Hope Lutheran Church
Inviting Friends and Neighbors: Sharing the Story
Now that spring has sprung and the migration north has commenced, we trust we will begin to see both new and familiar faces in our church building and in our community. Cabins around our lakes will be filled with new families, and houses and apartments previously vacant will become home for someone new. As we begin to venture outside again, we greet neighbors and discover new ones, some who have been around as long as we have. Eventually through time spent visiting and stories shared, we get to know a little about each other including hobbies, family history, and faith. Because our congregation values “Welcoming All People”, I hope that a part of the conversation will include an invitation for those without a church home to worship with us.
If the prospect of inviting someone to worship is a little unfamiliar or uncomfortable for you, you are in good company. Dr. Patrick Keifert, a former Luther Seminary professor often reminded us, “The average Lutheran invites someone to worship once every 28 years!” To invite someone to worship, or a community meal, or to sing in the choir is not as difficult as it might seem though. To invite a friend or neighbor simply requires asking. If it’s someone you just met, you might not ask them to go on an overnight retreat, but simply, “Would you be interested in joining us in worship this Sunday?” If they are new to the area, offer to introduce them to others with similar interests or who live nearby. Sure, it opens the doors for rejection, but the same happens when inviting someone to join you on the golf course and they say, “No, I’ve already got a tee time.”
Some worry extending an invitation is too forward or might be interpreted as, “my pushy neighbor is forcing his/her unsolicited religion on me.” Would we think the same if we invited someone to the WACC Fitness Center, to join Lions Club, or to be a part of any other community that was important or valuable to us? If your life is enriched by being a part of our faith community and being a member of Hope is important to you, then maybe it could be just as important and enriching for them. The things that matter for you about your church home, are important things to share. I’ve heard countless people share how Hope is where their friends are, that they find meaningful and genuine fellowship here, that the worship and music enriches their life, and that they are fed here and feel equipped to engage the community in meaningful ways.
Around 2011, Lifeway Research conducted a survey of 15,000 people in which they discovered:
67% of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.
63% of Americans say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.
(Information sourced from the following story, written by Ed Stetzer, at chritianitytoday.com https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/july/power-of-invitation-our-god-pursues-lost-and-so-should-we.html)
Inviting our neighbors, friends, and family continues to be one of the most effective ways to enrich our community of faith with fresh ideas, new and varied gifts, and people sent to serve. This month we will be welcoming a number of new members here at Hope, many of whom were invited to check out Hope for one reason or another, just like many of us. The invitation is not only a gift for those who are invited, but is also an incredible gift the congregation. It is a gift because each uniquely gifted individual who gathers here with us changes our collective identity in this place and brings new insights to our shared witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What a Gift!