Personal Invitations to Church are Most Effective

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Church Invitations

During a recent coaching appointment, a pastor expressed a frustration that members are not inviting guests to church.

The church had reached a plateau in attendance and had been stuck there for nearly 2 years.

The pastor had tried various tactics to remind people about the importance of making personal invitations, such as

  • regular announcements,
  • exhortations to bring a friend,
  • printed notices in the bulletins,
  • sermons on personal evangelism,
  • Pack a Pew or Bring a Friend Sunday,
  • words of gentle rebuke for failing to give invitations,
  • sermons on the responsibility for church invitations, and
  • used high-tech video reminders.

In spite of these efforts it seemed that church members were not making those desired invitations to their unchurched friends.

  • Few church visitor cards were turned in.
  • Few people volunteered to raise their hand to “if there are any first time church visitors here . . “
  • Church members stared at the floor when the pastor gently reminded them of their mission to invite.
  • Church ushers responsible for counting attendance noticed very few new faces and the numbers showed no growth.
  • Small group leaders were not reporting the attendance of new people who had not yet attended any small group.
  • Sunday school teachers reported no visitors to any of their classes.

Clearly, this pastor had a high frustration level.

The pastor wanted to reach new people for Christ, but in spite of all those exhortations and reminders, it felt like church members were simply not doing the invitations to church.

Instead, the church leadership team wanted to do direct marketing to total strangers.

Personal Invitations to church are the most effective growth mechanism

This is from church growth expert Win Arn:

In your research, have you found that there’s one specific reason that visitors come to church?

The friendship factor.

We’ve asked more than 50,000 people over the last 10 years why they came to church, and between 75 and 90 percent of respondents say, “I began attending because someone invited me.”

In my notes about how visitors come to church, I have these stats from 1987. The book is still in print from Amazon (Source:The Inviting Church, 1987 p. 44):

  • 2% by Advertisement
  • 6% by the Pastoral Invitation
  • 6% by organized evangelism campaign
  • 86% by friends or relatives

In other notes, I have these statistics:

  • Only 2% of church people invite an unchurched person (Thom Ranier, 2003)
  • One study found 37% of Christians linked their conversion to being invited to church (Johnson, p. 91, citing a 2003 study)
  • Martha Grace Reese’s work showed 40% who joined first came because a friend invited.

Are church invitations easy to make?

So if personal invitations by existing church members are the most effective church growth mechanism, what stands in the way of that happening?

Why are many pastors telling me that they are not seeing the evidence of church members making personal invitations to church?

The challenge of growing the church has many fronts, but one of the biggest ones is helping members to make personal invitation to their network of unchurched friends.

The first filter to church invitation is really the heart of your church member.

They are the ones who make the decision that their church experience is worth an invitation to their friend.

You can exhort, cajole, teach, rebuke, remind, plead all you want.

But it’s the church member who decides about giving an invitation to church.

It’s the church member who evaluates if the benefits they receive are worth sharing with others.

It’s a matter of the heart.

So what can we do as leaders of churches to help members enthusiastically invite people in their circles of influence?

What can we do to make church invitations easy to make?

I’ve identified 6 areas that I’ll be writing on over the next two weeks looking at various areas to shape the heart of church members and make personal invitations easy to make.

Let me ask you this?

What is a way you increase the number of personal invitations to church that members give to their friends?

Image Credit: Elliott Brown

Coaching Corner

Be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter to keep fresh articles on personal evangelism and church hospitality coming to you each week.  

Get More Church Invitations: Prayer

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Church Invitations

How to pray for more church invitationsIn this series on getting more church invitations and visitor traffic, I’m looking at various ways to increase the number of personal invitations to church that your church members give.

The statistics show that a personal invitation from a friend is the best way to get church visitors.  I’m going to look at 6 different ways to increase that number of invitations.

Today’s area is centered on prayer.

