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