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Jun 13, 2011 | Beverly Bammel

Commentary: Use "Welcoming Cards" as an Invitation to Church

St. Francis, welcoming cardEach of us are Missioners. A Missioner is a missionary – one who goes to others and invites them into a new journey.

 

Key components of missionaries are personal interaction with another. This interaction can include conversation, learning more about one another, finding common interests, creating rapport and a feeling of acceptance or trust. A missionary provides information about something new to their new acquaintance. And a missionary invites.

 

If you do any analysis on attracting new members to church, you’ll find that 80 percent of first-time church visitors came because someone personally invited them. This only makes sense. How often do we ask a friend their advice about a movie, a book, a doctor, or any countless number of things? We turn to someone who has first sampled the services or goods, someone with first-hand experience. Often we don’t even need to know this other person very well, and we’ll follow their advice. How often have you been at a hotel and asked the front desk staff for recommendations of a good restaurant? Most of us go to other people for their opinions on a quite regular basis. And most of us give recommendations without thinking much about it. We’re quite comfortable discussing a good book or an outstanding restaurant. Why are we not as comfortable talking about our church?

 

But many of us have learned the hard way about discussing politics or religion with someone else. It can be an uncomfortable – and sometimes even volatile - experience. But this welcoming dialog doesn’t need to be “about religion”; it’s just an invitation to come and worship.

 

It’s a moment that appears when you’re talking to someone at a school event or at the vet’s office or when waiting in line. It’s that magical moment that occurs where it’s right to offer the invitation. You’ve had those moments, right? Where suddenly the conversation turns to religion or church. I love it when this happens and when I think back over it, all too often I think, “How did we get there?” (Of course, I believe that is the Holy Spirit opening those doors of opportunity, but I’ll save that for another article.)

 

In the narthex of St. Francis, College Station, we keep “Welcoming Cards.” We encourage parishioners to take a dozen or so to keep in their wallets or purses. And when one of those Holy-Spirit moments occur, they can offer an invitation to visit St. Francis. They can tell them of our two primary worship services – Sundays and Wednesdays, and tell them how much they’d like it if they saw them again – at St. Francis!  That’s all you need to do.  Just invite them and give them a Welcoming Card.

 

I realize this can be scary.  Many of us may not be comfortable in this type of situation. No worries. Just keep your Welcoming Cards stashed away. Don’t try and force yourself to begin passing out Welcoming Cards to everyone you meet. Wait for one of those Holy Spirit moments when your conversation “goes there” and suddenly you have a natural and comfortable opportunity to make the invitation. When that happens, make the invitation and give them a Welcoming Card. It’s that simple.

 

And, then when that person comes to church, offer a quick prayer of thanks to God, and give your new guest a warm welcome.

 

- Beverly Bammel is a missioner at St. Francis, College Station.

 

Bishop Andy Doyle also carries Welcoming Cards, which he orders through MOO Cards and personalizes with photos from around the diocese.

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