out The Three Pew Ministry. Here is what you need to do. At the end of the service:
1. Introduce the visitor to at least three other members of the Cathedral.
2. Introduce them to me or another clergy member of the staff
3. Lead them personally to the reception/coffee area

Once you have finished doing this, you are now free to visit with others. Trust me this works!” I introduced this for a month and now remind people every four to six weeks.

While teaching a group of congregational leaders in Florida, the Rector asked me to mention the Three Pew Ministry to the leaders. They loved it. Since I was preaching on Sunday, they asked me to introduce this to the whole congregation. Afterward, the Rector and I stood at the back door of the church and two couples approached the Rector. The first couple said, ‘we were visiting this morning and during the peace met Joan and Bill who were also visiting for the first time. We are now carrying out our part of the Three Pew Ministry, and we are headed for the coffee hour together.

Notice that visitors to the church who hear this is a ministry don’t mind. I have always found that they like the effort the church is making to be friendlier AND they feel that they can join right in.

Want to have a congregation that really does welcome the stranger among you? Then, practice the Three Pew Ministry. The only thing that I’ve found that does better at making people feel welcome is in the few churches where members actually invite visitors to join them for lunch after the service as their guests. Most folks, by the way, don’t accept the invitation, but they are so impressed that people asked them, they keep coming back.