Why People Don’t Invite Their Friends to Your Church

If your church is serious about growing and reaching new people, you’ve got to figure out what is keeping people from inviting their friends.

Why People Don't Invite Their Friends to Your Church

There are a lot of reasons people go and check out a church for the first time. Maybe someone they know gets married and they go to celebrate their wedding or someone they know passes away and they go for the funeral. It may be that they already go to church on a regular basis and they move to a new area and are looking for a new church, or they decide to leave their old church for any number of reasons and are trying to find a new one. It may be that they saw some clever marketing from your church and decided to try it out or there is some crisis going on in their life and they think they might find some answers at church. Like I said, there are a lot of reasons people check out a church for the first time.

For all of those possibilities, the number one reason people attend a church for the first time is still because a friend personally invites them.

If your church is serious about growing and reaching new people you’ve got to figure out what is keeping people from inviting their friends. While many church leaders blame their people for not inviting their friends because they’re not “spiritually mature enough” or don’t have a “deep burden” for the lost I’d suggest it may be less complicated than that. It may be your fault.

#1 Quality Matters…a Lot

I know churches don’t like to talk about this but it’s an unavoidable truth if you really want to reach and introduce new people to Jesus. I’ve been in too many churches whose facilities have not been maintained, they’re fresh out of 1978 and it’s not on par with other public space in their community. I’ve seen too many churches with someone leading worship on stage that just can’t sing. I’ve also been to too many churches who claim to be friendly but if you’re not an insider no one ever talks to you. I don’t think any of those churches intended to push away guests, but they did. Where did we get this idea that intent supersedes experience? I think we’ve misread the Scriptures that teach us that while man looks on the outside that God looks on the heart. The fact that God looks at the heart should challenge us and the fact that man looks on the outside should also challenge us! I don’t think that scripture in particular is a judgement statement in so much as it is a simple observation and fact. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

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Question: Is what we are offering our guests quality? Are people not inviting their friends because they’re embarrassed to? How could we do less but do it with greater quality?

#2 New People Bring New People

In John chapter 4 an entire village of people meets Jesus. Not because a missionary or pastor went to them or someone went through an evangelism training course but because of a simple invitation. A woman who had known Jesus for all of a couple of minutes invited everyone she knew to meet Him too. She was “new to Jesus.” New to Jesus people don’t need to be sequestered from their friends who don’t know Jesus and placed into some training program and then “sent” back out. They need to be encouraged to simply invite their friend to Jesus. Most people in our churches who have been around Jesus the longest invite the fewest people to Him (seems a little wrong if you ask me…but what do I know). This usually happens because over time they hang out with less and less people who are unfamiliar with Jesus. They wake up one day and all of their friends are Christians.

Question: Do we have new people at our church, and are we investing more in new people or in people who have been around for a while?

#3 Guest Comfort Level

Now I’m getting really shallow. I know. But like it or not if guests aren’t comfortable there aren’t going to be a lot of them at your church. There are a lot of things that can make a guest feel uncomfortable at your church. I’ve been to churches that don’t ever mention guests in their services. I’ve been to some churches that had really poor signage and I had no idea how to navigate the facility. I’ve been to churches that ask guests to remain seated during the service so regular attenders can come say hello (yea, there is no way I’m doing that). I’ve been to churches that tell people if they want to get into a small group to go see Cindi and I’ve thought to myself, “Who’s Cindi and where am I supposed to meet her if I want to get into a Small Group?” Churches are notorious for making outsiders feel like, well…outsiders. And then they wonder why guests don’t come back.

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Question: What insider behaviors and language do we use that makes it difficult for outsiders to gain access to Jesus?

#4 Fun

Now I’ve probably finally gone off the deep end with this one. But if your church isn’t fun, if people don’t laugh, they simply aren’t going to invite their friends. No one invites their friends to stuff that isn’t fun. If kids don’t have a good experience at your church, you might be doing it wrong. If people don’t laugh at some point, you might be doing it wrong. Jesus was actually really funny by the way. Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, said, “It’s a sin to bore a kid.” If that’s true then a lot of our churches might be in risk of sinning. Hmmmm… (Yes I said people may not invite their friends to your church because it’s boring.)

Question: Do people have fun when they come to our church? What can we do to help church be a fun experience?

If you’re a courageous church leader it may be worth your time to get your Sr. Leadership Team together to discuss where in your community people invite their friends to go with them to. Seriously, make a real list on a white board or something. Then make another list of all the reasons people invite their friends to go there with them. Then finally compare that to your church…you may be onto something at that point.

This article originally appeared here.

Paul Alexander
Paul is a pastor, speaker, strategist, and ministry consultant at Tony Morgan Live. He has a passion for helping churches make vision real. For more than 11 years he has served on the senior leadership teams of some of the nation’s leading mega-churches. Currently, Paul serves as the Executive Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multi-site church located in the Phoenix area.
  • Zeke Wharton

    Right on!

    • Mark Hudson

      We are too often getting into a “false dichotomy” logical fallacy here. There is certainly a lot to be said for clean bathrooms, adequate direction signage, a music leader who can carry a tune, friendly greeters at the door (helped me join a church years back,just a warm handshake), occassional games and fun (we don’t have to be sour prunes, ascetics, or old foggies) as though God hated fun! That I can’t find chapter and verse on all of this doesn’t mean it is “bad” as brother Cacho suggests. (By the way, Bible is capital B, a book title) But what marked the early church and fueled growth was “signs and wonders” and not just signs like this way to the nursery, as important as that is. James, pastor of Jerusalem admonished the elders to anoint the sick with oil and expect God to heal them. When was the last time you or I went to a church that did that? When does your church do that? And don’t cop out by giving me that old “that was for the first century” baloney, unless Christ is no longer the same yesterday, today, and forever.When I pastored I admit, I did not do it enough. if we can offer hope and healing, visitors will respond to that more than new carpet or fresh paint or the newest p/w. If my child had cancer, a church with power would trump every other concern, legit though they be. Kenneth Hagin said “healing is the dinner bell of the church.” Let’s offer bread and not just cake. My ministry has been too much information, not enough transformation, when I take an honest and painful look at it all. Woulda coulda, shoulda. And now it is a preacher up on a TV screen and little fellowship (koininia). If I want to do TV church I can watch Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar at home helping me figure out how to manipulate God to gain prosperity-big home, nice car. Don’t give me any of that “take up your cross” “I am crucified with Christ” kind of Gospel. And God forbid we ever preach judgment to itching and politically correct ears. Two of my biblical heroes, Jesus and Paul, both had times when the fickle thrill seeking crowds looking for a rock star abandoned them and they were left standing alone. Blessings on the article and all above commentators. Just broaching the subject is a powerful tool for progress and growth. We light candles and not just curse the darkness.

  • Delwyn Campbell

    If your corporate singing was less like a concert and more like, well, Hymns, MAYBE you wouldn’t NEED Pink or Justin Timberlake to lead the singing. Part of the reason people expect such foolishness is because we keep SUPPLYING such foolishness.

  • Church has become a show. Sorry. There are just way better shows out there. How about instead of inviting people to your show, invite them to your house for dinner? And instead of inviting them to your House of Worship, invite them to into your life of following Jesus?

  • Marvin Cacho

    This article has all things the bible doesn’t teach and very dangerous. There’s no true biblical foundation and very worldly in approach. Can you imagine the early church, under severe persecution would have all the time to think of fun and games when their lives about to be devoured by one big hungry lion or burned at a stake for preaching the gospel. Come on! Where is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit during church service that will actually move people to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and becoming a walking and living testimony for him.