For several decades, churches have been seeing fewer and fewer first time guests in worship. Those guests who do arrive tell a consistent story – 85% of those who come and remain with the church came at the personal invitation of another person. When you dig deeper, there are specific critical characteristics of those invitations:
- The invitations arise out of a growing friendship between someone within the church and someone who is outside
- That growing friendship reflects a natural, authentic human connection
- The person doing the inviting makes the invitation in a way that communicates the high value they place on the friendship as well as the high value they place on their life with Christ and the church
- The invitation is personal, specific in time and place, compelling and often involves walking the person in the door on their elbow
As we have interviewed hundreds of active church members, we realized that the longer a person was active in the church the fewer growing friendships they had with people outside the church. This is a key reason why churches have seen fewer and fewer guests.
Elbow (AKA Member-Guest) Activities are designed to help church members establish the kinds of growing friendships out of which meaningful invitations to Christ and the church can emerge.
What are Elbow Activities?
Elbow activities (Member-Guest Activities) are normal social activities that are intended to begin or develop a growing friendship between people inside the church and people outside the church. They have three characteristics:
- They are “normal.” They aren’t large group events on the campus of the church. They are ordinary activities that people do for fun, recreation or social engagement. They involve a handful of people at a time.
- They are “doable.” These are activities that are affordable in time and money for the mission field of your church. They shouldn’t require approval from the church council. They should be easy for the participants to pull off.
- They have a “hand off.” Elbow activities are designed to begin and to grow a friendship among people. The growth of the relationship is part of the agenda of the activity. So when planning an elbow activity, the organizer is prepared to make an invitation to the next chance to renew the friendship. For example, at the end of a dinner together, the organizer would be prepared to say something like, “This has been so much fun. I’d love to get together again. Would you be free on the 14th? We were thinking of going to the concert at the park that evening. We’d love you to join us.”
While Elbow Activities have a spiritual agenda, it isn’t a programmed or oppressive agenda. The spiritual agenda is simply to be attentive to the growing friendship, to continue to expand and strengthen the friendship between people inside and outside the church, and to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit as to when an invitation to a church activity might be the proper “hand off.” Here is an example of an Elbow Activity (they call it a Circles Event).
Examples of Elbow Activities?