Think for a moment of someone you care about who doesn’t know Jesus. How deeply do you want them to come to faith? What would you give to help them on their journey? Mostly we think in terms of our conversations and prayer and friendship as being the stepping-stones in terms of bringing someone we love to a commitment to Jesus.
In Activate everything we do is focused towards encouraging, equipping and inspiring our supporters so that they can get out there and share their faith in God with others. Sometimes we do this one-to-one, sometimes we organise group events, conferences, training day and weekends. If you have the privilege of leading a church or team then you know decisions are made on how to plan, provide and pay for events, advertising, and marketing. Churches and groups are making great progress in being creative and widening their circles of influence, giving as many people as possible the opportunity to hear afresh or perhaps for the first time about Christianity. Sometimes substantial investments are made towards bringing new people in. I was fascinated to read of some research just completed in California by a doctoral student, Charles Salmon(1). He conducted an electronic, connection card and spoken interview of those attending his church for the first time, the response rate was above 70%. He asked them what their primary motivation in coming to church was, some answered with two answers. More than half of them replied that they came primarily because of an invitation by family and friends. 30% came after looking at the church website, 17% came after reading a direct invitation by mail. 9% came because they had seen a road sign and 4% came to church after attending an event for families in the community.
These figures may be in line with what we at Activate would expect, as we have been saying for years that personal invitations by friends and families are crucial in bringing people into church. What intrigued me was how Salmon went on to break down the financial costs and volunteer hours that were linked to each first time guest. For every new guest, the cost of the website as the primary source is $129 per guest. The road signs placed in the neighbourhood were $78 per guest, the costs of direct mailing were much higher at $1338. Events were the most expensive per first time guest at $3231 and 2658 volunteer hours! And the cost of personal invitations? $8 per guest with only 7 volunteer hours. Personal invitations really do work, and they cost so little! Encouraging your regular attendees with prayer support, teaching and inspirational messages costs nothing and produces great results! Helping them to be more effective through providing good books and running training courses will help significantly and will still be more cost effective than any other spending.
Perhaps your church has been considering offering a training day or inviting an Activate speaker to inspire those who are timid or reluctant to invite their friends? Maybe you have attendees who feel they don’t have any non-Christian friends and don’t know where to start? Unlocking the Door(2) is a great place to start, packed with inspiring ideas and easy methods to get anyone started on the road to building relationships and creating genuine opportunities. We have trained communicators who could come and present a Powerpoint of how every person can be used by God to bring others close to him. For those of you who are fascinated by numbers and costs, this research is proof that personal invitations are the most cost effective method of outreach, and persuading your church to invest in training up individuals is the way to go. Many churches now talk specifically of “Invest and Invite”, thinking about how crucial it is to invest in relationships and take time over true friendships that will lead to opportunities, invitations, and people coming to church. Investing also refers to the training and encouraging of attendees so that they are ready and confident to ask and include. Perhaps you think the cost of inviting a speaker is too much? Maybe the idea of paying for a Weekend Away for inspiration seems a waste of money? This research might be the incentive you need to prove that investing now will provide benefits for eternity!
So, for those of you in leadership and in control of church finances take a moment to consider how you spend your budget. Websites are a crucial tool that most guests do refer to. Many people are intrigued by signs on their streets; a direct mailed invitation might be the first step in a long journey of stepping across a door. Attending a fun and well-run event may be a crucial part of the eventual conversion process. But before you do any of these worthy things, encourage, inspire and train up your attendees so that they are in a position to invite their friends. That it is the most effective way forward.
For those of you who hate numbers and feel that you can’t put a price on the value of a friendship and a soul, feel free to ignore all this and just take away the idea that the braver we are in talking about Jesus, the more people will come with us and explore faith. It is God who brings a soul to faith, His Holy Spirit is the one who moves in the heart of an individual. And it is our job to pray, and do everything we can to be the hands and feet of Jesus on earth and bring those we know and love close to Him. The pearl of great price is worth everything.