As we stand at the cusp of a new year, it’s time to face a hard truth: what used to work in church growth and engagement simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Whether it’s a ripple effect of the post-COVID era or a broader shift in cultural tides, the old playbook of church invitations is losing its relevance. Last weekend, those who wanted to be in church were there. The stark reality? Our target audience comprises the ones who weren’t there – the people who don’t feel a pull towards traditional church services.

The challenge is clear: the conventional “come to church” invitation falls flat for many. It’s akin to offering a menu in a language they don’t understand; there’s little appeal in attending a worship service when one isn’t steeped in church or Christian culture. While evangelism outside the church walls is vital, the truth remains that most churches still view their weekend services as the primary gateway to their community and faith. This is where our strategy needs a creative overhaul.

Enter Invitability. This blog post isn’t just about tweaking your Sunday services or sprucing up your events; it’s about a fundamental shift in approach. Invitability is about making your church’s offerings – be it Sunday services or special events – deeply relevant and irresistibly appealing to those outside your current congregation. As pastors and church leaders hunker down for their 2024 planning, adopting Invitability could be the game-changer that brings a fresh wave of first-time visitors and renewed vitality to your church in the new year. Let’s dive into how we can turn this vision into a reality.

Designing Problem-Solving Sermon Series

Excursus: The Disconnect in Contemporary Sermons

In many churches, particularly those experiencing decline or stagnation, there’s a noticeable disconnect between the sermons delivered and the needs of the unchurched. Often, sermons resemble extended Sunday school lessons, heavily focused on teaching biblical content with little application or call to action. This educational approach, while valuable in a Bible study or Sunday School context, misses the mark in a sermon setting. Unchurched visitors, when they do step into a church, are seeking answers to life’s pressing issues, not a theological exposition on complex doctrines or a verse-by-verse analysis of scriptural texts.

The Shift from Teaching to Inspiring and Guiding

The challenge we face is not just to educate but to inspire and guide, especially for those not raised in the church. The New Testament offers a treasure trove of solutions to everyday problems, yet our sermons often fail to make these connections clear. Unchurched individuals stepping into our services are not there for a lecture on the Trinity or the nuances of Reformation history. They are seeking guidance for living a life that is full and abundant, as promised by Jesus.

This shift requires a fundamental change in how we approach sermon writing. Instead of focusing on educating our congregation about biblical facts, we should aim to inspire them to apply these biblical principles in their daily lives. Our sermons need to be more than informative; they should be transformative, offering real solutions to real problems.

For instance, when discussing financial stewardship, it’s not enough to quote scriptures about money; we must provide practical steps for managing finances in a godly way. When addressing relationship issues, we should not only talk about biblical love but also offer specific guidance on resolving conflicts and building healthy relationships.

Moreover, our sermons must include a specific call to action. The unchurched often lack the background to connect biblical teachings with real-life applications. We need to guide them, step by step, showing how biblical principles can be lived out in everyday situations. It’s one thing to “know” we need to work on a relationship, it’s something else again to be given a “Do This This Week” to begin making a life transforming behavior change – and let’s be clear, a transformed life is a life lived differently. By providing a specific CTA such as, “Have a conversation this week with that person who’s annoying you and share what’s getting in the way of a working relationship.” This approach transforms our sermons from academic exercises into life-changing experiences.

Problem-Solving Sermons: A Practical Approach

  1. Series Example: “Financial Freedom for Families”
    • Sermon 1: “Breaking the Chains of Debt” (Based on 1 Timothy 6:6–10, Proverbs 22:7)
      • Focus: Addressing the burden of debt and offering biblical principles for financial stewardship.
      • Call to Action: Encourage attendees to start a debt repayment plan, guided by scriptural wisdom.
    • Sermon 2: “Balancing Work and Life” (Based on 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12)
      • Focus: Exploring the biblical perspective on work-life balance and the importance of rest.
      • Call to Action: Challenge the congregation to reassess their work priorities in light of biblical teachings.
  2. Series Example: “Healing Broken Relationships”
    • Sermon 1: “Forgiveness: The First Step to Healing” (Based on Matthew 18:21-22)
      • Focus: Understanding the power of forgiveness in mending relationships.
      • Call to Action: Invite attendees to identify a relationship in need of forgiveness and take the first step towards reconciliation.
    • Sermon 2: “Love in Action” (Based on 1 Corinthians 13)
      • Focus: Demonstrating love in practical ways within relationships.
      • Call to Action: Encourage the congregation to perform acts of love and kindness in their closest relationships.

