Making an invite with joy and love is a low-key way of bringing friends, family and/or co-workers back to the Church. (Photo courtesy of Brew City Missionaries)
The last two years have been hard. As Catholics in the midst of a world in struggle, we have good news for every person: God loves you. God is here. God will never leave you or forsake you. God wants to be with you so much that Jesus was born into the midst of our mess, to heal us and bring us into relationship.
To all who are exhausted under the burden of stress, grief, fear, anger, conflict or other pain, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary … and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus invites you to come to him and receive the peace for which you long. He is here for you. His Church is here for you. Every Sunday you have the opportunity to gather in community to receive Jesus who loves you and to love him back at Mass.
When you have experienced the life-changing power of this good news, you can’t help but want it for others. So why do we so often hesitate to share it and invite others to join us?
In the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, we often hear from people that they think they don’t know enough about their faith to share it with others. The truth is, we don’t have to be experts to reach out in love, extend a warm invitation to our parish or welcome others we meet there. St. Augustine said we’re all beggars before God. We can simply be one beggar offering to show another beggar where the feast is.
Surveys of those who have come to a church for the first time show that the majority say they came because someone they knew invited them personally. Your loving invitation matters and can make a bigger difference than you realize. Why not use Christmas as an excuse to joyfully extend Jesus’ invitation to “Come to Me” to those in your life who need to hear it?
If you are afraid to invite or aren’t sure how to do it, here are a few simple steps you can take today to prepare to invite friends, neighbors, coworkers and family to respond to Jesus’ invitation:
The Holy Spirit is the one who will draw people’s hearts, arrange opportunities for you to extend the invitation, and give you the courage, compassion and words to invite them. Ask God to help you. It might sound like, “God, help me to think of who you want me to invite,” and then listen in silence for who comes to mind. Pray for each of these people by name, ask God to bless them, open their hearts and give you a natural opportunity to connect with and invite them.
Many people will be moved more by your personal story of how you came into relationship with Jesus and his Church than with theological arguments. Reflect on your story so as to be ready to share, if asked, and to grow in compassion for others.
How have Jesus and his Church made a difference in your life?
What would your life be like if you didn’t have a relationship with God or your church community?
What do you love about the Mass? About your parish?
If there was a time that you were away from Jesus and his Church, what drew you back? What do you wish someone would have done for you during that time?
What do you love about the person(s) you’d like to invite? Why do you want them to know Jesus and his Church?
People might not remember what you said, but they will remember how it felt. Your genuine compassion for them is more important than finding perfect words or timing. Look for opportunities to form real connections with them and build trust. Assume nothing. The way you invite someone who hasn’t been to Mass because of deep anxiety about COVID-19 or grief over loss of a loved one will be different than someone who isn’t sure if God exists or is struggling to get back into the habit. When the opportunity presents, ask questions without judgment, listen deeply and respond with authentic compassion.
You’ll never know unless you ask — don’t assume a “No” before asking the question. If you invite them personally with genuine love, the worst that can happen is that they say “no.” If they say “no,” don’t take it personally. Extending the invitation is your gift to them, whether they choose to accept right now is their choice. You may have planted a seed that will grow in time. When you invite, be specific. A specific invitation might sound like, “Our church has a night of reflection with Advent and Christmas music that’s truly beautiful, would you like to come with us?” or “My family is going to the 11 a.m. Mass and then having brunch. We’d love to have you join us; would you like to come?”
To the extent that you can, walk with those you have invited. Continue reaching out in love to those who you have invited. If they accept the invitation, try to meet them there, help them feel welcome and follow-up with them. If they said no, continue to love them and look for opportunities to extend a new invitation.
The Office of Evangelization and Catechesis is here for you. The “Come to Me” initiative offers you free tools and resources to help you and your parish invite and welcome others at https://www.archmil.org/ComeToMe. If you are hungry for more training on how to invite others, check out our in-person or virtual GalileeU formation sessions and retreats at https://www.archmil.org/GalileeU.