I set up two of my friends recently – they had a lot in common, they seemed to be looking for what the other one had to offer, and I thought they’d get on.
They agreed to meet up and they went out! There were candles, there was poetry … all the ingredients of a special occasion.
A few weeks later, I asked one of them if there had been a second date.
“No,” she said. “I really liked him! He gave all the right signals, but then he never called … guess he didn’t want me after all.”
So I went to my other friend and asked why he’d never arranged a second date.
“Well,” he said. “I organised the first one. I reckoned if she was keen, she’d call me, and set up a second date. It’s a shame – I really liked her.”
This story is made up. While I am, in fact, responsible for introducing TWO of the couples in my immediate circle of friends, this particular matchmaking venture didn’t take place. This is, in fact, a fictional version of the elusive courtship relationship your church has with young families.
Your church wants young families. Young families want a friendly and meaningful religious community where they feel welcomed, loved, cared for, and wanted. You meet up for a Crib Service – there are candles and poetry, and it’s a really special event. You smile at each other and say how lovely it was to meet up, and you’d love to do it again.
And then you both sit at home, waiting for the other to make the first move.
Research from the Christenings Project shows that families WANT the church to stay in touch. They want to be invited back to special events and to family-friendly services. But families are busier than ever, they’re nervous about their child’s behaviour in church, and they don’t know what’s happening at your church if you don’t tell them. So you need to make the effort. You need to reach out. You need to woo.
This Christmas Eve, why not hand families who come to your Crib Service a small sheet of paper with a space for them to write down their name, their child(ren)’s name(s), their email address, and whether they’d like to be contacted about future events? You know they like you – they’ve come to your Crib Service!
Have someone at the back of the church at the end of the service to gather these papers in and hand out something special to take home (a chocolate coin, a cut-out-and-keep Nativity, or something else). Then add these email addresses to your mailing list and invite them back for Candlemas … Mothering Sunday … Holy Week … toddler group … holiday club … and don’t take them off the list unless they ask you to! Conventional wisdom in the marketing world is that people need to be reminded of something seven times before they’ll take action on it. Keep inviting them back.
After all, that’s what God does, isn’t it? He goes out into the highways and the byways and says “we’re having a feast! Come on in!” And he keeps asking, and keeps asking, because he loves us so much and he wants us to be together, near him – he calls his people to be his Bride. Let’s model that persistent courtship in our churches.
(And if anyone wants my services as a real-life matchmaker, do get in touch. I can provide two happy couples as references! One couple was even introduced to each other, by me, in a church. So you never know …)
3 thoughts on “First Dates by the Manger”
In a Facebook conversation about this post, a vicar has suggested adding a box to your response card for families to tick if they’d like a visit from the vicar in the new year. Great idea.