Every pastor that I know wants this church to grow. Every pastor that I know also realizes that the single best way for that growth to happen is when his people invite their friends, relatives and neighbors. Fewer than 2% ever do. Why? I don’t want this post to be too negative, but rather give some points where small practical changes might make a big difference.
You ignore them.
People don’t invite their friends because you’ll basically ignore them.
Yes, I know, you have that little window in your service where you greet all the visitors and tell them to go get a mug in the welcome center. Sorry, doesn’t work for me.
Let’s use the analogy of visiting a home. First time visitors are treated special, right? But you don’t just prepare a meal and leave them to eat it alone, right? Show them around the house and then leave them to their own designs?
Maybe it’s just me, but the most important part of having visitors in our home is getting to know them. Talking TO them.
How do we do that? Include them in the conversation. In your sermon. Make it a discipline to add a few sentences to your sermon.
“If you are new here this morning, you might not know…”
“If you are not a Christian, this doesn’t apply to you. Tune out for a couple minutes” (You just upped the ante, and they will be all ears from then on.”
Don’t pretend they aren’t there when you challenge your people to invite people. “Hey, invite your friends next week.” Rather, brag on their friends.
This one is a discipline, but write part of your sermon to unbelievers. Most pastors that I know, even the great ones, spend very little time in their sermon with an awareness that visitors and especially non-believing visitors, are listening. Don’t preach to the choir. Preach to everyone.
You use excessive insider language
People don’t invite their friends because they are afraid their friends won’t understand what is going on.
Listen, if they are there, they know they are in a gathering of believers. We can, however, make our language more inclusive without watering down the message.
For example, I would always refer to our musicians as “the band.” We would never say “Good morning church! Let’s stand and worship.” A non-believer with hang-ups already now has 2 more. 1. He or she doesn’t feel like they are the “church” and you’ve asked them to worship a God they don’t believe in.
“Good morning everyone, would you join us by standing and singing” accomplishes the same thing without putting up barriers for newcomers.
Another example is acronyms. For brevity sake, we like to use insider language in our announcements.
“Radical meets on Tuesday, Famous and Funny meets Thursday nights, and 3Cs meets every other Sunday during PowerHour.” Huh?
Slow down or write it down.
You are not friendly.
Oh, everyone thinks they are friendly. Having a greeter at the front door doesn’t make you friendly. Even Walmart has a greeter at the front door.
The reality is that when someone new comes to your church, they want to know if leadership is friendly. Are you accessible?
I remember hearing that Bill Hybels would stand in what they called “the Bull Pen” and talk with people as long as there were people who wanted to talk to him. I know you can’t have long conversations with everyone, but isn’t outreach one of our main reasons for big corporate gatherings? Oh yeah, that’s right, our corporate gatherings are all about us. NO!
I’ve recently been attending a church. I’m not pastoring or preaching much right now, our ministry is behind the scenes. But for 8 months we have attended this church and I’ve had 1, and by 1 I mean 1, conversation with someone on Sunday morning. Why would I want to join a small group (the common answer) when I can’t even get someone on Sunday to talk to me?
Lots of hype, little substance.
Nothing drives me more nuts than being told “God is doing something special here at church.”
Listen, if He is, I’ll know it, you won’t have to tell me. Bragging on yourself is a surefire way to completely turn me off. And I imagine, many others as well.
When God is truly present, his Presence welcomed and his people genuinely love him and each other, these things are easier. But they still require intentionality.
Think through your Sunday morning gatherings. Ask your people why they don’t invite their friends.