I’ve had many frustrated pastors ask me, “How do you get your people to invite?” What they should be asking is, “Why aren’t your people inviting?”
People will talk about what excites them. A 15 year old girl does not need any encouragement to talk about her new boyfriend. More often than not, you’re asking her to please stop talking about him!
If people aren’t inviting friends and family to church it says more about the church than it does about them.
Here are some common reasons why people aren’t inviting their friends.
1. They’re afraid you might hurt their relationship with their friend. We could do this by embarrassing them, putting them on the spot, or flat out ignoring them. In other words, they’re terrified that the experience would be a setback for the gospel.
2. They’re afraid their friend wouldn’t get it. They fear they will have to explain or apologize for what just happened. This may be due to a music, message or methods issue. The music isn’t up to date or the quality is terrible. The message is boring or doesn’t apply to their life. There are elements in the service that are designed for insiders only and the visitor feels disconnected.
3. There’s no invitational hook. This happens when the service is so predictable that there’s no real angst to invite their friend on any given weekend. In other words, when every service is as good (or bad) as any service to invite to, then they’ll usually never invite to any service.
So how do you spark an invitational revolution?
1. Do a weekend service audit.
Try visiting another church for the very first time. It’s amazing how becoming a visitor yourself will awaken you to what makes a visitor feel welcomed and what makes them feel uncomfortable.
Recruit a secret shopper. Design a form that evaluates all your church’s programs and services and then ask someone to visit a service and fill out the evaluation form.
Oak Ridge has done this several times. We look for someone who does NOT attend church at all, has a young family since that’s our demographic, and won’t mind telling us the truth. We usually offer them a $25 gift card or some remuneration. PS – This can also work for a great evangelistic touch!
2. Make intentional changes.
You don’t have to hire a rock band and preach self-help messages to reach people, but you do have to care enough about them to soften the sharp edges of the cultural disconnect. It’s not a matter of compromise, it’s a matter of compassion. Do you really believe that people without Jesus are lost? Do you really love your traditions more than souls? That’s the bottom line. Churches that care about people always do what it takes to reach them.
3. Do something NEW!
What awakens a sleepy member of your church out of their invitational apathy? Something brand new or exciting. I’m not talking about singing verses 1, 3, and 4 instead of 1, 2, and 4. I’m talking about anything that makes your members say, “Oh wow, we’re doing that?!” Once you ignite a buzz they will begin to spread the word.
This could include…
- Bringing in a special speaker,
- Starting a new ministry,
- Adding a new service time.
- Doing a culturally relevant sermon series,
- Changing the music style, or
- Replacing the 60 watt bulbs in the sanctuary with 100 watt bulbs!
Remember, the enemy of invitational is predictability.
When people are excited about what’s happening on the inside, they’ll spread the word outside!