In these COVID times (and honestly, pre-COVID times), it’s become very clear that church members aren’t inviting their friends (or anyone else) to join them for worship. A recent poll by the Barna Group revealed that 60 percent of people will not invite people to attend worship with them online (or Share or Like or Tag or even Check In). In the pre-COVID world, and all indicators, in the post-COVID world, that number is at best accurate, and at worst, over-optimistic (which is a common issue with polls – respondents tend to put themselves in the best light possible).

“What kind of an Invite Program works these days?”

Let us be honest. The issue here isn’t programs or materials of the church. The issue is a passionate commitment on the part of the leadership of the church to a Kingdom orientation and the Great Commission that results in new, passionate Christians who owe their lives and existence to their transformation. Programs don’t make Christians, just church members. Church members are seldom concerned enough about people’s souls that they will overcome their shyness and invite people not just to their church but to experience the community and love within their church.

What this means is that the run of the mill church seldom sees people invite people to come and see what Christ is doing. It also means that when they do, most of the time people don’t experience community as much as they experience another club with dues attitude.

I don’t know your church, but I do know that this is the issue that is separating churches. Some of us are trying to grow churches. It’s time to quit that and focus on participating in the expansion of the Kingdom. But my using the word expansion or church growth bothers some church leaders and that is the problem.

So the issue is one of “Why we do what we do?” Is it to bring people into a saving, redeeming, recreating experience with Jesus that will totally change their lives, or are we looking for dues paying members who will become active in the church and invite people to their church? Those are hard questions, but critical in this day and time.

I’m in no way downplaying your question. I am simply putting my finger where I see the pulse. Getting people to invite their friends is, for lack of another word, A God Thing. It doesn’t come from programs. it comes from a transformed heart and life. that is what is missing in most of the churches we see. We see church members who have little awareness of any radical change in their lives who attend a church that has very little serious community ,so why should they invite anyone

Now, if your church has serious community, free of ongoing bickering, and is baptizing new Christians on a regular basis, then all you have to do is point them and encourage them and they will invite their friends.

Of course if you insist on programs, here are some ideas

(1) We adapted the Go Big Visitors Campaign materials from the Love My Church campaign that was popular in the past. It’s been updated, but presumes in-person worship. The program definitely works in generating first-time guests, but getting them to return is another thing (though we have plenty of blogs and materials about that here on the site). If you’re determined that you’re going to use a program, this is as good as any, and in our experience, better than most. (More information.)

(2) For a clergy the first Christmas at a new congregation, I don’t know of anything better than “Come home for Christmas,” an invitation to the whole congregation to come to a worship service and dinner – no it’s not fundraising, so don’t confuse the purpose. You can find some information about the church that developed the idea in the December 1992 issue of Net Results (available to NR Premium subscribers).

(3) The congregation I’m now serving has used something they’ve called “Sample Sundays” in the past, and we’re going to do it again in the fall. these are specific Sundays set aside for non-church members clearly to “sample” what our services are like. the idea is, the guest may feel more comfortable operating under the assumption that he or she won’t be the ONLY non-member present.

(4) Baptisms are OUTSTANDING opportunities to invite the parents to make invitations to family members, co-workers and friends, maybe even with formal, printed invitations to make it more special.

(5) Programs and groups during the week sometimes feel more accessible to some people as the first step, before coming to worship.

(6) Finally, and most importantly, the prayers and practice practice of the clergy, staff, and key leaders are probably more influential than anything else on an ongoing basis … are YOU inviting people to come to worship? And when they come, do you introduce the person to others?