By focusing on real-life issues and providing clear, actionable steps grounded in biblical principles, we can create sermon series that not only resonate with our members but also become powerful tools for outreach. These series offer tangible solutions and hope, making our church services and events truly invitable for the unchurched in our communities.

Transforming Church Events into Life-Changing Experiences

The Pitfall of Insular Event Planning

In many churches, event planning often falls into a familiar trap: designing events by and for the church members, losing sight of the needs and desires of the unchurched community. This insular approach leads to events that, while perhaps enjoyable for church members, fail to resonate with those outside the church walls. As highlighted in last week’s blog on Ministry Failure Postmortems, there’s a stark difference between what church members think the community needs and what the community actually wants (or needs!).

Engaging with the Community: The Key to Relevant Events

To create truly impactful events, we must engage directly with the community. This involves stepping out of our comfort zones and into the lives of our neighbors. It’s about understanding not just their immediate needs, but also their aspirations and dreams.

For instance, in a community where parents are deeply invested in their children’s sports activities, organizing a soccer clinic could be a significant draw. Such an event not only aligns with the community’s interests but also provides a platform for building relationships and sharing life together. It’s an opportunity to meet parents where they are, supporting them in their aspirations for their children.

Similarly, in areas where underemployment is an issue, hosting a workshop on becoming a home-based entrepreneur could be incredibly relevant and empowering. This kind of event speaks directly to the aspirations of community members who are looking for ways to improve their economic situation and gain more control over their work lives. It’s about offering practical solutions and hope in areas that matter deeply to them.

Designing Community-Centric Events

With this approach, our events become more than just gatherings; they transform into platforms for empowerment, community building, and personal growth. By focusing on what the community truly values and aspires to, we create events that resonate on a deeper level and draw people in. I designed the Invitability Guidebook to be an inspirational workbook to help you design both Invitable Sermon Series as well as Community Centric Events. You can grab your copy here.

From Events to Relationships: The Bigger Picture

However, the success of these events isn’t measured merely by attendance. The real victory lies in the relationships formed and the bridges built. As we gather contact information and follow up, we’re not just adding names to a database; we’re starting conversations that could lead to life-long connections. The Keep Your Visitors Template offers a strategic way to nurture these relationships, turning one-time attendees into regular participants in our community.

By aligning our events with the aspirations and needs of our community, we not only make our church relevant but also demonstrate our commitment to being a positive, transformative presence in the lives of those around us. This is the heart of Invitability – creating spaces where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.

Conclusion: Charting a New Course with Invitability

As we wrap up our exploration of transforming church events and sermons for 2024, it’s clear that the path to meaningful church growth and community engagement lies in embracing the concept of Invitability. This approach is not just about tweaking our methods; it’s about a fundamental shift in how we perceive and interact with our community.

The Invitability Guidebook lays the foundation for this transformative journey. It challenges us to move beyond the comfort of our established church routines and to genuinely connect with the world outside our doors. By understanding and addressing the real-life problems and aspirations of our community members, we can create sermons and events that are not only relevant but also deeply impactful.

Our sermons must evolve from being mere educational lectures to becoming life-changing experiences that offer practical solutions and clear calls to action. Every message should aim to inspire and guide, helping both the churched and the unchurched navigate the complexities of life with biblical wisdom.

Similarly, our events should reflect a deep understanding of our community’s needs and dreams. Whether it’s a soccer clinic for sports-enthusiast families or a workshop for aspiring home-based entrepreneurs, each event should be a stepping stone towards building stronger, more meaningful relationships with our neighbors.

As we look towards 2024, let’s commit to this invitational approach. Let’s design our church activities not just for ourselves but as beacons of hope and sources of practical help for those around us. By doing so, we can expect to see not just an increase in church attendance, but a real transformation in the lives of individuals and in the community as a whole.

The journey of Invitability is an exciting and challenging one. It calls for creativity, empathy, and a deep commitment to serving others. But the rewards are immeasurable – a church that truly serves as a light in the community, transforming lives and making the message of Christ relevant and accessible to all.