How prayer leads to church invitations

Praying for the unchurched in your realm of influence helps you

  • observe and discern what God is doing in the life of that person.
  • develop a sensitivity to their openness to an invitation to church.
  • develop an awareness of the appropriateness of timing to give a church invitation.
  • see the connections that a current or new sermon series might make with their life situation.

Praying for the lost people in your spheres of influence leads naturally to the possibility of giving an invitation to church.

Even in my own life, I have observed that I’m giving less invitations  if I am not praying along these lines on a regular basis.

Praying in secret

If you are the pastor, are you praying for those in your circles of influence who don’t know Jesus?

Are your church members regularly praying for their personal friends who don’t know the Lord?

What is the honest answer to that question if no one is looking?

Only you can judge the personal effort you put into praying for your friends who don’t know Jesus.  As a congregational leader or member, you can’t measure the number of hours the people in your church pray.

But the fruit of prayer for the unchurched is seen in regular church invitations going out to friends.  The fruit of this kind of regular prayer will be visitors coming to your church based on the invitation of their friends.

Effective Praying for More Church Invitations

John 15 gives us two keys to effective prayer in general.

  1. Abide – an intimate relationship with Christ.
  2. Ask – Jesus invites us to ask.

This key theological point has rattled my soul: What is something measurable can you ask for?

  • That your unchurched neighbor will accept your invitation and come to your church?
  • That your church would add 15 new believers this year and celebrate their baptism?
  • That 4 visitors would join the church over the course of the next 8 weeks?
  • That you could invite 5 people in the next 10 weeks who express a need for church?

What is something specific that you can ask the Lord for with regards to your church invitation efforts?

10 Specific Ways to Pray for more Invitations to Church

Recently, I listened to Church Talk Radio and they had a brief 5 minute segment on praying your work in inviting people to church. I added the last four.

  1. Pray for your potential Guests (see How to Make a Prayer List of Friends)
  2. Pray for the opportunity to arise to invite them to Church
  3. Pray for awareness of their need (See What is Spiritual Thirst?)
  4. Pray for awareness of the opportunity
  5. Pray for the courage to invite them to church.
  6. Pray for favor that they would accept the invitation.
  7. Pray they would follow through and come.
  8. Pray that your church would welcome them.
  9. Pray that the message and worship would be awe-inspiring (See 2 Things Grow a Church)
  10. Pray that they would hear the message and grow one step closer to God.

Calling the church to prayer

Maybe it’s time to call your church or team into an intentional season of prayer.

Right now, it is the back to school season in North America and church’s will be starting up all sorts of new programming that is worthy of a personal invitation.

Children are meeting new friends at their new schools and new families have moved into new neighborhoods.

Perhaps now is a great time to email a good reminder to your church to call them to a season of intentional prayer for the new residents in their communities.

Or perhaps you can think about a 30 day prayer campaign where you invite church members to simply pray for the names of people they know in their community, which leads to a kick off sermon series worthy of a church invitation.

Let me ask you this?

What steps do you make to call your church into a season of prayer for their unchurched friends?  If you lead a campaign or program for that, feel free to share your ideas in the comment box.

Don’t miss. . .

Be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter to keep fresh articles on personal evangelism and church hospitality coming to you each week.  



A great tool to help your members make an invitation to church

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Church Invitations

Check out this video on giving an invitation to church (Feed Readers may need to click through to see the video).

Notice what the fellow does at the end.

You can give your church members something similar to help them make that personal invitation to church


More church invitations: Friends and Family

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Church Invitations

Friendships and Church InvitationsIn the previous article in the series of giving more invitations to church, I focused on prayer.

As I continue to look at various ways to increase the number of personal invitations to church that your church members give, today’s article is focused on the number of personal friends who are unchurched.

Again, the statistics show that a personal invitation from a friend is the best way to get church visitors.

For that to happen, our church members must be in regular and ongoing contact with people who do not go to church.

Trusted Relationships lead to Church Invitations

Are your church members actively engaged in intentional relationships with people who don’t know Christ?

How about you? What is your honest answer to that question?

