One of the most horrifying memories I have of a church leader is when he told me and my husband, who was the Single Adult Pastor at the church, that we needed to be “targeting young professionals more” because those were the types he wanted coming to the church.
He would have been appalled I’m sure, had he come to a party at our home that included (in addition to some “young professionals” because we didn’t want to discriminate against them) a number of homeless people, an exotic dancer, and addicts of various substances, plus many of what might be termed ordinary singles.
We didn’t follow his advice for our party or our ministry. Our group was made up of a large variety of people and everyone was welcome, not just at that party, but all the events of our Single Adult Group.
I hadn’t thought about that situation in years, but was recently reminded of this verse:
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. Luke 14:12-14, ESV
As I thought about it, I wondered how many of our churches actively invite people outside our “target” group, people who can contribute little to the church, who don’t look like us or smell like us, who may be more trouble to the church than a positive contribution to our bottom line or image.
We might make certain groups objects of ministry—but how often do we honestly and actively invite everyone to join in?
It may not be easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard to include everyone
Your heart might be touched thinking about this, but your brain immediately responds, “And just how do I go about doing that? It isn’t like the homeless have an address to send a postcard to or are on our church’s social media list.”
That’s true. But it isn’t hard for a friend to invite a friend.
I didn’t initially know many of the people who showed up at my home or for various events, but I did two things that helped get people there and these might work for you.
One, let your ministry, group, or church know that you welcome everyone and mean it.
This must come from upfront, but it has to be modeled in real life by the people at your church.
I remember one group member around the holidays, because we always held events for Singles without anywhere else to go, “My mom doesn’t have a place to eat Thanksgiving dinner, can she come?” and after an enthusiastic answer, “Yes!” from us, he added, “You know she’s still a junkie, but I think she’ll be ok.”
It really didn’t matter to me or my husband or the group and he knew that. She came and I think she enjoyed herself. She thanked us when she left and though I’ve never seen her again, I trust that for a few hours she knew she was cared for.
Your people know more people in many different circumstances than you can imagine—encourage them to reach out and invite them knowing they will be welcomed.
Two, emphasize to your people again and again and again and again that they are responsible to invite their friends and give THEM the tools to do it.
One of my favorite tools to use in this situation is to create business card size invitations. People can carry them with them and then pass them out to friends in any setting. (CLICK HERE for Free Templates)
A verbal invitation is great, but without the details of location, time, date, if childcare is provided and cost, printed on an easy to give out and keep card ahead of time, it’s very easy to forget these things even if the person invited responds favorably. This kind of information is needed even more if the people who are invited are totally unfamiliar with a church.
I strongly recommend you don’t have any cost for events and if you do NEVER a stratified outreach where some things are free and some things you charge for. I’ve seen far too many churches advertise something like this— that “popcorn and punch is free, but if you want a hot dog or the food truck meals there is a charge.”
That can be humiliating for a person who comes to an event, is hungry, and embarrassed they don’t have money for a hot dog. Yes, it might be costly to feed lots of people for free, but that models what Jesus did.
And though the investment in time, effort, and free food may seem costly at the time—what a fantastic return on investment you are promised when you “will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
For DOZENS of FREE Templates of Business-Card size invitations, CLICK HERE.
The link above has cards that can be used anytime and on this site we'll have lots of ones upcoming for the special events of the year. Be sure to SIGN UP FOR THE NEWSLETTER, so you don't miss out on updates for any of them.