Invite a Friend to (Virtual) Church – its never been easier!

By Rev. Chris Harris

One thing that church leaders of all denominations can agree on, is that the ‘virtual’ church is not only here to stay, but it offers huge benefits for evangelism.  Why?  Because it significantly lowers the barriers to participation for long-time members and first-time visitors alike.  At Christ Church Cranbrook for example, we have seen some dramatic increases in attendance at nearly all online gatherings (Morning Prayer, Sunday Worship, Weekly Bible Study, etc.).

So what’s going on here?  The consensus in congregational development circles is that is a combination of things:  Comfort (you can watch from your favorite easy chair or even wear your pajamas!), convenience (no drive, no parking, no dressing up), the ability to be anonymous and to come and go as you please — and you can even multi-task (such as listening to a Bible Study while you drive or clean house)!  As much as we all look forward to seeing each other in person again, for many of us, online gatherings help us to connect when we otherwise might not.

All of which has important implications for evangelism.  Traditionally, inviting a friend to church meant physically showing up to a worship service and all that entails (clearing time on your weekend calendar, getting up early, getting the family dressed and out the door, dealing with the anxiety of wandering into a new church.  Will we like the sermon?  Will I know the hymns? Will the congregation be friendly or stuffy?  Will we find parking?  The list goes on and on.)  With ‘virtual church’ all of those barriers largely go away.  We are a click of button away, and just as importantly for someone checking us out for the first time, they can just as easily click away.  And while that isn’t a model for Christian Community by any stretch, it is a reminder that just as the barriers to visiting a new church have been removed, so have the barriers to inviting someone to church.

So with that in mind, here’s a simple 5-step process for inviting a friend to ‘virtual’ church:

1. What do you love?

Begin by reminding yourself WHY you love Christ Church Cranbrook:  Is it the relationships?  The inspiring message?  The opportunities to serve in community and share God’s love?  The transcendent music and worship?  A community that accepts you for who you are or will be there for you when you need it most?  What is it for you?  Think of all the positive impacts your faith community has had on your life.

2. Who do you know?

Ask yourself who do you know that might love or appreciate those same things that you love?  Who do you know at work?  Who lives on your block that you’ve met on walks?  Who do you know that lives alone?  Who do you know that is new to the area and might appreciate meeting some new friends?  Who is going through a rough time or is working through a recent loss?  Who do you know who is asking questions of meaning and purpose in life?  Who do you know in your family?  At work?  On your street?  A Facebook friend?  Make a list.

3. What type of invitation makes sense for them?

For each person you identified, ask yourself, what is the best way to communicate with them?  Should I ask them in person during our next walk?  Should I email or text them a link to Church at Home?  Should I call them and let them know I’ve been thinking about them and wondering if they might like to connect to a faith community?  Should I put the TV out on the patio and have a Sunday morning porch-watching party?  Or maybe you are Facebook friends and a Facebook Watch party might be the best idea?

4. Decide what to invite them to?  (Hint:  It doesn’t have to be worship)

For some people, the Sunday worship service is the obvious choice for their first experience at Christ Church Cranbrook.  But for others, perhaps those who aren’t accustomed to attending any church for example, they might feel more comfortable participating in a service project in the community or be open to trying out morning prayer.  If they are someone looking to explore questions of faith, perhaps the weekly bible study or Women’s Spirituality would be the best place to start.  Are they a reader?  Maybe the 9am Forum on The Book of Joy is a good start?  Because our mid-week gatherings are smaller and usually on Zoom, they can be a better place to build relationship than the weekend worship service.  Plus, you can offer to join them so they will see a friendly face who can introduce them to the group.  For a list of mid-week events, click here or contact Jill Bednas for help brainstorming.

5. Tell us!

Let us know who you invited and what we can do to help them feel as welcome as possible by completing this simple online form.  We’ll do as little or as much as you think is appropriate.  Do they want to be on our mailing list?  Would they like to meet with a priest?  Do they have questions about the Episcopal Church?  Let us know so we can follow-up.

Throughout the summer, we will be inviting you to invite a friend to experience Christ Church Cranbrook.  With all of the different options online, sharing the love of God is now a click away!

Questions or suggestions?  Do you know someone you’d like to invite but need help? Contact Fr. Chris at 619-995-9600 or by email.