Most churches open their buildings for use by groups made up of people who are not members of the congregation. These include Scout troops, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and other groups. A few churches also have a preschool, Mother’s Morning Out, or other group regularly bringing families into your space who do not attend the church. Beyond this, you may have other activities, such as a yard sale, which bring people onto the church grounds. As we look to Invite-Welcome-Connect with our neighbors, extend the invitation with people already coming to your church grounds. If you do not specifically invite these persons to worship with you, they are likely to feel, well, not invited, or even not welcome.
Make an in-person invitation
Creating a pathway into the congregation is not difficult, but it does take intentionality and persistence. The most straightforward way to make an invitation is for the priest or one of the church wardens to attend a meeting, if possible, to thank the group for meeting at the church and let everyone there know that if they do not have a church home, you would encourage them to come worship with you on a Sunday. Best practice will be to have something in print to hand out to interested persons whether a welcome card or the latest newsletter. This method would not work for AA, as attending the meeting would not keep the group’s anonymity. You could ask that a print invitation be put out for those who attend AA or other 12-step groups to let attendees know they are welcome.
Host an Event Together
Consider hosting an event with groups who use your church building. The best way is to ask the group’s leaders if they have any ideas for an event the congregation can host together with the group. This worked well, for example, for our All Saints Eve’ Trunk or Treat when I served as a parish priest. If you start not with your own idea of what you would like the group to do, but begin by asking where they have interest, you are more likely to find an event that works for all.
Without a specific invitation repeated from time to time, you are unlikely to get many, if any, church visitors from the ranks of people already coming to your building. Taking the steps to welcome people who are part of groups meeting in your church is well worth your time and energy as a way to expand your welcome.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary