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Creating a Culture of Invitation in Your Church 

Michael Harvey outlines best practice gleaned from his experiences as founder of Back to Church Sunday  

Culture of invitation225Creating a Culture of Invitation in Your Church
By Michael Harvey
Monarch, Oxford
ISBN 978-0-85721-632-8
Reviewed by Paul Beasley-Murray

Churches need to cultivate an invitational culture among their members. True, a report on Churchgoing in the UK (Tearfund 2007) revealed that 60 per cent of all adults say that they will not consider going to church – but that still leaves 40 per cent who might be open to an invitation!

Indeed, many people on the fringe of our churches are just waiting for an invitation from a friend. In the light of this my custom was to encourage my people to invite five friends to one of the many carol services, in the expectation that three would accept the invitation. My experience is that many will respond to an invitation. On one occasion I said from the pulpit that I would give £5 to anybody who found that not one of their five friends would accept an invitation - but nobody came up to me later to claim a fiver! 
Why are Christians so reluctant to invite friends to church?  Michael Harvey, who helped to start Back to Church Sunday, lists the following twelve reasons - a reduction on the 17 reasons he gave in his earlier book, Unlocking the Growth (Monarch 2012):

  • I don’t want my friend to suffer
  • My friend said no last year
  • We have no non-churchgoing friends
  • It’s the church leader’s job
  • I was never invited
  • What if it damages my friendship?
  • Our services are unpredictable
  • I fear the congregation will think my friend is not ‘our’ type
  • I am reticent
  • Religion is a private matter
  • I don’t want to be seen as strange
  • They might ask something about my faith 

He then draws upon a wide variety of Scriptures to help his readers ‘face the fear; respond to rejection; and address the problem’.

In a further motivational chapter on best practice he makes the interesting suggestion that churches need to find their ‘serial inviters'. According to Harvey, ‘there seems to be in each congregation five per cent of people who have no trouble in inviting’ – they need to be mobilised by the church. 

I am not sure that this is a book I would recommend to my church members – however, it does provide useful ‘grist’ for a sermon aimed to encourage an invitational culture in the church.

The Revd Dr Paul Beasley-Murray retired from stipendiary ministry in 2014. In his ‘retirement’ he continues to be active in ministry, and amongst other things is Chairman both of Ministry Today and of the College of Baptist Ministers. He writes a weekly blog, ‘Church Matters’, to which people are welcome to subscribe by entering their email address on his web-site www.paulbeasleymurray.com.

Baptist Times, 14/01/2016
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