Invite a friend for Easter and ask your group members to do the same.
"82 percent of the unchurched are at least “some what likely” to attend church if they are invited. Perhaps we need to pause on this response. Perhaps we need to restate it: More than eight out of ten of the unchurched said they would come to church if they were invited. If you take anything from this book, please remember this point." Rainer, Unchurched Next Door
"Only 2 percent of church members ever invite an unchurched person to church". -- Rainer, Unchurched Next Door
If you want this this to be different in your church, work to influence this change.
Let's think about solving this problem through the lens of some of the Influence strategies we have been looking at. (If you missed these, or would like to get ahead on reading all the articles written so far, see http://www.joshhunt.com/InfluencerIndex.htm)
We tend to bemoan these kind of facts without building a strategy to change it. Here are some steps you could take.
Step #1. Make inviting intentional (at least) twice a year.
Easter is the #1 most likely time for unchurched people to come to church. Make a push to invite people for Easter.
Words are the least effective form of influence but influence almost always starts here. If you have not done so already, ask everyone in your group to invite someone for Easter this weekend.
We ought to do this at least twice a year where we make a big, church-wide push to invite people. Last Sunday I asked my folks to make a list of everyone they knew that lived within 20 minutes of the church and did not go to church any where. I asked them to put a check mark by everyone who "something really bad would happen if you invited them." They are off the hook on inviting them. Everyone else, invite them.
The other time we ought to do this is in the fall--time change Sunday.
A grass-roots movement is building to make this a national event. Vernon Brady got this vision while attending the Southern Baptist Convention a few years ago. Bobby Welch preached a sermon on The Little Lad who brought what he had to Jesus in the story of the feeding of the five thousand. Big Idea: we all have something to bring to Jesus.
Vernon says he felt God speaking to him: "You are the little lad." The thing he could do for Jesus is put together a Super Friend Day Package. (Goes by the name My Friendship Connection). Friend Day was an old (but effective) program developed by Elmer Towns and widely used by churches. Vernon Brady's My Friendship Connection takes that basic idea and builds on it. He has added Sunday School lesson for 5 weeks prior to the Friend Day, as well as sermons. The package takes on the feel of a Purpose Driven Life Campaign with sermons, devotionals, and small group Bible Studies all working together.
Vernon began asking pastors to participate in a unified Friend Day on time change Sunday each year. (There is a natural bump in attendance on this day in the fall.) The first year there were 42 churches. The next year, 526 from 36 states. On average, attendance in these churches doubled or better on the Friend Day. Consider participating this Fall.
Recently, Vernon got the news that the national Friend Day will be on the Southern Baptist Convention Calendar starting in 2012. Yeah God!
Step #2 Lead by Example
I have invited some friends for Easter, have you? We must lead by example. We cannot ask people to do what we are not willing to do. The leader must embody the vision.
Bill Hybels wrote an excellent book called Axiom. It is just as the name suggests--76 short chapters of random ideas about church leadership. Chapter 29 is entitled, "Speed of the leader, speed of the team." Here are a couple of quotes.
If you don't respect Bill Hybels, consider this quote from another Christian leader--the apostle Paul:
Sound scary? Here is some really scary news: people will follow the leader's example whether or not he asks them to.
If you want people to double their class every two years or less, lead by example. If you want people to have a quiet time, lead by example. If you want people to give Friday Nights to Jesus, lead by example. If you want people to invite people to church on Easter, lead by example.
Step #3: Make it easy. / Put it on autopilot.
The size of your plates has more to do with success in weight loss than does the strength of your will power. If you want to influence people to do almost anything, make it easer.
When we want to influence people, we almost never think of the physical environment, but the physical environment has a huge impact on people, as this amazing story illustrates.
Imagine you go the movies and they hand you a huge bucket of popcorn for free. Only problem is, it doesn't taste very good. You find out later it was actually engineered to taste bad. For one thing, it is a week old. You hear the person next to you say it tastes like Styrofoam packing peanuts. You tend to agree. But, hey, it is free--and they gave you a huge container of it. A friend attends the movie with you. They get one too. Everyone gets a bucket of their own.
As you examine your friend's bucket you notice it is larger than yours--significantly larger. No matter; you both have more than you can eat.
Question: do you think you would eat any more or less than your friend who received the larger bucket? Remember, you both have more than you can eat and the popcorn is terrible.
Turns out your friend would eat more than you--a lot more. Researchers conducted this test and found that people with the bigger buckets at 53% more popcorn. That is 173 more calories and 21 extra handfuls of popcorn--popcorn that was terrible.
The complete article on this is here: http://www.joshhunt.com/Influence11.htm
The application for inviting people to church is this. Put in on the calendar at least twice a hear. I recommend these two dates: Easter in the Spring and Time Change Sunday in the Fall. (If you wanted to add a couple more events, you might think about a "back to church day" just after school starts and just after the first of the year.
To make it easier and automatic, you might provide some kind of invitation card for people to send out. What about a cool graphic that people could email to their friends that stated the invitation.
In a way, it is easier than it has ever been. We are all so connected by Facebook and email and tweets and so forth. We just have to take advantage of the tools in our hands.
Step #4: Social proof
People are profoundly influenced by the behavior of the people in their group. Profoundly influenced. This is whey we like to buy best selling books and songs and go to the movies our friends say are good.
This is why the Bible says, Psalms 1:1 (NIV) "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers."
Why is this important? Because if we walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit where mockers sit, we will start to behave like them. We are profoundly influence by "our people."
This is why the Friendship Connection has a group component built in. The way the old Friend Day worked took advantage of this dynamic and the leadership dynamic.
Ever heard someone say, "If everyone will just bring one person next week we will double our attendance." This is a statement of fact. Anyone ever see it actually happen? I didn't think so. Yet, using the Friendship Connection, churches routinely see an increase of attendance of 100% to 200% on the big day and will keep about 15% of these.
The reason is this. Four weeks before the big day the pastor stands before the people and says, "I am inviting a friend, I want you to do so too." Three weeks before the big day, the staff and deacons and leadership stand before the people and say, "We are inviting someone, we want you to do so too." Two weeks before the big day, the teachers stand before the people and say, "I am inviting someone, I want you to do so too." One week before the big day, everyone else bring their commitment or invite.
This takes advantage of the principle of leadership and the principle of social proof. If my people are inviting, I am inviting.
This may all be like way too much trouble to you. This is where people make a big mistake in attempting to influence ("Persuade men" in the words of Paul). Influence masters know that influence in hard work. This is why they tend to over-determine success. This from Influencer:
You don't have time of course, to do all this by Easter. Here are four steps you can take:
Every time I watch the news I find myself saying, "They need Jesus." They do. The whole world does. Jesus said the fields are white unto harvest. Let's invite them this Sunday.