Michael Lukaszewski on How to Equip People to Share Their Faith When Culture Calls It Taboo
Here’s something we’ve been noticing: It seems like it’s actually become taboo, culturally-speaking, to share your faith. Have you noticed that, too?
In 2019 research, Barna Group found that nearly half of practicing Christian Millennials feel it’s wrong to share their faith.
Churches have always had the essential role to equip people to share their faith, but in today’s climate, that can seem particularly challenging.
I invited my good friend Michael Lukaszewski to join me for this episode to talk about how churches can create a compelling invite strategy that makes it easy for people to invite others to church.
Michael and I met about 10 years ago. We both live in the Atlanta area, and today we’re actually in a small group together. His experience in ministry ranges from church planting, to pastoring, to now resourcing and coaching churches all over the country through his company, Church Fuel.
Church Fuel has created some excellent invite strategy tools that I’ve heard churches say are working for them, so I wanted to bring Michael on to share some insights into what’s changed in training congregations for personal evangelism, how churches can respond to the shifts, and practical ideas for getting started.
In this episode, Michael and I discuss…
- Why people have stopped inviting friends and family to church, why sharing your faith has become taboo, and what that means for our churches
- Why personal invites are still the best way to attract people outside the faith to your church (though they are made more effective when the church owns its role at the organizational level)
- How constantly encouraging people to invite can back-fire, and what we should be doing instead
- Physical AND digital tools to equip your church (at all age levels) to invite people to church
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About Michael Lukaszewski
Michael is the founder and CEO of Church Fuel an organization that provides insanely practical resources to pastors and church leaders. He’s married to Jennie and they have three kids. On weekends, you might find him reverse searing a bone-in ribeye on the Big Green Egg.
Links & Resources from the Episode
- Church Fuel – Invite Strategy Tool: Looking for ideas on how churches can equip (not just encourage) their church to invite others? Check out the linked strategy tool. For more examples of what other churches are doing to create a culture of inviting, check out the Church Fuel membership program. Members get access to online courses, extensive resources, and insights from a community of healthy, growing churches.
- You can have the best invite strategy in the world, but if the experiences you create as a church are not compelling, those invites are not going to happen. We can help you assess the weekend experience with the Secret Shopper portion of The Unstuck Process. Let’s talk!
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Sean: 00:02 Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. In today’s culture, sharing your faith is becoming somewhat taboo. In recent research, The Barna Group found that nearly half of practicing Christian millennials found it wrong to share their faith. With this new reality. it’s no surprise that invitations to new guests have decreased in many churches. But what if there was a way to train and equip people to have a better understanding of why and how to talk about church? On today’s podcast, Tony sits down with Michael Lukaszewski, founder of Church Fuel, for a conversation on how to put a spotlight on invitation in your church. Before you listen though, you’ll need to get the show notes. You can get them every week in one email along with our leader conversation guide, the weekly resources as well as access to our podcast resource archive. Go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now let’s join Tony and Michael for today’s conversation.
Tony: 01:02 Michael, I love having small group members on the podcast. People don’t know that we’re actually in a small group together.
Michael: 01:10 I know. This could go bad. We could start talking about food and football and all kinds of non church-related things.
Tony: 01:17 No, seriously. My good friend Michael is joining us in today’s conversation. And Michael and I probably met close to 10 years ago because in your previous life you were a church planter, a lead pastor. Can you share a little bit about that experience, Michael?
Michael: 01:34 Yeah, so Tony, we’re in a small group together, and I think we probably live about 10 minutes away from each other. But we met a long time ago, in another life when I moved to Atlanta to start a church. And so, we had no idea what we were doing, and you were one of the very first consultants that we actually had come in and tell us, you know, all the things we were not doing well. In a kind way, in a very kind and helpful way. And so, just going from kind of church planting to pastoring a church and leading kind of a church that was growing really fast to now working with churches really all over the place.
Tony: 02:09 Well, I love that we’re now back to the place where we can do a little bit of life together, and I’ve always appreciated, Michael, your love not only for Jesus and the church, but the way I think we have like minds in that strategically we’re looking at how can we help churches have a bigger impact. And the problem that I want to solve today on today’s podcast, you probably hear it, too. I know, I hear it all the time. I get complaints from pastors that their people aren’t inviting people to come to church anymore. And so that’s the problem that I want to tackle today. And this all started from a conversation you and I had over coffee couple of weeks ago where we were talking about this challenge, and fortunately through your organization, Church Fuel, you have some solutions available. But let’s start with the foundation. What do you think is creating this challenge in churches that people have stopped inviting friends and family to come to church?
