We've all heard that the most potent method of church growth is to simply invite people (FRAN: Friends Relatives, Associates, Neighbors) to church. Nonetheless doing so is not always easy.
However, when inviting becomes a part of parish life it becomes easier to invite.
A Basic Approach
Discussing a potentially uncomfortable topic like "church" with a non-church going person --even a friend --usually requires, among other things, taking it slowly.
Having a basic approach can help. One model used with some success by others is: "Develop Trust ... leading to...Curiosity...then... Openness... to generate... Interest... then Invite".
Moving too quickly through these steps often creates defense mechanisms. In developing trust a barrier may occur when a person feels you are operating on them with an objective of taking them from where they are to somewhere they don't want to go.
Keys: Questions, Pace, Listen
Keys in applying a trust building approach are:
- Ask questions at each step. Honest, non-rhetorical questions. Questions that demonstrate interest in your friend's attitudes.
- Take It Slow -- Its not an interview. Ask permission to dig deeper.
- Listen -- Its about them not you.
Practical Tips for Conversations
While the primary tool to attract others to the faith is listening and honest questions effective conversation starters can help.
First remember these points:
- Don't do things for show - for the sole purpose of attracting attention. Be
- Help people understand who you are? (Identity). Don't purposely hide -or
- show- your faith.
- For others to be open -- you must be open. Allow people to get a peek into your life.
Conversation starters that may invite inquiry include:
- Loss of loved one/serious problem --"What is their name... I'll pray for them."
- Calendar differences --Take off Holy Friday
- Sign of cross at meal.
- Cross in your office. Early Christians displayed symbols in their homes as conversation starters.
- Where were you today? What did you do this weekend? "Went to confession'' (You'd say if you went to the dentist!)
Avoid premature persuasion or even premature interest building.
How can your parish begin to help parishioners to feel confident and comfortabe in inviting others to church?
The info for this article was derived primarily from Session 2 of the "Unchurched" webinar series offered by Fr. Jonathan Ivanoff and Joseph Kormos.