Active involvement in the life of non-Christians will put you in a place to give a personal invitation to church.

As you regularly attend your church, you’ll see places where a sermon series might connect with the life struggles of your friend.

You’ll hear sermons that will make you think: “I wish my friend could hear this.”

Or you’ll hear some wisdom from a sermon that will allow you to speak the Bible’s wisdom directly into the life of your friend.

If you are actively involved in the life of non-Christians, you’ll begin to see connections between their needs and opportunities to invite them to church.

Even new relationships can provide a context for a church invitation

I regularly visit a park in the late afternoons.  I’ve met another immigrant dad who is always there with his daughter.

While our kids play together, we usually have a conversation.

We are still in the “getting to know you” phase of a friendship, since the only thing in common is our kids playing in the park a few afternoons at a time.

Yet, within the 2nd or 3rd conversation I could tell he was open to an invitation to my church.  We had been talking about church attendance and activities, and it became a recurring theme in our short conversations.

He told me he didn’t attend church regularly.  He expressed his desire that he wanted to start taking his daughter somewhere.  He even mentioned that was casually looking but was nervous about attending a place without any prior contact.

Our conversation led to a natural invitation to church.

A few conversations gathered enough trust to make a safe invitation to church.

Are your church members involved in the life of unchurched people?

Maybe it’s time to invite people to take inventory of their current relationships and intentionally develop new ones.

Herb Miller wrote a short list in Church Effectiveness Nuggets (Vol 8) that can help you lead people to reflect upon their social network:

Either in printed form or oral form, or both, the following paragraphs raise consciousness concerning people the worshippers could invite to worship.

Read the paragraphs slowly at an appropriate time in the worship service, accompanied by meditative background music.

  • Think of family members: spouse, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, inlaws, nephews, and nieces.
  • Think of neighbors: next-door neighbors, elderly persons in the neighborhood, and new families on your block.
  • Think of people at work: supervisors, employees you supervise, secretaries, clerical staff, students you teach, clients, new staff members, and colleagues you see occasionally.
  • Think of friends with whom you dine out: single friends, parents of your child’s friends, old friends from school, and friends of your spouse.
  • Think of casual associates: your dentist, doctor, real estate or life insurance agent, your child’s teacher, merchants, service or luncheon club members, people who belong to clubs or associations or professional groups that you attend, babysitters,sales representatives who call on you, people who graduated from the same university.
  • Think especially of people undergoing personal life stresses of some kind.  These individuals are often ready to hear answers to their problems from within the Christian faith: People who recently divorced, couples with new babies, families that have experienced a recent death, households where someone has lost their job or suffered business reverses.

Use this procedure in morning worship two times a year as a stand-alone part of the worship experience.

The following week, several worshippers will notice the “invisible people” in their circle of acquaintances who do not attend church.

Noticing is the first step toward inviting.

Other ways to help your members think through their list of friends:


Recent Statistics on Church Invitations

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Church Invitations

LifeWay Research did a study and asked how many times they have personally, “invited an unchurched person to attend a church service or some other program at your church?”

  • 48% of church attendees responded, “zero.”
  • 33% percent of people say they’ve personally invited someone one or two times.
  • 19% say they’ve done so on three or more occasions in the last six months.

Even if personal invitations are the most effective form of increasing visitor traffic to your church, nearly half the people surveyed have not invited an unchurched person to church.

Prayer for the unchurched people in your circles of influence is a vital part of sharing your faith

The same study revealed

  • 21% of churchgoers say that outside of church worship services they pray every day for people they know who are not professing Christians.
  • 26% say they pray a few times a week.
  • 20% say they rarely or never pray for the spiritual status of others.

According to Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research,

praying more frequently for the status of people who are not professing Christians is the best indicator of more spiritual maturity in the entire Sharing Christ factor.

If you are going to be intentional about sharing your faith, praying for others is a great way to start. We often acknowledge the importance of prayer in people coming to faith in Christ, but we also found it has an impact on the person praying,” he said.