Michael: 03:11 Yeah, that’s a great question, Tony. I think even if you step back bigger than that, and I hate to kind of dive into philosophy first because I like to be practical, but I think in this case the philosophy is really important that as you look at the trends of history and culture, even just over the last 20 years, it’s very, very difficult for people to just talk about their faith in general. Right? It’s taboo in a lot of places. In fact, the younger you are, the more likely you are to believe that actually talking about your faith is offensive to somebody, that it’s very personal. And so just even in church, right? We just tend to, you know, we don’t talk about religion, we don’t talk about those kinds of things. So if it’s hard for people to kind of explain their faith or their Christianity, or you know, do evangelism, you know, that we talk about, I mean, how that’s really, really hard. So to even step back from that, I mean, it’s hard just to get people to say, I go to church in a normal conversation. So from a cultural perspective, I think it really does help to just understand where people are. And then from a church leadership perspective, we live in our church all the time, right? If you’re listening to this, you’re probably a church leader or you’re a pastor. I mean, you live, breathe and think and talk about the church, you know, all the time. Your people don’t. And so it’s just not top of mind for most people. And so it’s constantly a struggle to get them to kind of not just live out their faith week to week, but even just remember that they go to church, you know, on a random Tuesday.
Tony: 04:37 So Michael, the funny thing is as you relate where our culture is, and I completely agree with you, I mean, it’s just, it’s challenging for us to express the transformation that God’s made in our life, because as soon as we start to talk about that we feel like we’re trying to force our faith, our religion, on somebody else, and people are just hesitant to do that. But what I’ve noticed then for pastors and church leaders, because people have stopped inviting friends and family to church, that their first inclination is really just to blame people for doing that. And I’m not sure that’s really the first step you want to take is blaming your congregation for not inviting anybody.
Michael: 05:21 No, it’s like the blaming and complaining game. It never works. I think there’s something that makes us feel better if we’ll just complain about everything. It’s like nobody does this like they used to. Get off my lawn and you know. Complaining never helps unless you’re on Twitter and you’re trying to get like a flight upgrade or something, but then it helps. But it doesn’t help in church leadership. But I get it, right? Because as a pastor or church leader, you know that your church is doing great work, right? And so it’s like you’re serving the community. You’ve got these great messages that will really move somebody’s life forward. You know, there’s a lot of positive things going on in your church. I know there’s a lot of stuff we want to fix, but there’s a lot of positives. And we kind of have this low level frustration that’s like, how come more people aren’t here? I mean this is good. This stuff matters. It’s purposeful or helping, you know, how come people aren’t here? And then even though I tell our church, and even though I was like, invite people, invite people, invite people. Even though I say that, how come they don’t do it? Do they not see? Do they not? So, I get that it’s them and not us kind of feeling. And there may be a little bit of truth to that, but we want to move out of that action. Like that’s the reality. What do we do with it? Your people aren’t inviting. What do you do with that?
Tony: 06:31 So the challenge is people aren’t inviting. So let’s try to get to the solution side of this. And this is one of the reasons why I appreciate you so much, Michael, is you really have through your personal experience, but now working with churches, many other churches, you’ve developed a solution to help churches tackle this challenge. So can you talk about what that solution is all about? What are those practical next steps we need to take?
