by Michele McGrath
Re-blogged from: Missionalleaders.org
Last weekend I worshiped with the congregation where I used to be pastor several years ago. I was so excited to see the church was packed! As worship began, I was happy to participate in a practice called “The Inviting Vase” that we started years before.
Let me explain.
Before Pastor Leadership Teams were called Pastor Leadership Teams, our Pastor Leadership Team was struggling. How are we becoming adaptable to the disruptive promptings of the Holy Spirit? How can we create a culture that is radically relational and invitational? What practice might help us to foster a culture of invitation in this congregation?
The practice we came up with, an idea suggested by a mentor of mine, was The Inviting Vase. It is so simple it is almost silly. We place a glass vase at the front of the church and a basket of stones next to it. In the gathering part of every worship service, everyone who invited anyone to church or a church event comes forward and places a stone in the vase—one for each person invited. The person invited doesn’t have to show up; just an invitation extended.
People of all ages joyfully spring out of their chairs, come forward, sometimes shyly and sometimes triumphantly and drop their stones into the vase. This practice started with the most outgoing one or two members and then the children. Eventually, everyone got into the swing of things. Our seniors inviting others from their senior swim group, parents inviting other parents and coworkers, teens inviting friends, girlfriends, and boyfriends. We invited the clerk at the convenience store and the teller at the bank. No one was outside our commitment to radical relationship and invitation! We got mixed up in each other’s lives. We experienced ups and downs. And with God in our lives, at work in our midst, it seemed like the ups were sweeter because we shared them. We got through the downs because we were together. We had the hope of Jesus Christ to lead us onward.
As we slowly filled the vase with our stones (many times over) we stepped out of our comfort zones. We made eye contact, risked something new, began and deepened relationships, and invited people to be a part of what God was up to in our community. In this practice we began to live into a new culture of relationship and hospitality. As we slowly filled the vase, the church slowly filled as well.
Missional practices don’t have to be elaborate. They don’t have to be done perfectly. In this long journey in the same direction, it is amazing to see how they can form a community over time. At least that’s what passed through my mind as I dropped my two stones in the vase and smiled at the two people I invited, sitting right there in the front row.