We spend a lot of time thinking about what makes us comfortable in church. The atmosphere, the music, the sermon. However, shouldn’t we be more concentrated on why so many of our friends and family aren’t here with us? As a church and as individuals, we must learn how to engage those who don’t know Jesus.
A habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Each of us has a habit in our life that took time to develop. Whether it is going to the gym, reading the Word, or spending habits, developing the right habits is important. What if we thought about “relationship building,” “faith sharing,” and “church inviting” behaviors as habit forming?
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that forming a habit requires a cycle of cue, routine, and reward. The anticipation of the reward helps motivate us to acknowledge the cue and follow through in the routine.
Cue: Your alarm goes off at 5:10am
Routine: You get dressed and go to the gym
Reward: You feel healthy and less stressed
Think about the places you frequently go. Do you want to connect and build relationships with people that are at these places or are you just there foryour own benefit?Consider starting each day with the five questions on the next page. If you are asking yourself these questions, you will begin seeing people differently at the places you frequent. You won’t see them as obstacles or people you are trying to avoid, but as people you want to develop relationships with and the opportunity of a connection!
All relationships are different, but they do have a predictable sequence of starting and developing. The following three steps help spell out exactly what relationship development looks like:
If you want to make a relationship a priority, first you have to learn how to start an initial conversation. For some, it’s easy to approach and talk with people, but for others, it’s nerve-wracking. Here are four steps to start a conversation in an easy and non-threating way:
Notice: Find something simple in which to engage someone.
Approach: Ask a simple question related to what you have noticed.
Intentionally Listen: Ask them something referencing what you heard in the form of a question. Listen with the intent of serving them.
Learn: Take away one-two things you learned and check back in with them at a later date.
After the door is open from good conversation, begin finding ways to build a good connection together. Remember these points:
People Engage On All Platforms. Engage on their platform. If they like to text, text with them. Pay attention to those commonalities.
Don’t be afraid to share who you are. Be open and honest. As you tell more of your story, it builds common ground and shared experiences. This is also a great place to share your testimony of your life with Christ.
This isn’t about you. Peoples lives are messy so don’t be afraid to meet them where they are. Don’t allow your fear of someone’s life dictate how you engage with them.
As you build the connection, notice that the door will open for simple invitations to begin. Consider having a play date for your kids, getting coffee, or having a double date night.
As you build a connection, the door for invitation will open. You have to pay attention to it, but also know how to proceed through it. Observe and listen for cues of a sudden life-change such as “I lost my job,” “I just moved to the area,” “We just had a baby,” or “My family is going through a divorce.”
As you hear these cues, this is where you take the temperature of the situation and determine if this is an good time to extend an invitation to church or share your story (or a testimony).
As you extend the invitation or share your story, pay attention to the response you get. Think of it like a stoplight:
Red Light: Not open right now to hearing about God or being invited to church.
Yellow Light: Their response may be somewhat lukewarm. Proceed with caution.
Green Light: Open to the extended invitation and ready to take a next step.
As you extend that invitation, there may be times where they express apprehension or not being ready. If you observe this type of red light behavior repeatedly, you could consider extending a different kind of invitation to something church-related.
For example, if they say no to coming to the Weekend Experience, invite them to an event at your campus like a movie night or invite them to watch the livestream at pathwaychurch.live. These activities can help break down barriers and previous ideas.
Remember, even if they repeatedly say no, don’t stop caring and building the relationship. While it may seem fruitless to you, the invitation plants a seed and reminds us to rely on God to be in control.
Once you have extended the invitation, you need to have good follow-up with them. It’s not a “check the box” and move on to the next one mentality. Here are some good follow up steps:
Drop casual hints. Don’t be afraid to drop reminders of what you have talked about. Consider saying that you may be still praying for someone that needs it or reminding them of an event.
Ask good questions. No matter what the response is, ask good follow up questions. This is a great way to stay connected. If they have a child in swim lessons, ask how that is going. This is all about being interested.
Tag in extra help. Sometimes there may be multiple people who know the person with whom you are connecting. Don’t be afraid to include them in the process.
The cost of not inviting is so much greater than the risk of being vulnerable. Remember that each one of us shares fear in talking to someone about church and God. Whether it is fear of rejection, being seen a different way, or losing friends, we all have it. Keep this in mind as you engage.
If they ask a question about church or God, it’s okay if you don’t know the answer. The worst thing that can happen is we give them an answer that doesn’t make any sense or isn’t correct. Instead, say something like this:
“That’s a great question. I’m not sure I know the answer to that but I would love to find out with you.”
Remember, you are not their savior and your goal isn’t to save their life. Your goal is to be a friend and be there for them. There are things you may not know how to work through or navigate through. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Don’t forget, even as you share your story, know that people may not change immediately. It’s important to understand that we shouldn’t expect change immediately. Our main goal should be to connect and share our story.
The rest is up to God. We are just to be faithful. In a way, this frees us up from the result.