Michael: 06:55 Yeah, so the first thing I would say, Tony, is that we’ve got to move our communication away from encouraging people to invite, to equip people to invite. And so if we just constantly encourage people to invite, we’re actually inoculating them against taking the action. Right? And so what we’re doing is we’re raising awareness. You should invite, you should invite, you should have invite, but awareness doesn’t really do anything. You need action. And so in the encouragement thing, I’ve been in a lot of churches where the last thing that’s said in the service on Sunday is, “Hey, next week we’re going to talk about X, Y, Z. Don’t forget to invite somebody. Have a great week.” Right? So that’s an encouragement. Well, they’re not going to do that, right? They’re not going to. That’s not actionable. It feels good to say it. What we need to do instead is actually equip them to invite. And the story I tell when I talk about this is if you’re driving along the side of the road and you see somebody off to the side and they’ve got a flat tire, and maybe it’s raining and it’s terrible, right? And, because you’re a helpful person, you want to pull over and help, and you would andI would. You know, all your listeners would, because we’re helpful people. And so we pull off to the side of the road. There’s somebody fumbling to try to change a tire. You get out. You want to help. Well, they don’t have a jack. They don’t have a spare tire. They’re just out there. And what we do as church leaders is we try to cast vision for that. There should be a tire change and try to encourage, you know, all this stuff’s like, wouldn’t it be great if you had a tire and you could get to work? Or we live in the problem, right? The people’s like, I’ve got to get to work, I’ve got to do this. Well, I don’t need encouragement. I don’t need vision. What I actually need is a tire jack. I need the tool and then I can help you. So in church world, instead of just encouraging our people to invite, what tools can we give them? Because if you want somebody to do it, anything, no matter what it is, you have to give them the tool.
Tony: 08:47 All right, so Michael, that lends itself then to the next obvious question then. So what are the tools that we need to be offering to the folks in our church so that they do begin to invite?
Michael: 08:56 Great question. So I think the tools fall in a couple of different categories, probably three. So there’s physical tools. There’s literally printed pieces of paper that you can make, and we see a lot of churches do this. They’ll get little post-it size, you know, pieces of paper and make invite cards that are simple, that just have the service times on them. And instead of just having them available, literally slow down and teach people how to use them. So we have the tool, but then we teach people how to use the tool. And you think, well that doesn’t, that doesn’t really work. No, it doesn’t work if you just have them sitting there. But if you periodically make some new ones, you know, print some new things and then teach people, here’s how to leave them with a tip, a good tip. You know, here’s how to hand them to somebody. When you hand them to somebody at work, here’s what you say. You don’t just leave them hidden on their computer monitor and walk off. And so those little physical tools like that, they actually still work. I mean, even in our digital age where, you know, everything’s digital? Physical tools like that are great. And so we see a lot of churches that just create little centers or different ones. You can make ones for kids. I mean, kids will hand anything out. You make them for students, for adults, for special service, for a special event and just have physical tools available to people. There’s also the digital counterpart of that, right? And so instead of saying, “Hey, go on your social channels and invite people to church,” literally write it for people. And then you tell people, “Hey, go to this website, cut and paste.” If you can cut and paste, you can invite somebody to come to church. And the same printed picture card we have, there’s a digital version of that. We’ve got things for your Instagram. We’ve got things for, you know, all your different social channels and make them available to people. Don’t make people come up with stuff. Literally do it for them. One of our Church Fuel members, is a church just outside of Indianapolis. And they actually tell all their church to do it at a certain time on a Thursday. They’ll like email or text their church, not all the time, but like, Hey, and they call it something like five o’clock somewhere. That’s not what they call it. But they call it this certain time of day where they encourage their church to actually go post all at the same time. And is that a little cheesy? Probably, but is it a little tactic to kind of remind people to do stuff? Yeah. And so you’re not just telling people what to do, you’re actually giving them the tools to do it. There’s digital tools, there’s physical tools. There’s a church here not far away from us, outside of Atlanta. They actually have a great page on their website that has all their stuff, and it’s an insider page, right? And so it’s, you know, yourchurch.com/invite, and it’s all the stuff that like a church member would need. The pictures, the graphics, you know, what to say, even little videos about how to have strike up conversations with people. And they don’t promote that page to the community. It’s insider focused page, but it’s got all the assets that somebody would need. I thought it was a great idea.
Tony: 12:01 Yeah. So, equipping people with these tools that you’re describing, I can certainly see how that’s beneficial. What coaching do you provide or should pastors provide when it comes to, are these tools to use with people that you already know or people that you don’t even know? What coaching should they be providing in that situation?
