In the last year, several friends who live in different parts of the country have returned to church after a number of years of inactivity. This is encouraging and counter to the national trend since 2002 of fewer people attending church. There are two striking characteristics among these church returners.
- None returned to a church of their former denomination.
- All returned because they were invited by a friend.
Recent research on growing and declining churches found that the strongest positive relationship to growth among programs and activities was “the extent to which a congregation is involved in evangelism or recruitment.”
Inviting friends to church or even a church-related activity is much less common and comfortable today for many church members than it once was. However, the recent Faith Communities Today research on growing and declining churches found that the strongest positive relationship to growth among programs and activities was “the extent to which a congregation is involved in evangelism or recruitment.” These churches exhibit a major orientation toward inviting others.
Does this outward, invitational ethos characterize your church’s members?
Many rightfully admire the remarkable example of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection near Kansas City in growing from a new church start in 1990 to one of the largest mainline congregations in the United States. One of the characteristics of Resurrection from the beginning — and modeled by its gifted pastor Adam Hamilton — is to identify a few important next steps they need to take each year. Adam recently described the three (notice there are not 10 or 12!) priorities for 2012.
One of Resurrection’s three goals for 2012 is that “each member of the church will be called to and equipped for a renewed practice of inviting our friends, neighbors and colleagues.” Pastor Hamilton reminded members that “most people who come to faith in Christ do so because a trusted friend shared their faith or invited them to church. The impact of each of us sharing Christ with others is astounding.”
This is a good reminder that whether your church numbers its members in the thousands or dozens, the call of Jesus to share the Good News with others as a natural result of God’s love for us is the work not merely of a pastor, staff, or a committee — essential as they are — but of all who bear the name Christian.