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Rebuilding Community In and Around Your Congregation

A Conversation with Debbie Teike

Debbie Teike

Earlier this year I sat down with Debbie Teike, a long time member and mentor within the PLI family. Debbie is the designer/builder of The Art of Invitation, a video-based course/experience in how to build community in and around the church. She is a deeply committed follower of Jesus and a licensed clinical social worker. It’s no secret in this circle that Covid has produced an all-out assault on listening, understanding, patience, emotional regulation, etc. We know we’ve been built for community, but we’ve discovered how incredibly difficult it is to live in community. Debbie is passionate about crafting a different story for each and every one of us in and around our churches. You’ll enjoy the conversation. And… you’ll want to check out artofinvitation.org.

Watch this video for a taste of The Art of Invitation:

Debbie Teike, I’ve been wanting to have this conversation with you for a long time! You’ve designed a course with powerful video teachings and guidebook. It’s “The Art of Invitation.” Tell us why. Tell us the vision behind it.

The vision is simple: To increase the sense of community in and around the church. 

Scripture says: “Always be prepared to give an answer for everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15

We’ve lost the art of listening to each other. It’s a cancer in the church today, and we’re reaping the consequences of it, especially with Covid. We don’t know how to step back and listen. We get emotionally disregulated. We get afraid. We’ve lost the art of being invitational.

Explain more.

We’re trained to present. We’re wired to confront. We present. If we feel that truth is challenged, we confront. We present…confront. We’ve forgotten how to be invitational with the people around us.

I hear people talk about losing the ability to connect with each other.

Life is so complex today, with so many hot button topics: gender issues, equality, inclusion, poverty, navigating mental health, racial tension, women feeling undervalued in places led by men, and, of course, Covid itself!

The Art of Invitation gives you a key and invites you to open a door into a new way of living that’s been in your grasp the entire time.

Debbie Teike
Let’s get specific. If I’m a leader, what is the Art of Invitation?

It’s a course. Actually, it’s more than a course. It’s a journey, and not so much a “study.” It’s an experience, meant to be light and enjoyable. You can do it individually at your own pace if you wish. But it’s best to do it with a group and benefit from the experience together. There are 8 chapters and a guidebook that goes with it. There are 4 videos for each chapter, each 3-5 minutes in length.

It teaches skills and offers tools to help you understand others. It’s very hands-on. You’ll see checklists that make it simple. The first three chapters offer the nuts and bolts. And, then you learn to apply them.

It’s like math. First you learn to add! Subtract! Multiply! Then you can go on to algebra.

It’s no secret that community has been under attack in most congregations. And, listening has oftentimes been in short supply. So, if I’m a pastor reading this today and I can’t add one more thing to my life but this seems to speak to the glaring need that we have, who can lead The Art of Invitation?

Look for a desire of the heart. That’s the biggest thing. Someone who’s not content with the status quo. They want to make a difference in or around their congregation. They want to start to rebuild community. It’s someone who is willing to become more aware of the people around them. They are open to self examination. 

They have an inward motivation that wants to find an outward expression. 

We were born into community and built for community and yet we have a very difficult time living in community. We wonder: “Is there something wrong with me?”

Debbie Teike
The Art of Invitation is designed to increase community in and around the church; but, it is not intended only for inside the church.

It can be done in all types of community settings. My husband/pastor, Mark, and I just finished leading The Art of Invitation in our congregation, but it can be done as a mission. It can be done with friends, neighbors…you name it.

It has a universal application. I’ve lead it in substance abuse/recovery programs, community venues, a seminary, with pregnancy care center staff, various retreats. It can be used with leadership teams, small groups, etc.

Debbie, let’s talk about the implications of this and slowly investing in different futures in and around congregations.

The church has listened poorly for decades. The church is great with the core, with the self initiators. But, there’s a whole bunch of people outside the church that are saying: “You’re not getting me.” I work with lots of people in our community who are not involved with the church. You see, every one of them that I meet is still spiritually hungry. I met a guy yesterday. We talked for two hours. We had an in depth conversation about spiritual matters. It started out with him sharing about his life and me doing a lot of listening and sharing about my life. Making connections of what was happening in his world. No judging. No fixing. No agenda. People are spiritually hungry!

Debbie, what would you like to say to the PLI family of leaders? You’ve hosted dozens and dozens and dozens of PLI pastors over a Sunday night dinner and just listened. You’ve opened up your lives to them and poured into them.

I’m one of you! We have a great congregation. I’m very blessed by it, but I know the pain and the loneliness for pastors and for spouses. There’s too much pressure on leaders today. We might have good intentions to reach people, but we end up with wrong motivations.

Remember that you are a beloved child of God. Be patient with yourself. Get rid of shame. We all ran scared sometimes.

The Art of Invitation is a course that can become a mindset. An approach. It can become a character trait that results in behaviors that we practice. 

My hope is that this could be the great reset. That whatever was damaged, God can bring the repair. Our communities inside and outside the church have been relationally damaged. It won’t happen overnight, but my prayer is that this can be part of the great repair.

So, last question. If I see the need you’ve described, if I see the benefit of The Art of Invitation—that this could be the great reset to take what has been damaged and bring repair—what’s a next step? How do I explore more?

I would recommend purchasing the facilitators guide. When you purchase the guidebook, you gain copyright permission to use free resources on the Art of Invitation website. All of the videos are free on the website. Take a look. Give it a try.


Let me offer a suggestion. Why don’t you select a half dozen people in your congregation that might see the need and send this to them. Just ask: What do you think? Should we give this a try? And then, forward this to another six or eight people who are leaders in other congregations… remind them of your last conversation about the relational damage that has happened in their churches over the last two years and gracefully say: This might be helpful.

You see, it will always be difficult to reach people in our communities when our own congregational community has not been repaired! 

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