Michael: 12:23 Yeah, totally. And so there’s a lot of cool resources. You know, it’s like the amount of time that you can spend on somebody really, really depends on the level of relationship that you have. So for example, if it’s like a drive by invite. I mean that’s like, hey, I’d love to invite you to my church. There’s a simple way to have a conversation with virtually a stranger. But then as that relationship gets deeper, you know, the conversations can get more meaningful. And so I think coaching and training is really important. And so on a superficial level, I think pastors should really teach their church just how to invite. But then as you move beyond that and getting somebody to come to church is not the ultimate goal, right? That’s just like step one or step zero even. It’s really as you begin a relationship with somebody or deepen a relationship, you’re really trying to help that person, you know, experience faith and grow in their relationship or develop a relationship with God. So, I grew up in a baptist church and it was like we had evangelism training, right? It was like learn all this stuff, and that can get overly systematic at times, but there are components of that we still have to do. Like we have to teach our people how to have a faith conversation. You know, there’s a lot of good tools, and I mentioned I grew up in a baptist church. The Southern Baptist have a thing called three circles. It’s really good. I mean, it just helps somebody explain their faith by drawing a little thing on a napkin. And so there are a lot of good tools and curriculum, maybe, that’ll help kind of do that. And I think that’s a worthy pursuit.
Tony: 13:55 So, beyond the tools to help people with the invite, Michael, what are the next steps that churches, and particularly pastors and church leaders, can be considering when it comes to encouraging this invite culture in their church?
Michael: 14:11 Yeah, so another good question. So I think what happens is when your church asks you to do something, right? When they see you trying to do your part as well, it fans the flame of that. And so, an example of that would be like advertising and marketing and digital outreach, whatever we want to call that. I think the secret sauce of when churches advertise is not like getting a stranger on Facebook to come to church. I mean, that does happen, you know, but I think the secret behind that is the people in your church seeing your church as an organization trying everything that they can do. And it reinforces to them that, yes, I know people, too. And so, you know, generosity works this way: when people see their church being generous, it inspires them to be generous. And so when people in your church, yes, they’re going to hear you talk about inviting and yes, we have these tools available, but when they see you out in the community, you know, doing stuff, it really bolsters their own confidence. So we equip, but also we model, and I think advertising sometimes gets a bad rap because we just think we’re skipping the people. You know, everybody says personal invites are the best way to grow your church. And that’s true. But personal invites are made more effective and we get bolstered in confidence when we see our church trying to do stuff at an organizational level. So I think they go hand in hand. I don’t think it’s either/or.
Tony: 15:36 Yeah, and a great example of that, this is from my days when I was at NewSpring. I think it was one or two big series that we were doing at NewSpring, we actually used billboard advertising, not to promote the church itself, but to promote the topic that we were talking about at the church. And you’re right, I mean, it’s Anderson. There’s not going to be that much vehicle traffic going by. Oh, yeah, I want to go to that church because look, there’s a billboard right there. But what it did is it really elevated, within the church, the anticipation for what was coming. And it then fueled the invites that were happening. And in those instances, they really were significant movements as far as inviting new people to the church for NewSpring. So, I totally agree with you, Michael. Advertising is probably not going to directly impact the person we’re trying to reach, but it probably will help us mobilize the people in our church then to make those invites. So Michael, here’s the great thing. Your organization, Church Fuel, you don’t actually just talk about and think about these strategies. You create tools to equip churches to engage in these strategies. So can you talk a little bit more about the specific tools that Church Fuel offers to encourage invites within churches?
Michael: 17:07 Yeah, I appreciate that softball question. So when we get…
Tony: 17:13 I always feel guilty cause this is going to sound like a bit of an advertisement here. Michael doesn’t pay me to advertise on this podcast. I don’t pay him to come on my podcast. But the tool that he offers, I know it works because I’ve talked with other churches that have engaged with Church Fuel and the resources that they offer. So yeah. Can you talk a little bit about the tool related to invites?
Michael: 17:38 Yeah. So, we’ve definitely got coaching around this. So, if you would be in kind of where we started this, it’s like how do we get our people to invite? You know, grab some leaders together. So we definitely have some coaching, some videos and some those kinds of things that are pretty valuable. But then we also have a lot of that kind of, I don’t believe that you can cut, copy and paste something from one setting to another, but you can copy and paste about the first 50%, right? So we have a lot of templates, you know, we have even social media templates and things that you can get. You’re going to have to contextualize that, but you’re smart and you can do that. So a lot of those, they’ll either spur on the ideas or it’ll get you halfway there. So whether it’s stuff to share on social, we’ve got even some advertising campaigns in a box that churches can use. And again, you can’t just take them and use them. It doesn’t work that way. But you can take them and put your wrapper on it, and it’ll make a lot of sense. But I think getting the actual tools, like what do we say when? We’ve got a script for that. What do we send our people? We have that kind of written down that you can use that way. So it’s coaching at a high level and then there’s kind of the tactical tools that you can kind of plug and play on the different areas.
