Do you ever go on Facebook and see one of those “come to church with me” posts? You know, the one where the person is asking anyone on their friends list to come to church, but not actually asking someone specifically to come? If you have christian friends on your Facebook, then you’ve probably seen them. Let me go further and say you may have personally posted or shared someone else’s post from your church. Guess what? Those check-ins at your church aren’t working. It’s time for a new strategy.
As someone who works in marketing and specifically works with churches, I’ve seen all sorts of social media personality types. I’ve changed my style over the past few years myself. Some people love to post all the time and some people never post. Some people share other peoples posts and some just read them. Whether you’re a reader, a sharer, a poster, or an in-betweener, all of us are looking for some sort of connection with people.
Connection is a worthy reason to invite someone to church. Church is a great way for people to connect with each other and even more importantly for people to spend time connecting with God. Being a part of a local biblical church body is one of the things we are called to do as believers. Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to give up spending time with believers encouraging one another in our faith. The thing is, believers is the key statement. Why should any person attend church because you invited them? How does it benefit them? Sure there may be small reasons here or there but none of them are because they can connect with other believers or God. In reality they can’t. A real connection with God doesn’t come until they have chosen to follow after Him. Until then a real connection to the church and it’s people on a spiritual level isn’t possible.
Inviting people to church doesn’t start with inviting them on Facebook via a post that anyone on your feed can see. It starts with real relationships. I don’t have the authority to speak into someone’s life until I have a real relationship with them. If I don’t have a real relationship with them how can I expect them to follow my Facebook invitation post that was never directed at them individually in the first place? Here are two big reasons to stop inviting people to church through Facebook.
1. IT JUST DOESN’T WORK
In marketing, we learn that even when trying to create buy-in and get people to actually do what we want, there has to be connection. Budweiser is one of the biggest beer suppliers in the U.S. and how do they advertise to people? Through connection. They want to connect their image to peoples lives by pulling at their heart-strings. Take a second to watch this ad from the big game in 2017 and you’ll see just that.
I can’t tell you an actual percentage to how many people come to church based on a Facebook post on someone’s wall, but I can tell you from experience in marketing and working with churches that it’s very rare, and the reason the person actually comes changes in each situation.
You can keep posting that same check-in at your church week to week and not get any responses ever. You might get some likes from other people in your church or the occasional long-lost relative who’s on Facebook far too much, but your return on investment isn’t very high. That’s saying a lot considering it doesn’t require any investment to make such a generic post. Which brings me to point two.
2. FACEBOOK ISN’T REAL LIFE
I know what you’re thinking. MIND BLOWN right? No, Facebook is real, and the things we do on it are too. But true human connection is done in person. Relationships can be started on Facebook, but building on a relationship isn’t done through generic wall posts. Sure you can connect with people through messenger or even Facebook video, and if you feel secure enough in your relationship with a specific person, invite them to church with you through messenger or Facebook video. Do it! This isn’t about that. This is about challenging you to stop inviting people to church without first building that relationship and giving someone a reason to trust you in going to a place that they may not be comfortable.
Inviting your Facebook friends to church without a personal invitation is like delegating a task to someone to take it off your shoulders, but not giving them the authority to learn from the responsibility. When I am delegated a task for the sake of someone else not having to do it, the only thing I learn is how to be used. I don’t gain from it. If you give me a task to do, and give me the authority to fail at it so that I can get back up and learn from it, then there is purpose. If you use the task as an opportunity to be taught something new to help me grow as a leader then there is also purpose. If you invite Facebook friends, but don’t have a relationship to point to with them, then essentially you are using them to fill seats, and you are not causing real change in their life. Filling seats doesn’t have true purpose, although it may end up with giving someone true purpose, that shouldn’t be our primary approach. We are ignoring our responsibility to make Disciples through real relationships with humans.
Believe me I’m preaching to a choir of myself here. I have been that person to invite people to church via Facebook, I’ve been that person who wanted to see my church grow in numbers. What is the point though if we are not even fulfilling our duty to be the church with the people who just came through the doors? What is the point if we are not maintaining real relationships with people who lead to them wanting to attend church? Church is important, and as Christians being in church is even more so important for us. It just may not be important in the opinion of those people that we are almost anonymously inviting online or via invite cards thrown on our lunch table at work.
We are not called to invite people to a church. Our job is to be the church to people. Be a listening ear when they need it. Help your friends when they are going through tough seasons in life and be there for them in the good times too. Share your story but don’t force your culture on them. It’s not our job to change someone. They will when God gets ahold of them. It’s our job to love them and be their friend. Once that friendship is there and you’re building that relationship, only you will know when the right timing is to invite someone to church. It may be before they are a Christian for some people. For another person maybe they have trust issues with organizations and you need to build trust with them first. Maybe you won’t invite your friend to church until they are already a Christian and need to find a place to be encouraged among other believers. Only you and God will be able to work out those details. It’s not my job to tell you when the right timing is. My hope is that if you were told to invite people to church on Facebook or told that getting people in the doors is the best way to get someone to church, that you’ll see that isn’t the directive we’ve been given.
Matthew 28:19-20 says, “19 Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.”
People can most definitely attend church as an unchurched person and learn about who God is and then choose to follow Him. If our only way of connecting to people though is by first inviting them to church, then we’ve failed. God doesn’t ask us to invite people to church. He invites us to be the church with people. When you’ve created that connection with people and believe it’s God’s timing, then go ahead and invite them. Look to Him for that timing. It’s time to stop relying on someone coming to church because of your Facebook check-in, and time to start getting to know people.
Keep it real people. Don’t stop checking into your church on Facebook. I can say as marketer that it helps get the church Facebook page some views, which is great! Just don’t misuse the system as an out against relationship building.