The Power of Invitation

Deacon Sunni Richardson, Director for Leadership Development

Some might call them gimmicks but I call them props. They’re little things that open the door for conversation. My latest prop giveaway was a spiral-shaped paper clip at the Leadership Development table at Synod Assembly. We gave away close to 600 paper clips. Now, why would someone be excited about a paperclip? Well, you see these spiral-shaped paperclips, with a little explanation, became Holy Spirit reminder. They are a tangible reminder to pause and acknowledge God gives us gifts and invites us to engage. I invited people to take a Holy Spirit paperclip for themselves and with intentionality identify one of their gifts. Then they were invited to take one for someone else with instructions that read, “When you give this to someone, name one of their God-given gifts and invite them to consider how the Holy Spirit might be calling them to use that gift.” One woman, who restocked at least three times, joyfully said, “I am having so much fun giving these away! People are surprised I see their gifts.” That little Holy Spirit paperclip became an invitation tool.

What invitation tools are you using in your ministry? For example, let’s think about ‘God’s Work, Our Hands’, and get creative. This ELCA churchwide service event does not have to be limited to church members. What if a team of four is composed of two members and two friends? Let’s say the project is a clean-up for an elder in the community with a fence to mend, gutters to clean, and painting. With details written on a hammer-shaped piece of paper, invite your neighbor to bring their hammer and join you. Use a can of food to invite a co-worker to join you at the food pantry or attach an invitation to a stick for the clean-up project at camp.

Stop spreading the “warm body syndrome”! Invite with intentionality. Invite people to use their gifts, talents, and expertise. Explain the project and the anticipated impact. Share expectations such as ‘meet at the park at 8:00, wear toe-covered shoes, and bring water, gloves, and sunscreen’. Do introductions when the group gathers and offer a prayer. A hardy thank-you from the inviter along with a “let’s do this again soon” invitation is really important.

As you look ahead to fall, think of creative invitations. People are busy but when asked to participate in a project where their presence and gifts will help make a difference, most will go out of their way to get it on their calendar and serve. Rally Day, ‘God’s Work, Our Hands,’ summer picnics, VBS, Sunday School, and partner agency projects are perfect activities to engage neighbors, friends, online viewers, and the faithful every Sunday worshippers. Everybody’s got something to offer.

PS – Holy Spirit spiral paperclips are available through most office supply stores.