Tony: 18:51 And can you share some specific examples of churches that have used the tools and kind of what the response has been, Michael?
Michael: 18:58 Yeah, so much like you Tony, we help a lot of churches all over the country. And so, you know, I dunno, there’s probably about 600 churches that are members of Church Fuel, and so they kind of join and they log on and they get things. Obviously, as we’re recording this, we’re kind of getting ready for Christmas, and Christmas is a thing, but you know, whenever you’re listening to this, there’s a thing coming up, right? There’s like something coming up. So a lot of our churches will go and they’ll grab things that are relevant to their calendar that are coming up in the next two or three months, and they’ll use that. We had a church in North Dakota, actually. I think they’re probably the only church in North Dakota.
Tony: 19:38 That’s not true, Michael. There are other churches in North Dakota.
Michael: 19:40 Ok, there’s two of them. There’s two of them. But they’re actually taking their leadership team through some of our inviting resources, and they’ve broadened out. You know, it’s like, hey, this isn’t just for the pastor and leaders. They’re actually involving lay leaders, and they’re taking them through our inviting course right now, which is three videos and a bunch of tools. And they’re actually getting that first wave of leaders involved in it, which is a cool idea, particularly if your church doesn’t have a gazillion people on staff. There are people that think like this, you know, particularly in the advertising way. So they put together a team of people that kind of play in the advertising box in their day jobs. And they said, what if you could kind of get together and use your superpowers on our church? And so they’re doing that, which is kinda cool.
Tony: 20:30 All right. So, last week I was at an event, only evangelism directors from all over the country. And I don’t recommend you do this as a speaker. Basically, I told them, if you just have evangelism programs at your church, your church is probably not going to reach people for Jesus. That the church has to be evangelistic. You need to have a strategy as a church in your services and your discipleship strategy and your communications and everything, the environments you’re creating. Everything needs to be focused on reaching people outside the church and outside the faith if you’re going to be effective when it comes to evangelism. Actually, even though you’ve eloquently talked about the challenge and the next steps you can take, let me just say this too. You can have the best invite strategy in the world, but if you’re not creating invitable experiences on Sunday morning, if your environments are not invitable, if you as a church are not invitable, then the invites are not going to happen. But this is a great tool, Michael, to start to now encourage, it’s not just encourage, but equip people to begin to invite friends and family. Any last thoughts you want to share?
Michael: 21:50 So just to piggyback on what you said, cause I think that’s a great, you know, end to this conversation is as we look at what we’re doing, is it worth people inviting to? And so chances are, there’s probably things that need to change, and you as a leader, as you look at your Sunday or whatever it is, you go, yeah, we definitely need to make that more, you know, outsider focused or whatever term we want to use. I would say you can use that as a teaching moment, too. So don’t just like redo your lobby and have it show up on Sunday and it’s new. Literally go to your church and say, we’re redoing our lobby because we want to be more, you know, focused on reaching the community and that’s why we’re doing it. And then you’re preparing for guests but you’re preparing publicly and you’re actually getting a double bonus out of that really because you’re teaching your church why you are doing it while you’re doing it. And so you can just leverage that. So I think that’s a great challenge at the end. It’s like make sure we have something worth inviting to and then go and equip all our people to invite. And those two things really go together really well.
Sean: 22:53 Well thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. If you’d like to know where your church is in its life cycle, take your team through the free assessment at assess.theunstuckchurch.com. At The Unstuck Group, we work everyday with church leaders to help them build healthy churches by guiding them through specifically designed experiences that focus them on vision, strategy, and action. If that’s a need in your church, we would love to talk. You can start a conversation by visiting us at theunstuckgroup.com. If you like what you’re hearing on this podcast, we’d love your help in getting the content out. You can do that by subscribing on your favorite podcasting platform, giving us a review and telling your friends. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Until then, have a great week.